Pondering for Sunday, February 23, 2020

Eucharistic Readings for the Last Sunday After the Epiphany: Year A

Exodus 24:12-18  Psalm 2  or Psalm 99  2 Peter 1:16-21  Matthew 17:1-9

“As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus ordered them, “Tell no one about the vision until after the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.” (Matthew 17:9)

Peter, James and John are picked to go up the mountain with our Lord Jesus. I would think it was because they are the ones that could keep quiet about what was going to happen except that Peter was included.  None the less, these three were called out from the others to go to a special place with Jesus.

I’m guessing they were informed about who Moses and Elijah were given that that both were historic figures and there were no “photographs” of them.  So this was the revelation given to them by the Cloud of all knowing.

And after the experience of the Transfiguration of our Lord Jesus; the revelation Cloud of all knowing; the voice of God, and then being told to not tell anyone, was asking a lot. But in hindsight, we can see why these stories were actually written much later and in a different language (Greek). Today there is a church built on the site where the Transfiguration supposedly took place and it is called the Church of the Transfiguration located on Mount Tabor in Galilee of Israel.

Being told not to talk about something gives one time to process what happened. Today we say that the introvert processes quietly while the extrovert processes by “talking it out.”  This might be the reason for taking these three, but then there again, there is Peter. Peter can’t hold back even in the midst of the Transfiguration.  Peter said, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if you wish, I will make three dwellings here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” (Matthew 17:4) 

So Jesus took with him both the extrovert and the introvert. Jesus takes with him both you and me.  We are invited to see God Incarnate who is the fulfillment of the Law (Moses) and the Prophets (Elijah).  Moses didn’t want to go but was sent anyway.  Elijah was all in, even taunting the prophets of Baal, “At noon Elijah began to taunt them. “Shout louder!” he said. “Surely he is a god! Perhaps he is deep in thought, or busy, or traveling. Maybe he is sleeping and must be awakened.”  (1 Kings 18:27) 

So God calls any of us to do the Lord’s work.  Be attentive therefore, Our Lord will call you also to have that mountain top experience.  Dr Martin Luther King Jr. says that he experienced it in his kitchen after a hateful phone call.  This mountain top experience can happen anywhere. When it happens, it is life changing, and the change is forever.

Let us hear what the Spirit is saying to and through the saints of God and then ponder anew what the Almighty can do.  John

Pondering for Saturday, February 22, 2020

Daily Office Readings for Saturday in theWeek of the Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany: Year 2

Psalm 107:33-43, 108:1-6(7-13); PM Psalm 33 Gen. 35:1-20; 1 John 3:11-18; John 11:1-16

“Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead. For your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” Thomas, who was called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”’  (John 11: 13 – 16)

Finally, our Lord Jesus had to just come out and say it, “Lazarus is dead.”  The disciples were looking for any reason they could find to not go into Judea, an area they considered dangerous. Jesus however would not let fear determine his footsteps. And neither should we. Moreover, his friend Lazarus needed him. We too should not look for, or accept any excuse as a way to avoid doing what is right.

Thomas shows his dedication to our Lord Jesus. “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”  Thomas too often gets a less than honorable reputation.  He is called “Doubting Thomas.”  But there is no doubt about his loyalty to our Lord Jesus.   We tend to label people by the one perceived negative thing they do.  But here Thomas calls on his fellow disciples to stay the course.  Jesus is going in the way he came to go. When things do go bad for our Lord Jesus we will see that Thomas will not be behind a locked door in fear with the other ten disciples.  It will be a week later that he hears of our Lord Jesus rising from the grave.  Thomas was a fearless Christian as we all should be. Thomas was out in the midst of people going on with his life.

Loyalty to friends is demonstrated here as Jesus goes to raise Lazarus from the dead and Thomas is standing by Jesus even onto their own possible death.  Friends are often our “chosen” family.  We are born to some, we choose some.  My dad used to say to me that I am the company I keep.  He probably heard from somewhere else but it rings so true.  Just as we need our friends when we are in trouble, so too, our friends need us when they are in trouble.  Friendship, like family, is priceless.

Let us hear what the Spirit is saying to and through the saints of God and then ponder anew what the Almighty can do.  John

Pondering for Friday, February 21, 2020

Daily Office Readings for Friday in theWeek of the Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany: Year 2

Psalm 102; Psalm 107:1-32   Gen. 32:22-33:17; 1 John 3:1-10; John 10:31-42

“See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are. The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him” (1 John 3: 1)

Our Lord Jesus walked among us teaching us to behave like Children of God.  He adopted us as brothers and sisters in Christ and therefore heirs to the kingdom.  We are not like many in the world.  We, as believers, are grafted into the family-hood of God.  That means we are different.  We do not repay evil for evil.  We treat others like we would have them treat us.

There are people who do not know this about the nature of God.  When they see the love we have they know not where it comes from and don’t understand what it means to be civil and decent and loving towards others.  It is God’s way but “the reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him”

 Our Lord Jesus goes on to say, “All who do not do what is right are not from God, nor are those who do not love their brothers and sisters (1 John 3:10).  I think the truth is that we are all from God but some of us have de-select to be a part of God’s family because they have decided to worship the created rather than the Creator. To remain a part of the family of God our Lord Jesus says we do what is right and love our brothers and sisters. We don’t de-select them.

If we are to do what is right then it is implied that we already know the right thing to do. It is implied that we have that “gut” feeling that tells us the right path.  That right path is not promised to be easy.  But it is right and good so to do.

Additionally, we are to love our brothers and sisters.  I’ve talked about this before. First we recognize that all people are our brothers and sisters (regardless of what they think). Please be cautioned about two things: first, most of our brothers and sisters whom we are called to love are different than ourselves (race, ethnicity, sex, sexual orientation, nationality, language, and even political party.)  Second, some or our brothers and sisters go out of their way to be difficult to love.  Love them anyway.  In many ways it’s like being in any regular family.  It is no wonder then that most families have the so-called “lost child.”  Perhaps these lost family members are preparing us for what God is asking us to do on a global stage, love them anyway.  This earth is our family home and we are all family, brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus.  Thank You Lord Jesus.

Let us hear what the Spirit is saying to and through the saints of God and then ponder anew what the Almighty can do.  John

Pondering for Thursday, February 20, 2020

Readings for Frederick Douglass Orator and Advocate for Truth and Justice, 1895

Psalm 85:7-13 Isaiah 32:11-18 John 8:30-32

“My people will abide in a peaceful habitation, in secure dwellings, and in quiet resting-places.” (Isaiah 32:18)

Today we remember Frederick Douglass an early advocate for civil rights, especially for slaves and for descendents of former slaves.  “Born as a slave in February 1818, Frederick Douglass was separated from his mother at the age of eight and given by his new owner, Thomas Auld, to his brother and sister-in-law, Hugh and Sophia Auld. Sophia attempted to teach Frederick to read, along with her son, but her husband put a stop to this, claiming, “It would forever unfit him to be a slave.” Frederick learned to read in secret, earning small amounts of money when he could and paying neighbors to teach him.” (A Great Cloud of Witnesses for February 20)

Sometimes the most profound lessons come from the lips of people who are not respecting the dignity of another.  Hugh Auld said, learning to read “would forever unfit him to be a slave.” Therefore, reading frees people.  “At the age of 14, Douglass had experienced a conversion to Christ in the African American Episcopal Church, and his recollection of that tradition’s spiritual music sustained him in his struggle for freedom: “Those songs still follow me, to deepen my hatred of slavery, and quicken my sympathies for my brethren in bonds.”   (A Great Cloud of Witnesses for February 20)

“A strong advocate of racial integration, Douglass disavowed black separatism and wanted to be counted as equal among his white peers. When he met Abraham Lincoln in the White House, he noted that the President treated him as a kindred spirit without one trace of condescension. Douglass died in 1895.”  (A Great Cloud of Witnesses for February 20)

From Douglas we can, and should, understand Isaiah’s words for us today to be inclusive, that is, the term “My People” to mean people of an inclusive Christian faith, not just black or white, even though Douglas might have meant it that way. There is a truth here that defies race and bigotry. Reading, learning and loving are the gateways to a spiritual growth.  Listening, learning, loving and leading will enable us “to abide in a peaceful habitation, in secure dwellings, and in quiet resting-places.”

Let us hear what the Spirit is saying to and through the saints of God and then ponder anew what the Almighty can do.  John

Pondering for Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Daily Office Readings for Wednesday in theWeek of the Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany: Year 2

Psalm 101, 109:1-4(5-19)20-30; Psalm 119:121-144 Gen. 31:25-50; 1 John 2:12-17; John 10:1-18

“And the world and [and the desire for it] are passing away, but those who do the will of God live forever.” (1John 2:17)

We have an opportunity, and indeed an invitation, to adjust ourselves to being happy while doing the will of God.  Everything else that we do has an expiration date.  It is not a matter of “if.”  The end of our days is a matter of “when.”  My brother still remembers, with sadness the day I told him that one day he will die.  He told me that recently, even though it has been more than sixty years ago.  I’m not sure that as a child that I even knew what I was talking about. 

Now what good is it to live forever while at the same time not liking the life you live?  But if we learn to appreciate doing the will of God to the point that we look forward to every opportunity to do it again, we are happy living forever.

Remember, it is at the intersection of what you love to do, and what the community needs, that is the joy you will have and it is also the will of God. Each of us are here for a reason, a divine reason.  A personal goal for each of us should be to ponder about what our niche in this life is.  What is it that we really enjoy doing? Rule nothing out!  Even if it sounds silly, that very silliness may just be what you get to enjoy for all eternity.  Some will say “I can’t think of anything that I would want to do for all eternity.”  To which I would respond, “You haven’t found “it” yet.”

This world is passing away.  But we, as believers, have a chance to be with an eternal Presence that welcomes us, and the gifts that we are blessed with, into an eternal household.  

Let us hear what the Spirit is saying to and through the saints of God and then ponder anew what the Almighty can do.  John

Pondering for Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Daily Office Readings for Tuesday in the Week of the Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany: Year 2

Psalm 97, 99, [100]; PM Psalm 94, Gen. 31:1-24; 1 John 2:1-11; John 9:18-41

“The man answered, ‘Here is an astonishing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes.” (John 9:30)

After the interrogation of the man who was given his sight by our Lord Jesus and his parents also, that man stands up to the Temple Elders (a better term than “the Jews”).  He has contempt for the Temple Elders and sarcastically asked them if they too wanted to become disciples of Jesus. If we don’t know where a person comes from then, if we are smart, we will leave open the possibility that maybe perhaps he or she could actually be from God.  We identify the tree by its fruit.

These so-called educated men argue with the man who was given his sight but he catches them off guard when he says, “Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind” (John 9:32).  But even this does not move them to admit that they are in error. 

Finally the newly sighted man stumbles into Jesus after being thrown out of the Temple.  Jesus lets him know that he is speaking to our Lord Jesus and the man worships him.  I can’t begin to know what it must be like to have never seen anything and then be given sight. Wow!  But perhaps it’s not too different from living under false doctrine for all of one’s life and then be given real sight about who God is and what God wants of us. Again, Wow!

“Jesus said, ‘I came into this world for judgment so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind” (John 9:39).  This is a way of saying that our Lord Jesus will open our eyes to what is real but if we choose to not see, so be it.  “Some of the Pharisees near him heard this and said to him, ‘Surely we are not blind, are we?’ Jesus said to them, ‘If you were blind, you would not have sin. But now that you say, “We see”, your sin remains.” (John 9:40 – 41)  Therefore, we cannot see wrong-doing and pretend not to see it. Once we know, we can’t un-know.   If we see it we must acknowledge it and respond in godly ways.  Anything less and we fall into that judgment that our Lord Jesus spoke of.

Let us hear what the Spirit is saying to and through the saints of God and then ponder anew what the Almighty can do.  John

Pondering for Monday, February 17, 2020

Daily Office Readings for Monday in theWeek of the Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany: Year 2

Psalm 89:1-18; PM Psalm 89:19-52 Gen. 30:1-24; 1 John 1:1-10; John 9:1-17

“The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar began to ask, ‘Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?’ Some were saying, ‘It is he.’ Others were saying, ‘No, but it is someone like him.’ He kept saying, ‘I am the man.’ But they kept asking him, ‘Then how were your eyes opened?’ He answered, ‘The man called Jesus made mud, spread it on my eyes, and said to me, “Go to Siloam and wash.” Then I went and washed and received my sight.’ They said to him, ‘Where is he?’ He said, ‘I do not know.’”  (John 9: 8 – 12)

I can relate to this formerly blind man.  I am so different from how I was raised and how I grew up.  Perhaps some old friends or even relatives would say of me, “it is someone like him.”  I know I am different now.  And it truly is like having my eyes opened.

The act of having one’s eyes opened is a collaboration. Our Lord Jesus touches us but then also he gives us instruction that we must obey. “Go to Siloam and wash.” For me it was my Lord Jesus saying “Go, be Baptized.”  And I did, at St Anne’s in Memphis, Tennessee forty years ago at the Easter Vigil. It was life changing. But it was just part of a lifelong process.

Jesus giving us sight is a lifelong process.  We have to do our part in this healing ministry.  Jesus touches us and gives us instruction.  We then must listen and do as we are instructed, continually. I have many altars in my life; starting out at St Vincent de Paul Catholic School, my finally getting in the Marines, my baptism at St Anne’s, my Call to ordained ministry, and hey, I’m not done yet.  I’m still receiving more sight.  As Jesus is the Light of the world, I am still receiving further light.  It just gets better and better. 

The Spirit of God in our Lord Jesus Christ continually asks us to partner with him in order that we might better see the world and the heavens.  When you follow, you will change.  And old friends and perhaps even relatives, will ask if you are the same person.  And the answer is “no.”  You really are a new creation in Christ Jesus.

Let us hear what the Spirit is saying to and through the saints of God and then ponder anew what the Almighty can do.  John