Saturday, December 17, 2011

Bumper Sticker of the Week

Blogging Towards Sunday, December 18th
The Fourth Sunday of Advent:  
3 Women | Prince | God's Radical Love

Jesus and his friends return to Israel after their failed (or was it?) effort to proclaim the gospel good news on the other side of the Sea of Galilee (the Gentile Side, present day Syria and Jordan).  As he returns to his land, his people and his culture, he’s met with overwhelming needs, hopes and prayers.  Our Mark passage today focuses upon a chiastic story: a story (of the bleeding woman who comes to Jesus) sandwiched within another story (the dead girl, whose father comes to him for help).  This was a customary Jewish way of telling stories and writing, a lot like we look for a tight relationship between an introduction and a conclusion.  The contrast between these two women in need of healing and wholeness is also paralleled by the Lectionary texts in Luke 1 which lift up the story of Mary, another woman that God seeks out to involve in his company’s radical idea of a Christmas Party: a reversal of the way things are done in the world.  Today’s texts invite us to take a closer look at the world at Christmas:  God comes into the world not to condemn it, but to heal, liberate and transform it.  Are we then called to flee it, conform to it, or engage it?

What’s the rock star Prince got to do with it?

The 80s rock star Prince, often condemned for overtly sexual lyrics and actions, is commonly recognized as a musical composer, albeit in a different style than Bach or Mozart.  A song of his  “Let’s Get Crazy” lifts up the theme that I see underneath our three scriptures: the incarnation :: God’s radical commitment to our world.  Here are the beginning lyrics of that rock song:

Thursday, December 08, 2011

 Blogging Towards Sunday, December 11th
The Third Sunday of Advent:  Deliverance

Jesus and his friends arrive on the other side (the Gentile Side, present day Syria and Jordan) of the Sea of Galilee after the rapidly arising storm in which the messianic power of Jesus is demonstrated to the disbelief of the disciples (Mark 4:35-41).  Arriving in a foreign land, Jesus is surprisingly accosted by a foreign occupying power.  The third Sunday of Advent is the “joy” Sunday, focusing on the joy of the reversal of the depressing and destructive power of evil in the world in the light of the birth of the Christ Child.  Yet is liberation always good news?  Does freedom always bring us joy?

Friday, December 02, 2011

Bumper Sticker of the Week

Blogging Towards Sunday, December 4th

Today’s passage of Mark follows the Jesus’ teaching about how God works in the world with several parables. Beginning with the Sower and the Seed (Mark 4:1-20) the parables portray the mysterious aspect of the dominion of God which starts slow, unexpectedly in ways that we overlook as human beings, yet it grows – despite us – and emerges to completely transform the universe. Mark tells us that Jesus repeatedly told stories in parable form, untying the confusing knots that people seemed to have tied themselves up into as they sought to understand God.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Blogging Towards Sunday, November 27th

Today’s passage of Mark continues the teaching of Jesus in parables. Undoubtedly, since Mark is a good writer, it is directly connected to the parable of the Sower and the Seed (Mark 4:1-20).  In that parable we learn of God’s abundant and amazing grace similar to seeds scattered on diverse and different types of soil.  God gives the gift of faith and then grows it as we respond.  We’re not just passive observers, but also actively involved.

lamps | measures | seeds oh my!

The first parable of the lamp and the bushel remind me of my childhood and the song we often sang in Sunday School, “hide it under a bushel? No!  I’m gonna let it shine!”  But that’s from Matthew 5.  It’s not what Jesus is talking about here.  What is Jesus talking about with the hidden and made manifest?  A light is meant to illuminate the room.  Why then do we need ears to hear?  Isn’t it obvious?  Not to me! 

Friday, November 18, 2011

Bumper Sticker of the Week

Questions for going deeper with the Scriptures for today, November 20th

Today’s passage of Mark contains the first major teaching passage included in the gospel.  Several times Mark has emphasized Jesus’ teaching prowess and the way in which his teaching has an authority that many have never yet witnessed (examples include Mark 1:21-22; 1:39, 2:1-3).  Jesus tells a parable in response to the concluding verse (35) of chapter 3.  “Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.”  So how do we know what’s God will is?

structure of the text – what’s in a parable?

The first teaching narrative is a parable.  It’s a Greek word that has taken on a new meaning because of the gospel and is used in most modern languages.  So what is a parable?

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

 Blogging Towards Sunday, November 13

Today’s passage of Mark begins following the description of the 12th of the 12 disciples as the one who will betray Jesus (3.19) and then continues describing those who oppose Jesus who range from the Jerusalem scribes – or religious experts – to include even his own nuclear family.  What role does family play in our lives? How do we understand family today?

Friday, November 04, 2011

Occupy Oakland

There's been much brouhaha about Occupy Oakland for the past days, in particular since the police intervention last week and the general strike yesterday.  I am quite progressive and believe that the Occupy movement can bring about good for our society.  So either I'm objective or subjective, as we each can only start our thought process from our own individual point of view.  Today I've heard on the radio and read in media and notes that Oakland has sunk into violence and that the occupy movement is a shame and a sham.

I spent most of the afternoon yesterday in downtown Oakland at the occupy general strike headquarters with my 9 and 7 year old children.  We heard music and speakers.  We saw signs, posters, educational murals and a candle ridden station for peace.  We inhaled marijuana that was smoked by some.  We heard prayers offered at the inter-religious tent.  We saw babies in strollers and carriers on the parents' backs.  We saw grandparents with their grandchildren.  We saw school groups in matching t-shirts.  We saw teachers, urban professionals, homeless, students, diverse clergy and random working class folks all milling around together peacefully.  It seemed much more like a music festival or neighborhood festival than a riot or chaotic gathering of looters.  Never was I afraid - for myself or my children.

Blogging Towards Sunday, November 6th     

Today’s passage of Mark tells of the increasing power of the ministry of Jesus and this of his choice to name a group of twelve disciples who will be his inner circle and constant companions. 

the spreading impact of jesus among the people | Mark 3:7-12

The people are overwhelmed with gratitude for Jesus.  His words, presence and healing actions seem to touch a need, to connect with a deep common longing for something unknown, promised and dreamed of.  Mark describes the crowd as if they are going to crush Jesus, as they press upon him and exert pressure upon him to respond to their needs and desires.   Interestingly enough the entire narrative is structured around the actions of Jesus.  He is not passive, but active, setting the tone, changing the conversation, challenging the status quo (v. 7, 9 12 are his actions which frame the story).

Friday, October 28, 2011

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Blogging Towards , Sunday, October 30th    

How do you decide what is right?  How can we agree on what is morally and ethically good?  Isn't it just a question of subjective point of view and our own particular context at any given moment?  Today’s passage of Mark contains the last 2 conflicts in a series of encounters between Jesus and the Pharisees begun back in 2:13.  Both stories have obvious parallels and contrasts: they deal with the Sabbath and one concerns the actions of Jesus and one his disciples.  Both stories invite deeper reflection upon the meaning, purpose and scope of the Sabbath as a spiritual practice and religious law in light of Jesus’ comment in 2:22 “No!  One pours new wine into new wineskins.”

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

 Blogging Towards Sunday, October 23rd    
Mark 2:18-22

18 Now John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting; and people came and said to him, ‘Why do John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees take on the discipline of fasting, but yours do not?’ 19Jesus said to them, ‘When you're celebrating a wedding, you don't skimp on the cake and wine. You feast. Later you may need to pull in your belt, but not now. As long as the bride and groom are with you, you have a good time. No one throws cold water on a friendly bonfire.

20The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast on that day.

21 ‘No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old cloak; otherwise, the patch pulls away [rips: in Greek schism] from it, the new from the old, and a worse tear is made.

22And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and the wine is lost, and so are the skins; but one puts new wine into fresh wineskins.’

Comments and Questions

Today’s selection from Mark is the third, or the center, of a 5 series structures of stories that NT scholar Joel Marcus calls “The Opposition Asserts Itself” for it presents the reaction of the religious establishment to the new word and religious event experienced in this Jesus of Nazareth.  After a chapter detailing Jesus’ explosion onto the speaking circuit of ancient Palestine, and his rapidly emerging fame, he’s challenged by the establishment, the Pharisees, Scribes, Sadducees, those that are at the top of the religious pyramid in his society. the second and third confrontation of Jesus with the Pharisees. 

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Bumper Sticker of the Week

Blogging Towards Sunday, October 16, 2011
Mark 2:13-2:17 | purity

I've been offline with some computer problems for the past few weeks, but am not back online.  In the silence I've started a new series, working my way through Mark's version of the Jesus story.  I'll post the back posts next week.  Come and participate in the sermon on this passage this coming Sunday at 10:30 at College Ave Presbyterian Church.

Today’s selection from Mark includes the second and third confrontation of Jesus with the Pharisees.  We often overlook or are unaware of the diversity that existed in the Jewish community of Jesus’ day.  Occupied by the Roman Empire, faced with the pagan influences of Greek culture and Gentile religions the Jews were forced to either withdraw from society, reinforce their faith through fundamentalistic approaches, conform and change to the expanding global environment or reinterpret their tradition for a new day.  All of these approaches were taken.  The Essenes: those who wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls withdrew to the desert to remain pure.  The Scribes were those that reinterpreted.  The Sadducees were those that conformed or collaborated. The Pharisees were those that we might call “fundamentalists” who lived out the letter of the law in all aspects.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Blogging Towards Sunday, September 18th  

Bob Brylawski is preaching this week on this text which challenges the ways in which we expect God to communicate with us.  The common expression spoken when people do something wrong is that they might get hit by a bolt of lighting.  It articulates a vision of God’s power, righteousness and activity in the world.  So here in this passage we see the great prophet Elijah, the only one remaining faithful to the Lord in his day, seek God’s voice.  Or do we?  If you look closer at the whole 19th chapter of 1 Kings 19 you see that Elijah is on the run: running from all his adversaries in particular the queen Jezebel who wants to get her revenge by killing the prophet that just won’t stop challenging her example.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Church Retreat - CHANGE
"It's Hell in the Hallway"

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Blogging Towards Sunday, September 11th 
10 years since the events of 9/11

Terror.  What is it ?  For many of us we remember the events of 10 years ago today with terror.  Yet it’s also called a day in which violent acts reigned down terror and then resulted in other terror.  So what is it a noun, an adjective, a verb?  We often focus on how that day changed us, but for many of us – I think of my children – they were born afterwards, they’ve never known anything else?  Wether we’re hawks or doves, on the left or on the right, tea or coffee partiers, we are shaped in part by this memory: fear, confusion, surprise, the reality of pluralism in the 21st century, a different experience of how some see us as the US. 

Friday, September 02, 2011

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Blogging Towards  Sunday, September 2nd 
The Question of Guilt

GUILT.  It’s an ugly word.  A feeling that often overwhelms us.  Those that critic Christianity from  Friedrich Nietzsche to modern atheist writer Christopher Hitchens, lift up the teaching of Jesus of Nazareth as something that causes guilt based on unrealistic and inhuman morality.  In Hebrew the word for guilt and that for sin are used interchangeably.  In Leviticus 5 & 7 we hear of the proscribed sacrifices to make restitution for sin or guilt, whether it be consciously or unconsciously committed.  The Law seems to provide a way to remove guilt, to make the one who offers the sacrifice clear, to empower them to experience a before and an after, to continue with the certitude of being no longer guilty.  The twist is that it can happen again, no matter how many rams of the flock are sacrifices on an altar.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Blogging Towards Sunday, August 28th

The Gospel according to Mark begins with a radical affirmation: “The beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” [1:1].  In the original language of the book, Koiné Greek, the word for gospel, euanggelion, also means “good news”.  It means good news as in headlines of a paper, an blessed event like a birth or marriage, a joyous pronouncement like VE-Day at the end of WW II, or a military report of victory.

Louise Hirschman asks, “if we actually believe the good news of the gospel, why don’t our lives show it in wild, crazy, amazing expressions of joy?  If we believed it, we could do anything, knowing that Jesus the Christ has our back!”  So what holds us back?  - holds you back?

Friday, August 05, 2011

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Blogging Towards Sunday, August 7, 2011

Chosen by Anne Marie Adams, this  scripture lifts of the awesomeness of who Jesus is.  He is the “visible image of the invisible God”.  WOW!  That says a lot, and potentially nothing (for our secular world today).  The passage points back to the beginning of who Jesus is, spelling it out ontologically (regarding being) and epistemologically (regarding the origin of knowledge).  Yet the passage isn’t just about the past, it moves from this universal proclamation of what has been and what is, to a description of where we’re headed, what the world is becoming alongside, because of, in and through this Jesus.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Blogging Towards Sunday, July 31, 2011

Today’s scripture, suggested by Sharon Nelson, is the climactic portion of Paul’s theological explanation in the letter to the church in Ancient Rome.  Over the previous chapters, Paul has explained the tension between sin and brokenness and grace and reconicilation.  He’s talked of the paradox that God in Christ saves not just the Jew but also the Gentile.  Now he arrives at the point in his teaching when he moves from theology to ethics.  How do we live a life in community as diverse and different followers of Jesus?

Friday, July 22, 2011

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Blogging Towards  Sunday, July 24th    

Chosen by our guest preacher Rev. Jack Buckley who serves First Presbyterian Church Alameda, this teaching of Jesus is quite challenging.   The first verses quote the First Testament and then lift up the common critic of Jesus by his opposition, principally that he’s too much of a party guy always hanging out with the wrong type of folks.

Jesus picks up later and talks about rest and renewal.  A life of faith, a life of following his teachings and example is like the lightest yoke you could imagine.  We rarely use yokes these days, as we drive cars or ride the bus, not a horse.  The yoke is the way in which a beast of burden is guided and directed – controlled in a sense by the weight on his shoulders.  We too often can identify with being driven  around by the heavy burdens of worries, fears, concerns, anxieties and uncertainty on our shoulders. 

Friday, July 15, 2011

Bumper Sticker of the Week

Monday, July 11, 2011

Blogging Towards Sunday, July 17, 2011

Chosen by our guest preacher Rev. Nancy Walters, formerly on staff at the Westminster House Ministry at Cal Berkeley, this portion of Romans is among the climactic words of this pastoral letter.  Paul has been writing to the church in Rome, explaining faith in Jesus as the Christ.  He’s articulated how the death of one man – Jesus – can bring life to all humanity – US! Paul has tied faith in Christ into the historic Jewish faith in Jehovah lifted up in the story of Abraham and Sarah’s radical journey from nowhere to where God wanted them to be.

Faith isn’t merely historical, it’s not merely a moral compass for our lives.  It is life itself, a new way of being, of being with others and of being with God.  Paul in Romans 8 writes of a new life that we know through the presence and inheritance of God’s Spirit among and in us.  It’s not just genetic or given to a particular people or ethnic tribe, God’s presence is freely given, actively present, grace-fully loving us and winning us towards love.  Paul ends his development of this vision of how life, faith and love are indistinguishable with this ecstatic proclamation of how much God loves us.  Hauntingly beautiful, philosophically challenging, it’s a radical reminder of the hope that we have in the love of God that we know in Jesus – not just in ancient Palestine, but here, now, today in the urban jungle and metropolitan mix of the East Bay.

·       What word, image or phrase in this passage grabs your attention?
·       How does that word, image or phrase touch your life and what you’re living or wrestling with these days?
·       How do you hear the Spirit of God inviting you – or us as a church – to act, speak or be through this passage?
·       How do you struggle to believe, accept or acknowledge God’s love for you?
·       How has this conquering love healed or transformed you?  How do you need God to liberate you today from the things that can separate you from that love?

Friday, July 08, 2011

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Blogging Towards Sunday, July 10, 2011

Chosen by a member of my church community as a challenging Bible passage, this story contains the shortest verse in the whole Bible: John 11:35  “Jesus wept.”  In this story of the raising of Lazarus from the dead, we also see the encounter of Jesus with Lazarus’ sisters.  The story points to the power of Jesus over death, to Jesus as more than just a human being – as the power of God divine incarnate in the human condition.  But the text just might ask more questions of us and our faith, then supply us with answers.  Why does Jesus weep?  Why didn’t he heal Lazarus before he died?  If Jesus was divine, wouldn’t he also know what would happen? 

Friday, July 01, 2011

Summer Camp 2011

We've been at summer camp at Westminster Woods this week, brining children from our church community to camp for the week, and for me to be speaking in the Forest 4th-6th grade camp.  It's nearly the end of the week, and as I walked back from an early morning meeting today I found myself thinking about what constitutes a day in the life this week: the pool, pudding cups for desert, campfire, the craft shack, Robin Hood dueling with the Sheriff, Ro-Sham-Bo about the life cycle of a salmon with Chimi & Changa, Free Time, not taking a shower, new friends, old friends, dumb body tricks, and mosquitos, trying new things, reveling in old favorites, getting a bit homesick, or just plain tired.  That’s what camp is about it.  All of those things in a brief span.  Comfort and challenge, joy and frustration, living with others and learning to stand on your own with your parents not nearby (unless your Dad is the camp speaker).  

Bumper Sticker of the Week

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Blogging Towards Sunday, July 3, 2011

Chosen by a member of the church I serve as one her favorite Bible passages, these opening verses of John’s gospel are hauntingly powerful.   The words are carefully chosen by their author.  John copies and tweaks the original sentence structure of the creation story in  the first verses of book of Genesis.  The other gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) start with the birth of Jesus (Matthew & Luke) or with his baptism (Mark).  John however chooses to start at a different beginning, the beginning of the story of God’s relationship with humanity and creation.  It’s not by accident that he does that, calling Jesus the LOGOSthe Greek philosophical word used by philosophers from Socrates to Aristotle for divine wisdom, the intelligence that isn’t humanly attainable, a living word that makes life possible.  He doesn’t do it on a whim, but with carefully crafted intention.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Blogging Towards Sunday, June 26 2011

This story within a story is one of my favorite Bible passages about Jesus.  For me it’s so real, easily pictured in my imagination and carries such a clearly challenging message of the radical aspect of Jesus’ love, power and person. 

Jesus is interrupted in the midst of doing his business.  On his way to visit the dying daughter of a well-known religious leader, Jesus is interrupted by a nameless woman who audaciously touches him in the midst of a jostling crowd.  His response must have been comical.  Surrounded by throngs of people, Jesus asks aloud “who touched me?” Yet he’s insistent.  The text tells us that she’s broken: physically as she’s be bleeding for 12 years, well beyond the normal timeline of a menstrual cycle.  She’s broken financially as she’s been bankrupted seeking a medical solution.  She’s broken personally and relationally, as she is considered unclean by the purity laws practiced by the Israelites (see Leviticus 12:7, 15:19-22 and 20:18), similar to how we treated those with AIDS in the 1980s and early 1990s.  She’s looking for a quick fix, a remedy; yet Jesus won’t settle for just a band aid.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Blogging Towards Sunday, June 19, 2011

This passage from Jeremiah contains several verses (11-14) commonly quoted as a favorite by many readers and hearers of the Bible.  It’s a radical affirmation that God doesn’t leave us, abandon us to the cruel contexts in which we may find ourselves.  But rather God is present – even when it doesn’t seem to be so – working underneath what we see, behind the curtain, preparing, calling, healing, delivering all with a divine intention.  Isn’t that the real challenge of faith?  It’s not all that impossible to believe in a God that infinitely loves us, but it is difficult to believe and live that when life is in its most difficult, when it seems that there is no rhyme or reason for what happens, that there could not be a divine being behind it all, urging the universe towards peace, blessing and a future.

Friday, June 03, 2011

Bumper Sticker of the Week

Blogging Towards Sunday,  June 5
John 17:1-11 | Community

This prayer of Jesus, at the conclusion of John's gospel story of his life and relationships, is for unity among those that he calls his community in his day and in days to come.  As I thought about community in the text, in my life and it's changing implications in our urban, multicultural, technologically-flavored city characterized first and foremost by its diversity I wondered at the current definition of COMMUNITY:  according to wikipedia it's:

In biological terms, a community is a group of interacting organisms sharing a populated environment. In humancommunities, intentbeliefresourcespreferencesneedsrisks, and a number of other conditions may be present and common, affecting the identity of the participants and their degree of cohesiveness.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Bumper Sticker of the Week

Blogging Towards Sunday, May 22nd, 2011
End of the World +1

According to the billboards I've seen around the Bay Area for the past 2 + months Sunday most likely won't come for those that follow Jesus of Nazareth, calling him master, and Lord.  And yet I suspect I'll be here come Sunday.  Guess I'll need to write a sermon.  As I think about those signs proclaiming God's judgement on May 21st and wrestle with the words of Jesus in John 14, responding to Thomas' uncertainty and questions by asserting that Jesus is "the Way, the Truth and the Life" I just can't accept that it will all end come Saturday night at 6pm in an earthquake.  I'm stuck with 2 thoughts: 1) Jesus says himself that no one but God the Father will know when that hour of radical world transforming revelation (or apocalypse in Greek) will appear [Matthew 24:36] and 2) Jesus seems to teach those that follow him to live in the world, not to flee the world.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Bumper Sticker of the Week

Blogging Towards Sunday, May 15 2011

The major theme of the scriptures proposed to us by the Lectionary Cycle after Easter wrestle with what it means to be sent out into the world as disciples, followers of Jesus, in his name.  The lift up the paradox that we're sent out and that Jesus goes with us.  We're sent with authority that he had and gives to us.  We're sent not just to proclaim, but to build community, to testify to how our lives have been changed, to point to the birthing pains of an emerging new thing in the universe, begun in the resurrection.

Friday, May 06, 2011

Monday, May 02, 2011

Blogging towards Sunday, May 8th  

Being sent into the world is a major theme of the scriptures that we read after Easter. As we listen again to the testimonies of those that experienced the great teacher as the resurrected One, we have to ask ourselves how is it that we experience him as both teacher and resurrected Lord today, here in the context of the 2011 East Bay?

This story is unique to Luke.  Some say a faint echo of it can be found in Mark 16:12-13.  This pilgrimage story follows Luke’s telling of the resurrection encounter at the empty tomb (Luke 24:1-12).  These two followers of Jesus are heading towards Emmaus.  They’re on a journey – not just to a village 7 miles away, but also on the journey of faith.  They’ve heard the report of the women, and wonder at what it means. 

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Bumper Sticker of the Week

Blogging Towards Sunday, May 1, 2011

Peace, or “Shalom” in Hebrew was the traditional greeting in Jesus’ day.  Yet repeated in this text, it takes on a deeper meaning.  It’s a peace that reassures, picks up, rebuilds, resurrects.  It’s the echo and fulfillment of the teaching of Jesus : “Peace I leave with you.  My peace I give you.  I do not give as the world gives.  Do no let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27) We too long for peace today – in the pain and suffering of our individual lives, in the injustice of our world, in the continuing wars and the ongoing efforts of many to put their lives back together after tornadoes, earthquakes and nuclear disasters.  The peace that Jesus gives is not just a “hello” but a force that changes, liberates and shapes every aspect of life. 

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Questions for going deeper with the Scriptures for Sunday, April 24th  
Questions for Easter Sunday  | Mark 16:1-8

The story of the empty tomb is told by all of the gospel writers.  Much like 4 witnesses of an accident would relate different aspects, they all four tell the story a bit differently
(Matthew 28:9-20 | Luke 24:13-53 | John 20).  Mark ends his retelling of that day in a peculiar, even a bizarre, way. Where we expect them to overcome fear and go forth to share the good news, they instead are terrorized and they run away to hide.  Where they are commanded to speak they remain mute.  Asked to return to a community, they prefer an isolation that seems to have become familiar.  Jesus is not where they expected him.  He is not what they thought him to be.  Only now, after the end, at the time of a new beginning, do they realize that maybe they never actually understood the way in which they traveled with Jesus.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Bumper Sticker of the Week

Questions for going deeper with the Scriptures for Saturday, April 23rd  
Questions for Holy Saturday  | SILENCE

God seems to be silent on this day of death and Sabbath rest.  The gospel writers are mute about what happened. As Protestants, we often seek God in the word – spoken and written – and yet often we encounter the Divine in silence.  Today try to sit in silence for 5 – 10 – even 20 minutes if you can.  Silence your thoughts, worries and mental-to-do-lists and listen for God’s presence.  How is it hard for you to be in silence?  How does the experience challenge you to move beyond the cacophony of daily life?

Friday, April 22, 2011

Questions for going deeper with the Scriptures for Friday, April 22nd
Questions for Good Friday | Mark 15:1-47

Crucifixion was the worst way to die in the world of the Roman Empire.  It was reserved as the death penalty for the very worst of criminals and traitors.  It’s ironic that Jesus dies in this painfully slow and public way.  He who spoke of love without walls, new paradigms of community, direct experience of God’s presence, is denied all of those things.  The inspiration for non-violence the world over, paradoxically dies the most violent of deaths imaginable.   Jesus assumes the worst of the human condition, in order to liberate us from our worst nightmares. How does his life and death turn the world upside down when there is so much suffering all around us?  Is it his blood that frees us as a sacrifice in our place?  Does he overcome evil but submitting to it freely?  Does his death unmask the powers that are at work in the world?  Is his example of costly love universe-changing? There are multiple theories about how his death atones for our brokenness.  Yet all agree that the cross affirms the lengths to which God goes to convince of us his love.  The radical solidarity with which he stands alongside the poor, abused and persecuted.  The way in which who God is runs completely counter to what we imagine.  The Apostle Paul claims that you can’t preach Christ, without preaching “Christ Crucified”. That paradox is why we dare to call this “Good Friday” when it seems to be anything but good.  How does this disturb you? How is it a scandalous message for our culture today?

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Questions for going deeper with the Scriptures for Thursday, April 21st
Questions for Maundy Thursday | Mark 14:12-72

Today is known as “Holy Thursday” and also liturgically as “Maundy Thursday”.  The Maundy isn’t a misspelled Monday, but rather a derivative of the old French mandé and the Latin mandatum , both of which mean “commandment”.  In this last night together, Jesus gathers with his friends to celebrate the Passover: the high holiday in which the Jews remembered the story of the Israelites slavery in Egypt [Mitzrayim  in Hebrew] through a liturgical sharing of a meal.  It’s together around a table that they re-enact their deliverance of the Israelites from the hand of Pharaoh.  In doing so they don’t just remember, but they appropriate the story for today’s context, reflecting upon the meaning of freedom in terms of the mitzrayims that enslaves, distract and blind us today.