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March 1, 2018

 
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Lent Reflections
 
Thursday, March 1, 2018
 
 
Luke 16:19-31
 

"There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man’s table; even the dogs would come and lick his sores. The poor man died and was carried away by the angels to be with Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, where he was being tormented, he looked up and saw Abraham far away with Lazarus by his side. He called out, 'Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in agony in these flames.' But Abraham said, 'Child, remember that during your lifetime you received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in agony. Besides all this, between you and us a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who might want to pass from here to you cannot do so, and no one can cross from there to us.' He said, 'Then, father, I beg you to send him to my father’s house — for I have five brothers — that he may warn them, so that they will not also come into this place of torment.' Abraham replied, 'They have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them.' He said, 'No, father Abraham; but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.' He said to him, 'If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.'"

 
 
 
 
 
 

What convinces you and me to repent? In this story Jesus seems to tell us that knowing the promises and commandments of Moses and the prophets, even believing that miracle of miracles the Resurrection will not make us citizens of the kingdom of God. For the kingdom Jesus brings into our world is an upside-down kingdom. It's a kingdom in which the hungry are fed and the rich sent away empty, in which the poor, mournful, and outcast are made happy while the rich and powerful are brought low, in which the blind are the ones who see and the ones who see are blind. It's a kingdom whose citizens love God with all their being and their neighbors, even their enemies, as themselves. It's not surprising, then, that knowing Moses and the prophets and even the awesome miracle of the Resurrection does not make us citizens of God's kingdom. We have to be changed. An upside-down kingdom requires an inside-out transformation. Only God can accomplish so radical a change. But we can consent to letting Christ make us part of his ministry, his death, and his resurrection, part of himself. And we can hope and we can trust that before he is through with us — and it will take our whole lives — he will indeed have made us into persons who love him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength and our neighbors as ourselves.

 
 
 
 
 
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February 28, 2018

 
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Lent Reflections
 
Wednesday, February 28, 2018
 
 
Matthew 20:17-28
 

While Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside by themselves, and said to them on the way, "See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn him to death; then they will hand him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified; and on the third day he will be raised."

 

Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came to him with her sons, and kneeling before him, she asked a favor of him. And he said to her, "What do you want?" She said to him, "Declare that these two sons of mine will sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom." But Jesus answered, "You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?" They said to him, "We are able." He said to them, "You will indeed drink my cup, but to sit at my right hand and at my left, this is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father."

 

When the ten heard it, they were angry with the two brothers. But Jesus called them to him and said, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. It will not be so among you; but whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave; just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many."

 
 
 
 
 
 

As I reflected on this reading, it resonated with me because it is yet one more example of Jesus calling his disciples to live a life that is radical to its core. In this reading, Jesus and his disciples are heading to Jerusalem where Jesus knows unimaginable pain and suffering awaits him. Yet, it appears some of his followers are still under the impression that they are participating in the establishment of an earthly kingdom - one where titles, status, power and honorifics are prized. Jesus reminds the disciples that true leaders are servants to others, as he says, "[j]ust as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve..."

 

In the tumultuous and troubling days leading to his crucifixion, Jesus is calling us to reject the trappings and temptations of earthly kingdoms, those where leaders lord their power over their subjects, while their followers jockey for proximity to temporal power and the fleeting rewards that ultimately will not last — cannot last — because they are grounded in a way of living that displeases the Lord.

 
 
 
 
 
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February 27, 2018

 
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Lent Reflections
 
Tuesday, February 27, 2018
 
 
Matthew 23:1-12
 

Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, "The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; therefore, do whatever they teach you and follow it; but do not do as they do, for they do not practice what they teach. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on the shoulders of others; but they themselves are unwilling to lift a finger to move them. They do all their deeds to be seen by others; for they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long. They love to have the place of honor at banquets and the best seats in the synagogues, and to be greeted with respect in the market-places, and to have people call them rabbi. But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all students. And call no one your father on earth, for you have one Father — the one in heaven. Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Messiah. The greatest among you will be your servant. All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted."

 
 
 
 
 
 

We are surrounded today with opportunities for self-promotion and are rewarded with “likes” and “followers” when we share every act, thought, or deed. This carefully curated image we present to those around us which fits their expectations and approval — even if they do not practice what they preach when it comes to those expectations. In this passage, I think we are challenged to live a life to please God, not to please those around us. To not get caught up in others judgement and perception of us or the need for us to be seen as better than someone else. To live a humble life of acts and deeds no one may notice in this life but will be counted and valued in the next life.

 
 
 
 
 
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February 26, 2018

 
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Lent Reflections
 
Monday, February 26, 2018
 
 
Luke 6:27-38
 

"But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. Do to others as you would have them do to you.

 

"If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

 

"Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back."

 
 
 
 
 
 

"Love your enemies." Wow. Jesus can sometimes ask us to do the most difficult things, can't he? As I reflect upon why this appeal seems so tough, I realize that the hardest part of this process is identifying the enemy. Who is my enemy? Which person in my life causes me the most grief, the most pain? Who consistently demands the most (too much) from me and then sits in judgement of me? I realize…it's me. As cliche as it may be, I am my own worst enemy. And I have a feeling that you can say the same.

 

Let’s take a little time — right this second — to love ourselves. Love that imperfect human that is you. Try to love you like God does. Think of one mistake that you've made that really eats at you. You know, the one that you wake up at 3:00 in the morning thinking of. Now forgive yourself for it. If you find that you just can't do it, that's okay. Try again. Recognize that you need patience and love, then give it to yourself.

 

As you begin to do this, notice how much more patience and compassion you have for those around you. If it makes you feel warm or proud, that is wonderful! God's greatest gift to us is love, but we must accept it before we can share it.

 
 
 
 
 
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