A Dove-like Experience

On Day One—John the Baptist says, “There is the Lamb of God!” pointing to Jesus.

We are not sure exactly who he is talking to–then he tells his experience of recognizing Jesus as the Messiah, when John baptized him in the River Jordan.  Continue reading

The Birth of God’s Word

By Christmas morning we have told the story of Jesus’ birth in the stable many times in this parish church.

At two p.m. we used the crèche to tell the story to the tots and toddlers. At four p.m. the older children told the story themselves–dressed in costume and singing favorite carols. When we tell stories to children they want to know: what happened? And what happened next? Continue reading

Gain Your Soul

How do you gain your soul?  To start with, you have to know you have one.

The world views us as units of productivity not as holy people. There is no talk in the public arena of souls.  Continue reading

Hell: What it is, What it isn’t

The Gospel paints a vivid picture of Hell.

Many of us have different ideas in our minds when we hear the word Hell. When I was a hospital chaplain intern, and on occasion since then, I have heard people say that they knew they were going to Hell—and they were scared. It is an important subject and I want to take this opportunity to talk about what Hell is, and what Hell isn’t. Continue reading

Holy

One of the most important words in the Bible is the word: Holy.

It represents the mystery, the majesty of the Divine. The word Holy appears very early in the first book of the Bible: Genesis. God speaks Creation into being. God creates the Earth, the planets, the stars, the sun. God separates the land from the water and creates living creatures. Then there is something that we are told God blesses and makes holy. What is it that God makes holy? Continue reading

Jesus The Good Shepherd

Pressure cookers belong on the kitchen stove.

Ball bearings are to reduce friction. Nails are for building. But on Monday they were part of a bomb that killed three people and injured hundreds on a day of athletic achievement and celebration. The search for the guilty brought Boston to an unprecedented standstill. Continue reading

Christmas Day: Traveler on a Cosmic Journey

John 1:1-14

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. Continue reading

Where We See Jesus

Canterbury Cathedral

Sir, we wish to see Jesus,

said the Greek visitors in the Gospel of John.  We all do, says the Very Reverend Robert Willis, dean of Canterbury Cathedral.  The request made to the disciples seems so essential to our faith, that Canterbury Cathedral adopted the mission statement: “To show people Jesus.”

Just as we are seeing who Jesus is, and how he is related to the God he calls Father, we realize he is saying farewell and taking his leave of us.  So we are left to follow and seek, with no certain understanding of when he will return.  We wonder when we will see Jesus again.

Like visitors to Canterbury Cathedral, when we visit a church we are likely to see fine architecture, stained glass windows, and other ecclesiastical finery which reflect traditions that have evolved over the centuries.  But what speaks of Jesus may be less visible at first.  It is the prayer that has soaked into the place for however long it has been a place of worship.  The site of Canterbury Cathedral has the location of a Christian church–at least since the arrival of Augustine from Rome in 597.  But not one stone remains upon another from that period.  There is no carving, no piece of furniture, no stone altar that survives the sacks and fires that have destroyed the successive buildings.  Only the prayer of the people, offered faithfully to God over the centuries, remains unchanged.

Steps worn by pilgrim feet

When I went on pilgrimage to Canterbury several years ago, I was struck by the stones beneath my feet.  Steps were worn down by the feet and knees of people who came to Canterbury on pilgrimage.  In the deep faith of those pilgrims, I saw their yearning for Jesus, and I saw Jesus himself.

The voice of God from the sky, named Jesus as his glorified son. Not everybody heard it. Some heard thunder, and some heard an angel.  So perhaps the best way to know who Jesus is, is to see him in his followers as we daily make the path and wear it a little more so those who come after us can follow it more easily and find Jesus–like the Greek visitors, who followed the disciples path hoping to see Jesus.

Children’s activities: click here for some activities related to Following Jesus

Blessings,

Mother Anne+

 

Jesus Faces Death: taking up the cross

firefighter-by-snapshots-northcoastnowdotcom1What does it take to change the world? You may hear: “you can’t fight city hall.” Or, “what can I do? I’m only one person?” Or, more hopefully, “can one person make a difference?”  The well-known anthropologist Margaret Mead has a response to all of these questions: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

Every day, firefighters and police officers make the decision to put themselves in danger, risking their lives to save another person.  They measure their lives not by length, but by depth and quality.  Death has no power to limit their lives.  They walk a path of freedom, toward a higher goal than personal comfort and safety.

Firefighters don’t want someone standing beside them saying that studies show the respiratory equipment isn’t powerful enough to beat the smoke.  Police officers don’t need to hear tremulous whispers that the bullets for sale on the street will pierce their body armor. So Jesus rebuked Peter for trying to prevent him from facing what was coming.

Jesus changed the world, and the cost was his life.  In the reading for today from Mark’s gospel, Jesus explains to his disciples that he is walking a road leading to suffering and death.  He was fearless, and knew that going up against the powers that be–the Roman Empire and the established religious leaders–was only going to end one way.  Jesus measured his life by his commitment to bringing God’s kingdom to the world, not by the number of years he lived in it.

Jesus prepared to take up his cross and said to his friends, once again, “Follow me.”  When we take up our cross, we are not forced into meaningless suffering.  As Bishop Barbara Harris said, “Your cross is the burden you carry for Jesus, and for the Gospel.  It is your choice, and you can always put it down if it is too heavy for you.” It is the work of love to lift that burden, not a punishment. It is the work of trying to change the world.

Questions to think about:

  • Have you ever given up something, or been injured, because you were trying to help someone? (Gotten bruised catching someone who was falling, for example).  Would you willingly do the same thing again?
  •  What can you do to bring justice, healing and peace to the world?

Possible children’s activities: Here are some activities focusing on Peace:

Blessings, Mother Anne+

Touched by Grace: Jesus and the Leper

Head of Christ (detail), Rembrandt van Rijn

Hansen’s disease, also known as leprosy, is a disease that gets worse over time.  It is a disfiguring condition that causes skin sores, nerve damage, and muscle weakness.  It is rare in the US, and can be treated by modern medicine.  But in the ancient Biblical world, leprosy was untreatable.  It was worse than a sentence of death.  Leprosy was painful and disfiguring, and the person who suffered with it was shunned and isolated, because the disease was so contagious. In today’s reading from Mark, Jesus healed the leper in a shocking way: he touched him.

When bad things happen to people, there is something in us that wants to believe they deserve it.  We say they shouldn’t have smoked, or driven so fast, or done something stupid–that whatever happened to them was their own fault.  In the ancient world, it was believed that bad things happened to someone because of their sinfulness (or that of their parents). Lepers were believed to be sinful, so they were judged to be at fault.  It was easy to push them away, to leave them to die.  The illness destroyed their bodies, and their humanity. Jesus didn’t judge them, or call them sinners.  People came to him for healing, and left rejoicing.

The leper in this story may have been asking for something more than healing when he asked to be made “clean.” To be clean, or pure, had a special meaning in ancient Israel–it had to do with being a part of the community, and able to worship in the Temple.  The leper may have been asking to be healed AND to be restored to the community.  That is why Jesus told him to show himself to the priest–the only one who could recognize that he was cleansed.  Otherwise, the former leper would be healed but still isolated and shunned.

Jesus did what no one else could or would do for the leper; he crossed the boundary between clean and unclean to heal him.  That was an act of grace.  Jesus told the leper not to tell people he was healed–but the newly healed man was so joyful he could not restrain himself and told everyone.  So in all the towns, people knew that Jesus had touched a leper.  That touch had the effect of making Jesus himself unclean.  Because Jesus touched a leper, he could no longer go into the towns, which is why people had to come out to him.  Nothing could prevent Jesus from doing the work of healing and reconciliation.  Jesus fearlessly transformed the life of everyone he encountered.

Questions to think about:

  • Are there illnesses today that cause the sick person to be blamed?  To be shunned?
  • Are you uncomfortable being around someone who is very sick?
  • Have you ever experienced someone reaching out to you beyond a barrier or boundary?  Have you ever done that for another?

Blessings, Mother Anne+