Pentecost 2014

My beautiful pictureWhere do we find ourselves on this Pentecost day?  It is likely that many of us find ourselves locked into our inner rooms of fear, doubt and uncertainty like Jesus’ disciples. They were locked behind closed doors because of their fears. It is obvious that they feared the wrath of the Jewish leaders who plotted against Jesus. Elizabeth Johnson also points out that they had plenty of reason to be afraid of Jesus—Peter had denied him thrice and all but the Beloved Disciple had run away abandoning Jesus.

Pentecost is in part about letting go of our fears. If we are younger and locked into the struggles of the first half of life, we may fear for our jobs, our future, our IRAs and our families. Where are we? Where are we going? Is it going to work out the way we have planned it? If we are older, our fears may have shifted. Our friends have heart attacks or get cancer and die. The fear of death stars us in the face. We fear debilitating illness and the usual ravages of aging. We fear for our dwindling retirement funds. We fear for the well being of our spouses and our children. We all in one way or another fear dying to self. We lock the doors for security.

We may have locked and barred the door. We may have thrown away they key but fortunately, the locked doors of our hearts do not stop Jesus. He just comes on in. He keeps showing up just like he did in the Gospels after the crucifixion and resurrection. He does not berate us for the times we have abandoned him. Rather he speaks a blessing of shalom peace—total well being grounded in the infinite mercy of grace. He challenges us to lay aside all our fears and to go forth from our locked rooms to proclaim this very peace and his forgiveness. He invites us to die to our fears so we can rise to new life in Him.

Jesus breathes on us just as God breathed on creation flaring forth. He breathes the Spirit of new, resurrected life and hope. How many times he has told us to “Be not afraid.” Now we know that our fears have no foundation. Jesus invites us to enter the Spirit adventure of the second half of our lives. The breath of the Spirit of the Risen Christ empowers us to unlock the doors and live in trust and hope. He calls us to venture boldly among the leaders who would silence us and to live and proclaim Gospel values—peace, love, joy, hope, forgiveness. The Gospel message we first live, hopefully without words, may sound like babble to the world around us but babble of God’s goodness we will.

We now know that only by letting go and letting God will we become all that we are meant to be—sons and daughters created in the very image and likeness of the merciful and loving Creator God.

Come, Holy Spirit!

Easter Hope

OLL St. 1-1-1On Good Friday, thunder showers and the threat of more thunder showers forced the Good Friday Ecumenical Walk indoors. The organizers were prepared for this contingency. We gathered in Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Melbourne and did a virtual walk with digital images of the “stations.”

The Walk took on a whole new dimension for me. Usually, sometime into the walk the muscles start to garner more of my attention. On the actual walk, it is sometimes difficult to hear all the prayers and songs. Continue reading

New Life Cometh

 

Through the cross to resurrection

Through the cross to resurrection

Today we commemorate the death of a just man. The traditional explanation since the middle ages has been that Jesus died for our sins. Recognizing the untruth of this statement because God would never demand such from his beloved son, we now say Jesus died because of our sins. It is time to discard Anselm’s medieval caricature of God and any modern renditions. God is not a feudal lord who could never just forgive an unruly serf. God is the God of compassion and love. We can do nothing to make God love us. We can do nothing to make God not love us. We are born in God’s very image and likeness. GOD LOVES US! God will never give up on us even if we give up on ourselves. This is the entire message of the scriptures. When we go away, God keeps coming back to us. God keeps bringing us back to what we are capable of becoming—sons and daughters of the Living God.

Today we ponder the death of Jesus of Nazareth, a death which probably would have gone unnoticed by the media, if there were any media at the time. We ask, “Why?” Why was an itinerant preacher from the backwaters of Galilee crucified by the Romans. The Romans maintained power by fear and oppression. Crucifixion was capital punishment designed to deter those who would dare challenge empire. These who rebelled in Sephoris, near Nazareth, years earlier were hung on crosses lining the roadside to remind people of what happens to those who dare question the vagaries of empire. Perhaps Jesus saw those bodies decaying and being picked clean by vultures as he traveled to work in Caesarea Philippi. Toward the end, he certainly feared going up to Jerusalem because he knew they were out to get him. Mark begins his Gospel with a bold proclamation—Jesus is Lord. Jesus not Caesar is Lord! High treason. The Gospels recount Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem on a donkey. Pure street theater at its best. Pilate’s legions coming to bolster security during Passover were entering at the same time through another gate on their majestic horses. If Jesus the Christ is Lord, Caesar is not.

Jesus stumbled through the streets of Jerusalem carrying his cross. In a few hours we will take to the streets of Melbourne, Florida to bear witness to the love of Christ. We will march, sing, pray and ask, “”Where is Jesus suffering today?”  Joan Chittister says that we will walk as “Easter people, alive in hope, strong in faith and living in love.”

We pray and sing our way through the stations. Our Lady of Lourdes Church. Our lady of Lourdes School. A veterans’ relocation center. The Daily Bread soup kitchen. His Place Ministries shelter. The railroad tracks where we pray for migrants and refugees. City hall where we pray for all governments. We end up at the church for concluding prayers. The theme of the stations is “Where is Jesus suffering today?” We dare ask this question because Eucharist compels us to serve others, especially where Jesus is suffering today. The Pascal Mystery teaches us that we come to new life through suffering and eventually death. In the meantime, Eucharist compels us, the Body of Christ, to ask where Jesus is suffering today and to do what we can to alleviate this suffering.

Listen to Sister Joan Chittister:

Lent is our time to prepare to carry the crosses of the world ourselves. The people around us are hungry; it is up to us to see that they are fed, whatever the cost to ourselves. Children around us are in danger on the streets; it is up to us to see that they are safe. The world is at the mercy of US foreign policy, US economic policy and US militarism; it is up to us to soften the hearts of our own government so that the rest of the world can live a life of dignity and pride.  We must “set our faces like flint,” let nothing deter the Jesus life in us, continue the journey from Galilee to Jerusalem, knowing that however our efforts end, the resurrection is surely on its way.

We will be proclaiming once again that Jesus is Lord; Caesar is not.

 

 

Holy Week Is Not Ho-hum!

 

Raccoon hiding in tree

Raccoon hiding in tree

[I chose this photograph because, unlike this raccoon I scared, we Christians cannot hide in trees.]

Death is in the air these days. Two hundred and forty eight passengers and crew on a Malaysian Airline flight are missing and their relatives and friends grieve while they do not know the final outcome. Twenty people are stabbed in a horrendous attack at a high school in Murraysville, PA. That same day a motorist rams another car which crashes into a day care center leaving one four-year-old dead and injuring others. A FedEx truck in California crosses the media and hits a bus loaded with prospective college students and their chaperons. Ten were killed and many others injured. We mourn these untimely deaths. We grieve with those who grieve and ask, “Why?”

This week we ponder another death which probably would have gone unnoticed by the media, if there were any media at the time. We ask, “Why?”  Continue reading

Abiding in our Pain

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Merton’s Dawn Greeter awakening us to new life!

Wandering in the desert of life far away from the fleshpots of Egyptian slavery, the people grumble against God. You brought us out for this? Their faith and perseverance had worn thin. Like them, when we are confronted with adversity, when things do not go our way, we grumble against God. With Alfie, we ask, “What’s it all about.” “Why?” “Why me?” “Why us?” “Heal me NOW!” “Heal us NOW!” Then from the dark pits of frustration, the seraph serpents coil, strike and bite us. From the depths of the abyss, we cry out, “Save me, Lord.” “Deliver me from this!” We want immediate relief from what is making our life less than good. Richard Rohr reminds us not to seek immediate relief. Only if we abide in the darkness of the abyss, will we come to new life. Like Lazarus, Jesus is calling us forth to new life but Lazarus had to die before he could come to new life. Lazarus had to hold the darkness of the sealed tomb for three days. Rohr writes: Continue reading