Real freedom

One day Jesus was standing beside Lake Gennesaret when the crowd pressed in around him to hear God’s word. Jesus saw two boats sitting by the lake. The fishermen had gone ashore and were washing their nets. Jesus boarded one of the boats, the one that belonged to Simon, then asked him to row out a little distance from the shore. Jesus sat down and taught the crowds from the boat. When he finished speaking to the crowds, he said to Simon, “Row out farther, into the deep water, and drop your nets for a catch.”

Simon replied, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and caught nothing. But because you say so, I’ll drop the nets.”

So they dropped the nets and their catch was so huge that their nets were splitting. They signaled for their partners in the other boat to come and help them. They filled both boats so full that they were about to sink. When Simon Peter saw the catch, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Leave me, Lord, for I’m a sinner!” Peter and those with him were overcome with amazement because of the number of fish they caught. James and John, Zebedee’s sons, were Simon’s partners and they were amazed too.

Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid. From now on, you will be fishing for people.” As soon as they brought the boats to the shore, they left everything and followed Jesus. ~Luke 5:1-11 (CEB)

“We need to look for what we dismiss and what we disdain. Look at what we’ve spent our whole life avoiding. We don’t want to look unsuccessful. That’s our shadow. I can see why my father, Francis, intentionally countered the way the West was moving. He moved entirely into the shadow self and said, ‘Here is where I will rejoice.’ I will delight in nonpower, nonaggression, nondomination, nonpleasure, nonwealth and nonsuccess. He lived so close to the bottom of things that he could never fall very far. Now that is freedom! ~From Everything Belongs by Richard Rohr

Almighty God, as You have sent Jesus to be for me the light and truth, send now Your spirit upon me to grant me grace and strength to follow in His footsteps this day. Amen.

Freedom of the soul

Brothers and sisters, I want you to know that the things that have happened to me have actually advanced the gospel. The whole Praetorian Guard and everyone else knows that I’m in prison for Christ. Most of the brothers and sisters have had more confidence through the Lord to speak the word boldly and bravely because of my jail time ~Phil. 1:12-14 (CEB)

“We are desperately afraid of having no power. We fear loneliness, poverty and boredom. We fear failure terribly.

Nonviolence, nonpleasure, nonaggression are also part of our American shadow. These are the things that we avoid to create our character armor. We lust after the kind of aggression that allows us to be dominant, to be powerful. We settle for a certain kind of pleasure that really isn’t joyous. Sometimes pleasure, as a limited [secularized sacred] experience, is the avoidance of joy. It is to entertain one part of our body, perhaps, but at the price of the inner glow and juice of our whole being. Poverty is the ultimate shadow for many of us. We cannot imagine being happy without our money. We would be petrified to be without our many options. We’ve substituted freedom of choice for the freedom of the soul which alone gives spiritual joy.” ~From Everything Belongs by Richard Rohr

Almighty God, may Your strong hand defend, guide, and empower me along my journey today. Help me to overcome the darkness with Your light, my selfishness with Your love and my indolence and cowardice with Your steadfast devotion that I may ever live in Your presence and perform faithfully over my appointed tasks, and finally come to everlasting life; through the Jesus Christ my Lord. Amen.

Bushes aflame

“Therefore, don’t be afraid of those people because nothing is hidden that won’t be revealed, and nothing secret that won’t be brought out into the open. What I say to you in the darkness, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, announce from the rooftops. Don’t be afraid of those who kill the body but can’t kill the soul. Instead, be afraid of the one who can destroy both body and soul in hell. Aren’t two sparrows sold for a small coin? But not one of them will fall to the ground without your Father knowing about it already. Even the hairs of your head are all counted. Don’t be afraid. You are worth more than many sparrows. ~Matt 10:26-31 (CEB)

“Two years ago I faced the crisis of cancer. The dreaded disease, which had already taken the life of two close friends and relatives and invaded two others, now attacked me. In stark moments of confrontation with the truth, we can never predict our own response. At first I fell into a black hole, defeated. Then I swam in a sea of surrounding realities: my connectedness to others, my faith in the immensity of life, a strength whose source I simply accepted. In time my feelings roamed the spectrum of fear and despair. My body endangered by mortal enemy. My life thrown into turmoil and my future made uncertain. My total helplessness in the face of a silent, aggressive foe.

My recovery was quick, my prognosis good, my basic attitude healthy. I was immersed in understanding and love. My pain was borne by others and in that sharing there was comfort and hope. Before long I was engaged in all my normal activities. But ‘normal’ has become a meaningless word. Health has become a relative experience. Time is etched with urgency. Life, which I too am prone to take for granted, has assumed a precious value. People and the time spent with them are treasures, not to be calculated, and not to be abused.” ~From Every Bush is Burning by Joan Puls

Almighty God, through the power of your Holy Spirit you enable us to do and be more than we can think or imagine. I thank You for community through which You have shown me Your love in my helpless moments. Come now, dwell within me, and make me strong to do Your work and will. Through Christ my Lord. Amen.

The greates gift

 

After these events, the LORD’s word came to Abram in a vision, “Don’t be afraid, Abram. I am your protector.Your reward will be very great.”

But Abram said, “LORD God, what can you possibly give me, since I still have no children? The head of my household is Eliezer, a man from Damascus.” He continued, “Since you haven’t given me any children, the head of my household will be my heir.”

The LORD’s word came immediately to him, “This man will not be your heir. Your heir will definitely be your very own biological child.” Then he brought Abram outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars if you think you can count them. He continued, “This is how many children you will have.” Abram trusted the LORD, and the LORD recognized Abram’s high moral character. ~Gen. 15:1-6 (CEB)

“The greatest gift I have ever received from Jesus Christ has been the Abba experience. ‘No one knows the Son except the Father, just as no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him’ (Matt. 11:27). My dignity as Abba’s child is my most coherent sense of self. When I seek to fashion a self-image from the adulation of others and the inner voice whisperers, ‘You’ve arrived; you’re a player in the Kingdom enterprise,’ there is no truth in that self-concept. When I sink into despondency and the inner voice whispers, ‘You are no good, a fraud, a hypocrite and a dilettante,’ there is no truth in any image shaped from that message. ~From Abba’s Child by Brennan Manning

Lord God, in whom I find life, health, and strength, through whose gifts I am clothes and fed, through whose mercy I have been forgiven and cleansed, be for me guide, strength, Savior, and Lord all the days of my life. I offer my prayers through Christ. Amen.

When spirituality dawns

It was still the first day of the week. That evening, while the disciples were behind closed doors because they were afraid of the Jewish authorities, Jesus came and stood among them. He said, “Peace be with you.” After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. When the disciples saw the Lord, they were filled with joy. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father sent me, so I am sending you.” Then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit” ~John 20:19-22 (CEB)

“Real spirituality dawns when our life with God becomes as real as the problems and joys we experience each day. Until then we live in two different worlds- one, a seemingly real, practical and demanding world; the other, a wistful, so-called ‘spiritual’ world. In our daily activities, we may see ourselves enmeshed in the world, perhaps burdened. However, in our prayer we walk in the mystery of God, we dwell in peace, and we wish we could simply remain there.

This separation cannot remain if all our life is to be filled with real meaning, peace, and awe, no matter how violent or stormy our days may become. When we are truly prayerful we join both worlds. As we become naturally aware of God throughout the day, we journey in both worlds simultaneously. That is truly the spiritual life.” ~From Everyday Simplicity by Robert J. Wicks

Lord, You have promised to meet those who seek Your face. Come now and reveal Your presence to me this day. Help me walk in Your mystery and dwell in your peace. In the name of Jesus Christ my Lord. Amen.

Included

Listen! I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to you and eat with you, and you with me. . . . See, I am coming soon; my reward is with me, to repay according to everyone’s work. ~Rev. 3:20, 22:12 (NRSV)

“It is being included in the eternal life of God that heals all wounds and allows us to stop demanding satisfaction. What really matters, of a personal nature, once it is clear that you are included? You have been chosen. God chooses you. This is the message of the kingdom.” ~From The Divine Conspiracy by Dallas Willard

Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! (Rev. 22:20)

Never Alone

After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to look at the tomb. Look, there was a great earthquake, for an angel from the Lord came down from heaven. Coming to the stone, he rolled it away and sat on it. Now his face was like lightning and his clothes as white as snow. The guards were so terrified of him that they shook with fear and became like dead men. But the angel said to the women, “Don’t be afraid. I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He isn’t here, because he’s been raised from the dead, just as he said. Come, see the place where they laid him. Now hurry, go and tell his disciples, ‘He’s been raised from the dead. He’s going on ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there.’ I’ve given the message to you.”

With great fear and excitement, they hurried away from the tomb and ran to tell his disciples. But Jesus met them and greeted them. They came and grabbed his feet and worshipped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Go and tell my brothers that I am going into Galilee. They will see me there.” ~Matthew 28:1-10 (CEB)

At this very moment when you read these words, you and I are in the presence of the living Christ. To remember this truth is to be shaped constantly by the presence of God in Christ in our lives. We often forget this central truth of the Christian faith, and when we do, we are easily overcome by the troubles of the world.

For me, what I write will pass before the eyes of the One about whom I write. As I write, I hope that my ordinary life and ordinary capacity will be energized, directed, and used by the One who gives me life and has called me to this ministry. If I allow myself to think that this ministry and this project are all up to me, I risk feelings, from despair to arrogance. However if I remember that I am not alone, but think, work, and live in the presence of the living Christ, I remain hopeful that even the most simple and ordinary task carried out in that presence and with the assistance of Jesus Christ is sacred, meaningful, and useful.

For you, what you read comes not from the word processor of someone full of years and short of energy or imagination. For these words are now read and heard in the presence of Jesus Christ who is able to use the most simple and ordinary words and events to enlighten, comfort, heal, and direct the seeking heart.

The risen Christ is with us and therefore we need not fear the events of this day or any day that lies in our future. We know that each day will be lived in companionship with the only One who is able to rescue, redeem, save, keep, and companion us through every experience of this life and the next.

This realization does not take away the pain or uncertainty that life holds. But it does give us strength, wisdom, guidance, and most of all, a Companion to travel through each of these experiences with us. East Sunday and every Sunday are gentle yet dramatic reminders that we are not alone never our own. As followers of Jesus, we walk with God in Christ, and that makes the journey rich in meaning, joy, and peace no matter where it leads. Jesus Christ is alive and reads with you mow words that are intended to turn your eyes, heart, and live more fully toward God. ~From A Guide to Prayer for All Who Seek God, Ruben P. Job

Almighty God, you who have sent Jesus into the world to suffer, die, and rise again for our sake, help us to experience your transforming resurrection power within our lives and ministry. We offer our prayers in the name and spirit of Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Happy Easter!

Darkness before Dawn

Turn to me, God, and have mercy on me because I’m alone and suffering. My heart’s troubles keep getting bigger— set me free from my distress! Look at my suffering and trouble— forgive all my sins! Look at how many enemies I have and how violently they hate me! Please protect my life! Deliver me! Don’t let me be put to shame because I take refuge in you. ~Psalm 25:16-20 (CEB)

“You’ve heard the saying ‘Sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me.’ Well, that’s not true, is it? Words can hurt . . . . They make us feel small and exposed. The make us feel shame.

Revenge is bittersweet- after the sweetness wears off, the bitter taste remains in your mouth. In place of revenge, civil rights leaders taught nonviolent ways of confronting people who are putting you down. Your first response to humiliating treatment needs to be claiming your own dignity as a person created in the image of God. This awareness sets you free to respond to injustice in creative rather than violent ways.” ~From “Justice” in Way to Live editd by Dorthy C. Bass and Don C. Richter

Thank You Jesus for coming into the world to show us the way. Thank You for modeling how we are to love others.  May I be an example of Your humility, love and forgiveness. Amen.

Death is not the victor

Some Greeks were among those who had come up to worship at the festival. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and made a request: “Sir, we want to see Jesus.” Philip told Andrew, and Andrew and Philip told Jesus.

Jesus replied, “The time has come for the Human One l to be glorified. I assure you that unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it can only be a single seed. But if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their lives will lose them, and those who hate their lives in this world will keep them forever. Whoever serves me must follow me. Wherever I am, there my servant will also be. My Father will honor whoever serves me.

“Now I am deeply troubled. What should I say? ‘Father, save me from this time’? No, for this is the reason I have come to this time. Father, glorify your name! ”

Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.”

The crowd standing there heard and said, “It’s thunder.” Others said, “An angel spoke to him.”

Jesus replied, “This voice wasn’t for my benefit but for yours.” ~John 12:20-32 (CEB)

“The final pictures in Matthew’s gospel are not only a bold affirmation of faith in the triumph of the kingdom of God, they are also a daring challenge to the disciples. The only logical response to this Gospel is the Great Commission: ‘Go into all the world and make disciples of all nations, for I am with you always, even to the end of time.’

One of the most courageous witnesses for Christ in recent years was Archbishop Oscar Romero, the leader of the Roman Catholic Church in El Salvador, who was killed on March 24, 1980, while celebrating Mass in a hospital chapel in San Salvador.

With unflinching courage, he applied the message of liberation and justice to the political and social struggles of his homeland. In his last homily on March 23, he acknowledged ‘the risk that is run by our poor station for being the instrument and vehicle of truth and justice,’ but he went on to say that, in the context of the Lenten season, ‘all of this is preparation for our Easter, and Easter is a shout of victory. No one can extinguish that life which Christ revived. Not even death and hatred against him and against his Church will ever be able to overcome it. He is the victor!’” ~From What Will You Do with King Jesus? by James A. Harnish

What does it cost me to “make disciples”? If the answer is nothing maybe I am going about it the wrong way.

Heavenly Father, give me the courage I may need today to step out in faith for You. May I take with me the victory call that Christ has died, Christ has risen and Christ will come again. May the fact that Jesus died for my sins strengthen and bolster me to take this good news to others. Amen.

Death sentence

It was customary during the festival for the governor to release to the crowd one prisoner, whomever they might choose. At that time there was a well-known prisoner named Jesus Barabbas. When the crowd had come together, Pilate asked them, “Whom would you like me to release to you, Jesus Barabbas or Jesus who is called Christ?”  He knew that the leaders of the people had handed him over because of jealousy.

While he was serving as judge, his wife sent this message to him, “Leave that righteous man alone. I’ve suffered much today in a dream because of him. ”

But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowds to ask for Barabbas and kill Jesus. The governor said, “Which of the two do you want me to release to you?”

“Barabbas, they replied.

Pilate said, “Then what should I do with Jesus who is called Christ?”

They all said, “Crucify him!”

 But he said, “Why? What wrong has he done?”

They shouted even louder, “Crucify him!”

Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere and that a riot was starting. So he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. “I’m innocent of this man’s blood,” he said. “It’s your problem.”

All the people replied, “Let his blood be on us and on our children.” Then he released Barabbas to them. He had Jesus whipped, then handed him over to be crucified. ~Matt. 27:15-26 (CEB)

Is it possible that our world still knows better how to deal with a bandit, a murder, an insurrectionist than it knows to do with the Prince of Peace? There is a sense in which an assassin’s attempt on the pope’s life is less shocking to our world than the pope’s forgiveness of him. Is it possible that we would rather deal with raw power that rides on a stallion than with this one who comes on a donkey with the weapons of love, patience, suffering, and peace? Given the choice isn’t it possible that we would take Barabbas, too? ~From What Will You Do with King Jesus? by James A. Harnish

Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts. See if there is any wicked way in me and lead me in the way everlasting. Amen. (Psalm 130:23-24)

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