Date: Tuesday, Feb 28
Contributor: Marilyn Baldwin
“My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways…” — Isaiah 55:8
In Matthew today, Jesus gave us permission to pray in an informal way, as he no doubt did in communicating with the One he called “Abba,” or Father. Raised an observant Jew, he knew Scripture inside and out, and was able to understand that the rigid prayers and observances of Jewish life left few hints of what God really wanted us all to know - mainly, that God’s love for us is unlimited, and that God wants only to have that connection with each of us.
It’s interesting to think that even with Jesus’ permission-giving example of prayer, we Christians have put the Lord’s Prayer into yet another box, suggesting that these words only must be used. I think God would love to hear other versions - both quoted and off-the-cuff. We’ve also put the Trinity into a sort of container, suggesting that God could only be male, Jesus might be White, and the Spirit shows up only as a dove! God in all three Persons is beyond gender, beyond race, beyond any prayers or ideas we might have.
How does that change the way we think about God? How might it change the way we pray?
There are many versions of the Lord’s Prayer, and I like to change up the words often, so that I am not reciting from memory but really pondering the ideas.
One of my favorite versions of the Lord’s Prayer comes from the writer Parker Palmer:
Heavenly Father, heavenly Mother,
Holy and blessed is your true name.
We pray for your reign of peace to come,
We pray that your good will be done,
Let heaven and earth become one.
Give us this day the bread we need,
Give it to those who have none.
Let forgiveness flow like a river between us,
From each one to each one.
Lead us to holy innocence
Beyond the evil of our days --
Come swiftly Mother, Father, come.
For yours is the power and the glory and the mercy:
Forever your name is All in One.
Date: Monday, Feb 27
Contributor: Chris Mayr
Jesus said, “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’ Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?’ Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
From September to May, I do a daily meditation program based on the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius entitled CHALLENGE by Mark Link, S. J. As I read today's Gospel, I thought the following was one I would share with you to reflect upon.
"Roy Popkins tells a true story about an old man who collapsed on a Brooklyn street corner and was rushed to Kings County Hospital. After some amateur detective work, a nurse located what seemed to be the man's son, who was a Marine stationed in North Carolina. When the Marine arrived, the nurse said to the old man, "your son's here." The old man, now heavily sedated, reached out his hand feebly. The Marine took it and held it tenderly for the next four hours. Occasionally the nurse suggested the Marine take a break, but he refused. About dawn the old man died. After he passed away, the Marine said to the nurse, "Who was that man?" The nurse said, "Wasn't he your father?" "No," said the Marine, "but I saw he was dying and needed a son badly, so I stayed."
When was the last time you went out of your way to be with another person simply because that person needed you?
"If you haven't got charity in your heart, you have the worst kind of heart trouble." --Bob Hope
Date: Saturday, Feb 25
Contributor: Robert Allen
The Forward Day by Day booklet assigns Psalms 30, 32, 42 and 43 for today.
We read how the Psalm writers experienced separation from God. They waited (42:5, 42:11, 43:5), and were led (43:3) with hope and praise to health (30:2), life (30:5), also joy and happiness.
In Psalm 32:1,2,5 we have an ancient description of the confession-absolution process.
Here we have 2 1/2 thousand years of determination and consistency.
Contributor: Chris Mayr
Lectionary Link: http://lectionarypage.net/YearABC/HolyDays/Matthias.html
Jesus said, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower. Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love. I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.
“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name.”
Fruit + Love =Joy
If you don't know it already, after I retired from the University of Minnesota in April 2019 I went to Clown Camp to become a clown. Thanks to a 30% discount and Kohl's cash, (do you think my wife would pay full price for such crazy clothes?) I found a pineapple suit. After we found a pineapple hat (it's amazing what you can find on Amazon), I became Mr. Pineapple. Perhaps you knew I was destined for this? I feel God called me to do this for a growing neglected segment of society, the wonderful senior citizens, who have made this world so great for us. The folks I serve might not hear me, nor see me and perhaps won't remember me the next day, but, if I can be present for them, listen to them and bring a spark of joy, then we will have accomplished what Christ has asked me to do in this passage from John.
What a perfect reading for Mr. Pineapple? Perhaps for you? It's got fruit (obviously, a clown named Mr. Pineapple would be attracted to a passage about fruit, right?)! Fruit is considered a good thing...as in the results of work, a harvest or activity, "fruits of our labor." It is a reference to offspring of which you and I are of our mother, and referenced in the prayer Hail Mary, "blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus." And of course, fruit is something we eat to nourish us and bring us energy!
This reading is focused on love! As in the love that Mr. Pineapple witnessed from the daughters of Gladys Ramsay (pictured) Jan and Joan who visited her frequently and who put on a lovefest 100th birthday celebration at Lyngblomsten in St. Paul over a year ago. From the offspring of elderly parents to volunteer visitors, from nurses and chaplains to nurses and aids, love flows throughout this veritable love palace on Almond Avenue! That's the love Christ showed to his disciples and wants us to show to others.
Adding all those together, it brings joy! That is what Mr. Pineapple sees every time he goes to do his caring clowning in the people around him and people he visits. Who knew that one day this passage would be such a driving force in my life...as a clown? Dear faith family member reader, what does that mean to you? Take a moment and reflect upon this passage. Think about how you can bear fruit and become a disciple. Think about the love others bring to you and you to them. Finally experience the joy you bring to them and they to you. You don't have to be a clown or even put on a red nose (although I can get you one if you need one) to experience this fabulous formula for life. Fruit + Love =Joy
Date: Thursday, Feb 23
Contributor: Kathy Ackerman
Today’s readings are all about choosing God. However, it is the consequences of the choices in today’s readings that I found more fascinating than the actual act of choosing.
In Deuteronomy, Moses is preparing the Israelites to cross the Jordan River and settle into their new homeland. This reading precedes the scene where God warns Moses that he won’t live long enough to cross the Jordan, but Moses seems to have a good idea of his fate anyway.
Moses is well aware that the area where he is sending the Israelites is inhabited by other groups, with different customs and who worship different entities. Given that awareness, he tells the Israelites that if they stick with the God that brought them out of slavery, then they will prosper and become numerous. This sounds suspiciously like the “prosperity gospel” we see today, but Moses isn’t trying to tell them they are going to be rich. He’s couching the choice in the way that Bronze Age peoples understood – stay together, worship together, and grow together.
Psalm 1 also provides us with a choice. Study the law, obey its precepts and not only will you prosper (like the tree by the river), you will actually be happy. Don’t study or follow the law, and suffer the consequences.
Then we come to Luke. In this passage, Jesus asks the disciples who they think he is. When they tell him, he upends their expectations of a Messiah who will rescue them from their Roman overlords by laying out how the Crucifixion and Resurrection will take place. After giving them that reality check, he offers a choice:
Notice Jesus also upends the notion of what the consequences are of not following God. He doesn’t threaten destruction.
Throughout these readings, God continually offered – and is offering -- us ways to be in relationship with him through the ages in ways that we can understand – from the Bronze Age notions of growth and prosperity through the Psalmists’ delight in studying the law to Jesus saying to us “here, follow God and your life will be better, richer and more fulfilling.”
The consequences of not choosing relationship with God have been interpreted by some as a threat – “do this or else.” But is that God actually saying that or is it the human writers’ clumsy way of saying “being in relationship with God is so much better than anything else that by comparison, all is darkness and despair?” The fact that the choice exists at all speaks volumes.
Contributor: Jean Crow
Lectionary Link: https://www.lectionarypage.net/YearABC/Lent/AshWed.html
I was raised as a Catholic and as Ash Wednesday approached, I remember talking to my grade school friends about what we were going to give up for Lent (and how we were looking forward to fish sticks on Fridays). In January of 1992, as the birth of our first daughter was near, Scott and I joined the Episcopal Church. When Lent approached that year, I waited for the church to tell me how to observe it. But that didn’t happen; there were no discussions of what we needed to give up, no talk of eating fish on Fridays – no guidelines at all.
At first I struggled. I was used to being told what to do. But as the years have gone by, I have embraced the Episcopal Church’s approach to making Lent a journey for me. I think about where I am in my life as Lent approaches each year and find a focus to make my life with God more meaningful.
Will I focus on the earth, trying to do something new and green, like composting my food waste? Will I decide it is the year to pull out my Bible and read a passage every day? Should I try to show kindness to strangers, even if it is saying “Hi” to someone in the grocery store? Should I check out a book from the St. Christopher’s Library that enhances my faith? Should I visit those who aren’t able to get out much this winter?
The possibilities are endless. I encourage each of us to reflect on our own lives to find a focus for these 40 days of Lent. Everyone will reach their own answer, and everyone’s answer will be right. That is one of many things I love about the Episcopal Church!
May you have a fulfilling Lent.
Welcome to St. Christopher's Lenten Reflections for 2023. Beginning on Ash Wednesday, a new reflection will be posted at 5am each morning (except Sundays). Each Reflection is provided by a member of our St. Christopher's Community.
Please note that if you want to read previous posts, they get archived at the end of each month. On the right, under ARCHIVES, you can find the previous month.