Wednesday, April 16, 2014
Order of St. Francis and St. Clare
Minister for Children and Families
In the morning, as they went along, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots. Peter remembered and said to Jesus, "Rabbi, look! The fig tree you cursed has withered!" Mark 11.20-21
A Word of Hope
Holy Week is the busiest week of all the church calendar and today, Holy Wednesday, is another one of those busy days, but it doesn’t even compare to what he accomplished on Tuesday. Of the three synoptic Gospels, the Gospel of Mark is always my favorite on this week because the author is more specific than Matthew and Luke, assigning all the events of Holy Week to their specific days. Most of the days are described in just a few sentences, but Tuesday’s activities last from Mark 11.20 through Mark 13.37, almost three full chapters. As we are meditating on Jesus’ final week in Jerusalem, today, Holy Tuesday, is over half of the Second Gospel’s story.
In Mark’s Holy Tuesday narrative, Jesus is confronted with a spiritual triathlon instigated by the Temple authorities who literally tag-team in their failed entrapments and accusations against him; first by the chief priests, scribes and elders, then by the Pharisees and Herodians, and next by the Sadducees and some second string scribes. They grill him on the topics of his own authority, his views on taxes to Caesar, the resurrection, and his interpretation of the greatest commandment. He counters their attack by challenging their own scribal teachings and religious practices and scores a decisive goal in defining the prime example of genuine worship demonstrated by a poor widow giving her last copper coins to God’s treasury. The day ends away from the Temple with the indefatigable Jesus describing to his followers in apocalyptic language his inevitable fate as well as their own. As darkness begins to fall, Mark reminds us to “Be alert! Stay awake! Watch!”
The above lesson of the fig tree became clear as Tuesday wore on. Like a tree that bears no fruit, the Temple system, the corrupt authorities, and eventually the Roman Empire itself would wither from their roots, but not without Jesus first paying the ultimate price. Holy Tuesday was a wake-up call, putting us on the alert about what the rest of Holy Week is all about.
May we be alert…stay awake…watch. Amen
Tuesday, April 15, 2014
Intern Student Minister, First Community Church, U.C.C., Dallas, TX
3rd Year M.Div., Brite School of Divinity
The Anointing at Bethany (Gospel of Matthew) - Now while Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very costly ointment, and she poured it on his head as he sat at the table. Matthew 26:6-7
The Anointing at Bethany (Gospel of Mark) - While he [Jesus] was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at the table, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very costly ointment of nard, and she broke open the jar and poured the ointment on his head. Mark 14:3
A Sinful (?) Woman Forgiven (Gospel of Luke) - And a woman in the city, who was a sinner, having learned that he [Jesus] was eating in the Pharisee’s house [also referred to as Simon], brought an alabaster jar of ointment. She stood behind him at his feet, weeping, and began to bathe his feet with her tears and to dry them with her hair. Then she continued kissing his feet and anointing them with the ointment. Luke 7:37-38
Mary Anoints Jesus (Gospel of John) - Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him. Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair. John 12:1-8
A Word of Hope
So why did Mary anoint Jesus’ feet with perfumed nard? What the heck is ‘nard’ anyway?
“From India, nard traveled, in the form of a dry rhizome or oil phase extract, via Persia, under the name nardin. […] Though nard is now rare on the shelves of the western perfumer, its name stood for centuries as an evocation of the perfume of the lost Garden of Eden, and in literature, nard came to refer to any perfume, as long as it was exquisite.” (“In the Bible what was Nard? – Yahoo! Answers”)
Why is this so important? Should we view this as only a precursor of Jesus death upon the cross --- or maybe it is saying something more to us? Interestingly enough this tale of Christ being anointed is also told in varying detail in Matthew 26:6-13, Mark 14:3-9, and Luke 7:36-50. Whether it is Jesus’ feet or head being anointed by oil, nard, tears, or a combination thereof, this loving act of healing and kindness is enacted by a woman.
The writer of the Gospel of John says it is Mary, sister of Lazarus, who once sat at Jesus feet as his student. (Luke 10:39) That alone was a true act of civil disobedience for its day. So it is quite understandable that she might be instinctive to her rabbi’s (teacher’s) needs. We can only assume that the unknown women in the Gospels of Mark and Matthew had reasons for their actions. It is made known to us by men (of course) that that the unknown woman in the Gospel of Luke seeks the forgiveness of her sins.
I believe what is important in all of this is that four distinct --- or possibly the same woman, instinctively acted on their own to bring healing, comfort, dare I say intimate, pastoral care to the very person that created pastoral care; Jesus. Sometimes the minister needs to be ministered to, even Jesus. This (these) woman (women) instinctively knew this. Perhaps this is why women make great ministers?
I am reminded of, “The priesthood of all believers.” (I Peter 2:5) and “All members of the United Church of Christ are called to minister to others and to participate as equals in the common worship of God, each with direct access to the mercies of God through personal prayer and devotion.
Recognition is given to those among us who have received special training in pastoral, priestly, educational and administrative functions, but these persons are regarded as servants—rather than as persons in authority. Their task is to guide, to instruct, to enable the ministry of all Christians rather than to do the work of ministry for us.” (“What is the United Church of Christ? - What we believe.” http://www.ucc.org/about-us/what-is-the-united-church-of.html) (Check it out. Good stuff to be found here.)
So the next time you see any minister or lay leader, in any church, anywhere, but especially at the Cathedral of Hope, U.C.C. in Dallas, TX. --- thank them. Be as instinctive as Mary, Lazarus’s daughter, as she was to Jesus. Now you don’t have to pour oil all over them --- just thank them. It may very well make their day. And in the doing, make your day too, I pray.
O God, show us through the example of Jesus how to minister to the stranger, our neighbor, our family, and even ourselves. For it is through ministering to all we find hope, peace, and justice for all through Christ Jesus. Amen.
Monday April 14, 2014
Brite Divinity Student
“Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the daughters and sons of God.” Matt 5.9
On this day in 1865, President Lincoln was shot at Ford's Theater in Washington, D.C. It was Good Friday. Five days earlier, General Lee had surrendered the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox Court House, effectively ending the Civil War.
After four years of war, it must have seemed as if the tide of human events in the United States was finally turning towards peace and justice, though at a high cost. Four million enslaved men, women and children were free; over 640,000 soldiers and countless civilians lost their lives; the infrastructure of the South was almost completely destroyed; but the United States was once again united, in word if not deed. Lincoln knew that the next period would be crucial in restoring the country.
John Wilkes Booth assassinated Lincoln to destabilize the Union government in order to revive the Confederacy, but it was too late. Instead Andrew Johnson became President, supporting punitive measures against white Southerners which helped to create divisions that are still with us today.
Holy Week began yesterday with Jesus' entrance into Jerusalem. Many of those who followed him believed Jesus was the Messiah who would overthrow Rome. It was the week of Passover when the Exodus story, one of the most powerful liberation stories ever, was recounted. That Monday, Jesus threw the money changers out of Temple, accusing them of turning it into a "den of thieves" as many of their practices disproportionately affected the poor. Perhaps this convinced more people that Jesus was the Messiah they expected. I imagine that there were discussions of what the Romans deserved and how things would be when Rome was overthrown. But we know the story. It doesn't end with military and political triumph.
I wonder what it is about humans that revenge and retribution seem to inspire us more than love, justice and forgiveness. Even those who were closest to Jesus did not entirely understand until the Resurrection. It seems it should be easier for us. After all, we know how things turned out. Instead we are too often convinced by the idea of redemptive violence. If only violence were employed the right way, then things would change.
But the way of Jesus is peace and non-violence. As Christians, we should know that violence is never redemptive. We are called to be witnesses to the power of community and non-violence. During this Holy Week, as we anticipate the Resurrection, how shall we live?
Guide us in your way of peace throughout this sacred week.
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Friday, April 11, 2014
Dr. Pat Saxon
Prayer Ministry Volunteer
“Jesus stopped and said, “Call him here.” Mark 10:49
A Word of Hope
It’s the end of an intense week of responsibilities, the kind many of us live now. I am weary, and sorrow aches at the borders of my heart. I ache with friends doing difficult forgiveness work, brothers facing serious illness, a sister facing separation from her partner. I have my own endings too. After 37 years of teaching at the same school, I am retiring. A wonderful year. Though I fully trust to God’s unfolding in my life, sorrow companions me. Time is moving fast now. And the time is to be savored.
Macrina Wiederkehr has been my companion for the last months, her thoughtful and poetic devotions in Abide waiting to speak each morning. Today the reflection is grounded in the story of Bartimaeus, the blind beggar who cries out to Jesus for help (Mark 10: 46-52). It is a story which returns to me again and again. I have seen myself in the crying need of the beggar, in the disciples who try to silence his insistent needy voice, in Jesus who stops his own journey to heal him.
This morning it is I who need to stop and spend some time with Jesus. Jesus calls me to sit by him and listen for what I need to hear. Weiderkehr writes of this section: Do we know when to stop? Take a look at your schedules, your opinions, your ideas, your attitudes. How do you need to stop and listen in your life? It is impossible to be truly present to another while clinging to your own agenda. Stop and hear the cry of the poor. Stop and ask yourself some questions. Is there anything I need to see in a different light? How do I hear the voice of Jesus in my life?
The spiritual tide toward Holy Week is drawing powerfully to the cross. I am reminded that Jesus’s path was one of “descent,” as Richard Rohr calls it, emptiness, surrender to the will of God. “Jesus keep me near the cross” rises to my thoughts. He will teach me how to say goodbye, to relinquish the desire to hold on to what was. And ultimately, he will teach us all how to rise into the morning of our resurrection.
In our dying and our living, Jesus keep us near. Amen.
Thursday, April 10, 2014
Minister of Youth, Young Adults & Missions
“And don't let anyone put you down because you're young. Teach believers with your life: by word, by demeanor, by love, by faith, by integrity.” 1 Timothy 4:12 (The Message)
A Word of Hope
Tomorrow is the National Day of Silence. This national campaign was born in 1996 at the University of Virginia where 150 students launched a life changing movement. In 2001 the organization GLESEN (Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network), developed a proposal and became the leading sponsor of this national Campaign. What is Day of Silence? Day of Silence is a student based movement that takes a vow of silence to call attention to the silencing effect of anti-LGBT bullying and harassment in schools.
1 Timothy 4:12 reminds our young friends that they are important and capable of teaching others about love, faith and integrity though how they live their lives. Paul reminds our young friends not to let anyone look down at them simply because they are young. Our youth today are hungry for meaning and purpose in their lives through understanding practical theology. Yet, when many of us think of teenagers, we think of them impulsive, rude, loud, and lacking integrity. When we think of youth ministry, we think only about pizza, games, parties and sleep over’s. Do our young friends really have a faith worth fighting for?
Our Youth are searching for a connection, meaningful friendships, rituals, and a sense to belong to something that matters. They might not be consciously connecting their theological reflections to their actions, but the way they understand God’s love through Christ constantly manifests itself in their lives. Their Day of Silence is a good example of this as they demonstrate their intense loyalty to the marginalized, and their willingness to stand against the evil of bullying and harassment in their schools.
Tomorrow’s Day of Silence is a significant event because it is led by students for other students. Cathedral of Hope's Youth and Young Adults are made up of LGBTQ and Straight allies, who believe in a God of love, extravagant grace, and relentless compassion. Tomorrow’s event is yet another illustration that they believe in creating a safe place for everyone regardless of race, sexual identity and sexual orientation.
May we remember the efforts of our young people and allow them to lead us in our own search for truth and justice.
- Devotion Thursday, April 3, 2014, - Numbers 11.4-6 - Dan Peeler - Minister for Children and Families - Dallas - Cathedral of Hope UCC Dallas Texas
- Devotion Tuesday, April 8, 2014 - Ephesians 2:8-10 - Dr. Gary G. Kindley - Pastoral Counselor - Cathedral of Hope UCC Dallas Texas
- Devotion Monday April 7, 2014 - Lynn Walters - Brite Divinity Student - Cathedral of Hope UCC Dallas Texas
- Devotion Friday April 4, 2014 - John 18.32 - Lynn Walters - Brite Divinity Student - Cathedral of Hope UCC Dallas Texas
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