Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Wednesday of Holy Week

Isaiah 50: 4-9a, Psalm 69, Matthew 26: 14-25

Judas was of two minds – that is clear. He loved Jesus and shared his ministry with him, but for 30 pieces of silver, he betrayed him. Peter also was of two minds. He promised never to desert Jesus, but he denied him three times. It’s easy to do – want one thing and do another.

You want to spend more time with your family, but actually you spend more time at work. You want to be kind to your spouse or child or colleague, but you can’t resist making that one corrective comment. You want to keep clear priorities around eating or spending or simplicity; but you forget. You want to remain committed, but those 30 pieces of silver just look so good. Often, if I am honest with myself, I must admit I am of two minds. Something prevents me from living as fully committed a life as I would like.

What stands out to me about Jesus each Holy Week, is his ability to remain single-minded. His focus is unwavering. Even in the face of betrayal and death, he is honest, compassionate, and faithful. Jesus is of one mind. He is of one mind with God and with the people he touches.

That is what I seek this Holy Week – the mind of Christ.

Lord Jesus Christ, come into my mind and heart and set me free, that I may live as you would have me live, and love with your abundance. Amen.

The Rev. Janet Hatfield Legro

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Tuesday of Holy Week

Isaiah 4: 1-6, Psalm 71, John 13: 21-33, 36-38

We are a brief time into 2010. How blessed those of us are who believe in God and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and have received Him into our lives. God came in human form to provide for our salvation. Christ and His disciples carried the message to all so that it could be known to the ends of the earth. We know the joy, the blessing of His peace, His love. We have the assurance of His constant care if we but ask in prayer according to His will. He hears our prayers as we pray, but often His Holy Spirit is guiding us ahead of our prayers to Him. We are given Godly wisdom and strength. We can know His comfort in situations when we can find no earthly comfort.

When we have all these blessings because of our lives in Christ, we should talk about them. We, like the disciples with Christ, are to spread this light not only to encourage the disheartened, but to help bring others to receive Christ. It would be a betrayal to Him not to share His wonders, mercy, and grace. We need also not to be shy about witnessing before others we know have become Christians. It is true that depression and discouragement can strike believers; we can encourage them, as well as ourselves, as we witness.

Currently, the daily news can offer enough negatives to be knock-out blows to one’s morale. But, knowing that God is in charge and never forsakes us, His children, can be the light of optimism and, never forget, hope.

Always trust, keep faith, pray unceasingly, and love the Lord with all your heart, soul and mind.

Betty McLernon

Monday, March 29, 2010

Monday of Holy Week

Isaiah 42: 1-7 , Psalm 27, John 12, 1 – 11

“Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus' feet, and wiped them with her hair.”
John 12:3

At our baptism with the oil of Chrism we are sealed as Christ’s own, uniting us to Christ and marking the beginning of our relationship with Him. Here, in this passage from John, it is the week before Passover when Mary takes exorbitantly expensive perfumed oil and drenches Jesus' feet with it. Jesus comments on her act by referring to his coming death and burial. There is another way to view Mary's act.

I see this costly oil as symbolizing the most valuable thing each of us has – ourselves. Mary pours out herself at Jesus' feet. We, too, have the opportunity at any moment in our lives to pour out ourselves at the feet of Jesus; to let go of our self-centered, egotistical selves and to drench His feet with all of our mind, heart and soul.

Anointing Jesus' feet with the whole of our being marks growth in our relationship with Christ, further sealing the relationship that began at our baptism. This anointing with the “oil of ourselves” is an on-going, never-ending act on our part if we desire an ever-deepening relationship with Christ.

A relationship which Psalm 27 describes as one in which “The Lord is my light and my salvation.... the stronghold of my life.... He will hide me in his shelter.... My heart shall not fear.... I will be confident... live in the house of the Lord.... behold the beauty of the Lord.... see the Goodness of the Lord.”

The Psalmist exclaims, “ 'Come', my heart says, 'seek His face!' "

If we can anoint Jesus' feet with the whole of ourselves as Mary did, I have hope that one day He will show us His face.

Adrienne Carlee

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Passion (Palm) Sunday: The Beginning of Holy Week

Luke 19:28-40, Isaiah 50: 4-7, Psalm 22, Philippians 2: 6-11, Luke 22: 14-23, 56

The Sovereign Lord has taught me what to say, so that I can strengthen the weary. Every morning he makes me eager to hear what he is going to teach me.
Isaiah 50:4

As a child, I would often hear my father declare every day a "beautiful day!" That was, of course, without regard to what the weather was actually doing. He almost invariably welcomed each day as a gift and met each with what struck me then as unseemly optimism and enthusiasm. I mean, what could be "beautiful" about another 100 degree day in South Carolina and how could anyone be optimistic while facing what seemed to my childish mind to be yet another day of drudgery filled with insurmountable obstacles?

Now, as an adult, I know that I have experienced and think that I am finally embracing what my father must surely have known: that God loves people through people. As one of God's beloveds, he recognized and attempted to live his commission. He sought to listen, encourage, teach, and bring hope whenever, however, and wherever he could.

I find it all too easy to exist solely in my personal space remaining pre-occupied with my own concerns. I struggle to remind myself that it is really not all about me. With each passing year I realize ever more keenly that each day is, indeed, a wonderful gift. That gift brings with it, I believe, the responsibility to try to make each day count in some positive way. I pray that I, too, will be able to greet each day with joy and hope and with a listening heart so that I may live out the myriad small ways -- and perhaps on occasion not so small ways -- in which I have an opportunity to show God's love.

Mildred W. Robinson

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Saturday of the Fifth Week of Lent

Ezekiel 37: 21-28, Jeremiah 31: 10-13, John 11: 45-57

The hopeful prophesies of future restoration found in these passages, addressed to the Israelites in exile, seem like an oasis in the desert of Lent. Here is another oasis, from Kate McIlhagga, a Scottish poet:
Flower Fragrance

Green-hearted winter snowdrop,
symbol of God’s renewing love
turn your face to the sun,
as the days lengthen
and he sets his face to go to Jerusalem.

Pale yellow hosanna trumpet of spring,
accompany him on his journey,
and as your shining petals brighten our day,
help us to sense his presence in our darkness,
his suffering in the agony of the world.

Flower fragrance of anointed love,
Fill our house, our hearts, our world,
with the life-giving news of Easter.
Jane Rotch

Friday, March 26, 2010

Friday of the Fifth Week of Lent

Jeremiah 20: 10-13, Psalm 18, John 10: 31-42

A common modern practice during the forty days of Lent is to give up a vice or favorite indulgence, harking back to the tradition of fasting to bring one closer to God. But what if, instead of a physical sacrifice, we gave up a deep-seated attitude or habit of mind that is not serving us well?

I think that these are the “enemies” referred to in these passages – the things that keep us from our purest selves, like envy, self-pity, addiction, or greed. (Interestingly, Jeremiah also calls them “my familiar friends.”) While we all have them, we also have the power to slay them, and that power is God. In Jeremiah the Lord is a “dread warrior,” and in the Psalm he makes the writer strong and swift and able to overtake his enemies.

If we too sought God in this way, as the source of the strength we need to let our best selves triumph, we could deepen our experience of Lent in ways that would last well beyond the season.

Kristen Suokko

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Thursday of the Fifth Week of Lent

Genesis 17: 3-9, Psalm 105, John 8: 51-59

Today is the Annunciation of the Lord. After some Google searching, I now know that this is the day we recognize that Mary was visited by the angel Gabriel and given her role in carrying the Son of God. Today we remember that God decides to become one of us. Gabriel says to Mary, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and God’s power will rest upon you. For this reason the holy child will be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:35).

As we are filled with a sense of solemn anticipation during the Lenten season, in contrast, today we remember our joyous anticipation of Christ’s coming in God Incarnate. We take this day to celebrate the Annunciation of Christ’s coming. We celebrate the Gift. We celebrate the Presence. We remember Mary’s role and her own nervous anticipation after being charged with an unfathomable duty.

Though we realize the Incarnation today, the gift of Christ in human form, and how it is measured finitely from birth to death, our reading today (John 8:51-59) reminds us that there is nothing temporary about Christ’s presence. Jesus says, “Very truly, I tell you, before Abraham was, I am.” Jesus is before the incarnation, after the incarnation, and always. Today we recognize the Incarnation, and we remember Christ’s presence throughout time. We recognize Christ’s incarnation in our own time, in our own world, in our own lives. Peace be with you.

Elizabeth Peterson

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Wednesday in the Fifth Week of Lent

Daniel 3: 1-30, Psalm 17, John 8: 31-42

On our church calendar, today we commemorate Óscar Romero and the martyrs of El Salvador. Romero, as a Roman Catholic Archbishop, witnessed the state of the poor in his country and began to speak out on their behalf, resulting in his assassination in the middle of celebrating mass in 1980. Canonized in the Roman Catholic Church, Romero’s life and works are also commemorated by many other traditions, including our own.

In our reading from Daniel today, we see another example of witness in a time of oppression in the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refusing to bow before King Nebuchadnezzar’s gold statue. We ourselves are asked daily to fall down and worship the idols of our day, most of all, perhaps, the idol of the status quo. Nebuchadnezzar’s idol is as much an acknowledgment of a false god as it is an acknowledgment of both the king’s power and the subjects’ comfort with the oppression taking place in the empire.

Refusing is not easy, which makes such stories as notable and uncommon as they are. Romero was initially much less involved with resisting the oppression of his country. For Romero it took the death of a close friend. In the reading, it is worth noting that among the crowds mentioned, only three refuse to participate.

As Romero, one of many martyrs for a just cause, shows us, God does not always save us from the furnace. But, as Romero and the fourth figure in the furnace would attest, God does not leave us alone. As we near Easter, when we recall Christ slain by the oppressors of his day, let us pause to reflect on those we know who are brave enough to refuse to bow to the idols of our status quo.

Matthew Lukens

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Tuesday of the Fifth Week of Lent

Numbers 21: 4-9, Psalm 102, John 8: 21-30

The words to an old hymn say, “Lord, lift me up and let me stand, by faith on heaven’s table land, a higher plane than I have known, Lord, plant my feet on higher ground.”

In Numbers 21 the people of Israel spoke against God and against Moses and said, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the desert? There is no bread! There is no water! And we detest this miserable food!” Then the Lord sent venomous snakes among them; they bit the people and many Israelites died. The people repented and asked Moses to pray to God to help them.

The Lord said to Moses, “Make a snake and put it on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.” So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, he lived. The Gospel of John (3:14) says: “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.”

Later in John (8: 28-29) he quotes Jesus as saying, “When you have lifted up the son of Man, then you will know that I am the one I claim to be and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me.”

The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him.

May we know that we are never alone and may we seek to do what pleases God. Lord lift us up!

Mary Lee Webb

Monday, March 22, 2010

Monday of the Fifth Week of Lent

2 Kings 4: 18-21, 32-37, Psalm 23, John 8: 12-20
Wild Geese
by Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting--
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.
Stephanie Bolton

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Fifth Sunday of Lent

Isaiah 43: 16-21, Psalm 126, Philippians 3: 8-14,John 8: 1-11

My descent into the wilderness began in my early twenties. My mother died after enduring a brain tumor for several months. I had been a protected and emotionally dependent daughter. Two years later my father died suddenly from a heart attack. My only sibling, a brother, was on a naval ship in the Caribbean. The Cuban missile crisis loomed. I did not know in the time of my wilderness of grief and bewilderment that I carried the “seeds for sowing."

Slowly, I became aware of my relationship with God. I went to church more and many friends gave me emotional support. I read daily the prayer that began “Oh God of peace, who hast taught us that in returning and rest we shall be saved, in quietness and in confidence shall be our strength…” I began to listen to the voice within and in time I was led to take steps into a new life.

Leaving the dependent daughter behind, I continued to discover who I was. As a result, I dared to move to another city and find a new job. “Behold, I am doing a new thing.” My relationship to the divine within had become central to my living --- life became an exciting adventure. Out of all those tears came growth and a new kind of fulfillment. I had come home with “shouts of joy.”

Brenda Peterson

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Saturday of the Fourth Sunday of Lent

Jeremiah 11: 18-20, Psalm 7, John 7: 40-53

The leaders of the religious establishment had made up their minds. Their decision was based on Scripture. The Messiah would come from Judea, and not from Galilee. The Messiah’s leadership would be in the Davidic (governmental) line, and not in the Levitic (priestly, or spiritual) line. For these reasons, Jesus could not be the Messiah, regardless of what he said or did, or what his followers said about him. All claims about him had to be false, because they conflicted with Scripture—at least, as they read Scripture.

At the dawn of the cyber age, in the 1960s, the lay theologian Karl Deutsch observed that, in the coming years, humanity’s future rested on our acceptance of what Christians have called humility and grace—rather than on any doctrinal or experiential certainty. He defined them in simple terms. Humility is the understanding that the help you most need in any situation is most likely to come from the least likely source. Grace is living on the assurance that such help will be available when you need it.

Within a generation of the crucifixion, Jerusalem, led by the religious establishment of Jesus’ day, was completely destroyed. The help its leaders sought did not come. Jesus, whom they crucified as a heretic, arose and lives. So much for absolute certainty.

God, stop me when I’m sure I know the answers. Keep me open to receive your love and your spirit—and the possibilities that they provide. Give me humility and grace. So may it be.

Paul Brockman

Friday, March 19, 2010

Friday of the Fourth Week of Lent

Micah 7: 7-9, Psalm 27, John 9: 1-41

Will I ever live to tell
of the deep and scary swell
that through grace, becomes the place
in me you dwell?

I, a sinner, errant through;
my deeds and thoughts so far from you,
puffed with pride and blind inside,
I'm made anew.

You knew man and called my name,
healing me from all my shame.
You admonish and astonish,
love and never blame.

You are great beyond compare,
dazzling light and presence fair.
Doubt erased, your mystery faced
life a constant prayer.

In your creation don't forsake;
whisper to us, we'll awake
to sing, to dance, to be entranced
in praises to partake.

Here is a world of hide and seek
fatal past and future bleak;
may you surpass what we amass;
then we're complete.

Rosemary Jarman

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Thursday of the Fourth Week of Lent

Exodus 32: 7-14, Psalm 106, John 5: 31-47

The “Gitanjali” by Rabindranath Tagore (verses 37 – 39)

I thought my voyage had come to its end at the last limit of my power – the path before me was closed, that provisions were exhausted and the time come to take shelter in silent obscurity.

But I find that thy will knows no end in me. And when old words die out on the tongue, new melodies break forth from the heart; and where the old tracks are lost, new country is revealed with its wonders.

That I want thee, only thee – let my heart repeat without end. All desires that distract me, day and night, are false and empty to the core.

As the night keeps hidden in its gloom the petition for light, even thus in the depth of my unconsciousness rings the cry – I want thee, only thee.

As the storm still seeks its end in peace when it strikes against peace with all its might, even thus my rebellion strikes against thy love and still its cry is – I want thee, only thee.

When the heart is hard and parched up, come upon me with a shower of mercy.

When grace is lost from life, come with a burst of song.

When tumultuous work raises its din on all sides shutting me out from beyond, come to me, my lord of silence, with thy peace and rest.

When my beggarly heart sits crouched, shut up in a corner, break open the door, my king, and come with the ceremony of a king.

When desire blinds the mind with delusion and dust, O thou holy one, thou wakeful, come with thy light and thy thunder.

Joseph (Pepe) Humphrey

EDITOR'S NOTE: Mr. Humphrey died March 1, and the St. Paul's community greatly mourns his passing from us. His memorial service will be March 27 at 11 am at St. Paul's Memorial Church, 1700 University Avenue, Charlottesville

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Wednesday of the Fourth Week of Lent

Isaiah 49: 8-15, Psalm 145, John 5: 17-30

Should we count on God? Should God count on us?

Sometimes we try too hard, thinking that we create our own destinies. We plan our careers, build our homes, raise our children, tend to daily wants and needs. We labor to sustain our lives, work to enrich our days, invest our time and money to help us sleep better at night, and carefully construct life-stories that we hope might be remembered.

But in each act, all that we do is simply part of a web of other lives. Mentors and protégés shape our careers. Architects, carpenters, bankers, plumbers, and inspectors build our homes… not to mention those who pay us so we can pay our bills. Teachers, friends, and family raise our children – and our children raise themselves, and even teach us a thing or two while they’re at it.

Always our needs are greater than nourishment or a place to sleep. Our greatest need is to nurture the web of life that sustains us. Sometimes we are faced with doing that in a desert of human kindness, on a mountain of travails, in a sea of hostility. Then we find that crossing the deserts, mountains and seas depends on family, friends, and communities that we have sustained, and who in turn sustain us. That web of life – God’s kingdom – finds us and keeps us.

Bill Antholis

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Tuesday of the Fourth Week of Lent

Ezekiel 47: 1-9, 12, Psalm 46, John 5: 1-6

“Be still and know that I am God”—in that stillness, know, feel, sense the great “I Am”—above and beyond all, powerful past all imagining, yet right here with me, as close as the air that touches my skin. The strongest sense of God’s otherness, His absolutely unique character as creator and redeemer, combines with the certainty that He is not THERE, but HERE. The psalmist says, “God is our refuge and our strength, a very present help in trouble.”

We know all about the refuge and strength part; when you’re in trouble you call out to God for help, protection from whatever awful fate you’re facing, and if He doesn’t save you from it, at least He’ll be your strength—help you get through whatever it is without acting like too much of a fool. What odd diction, though, “a very present help.” It’s the red flag highlighting the real distinction. He’s “very present,” not somebody you have to leave a voicemail message for; He’s the one who answers on the first ring. Or maybe you don’t even have to ring, just reach out and realize that He’s right there with you.

Anne Ribble

Monday, March 15, 2010

Monday of the Fourth Week of Lent

Isaiah 65: 17-21, Psalm 30, John 4: 43-54

Isaiah 65, 17-21: The Lord declares his new heavens and a new earth for the faithful; joyfulness replaces sadness, and life overcomes death. Once again, the Lord declares, "Here I am."

Psalm 30: For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning. Again, the faithful are promised renewal. Once again, the Lord declares, "Here I am."

John 4, 43-54: An official travels from Judea to Galilee begging Jesus to come heal his dying son in Judea. Before telling the father his boy will live, curing him miraculously across such a great distance, Jesus declares that we have a need to witness signs and miracles before believing. Can we believe without seeing? Once again, the Lord declares, "Here I am."

On her most recent visit, my Mom retold one of her favorite stories to my wife, one that I had not heard for a long time. Her two boys, about ages four and five, once shared a bedroom. Late one evening, the elder left his bed to visit the bathroom. After a time, the younger grew concerned and called out to his brother, "Are you okay?" The elder replied, "Yes. I have God with me here." The younger paused, then declared, "No, God is in here with me." A tearful argument ensued, followed by a long pause. The tears stopped. The younger called out to his brother, "That's okay. You have God with you. I have Jesus in here with me."

Believing without seeing; the promise of renewal; joyfulness will replace sadness: "Here I am." The Lord be with you.

Stephen Millard

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Fourth Sunday of Lent

Joshua 5: 9a, 10-12 , Psalm 34, 2 Corinthians 5: 17-21, Luke 15: 1-3, 11-32
Forgiveness is the ultimate act of love.
Love requires forgiveness as its foundation
Christ comes to this earth to bring us to the Father.
He gave himself, the ultimate sacrifice.
The story of the Prodigal Son jolts us out of our complacency. Theologian Paul Tillich says that this is the heart of the Gospel. He cites another example in the story of the woman who washed Jesus’ feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. Tillich says “Forgiveness is unconditional or it is not forgiveness at all. There is no condition whatsoever in man which could not make him worthy of forgiveness. It is not the love of the woman that brings her forgiveness…it is the forgiveness that she has received that creates her love.”

God’s love and forgiveness are gifts, no strings attached. They are not something we earn, but simply there. No wonder we have such a hard time with this. It doesn’t fit in with any other experience we have in life. The exception is that if and when we experience that forgiveness and love, our lives are changed forever. As one who has been forgiven much I know the light and joy it creates in my life. How amazing to know there is One who loves me and knows all my dreadful thoughts and misdeeds and still loves me unconditionally.

How humbling! How freeing! Free to give love unconditionally as the Father has given it to us. Free to forgive others. Though we stumble and fall we can always return. God is only one breath away. Always there, always loving. In the giving and receiving of God’s love everything is new and the old has passed away.

Alice Turner

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Saturday of the Third Week of Lent

Hosea 6: 1-6, Psalm 119, Luke 18:9-14

"A Wahoo and a Hokie walked into a bar: . . . " "How many Episcopalians does it take to change a light bulb?" That's all we need to hear to get us smiling at each other in anticipation of the punch line, sure that the story will be another witty play on the stereotypes.

Imagine Jesus the storyteller beginning with a similar rhythm: "A Pharisee and a tax collector walked into the temple to pray." The listeners begin to smile, and sure enough, the characters are just what they expected. The Pharisee lives in strict accordance with the Law and knows that he has God's approval. As he prays, he looks around to see who else might be admiring him and spies that no-good tax collector hiding in a corner. The tax collector doesn't see him; his head is bowed in misery and he stays far from the altar.

Jesus doesn't even need to dream up some original dialogue. Both his characters are from the tradition of Psalm 119. Here's the Pharisee: "I look at the faithless with disgust, because they do not keep thy commands. Consider how I love thy precepts!" (Ps 119:158). And the tax collector: "I have gone astray like a lost sheep: seek thy servant..." (Ps.119:176). So far, no surprises.

What's the punch line? Here it comes: "The tax collector went down to his house justified rather than the other." The repentant sinner who expressed his need for God had his prayer answered. The righteous one who didn't ask for anything was left just as he was. Jesus is giving God's response to the mixed messages of Psalm 119. Like a humble lover, God waits for us to ask, to seek, to knock at the door. In the words of Hosea, "Let us know, let us press on to know the Lord."

Vickie Gottlob

Friday, March 12, 2010

Friday of the Third Week of Lent

Hosea 14: 2-10, Psalm 81, Mark 12: 28-34

I have never liked flying. Truth be told, I love flying, as long as the ride is not bumpy, wobbly, rough, loud, or scary. When the experience is as smooth as sitting still in my La-Z-Boy chair, I breathe easy and have a peaceful, entertaining time. I enjoy watching the clouds, towns, and natural formations below me, just the way I would a good TV show or Netflix selection. As long as there is zero turbulence, it is well with my soul.

But my calm is shattered when plane noises or movements indicate we are a few miles above the earth.

I’ve tried pretending I am on a Greyhound bus, and that each little “period of rough air” is just a series of potholes along the interstate. Bumpity, bump. No big deal. Then comes a moment of free fall or flashing seatbelt lights! I get anxious, knowing I cannot walk away on my own two feet if we run out of gas. I struggle to stay centered.

This past Christmas Eve, as my US Air flight bounced its way into Austin, this fearful, ungrounded traveler decided to try a different kind of visualization, having just read Hosea 14:7-8: “I am like a green cypress tree; Your fruit is found in me.” I pictured myself rooted in God, connected to His creation and to Him. “Revived like grain” and “(growing) like a vine” (v. 7), I imagined Spirit-filled roots running through me, through the air, to the earth. I was comforted.

Maybe, for me, flying is a reminder that my own physicality is not the center of my being. Daily life, like plane trips, can be turbulent, but it is not my two feet, nor my La-Z-Boy chair’s four legs, keeping me safe. God is my strength. He is, at all times and at all elevations, my solid ground.

Martha Haertig

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Thursday of the Third Week of Lent

Jeremiah 7: 23-28, Psalm 95: 7b-11, Luke: 11: 14-23

My children heard today’s passages and I asked them, “What do you think it means to disobey God?” “To break the Ten Commandments?” ventured twelve-year old Benedict. Teenage Hannah jumped in, “How can you honor your mother and father all the time? How can anyone keep all those commandments? Why bother?”

All three passages tell us why to bother. In each we hear that no good comes when “hearts go astray,” to use the psalmist’s words. Jeremiah’s people are taken into exile; the first generation out of Egypt who grumbled against Moses and God in the desert did not get to cross into the Promised Land; Jesus told the crowd that if they were not for him, they were against him. It is not so much about keeping every detail of the law as it is about being oriented to God, bothering, even when we are likely to fall short.

I am reminded of a prayer by Thomas Merton, the noted Trappist monk: “My Lord God,…I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end….and the fact that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road… Therefore I will trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone” (Thoughts in Solitude).

The Rev. Heather Warren

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Wednesday of the Third Week of Lent

Deuteronomy 4: 1, 5-9, Psalm 147, Matthew 5: 17-19

And the second commandment is like unto it: you shall love your neighbor as yourself.

To love yourself you must know yourself and be willing to see yourself as you really are. Carl Jung identified the shadow side of the human psyche, that dark underside that most of us prefer to ignore. Yet if we are to be whole, it is essential to bring the elements of our shadow into the light of consciousness, examine them, own them, and use them constructively, or ultimately they will control us.

As we pursue our spiritual journey, it seems to me that we traverse two parallel paths: the individual path, and the collective path that brings us into community. Ultimately these paths will merge. The individual path leads us into a closer personal relationship with God, and the recognition and knowledge of the Divine within us. If we follow the path of the mystic we seek to attain union with God and ultimately the post-union or unitive state.

But the paradox is that we are not meant to live in isolation. Jesus tells us to love our neighbors as ourselves and this means living in and through community. The brilliant 20th Century theologian and scientist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin introduced a concept that takes community to the next level--collective salvation. He stated that “Our salvation is not pursued or achieved except in solidarity with the justification of the whole body of the elect.” This places an awesome responsibility on each of us, since our salvation (however you define it) is interconnected with the salvation of all. A stunning parallel relates to the Dalai Lama, who vowed to continue reincarnating until the last soul on earth attains enlightenment. Perhaps this is the “Christ Consciousness” working at its highest level.

Nancy E. Brockman

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Tuesday of the Third Week of Lent

Exodus 17:1-7, Psalm 25, Matthew 18: 21-35

Lent is to reflect
Cry out in the wilderness
And journey to Hope

In the midst of lent
We journey through darkness
Learning the Lord’s ways

Out of the desert
Our soul guided by the Lord
Our feet on His path

Long is the journey
And our soul cries out to God
Now dying of thirst

Let my enemies
Not exalt over me God
Have mercy on me

Yet still we find Hope
We drink water from the rock
Knowing forgiveness

Our hope is in God
For He is our salvation
All is forgiven

Journey together
Show one another God’s ways
A time of Hope comes

Anne Cressin

Monday, March 8, 2010

Monday of the Third Week of Lent

2 Kings 5:1-15b, Psalm 42, Luke 4:24-30

Nearly 10 years ago, during a drive through the countryside around Charlottesville, our family stopped at a small nursery set up in a lady’s front yard. There were many pretty flowers on display that day, but I found myself drawn to a large pot that was partially hidden by a bag of mulch. Upon closer inspection, I saw that it contained what looked like a twig jutting out from the soil. Losing interest, I asked the owner what it was.

"A camellia," she said. Camellia. What a beautiful name for a plant. It hinted at something exotic, and lovely, and somehow, from long ago. On impulse, I bought the twig and brought it home.

The next day, riddled with buyer's remorse, I stuck it into the ground, watered it, and then left it alone with a disinterest which was my way of dealing with a lost cause. Eighteen months later, the twig had transformed itself into a bush with dark green leaves and fragrant white blossoms. Camellias. I thought they would disappear after the first time. I felt like a child who had received a treat she did not really deserve. Nevertheless, year after year, the camellias bloomed-- beautiful and abundant. And every year, I felt that jolt of wonder, just like the first time.

But something is wrong this year. Strange growths are taking over the branches, and they look scary. I have looked up what this could mean, and the prognoses range from “not good” to “terminal.” Is a gift worth fighting for when it's no longer free and effortless? Oh, yes.

In the Lord I’ll be ever thankful, In the Lord I will rejoice, Look to God, do not be afraid,Lift up your voices, the Lord is near, Lift up your voices, the Lord is near.

Rowena Pinto Zimmerman

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Third Sunday of Lent

Exodus 3: 1-8a, 13-15, Psalm 103, 1 Corinthians 10: 1-6, 10-12 Luke 13: 1-9

The burning bush, Paul’s flash of light on the road to Damascus and the transfiguration all count as striking spiritual experiences. These are not, however, the only kind of spiritual experiences. Most of our encounters with God are far less dramatic.

God will provide us with the experience we need. Our job is to pay attention and recognize God’s voice when we hear it. We can learn the sound of God’s voice by praying the scriptures.
God speaks to our mind, heart and body. If we expect intellectual experience alone, we may miss a quiet sense of encouragement and strengthening of will. Emotional and physical excitement may be part of our experience. It may be much quieter - simply a change in perspective about a situation, other people or about ourselves.

The passage from Luke is a call to change perspective. Jesus asked the crowd if they thought that others were suffering disasters because they had sinned. Many of us take the perspective that others suffer because of mistakes or sins. With a little effort, we can compile a complete inventory of why the other fellow is in trouble. But the Gospel says otherwise; we need to take inventory of our own shortcomings – and then change.

After judging ourselves, we can then ask for God’s help (i.e. repent). Then we will find that we are like the fig tree. We will have water and nourishment in the form of spiritual experiences. We will also have time to bear fruit.

Herb Ely

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Saturday of the Second Week of Lent

Micah 7: 14-15, 18-20, Psalm 103, Luke 15: 1-3, 11-32

My attitude toward Lent has matured over the years just as my relationship to God has matured. As a child I was encouraged to give up something for Lent every year. At first it was candy, in college it was smoking, as an adult a treasured morning latte. All were sacrifices at the time (especially the latte) but did they bring me closer to God? The answer is no!

In Micah and in Psalm 103, we find that God is a forgiving and compassionate God. Perhaps this is one of the messages for us during this Lenten season. When we look at ourselves, we probably find that we have many blessings and yet there are people near to us and in our own community that have far less to be thankful for. So rather than depriving ourselves of a luxury perhaps we should think about how we can share some of our blessings with those in need. We are fortunate that here at St. Paul's there are groups already in place to help out in the community. It is a matter of taking the first step in making contact with a group involved in a project of interest to us.

In Luke, forgiveness is for those who repent using as examples "the errant son" or the "wandering sheep". For many years I have thought about those unfortunate people who are in prison because of circumstances in their lives of which they had no control. The message in Luke seems to leave no doubt that we have an obligation to try in some way to help those people.

There are many possibilities. The most difficult task is making the first move to do something. It is impossible to save the world but we can start with small steps.

Sally Humphrey

Friday, March 5, 2010

Friday of the Second Week of Lent

Genesis 37: 3-4, 12-13a, 17b-28a, Psalm 105, Matthew 21: 33-43, 45-46

Psalm 105 retells God’s actions in history, not the actions of His people in history, emphasizing that it is God who directs the lives of His people. In today’s Genesis passages, we witness Joseph’s betrayal by his brothers when they sell him into slavery. We know that this story has a happy ending: Joseph prepares Egypt for the famine and not only forgives his brothers but helps them, too. Joseph even tells his brothers not to be angry at themselves for their betrayal, as this was how God brought him to Egypt to feed His people.

This story serves as a reminder that although we may not always feel like we are in God’s favor, he does not abandon us. Rather, we simply cannot yet understand the ways He is working through us or where He is leading us. The place where we are today is not the end; there is more to our stories. For this reason, it is important that we continue to trust God and ask for His guidance. And additionally, that in times of darkness, we also continue to love others as Christ loves us and forgive others as Christ forgives us, for it is written, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).

Today, let us ask God to help us to forgive, like Joseph, those who have wronged us in some way, so that we may better follow Him, with a clean heart and upright spirit, into the lives that we are meant to live—Christ-like and in Christ.

Jennifer Raha

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Thursday of the Second Week of Lent

Jeremiah 17: 5-10, Psalm 1, Luke 16: 19-31

I am struggling with today’s readings. All three tell us of two kinds of people: the "wicked" who wither, die and go to Hades and the "good" who prosper and are rewarded in heaven. To be among the good one must “trust in the Lord”. Yes, but! ..... I know from experience that people don’t fall neatly into categories of good and evil. I am sometimes wicked and sometimes good.

Furthermore, I believe all human beings are basically good because we are born with “that of God” within - the Divine Indwelling. It is the human condition and our attempts to survive in a harsh world that cause us to “sin”. And I know for sure I cannot will myself to be a better person, much as I desire that.

Given my modern mindset then, what is God saying to me today? The wisdom of Thomas Keating comes to mind. He says we cannot reorient our thoughts and behaviors toward God on our own but we can “change the direction we are looking for happiness.” The human condition predisposes us to seek happiness, but we look for it in all the wrong places - in safety and security, power and control and esteem and affection. Happiness is not to be found in any of these because they are human-made and therefore transient. The place to find lasting happiness is in the Eternal, with God. We cannot change our natures but we can consent to God’s presence and action within and allow Him to show us our innate Goodness.

With 21st century sensibilities intact, I come full circle back to Jeremiah: “Trust in the Lord”.

Susan Clark

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Wednesday of the Second Week of Lent

Jeremiah 18: 18-20, Psalm 31, Matthew 20: 17-28

Who Is Your Elizabeth?
Psalm 31

knit together
a fortress of
marble and chalk

(ask)) go ahead)
of these
my refuge walls

O, blessed ones
spirit glints before sparking

Listen [truly hear)
slate turn to schist
obsidian form as it’s meant to

Cindy Cartwright

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Tuesday of the Second Week of Lent

Isaiah 1: 10, 16-20, Psalm 50, Matthew 23: 1-12

Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.
Matthew 23:12

There are no lists of “The Top Ten Humble People.” The humble don’t write autobiographies or broadcast their accomplishments. Ad agencies don’t use them to promote products or services. You rarely find them in the pages of magazines and newspapers. Most live quiet lives.

The above warning and promise from the Gospel of Matthew concludes a passage in which Jesus directs his followers to obey the rules of the established religion, but not to emulate the Pharisees. They--and we--are to reject the Pharisees’ pretensions, hypocrisy and desire for respect and honor. Instead of exalting in titles, privileges and accomplishments, we become the servants.

Consider the following lines:

Someday, the light will shine like a sun through my skin & they will say, What have you done with your life? & though there are many moments I think I will remember, in the end, I will be proud to say, I was one of us. - Brian Andreas

Where will your pride lie?

K. Olson

Monday, March 1, 2010

Monday of the Second Week of Lent

Daniel 9: 4b-10, Psalm 79, Luke 6: 36-38

Psalm 79, written for an Israel in exile, often reminds me of my experiences as a Christian in an academic setting. So much of our world here in Charlottesville encourages us to be logical – not faithful to those things that we cannot see. But there are just some things Christians cannot explain with logic. As we prepare for the most illogical holiday in our church year (that dead guy did WHAT?), I thank God for His illogical decisions to choose Abraham and Sarah, to send His only Son to teach all of us, to let that Son die for our redemption.

And in this season of repentance and austerity, I am encouraged to look for the irrational ways in which I can love others. I’d certainly rather spend that $5 on a latte, but I know the church could use it in far more productive ways. I may be more inclined to stay at home when it is dark and cold, but I know that our soup kitchens desperately need volunteers. Our actions, small and large, can never amount to the illogical ways in which God has loved us. But, illogically enough, that shouldn’t stop us from trying to love the world in the same way He first loved us.

God of love, learning, and irrationality, help me to find ways to love others in the same illogical way you have loved me. When I am irritable at the world’s conditions, help me to see all as Your children. Prepare my heart for redemption through Your Son by showing me what I can do for others. Amen.

Margaret E. Thornton