Sunday, February 28, 2010

Second Sunday of Lent

Genesis 15: 5-12, 17-18, Psalm 27, Philippians 3: 17-41, Luke 9: 28b-36

Were you asked to describe your dream home, what would you say? A spacious Spanish Colonial rich in the colors and textures of the southwest? Maybe a light infused Frank Lloyd Wright temple to “organic architecture?” A McMansion bearing mute and massive witness to your financial success?

The Psalmist David had a much different vision. David’s “dream home”, his heart’s desire, was “the house of the Lord” – a place where he could “gaze upon the beauty of the Lord;” where he would find protection from his enemies; where he would be welcomed and known.

Where is this awesome dwelling place, this “house of the Lord” in 2010? Surely not the McMansion, nor even a modest bungalow. Where then can we find our own heart’s desire, the “house of the Lord” in which we too can dwell, secure in God’s protective love and acceptance?

Perhaps Luke’s account of the transfiguration points the way. At first seduced by the apparition of Jesus in glory with Moses and Elijah, it was only when immersed in the fearful shadow of the cloud that the apostles heard the voice of God, and understood that Jesus was the Son of God, their own true dwelling place. Maybe for us too, it is only within the mysterious mist of the cloud, that we will be able to open our hearts, to find that perfect dwelling place, our “dream home” with the Lord.

Lord, grant us the courage to dive into the cloud with open minds and open hearts so that we can truly find your dwelling place, and like David rest with you there all the days of our lives.

Kathleen Caldwell

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Saturday of the First Week of Lent

Deuteronomy 26: 16-19, Psalm 119, Matthew 5: 43-48

Henri Nouwen, Roman Catholic priest and author, visited Nicaragua during the “Contra War”. After the conflict between the US and Nicaragua had ended, Nouwen’s concern and the concern of many was how to normalize relations– especially how to “love your enemies,” as Jesus says in the gospel of St. Matthew.

Henri Nouwen tells of a meeting he had with a group of Nicaraguan women in a small village. They were sharing stories about the war and saying that, since most of the deaths were on the Nicaraguan side, most of the forgiveness would have to be done by Nicaragua. But how can Nicaragua “love” America when they had been their enemies?

Nouwen posed the question to the women: “Can you forgive us? “ The women replied, almost in unison: “Yes, we can forgive you.” “We bombed your villages, burnt your fields, and killed your sons and husbands. Can you forgive us for all that?” “Even for all that,” the women replied.

Then Nouwen asked a question he had not intended to ask: “Can you love us?” “Yes, we can love you,” replied the women. “We can love you – and we do love you.”

Among the most difficult commandments in the Gospels is the commandment to love our enemies. Jesus was not crucified for saying “consider the lilies of the field” but for saying “love your enemies”. How do we love our enemies? One way is by withdrawing to a quiet place alone and acknowledging that God has created all people and loves all people. We are all brothers and sisters of each other. God pours his remarkable love on all of us, and we trust God to help us love our enemies. We cannot do it alone. We remain open to God’s power to change us. And God will change us, if that is our prayerful desire.

The Rev. Roderick D. Sinclair

Friday, February 26, 2010

Friday of the First Week of Lent

Ezekiel 18: 21-28, Psalm 130, Matthew 5: 20-26

Psalm 130 is one of the most moving because it is so intimate and personal. The petitioner speaks from that place where we sometimes find ourselves during the middle of the night, a place of despair, quiet panic, or fear. This position of poignant need is common to human beings of all ages. When they were quite young, both Bach and Mozart wrote beautifully moving choral settings of this psalm.

The psalmist takes for granted that all persons sin. The range of things we “[do] amiss” is vast. From killing other human beings, to destroying Earth’s resources, to looking past people in need, to simply filling our days with endless activities, we have many ways to distance ourselves from others, and thus from God. But the psalmist is utterly confident in the certainty of God’s forgiveness, in God’s “plenteous redemption.” And his “soul waits for the Lord,” not with the agitation of the sleepless, but rather with the assurance and expectancy of watchmen, alert and sure that dawn is coming.

Jesus was steeped in the tradition of prophets such as Ezekiel who emphasized the importance of “turning away from wickedness,” so that transgressions might be forgotten. But Jesus, putting a far finer point on it in his homily, says that it’s not enough to refrain from the most blatant sins, such as murder. Even the smallest acts that put distance between us and other human beings separate us from God as well. Therefore, he instructs us to be mindful of all our human relationships and, on a daily basis, to work to solve these human disagreements. Only then may we fully realize our connection with God’s steadfast love. How different our world would be now if each of us practiced this teaching!

Marsha Trimble

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Thursday of the First Week of Lent

Esther 4: 1-16, Psalm 138, Matthew 7: 7-12

When fear keeps me from recognizing myself in others,
You are there.
When insecurity locks me in from living as Jesus taught,
You are there.
When my imperfections become my stumbling blocks,
You are there.
When I cannot find the words and am unsure of what to say,
You are there.

When I act, You are there.
When I seek, You are there.
When I ask, You are there.
When I pray, You are there.

Help me to recognize myself in others.
Help me to live as Jesus taught.
Help me to act, seek, and ask.
Help me to believe in the power of prayer.

As I will be there to support, nurture, and nourish my child,
You will be there to support, nurture, and nourish me.
So that I may grow and face new challenges
Renewed by your grace.

And though my consequence may not be as great as Esther's, let me remember your grace and support as I face who I am intended to be, as I may have "come to the kingdom for such a time as this."

"Lord your love is eternal.
Complete the work that you
have begun."

Glynis Welte

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Wednesday of the First Week of Lent

Jonah 3: 1-10, Psalm 51, Luke 11:29-32

Psalm 51

7 For behold you look for truth deep within me, and will make me understand wisdom secretly

8 Purge me from my sin, and I shall be pure wash me, and I shall be clean indeed.

9 Make me hear of joy and gladness, that the body you have broken may rejoice.

Morning Prayer

Dear God, help me live in this world that we have created together,
This life of families twisted into knots with fighting
This world of sleeping tribes forgotten as they starve
This planet of spoiled rivers and dying trees
These peoples, bloated with excess, still hungry
Meet me, dear God, in the broken places of my body
Meet me in the wild and tangled spaces of my heart,
Come with me as I explore the path of my anger,
leading me ever deeper within,
until I am able to lie down and rest in the beauty of my brokenness.

Leslie Middleton

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Tuesday of the First Week of Lent

Isaiah 55: 10-11, Psalm 34, Matthew 6: 7-1

Setting: February 23, 2010, 12:15 PM Daily Mass at the Church of the Incarnation

Isaiah 55, 10-11: First, I heard an ancient, seemingly obtuse description on some facet of the original creation – but, then I sensed a prophetic description of the gift of Christian life I was given and the need to respond to this love of God in my life’s work.

Psalm 34: This brings to mind the many ways and means available to me, and the results obtained by others, to seek God’s help in living a Christian life amidst the trials and tribulations of my hectic life. Or, “knock and the door will open” as often suggested in spiritual direction encounters.

Matthew 6, 7-15: Now, I’m reminded the Our Father is the way of ways to pause and express my basic needs to the Creator, and to myself. When I encounter obstacles to Christian behavior in my daily life, this is the Gold Standard for “rebooting” my operating system and letting the Holy Spirit function once again.

Later Reflections: The Collegeville Commentary for Psalms, says this about Psalm 34: “Anyone who is wise will, by right conduct, join the company of the righteous and thus enjoy God’s favor.”

This triad reminds me of what I am – and can be – as a creature of God. I can always return to my busy day in a renewed state. I can meet its challenges, witness God’s love, and resume apostolic behavior in my ever present effort toward an evening prayer beginning with the Our Father. Finally, I come full circle to something I read years ago in the “Catholic Catechism for Adults: “Thus, it [Our Father] brings us into communion with the Father and the Holy Spirit.”

Perry Sennewald

Monday, February 22, 2010

Monday of the First Week of Lent

Leviticus 19: 1-2, 11-18, Psalm 19, Matthew 25: 31-46

The best known of the several judgment passages in the New Testament, often known as the “Parable of the Sheep and the Goats,” this passage from Matthew is most often thought of primarily as a sinister warning to those who ignore the needy and oppressed among us. For me it is a message of hope. The “righteous” are unselfconscious and unaware that in serving their neighbor in need they are serving Christ in that neighbor.

The Protestant, Puritan being which inhabits me asks, “How may I work to get to that place where I serve others without being aware of Christ in their midst. Note the word “WORK.” My question is the wrong question. Being in the presence of Christ in our neighbor in need is not a matter of work. Jesus Christ graciously gives us the gift of his presence. He is present in our neighbor waiting for us. We seek the opportunity. Christ is there when we arrive. Jesus also surrounds us with the opportunities. A parish such as St. Paul’s has an opportunity to fit each of us.

Charles Perry

Sunday, February 21, 2010

First Sunday of Lent

Deuteronomy 26: 4-10, Psalm 91, Romans 10: 8-13, Luke 4: 1-13

Satan offered Jesus a gift, but Jesus didn't take it. We all are tempted with gifts, which we open, consume, own and disown, and throw away.

The devil tempted Jesus for forty days, and Jesus had the courage, the insight, and the faith to refuse and rebuke him. We use and abuse our gifts without courage, insight or faith. We refuse nothing we can turn to refuse.

The devil offered power and glory and food. We accept gifts that promise power, offer glory and feed us through every appetite. We know not no.

Satan stood by Jesus in the wilderness and brought him to Jerusalem, offering, tempting, mocking, daring. Jesus stood atop the temple and did not step into Satan's trap. We rely not on the angels of our better nature but willingly trap ourselves with every temptation but love, which is selfless. We are collections of self. We are selves and elfish elves.

The devil ended his tempting game, gave up and went away, learning utter futility. We did not hear Jesus when he put away all elves and told the biggest: "Get behind me, Satan." Jesus uttered a true answer.

We don't even see the question. We are all answers. We just are, for the moment.

He is. He is there for all of us, always.

Bob Gibson

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Saturday After Ash Wednesday

Isaiah 58: 9b-14, Psalm 86, Luke 5: 27-32

Wouldn’t it be nice if our lives had a “reset” button?

We could go back to that moment just before we pushed “send” on an irrevocable and unkind email message. We could get out of that corner we procrastinated ourselves into, and finish the project within its deadline. We could rethink that moment when we decided to go through the amber light after it had turned red. We could return to that day when we decided to leave college because of a tempting job offer.

Alas, I don’t think God can change any of those situations for us. We have to live with the consequences of our actions.

On the other hand, I do believe that God offers us a “reset button” of a different kind. God’s grace and forgiveness are always available to those who humbly ask. No matter what the action, if we ask for God’s help we can learn how to work with the consequences, knowing that God’s grace comes to the truly repentant. The Confession in the Morning Prayer service speaks of “things done and left undone” and asks God to restore those who are penitent.

So during this Lenten season, perhaps we can learn to use God’s “reset button” before we need it. Maybe if we think “reset” before undertaking an action that might be harmful to ourselves or others, God’s grace and love will protect us from ourselves. And we will learn to love and trust God more fully.


Ginger Greene

Friday, February 19, 2010

Friday After Ash Wednesday

Isaiah 58: 1-9a, Psalm 51, Matthew 9: 14-15

Lent is a somber time for remembering and reflection. Quite the opposite is true of birthdays. This day in Lent marks the birthday of my sister who died twenty years ago. For me the happiness of remembering her and the somberness of recalling her illness and death comingle on this day.

Though we lived in different states during her 18-month struggle with cancer, we had the privilege of weekly time together. For many months it seemed like no illness at all. Our visits were occasions for remembering and reflection punctuated by joyous laughter much more often than the distress of bad side effects. Eventually our conversations became ever more focused on what was most important in each of our lives. Hers was a straightforward faith. It was she who etched in my memory the Micah 6: 6 answer to the question about the Lord’s requirements of us. It had served her well. “And what does the Lord require of you? Seek justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with thy God.”

It’s now twenty years later and I continue to seek, to love, and to walk humbly with God on this earth. In the passages for this day, I find important guidance for this process. I find the action-oriented exhortations in Psalm 51 energizing. Rouse yourself! Awaken! Listen! Hearken! Hear! Put on Strength!

I am ever grateful that I listened and heard my sister. I pray for strength to continue to walk humbly with my God and to listen with care to the new insights waiting for me this Lenten season of reflecting and remembering.

Doris S. Greiner

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Thursday After Ash Wednesday

Deuteronomy 30: 15-20, Psalm 1, Luke 9: 22-25

Then, speaking to all, he said, ‘If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross every day and follow me. Anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for my sake, will save it. What benefit is it to anyone to win the whole world and forfeit or lose his very self?’

Jesus knows us well when he tells us to renounce ourselves and take up our cross every day. Anyone who has tried to start a new habit knows that change requires constant turning and returning in the direction we mean to go. This process can feel disheartening, but we might alternatively view it as a continually open door. We are invited and re-invited to continue, humbly and gratefully, in our good work. Jesus knows that we cannot change our lives in an instant, so he simply calls us to return to him each day and try again.

In 1960, Dr. Maxwell Maltz gave this advice for adopting a new routine: “The essence of the technique is simply to devote 15 minutes a day to the formation of any habit you wish to establish, and do this faithfully for 21 days. By the fourth week, it should actually be harder not to engage in the new behavior than it would be to continue doing it."

What promising news! With Jesus’ encouragement to keep trying and this sage advice, let us embark on this season of Lent together with hope and courage. Reading each day from this Guide, let us remember our shared Communion as we strive to deepen ourselves, our relationships with each other, and our relationships with God.

Hannah Trible

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Ash Wednesday

Joel 2:12-18, Psalm 51, 2 Corinthians 5:20-62, Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18

Rend your hearts
return to me
broken and contrite
let us journey together
into the
keep me, these forty days,
in the
of your

Anna Askounis