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What you think you know

17 Jan

Good Morning Friends,

I have always taken encouragement from the story of Jesus returning to his hometown.  As Rodney Dangerfield says, “I get no respect.”   It is often that those who know us the best cannot accept the changes that have happen in our lives.  They knew us when, and therefore they believe they know exactly who we are and what we are capable of doing and not doing.  This prejudiced can deaden the spirit of anyone.

Just a Carpenter

1-2 He left there and returned to his hometown. His disciples came along. On the Sabbath, he gave a lecture in the meeting place. He made a real hit, impressing everyone. “We had no idea he was this good!” they said. “How did he get so wise all of a sudden, get such ability?”

Here the people see but don’t believe.  They experience the presence and power of Jesus, but their prejudice against the hometown boy means they cannot find faith in him.

But in the next breath they were cutting him down: “He’s just a carpenter—Mary’s boy. We’ve known him since he was a kid. We know his brothers, James, Justus, Jude, and Simon, and his sisters. Who does he think he is?” They tripped over what little they knew about him and fell, sprawling. And they never got any further.

Note: I wonder how the Catholic church overlooked this verse when they proclaimed that Jesus was an only child.  It looks to me that Joseph and Mary were fairly busy.

4-6 Jesus told them, “A prophet has little honor in his hometown, among his relatives, on the streets he played in as a child.” Jesus wasn’t able to do much of anything there—he laid hands on a few sick people and healed them, that’s all. He couldn’t get over their stubbornness. He left and made a circuit of the other villages, teaching.

And these last two verses give the crux of the matter.  “Jesus wasn’t able to do much of anything there. . .”  It is always about relationship and belief in the world of the Divine.  We are never taken by force.  The Divine Presence begins the conversation, but it is up to us to join in, to believe, to risk in faith, to become a part of the Divine reality; rather than our own stunted, limited, very small world.

I pray this day you join in the adventure.  Look beyond your own preconceive ideas and immerse yourselves in the limitless vision of the Divine Presence.

Peace,

Mary

 

 

 

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Life is what happens.

15 Jan

The John Lennon is quoted as saying, “Life is what happens when you are busy making other plans.”  For me, it seems to fit well with events that are recorded in the second half of Mark 5.  This passage is one of the healing within a healing stories in this gospel.

Jesus is in new territory having crossed over the Sea of Galilee (actually it is a lake).  His reputation proceeds him and people are looking for healing.  The person who come to ask for healing for his daughter is a VIP, the woman who is healed on the way is not.

A Risk of Faith

21-24 After Jesus crossed over by boat, a large crowd met him at the seaside. One of the meeting-place leaders named Jairus came. When he saw Jesus, he fell to his knees, beside himself as he begged, “My dear daughter is at death’s door. Come and lay hands on her so she will get well and live.” Jesus went with him, the whole crowd tagging along, pushing and jostling him.

It is a fairly good guess that this woman is bleeding from her vagina.  She was not to be out in public, and she certainly was not suppose to be touching a man.  The woman had been ill treated by doctors – actually I hear this kind of story constantly during my pastoral visits.  Doctors who don’t listen, don’t solve the actual problems, take the money and leave people worse off than they were before.

25-29 A woman who had suffered a condition of hemorrhaging for twelve years—a long succession of physicians had treated her, and treated her badly, taking all her money and leaving her worse off than before—had heard about Jesus. She slipped in from behind and touched his robe. She was thinking to herself, “If I can put a finger on his robe, I can get well.” The moment she did it, the flow of blood dried up. She could feel the change and knew her plague was over and done with.

Her faith that Jesus’s healing power is real leads her to take a terrible risk.  Her faith that Jesus’s healing power is real draws the healing from him without his intentional focus.  Her faith that Jesus’s healing power is real heals her when nothing else has.

30 At the same moment, Jesus felt energy discharging from him. He turned around to the crowd and asked, “Who touched my robe?”

This is a amazing question, “who touched my robe?.”  Jesus can feel the power leave and as the woman absorbs the healing.  I remember seeing Bishops Felton May after an ordination service.  He looked completely exhausted, and I asked if he was OK; if he needed anything.  He said that when he lays hands on the people during their ordination he can feel energy flow through him and it always leaves him drained.

31 His disciples said, “What are you talking about? With this crowd pushing and jostling you, you’re asking, ‘Who touched me?’ Dozens have touched you!”

32-33 But he went on asking, looking around to see who had done it. The woman, knowing what had happened, knowing she was the one, stepped up in fear and trembling, knelt before him, and gave him the whole story.

No wonder that this woman was fearful.  She was bleeding from her vagina, touched him and then took, essentially stole, his healing power from him.  He could have brought charges against her.  The emotional crowds that had gathered around Jesus probably would have stoned her to death if he wanted them to.  Yet, Jesus honors her risk of faith.

34 Jesus said to her, “Daughter, you took a risk of faith, and now you’re healed and whole. Live well, live blessed! Be healed of your plague.”

35 While he was still talking, some people came from the leader’s house and told him, “Your daughter is dead. Why bother the Teacher any more?”

36 Jesus overheard what they were talking about and said to the leader, “Don’t listen to them; just trust me.”

The focus of this passage is trust and faith.  It is not what we believe we know, or even what we see, but it is our faith that can transform our lives.  It is not what we see in our lives, but what we trust that God can see for our lives that can heal us and give us new life.  One of the lines I like in The Santa Claus is spoken by an old and wise elf.   She says, “Seeing isn’t believing, believing is seeing.”   When we believe we can see the Divine Presence working in our lives, we can see the shimmer of hope even in the darkness, we can see the promise of healing even in the midst of pain.  Yet, we must risk.

37-40 He permitted no one to go in with him except Peter, James, and John. They entered the leader’s house and pushed their way through the gossips looking for a story and neighbors bringing in casseroles. Jesus was abrupt: “Why all this busybody grief and gossip? This child isn’t dead; she’s sleeping.” Provoked to sarcasm, they told him he didn’t know what he was talking about.

40-43 But when he had sent them all out, he took the child’s father and mother, along with his companions, and entered the child’s room. He clasped the girl’s hand and said, “Talitha koum,” which means, “Little girl, get up.” At that, she was up and walking around! This girl was twelve years of age. They, of course, were all beside themselves with joy. He gave them strict orders that no one was to know what had taken place in that room. Then he said, “Give her something to eat.”

The two healings are complete and new life is given.  The Divine Presence that Jesus shared so freely is still with us today.  God relies on us to avail ourselves of the healing power and as whole people share that gracefilled presence with others.

Blessings and peace,

note:  it has taken me a full week to get this blog written.  during this time a friend has died and another friend is in the hospital is last stages of life.  I believe in hope, I take the risk of believing that God’s love and power extends beyond anything we can image.  I believe, so I can see.

 

The Cost of Healing

30 Dec

Hello again,

I am working my way through the Gospel of Mark and hoping to be more faithful to my blogging in 2018.  There really is not much exciting to report about my life, but I love talking about the scriptures.

The next story in Mark is a healing story.  But, it has a lot of elements that will make it sound very strange to our modern ears.  The man in the story is demonically possessed.  This was the name of epilepsy back in the day.  This man is possessed by a crowd of demons; strange.  The demons talk to Jesus and ask not to be cast out from the country, stranger.  So Jesus sends them into pigs; stranger still.

Yet, if I go with my system of trying to hear the emotion and word of faith that the writer is talking about then I start to get somewhere.

I have known a number of people in my life who seem possessed by a crowd of demons.  I can even understand the uncontrollable nature of the man and the demons speaking for him.  In my teen years my brother was drinking and smoking pot too much.  I remember my parents trying to control him; it did get physical at times.  And he said things that really did not seem like things he would be saying.  Today I see him each week.  He will celebrate 14 years of sobriety in a couple of weeks.  I think he would tell you that it was the healing power of Christ in his life that gave him his life back.  So, in my experience, the healing was not as immediate, but it was healing all the same.

The Madman

1-5 They arrived on the other side of the sea in the country of the Gerasenes. As Jesus got out of the boat, a madman from the cemetery came up to him. He lived there among the tombs and graves. No one could restrain him—he couldn’t be chained, couldn’t be tied down. He had been tied up many times with chains and ropes, but he broke the chains, snapped the ropes. No one was strong enough to tame him. Night and day he roamed through the graves and the hills, screaming out and slashing himself with sharp stones.

6-8 When he saw Jesus a long way off, he ran and bowed in worship before him—then bellowed in protest, “What business do you have, Jesus, Son of the High God, messing with me? I swear to God, don’t give me a hard time!” (Jesus had just commanded the tormenting evil spirit, “Out! Get out of the man!”)

9-10 Jesus asked him, “Tell me your name.”

He replied, “My name is Mob. I’m a rioting mob.” Then he desperately begged Jesus not to banish them from the country.

At this point in the story you should remember that the Jewish community were not allowed to eat pigs.   It just the way it was.   And perhaps the writer wants us to know that demons have the power to destroy the lives of whomever they touch.  Again, I can say Amen to that.

11-13 A large herd of pigs was browsing and rooting on a nearby hill. The demons begged him, “Send us to the pigs so we can live in them.” Jesus gave the order. But it was even worse for the pigs than for the man. Crazed, they stampeded over a cliff into the sea and drowned.

14-15 Those tending the pigs, scared to death, bolted and told their story in town and country. Everyone wanted to see what had happened. They came up to Jesus and saw the madman sitting there wearing decent clothes and making sense, no longer a walking madhouse of a man.

16-17 Those who had seen it told the others what had happened to the demon-possessed man and the pigs. At first they were in awe—and then they were upset, upset over the drowned pigs. They demanded that Jesus leave and not come back.

This is the part of the story that is most like people I know.   They see someone whose life has been made whole and they complain about the cost, then they kick Jesus out of town.  We do not want the cost that goes with the Jesus-life.  We want peace, and healing, and the power of the Divine without changing a single thing in our lives.  Usually it is not until we are in complete pain and destroyed our lives that we are willing to consider what God could have for us.  But, let’s be honest, we usually are still not willing to make changes in our choices.

18-20 As Jesus was getting into the boat, the demon-delivered man begged to go along, but he wouldn’t let him. Jesus said, “Go home to your own people. Tell them your story—what the Master did, how he had mercy on you.” The man went back and began to preach in the Ten Towns area about what Jesus had done for him. He was the talk of the town.

Finally, the man wants to go with Jesus, but he is told to tell the Good News to those he knows.  We do not have to travel to far off places, we do not have to do extraordinary things, we just need to tell the good news of what God is doing in our lives.

That’s all.

If you are looking to change something in your life in the new year, ask God about that.

If you don’t think you need to change anything in your life, ask God about that.

Blessings and peace,

Mary

 

The Anchor Holds

8 Nov

How do we speak about the power of the Eternal Presence in our lives?  How do those who personally encountered Jesus of Nazareth tell the story of his power?

Too often, we have had conversations about the details described in the sacred history of our faith actually happened, rather than seeking the experience that is embodied in the story.  I believe the story at the end of the fourth chapter of Mark is diminish by questioning the details of how it happened rather than experiencing the power that is described.

Jesus has finished talking to the crowds and gets his disciples in a boat to find some quite, going to the other side of the lake.  A storm arises. . .

Mark 4:35-38

35-38 Late that day he said to them, “Let’s go across to the other side.” They took him in the boat as he was. Other boats came along. A huge storm came up. Waves poured into the boat, threatening to sink it. And Jesus was in the stern, head on a pillow, sleeping! They roused him, saying, “Teacher, is it nothing to you that we’re going down?”

39-40 Awake now, he told the wind to pipe down and said to the sea, “Quiet! Settle down!” The wind ran out of breath; the sea became smooth as glass. Jesus reprimanded the disciples: “Why are you such cowards? Don’t you have any faith at all?”

41 They were in absolute awe, staggered. “Who is this, anyway?” they asked. “Wind and sea at his beck and call!”

So my question is, “have you experience God’s divine love calming the storms in your life?”

This is my story:  2010 was a difficult year in my life.  In January an earthquake hit Haiti and shook up my life.  In April my husband, Mike, was headed to Haiti for a 6 month assignment to help those effected by the earthquake. I was filling in for his full time pastorate and continuing my part-time pastorate, my dad had a very serious heart attack in May, and my young adult sons were busy with their own thing – some things not so good.

I remember standing in my kitchen, exhausted, overwhelming, trying to continue to put one foot in front on the other.  Christian music has always helped me to make it through difficult times and I was listening to Micheal Card’s Scribbling in the Sand album and Soul Anchor came on.  I had probably listen to the album a dozen times, but this time I stopped cold, tears running down my face and knew, “It’s a soul anchor, Hold on to the hope.  It is a soul anchor, Just hold on to your courage.  Before we call, He answers us with hope.”  I felt the storm calm and the loving power of the Divine Eternal strengthening me; in my kitchen, in my exhaustion, in all things. . .

I believe the scriptures are to be lived.  It is a sacred story begun by people of faith thousands of years ago, written down as best they could, so we could continue the story.

 

Maybe we shouldn’t ask if Jesus actually calmed the storm on the lake for the disciple, but if his presences calms the storms of our lives so we can continue to be his witnesses.

Note:  I hope the video works. .  I have never tried it before.  It should be the song I heard that day in my kitchen.

Blessings and peace,

Always Got a Story

5 Oct

Mud Princess 1

So here is one of my latest stories.  I was a Holy Mudder and in the Muddy Mama Mud Run (actually I walked it) benefiting Girls, Inc and Girls on the Run of Washington County.  I was a blast and as you can see, I was a Mud Princess.

Here’s the thing.  What it gave me was a fun day with women from my Garfield church.  And it gave me a bunch of stories to use in my sermons about humility, working together, and joy.

As we continue reading through Mark’s gospel it says, “He (Jesus) was never without a story when he spoke.”  For me that means that Jesus made faith in God a real and living thing.  Here Jesus says that God’s kingdom is a growing thing, sometimes it is not even clear how it happens, but it does happen.  I think Jesus wanted us to know that we could sense God near at hand, in the simple, everyday parts of our lives; like bread and juice.

26-29 Then Jesus said, “God’s kingdom is like seed thrown on a field by a man who then goes to bed and forgets about it. The seed sprouts and grows—he has no idea how it happens. The earth does it all without his help: first a green stem of grass, then a bud, then the ripened grain. When the grain is fully formed, he reaps—harvest time!

30-32 “How can we picture God’s kingdom? What kind of story can we use? It’s like a pine nut. When it lands on the ground it is quite small as seeds go, yet once it is planted it grows into a huge pine tree with thick branches. Eagles nest in it.”

33-34 With many stories like these, he presented his message to them, fitting the stories to their experience and maturity. He was never without a story when he spoke. When he was alone with his disciples, he went over everything, sorting out the tangles, untying the knots.

I hope we can all continue to tell stories about how God’s kingdom is real to us.  Where did we experience it today?  Too often we only talk about where God’s reign is not: like shooting in Las Vegas, like gossip about neighbor, like the next bunch of stuff we want to buy and figure out where to store it in our overcrowded houses.

If you say you don’t have a story about God presence, ask God to give you one; talk with a friend in faith and see if they have story to share.  Make it real, make it about today, make it so it changes the way you look at things.  God wants to permeate very single moment of our lives; enjoy the invasion.

 

Peace

 

 

Generosity begets generosity. Stinginess impoverishes

14 Jun

maryGood morning friends,

I wanted to share a joyous celebration that was given to me.  On Saturday my Garfield church was having a Father’s Day BBQ/potluck meal.  The sweet folks turned it into also a early 60th birthday party for me.  It was so much fun, as you can see from the photo. (Just once I would like to look like a size 8 or even a 10. . )

I also wanted to continue with the Gospel of Mark.   We are in the fourth chapter and Jesus trying to explain the spread of the Good News, tells the parable of the seed sower.    You probably know this story, but I invited you to read it again as paraphrased by Eugene Peterson.

1-2 He went back to teaching by the sea. A crowd built up to such a great size that he had to get into an offshore boat, using the boat as a pulpit as the people pushed to the water’s edge. He taught by using stories, many stories.

3-8 “Listen. What do you make of this? A farmer planted seed. As he scattered the seed, some of it fell on the road and birds ate it. Some fell in the gravel; it sprouted quickly but didn’t put down roots, so when the sun came up it withered just as quickly. Some fell in the weeds; as it came up, it was strangled among the weeds and nothing came of it. Some fell on good earth and came up with a flourish, producing a harvest exceeding his wildest dreams.

“Are you listening to this? Really listening?”

10-12 When they were off by themselves, those who were close to him, along with the Twelve, asked about the stories. He told them, “You’ve been given insight into God’s kingdom—you know how it works. But to those who can’t see it yet, everything comes in stories, creating readiness, nudging them toward receptive insight. These are people—

Whose eyes are open but don’t see a thing,
Whose ears are open but don’t understand a word,
Who avoid making an about-face and getting forgiven.”

13 He continued, “Do you see how this story works? All my stories work this way.

14-15 “The farmer plants the Word. Some people are like the seed that falls on the hardened soil of the road. No sooner do they hear the Word than Satan snatches away what has been planted in them.

16-17 “And some are like the seed that lands in the gravel. When they first hear the Word, they respond with great enthusiasm. But there is such shallow soil of character that when the emotions wear off and some difficulty arrives, there is nothing to show for it.

18-19 “The seed cast in the weeds represents the ones who hear the kingdom news but are overwhelmed with worries about all the things they have to do and all the things they want to get. The stress strangles what they heard, and nothing comes of it.

20 “But the seed planted in the good earth represents those who hear the Word, embrace it, and produce a harvest beyond their wildest dreams.”

21-22 Jesus went on: “Does anyone bring a lamp home and put it under a washtub or beneath the bed? Don’t you put it up on a table or on the mantel? We’re not keeping secrets, we’re telling them; we’re not hiding things, we’re bringing them out into the open.

23 “Are you listening to this? Really listening?

24-25 “Listen carefully to what I am saying—and be wary of the shrewd advice that tells you how to get ahead in the world on your own. Giving, not getting, is the way. Generosity begets generosity. Stinginess impoverishes.”

I remember one of the times I read this story and realized that it is not my responsibility to make sure that anyone receives the great news of God’s love, I just have to share what God has done in my life.

As I close in on celebrating 60 years, I am so thankful that I grew up in church and that my spirit was receptive to the wonders of the Divine Presence.  I encourage anyone of reads my blog to remember, we are not here to judge anyone, we are not here to force anyone to believe as we might believe, but just to live in a way to show the amazing power of God’s grace.

Generosity begets generosity, Stinginess improverishes

Naming things correctly

3 Apr

Good Morning Friends,

The statistic on my blog site says I have blogged 365 times.  A whole year’s worth and it just took me a little under 5 years!

The last time I blogged Transfiguration Sunday was coming up and now it is Palm Sunday is coming up fast.  Time flies when your renovating.  That ‘s right, I am changing stuff up again!  A friend of my brother is putting down laminate wood flooring on the second floor.  No more gold and green shag carpet from 1976!  Now I have a wonderful soak tub and wood flooring in my bedroom.  There is an extra bedroom that has wood flooring too.

But let’s get on to the scripture of the day.  We are working our way through the Gospel of Mark and we are up to the next half of Chapter 3.  Jesus has just named his traveling companions and he is getting into trouble.

20-21 Jesus came home and, as usual, a crowd gathered—so many making demands on him that there wasn’t even time to eat. His friends heard what was going on and went to rescue him, by force if necessary. They suspected he was getting carried away with himself.

22-27 The religion scholars from Jerusalem came down spreading rumors that he was working black magic, using devil tricks to impress them with spiritual power. Jesus confronted their slander with a story: “Does it make sense to send a devil to catch a devil, to use Satan to get rid of Satan? A constantly squabbling family disintegrates. If Satan were fighting Satan, there soon wouldn’t be any Satan left. Do you think it’s possible in broad daylight to enter the house of an awake, able-bodied man, and walk off with his possessions unless you tie him up first? Tie him up, though, and you can clean him out.

Those who are in power in the Jewish community are saying slanderous things about Jesus.  Would they be tweeting today?  Jesus speaks plainly when he says that their slander doesn’t make any sense; if he were using black magic, then why is he ridding people’s life of evil.  He adds that speaking against his ministry is trash talking God too.

28-30 “Listen to this carefully. I’m warning you. There’s nothing done or said that can’t be forgiven. But if you persist in your slanders against God’s Holy Spirit, you are repudiating the very One who forgives, sawing off the branch on which you’re sitting, severing by your own perversity all connection with the One who forgives.” He gave this warning because they were accusing him of being in league with Evil.

31-32 Just then his mother and brothers showed up. Standing outside, they relayed a message that they wanted a word with him. He was surrounded by the crowd when he was given the message, “Your mother and brothers and sisters are outside looking for you.”

33-35 Jesus responded, “Who do you think are my mother and brothers?” Looking around, taking in everyone seated around him, he said, “Right here, right in front of you—my mother and my brothers. Obedience is thicker than blood. The person who obeys God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.”

God is the center.  The Divine Presence is the first relationship in Jesus life.   We are invited to believe in Jesus, the Christ, and claim that same Divine Presence for our first relationship.

This past Sunday I spoke on John 3; the born again passage.  The question I posed was, “If we are born of the spirit, then why would we worry about the color of skin of our brothers and sisters in Christ;  or, any of the other details about their lives.

Here is my wisdom of the day.  Don’t sweat the small stuff.  People are always going to try to find fault in others.  Focus on the Center, the Presence that brings grace and hope and peace into our lives.  Love the people who are in your faith family and love people who are outside your faith family.  That’s our job.

Peace