"They were amazed by Jesus, because he taught with authority"
Jesus gave the Holy Spirit to those he left behind so that they might have his authority to go into this hurting world and be compassionate. Anyone who knows Jesus can be “an authority” by simply choosing to love the people around them without compromise.
"Take courage, all you people of the land. For I am with you," says the LORD of hosts.
In this modern era, it takes courage to speak about the reality of Heaven. Our bodies are mortal, from the moment of our birth we begin to die. Yet, our culture idealizes youth and riducules those who are content with the aging process. Often we are told that believing in heaven is silly, only a pie in the sky.
“You shall love your neighbor as yourself” -Matthew 19:19
Today we see “good” church-going people supporting systems that lead to human bondage. Often, undocumented immigrants are held as slaves, that is not permitted to decide their own future or leave a certain location, or paid for their labor, whether it be at a farm, a chicken processing plant, as landscapers or maids, or in a sex trafficking ring. Slavery still shapes our neighborhoods, workplaces, and schools. Until recently, the banking and real-estate system of our country prevented people of color from owning certain homes, thus denying these families the opportunity to build equity. Segregation is a denial of freedom and unloving.
[Real religion is] to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep neself from being polluted by the world.”
Religions is all about widows and orphans, James says. They were the most vulnerable members of first century society. Their position correlates today to those among us without adequate health insurance, those whose jobs or military service may be dangerous (leaving behind widows/widowers), those who fail to earn a descent wage, and those who must flee their country in search of refuge.
Jesus came at Christmastime to a world where religion no longer served the people. Mary sang her hope of a different order. What about today? We live in a time of social upheaval and political polarization of equal magnitude to that of the first century.
One key difference between Jesus and Herod the Great was that Jesus had a succession plan. Herod the Great seemed oblivious to the fact that he would die. Jesus came into the world in order to die for sinners. Herod considered anyone who challenged him to be disloyal and a threat. Jesus forgave his enemies and invited them into his kingdom.
Not everyone sees the same thing. In each of the Gospel of John’s miracle stories, two people stand side by side, one believes and the other doesn’t. Like the wedding of Cana, the servants who pour the water that has become wine, believe and see. The master of the feast doesn’t.
In every parish that I served, I encouraged people to think of Pentecost as one of the three great holidays of the church. There is Christmas, Easter, and Pentecost. They are of equal importance and should be celebrated with the same degree of serious preparation. Christmas allows us to speak of the Trinity and the uniqueness of Jesus among men. Our systematic theology goes into high gear as we try to speak about God’s mission to save all of humanity. In Easter we rediscover the passion of God and the wretchedness of humanity. Our theology goes low, as we identify with the people who stood by his cross and then carried our Lord to the grave. Easter is a story filled with transition, the greatest example being the resurrection.
Do you believe that the poor actually have been chosen by God to be rich in faith?
When I read James, I find myself reconsidering the radical statement that some Liberation Theologians make, that being poor is a prerequisite for understanding Jesus. Throughout the Bible we hear an oft repeated warning, friendship with wealth never ends well. Those who have been born with it, need to flee into the wilderness — do a Saint Francis of Assisi style run — to be purged of its effect. Those who have earned it, must cauterize all thoughts that they are somehow better people because they played life’s game to achieve this sordid end.
[God answered Solomon's prayer saying] I will do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and discerning heart
God must not like our prayers because he keeps giving us the opposite of what we ask for. We ask for patience and we receive more frustrations. We ask for peace in our household and we receive more conflict. We ask for enough wealth to be secure and we find ourselves jobless and dependent upon the kindness of strangers. I get the feeling that God’s intention is to throw us fully into life, like a baby being thrown into the deep end of the pool. We pray, “Lord give us a firm foundation of truth,” by which we mean that He should make us smart enough to always be right. God responds, “Hey it’s time for your swimming lesson. Keep your head up and remember to breathe.”
But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner's fire and like fullers' soap.
How is Jesus like a refiner's fire or the fuller's wash-tub? In my own life Jesus appears as the refiner's fire when my problems and misdeeds have become too great for me to ignore. It is like what they say at AA, "I've come to believe that it will take a power greater than myself to restore me to sanity." That's when Malachi's Jesus becomes good news.
As God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.
You can live 2019 with the peace of Christ in your heart. Always be compassionate. Always try to understand as much as you can. Never let the ends justify the means, that is, don't forsake your principles or good behavior to get your own way.
...he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor.
Since the beginning of time, those with means have shown little restraint in screwing over those who are born poor, or on the wrong side of a border, or to the wrong family. What is different about the current government shut down, is that our rulers have decided to go one step further and screw over middle-class people. What would Jesus do?
In Luke 4, Jesus goes over the wall between us and those we consider foreign or different. He does this in two ways: First, by physically placing himself where he encounters the foreigner. Second, Jesus used the scriptures to show that all of the great people of the Old Testament went over the wall and lived with foreigners. Jesus' own stories, which have become our scriptures, always showed foreigners in a good light.
Lent, is a process. A process is any series of sequential events that are guided by a master, in this case God, to take raw material, or people, from one way of being and transform them into a more useful end product. A process always involves some experiences that break down the raw material, or us.
We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people's trickery, by their craftiness...
It’s helpful to imagine Paul in a prison cell as he writes the book of Ephesians, particularly chapter 4. To be imprisoned is to be divided off from humanity. So, Paul speaks about unity and provides a vision of what brings us together. He says that God considers us all to be one and that when we accept the Christian faith we all have the same baptism, even though some are sprinkled as infants and others dunked under the cold, muddy, waters of the Penobscot River. We are one, in spite of whatever wind of doctrine fills our sails. We are one, no matter what work fills our days, or what economic fortunes have befallen us.
There’s a vicious circle that I often get stuck in; I think that because I am a Christian, I should always have the right answer, never have any doubts, and in practice, be a model of perfection. Guess what? I’m not perfect yet.
The Apostle Paul makes a bold statement at the beginning of his letter to the Galatians. He says, “For freedom, Christ has set us free.” In other words, a major reason for Jesus to come into our lives is to make us free. Paul means this first in terms of our inner spirit. The fruit of that freedom loving spirit is compassion.
"Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people."
Jesus didn’t start with a blank slate when he called disciples. He started with natural gifts that could be spiritually transformed. May it continue to be so in our lives. May we each become fishers of men.
Funny thing. When it comes to life, we often expect what we harvest will be different from what we plant. What we really want are the fruits of the Spirit. If you grow a spiritual relationship with God, you will become both creative and compassionate.
Because we aren’t there, in the same place as those crowds, we are reluctant to consider Jesus’ promises of blessing as something that is already happening. Those who were blessed in Jesus’ sermon were the same people who saw the blessings of his healing touch and his compassionate lifestyle. We tend to put these blessings up in heaven. Those who encountered Jesus looked for his blessing to be right now, on this earth.
Jesus doesn’t distinguish between type one enemies and type three enemies. He doesn’t distinguish between moderate enemies and total jerks. He doesn’t have one response for those who are merely annoying and another for enemies who are dangerous. He says, “Love them all.”
When Herod heard [about Jesus] he said, “John, whom I beheaded, has been raised from the dead!”
Even good people are in the habit of ignoring their conscience. We get busy in life. We get persuaded that we deserve things — that tax cut made possible by stealing from the next generation, that promotion at work which only requires us to forsake our principles, that secure life lived within a gated community surrounded by only our kind of people. Yes, we deserve to have our sins, our greed, our gluttony, our prejudices, free from any sudden attack of conscience. So we all, keep the inner voice of God on a short leash.
Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.
When his disciples needed a rest, Jesus didn’t snap his fingers and heal them of their stress and exhaustion. Instead he tried, unsuccessfully, to find them a place to rest. God will never give us a red bull energy drink when we need to take a day off for our own sanity. There are no cheap fixes for the over-committed life. Even Jesus had to look for a place to hide his disciples so that they could recover their inner calm