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Thursday, February 23, 2012
Lectionary Scriptures: Genesis 9:8-17, Psalm 25:1-10, I Peter 3:18-22, Mark 1:9-15

We’ve just come through the season of light (Epiphany) and are entering the season of darkness (Lent).  We have probably experienced a variety of ways of observing Lent. 

I’m writing this on Fat Tuesday (Mardi Gras) which is also called Shrove Tuesday.  Shrove is the past tense of Shrive which means “to hear a confession, assign penance, and absolve from sin.”  I associate the day with pancake breakfasts from my days in the eastern U.S.  Of course many connect the day with raucous costumed dancing in the streets a la what happens in New Orleans, sort of a day of unrestrained debauchery and feasting before the constraint of Lent. 

Calling the day Shrove Tuesday, however, connects it with the most traditional understanding of Lent, which begins the next day.  For many, Lent is a season of penance, as well as a season for giving up something.  In reaction to that negativism, some Protestants have viewed it as a season to take on some special giving of one’s self or one’s substance.  Maybe Lent is not just a season for seeing the darkness around us, but for living as light in that darkness.  Are we part of the way God overcomes the darkness with light?

Actually, in the evangelical churches of my childhood, it was as if Lent didn’t exist.  I never heard of it until I was an adult.  We just leapt ahead and began to sing resurrection songs.

I have come to appreciate the ups and downs of the liturgical calendar, the movement from darkness to light.  It seems to affirm the way I experience life.  I’m not always walking on clouds.  It’s good to know that Jesus (in whom I see God) walks with me through the days of darkness.  I resist an easy glossing over of that aspect of life.

Neither, however, do I want to wallow in the darkness.  I believe this week’s readings remind us that darkness need not be a time of despair or hopelessness.  The scripture that has come to me this year (not from the lectionary readings) as a theme for approaching Lent is John 1:5—“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.”

During Lent we face the darkness (and temptation) and do not let it overcome us.

In the reading from Genesis, the light is a rainbow after a great flood.  (Genesis 9:13)   God speaks to Noah and his sons and says “never again” will something like this happen.  (vs. 15)   Destruction, darkness, despair are not the last word.

In the Psalm the light is God’s mercy and steadfast love.  The Psalmist cries out, “Be mindful of your mercy, O Lord, and of your steadfast love, for they have been from of old.”  (Psalm 25:6)   So often we let the weight of our past burden us down.  We are unable to let go of guilt or hurt or the desire for revenge—the darkness that eats away at our inner being.   The Psalmist prays, “Do not remember the sins of my youth or my transgressions, according to your steadfast love remember me, for your goodness’ sake, O Lord!”  (vs. 7)

Notice that in that earlier definition of “shrive” absolution is included.  For those who want to see Lent as a season of penance, awareness of the power of absolution (forgiveness, mercy, steadfast love) needs to be part of it as well.  Darkness (penance) is not the last word for life.

The epistle reading looks back to the story of Noah and ahead to the Gospel lesson which includes Jesus’ baptism.  The writer of I Peter sees the great flood as sort of a baptism for Noah and his sons.  They were carried through the water by the ark, so to speak, and came out to new beginnings.  (I Peter 3:20)   In our baptism, he continues, we too are taken through the water.  The interpretation however puts a twist on that baptism.  It is “not as a removal of dirt from the body, but as an appeal to God for a good conscience.”  (vs. 21)   We might note that he connects it with Jesus’ resurrection and his authority over “angels, authorities, and powers.”  (vs. 21-22)

At the beginning of the Lenten season, my attention is drawn to see that baptism is somehow or other connected with penance and the clearing of conscience.  Most baptisms of that time involved the immersion of adults in the water.  Being under the water can be scary.  It can be a dark place if one goes far enough under, but one comes out and all the darkness has been left behind.  God doesn’t want us to live in guilt and darkness.  They are not God’s final take on life.  The gift God wants us to have is “a good conscience.”  It’s not a phrase that has made it into the central vocabulary of our faith.  It somehow doesn’t seem to have the theological weight we think might be needed for the facing of darkness.  Maybe we need to look at it again.  What hope there is in being able to live with “a good conscience.”  In this season when many are examining their conscience, let us pray that each one of us may have a good conscience.

In the Gospel lesson we are again reminded of Mark’s rush through the early part of Jesus’ life.  Three verses for Jesus’ baptism (Mark 1:9-11), in which a voice confirms the identity Mark has declared in verse one: “The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”  A voice from heaven says, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”  (vs. 11)

Two verses for Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness.  No description of the three temptations which we associate with that event.  Just this: “ . . . the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness.  He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts . . .”  (vss. 12-13)   They were days of darkness.  The implication is that Jesus did not go willingly.  He was driven there.  He came face to face with “wild beasts.”  Whether this is literal or figurative, we don’t know.  Scary beasts come at us in our dreams, products of what may be eating away at our conscience.  There were probably real wild animals out there as well.  Either way, we are reminded that fear can unhinge the human spirit and the human will.
There’s so much fear in the wilderness of life we live in these days.  It drives politics and economics and social attitudes.  It is a darkness to be overcome.

So, where’s the light?  Jesus is not alone out there, and neither are we.  It says, “ . . . and the angels waited on him.”  (vs. 13)   They wait on us as well.  We may imagine supernatural beings, and that may be what the writer pictured.  Those who stand with us in moments (or weeks and months) of darkness are angels as well.  There are always those whose light (their friendship and compassion and love) helps overcome the darkness.  There may also be times when we are called upon to be angels of light.  It is together that we live through the darkness and come out on the other side.

The passage from Mark concludes with Jesus short summary of “the good news of God.”  (vs. 14)   “The time is fulfilled,” he says, “and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”  (vs. 15)   Penance and repentance are forms of the same word.  Biblically they have little to do with wallowing in the pit.  To repent is to turn around, to repoint the direction of one’s life, to turn away from the darkness toward the light.  Even in terms of conscience, it means turning from the things that mess with one’s mind and toward the place of “good” conscience.  It is a call not just to receive light but to be light.

There are days and seasons of darkness, but darkness is not where we live, nor is it God’s final word.  “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.”
Thursday, February 16, 2012
Lectionary Scriptures: II Kings 2:1-12, Psalm 50:1-6, II Corinthians 4:3-6, Mark 9:2-9

Sorry the most recent blog entry showed the wrong day. It had the correct scriptures and content for Feb. 12, but was mislabeled (Feb. 5).

This week we come to the end of Epiphany, the season of light. It ends with all kinds of pyrotechnics: a whirlwind, a chariot and horses of fire, a miraculous parting of the water (II Kings 2:1, 8, 11-12), a devouring fire and a mighty tempest (Psalm 50:3), a mountaintop experience where Jesus' clothes become “dazzling white,” heroes of the past appear, and a voice speaking from an overshadowing cloud, “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!”“ (Mark 9:2-4, 7) The epistle reading reminds us that “the God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness’ is the same God “who has shone in our hearts to give the light of knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” (II Corinthians 4:6)

We could struggle with and wonder over what’s happening here. It’s rarely fruitful to ask, “I wonder what really happened here,” if one is looking for a physical, material, scientific answer. All of these readings are simply expressions of those mysterious moments when the human spirit is overcome with the wonder and power of the forces of life that are at work around us. We talk about being “enlightened.” Near-death experiences often include a sense of seeing or walking into the light. Quakers talk about the inner light, the divine light that burns in our very being, giving us life and empowering us. Such moments are often referred to as mountaintop experiences.

It would make sense, then, to reflect on our own enlightening moments, our mountaintop experiences. When have we been almost overwhelmed with the beauty and power of the divine spirit? Manifestations of nature (ocean waves, sunsets, snowy peaks, colorful meadows, waterfalls) have affected me that way. I’ve had powerful moments of God’s presence in the quiet of the night, during concerts, when observing great human achievement or effort, around the Communion Table. It can come in the presence of death or human suffering, sometimes more a moaning whisper than an ecstatic leap of joy. It comes in many ways, in many places, differing from individual to individual. What have been your mountaintop experiences?

A word of caution. Some have made such experiences the be-all and end-all of religious/spiritual expression. I don’t live on a mountaintop, spiritually or otherwise. I suspect most human beings do not, although I occasionally read some self-appointed “gurus” who make it sound as if they do. I need some such experiences as reminders and encouragement, but most of us live down off the mountain. Peter seemed to want to stay there on the mountain, but they had to come down again. When they did, the continuing story tells us that they had difficulties with the realities they faced.

The transfiguration story is, of course, about Jesus and who he is. Mark begins his Gospel with a simple statement of the overall message he is trying to convey: “The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” On the mountaintop, a voice (presumed to be the voice of God) speaks from an overshadowing cloud, “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!” (Mark 9:7)

This week, though, I’m more interested in a long line of those from whom we’ve drawn power and inspiration. Jesus and Peter and James and John are not on that mountain alone. Whatever the nature of their presence, Elijah and Moses are part of the experience. Are they just part of a hallucination? In Mark 9:8, it says, “Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them any more, but only Jesus.” The nature of their presence really makes no difference. Those on the mountaintop felt a powerful connection with their spiritual ancestors.

While it would be interesting, and perhaps enlightening, to consider why these particular two, this week’s readings have called me to think about who I would like to talk to on the mountaintop. Maybe it’s partly because I’m making a renewed foray into my family ancestry, particularly into the historical eras in which they lived, the forces by which they were shaped. One of them, legend has it, is buried in the cemetery of the Iona Abbey off the coast of Scotland, where St. Columba, a Christian missionary, established a monastery in the 6th century. There are Huguenots, a wagonmaster coming west across the prairies and mountains, kings and carpenters, and many about whom little is known or remembered. I’d like to have a family reunion with some of them.

I invite you to think about who you would like to connect with, famous figures, family ancestors, etc. There are some who might think the “right” answer for “Christians” is Jesus. Let’s just assume Jesus is there, as he was with Peter and James and John. Let’s focus on who else might be there. It’s about more than just sharing space on a mountaintop or even having a reunion with significant figures. It’s about energy being passed from generation to generation.

From the story of Elijah and Elisha in our reading from II Kings, we have inherited the notion of the “mantle” being the symbol of that passing on of energy. The mantle is literally a cloak, but is also defined as “an important role or responsibility that passes from one person to another.” We talk about picking up the “mantle” of someone.

The story of Elijah and Elisha is about a change in leadership. Elijah is about to be taken into the heavens, leaving Elisha to carry on. (II Kings 2:1-2) Elijah grants Elisha, so to speak, a last wish. Elisha’s wish? “Please let me inherit a double share of your spirit.” (vs. 9) There’s so much in this story. It reminds us of how we try to hang on to those we love, how we want to live up to their example, etc. One might critique it, wishing there were more emphasis on Elisha simply becoming his own person.

Learning from, sharing in the spirit of, those who have gone before is not to be underestimated. The same Spirit continues to empower people from generation to generation. We can celebrate being part of that stream. Continuing the question about who we would meet on the mountaintop, we might ask whose mantle we would wish to inherit, or maybe have inherited. Who are, or have been, our mentors in this journey of faith?

In the story of Elijah and Elisha, the mantle is a symbol of God’s presence and power. Elijah uses it to part the waters, using it like Moses used a rod to part the Red Sea. (vs. 8) Elijah tells Elisha that if he sees him being taken into the heavens, he will indeed be granted his wish. (vs. 10) Elisha watches as the chariot and horses of fire come. Elijah ascends in a whirlwind, and Elisha cries out, “Father, father! The chariots of Israel and its horsemen!” (vs. 11-12) If we were to continue beyond this week’s reading, we would find that, after Elisha tore his clothes in sorrow, (vs. 12), “he picked up the mantle of Elijah that had fallen from him, and went back and stood on the bank of the Jordan.” (vs. 13)

Mountaintops and mantles—symbols of turning points, times in life, and the people associated with them, from which we draw strength. They shed light on us and illumine life because God is in them. May we all pay attention to mountaintops and mantles and give thanks!
Wednesday, February 08, 2012
Lectionary Scriptures: II Kings 5:1-14, Psalm 30:1-12, I Corinthians 9:24-27, Mark 1:40-45

Although I got in on the digital age early (qualifying with the programming language, Fortran IV, as one of the required languages for my 1973 PhD), I know that there is a huge gap between the experiences that shaped much of my life and those that shaped many of the texters and twitterers of today. One thing that I don’t believe has changed is the power of the human imagination. New possibility begins with the ability to see (and imagine) things as they might be, the ability to see more than the present dominant reality.

Among the many things that stimulated my imagination when I was younger was radio. I particularly remember a radio show called “Let’s Pretend,” sponsored by Cream of Wheat (whose jingles alone almost made it worth listening to). We who were listening, though, had to make up (imagine) our own pictures. No TV or computer screen projection; no DVD; just words. What places we went! Even today, before any images are projected or digitally transmitted, someone imagines a “what if?” world.

The Bible often does the same. One of Frederick Buechner’s books has the provocative title, “Telling the Truth: The Gospel as Tragedy, Comedy, and Fairy Tale.” The title is not meant to diminish biblical truth, but to push one to imagine deeper truths beneath the surface. Buechner writes, “Let the preacher tell the truth. Let him preach the overcoming of tragedy by comedy, of darkness by light, of the ordinary by the extraordinary, as the tale that is too good not to be true because to dismiss it as untrue is to dismiss along with it that catch of the breath, that beat and lifting of the heart near to or even accompanied by tears, which I believe is the deepest intuition of truth that we have.”

The consistent message of the Bible is that things don’t have to be the way they are. If we take the Bible seriously, our perception of power and poverty may be turned upside down. We may find the lines of inclusion and exclusion are not what we think they are. The rising morning sun may bring new perspective to our suffering. We may find that the “prizes” worth having are not those doled out on “The Price Is Right.” We may even find a Jesus who is less a “superstar,” a Jesus less interested in flashy shows than in quiet inner transformation that opens now visions and possibilities in people’s imaginations. What if we took such imaginings seriously?

This Sunday’s lectionary readings are not all straightforward presentations of this “what if?” world, but once one’s mind begins down that road, the spin is there if one looks for it.

The story from II Kings is the strongest challenge to the commonly understood dynamics of power in our age (or most ages, for that matter). It starts with an unnamed woman who is not resentful of her captors. A daughter of Israel now held in Aram as servant of Naaman’s wife, she offers hope by suggesting someone back home, Elisha, who can cure Naaman’s leprosy. (II Kings 5:1-3) Naaman, as commander of the army of the king of Aram, is aware of his position and, following protocol, requests that his king send a letter with him as he (Naaman) goes to put his request for healing before the king of Israel. (vss. 4-6) The king of Israel, totally out of the loop on this, panics until Elisha says, “Send him to me.” (vss. 7-8) When Naaman arrives at Elisha’s doorstep, Elisha doesn’t even bother to come out, instead sending a messenger who tells Naaman to go wash in the muddy Jordan River seven times. (vss. 9-10) Naaman, taking it as an insult to his position and to the rivers back home, goes away angry. (vss. 11-12) Finally, at the counsel of his own servants, Naaman follows Elisha’s instructions and is cured. (vss. 13-14)

If we were to follow the story further, we would find that Naaman returns to Elisha offering to pay for the cure he has received. (vs. 15) Much to the consternation of Gehazi, Elisha’s servant, Elisha refuses Naaman’s offer. We don’t know whether Gehazi is upset that this powerful “enemy” has been treated so graciously, or if he is just greedy. We do know that he follows Naaman and extracts a generous payment from him. (vss. 16-24) Irony arises when Gehazi, supposedly one of God’s faithful servants, ends up with the leprosy Naaman had at the beginning. Jesus, at the time of his first sermon in Nazareth, enrages those gathered by mentioning Naaman as an example of God’s gracious response even to “Naaman the Syrian.” (Luke 4:27)

What a world we find in this story. An unnamed woman who refuses to hate her enemy. An enemy humbled and healed. A pious servant of God consumed by jealousy and greed. What is this world coming to? Just imagine the world we might live in if old stereotypes didn’t work, if the “little” people of the world could set in motion healing processes.

Psalm 30 also deals with healing. “O Lord my God, I cried to you for help, and you have healed me.” (Psalm 30:2) Whether it is physical healing or spiritual healing—or both—is not entirely clear. The Psalmist describes himself as having been among those who were down in the Pit. (vs. 3) Whatever the specifics, the message is that one doesn’t have to remain in the pit, that one doesn’t have to live forever with weeping and mourning. “Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning . . . You have turned my mourning into dancing; you have taken off my sackcloth and clothed me with joy.” (vss. 5 & 11)

Perhaps the Psalmist was speaking out of an experience of depression. If so, I’m sure his words are a summary of a long struggle, that this is not a report of a magical moment when all depression disappeared. It speaks, though, of hope—hope rooted in a vision of another possibility. Only when the mind can imagine another possibility, can be touched by a power which offers another perspective, will joy and dancing begin to emerge.

I’m troubled by the image of life as a race in the reading from I Corinthians. (I Corinthians 9:24) It seems like our culture has gone overboard with the compulsion for winning. It’s all about winning whether it’s our favorite sports team or the latest military intervention. And winners imply losers. Outrageous salaries are shelled out to give our team a better shot at winning, driving ticket prices into the stratosphere. The passage also talks about punishing my body and enslaving it. (vs. 27) At my age, sometimes just getting out of bed and going to the grocery store is punishment enough.

So, what do we do with these few verses? The core truth calls us to imagine a different prize - one that lasts, is “imperishable.” (vs. 25) What is it that we are chasing after in life? What if we gave up our traditional visions of what it means to win? Some see the imperishable prize as heaven. We can start by living now for things and by values that have lasting consequences for us, for others, for the world. What if we were all racing to see who could do the most for peace and justice? The passage’s emphasis on not running “aimlessly” (vs. 26) similarly calls us to consider the purpose of our running. Sometimes we just go through life without any sense of purpose. What if we paid attention to the blowing of the Spirit, running from a focussed center? I take from this passage less an obsession with competition and more a call to living guided by purposes that matter.

Finally, the Gospel lesson on the surface is another story of a leper being healed. What, however, is the meaning of the exchange at the beginning, and then the warning to silence at the end? The first two verses imply that Jesus makes a “choice” to heal this man. “If you choose, you can make me clean.” “I do choose. Be made clean.” (Mark 1:40-41) That doesn’t happen in other healing stories, and do we really think Jesus could turn the man away? Is there the possibility here, though, that Jesus is a bit tired and irritated? One commentator suggested that in an original version of this story, Jesus was moved by “anger” rather than “pity” or “compassion.” (vs. 41)

Are we seeing here a human Jesus who is irritated that so many people see in him only magical cures. If they really understood and wanted to follow him they would be challenged deep within their souls to come to a new way of looking at and experiencing and living life. It’s clear by the end of the story that he has become a celebrity, a role he has shunned, and can’t even escape the miracle-seekers by going “out in the country.” Even there they “came to him from every quarter.” (vs. 45) Can we imagine that life is about more than chasing a miracle worker? Jesus’ call was about giving as much as as it was about receiving. Can we imagine purposes for our lives guided by a vision of hope and salvation for all aspects of human existence? What if?
Wednesday, February 01, 2012
Lectionary Scriptures: Isaiah 40:21-31, Psalm 147:1-11, 20c, I Corinthians 9:16-23. Mark 1:29-39

One never knows where our Tuesday morning lectionary discussions over breakfast may go. I usually offer some thoughts on possible themes, some scriptural background if I feel so moved. I may share a personal experience or memory or an excerpt from a book in my library. Then it’s off to the races, wherever anyone in the group decides to take us. We may have a pretty straightforward discussion of the texts before us, or we may take off in quite unexpected directions. Whatever the discussion, it’s almost always enlightening and enriching, building connections that help us support one another and grow, that challenge us to deepen our understanding of the mission possibilities before us.

This week a memory of an experience connected with the reading of one of the texts was shared, giving us insight into a dear friend who sits at the table with us regularly. One who teaches children (following the lectionary) was concerned with how one interprets “demons” (See Mark 1:32-34) to children. We spent an unexpected amount of time discussing exorcism.

It just goes to show that one can’t control where the Spirit will take us in our conversations. Jesus, speaking of the Spirit, said, “The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:8)

Our breakfast conversations often illustrate what I see as one of the themes in this week’s texts. When God is at work, there’s no telling what might happen.

God cannot be contained by any of our humanly devised schemes. I don’t believe there is a fundamental conflict between science and religion, but I have come to believe that there is a basic difference in approach. Confronted with “mystery,” science tries to explain it, while religion is more likely to embrace it, to seek to “experience” it, to draw energy from it. That is not to say that religious people should shut off their minds. Someone has defined theology as “faith seeking understanding.” Religion embraces the mind as well as the heart, but mystery is at the heart of religion.

So, this week’s texts.

Isaiah 40 offers a message to people in exile. The old ways of understanding and experiencing God don’t seem to be working in this new situation. “Have you not known? Have you not heard? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth?” (Isaiah 40:21) When the words are repeated in verse 28, the declaration is added: “ . . . his understanding is unsearchable.” This mysterious God, in fact, is so big that even when you feel you are languishing here, abandoned, in a foreign land, there is strength and energy to be had—“power to the faint,” strength to “the powerless.” When you feel overwhelmed and “exhausted,” remember that “those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.” (vss. 29-31) God’s wind is blowing where you least expect it. What a mystery, but in that mystery there is empowerment.

Psalm 147 offers a similar tone. We are called to praise a God who is big enough to determine “the number of the stars,” whose “understanding is beyond measure.” (Psalm 147:4-5) Again, this God is one who “heals the brokenhearted, and binds up their wounds,” who “lifts up the downtrodden.” (vss. 3 & 6) Such scriptures are intended to lead us in praise of a God whose boundaries continue to expand beyond what we can fully understand or contain. When we give ourselves to that kind of mystery, we find strength and healing.

In the reading from I Corinthians, Paul talks about his approach to spreading the Good News of Jesus’ love. He makes the outrageous statement that he has “become all things to all people.” (I Corinthians 9:22) It could be taken as the philosophy of an unscrupulous politician (or some who are compaigning today). It might spring from the mental abberation of someone who has too much need to please everyone, as if he ever could. I think rather that it expresses the truth that the great mystery (and Paul certainly spoke of mysteries) can take on life in the rich variety of human life, culture, and experience. Because it is a mystery which cannot be boxed in by one explanation, captured by any one culture or language, it can be experienced and interpreted by Jews and slaves, even legalists and those who are weak—as well as many unnamed. (vss. 19-22).

For Paul, it is a basic missionary principle. If you want people to hear what you have say, if you want to convey love to them, you have to speak their language. You have to adapt your way of relating to their culture. You have to take them seriously.

Once we try to domesticate God’s Love, remove the mystery from it, we are apt to end up with something that is culture-bound, often bound to forms that are most easily understood and expressed in our own culture. Mystery blows where it wills. The hills and valleys of one culture are too small for its breezes. We need to be ever alert to their blowing wherever we are, and ready to release them afresh in the patterns of new hills and valleys.

Finally, we come to the Gospel lesson from the first chapter of Mark. It is another story of healing and the casting out of demons, which gave rise to our discussion of that subject. Healing, however one interprets it, is part of what Jesus did, wherever he went. (Mark 1:34) What gets my attention this week, though, is the way the story ends. Jesus “went out to a deserted place . . . and prayed” (vs. 35), something which could be the subject of another whole series of reflections. The disciples look for him and find him and tell him, “Everyone is searching for you.” (vs. 37) Jesus, however, is ready to move on (vs. 39). This wind blows where it will. It’s always moving on into new territory. God’s mission isn’t limited to familiar times and places.

“And he went throughout Galilee . . .” To Jesus, it was home, but in contrast to Judea (with the holy city of Jerusalem), it was an area of rich diversity and a history of clashing cultures. “Galilee” means simply “district, and was called in Isaiah 9, Galilee of the nations—or, in some translations, Galilee of the Gentiles. One writer tells us, “Galilee was annexed by Judah Aristoblus I in 104 B.C. His brother and successor . . . further extended the borders of Galilee during his reign.” (Eric Meyers in Harper’s Bible Dictionary) In the early 20th century, its population included many Arab Christians and Muslims. The clash continues in our days. Politicians make hay by taking simplistic positions about matters that are as complex as the mysterious winds of God’s Spirit. People would build walls where God would break them down.

Even today, Jesus says, “I’m ready to move on. My Spirit longs to blow across old battlefields and bring healing, casting out the demons of hatred and prejudice and narrow-mindedness.” Is our God big enough to embrace all that and trust that “the wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes . . .”?

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Kairos-Milwaukie UCC Blog

Reflections on the Revised Common Lectionary by Rev. Rick Skidmore and Rev. Jim Ogden.

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