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Showing posts from November, 2019

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11-29-19 - What Time Is It?

(You can listen to this reflection here.)

St. Paul has an answer for our subject line: “You know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep.” I get a kick out of all these “wake up” readings on the Sunday of Thanksgiving weekend, just as we’re starting to clear the triptofan from our sleepy systems.

Some of us might relate to the rest of Paul’s comments too: “…let us live honorably as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy. Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.” I don’t know if scarfing leftover stuffing qualifies as “gratifying the desires of the flesh,” but be warned.

In Sunday's Gospel, Jesus also talks about eating and drinking – amid dire warnings of destruction: “For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, and they knew noth…

11-28-19 - Happy Thanksgiving!

(You can listen to this reflection here.)

I wish you a happy and healthy and blessed Thanksgiving -   wherever and with whomever you spend it.

If you miss somebody today, give thanks for them and their life in yours.
If you're annoyed with someone today - imagine missing them, and give thanks.
If you lack something today, give thanks for what is before you and ahead.
If you fear something today, remember that “perfect love casts out fear,”    and invite God’s perfect love to wash over you.

And give thanks in all circumstances. There's a recipe of peace....

I am thankful for this community of Water Daily readers and listeners,   and for your being a part of it!
To receive Water Daily by email each morning, subscribe hereSunday’s readings are  here.

11-27-19 - Food and Family

(You can listen to this reflection here.)

Ask most Americans what they associate with Thanksgiving, and most will answer, “Food and family.” Some might add, “And stress.” This is one holiday when making the food can cause stress, which we seek to relieve by eating too much food – a nice little cycle that leads nowhere good (throw in too much alcohol, and things really get interesting...).

Back when I was planning alternative worship every week, I wrote a lot of sermon dramas. One of the most fun – and elaborate – was at Thanksgiving time one year, called “The Martha Show.” It depicted a TV cooking show featuring a famous Martha. Not Martha of Westport, though the character shared many of her attributes. This one was Martha of Bethany, whose dinner party for Jesus got her so stressed out she became royally ticked off at her sister for not helping. (Sound like a Thanksgiving scene you’ve seen?)

And in the midst of prepping for her Thanksgiving show, an unexpected guest arrives early. Not w…

11-26-19 - Preemptive Gratitude

(You can listen to this reflection here.)

It’s Tuesday. What are you thankful for? “But we don’t have to be thankful till Thursday…” you might be thinking. I did. But I like to be ahead of the curve, so why not start the thankfulness part of Thanksgiving a few days ahead? Then we’ll be all warmed up when the Day comes around.

I’m only half-joking… Thankfulness can be a great antidote to stress. If we’re devoting at least part of our attention to awareness of what we’re grateful for, there’s that much less space available to worry about what we’ve done, not done, or don’t know when we’ll get done.

So today, as you wander a grocery store – give thanks for all the food and all the people who got it there, and all the people who work there, and the resources to buy it… what else comes to mind?

If you’re cooking, give thanks for the recipes and where they came from, the ingredients, other meals like this; the people who will be gathering around the table… what else?

If you’re packing, give tha…

11-25-19 - More Blessed Than Stressed

(You can listen to this reflection here. Sunday's gospel reading is here.)

Next Sunday we begin the holy season of Advent. Advent means “the approaching” – the approaching in-breaking realm of God, the approaching celebration of Christ’s incarnation, the ever-approaching promised final Coming of Christ in glory to usher in the New Age.

Before Sunday, though, we have a huge cultural celebration of Thanksgiving, which is not without its spiritual elements. And before that, we have the scramble to finish work, clean houses and buy food, if we’re hosting; or pack and prep if we’re traveling. In other words, this will be, for many, a stressful three days followed by a full and, God-willing, relaxing three days, after which we plunge into the holy season of Advent. Many different themes, and maybe not so much time for spiritual reflection. I will keep Water Daily flowing, but lightly, and less tied to Sunday’s readings. (I thank our British readers for bearing with us...)

Today let’s just…

11-22-19 - Catalysts for Transformation

(You can listen to this reflection here.)

As we end this week exploring Christ, our crucified King, let’s give a look to the second reading appointed for Sunday, a passage from Paul’s letter to the Colossians. It is dense in theology and rich in imagery. In fact, “image” is what Paul calls Jesus, the Son of God: He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers – all things have been created through him and for him.

The image of the invisible God: making God visible. This is the heart of a Christian understanding of God’s love, that God did not remain aloof from an estranged humanity, but found a way for us to see and know God, now in part, and in greater fullness as we grow into the likeness of Christ. Christ is the image of the invisible God; we take on the image of the crucified and risen Christ… and thus we, made in God’s image,…

11-21-19 - Today

(You can listen to this reflection here. Sunday's gospel reading is here.)

Popular culture suggests that, at the moment of our death, we will “cross over” to our eternal dwelling, where we are welcomed by those we have loved in this world. This notion has been greatly aided by popular songs, like Far Side Banks of Jordan. (Here, with June and Johnny…)

The Bible offers a more sober view, starting with prophetic texts about the “Day of the Lord,” Jesus’ own references to a great sorting at the final judgment, and Paul’s eloquent depiction of the sleeping dead rising “in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.” (I Cor. 15:52; No, it’s not the zombi-pocalypse... it's resurrection.) This line of interpretation suggests that at death we go into rest, like the “sleep” mode on our computers, to be reactivated when the “trumpet shall sound.”

And here is Jesus, confusing us all with this promise to the repentant thief dying next to him on the cross: “Today you will be w…

11-20-19 - Where's the Phone Booth?

(You can listen to this reflection here. Sunday's gospel reading is here.)

And they cast lots to divide his clothing. The people stood by, watching Jesus on the cross; but the leaders scoffed at him, saying, "He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!" The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine, and saying, "If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!"

Jesus was used to that mocking question, “If you are…” In his time of testing in the desert, the three big temptations were prefaced with, “If you are the Son of God…” During his earthly ministry, Jesus was a king in disguise, like royals in fairy tales who wander their realm as commoners to find out what’s really going on. And he had a really good cover, “plain old human.” All through his public life, people questioned his heavenly identity because of his earthly markers – how could someone who came from Galilee be the Messiah? How could someone w…

11-19-19 - Forgive Them

(You can listen to this reflection here. Sunday's gospel reading is here.)

When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. Then Jesus said, "Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing."

One of the biggest obstacles early followers of Jesus had in spreading the Good News was what Paul refers to as “the scandal of the cross.” It’s hard enough to support the claim that your spiritual leader is a human being who is also the divine son of God, and that this human/divine person was killed and buried and yet managed to rise from the dead. But the notion of a holy man crucified? Crucifixion was one of Rome’s worst forms of execution, reserved for the lowest criminals and revolutionaries. This was crazy.

“But we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the Gentiles,” Paul insisted after noting that “Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisd…

11-18-19 - King of What?

(You can listen to this reflection here.)

Sometimes snippets of songs pop into my head when I'm working on Water Daily. This week’s gospel reading brought up Sara Bareilles’ King of Anything. “Who died and made you king of anything?” goes the chorus.

This coming Sunday ends the church year before we rev back up in Advent. On the last Sunday in “ordinary time” we honor Christ as King. King of Kings and Lord of Lords. And in the years when our Gospel readings come mainly from Luke, the passage appointed for highlighting Jesus’ kingship is the crucifixion. Yep, right before Christmas.

This story invites us to think about what kind of king would be put to death on a cross with common criminals on either side. “Who died and made you king of anything?” is the attitude of the leaders standing, watching Jesus die. An inscription hangs over him, “This is the King of the Jews.” The soldiers supervising the execution mocked him, "If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!" Pilate…

11-15-19 - Peaceable Kingdom

(You can listen to this reflection here.)

The portion of Isaiah we’re looking at depicts different visions of peace and security. It even goes beyond human life to show peace reigning in the natural world, with an image some call, “The Peaceable Kingdom”: The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, the lion shall eat straw like the ox...

In this vision, predator-prey relationships are overturned; in fact, there are no predators. Carnivores have become vegetarians – a return to life in the Garden of Eden, in which plants and trees provided all the food that was needed, in which there was no killing to eat, no killing to settle scores. All that came outside the Garden, after the first man and woman were expelled.

"'They shall not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain,' says the LORD." No one will hurt. No one will be hurt.

On the roads, I pass so many deer and other animals, slain by humans moving too quickly to get somewhere that seemed much more important than the world…

11-14-19 - New Heavens/New Earth

(You can listen to this reflection here. Today's scripture passage is here.)

Today, let’s move from apocalyptic predictions to the larger context in which the end of things in this world exist. In one of the readings from the Hebrew Bible set for Sunday, a beautiful prophecy in Isaiah, God announces: “For I am about to create new heavens and a new earth.” This passage gives voice to the yearning for peace and security which should be the birthright of every man, woman and child – and animal – on this planet. It articulates beautifully the hope of a restored creation living in harmony:

I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and delight in my people; no more shall the sound of weeping be heard in it, or the cry of distress. No more shall there be in it an infant that lives but a few days, or an old person who does not live out a lifetime…

Reading that, I can’t help but think of all who have lost loved ones to the epidemic of gun violence in our country, as well as victims of other kinds of viole…

11-13-19 - Faith On Trial

(You can listen to this reflection here. Sunday's gospel reading is here.)

I may have overdone the “end of the world” stuff the past two days. Yes, Jesus refers to wars and famines and portents of the end, but that is not his focus. He is preparing his followers for hard times to come, when the structures of their faith are torn away, and they face persecution from both Jewish leaders and Romans for their belief in Christ.

"But before all this occurs, they will arrest you and persecute you; they will hand you over to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors because of my name.” He says they will be betrayed by family and friends and handed over, and, “some of you will die.” But there’s an upside: this will give them a chance to testify. Then he adds a strange instruction: don’t prepare. “So make up your minds not to prepare your defense in advance; for I will give you words and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to withstand or c…

11-12-19 - ...And I Feel Fine

(You can listen to this reflection here. Sunday's gospel reading is here.)

11-12…. An auspicious date on which to talk about the end of the world. REM famously sang, “It’s the end of the world as we know It… and I feel fine.” But can we feel fine about worlds ending, whether it’s The World, or pieces of ours? I don’t know about feeling fine, but I do believe we can attain a spiritual quality of trust and disentanglement that allows us to meet all kinds of circumstances with serenity.

Part of the shock in what Jesus said about the temple being destroyed as a sign of the end (of something… he doesn’t actually say the end of the world), is that the temple was so solid and so central to his followers' identity. How can something so vital and real be reduced to nothing?

Even our grandest buildings, even the institutions they represent, even the hopes and dreams of those who are invested in those institutions, are among the things of this world which are passing away. And – shock of s…

11-11-19 - EOTWAWKI

(You can listen to this reflection here. This Sunday's gospel reading is here.)

O goody – this week we get end-of the-world texts – you know an REM link is coming, when you least expect it. Each fall, as if to match the gathering gloom of shortening days, our lectionary begins to drag some scary stories out of our ancestral closet. There is history here – once upon a time, Advent was much more focused on prophetic doom and gloom than it is now, and it lasted eight weeks, not four.

This week’s conversation starts casually, as some of Jesus’ followers admire the temple and its adornments. Jesus responds bluntly: "As for these things that you see, the days will come when not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down." We the readers know that in 70 CE the Romans did in fact destroy the temple. But to Jesus' companions this pronouncement would have been shocking. And, like most of us when we hear that something horrible is likely to happen, they want to …

11-8-19 - Live Wires

(You can listen to this reflection here.)

Our reflections this week have been bouncing off a conversation recorded over 2,000 years ago, about heaven, resurrection, life after death. I explore such writings as part of my ministry. But does anyone else care about these ancient debates – what kind of bodies will carry our souls, if any; in what kind of community will we gather after death; when will the end times be? Are these just “first century problems,” or universal?

If thinking about these matters leads to anxiety, don’t. If it leads to what Paul in Thessalonians calls God’s gift of “eternal comfort and good hope,” then explore it. If dwelling on heaven can make us more peaceful and joyful and hopeful and engaged here and now, bring it on.

81 years ago, the world witnessed Kristallnacht, that night in 1938 when the Nazis unleashed across Germany and Austria the fury against Jews that would culminate in the horrors and devastations of the Holocaust. On November 9-10, hundreds of synag…

11-7-19 - God of the Living

(You can listen to this reflection here. Sunday's gospel reading is here.)

“Now he is God not of the dead, but of the living; for to him all of them are alive.”
That’s how Jesus ends his discourse with the Sadducees. I’d consider it more of a conversation starter. My first question is, “What do you mean, he’s not the God of the dead? What about the people we love, no longer in this life?” Jesus might answer: “Read both parts of that sentence. They’re alive. From the moment they accepted my life in them, they were alive with a life that physical death could not end.”

To say that God is God of the living, not of the dead, also makes me wonder about things, even people, that truly are dead. I’ve written this week about sending God’s life and power into the things and people that seem dead, hopeless, lifeless. But are there things, even people wholly given over to evil, that we should not seek to revive, because they have no life in them?

Death is where life is no longer. But what about…