Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Is This Mary & Joseph's Son?

And so in Luke 4:21-30 the day arrives…the local boy who has been making quite a name for himself, is coming home. He goes to the synagogue on the Sabbath. He reads from Isaiah. He speaks a few words. The crowd whispers to each other how good he is: "Mary and Joseph certainly raised a good son." But wait, what happened? The crowd is beginning to get a little restless as he goes on. They’ve heard all about the great things he’s done before returning home. Many of the people had gathered to see some great event – a little razzle-dazzle for the home town folks. If Jesus would just do some healings or some other miracle, they would know that God's power was here and now, once and for all, and he would finally drive out the pagan Gentiles and their ungodly influences in the city. But Jesus performs no miracles in Nazareth, and in fact goes out of his way to defy expected convention of the respected in Israel by reaching out to sinners, toll collectors and outcasts. So what started as an initially positive response among the Jews, leads to anger and hatred when his mission opens up to include the Gentiles. The essence of Jesus’ ministry is the love of God for all people. What is it that sparks this abrupt shift from awe to rage for the hearers of Jesus’ words?
As for Jesus, it’s hard enough to live up to anticipated expectations. It’s harder still, of course, to meet up with unexpected rejection. There is a very human dimension to this whole story. When the hometown boy makes good, there are usually more than a few who resent his success. Why? As for us, there are all sorts of people in our lives who call us to compassion and justice. Some of them are very ordinary. What is it about the ordinary that’s so hard to see?

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

You're So Vain I Bet You Think...

"Charity begins at home." But, does it really? This view point does well in a world, in which we think that everything that happens is about us. But perhaps when we are strictly focused on our own comfort and well being, our attitudes to larger issues are filtered. This often becomes a reality particularly in our attitude toward stewardship often comes from what is left over and our charity is not primarily focused on the needs of others.

Luke and Paul in our readings (Luke 4: 14-21 and 1 Corinthians 12:12-31a) use two different approaches to make their point that perhaps can be entitled it’s not just all about me.

When we are faced with events like  Hurricane Sandy or are engaged with guests at Family Promise or involved with feeding people at St. Mark’s kitchen, we are prompted to think about our responsibility to others and our egos must take a back seat as we minister to those whose voices are temporarily muted: it's not just all about me.

Paul lays it all out for us as he gives us an organizational plan for the individual and the community:  “Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many. The body is centered in the love of God - the Spirit that animates all of life.”

Jesus proclaims in his quote from Isaiah –"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor.” It is a world of inclusion where our sense of self is other directed rather than “me oriented.” Compassion for the least is the foundation for community life and communal work provide a “place” where we care for the least.

Luke builds on the power of the Holy Spirit that he sees realized in Jesus and Paul tells us that the church is to be a community of mutual care. We gather to remember that we belong to God and remember that as God has blessed us, we are to be a blessing to others.

David Steindl-Rast in his book, Deeper Than Words cites Thomas Merton’s “take” on our connectedness: Because God is love and the love is the Yes to belonging, God’s Holy Spirit is the power that animates the deepest belonging of all to all. Jesus stood up for love, belonging, and connectedness in the Holy Spirit, and so his life—from his very conception-can be understood as CONCEIVED BY THE HOLY SPIRIT, as the realization in history of something that God, beyond time CONCEIVED.



Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Always Listen to Your Mother

The Wedding Feast at Cana, Julius Schnorr von Carosfeld 1819

The Wedding at Cana is unique to the Fourth Gospel and is the first of Jesus’ seven signs. But, why water into wine? John2:1-11

The exchange between Jesus and his mother seems so familiar and somewhat humorous, to me at least. Mary, who John never refers to by name senses the humiliation of the wedding hosts and tells him that they have run out of wine. Jesus’ response is that they should have hired a better wedding planner. But then, without paying him any mind, she tells the servants to do whatever he says. I have this image of my mother encouraging me to get on the diving board for the first time: “Come on, you can do it! I know you can!” But, I wonder what Mary saw at that moment. What had Jesus revealed to her that would cause her to believe that such a miracle was possible? How did she know that this was his time?
In many ways the exchange between Mary and Jesus is somewhat reminiscent of the unspoken “dialogue” between Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King. Her refusing to yield her seat to protect her and her people from humiliation provoked King whose time perhaps, had not yet come, to transform history. She declared his moment was at hand.

It is more than coincidence that Jesus’ mother surrounds his earthly ministry. She is there at the very beginning; there at the start of his “career” and she is there at the end… as she watches him die. She is the nurturing force when he, shares parenthood with God the Father, as the Word is made flesh. What does this mean in this season of the Epiphany? Perhaps it is a reminder that whenever Jesus reveals his divinity, he is simultaneously revealing something about his humanity and as the Word was made flesh, our sharing in his divinity?

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

You are My Son the Beloved; with You I am Well Pleased

...is God’s public proclamation that reveal through Luke 3:15-17-22, a one-on-one intimacy reserved for the praying Jesus…as the heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. This is a special insight in Luke, for none of the other Gospels cite Jesus’ at prayer at this time.
Much lies ahead for Jesus from this point on. After living in total obscurity for his entire life, his work now begins. Jesus knew his destiny at twelve and publicly declared his intent at around age thirty. He was thoroughly aware that he was about to enter into the hardest endeavor in history. And so Jesus' baptism inaugurates his public ministry as he identifies with "all people," not just the elite or “chosen” insiders. By wading into the waters along with the broken and downtrodden and disenfranchised, he cites his compassion as he embraces the faults, failures, pains and suffering for all those who wait.
Why did Jesus allow himself to be baptized?  John was preaching repentance from the way of sin, which scripturally was defined more as a way of living than as an individual action. Likewise, repentance is a redirection, a changing of lifestyle-patterns that lead us away from destructive behavior. It is a new way of perceiving life. It’s not just saying; “God, clean up my past.” It is saying “God, I am no longer my own, I am yours.” It is not just giving to God what I’ve done, it is giving to the great I AM what I was, what I am and what I hope will be.
In many ways Jesus’ baptism leads us to consider the meaning of "vocation," a word that has lost much of its resonance through repeated use in both secular and churchly worlds. In essence, Jesus ended his “hidden years” and entered into the public crossroads of his ministry. He calls us to get off the sidelines and into the fray. It’s time to get out of our stupor and into what matters. Through his baptism, Jesus took a public stand that would cost him his life, but it would give life to us. Are we ready to get off the sidelines too? (Adapted from The Journey with Jesus: Notes to Myself, Weekly essays by Dan Clendenin, posted January 7, 2007)