Tuesday – March 17, 2020
For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, that our fathers and mothers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ.
1 Corinthians 10:1-4 (English Standard Version)
A Word of Hope
It is St. Patrick’s Day, both a religious and cultural holiday, celebrating Archbishop Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland. Though there is some historical lack of clarity about the timeline, one or both of two men (Palladius being the other), whose deeds are credited to the beloved Saint, brought Christianity to Ireland.
Since the several early church traditions proclaimed it a feast day and it fell during Lent, it was a welcomed opportunity to drink alcoholic beverages and party rather than abstain! Perhaps that is one reason that the scripture text chosen for today refers to drinking (though not alcohol)!
Apostle Paul is writing to the Christian community in Corinth to warn them about idolatry and straying from following Christ. From this Rock that is Christ flowed the spiritual water that sustained their ancestors and that continues to provide thirst-quenching refreshment when we are parched by the difficult journey of life.
To use another metaphor that a therapist friend refers to, life is a journey that comes in waves like the ocean. Though we may not know when the next wave is coming, we can learn to surf!
St Patrick rode the tides of cultural difference, enslavement and separation from family and country, and the powerlessness and uncertainty that comes from finding yourself at the hands of others. He didn’t give up, but persevered and offered Christ’s love by embodying it.
Let us not forget the great sacrifice of those who have gone before us to bring us to this time and place in our journey. We can be the Christ for those who are drowning in the ocean of life.
Holy One, may Christ’s love and laughter shine through me so that others may face life with courage, faith and hope. Amen.
Rev. Dr. Gary Kindley
Monday – March 16, 2020
2 John 4
I rejoiced greatly to find some of your children walking in the truth, just as we were commanded by the Father.
A Word of Hope
It is always risky to walk in on the middle of a heated conversation and try to make sense of only the fractured pieces overheard. Most of the time, it is probably best to turn away from such a circumstance and let the dialogue come to a natural end. But then, there are those times when you hear a single snippet and it draws you right in and you want to hear the whole story. Such was the case with a recent conversation between two of my students.
I asked and they recounted the part of their discussion that I did not hear. It began with one of them showing a video of an African preacher presumably healing a lame man. This student was firm in the belief that he was witnessing a true miracle. The second student said to him, “That is not real. It is staged.” Rather than debate the authenticity of the video, without missing a beat the first student said to the second, “You don’t have faith. You don’t believe in God?!” The second student seemed taken aback that this was the conclusion drawn from her comment. From this point on, I watched and listened as the two tried to navigate through their apparent theological impasse. Let’s just say that neither was able to convince the other to see things from a different perspective. I refrained from saying anything.
Later in the day, as I reflected on what I had witnessed, I found myself in deep thought about the essence of faith and truth, questioning my understanding of both. I realized that the line of demarcation between faith and truth is not always clear…and that might actually be a good thing. I wondered whether it was “better” to have the faith that my first student had, one that believes, without question, that God can and will do anything that we ask; or, is it better to have a faith that is tempered by truth, one that rests in personal experiences, relationships, and prayer? For a brief moment, I seriously doubted the integrity of my own faith life.
After wallowing in the discomfort of that quandary for a while, I was reminded that we all come to God via different routes. Though the “healing” video that my student shared was almost certainly not based in any truth, it did draw that individual toward God and caused him to contemplate his life of faith. Perhaps that is all God intended in that moment.
The people that we meet along our faith journey help us to grow so that we can walk more fully in the truth of Christ. I trust that that happened in the midst of the experience in my classroom. The encounter that day may have been just one step on each of our paths and it likely will not be fully understood until “unpacked” in a later and larger context.
This three minute exchange between my students changed me. My faith tells me that it also changed them, perhaps gently nudging them in a direction of growth.
Loving God, as I continue to learn and grow, lead me to a faith that does not obscure truth and to a truth that does not obscure faith. Amen.
Order of Saint Francis and Saint Clare
Friday – March 13, 2020
1 Corinthians 13:11 It’s like this: when I was a child I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child does. But when I became an adult, my thoughts grew far beyond those of my childhood, and now I have put away the childish things.
A Word of Hope
In my earlier life, I had a partner who believed and honored a certain value about feelings. He used to quickly correct me when I would make a claim that I would work on feeling differently about this or that, most of the time in regards to people I loved or disliked. He was right. Sometimes, you either like a person or dislike them without much thought at all. Over time your feelings may change, but we often just feel the way we feel.
Some food needs salt or gravy. Other dishes are fine the way they come. It’s all a matter of conjecture. Our tastes evolve over time. I’m not sure what I would think about the taste of baby food; I haven’t eaten it in a while, but still I love the smells I remember from my grandparents’ house when I was a small child, preferences I doubtlessly acquired as a baby.
Another shared value in my former partner’s wisdom had to do with the grass being greener in another lawn. He used to say, I hate my job on some days but I know if I left it and did something similar elsewhere, I would likely be trading the things I hate for another set of complaints “over there.”
He has stuck with his job that he took just before finishing college. He’s held lots of positions in it, both as a worker bee and supervisor. Sometimes he would become bored and want to move on, but he was always able to find a great deal of variety just where he was. His dependability awarded him with lots of promotions.
God is so much like that mindset, to me. Just about the time I’m bored with my own theological understanding, I discover a new aspect of the divine. The church of my childhood taught that we shouldn’t change or evolve our understanding of things that are unique to God. Now I believe it’s about discovering new layers within the already familiar. The pure essence of a life in God well lived is to look deeper in order to understand the Creator and the created, even if we sometimes experience boredom with it.
My values have changed over time. I’ve flipped political parties, religion, favorite authors, and faith systems my entire life. When I look back, I realize the grass was always greener owing to my own boredom. Restlessness and searching out of that boredom has kept my personal concept of God fresh for decades. For me, that childhood God of constant judgment has become the grownup God of infinite inclusion.
What greener grass about God and your world will you discover in your boredom? Take a look back at the times in your life when things changed for you. How many routines did you simply grow tired of before a radical shift occurred? Enemies can become friends; hated Brussels sprouts, become delicacies. And maybe, if you allow yourself to look deeply enough, God will become a hue of green you never dreamed existed.
Thank you for the things in my life that have bored me and for the new worlds they have inspired me to explore.
Order of St. Francis and St. Clare
Thursday – March 12, 2020
A Word of Hope
What is strength? Do you think you are not strong because you cry, fall down, or at times are so vulnerable it feels as though you could break down at any moment? Well you’re wrong. Jesus cried in front of everyone because the people He cared about were suffering, but was He weak? No.
Jesus fell to His knees in the Garden of Gethsemane because He knew that He was about to die. Was He weak even then? No, He most certainly was not. Was Jesus ever more vulnerable than when He was on the cross? He was vulnerable, but He was not weak!
Just because we are human, like Jesus was human, does not negate the fact that greater is He who is in us, than he who is in the world. Strength is not the absence of weakness, or our humanity; it is the presence of a holy and righteous God who lives inside of us.
O Holy One,
Grant us Your strength. We need you now more than we ever have. Teach us that Your strength is made perfect in our weakness. We are fragile yes, but only in body. Our souls contain that speck of light that shines in the darkness. You told us to overcome darkness with light. Shine on us, shine from within, and cast out every shadow.
Bless You Lord, for we shall live forever. Your faithfulness to us is eternal, even though comprehending such love is forever out of our reach. Thank You Lord for Your many gifts, including weakness. For weakness isn’t weak when you are near. Quite the opposite, our weaknesses shows us that we can’t rely on ourselves alone, but on You. We love You, our God. Let Your will be done. In Jesus name we pray,
Order of St. Francis and St. Clare
Wednesday – March 11, 2020
Let me ask you this one question: Did you receive the Holy Spirit by obeying the law of Moses? Of course not! You received the Spirit because you believed the message you heard about Christ.
A Word of Hope
By the virtue of being joined to Jesus through our faith, we are perfect in the eyes of God. We are free trying to earn Gods approval by being flawless. God wants us to live in the freedom of knowing that our past, present, and future perfection issues are completely covered. God is looking for love and faith, knowing full well both will be imperfect, no matter how hard we try.
This lightens my heart a lot! I have made numerous mistakes only to recognize later I could have reacted more clearly and sensitively. Sincerely forgiving myself, and others for being less than perfect, is easing the burden of my own life journey.
Biblical accounts of faith heroes expose imperfection; like King David’s affair with Bathsheba and then having her husband killed. Peter spent a lot of time in jail and the woman at the well was not so virtuous either. God used these people to further the works of faith and set the stage for imperfection, forgiveness and transformation.
Authentic personal faith is designed to fill every channel of our being. In Christ, we are free to follow Jesus imperfectly. God wants us to focus on living out faith through authentic acts of love, without trying to be perfect. In order to believe there is an essence of God in every human, we must first believe in humanity and a life which may be transfigured into the Glory of Christ.
Lenten season is a great time to reflect and remember that Jesus’ sacrifice for all humankind, frees us from being slaves to perfection! Our faith, not our perfect works, is the promise of everlasting life. Faith is connection to the living vine of which Christ is the root.
Creator God, as I unravel my imperfections, may each one uncovered, bring me one thread closer to living deeper into my faith journey. Amen
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