Posted on March 31, 2014
“But you are a God ready to forgive, gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and you did not forsake them.” - Nehemiah 9:17
In a later period of history, after much infidelity, the people return from exile in Babylon and Nehemiah prays for them as they try, once again, to start a life in relationship with their God, a God of steadfast love. It is beyond our human comprehension.
May we bring this to our prayer today, asking God in gratitude to help us live into this priceless relationship.
Posted on March 31, 2014
What fun! I have just finished the Science section of the NY Times for March 11 and I don't know when I have said to myself so many times, "What will they think of next?"
Posted on March 30, 2014
The Fourth Week: Learning to Forgive
“Forgive the iniquity of this people according to the greatness of your steadfast love, just as you have pardoned this people, from Egypt even until now…” Then the Lord said, ‘I do forgive, just as you have asked…’ - Numbers 14:19-20
Forgiveness is rooted in the earliest pages of the Bible. Here we can listen to the voice of Moses pleading with God to forgive the rebellious Israelites for the dozenth time. Forgiveness is a basic part of our human faith story. We aim high; we fail, and then we need to right our relationship with a God ever willing to forgive, if we ask.
In Lent as our unworthiness frequently overwhelms our prayer time, let us recall the forgiving God who always listens.
Posted on March 29, 2014
“For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” - Matthew 12:50
In a first century world of strong kinship bonds, Jesus upends everything by redefining family, stretching it to all believers who are aspiring to do the will of God. If we ever feel lonely all we have to do is to look at the veritable army of believers across the world and to know that in a deep sense we belong to each of them and they to us.
Let us luxuriate in our large family of faith as we strive to do our part to be brother and sister to those nearest us in geography.
Posted on March 28, 2014
“Why are you afraid, you of little faith?” - Matthew 8:26
How often fear enters into our lives, and it is so often the result of our placing our trust in human resources rather than in God. As Jesus challenges His followers to look beyond their own resources He is challenging us to bring our fear to Him and place it in His care.
In prayer today, let us ask Jesus to increase our faith.
Posted on March 27, 2014
“Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” - Matthew 5:48
The Greek word that we imperfectly translate as “perfect” leaves us feeling helpless because we are ready to admit that we cannot aspire to perfection. But the original word means something much closer to “complete” than to a vague “perfect”. We can aspire to being as completely, fully human as possible. It is both a human and a spiritual goal.
Let us consider in prayer what we most need to do to be fully the person God would like us to be.
Posted on March 26, 2014
“In everything do to others as you would have them do to you.” - Matthew 7:12
We all admit to being able to blithely recite this gem of wisdom that has come to us from the Old Testament and from pagan sages before that. It is so easy to say and understand. It is so much more difficult to practice in a world that lives by “me first and you can have what is left.”
What would happen if we actually lived this rule for one entire day? Could we try?
Posted on March 25, 2014
“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” - Matthew 6:21
Of course, we know where we have stored our treasure. We think on it with such pleasure. Jesus is challenging His hearers to reflect on those things that do not need safe deposit boxes nor security systems, but which are priceless in heaven, secure in God’s keeping.
What have we given over to God for safekeeping? What are those spiritual treasures that await our rediscovery?
Posted on March 24, 2014
“You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored?” - Matthew 5:13
The homeliness of this image, of a first century housewife swishing her cloth bag with a lump of salt through her cooking, only to realize that all the salt has leached out and there is nothing to add flavor to her soup. Jesus likens us to that tasteless mineral lump when we relapse into Christians without zest.
What savor do we add to a world hungry for something more? It is to be pondered in prayer.
Posted on March 24, 2014
The book "Kneeling in Jerusalem" by Ann Weems is on my desk. Although it is closed, I can still see the words I have just read and reread. I keep going back to them.
Posted on March 23, 2014
The Third Week: Clear Instruction
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven…” - Matthew 5:43-44
Jesus takes a basic teaching of Judaism and moves it up a few notches. It will no longer be enough to love your neighbor and scorn your enemy. We must also be willing to see in these latter the children of God. They are in need of our prayers. This is hard to do.
Shall we take the first steps in prayer today for those who are not ranked among our friends?
Posted on March 22, 2014
“For you always have the poor with you, and you can show kindness to them whenever you wish; but you will not always have me.” - Mark 14:7
Jesus is responding, with some severity, to a critic of the woman who anointed His feet with her priceless perfume. He is praising her gesture of love, not measuring its worth in monetary terms. Can you hear the longing in His voice?
Let us be attentive to Jesus today. He asks only some of our time in prayer. Is that too much to request?
Posted on March 21, 2014
Then Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” The blind man said to him, “My teacher, let me see again.” - Mark 10:51
Don’t you love these questions of Jesus? Nothing could be more focusing than this one. If we could hear Jesus asking us what we really want Him to do, would we stutter or would we have a ready response?
Let us sit in prayer this day and hear Jesus asking us what He asks that blind man from the road. That man knows what he needs. Do we?
Posted on March 20, 2014
Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, “You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” - Mark 10:21-22
This dissatisfied rich young man has come to Jesus to ask what he needs to do to be happy. Jesus rightly diagnoses his malaise as the burden of his possessions which possess him. He suggests that getting rid of that obstacle and becoming a disciple will fill his soul’s desire. The lad goes away, unable as yet to follow.
May we look carefully at what possesses or fills our hearts, crowding out the place that God would like to fill.
Posted on March 19, 2014
He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, “Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.” - Mark 9:35
At day’s end this is lesson time for the circle of His closest friends. It is such a hard lesson to learn in their honor and shame society. No one wants to be last of all. We feel the same way. But Jesus will make it easier as He illustrates for them what service means.
Let us pray to understand that being number one is not a kingdom goal. Seeing Christ in each other is.
Posted on March 18, 2014
He took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village; and when he had put saliva on his eyes and laid his hands on him, he asked, “Can you see anything?” - Mark 8:23
There is such tenderness in this scene as Jesus uses the folk medicine of His world to give back eyesight to the blind man. His question has to echo in our hearts. We so often walk in spiritual blindness and we see nothing. The touch of Jesus will give us back our sight.
Let us pray simply to see Jesus today somewhere in our world.
Posted on March 17, 2014
When he saw that they were straining at the oars against an adverse wind, he came towards them early in the morning, walking on the sea. - Mark 6:48
Some days are just like this boat ride, aren’t they? We feel as if we are rowing against a contrary wind and waves. We sometimes are working so hard at it that we cannot lift our heads to see who is actually coming towards us across the storm–tossed seas.
Let us pray for the grace to look up and see that we are not alone; Jesus is actually very near.
Posted on March 17, 2014
Most of us haven't a clue as to who Patrick really was. As the green-clad marchers fill 5th Avenue it might be fun to take a closer look at the man they are supposedly honoring.
Posted on March 16, 2014
The Second Week: Lessons from the Road
A leper came to him begging him, and kneeling he said to him, “If you choose, you can make me clean.” - Mark 1:40
As we spend these next days on the road with Jesus we have to be alert to miss nothing of what He is teaching. Here, a leper, scorned by all, comes to Him with the most polite of requests: “If you choose…” His faith is firm. He knows Jesus can do this, but the leper makes it a request, not a demand. What a lovely model for prayer.
May we pattern our prayer this day on the humble request of the leper.
Posted on March 15, 2014
The twelve were with him, as well as some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene…and Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza, and Susanna, and many others… - Luke 8:2-3
These verses are a challenge to us to understand that Jesus has come as a change agent. Women as well as men are welcome among His followers. This verse indicates the diversity of His adherents and their openness to each other.
May we ask in prayer where we would have placed ourselves in this first century band of former fishermen, tax collectors, doubters and women. Would we be uncomfortable or challenged?