4.11.2009

Easter Sunday prayers

Beautify prayer and video from Christine Sine. Enjoy!

Jesus Christ you have risen and we see you,

In the faces of the poor,

In the hurting of the sick,

In the anguish of the oppressed

Jesus Christ you are risen and we see you,

In the weakness of the vulnerable,

In the questions of the doubting,

In the fears of the dying.

Jesus Christ you are risen and we see you,

In the celebration of the saints,

In the generosity of the faithful,

In the compassion of the caring.

Jesus Christ you are risen and we see you,

You transform our world with love and hope,

You ignite our hearts of stone with compassion and care,

You transfigure our world with the spirit of life.

Hallelujah, Jesus Christ you are risen and we see you.


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Propelled into God's future



Life-changing and world-changing events are hard to fathom, at first. Mary, reeling with grief for her executed Lord, goes to the tomb expecting to prepare his body. The open tomb has her thinking more of grave robbers than resurrection. Peter and "the other disciple" race to the scene of the crime, and looking at the evidence, the light begins to dawn. So...they go back home.

Would you or I respond differently? Without the perspective of 2000 years of tradition, the roller coaster of emotions from "Hail, King Jesus!" to the trial and execution of the "King of the Jews" to dark despair to an empty tomb would seem just as perplexing and disorienting. Would we run off to tell anyone what we had seen?

The meaning of these events, and the subsequent appearances of the risen Jesus, will become clear with time. But these disciples are starting to get the message: Nothing will be the same again, because Easter does not look back into our experience or history but propels us into God's future!

4.07.2009

Broken connections

This Lent's theme was "brokenness," and our kairos exploration followed Christine Sine's excellent guide.  We summed up the season by looking at the broken connections that allow us to accept hunger, homelessness, and abuse of our environment. 

We started with a discussion of how we fragment God's family:
  • Look at where we erect barriers – when have you been conscious of being “out”? When have you erected barriers to keep others out?
  • In what ways do you notice the fragmenting and breaking of the family of God in the world you live, work and play in?
Most of our time was a deep meditation on Matthew 25:
31-33"When he finally arrives, blazing in beauty and all his angels with him, the Son of Man will take his place on his glorious throne. Then all the nations will be arranged before him and he will sort the people out, much as a shepherd sorts out sheep and goats, putting sheep to his right and goats to his left.
34-36"Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Enter, you who are blessed by my Father! Take what's coming to you in this kingdom. It's been ready for you since the world's foundation. And here's why:
I was hungry and you fed me,
I was thirsty and you gave me a drink,
I was homeless and you gave me a room,
I was shivering and you gave me clothes,
I was sick and you stopped to visit,
I was in prison and you came to me.'

We’re often tempted to look at the people Jesus mentions as categories of people that we need to do good to. It’s natural to think of them as “others,” as unfortunate, as different than us.

This passage comes late in Matthew’s gospel, and by this time we know that Jesus has met, fed, chastised, wept with, challenged, healed and marveled at the faith of thousands and thousands of people. Looked them right in the eye. Touched them and been touched by them. It’s very safe to say, in my view, that Jesus is not talking about abstract categories. He is talking about the woman who sought him out and stole healing power from a touch of his cloak. He is talking about the blind man who called out to the Son of David when he heard Jesus coming. He is talking about his friend Lazarus, dead and stinking in the tomb, and his friends Martha and Mary in their busyness and their grief. And I believe that he is also picturing you and I, and all the people his father has given him.

We did an exercise of looking deeply into the people in this story in order to really see what Jesus is talking about.
  • Think of people who need to be fed and clothed. Do you know of anyone who lacks for these basics of life? What is it the causes their lack? Who is at fault? In what ways might you be in need of these things? In what way are you blessed with these things? How do your blessings relate to the needs around you?
  • Think of people who need wholeness and inclusion. Who do you know who needs to be healed, or is excluded because of the color of their skin, or their sexual orientation? What causes them to be on the “outside” of what we think of as normal? In what ways have you ever felt excluded or left out? In what ways do you need healing? Does your experience make you want to open your circle or create healing…or does it make you protective and suspicious?
  • Think of people in prison. Do you know someone who is or has been imprisoned? In an actual jail, or in an inner torment, or dangerous relationship, or addiction, or trapped by their wealth and stuff? Are you imprisoned by anything? Visualize some of the reasons people are imprisoned. In what ways might your life help to facilitate such imprisonment, or work to free people from it?
It is important to note that Jesus was not speaking to middle class America. Israel was a poor land, occupied by great political powers. There were rich people storing up grain (that would spoil) and other precious goods (that would rust). But most of his hearers were ordinary folks scraping by, just like their ancestors, satisfied by the just-in-time provision of manna. Debt or an expression of anger at the occupying power could land any of them in jail, just like that! Basic shelter, and water, were precious. What would Jesus’ call have sounded like in this situation?

I think the call to feed the hungry would sound more like the widow who gave all the food she had for herself and her son to a traveling prophet, than my buying an extra bag of cans for the food pantry.
This Lent we have been looking at varying ways God’s beautiful, plentiful creation has been broken and scarred by humanity. We’ve looked at the inequalities of hunger, where enough food to feed everyone is grown but isn’t distributed fairly. We’ve looked at the tragedy of homelessness, where basic shelter is out of reach of many people who work. We’ve looked at the ways we abuse and take advantage of the earth that we are called to be stewards and co-creators/re-creators of, and now the ways that we build walls between them and us.

Jesus’ message is that there is no them, there is only us. The common thread, it seems to me, is that it’s in our interest to lose this connection to the whole of God’s family. Mother Teresa said it well: “If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.”

So how do we maintain and renew this connection? Here are some ideas from our community:

Look deeply. When you gather for supper, or come to the communion table, look at the food as given for you and representing all that God has put in place to care for his people – and hear the cries of those who don’t have food or water. When you adjust the thermostat, thank God for the blessing of energy, remember that in many places people have less than their share of energy because we have more than ours – and see those who, even if they have a room instead of a car or a sidewalk, don’t have a home. When you notice your health, pray for those who care for the sick, and think about how you would cope without your knowledge of keeping yourself healthy, and insurance.

Look where you are. We are not called to solve global crises, we are called to live faithfully and mindfully in our families and communities.

4.06.2009

Missing the point?

My notes from the teaching moment at Kairos' Palm Sunday gathering at Quakertown Memorial Park:

It’s time to celebrate!  Israel has its king!  God has heard our cries!  God is acting to free us from the terrible power of Rome!  All hail, King Jesus!

Right?

Wrong.

Jesus’ ministry has a lot of great examples of people completely missing his point.  He announces his fulfillment of the prophecies and his hometown neighbors want to kill him – how can a local boy say these things?  Don’t we know him?  He declares himself the bread of heaven and even some of his followers are grossed out at the idea of eating his flesh. He offers freedom and the Jews squabble about never having been physically or financially slaves. 

Here Jesus offers himself to the punishment, to the humiliation, to the execution that he knows is coming, entering the city humbly on an ass, and the people are overjoyed!  Here is our king!  All hail King Jesus!

We’re suckers for a success story, aren’t we?  Theologically, this is known as the theology of glory.  We love it when God rides in and saves the day, wins the war, hits a home run, provides prosperity and material rewards.  We love it when the forces of right sweep evil right off the map.

But this isn’t the way our God works.  Our God’s power is not revealed in his glory, but in weakness.  In the way he attends to the poor and downtrodden.  In the way he uses cracked pots like us to accomplish God’s mission.  But most importantly in the way he overcame our most insidious enemies – sin and death – by taking on sin and submitting to death.  Jesus points us to a theology of the cross, a way of understanding the world in which we don’t simply equate success with God’s favor but look for God’s action even in the weak and broken places and people – even in ourselves.

Jesus takes it so far as to say that, in order to see him, we have to see those who are poor, and sick, and imprisioned, and lame – in his words, “the least of these.”  So its appropriate that we have brought offerings of food for the hungry as our tribute to Jesus today.  But the story doesn’t end here. And it doesn’t jump right to the glory of Easter.

We get to Easter through the cross.  So I invite you this week to spend time with Christ and his passion, in Scripture, in reflection, in prayer and in community.