Plowing for the Present

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Image credit: http://www.dochammill.com
Well, if we were hoping for a comforting word from Jesus this morning, it seems that we have come to the wrong place.  The gospel reading this morning provides us with little comfort in the words that Jesus gives to those that either volunteer or are asked to follow Jesus along the way.  Each of them seems to give Jesus a fairly reasonable response to his call only to get some rather discomforting words back from Jesus as he sets his face towards Jerusalem.

When we get readings like this, it is tempting to twist things up enough until we are able to be a little bit more comfortable from the reading of the text.  It is tempting to try to read it as simply a call story versus a challenge to us in the contemporary era.  It is tempting to take the text and to make it say something other than what it says.  It is tempting for us to hunger for the nice, warm, smiling Jesus instead of the Jesus that challenges us to go further in our acceptance of Christ’s call on our own lives.

The three different sayings that we get at the end of the gospel lesson today are all meant to draw out what it is going to mean to be a follower of Jesus in different ways.  Each saying is meant to convey some aspect of truth about being a disciple of Jesus, and each saying holds a unique challenge within it as we seek to live out a life of discipleship that is in keeping with Jesus’ life and ministry.   Continue reading

A Healing, Holy Whisper

The story from today’s Gospel, at first glance, feels like a healing story.  It has all the elements of a healing story – a character that is sick or dying, a crowd of people following Jesus, Jesus moving from one place to another, a miraculous achievement at the story’s end.  It feels like, sounds like, moves like a healing story.  And perhaps the absolute best way to understand this particular story from the Gospel according to Luke is as a healing story, but it is not the healing of the centurion’s slave that deserves our greatest attention.  The fact that Jesus heals the centurion’s slave because the centurion (not the slave!) deserves it is evident from our first reading of the text.  We know that the slave is healed before we get to the end of the story.  The real question for us to consider is how does the story that we read in Luke’s account also work to heal us?  How does it challenge us to move forward in our lives with a re-membered reality – a reality that is taken apart and put back together again?  How does the story challenge our own assumptions about the realities of human life, of human tragedy, of human triumph, of human calling?

At a deeper level of is a story of the ways that boundaries are broken, ignored, transgressed, shattered.  It is a story about the courage of two characters doing the unacceptable in order to convey some new truth about the creation in which we live.  It is a story about two characters that enter into a faithfulness that will always batter the walls of the accepted in order to achieve the impossible.  It is a story that pushes us to grapple with what we understand our call to be as disciples of Jesus Christ, which is also a grappling with who we understand Jesus to be.  Today, we are confronted with a story that is begging us to begin tinkering with everything that we know in order that we might begin to hear the whispers of God as they travel across the water of the soul.

whisperListen – closely, carefully, intentionally.  You don’t want to miss those whispers.  They carry a profound and life changing meaning.  They carry the force required to breech the walls of the impossible; they effortlessly invite a harmony unheard on earth.  The susurrations of God echo across the chasm of time and reverberates within the walls of space.  They are holy murmurs gently calling, lapping at the edge of the soul, to sing to a new melody, a new dance.

But of course, it is difficult to hear these murmurs of God’s being in the reality of today.  The booming bass line of the world beats on booming out a message of true reality.  “I’ve have all the answers!”, booms one voice.  “Believe me!” it continues.  And then, quite as loudly, “I am really what you need! I bring experience to this table!” chimes in another.  And yet still there is the loudest voice of them all that says, “Blame that group there, for your tragic downfall!”  Add to the cacophony those voices that exclaim, “Protect what you have, lest it be taken!  Strengthen the walls, let us never be shaken!” and the voices that extol the virtues of the human economy, the human solutions to everything.  Suddenly, it becomes very difficult indeed to hear the whispers of God.   Continue reading

A Prayer for the Gifts of Women in Ministry

Offered at the Women of Saint Michael Annual Luncheon – May 11, 2016

Dear Heavenly Father, we gather here today to give you thanks for the many gifts of women and for the life those gifts bring into your Church.

We give thanks for the women who, like Mary, devote their lives to nurturing dreams, to consoling sorrows, to celebrating victories, and to being present even in the most difficult of times.

We give thanks for women who, like Mary Magdalene, pray a life of faithfulness, become the firm foundation upon which we all stand, and who profess a love for you through the actions of their lives.

We give thanks for women who, like Phoebe, devote themselves to service within your Church, bring the needs of the world to our attention, and share the gifts of your abundance freely through the preaching of your Word.

We give thanks for the women of this parish who labor throughout the year to support the community organizations that respond to families living in impoverished conditions and struggle to have enough food, adequate shelter, and clothing.

Most of all, we give thanks for the gift of your Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ who is the way and the truth and the life that leads us into the grace and love that He shares with you through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Grant us the courage to continue in the ways of Christ, to preach your Word and Sacraments through the actions of our lives, and to learn of the grace and truth that women bring into the life of the Church.  All this we ask through your Son, our savior, Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, now and forever.  Amen.

The Action of Words

“Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.”

In this short quote from the end of John’s gospel text, Jesus is asking us to become like Christ in the way that we move in this life, and Jesus gives to us the gift of understanding that words are meaningful only when those words are embodied in our lives.  Words, in this sense, have a physicality to them that break the boundaries of the spoken word or of the written word, both of which seem to be locked into a medium of their own – advancing only so far.  The wall, this boundary of physicality, seems to keep the thoughts, the words, the imaginings of humanity bound into a limited sphere in which the word is one thing while action is another.  And then, we encounter Jesus, the second person of the Trinity, the Word made flesh.

In the person of Jesus we encounter not just word or just action but the combination of the two into a single entity that is completely divine.  Christ enters into our reality in the Word incarnate and brings with him everything that is God.  Jesus’ entire being is the Divine being that exists outside of our sphere of understanding, yet God is made known within our sphere through the person of Jesus – the divine Word that comes among us and walks along side us.  In Christ, we discover that God’s word is God’s action, and God’s action is God’s Word.  The two things that seem separated by this boundary – word and action – are made a single reality in the person of Jesus.  The second person of the Trinity, then, invites us into that same reality to the extent that we are able to participate in the divine being – to the extent that we are able to match our words to our actions, our faith to our embodiment of it. Continue reading