Gathering Followers

19 Sep

Good Morning,

In this world of the mega church I would just like to point out that Jesus had 12 followers.  The gospels say that Jesus had crowds that followed him, and one time he sent 70 folks out on mission, but in the end there where 12.

Mark records the call of these men (yes, Mark is only concerned with the call of the fishermen, although we know there where a number of women who followed Jesus.)

14-15 After John was arrested, Jesus went to Galilee preaching the Message of God: “Time’s up! God’s kingdom is here. Change your life and believe the Message.”

16-18 Passing along the beach of Lake Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew net-fishing. Fishing was their regular work. Jesus said to them, “Come with me. I’ll make a new kind of fisherman out of you. I’ll show you how to catch men and women instead of perch and bass.” They didn’t ask questions. They dropped their nets and followed.

19-20 A dozen yards or so down the beach, he saw the brothers James and John, Zebedee’s sons. They were in the boat, mending their fishnets. Right off, he made the same offer. Immediately, they left their father Zebedee, the boat, and the hired hands, and followed.

I think that God’s kingdom is here, just like Jesus said.

I wonder what we will leave behind to follow the way of Christ.  I don’t think we have to leave our jobs.  But I think it would be a good thing to leave our worry, jealousy, anger, and constant wanting of more behind; left in the rubbish pile that it is.

 

Peace,

Mary

The basics

5 Sep

Good Morning,

One of the things I like about Mark’s gospel is the straightforwardness.  This is his record of the baptism of Jesus; 3 verses, that’s it.    John is the baptizer, Jesus is the one being baptized, but it is the Spirit of God that is driving force of the experience.  I think that is the truth of every moment of our lives.  God’s presence is in each moment of our lives.  The Divine experiences our moments with us; whether they are easy or difficult, whether they feel like a blessing or a curse.  God is there with us, offering us the peace and grace; hope and healing; even in the most difficult of time, especially in the most difficult of times.

The moment recorded in Mark is a wonderful one.

9-11 At this time, Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. The moment he came out of the water, he saw the sky split open and God’s Spirit, looking like a dove, come down on him. Along with the Spirit, a voice: “You are my Son, chosen and marked by my love, pride of my life.”

This is consider the beginning of Jesus public ministry.  God’s affirmation sounds like any loving parent.  I believe that God’s spirit had been felt in Jesus throughout his life, this begins the “work” he has to do in the communities around him.  It is thought is was about 30 years old.

To begin his work, Jesus took an extended time of prayer in the wildness, struggled with the power of evil, finding comfort with animals and angles.  All the time, God’s presence guiding him.

12-13 At once, this same Spirit pushed Jesus out into the wild. For forty wilderness days and nights he was tested by Satan. Wild animals were his companions, and angels took care of him.

On this Labor Day, consider the work you have to do in this world.  Do you take time of prayer before you begin your work each day.  Do you feel God’s presence and blessings in the midst of your work?  You are invited to continue the work of Jesus in our world.  It is so very needed.

Here are my sons, maybe not chosen ones, but loved all the same.

002

 

Blessings and peace,

Mary

Long Summer Off

1 Sep

Hello Friends,

Well, I have taken a long summer off and I hope that I will get back to blogging on a regular basis.  Actually, I think about blogging quite often, but don’t get the focus and energy to get it done.  Does that ever happen to you?  Well, at least I know it happened to Paul (the apostle, not the Beatle).

Romans 7:17-20  The Message 

17-20 But I need something more! For if I know the law but still can’t keep it, and if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help! I realize that I don’t have what it takes. I can will it, but I can’t do it. I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don’t result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time.

Of course, for Paul, the something more is God’s presence working within him.  The power to be transformed from the inside out.  This is always my desire.  BUT, I have already blogged about Romans.  AND, if I try to talk about just want is floating around in my head, it is hopeless.  SO, I have been wanting to blog on the gospel of Mark.  It is my favorite.

The reason that the gospel of Mark is my favorite is that it was the first written and it goes straight to the point.  There is a sense of urgency.  Folks who study Bible things think it was because everyone thought that Jesus was coming back next week and they need to get the stories about him out there.  Also, that he hadn’t come back fast enough and they need to get some of the stories written down.

My linear self will begin at the beginning.  Mark doesn’t begin with a birth story, but with Jesus first public appearance.  Actually, Mark begins with the man who introduces Jesus, John, who was Jesus’ cousin and a baptizer.

_____________________________

Mark 1  The Message

1-3 The good news of Jesus Christ—the Message!—begins here, following to the letter the scroll of the prophet Isaiah.

Watch closely: I’m sending my preacher ahead of you;
He’ll make the road smooth for you.
Thunder in the desert!
Prepare for God’s arrival!
Make the road smooth and straight!

4-6 John the Baptizer appeared in the wild, preaching a baptism of life-change that leads to forgiveness of sins. People thronged to him from Judea and Jerusalem and, as they confessed their sins, were baptized by him in the Jordan River into a changed life. John wore a camel-hair habit, tied at the waist with a leather belt. He ate locusts and wild field honey.

7-8 As he preached he said, “The real action comes next: The star in this drama, to whom I’m a mere stagehand, will change your life. I’m baptizing you here in the river, turning your old life in for a kingdom life. His baptism—a holy baptism by the Holy Spirit—will change you from the inside out.”

_________________________

John was a powerful figure, and thought by many to be the Messiah.  In all the gospels it is made clear that John was a great prophet, but it was the one who was making the way ready for the Messiah.  It must an intense time in history to have two men who spoke with such authority from God and be an occupied people.  Everyone looking for a sign, for hope, and here are John and Jesus at the same time.  Amazing!

This lesson points to a truth about our faith.  John was performing a baptism of forgiveness, but Jesus is going to change us from the inside out.  How often do we settle for relief from our pain, without going to the source for complete healing?  The thing is, if we go just for relief of the pain, we will have to back again and again to get the same respite from the baggage/pain we continue to carry.  But if we let God’s holy presence consume it, free us from it, then we wont have to go back to it again.

I think that’s really cool.  And I think that what God intends; that the work of Jesus would supplant the old life we had with him.

Here’s to letting the spirit fill us and heal us and free us.007

Peace, Mary

Monday – Holy Week

21 Mar

Good Morning,

This past week my sinuses have brought me misery.  So much so that my teeth ache!  This is a new high, or maybe it is a low for my sinus saga.  Well, there is my whine.

I really wanted to blog through Lent, but now I am determined to a least honor holy week with a little writing.  There are texts assigned to each day of holy week in the New Common Lectionary.  I will pick one and go.

This morning my pick is from Isaiah.  Some people think the prophet was foreshadowing Jesus in some of his writing.  Biblical scholars believe that Isaiah was speaking of Jeremiah (655-570 BCE) [isn’t it wild to have a life span go backwards!].    Jeremiah’s book in the Hebrew Scripture makes interesting reading.

I think if we understanding the writing of Isaiah to be about another prophet of God and also describe Jesus, then maybe we can look at this passage as a “job description” for God leaders.

42:1 Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations.

42:2 He will not cry or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street;

42:3 a bruised reed he will not break, and a dimly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice.

42:4 He will not grow faint or be crushed until he has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands wait for his teaching.

42:5 Thus says God, the LORD, who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and what comes from it, who gives breath to the people upon it and spirit to those who walk in it:

42:6 I am the LORD, I have called you in righteousness, I have taken you by the hand and kept you; I have given you as a covenant to the people, a light to the nations,

42:7 to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness.

42:8 I am the LORD, that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to idols.

42:9 See, the former things have come to pass, and new things I now declare; before they spring forth, I tell you of them.

And, if this is a job description of the servant (Jeremiah and Jesus) of the Divine Presence, then is it also a description of the church?  I think the church is floundering in what it is suppose to do.  I think it gets caught in the “flash” and forgets about the “substance”.

This is a week of substance;  To focus on the essential nature of God and the servants of God; to know that our life, our work, our death in found within the Divine grace of God.

Peace,

Mary

Prodigal

9 Mar

Good Morning,

I have finished with Romans and feel at lose ends about what to write.  I think I will start the Gospel of Mark after Easter.  I want to spend some time blogging about Holy Week, so I am betwixt and between.

This past Sunday I preached on the Prodigal story.

11-12 Then Jesus said, “There was once a man who had two sons. The younger said to his father, ‘Father, I want right now what’s coming to me.’

12-16 “So the father divided the property between them. It wasn’t long before the younger son packed his bags and left for a distant country. There, undisciplined and dissipated, he wasted everything he had. After he had gone through all his money, there was a bad famine all through that country and he began to hurt. He signed on with a citizen there who assigned him to his fields to slop the pigs. He was so hungry he would have eaten the corncobs in the pig slop, but no one would give him any.

17-20 “That brought him to his senses. He said, ‘All those farmhands working for my father sit down to three meals a day, and here I am starving to death. I’m going back to my father. I’ll say to him, Father, I’ve sinned against God, I’ve sinned before you; I don’t deserve to be called your son. Take me on as a hired hand.’ He got right up and went home to his father.

20-21 “When he was still a long way off, his father saw him. His heart pounding, he ran out, embraced him, and kissed him. The son started his speech: ‘Father, I’ve sinned against God, I’ve sinned before you; I don’t deserve to be called your son ever again.’

22-24 “But the father wasn’t listening. He was calling to the servants, ‘Quick. Bring a clean set of clothes and dress him. Put the family ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Then get a grain-fed heifer and roast it. We’re going to feast! We’re going to have a wonderful time! My son is here—given up for dead and now alive! Given up for lost and now found!’ And they began to have a wonderful time.

25-27 “All this time his older son was out in the field. When the day’s work was done he came in. As he approached the house, he heard the music and dancing. Calling over one of the houseboys, he asked what was going on. He told him, ‘Your brother came home. Your father has ordered a feast—barbecued beef!—because he has him home safe and sound.’

28-30 “The older brother stalked off in an angry sulk and refused to join in. His father came out and tried to talk to him, but he wouldn’t listen. The son said, ‘Look how many years I’ve stayed here serving you, never giving you one moment of grief, but have you ever thrown a party for me and my friends? Then this son of yours who has thrown away your money on whores shows up and you go all out with a feast!’

31-32 “His father said, ‘Son, you don’t understand. You’re with me all the time, and everything that is mine is yours—but this is a wonderful time, and we had to celebrate. This brother of yours was dead, and he’s alive! He was lost, and he’s found!’”

I have been turning it over in my mind and playing with the word Prodigal; meaning spending money or resources freely and recklessly; wastefully extravagant.  The younger son certainly fits this description, yet I think that is only the beginning/obvious understanding of prodigal in the story.

The younger son is like many people I have known in my life.  Wasteful, recklessly, not aware of so many blessings they enjoy that are non-existent on much of the planet.  We don’t even need to judge them because it seems as through most people go through the type of life in their twenties.  A very typical human being.

The older son is also like many people I have known; hardworking and unhappy.   They look at what others have enjoyed more than they have.  The older son is correct in his assessment of  the younger sons stupidity, yet he does not see his own hard-hearted bitterness.  Another very typical human being.

Then, of course, their is the father.  prodigal in his love for both sons.  I think that Jesus used the parent/child relationship to talk about the Divine’s extravagant love because it is the closest fit to the Divine’s nature.  It seems natural that a child would be welcomed back by a  parent.  It seems natural for the parent to understand that love is a renewal resource that can be spent recklessly and freely.  It also seems natural that the  parent would go out to the older brother to try to make a bridge to the younger brother.  A parent wanting most of all for all of their children to find a way to love each other as the parent loves them.  A very typical parent, prodigal in their love.

Now, think of our planet.  A family of human beings who do not recognize the depth of our relationship to one another, nor the desire of the Divine Creator for us to live in a healed and whole family.   I believe whether we are Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Janus, etc. we all call the Divine creator by different names and emphasis different aspects of its infinite nature.  Hence the reality of the infinitude of God – no one person, no one religion, no one world view – can fully name or comprehend the Divine.

So, we think about parents and children and people we know all to well.  And at the end of the day the only behavior we can hope to change is our own.  I think we are asked to live the prodigal love of God, to open our hearts and pray for our family around the world.  Maybe we wont all hold hands and sing Kum By Ya, but perhaps we can look beyond our own agenda and care for the world that God has entrusted to us.

Peace

Mary

The group who wrote the letter

7 Mar

Good morning,

I never thought I would make it to the end of Romans.  I looked back into my posts and realized I started 8 months ago, not too surprising. The actual surprise was to see that there are many posts that were not viewed by anyone – a 0 next to the little eye icon that says how many people looked at the post.  I always feel that is something I do for God; so I hope the Divine Presence is enjoying it more than me. (I really do not enjoy the process of writing.)

So, this morning as I read the last verses of Romans I realize Paul probably did not like to write either.  This letter was dictated to Tertius, who sends greetings in these verses.  Also, that this letter was written in community.  In addition to the man taking dictation, their is also Gaius, Paul’s host, and Timothy, Lucius, Jason, and Sosipater.  I imagine them all hearing Paul speaking the words and offering comments, corrections, and additions.  I like this idea of the writing coming out of conversation.  Michael Card does a live album of Christian music.  He talks about the music coming out of community.  I think that is where the strength of the message comes from; when we have a group of faithful followers around us offering comments, corrections and additions.

21 And here are some more greetings from our end. Timothy, my partner in this work, Lucius, and my cousins Jason and Sosipater all said to tell you hello.

22 I, Tertius, who wrote this letter at Paul’s dictation, send you my personal greetings.

23 Gaius, who is host here to both me and the whole church, wants to be remembered to you.

Erastus, the city treasurer, and our good friend Quartus send their greetings.

25-26 All of our praise rises to the One who is strong enough to make you strong, exactly as preached in Jesus Christ, precisely as revealed in the mystery kept secret for so long but now an open book through the prophetic Scriptures. All the nations of the world can now know the truth and be brought into obedient belief, carrying out the orders of God, who got all this started, down to the very last letter.

27 All our praise is focused through Jesus on this incomparably wise God! Yes!

Well, here’s hoping whoever manages to read this enjoyed thinking about how Paul wrote is incredible, transformative letter.

Peace,

Mary

Word to the Wise

5 Mar

Good Morning,

Paul’s final word of instruction are to “use your brain.”   I often wonder at religious groups who encourage people not to think about their faith; “just trust God, never question, God is in control.”  Actually, the last phrase is the one I like the least and is theologically untrue.  The creation story confirms that God does not control; only loves and invites relationship.

I was a United Methodist church in North Carolina.  I wanted to avoid the religious crazy people so I went to a UMC.  The pastor’s sermon was on the evil of theologian who tried to describe the greatness of God because we are to follow and trust without question.  I nearly left in the middle of his diatribe.

17-18 One final word of counsel, friends. Keep a sharp eye out for those who take bits and pieces of the teaching that you learned and then use them to make trouble. Give these people a wide berth. They have no intention of living for our Master Christ. They’re only in this for what they can get out of it, and aren’t above using pious sweet talk to dupe unsuspecting innocents.

19-20 And so while there has never been any question about your honesty in these matters—I couldn’t be more proud of you!—I want you also to be smart, making sure every “good” thing is the real thing. Don’t be gullible in regard to smooth-talking evil. Stay alert like this, and before you know it the God of peace will come down on Satan with both feet, stomping him into the dirt. Enjoy the best of Jesus!

Paul’s final words are of warning.  People understand and follow the Divine Presence is thousands of ways.  We should us our heart and our mind and our spirit to determine which ways are life giving and in harmony with God and which are seeking division and evil and hatred in God’s name.  John Wesley found the path through interpreting the Scripture in light of tradition, reason and our experience.  (I really love that he added experience to this historical way of doing theology.)

I want to let you know that the next blog will be my last on the book of Romans.  Where should I go next?  Should I keep on blogging?  I have done the psalms, sometimes I have done the lectionary scripture for the week.  I probably wont start a new project until after Easter.  Let me know if you have a preference.

Peace,

Mary