Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Wind of the Spirit

Daily reading: John 3:1-21

Nicodemus reminds us all that times we are confused or at least stumbling through or over our own preconceived notions about how God works in our world and who God is.  We all, at times, get stuck on only seeing or understanding things one way and place our world and our view points into nice little boxes. 

What Jesus is trying to explain or teach Nicodemus is that this new understanding happens not on our own, but it happens when the Spirit of God comes and blows through our preconceived notions, knocking our boxes that we place God in open and over.

Here is the visual that all El Pasoans can understand.  Jesus says that “God’s spirit blows wherever it wishes.  You hear its sound, but you don’t know where it is going.”  Even if you can’t comprehend what I am saying, try to experience it, just like you do the wind. 

Since injuring my elbow I have begun hiking numerous times a week.  My dog, Ainsely, and I usually do a three hill trek that is about three miles long.   It never ceases to amaze me how when the wind is blowing here, it is able to blow in all sorts of directions!  Because in El Paso, the wind blows where it wishes, you hear its sound, but you don’t know where it is going.  We don’t control it, we experience it.

Sometimes we have to experience grace, or forgiveness or love in order to really understand its depth and beauty.  How might God be calling you today to embody the message of God’s deep love for the world?

Prayer: God help me to love the world in the expansive, inclusive, all out way that you do.  Blow through the hardened parts of my life, and break down the areas that have become ridged.   Amen.


Monday, January 29, 2018

Expanding our thinking

Daily reading: John 3:1-21

Those who have young children in the home, know that after the kids are in bed, you are able to get much more work done than when they are awake.  Night time offers for us a contrast from our day, it is a time when things seem to slow and quiet down.  It might be the time of the day that you think best, or that you take to spend time with God.

It is under the cover of night that a peculiar dialogue takes place between these two religious minds.  Nicodemus comes to Jesus because of what he has seen Jesus do and he is trying to figure out how what he is doing matches up with his own understanding of God and the words of scripture that he already knows very well.  You see Nicodemus is a teacher himself, someone who not only knows what scripture says, he also teaches it to others.  So he comes to Jesus with sincere, honest questions. 
Through their dialogue, a couple of themes emerge; one is centered upon change and expanding our understanding.  We wonder alongside Nicodemus if a real change is possible, as Jesus proposes that it is.  As the conversation unfolds it seems, as if they are talking at each other, rather than to each other.  Nicodemus highlights for us that at times we just don’t get it. 

No matter how big or confusing the question is, stay with it.  Invite God into the questions you have, invite others to ponder and question alongside you.  Open yourself up to new understandings that might just change or expand your perspective!


Prayer: God help me to love the world in the expansive, inclusive, all out way that you do.  Blow through the hardened parts of my life, and break down the areas that have become ridged.   Amen.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Water and Spirit

Daily reading: John 3:1-21

Today’s passage of scripture contains one of the most well known verses in the Bible.  It is rich with imagery and concepts, comparisons and contrasts, questions and more questions.

The chapter is set into motion under the cover of night, with a Pharisee named Nicodemus seeking out Jesus because he believes that Jesus has been sent from God. 

Incarnation is all about connecting the human to the divine.  The gospel writer John bridges the cosmic with the ordinary throughout his gospel.  It is as if John is elongating the Genesis prologue by reminding us that creation is infused with God’s presence.  The imagery of wind or Spirit that brooded over the watery chaos of creation continues to manifest itself through the beginning of John’s gospel. In the first chapter, John the Baptist is baptizing people with water in the Jordan River.  In chapter two, Jesus turns water into wine at the wedding at Cana and in chapter three, water and the Spirit are linked and set in the light of transformation.

Today notice the holy in the ordinary moments of your day.


Prayer: God help me to love the world in the expansive, inclusive, all out way that you do.  Blow through the hardened parts of my life, and break down the areas that have become ridged.   Amen.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Incarnation matters

Daily reading: John 2:13-25

Through the gospel writer John, we realize that God is indeed present in the ordinary, flesh and blood moments of life, reminding us that incarnation matters.  It is what sets us apart from our Muslim and Jewish brothers and sisters.  We actually believe that God desired to be one of us.  We believe that God desires to dwell in and among us.
We witness to the deep love God has for all of creation not just with our words, but also through our bodies with our actions.  We are called to embody it, to seek out and embody grace, love, forgiveness, and justice because Christ has embodied it for you and for me.  Christ has come to show us a new way of living, one that pulls us out of systems and ways that allow us to remain in darkness and sin.
Christ teaches us that God isn’t confined by bricks and mortar.  God is present out in our world and it is up to us to willingly and consciously seek God out.  We are called to go and to partner with others in God’s work in our community. 
We are called to be the presence of Christ out in the world. We are called to have our eyes open to see God’s presence in whatever we are doing, be it in whatever field of work, or in retirement, or in the classroom. We are called to embody the message of Christ to a hurting and hungry world.
Holy One, may I bring my entire self to you today, both my joy and my anger, because You can handle it all.  Turn over the tables in my life that create a barrier between me and Your creation.  Amen.


Thursday, January 25, 2018

Compelled forward

Daily reading: John 2:13-25

John sets it at the beginning to color his whole gospel.  He is,  in effect, saying now that I’ve told you that God isn’t only embodied in the temple, listen to where it is God also can be found.  As we read through John’s gospel, what we will find is that God is out in front of us, blazing a trail for us to follow, if only we could let go of the old systems in place that no longer connect us to God; because that is the core of what Jesus is teaching us.
Rather than only being pulled inward to the building, to experience community we are also compelled out into the world because that is where we will find God too.

Holy One, may I bring my entire self to you today, both my joy and my anger, because You can handle it all.  Turn over the tables in my life that create a barrier between me and Your creation.  Amen.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Words of hope

Daily reading: John 2:13-25

With the only reported act of aggression, Jesus uses words and cord and strength to literally over turn their understanding of how it is we relate to God and experience God in our world.  In true fashion, with the prophets from the Old Testament, he performs a sign act, where his actions point to a deeper reality and message from God.
John speaks directly to those who are living in the shock and trauma of having the temple destroyed, of losing something that took 46 years to build.  Into that fear, Jesus speaks words of resurrection.
And this is indeed Good News for us all.  Jesus then offers that same challenge to us, to be able to name and claim the ways in which we participate in systems that are no longer life giving, or perhaps in our mourning of what is no longer, to hear the Good News of resurrection.

Holy One, may I bring my entire self to you today, both my joy and my anger, because You can handle it all.  Turn over the tables in my life that create a barrier between me and Your creation.  Amen.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

A new era

Daily reading: John 2:13-25

Exchange of money and animals without blemish to be purchased were necessities in the temple system.  One would assume during a pilgrimage time, like during the Jewish Passover, that there would be people from faraway places coming to celebrate and to offer sacrifices to God.  All of this is very ordinary to religious life … what Jesus does is violently question participation in a system that had been corrupted through Roman occupation and rule.
While the other gospel writers place this story at a different pivotal point in Jesus’ life, at the end of his journey, as a catalyst for Jesus’ arrest, trial and execution, in John’s gospel it happens at the beginning.  John places the story at the beginning to announce the start of a New Kingdom or era, whereby the sacrificial temple system is no longer the avenue through which we encounter Godly means of offering sacrifices of gratitude, obligation or forgiveness.

Holy One, may I bring my entire self to you today, both my joy and my anger, because You can handle it all.  Turn over the tables in my life that create a barrier between me and Your creation.  Amen.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Embodied

Daily reading: John 2:13-25

I simply love babies.
Recently, a friend brought her baby to an ecumenical ministry meeting.  Her baby does not like to keep her socks on so as she kicked her legs, the socks rubbed against the blanket that was covering her and in her constant motion, eventually she pushed her tiny feet out from underneath the blanket and her tiny little toes emerged. 
And to know me is to know that I LOVE baby’s feet.  In fact, I have a photo of my kid’s feet emerging from the sheets on canvas in my house.  There is something about those tiny toes!
Those of us at the table cooed at them and her mom’s co-worker got up to gently touch the toes.
I love watching as babies learn about the bodies that they inhabit.  One of my favorite images of Eva when she was small was when she was discovering her reflection in her bedroom door mirror.  She smooshed her little face right up against the glass in hopes of seeing and touching the person on the other side.
Bodies.  We all have one.  We inhabit them. 
They are so central to whom we are that the apostle Paul uses the body as one of his most meaningful metaphors to describe how the church at its best should relate to one another.
John’s gospel proclamation emerges from the embodiment of God in Jesus.  How do you embody the gospel message?

Holy One, may I bring my entire self to you today, both my joy and my anger, because You can handle it all.  Turn over the tables in my life that create a barrier between me and Your creation.  Amen.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Challenge

Daily reading: John 2:13-25

Today’s passage may startle us.  Here we do not see a peaceful Jesus, rather we see a Jesus that is rather upset.  His actions just a few verses prior brought us hope for God’s gracious abundance in the scarcity of very ordinary problems in our lives.  The miracle of water into wine at the wedding in Cana happened almost unnoticed.  The servants knew what happened but the majority of the guests just believed that the host reserved the best wine for last.  Today’s passage, by contrast, is out in the open; it is intense and swift.
Back when Jesus walked the earth, a faithful response to God’s blessing in the Jewish world was to bring items to the temple for sacrifice.  This was normative and it is repeated over and over and over again in the first five books of the bible. The grounding for how the temple would work is laid out even before they had reached the Promised Land and had actually built the temple where God was to reside. 
In John’s gospel from today’s reading we hear, “He found in the temple those who were selling cattle, sheep, and doves, as well as those involved in exchanging currently sitting there.” 
Now there isn’t anything shocking about this statement.   But once again, John grounds Jesus’ message in the very real, ordinary reality of our world.  What Jesus brings to light is challenge to embedded realities in our life. 


Holy One, may I bring my entire self to you today, both my joy and my anger, because You can handle it all.  Turn over the tables in my life that create a barrier between me and Your creation.  Amen.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Outrageous abundance


Daily reading: John 2:1-11

Church, we are invited to be part of this outrageous abundance.  God is fully aware of our tendency to live in scarcity, to hoard, to hold onto, to believe that there isn’t enough to go around and believe that we, too, are not enough and to allow fear take hold, yet we will live what we believe to be true, we will defy scarcity by proclaiming that there is more than enough.  Believe that God is with you, working to redeem the world through the very ordinary, mundane, or perhaps even shameful moments of your life. Believe that through God all things are possible, grace upon grace.

Abundant God, help me to see the areas of my life that are parched and dry, those places in need of your enriching presence that can bring life to me in unexpected ways.  Speak life and light to the darkness and decay.  Help me to see your grace and then to abundantly share that with others this day.  Amen.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

New Reality

Daily reading: John 2:1-11

Abundance it is!  Jesus, taking on the role of host, tells the servants to fill six large stone basins with water.  Then asks them to draw some from the basin and take it to the headwaiter who tastes the delicious wine.   Suddenly the feast is on, there are now 180 gallons of amazing wine, more than enough for the third day, more than enough for three more days.  No one will go without, abundance and blessing overflows.
John invites us into this new reality with his gospel, where we are encouraged to see the very presence of God in the ordinary moments of our days, in those moments when we don’t believe there is enough to go around, not enough food, or wine, or blessing, or love, or grace or forgiveness.  He sheds light into the dark corners of our souls and speaks abundance.  He grounds his gospel in a very earthy way, as if to say your concerns are my concerns.
He tells us that God will meet us in our scarcity, in the very ordinary and embarrassing moment when we run out, and will respond with generous abundance. 
Abundant God, help me to see the areas of my life that are parched and dry, those places in need of your enriching presence that can bring life to me in unexpected ways.  Speak life and light to the darkness and decay.  Help me to see your grace and then to abundantly share that with others this day.  Amen.


Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Resurrection and Abundance


Daily reading: John 2:1-11

Through Jesus “we all have received grace upon grace” and so now Mary, a good Jewish mother, nudges Jesus to embody this grace in the midst of scarcity. 
Mary and the gospel writer John know that Jesus can and should do something, something that only God can do, for it is the third day.
And if we are paying attention, then the first four words of chapter two should have caught our attention.  “On the third day” … As in “after the third day he was raised from the dead.”  Into the darkness, into places of scarcity, into places of death and decay, God speaks resurrection and abundance.

Abundant God, help me to see the areas of my life that are parched and dry, those places in need of your enriching presence that can bring life to me in unexpected ways.  Speak life and light to the darkness and decay.  Help me to see your grace and then to abundantly share that with others this day.  Amen.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Shame


Daily reading: John 2:1-11

Weddings can be stressful affairs for those hosting and planning. There is the expectation that the hospitality will be generous, that guests will have an abundance of good food, good drink and good music.  Guests come expecting to be taken care of.  For multi day weddings the planning is multiplied, and becomes a careful guessing game of needing to know how much guests will consume so that there is enough to fuel the party for the duration. 
John tells us that it is the third day of the wedding feast.   The wine has run out before the end of the celebration.  This is disastrous according to social etiquette, wine is a sign of God’s abundance and blessing. This is a situation ripe with shame for the host.

Yet Mary notices they have run out, so she mentions it to Jesus.  Jesus then responds in a way that, well, that is so very human … “woman, what does that have to do with me?   My time hasn’t come yet.” 
An important thing to keep in mind when reading any of the gospels is that they are not biographies; they are testimonies, which have been carefully laid out to tell a certain story.  John is all about telling us that Jesus is the Messiah, the Christ, God’s anointed one.  Unlike in the other gospels where there is some time between when the disciples start following Jesus as their teacher and they begin to understand that he is the Messiah, John has Andrew say within 24 hours of meeting Jesus “we have found the Messiah.”

Abundant God, help me to see the areas of my life that are parched and dry, those places in need of your enriching presence that can bring life to me in unexpected ways.  Speak life and light to the darkness and decay.  Help me to see your grace and then to abundantly share that with others this day.  Amen.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Not enough


Daily reading: John 2:1-11

What happens when there just isn’t enough to go around?
What happens when we run out? 

There is much to be said about church potlucks.  Early in my ministry, with my restrictive vegetarian diet, in the Mid-west where they find ways to sneak meat into absolutely everything, I approached potlucks with a little fear and trepidation; never knowing if my dish was going to be the only one I could consume. 
Experience though over the years has proved my fears to be false.  There has always been more than enough, almost as if we have a veritable miracle of loaves and fish right smack dab in the middle of the kitchen of the fellowship hall in the church.  Plates of left-over’s are  carefully put together with plastic wrap sealing in the yummy goodness; a reflection of many cooks with their own unique take on family recipes carefully prepared alongside favorite premade store bought deliciousness.
There seems to be a palpable excitement in the air on the days we have potluck lunches.  Worship concludes and we transition down the hall to be part of an embodiment of the early church community that we find in Acts 2, “All believers were united and shared everything … they met together in the temple and ate in their homes.  They shared food with gladness and simplicity.”
Potlucks through a theological lens fiercely claim what we believe to be true, that God is abundantly generous and there is more than enough to go around.

Abundant God, help me to see the areas of my life that are parched and dry, those places in need of your enriching presence that can bring life to me in unexpected ways.  Speak life and light to the darkness and decay.  Help me to see your grace and then to abundantly share that with others this day.  Amen.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Being found

Daily reading: John 1:35-51

There are two main actions happening in the passage for today: one of invitation, “come and see” and one of finding with the invitation to follow.

Jesus finds Philip and asks him to follow him.  Then Philip finds Nathanael and tells him about Jesus and Nathanael has more questions and so Philip responds with “come and see.”

What does it mean to be sought out, to be found?

This question reminds me of playing Hide and Seek with my nephew and niece before I had my own children.  We would play in my mother’s house, the home in which I grew up in.  I knew all of the good hiding places because I had played the same game when I was a child.  My memories, of course, were of wanting to find a place where no one could find me.  I would empty out the bottom section of the linen closet and hide my niece in there and then go and hide myself.  I thought I was doing something so awesome by helping her find a rad place to hide.  So I was completely surprised when she would start yelling “come find me!” in her hiding space.  What?  Come find me?  It’s called hide and seek.  Not hide and yell.

It wasn’t until a couple of years later when Eva was a small child that I came across an article that states that for really young children the fun in the game is knowing that when you are hidden someone can find you.  It helps them learn about separation from their parents and reinforces the reality that they will return. 

Hide and seek becomes a game of lost and found.

Life, it seems, is a process of learning about ourselves and others and how it is we are able to find our voice in community, in our family, at work, or school, and in a variety of social structures. 

It seems that this life of faith is a journey grounded in discovering what it means to be found by God; of being open to the moments when we are out in the world, and find ourselves wondering and being invited to “come and see.”  Where God is present in ways in which we hadn’t anticipated or expected.
It is in those moments when we realize that we are part of something bigger than ourselves, yet are not lost within it.

Maybe that is what this season is about.  If we truly believe in incarnation, then we know that Jesus was not immune to the desire to know and to be known. To seek and find.  To invite and abide.  And that is why he invites us to come and abide with him.  So we can know and be known.


Prayer: Abiding God, help me to open up to your presence in my life and in the lives of others.   May I truly realize the radical claim of incarnation, and may it spread exponentially within me and in my community, so that each moment I live with the expectation of seeing your good works all around.  Encourage me to actively take part and to be swept up in this season of Epiphany.  Amen.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Abundance


Daily reading: John 2:1-11

Into the darkness of scarcity and believing that we have to watch out for ourselves and not one another, Jesus comes. 
Each of the four gospel writers has Jesus do a different act at the beginning of their ministry.  John’s is the miracle of water into wine at the wedding of Cana; setting the stage for us to see the abundance that God offers to us through Christ Jesus.  John takes a very ordinary problem, a lack of something physical at a social event, and infuses the situation with a realization that God is present.  And perhaps even more so than the other gospel writers, John’s words carry multiple layers and posses a depth that demands more than just a sermon but rather time and study.
Within our cannon of scripture, feasts are often mentioned as the means about which God’s abundance is realized.  In Isaiah 25 we read, “on this mountain, the LORD of heavenly forces will prepare for all peoples a rich feast, a feast of choice wines, of select foods rich in flavor, of choice wines well refined.”

Abundant God, help me to see the areas of my life that are parched and dry, those places in need of your enriching presence that can bring life to me in unexpected ways.  Speak life and light to the darkness and decay.  Help me to see your grace and then to abundantly share that with others this day.  Amen.

What are you looking for?

Daily reading: John 1:35-51

At the heart of following Christ we need to be able to answer the question “what are you looking for?”

That’s a question that we ask in a variety of areas in our life. 
At the grocery store looking for Garam Masla or bok choy. 
We might have to stop an employee and tell them what we are looking for.


Or if we are single and hoping to find someone to date,
we might use “Match Dot Com”
and while I haven’t used that site,
I am assuming from their commercials that you answer questions about yourself
and when you look through other’s profiles you have in mind
what you are looking for. 

Someone who likes long hikes in the Franklin Mountains,
cozy afternoons locked inside during a strong dust storm
and who can’t get enough of Chico’s Tacos. 
         
When it comes to our spiritual life,
we need to know what we are looking for. 

Are we looking for concrete answers and for those who can give them to us? 

Are we looking for a space where it is safe to ask questions and to struggle with our doubts? 

Are we looking for a place where a diversity of perspectives helps us to see life in a new way?
         
What are you looking for? 

Sometimes we need to be able to have an experience where we are invited to “come and see”. 

Sometimes we have to experience something
in order to realize that we need it,
because we were not even aware that it was a possibility or option for us. 


Prayer: Abiding God, help me to open up to your presence in my life and in the lives of others.   May I truly realize the radical claim of incarnation, and may it spread exponentially within me and in my community, so that each moment I live with the expectation of seeing your good works all around.  Encourage me to actively take part and to be swept up in this season of Epiphany.  Amen.

Come and See

Daily reading: John 1:35-51

Jesus notices they are following and simply asks “what are you looking for?”

They reply “rabbi, where are you staying?”

The Greek word mono is used here and has been translated as “stay” but a more accurate translation is abide, which connotes something more than a shelter or a home but also relationship. 

To this question, Jesus extends an invitation … “come and see.” Come and abide.  Come and enter into this relationship.

This simple invitation is more than just one that will satisfy our curiosity, but also has the power to change us, because the invitation is more than just one to see what is happening, but to join in the activity.  Come and be part of what I am doing.

Come and see.  These words, this invitation will guide us through much of John’s gospel.


Prayer: Abiding God, help me to open up to your presence in my life and in the lives of others.   May I truly realize the radical claim of incarnation, and may it spread exponentially within me and in my community, so that each moment I live with the expectation of seeing your good works all around.  Encourage me to actively take part and to be swept up in this season of Epiphany.  Amen.

Epiphany

Daily reading: John 1:35-51

Today we begin the season of epiphany in the gospel of JohnWhat does epiphany actually mean? It is an “ah ha” moment of clarity about the nature of Jesus.  But the gospel writer John stretches that definition to include us.  Epiphanies, then, are both about something new being revealed about Jesus as they are about revealing something about us.

What is revealed and what grounds our Christian year is God becoming human.  God chose to come and move into the neighborhood, to be one of us.  This epiphany fundamentally changes us, because we now see the presence of God in one another and in ourselves. 


Prayer: Abiding God, help me to open up to your presence in my life and in the lives of others.   May I truly realize the radical claim of incarnation, and may it spread exponentially within me and in my community, so that each moment I live with the expectation of seeing your good works all around.  Encourage me to actively take part and to be swept up in this season of Epiphany.  Amen.

Waiting

Daily reading: Isaiah 40:1-11 Monday December 10, 2018 Focus passage:  Go up on a high mountain, messenger Zion!  Raise your voice a...