Friday – April 5, 2019
“But I think it necessary to send back to you Epaphroditus, my brother, co-worker and fellow soldier, who is also your messenger, whom you sent to take care of my needs.” Philippians 2:25. (NIV)
A Word of Hope
I am a bit of a loner. I am very content to go an entire weekend without speaking to anyone – except at church of course. That doesn’t mean I don’t like being around people. I am very social at work and enjoy my job facilitating discussions among large groups. But if left on my own, I’d rather take a walk by myself than socialize. Just ask anyone who knows me well how maddening I can be.
Which brings me to my takeaway from today’s assigned scripture (Philippians 2:25 – 3:1): we need community. No matter my desire to be self-reliant, I cannot become all God intends on my own. I need the help of others. Even Saint Paul needed help now and then.
We seem to have lost the sense of community in the past two years if we ever really had it. There are those who seek to divide, those who feel stronger only when divisions weaken us. I suppose those divisions have always been between us and recent events are bringing them out. Maybe that is a good thing if we are willing to confront the divisions and those who exploit them.
I have observed with admiration the response of New Zealanders to the recent tragic shootings. Unlike here in the US where we tend to make excuses or avoid serious discussion, their Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern made a simple statement full of wisdom and courage. As an online petition nominating her for the Nobel Prize for Peace describes it: “Referring to the 49 or more killed, she said: ‘They are us.’ Not ‘they are one of us,’ or ‘they could have been you or me.’ None of that cautious self-insulating, self-indemnifying vagueness. Simply, they are us.”
During this Lenten season of self-reflection, I need to be reminded that I am not alone. I am a member of a community that struggles together.
God of my Being. I am a member of your human community.
Thursday – April 4, 2019
“Restore our fortunes, O Lord,/like the watercourses in the Negeb.
May those who sow in tears/reap with shouts of joy.
Those who go out weeping,/bearing the seed for sowing,
Shall come home with shouts of joy, carrying their sheaves.” Psalm 126:4-6
A Word of Hope
The sky is falling! The sky is falling! A loud crash and Charley’s insistent barking signaled a recent Chicken Little moment, when a huge chunk of the ceiling in the guest bedroom crashed to the floor, spewing old, soggy insulation, jagged sheetrock pieces, debris, and dirt across the carpet. It was just the latest in an ongoing series of trials, as the “house demons” raged freely. The long saga need not be retold here, but a major source of the problem, which at first mystified seasoned professionals, turned out to be the result of a faulty installation of part of the heating unit, causing condensation to collect underneath the roof. Ironically, the collapse allowed discovery of the once hidden source of the problem. Sometimes “breakdown leads to breakthrough.”
I have never had a Lent like this one. Normally, I am wrestling with inner ogres, working on forgiveness or relationship issues. Challenged by resistant unhealthy habits of mind/heart/body, I lift them to the light of self-examination, holding the wounded in love, asking for healing and mercy where I have wounded.
This season it has been impossible to cling to spiritual disciplines in the way I have practiced them, impossible to cling to order in the midst of chaos. Once again the cherished myth of control is being pried away. Relinquishment is the watchword for this season—from letting go of an old and treasured vanity (the double meanings ooze from the phrase), to releasing mindsets about how things should be, to even letting go of my quiet, studious, do-nothing-else-but-prepare ritual for facilitating Lenten classes. It’s a call to trust that God is in it all and in us all and that I don’t have to carry things alone.
In this time, the gift of nature’s renewal has restored me again and again—the redbud trees, the greening of peach trees, a mourning dove’s company. On the table two sunflower seeds from last year’s golden bounty press their tiny green shoots upward through the soil, the force of stubborn hope. May it be so with me.
Through it all, through it all, [our] eyes are on you. Through it all, through it all, it is well.
Dr. Pat Saxon
Wednesday – April 3, 2019
They all ate and were satisfied... Luke 9:17
A Word of Hope
Let’s party! The more, the merrier! Or is it? The disciples did not share that notion in this passage from Luke’s Gospel. Jesus and his disciples were retreating from the crowds, hoping for some rest and quiet to mourn the death of John the Baptist, but that was not to be. The crowds followed them to Bethsaida. Rather than turning the people away, Jesus welcomed each of them. He spent hours sharing stories of the Kingdom of God and healing those in need.
As the day went on, the disciples suggested to Jesus that those gathered should be encouraged to be on their way as it was coming to the close of day and they needed to find food and shelter. Jesus disagreed, telling the disciples to find food to offer the “party-ers.” Somewhat reluctantly, they managed to find five loaves and two fishes, reporting to Jesus that that certainly was not enough with which to feed the assembled multitudes. Jesus instructed the disciples to arrange the people into groups of fifty. He then took the loaves and fishes and offered thanks for them and began breaking the bread and filling basket after basket of food for the disciples to carry to the guests. Everyone in attendance was fed, five thousand men plus the women and children. In the end, after all of the followers were well fed, twelve full baskets still remained…perhaps one for each disciple?
This story is probably the most well-known of the miracles that Jesus performed. It is also the only miracle story that is included in all four of the Gospels; it seems fair, then, to assume it to be of marked significance.
This miracle was a lesson to the Disciples of Christ back then and is also to those of us today who are called to be disciples. The crowds that followed the disciples and Jesus to Bethsaida already had faith. They believed in the power of Jesus. Why else would they have followed him? This story is not about them. It is about the disciples who, as is often the case, were the ones lacking in faith. They recognized the peoples’ need for food, but felt that they did not have any means by which to provide. Had they been left on their own, most would have been left hungry that evening.
How often do we find ourselves in a similar situation to the disciples in this story? How often do we see a need or feel a call and our first response is that we don’t have enough – physical, emotionally, or spiritually – of what it takes to make a difference in the situation so we turn away and choose to do nothing? We feel that who we are and what we have to offer is not enough. Our lack of faith leads us to all too easily forget that all things are possible with God.
We also forget that in God’s eyes we are enough and we have enough just as we are to do the work that God calls us to do. This potential is fully realized if and when we surrender our all, our complete selves, no matter how big or small, how strong or fragile, to God in faith. God can and will do marvelous and wonderful things with us and through us. And, just like God did with the loaves and fishes, God will multiply our offerings and in the end will bless us with an abundance of spirit.
Oh God who has blessed me with all that I have and all that I am, give me the faith to believe that I am enough and the courage to give all that I am and all that I have to you.
Order of St. Francis and St. Clare
Tuesday – April 2, 2019
“Then those ‘sheep’ are going to say, ‘Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry and feed you, thirsty and give you a drink? And when did we ever see you sick or in prison and come to you?’ Then the King will say, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.’” Matthew 25:37-40 (The Message)
A Word of Hope
“What I Have to Offer”
You need not live in Texas long to learn that Texas’ weather can be strong stuff. Hurricanes, tornadoes, dust storms, hail storms, ice storms, snow storms and thunder storms—to name a few. Some seem almost on the scale of science-fiction than actual fact. Were some cosmic, time-warp storm ever to occur (and this is Texas so I’m not saying it can’t happen) and I got swept into the vortex, dragged back to the first century and transformed into a Roman soldier, I would want to be a soldier like Martin of Tours.
William Barclay, the great Scottish biblical scholar, reports that Martin of Tours was a Roman soldier who was also a Christian. According to an ancient story, Martin was entering a large city on a cold, blustery day when he passed a beggar who was begging for alms. The soldier had no money, but he saw that the man was shivering from the cold and so he gave him what he had. He took off his soldier’s cloak, which had become worn and frayed, cut it in two and gave half of it to the man. That night, Martin had a dream. His dream took him to a heavenly place where he saw countless angels. As the crowd of angels parted, he saw Jesus, standing there in half of a soldier’s coat. One of the angels inquired of Jesus, “Lord, why are you wearing that battered cloak? Who gave it to you?” Jesus answered softly, “My servant, Martin, gave it to me.” (William Barclay. “The Daily Study Bible: The Gospel of Matthew.” Edinburgh: Saint Andrew Press)
I have never had a million dollars in my bank account, but I cannot recall a time when I have not been wealthy in blessings. I may not be able to do everything to help a hurting world, but I can do something. I have sometimes thought that what I have to offer doesn’t matter that much, but I now know that it can mean the world to someone I may never know.
Being Christian is to bear witness to Christ’s love, mercy and fidelity, and in doing so we draw closer to the Christ we seek to know.
This Lent, O God, may I re-evaluate who I am and what I have to offer as a person who bears the name, Christian. Amen.
Rev. Gary G. Kindley, D.Min.
Monday – April 1, 2019
Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the one whose sin God does not count against them and in whose spirit is no deceit. When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy on me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer.
Fools have no interest in understanding; they only want to air their own opinions. Proverbs 18.2
A Word of Hope
Both Testaments of the Bible combine their efforts to give us 24 sayings, definitions, and warnings about foolish people. Since it’s April Fool’s Day, I should say now that I’m only kidding, but I’m not. Foolishness is not unique to our generation.
My favorite definition of a fool is in the Proverb above; ancient words, but timeless. How many times have you been in a conversation with a person or group who, somewhere in the middle of your statement, give you the distinct impression that they don’t have any regard for what you are saying? They are simply waiting for you to take a breath long enough for them to begin a soliloquy of their own packaged opinion. I believe that most of us have not only experienced, but also participated in this kind of foolishness. Biased opinions are unrestrained in our generation and none of us is immune to delivering those monotonous monologues.
The irony of many of our strong opinions is that they actually are not our own. They have been indoctrinated into our subconscious by some forgotten childhood preacher, corrupt politician, unethical advertiser, or devious pressure group. Innumerable opinions are imbedded obscurities with forgotten origins. The great enigma of our era is the TV newscaster’s opinion we legitimize as our personal gospel. You know the one. The assessment read by a detached professional newsreader written by a writer who doesn’t believe it either, who had been hired by a reluctant employee of an organization under the conglomerate owned by…I would be a fool to continue. It’s your adamant personal opinion. The original source is irrelevant. You own it.
April Fool’s Day is a day we play jokes on others, but so often we ourselves are the joke. We are also in the middle of Lent, a good time of year to refrain from being foolish in our opinions. Convictions matter, but the sources of our convictions matter more.
God, we ask that you bless the good we have accomplished and also forgive the wrong that we have done. Have mercy on us, open our hearts and change our lives.
ASSURANCE OF FORGIVENESS
May I refrain from being foolish today. May my deepest convictions be tempered by your standards and guided by your love.
Minister for Children and Families
Order of St. Francis and St. Clare
5910 Cedar Springs Road
Dallas, TX 75235
Toll Free: 800-501-HOPE (4673)