Monday – March 25, 2019
The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”
Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be.
But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. Luke 1. 28-33
A Word of Hope
In several faith traditions, today is the Feast of the Annunciation, or the Annunciation to the Blessed Virgin Mary, one of the 12 Great Feasts of the church calendar. The timing of the Feast is exactly nine months from December 25, the tradition birth date of the Christ. It is the celebration of the visit of the angel Gabriel to Mary at which time he informed her she would become the mother of Jesus, the Incarnation of God. Gabriel also took the time to tell Mary to name her son Jesus, which means “Savior”.
One of my favorite studies in art is comparing the literally thousands of Medieval art interpretations of the story of the Angel Gabriel appearing to Mary. The images have always fascinated artists who usually depict a frightened and submissive woman cowering before the powerful figure of a man- but not just any man. This one is glowing with heavenly light and hovering mid-air, flapping his golden wings. It’s typical of the art of the Middle Ages, during which time the artists were almost always men. But is Mary really a submissive woman?
Luke tells us that Mary does not just sit there shaking. She immediately recovers from her shock at the marvelous sight and pointedly questions the angel: “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” After an explanation from her visitor, she models understanding, faith, and cooperation. “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.
Throughout the rest of the Gospel stories, our glimpses of Mary are never about a woman under the authority of a man. She is the key recipient of the message of the Prophet, Anna, and is the family’s spokesperson when she grills the 13 year-old Jesus who had wandered away in Jerusalem. Even when her adult son is reluctant to perform a miracle at the wedding in Cana, Mary presumes that Jesus will follow her instructions anyway. He does. She is physically present with Jesus until his very end on the cross. Finally, she is still with the Disciples in the Book of Acts, leading and teaching the other women in the faith. She knew the story better than anyone; this woman who had treasured up these things in her heart as she held the divine infant in her arms.
Mary’s key appearances remind us that she has bravely and faithfully prepared herself from the beginning for a responsibility that no other person will ever be asked to endure. She was the mother of the Savior.
Jesus, grant to each of us the strength and faith of your mother. Amen.
Minister fro Children and Families
Order of St. Francis and St. Clare
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Friday – March 22, 2019
Create in me a clean heart, O God;
and renew a right spirit within me.
Psalm 51.10 (KJV)
A Word of Hope
If we pay attention to any media news reports, we are usually depressed by the statistics; remembering the almost 3,000 people who lost their lives in September of 2001; about how far more American soldiers died since then in a war completely unrelated to the attacks; about 40,000 plus citizens of Iraq who died in that war; and as this century of conflict wears on, news about well over 3,000 children and youth being victims of American gun violence yearly. In Dr. Stephen Sprinkle’s sobering book, Unfinished Lives, he chronicles and preserves for all time our nation’s alarming frequency of brutal LGBTQ hate crime deaths. We are faced with the fact that these barbaric slayings have increased significantly since 2008 among teens and young men of color. In the last few years, the divisions in our nations have gravely increased every one of these statistics.
I’m reminded of a 1979 Sci-Fi movie called Time After Time, in which a time-traveling Jack the Ripper sits mesmerized in a motel room while gaping at a television news report on war and domestic violence and finally says, “My God, compared to these people, I was an amateur.” How do we change all this? As simplistic as it may sound, we must begin by following the petition of the Psalmist. We must first and foremost change the attitudes in own hearts.
For years, I’ve recited the above Psalm as a meditation mantra; for so many years in fact, it is the eloquent old King James Version that I remember best. Listen to what it says. “Create in me” reminds us that God is still actively involved in the never-ending process of Creation, and that we can be instruments of God’s divine evolution. A “clean heart” is the result of that evolution. The Psalmist considered the heart to be the center of all emotions and motivations. A clean heart, a heart for God, can allow us to take action toward our own renewal. Notice it says “a” right spirit, not “the” right spirit. We are participants in this metamorphosis, empowered to find “a” way that is unique to each of our own spirits to do what is right, what is peace-seeking, good; what is just.
The Psalmist reminds us that we are individuals, not numbers, not grim and hopeless statistics as we noted above. There can be change and peace in the world, but only after each of us becomes peace in the world. If statistics outrage us, they should outrage us for peace.
Create in me this day a clean heart for peace. Amen.
Minister for Children and Families
Thursday – March 21, 2019
So Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego came out from the fire. And the satraps, the prefects, the governors, and the king’s counselors gathered together and saw that the fire had not had any power over the bodies of those men….Daniel 3:26-27
A Word of Hope
You probably remember the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. The ambitious, empire-expanding, egotistic King Nebuchadnezzar makes a golden idol of himself and orders everyone in the realm to bow down and worship him—no exceptions. Offenders will be thrown into a fiery pit and burned to death. He gets word from some Chaldeans that certain Jewish appointed officials “payed no heed” to the executive order, holding fast to their allegiance to the one true God. Nebuchadnezzar confronts them, is enraged at their disobedience, binds them up, and throws them into the fiery furnace.
But then, as the King watches and waits for the miscreants to howl in pain and die, he notices that the flames do not consume them, and that there are not 3 but 4 people in the death-hole walking around unbound. Nebuchadnezzar takes this miracle as a sign of God’s power and exclaims: “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who has sent his angel and delivered his servants who trusted him” (28). Moreover, he pledges to punish anyone who utters blasphemy against God.
This story is a worthy focus for meditation during Lent. It is a narrative of autocratic political over-reaching, of individuals speaking truth to power, a story of political resistance because of one’s faith—even when it costs us greatly.
On a more individual level, it is a tale of faithfulness—even in the midst of the most harrowing times of our lives. Like the 3 officials, we all have times of being in the fiery pits. As Joyce Rupp reminds us in The Open Door: “[S]ometimes uninvited and unwanted life circumstances push the door open to our inner self and propel us inside.” But God is faithful. When the doors of our lives are blown open by crushing trials, that is the very time the “angels”—human or divine—stand with us, and our trust in God is forged with tensile strength. The development of such great trust does, indeed, loosen the bonds of our lives and sets us free.
Life-Shaping God, In the fiery trials of our lives, strengthen our trust in you. Amen.
Dr. Pat Saxon
5910 Cedar Springs Road
Dallas, TX 75235
Toll Free: 800-501-HOPE (4673)