Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Bad Things Do Happen to Good People


Once again our readings for this week in Luke 13:1-9l appear to pair two disparate themes: tragedy and horticulture. But do they? Are they related?

When bad things happen to good people sometimes our way of making sense of the world can be shattered - emotionally, spiritually, physically - and also mentally. How often do we relate catastrophic events of our world and lives to “divine punishment” for some misdeeds? Jesus knows the temptation to yield to our human nature and give up is strong. His asking us to repent seems hardly a consolation in the context of our contemporary understanding of the word, “repent.” However, the repentance (metanoia) Jesus calls for is a summons to a personal, absolute and ultimate unconditional surrender to God as Sovereign.  

While it includes sorrow and regret, repentance is more than that. It is a call to conversion from self-love, self-trust, and self-assertion to obedient trust and self-commitment to God. It is a change of mind that involves a conscious turning away from wrong actions, attitudes and thoughts that conflict with a Godly lifestyle, and is an intentional turning toward doing that which pleases God. The words "repent," "repentance," and "repented" are mentioned over 100 times in the Bible. (Stagg, Frank. New Testament Theology).

OK, so while we might suffer human pain for tragic events such as Katrina; the tsunami in Japan; the massacres in Syria, Rwanda and right here at home with, Sandy…we are not accountable or held to blame. We are, however, being summoned to keep our eye on the prize and continue to turn our lives to seeking a closer union with God as we live in the love of Christ.

So, where does horticulture fit in? The virtually dead fig tree, consuming valuable resources and time seems hopeless, yet may still be worth trying to save. It requires turning of the soul/soil and nurturing it. We are all gardeners as we work at sustaining life even when all seems futile, but by surrendering to God's will by the power of the Holy Spirit, hope will be restored and our lives will be transformed.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Going My Way?

There are questions we answer with our lips, and those we answer with our lives. Lent is an important part of our journey. Each step we take has been walked at one time in the gospels. We know that this journey leads us to the cross; to a tomb and “ends” with Easter, (as our lives and journey begin again). In our readings for next Sunday, Luke 4:1-13 the first Sunday in Lent, we are told that “Jesus was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil.”  What do these temptations or tests mean to us in our lives today?

I suppose as a traveler on a journey, we can either be a tourist or a pilgrim. The tourist travels through his journey in comfort, ensuring that his experiences are familiar and safe. He makes sure that he takes “his stuff” from back home with him. There are many vendors along the way who, for a price, would be willing to accommodate the tourist’s expectations and satisfy his needs. After his trip, the tourist returns home with photos, souvenirs, and pleasant memories.

On the other hand, a pilgrim is one who is on a journey to a holy place. His journey into the unknown is embarked upon in hope that something new will be revealed. A pilgrim leaves his “comfort zone” and the attachments of his routine back home in search of something outside the familiar.

Perhaps our lesson  as to how Jesus’ temptations relate to our journey as a pilgrim is for us to leave our comfort zone and share the food we have, instead of waiting for stones to be turned into bread. If the pilgrim’s quest is to meet God, he may have to find Him in strange places, among strange people. As an act of faith, a pilgrimage requires that like Jesus, we place ourselves in the hands of God and surrender to his will by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Can You Hear Me Now?


One of the significant details of the story that is unique to the account of the transfiguration in Luke 9:28-36, [37-43a] is that it occurs in the context of prayer. We’re told that neither Matthew nor Mark mentions that Jesus had gone up on the mountain specifically to pray and neither mentions that Jesus was praying when the transfiguration occurs. This is clearly a point that Luke wants to make.

In reading Luke during the past few weeks, we recognize that prayer is a significant theme throughout his writings. Luke is the only Gospel author to tell us of Jesus praying on this and other momentous occasions. We remember that following his baptism, the Holy Spirit descended on Jesus while he was praying and perhaps most notably we recall his praying in the garden before his arrest and during his crucifixion.

A point that we may observe in the transfiguration and present in other places, is that prayer for Jesus was not merely speaking words to God but was a spiritual experience of God.

And how do we pray? “…We think of prayer as thoughts of feelings expressed in words, but this is only one of its forms…The Spirit speaks to our conscience through scripture and through events of our daily life. Jesus took the three disciples who were best prepared to receive the grace of contemplation…The voice from heaven awakened their consciousness of the presence of the Spirit who had always been speaking with them, but whom until then, they had never been able to hear...All true prayer is based on the conviction of the presence of the Spirit in us and of his unfailing and continual inspiration.(Thomas Keating, Open Mind, Open Heart)