Monthly Archives: January 2015

January 25, 2015 (Year B Epiphany 3) Celtic Meditation

Mark 1:14-20

John the baptizer had been preaching a message of repentance, marked by baptism, for the forgiveness of sins and was well known in the Jewish community (Mark 1:4). As the last Old Testament prophet, he had the mission to prepare the people of Israel for their coming Messiah. We know from Matthew’s Gospel (Matthew 14:3-5) that as part of the role of prophet within this community, John confronted the Jewish political leader, Herod, for marital infidelity so that Herod might repent and be ready to receive the good news of God. But Herod responded by throwing John in prison. This backdrop for the gospel reading today provides us with not only a reference for when what comes next happened, but provides us with one example of how one can respond to the call to repent. You can try to silence the messenger, but the message will still ring in your ears.

Jesus continues John’s message: repent and believe because the kingdom of God, God’s reign, is about to break in. To repent means to change a portion or all of the central core of one’s being – one’s emotions, thoughts, and behavior – so that one is more closely aligned with God’s will. Repentance can refer to a one time, major overhaul of one’s life or the small, day to day course corrections that happen as we live and learn what God’s will is in a situation. To believe means more than simply accepting a claim to be true. To believe means to trust with all of one’s self so that how one feels about and thinks about a concept aligns with one’s actions. The good news is that God’s rule of the world is about to break in and the call to repent and believe is a call to participate in God’s kingdom. What do we, as a church community, need to adjust in order for our actions to more fully align with our belief about the good news of God’s kingdom?

Repenting and believing for these fishermen looked like leaving their means of making a living in order to do the will of God for their lives. There is continuity in their work: those who were once fishing for fish in order to survive will now fish for people. God used their skills. Repentance doesn’t always mean a complete denial of who you were before you turned to God. What skills are we now practicing that God calls us to transform from survival skills to skills that promote God’s coming kingdom?

When Jesus came into Galilee, he was returning to his hometown. The people that are mentioned in this reading knew Jesus – if they hadn’t grown up with him, they surely had met him in the market place or at synagogue. We know from John’s Gospel (John 1:35-42) that at least Andrew knew who Jesus was because John the baptizer had told him. So when Jesus called to the fishermen and invited them to follow him, this invitation was not “out of the blue” but was in the context of relationship. Immediately, without hesitation, Simon and Andrew, James and John left their nets to follow Jesus. James and John left their father in the boat with the hired hands, essentially walking away from family and putting the family business at risk! Jesus’ invitation is to take risks and make sacrifices for the sake of God’s kingdom. But this invitation to follow without hesitation comes from one that is known and trusted. What do we need, as church, in order to believe and follow Jesus without hesitation?

January 18, 2014 (Year B Epiphany 2) Celtic Meditation

John 1:43-51

John tells us at the end of this gospel that the purpose of his writing is so that we who have not seen Jesus face to face will know who he is (John 20:31, see also 1 John 5:13). John began this gospel with a poetic statement of who Jesus is (John 1:1-18).  In this passage we get a glimpse into how two of Jesus’ disciples came to know who Jesus is and how they began to live into the reality of God the Son entering into human history in order to reunite heaven and earth.

As devout Jews, Philip and Nathaniel were looking for the Messiah. They knew what they were looking for because God had told his people what to watch for. They studied the Law and the Prophets in order to be ready for the day when the Messiah would come and invite them to participate in this new phase of God’s plan of redemption. As Church, how do we prepare in order to recognize our invitation into God’s work of redemption?

Even though Nathaniel sounds skeptical,[1] he trusts his friend’s recognition of Jesus as worth investigation. By trusting Philip, Nathaniel goes to Jesus. The man that Nathaniel meets exceeds his expectations. Philip had invited Nathaniel to come and see by giving a partial description of Jesus: a man with a hometown and a family. Nathaniel’s discovery is that Jesus is much more: Rabbi, Son of God,[2] King of Israel! Nathaniel’s discovery comes from his study but the key to unlocking this understanding is Jesus revealing that he knows Nathaniel’s heart as well as his mind. How, as Church, have we experienced being known by God so that we can know and trust God?

Jesus names Nathaniel as a true Israelite,[3] one in whom there is no deceit. Nathaniel’s pure heart is able to see God incarnate (Matthew 5:8). Jacob, the first Israelite, one who practiced deception, saw in part, in a dream, what Nathaniel, one who is pure in heart, will see with his physical eyes: God’s redeeming work of uniting heaven and earth. Jesus is revealed to be the gate to heaven, which is also the house of God, that Jacob saw (see Genesis 28:10-17). How, as church, can we more fully live into knowing that Jesus is uniting our realm, earth, with God’s dwelling place, heaven?

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[1] My husband, Doug, notes that Nathaniel’s and Thomas’s good confessions serve as bookends to John’s Gospel.

[2] Even here, in this part of the first chapter of John’s gospel, we see that John is developing a thick description of who Jesus is. While John places the declaration of Jesus as Son of God on Nathaniel’s lips, we hear Jesus referring to himself as the Son of Man in the conversation. The sequence of revelation of who Jesus is in John 1:35-51 is Lamb of God, Rabbi, Messiah, the one of whom Moses … and the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth the son of Joseph, Son of God, King of Israel, Son of Man.

[3] This true Israelite recognizes his King.

January 4, 2014 (Year B Christmas 2) Celtic Meditation

Matthew 2:13-15, 19-23

Angels appearing in our dreams with a message from God is not something that we expect. My guess is that Joseph didn’t expect angels to bring messages to him in a dream every time he needed to make a decision. But Joseph was called by God for a very specific part in the unfolding saving actions of God. He was called to protect a child that wasn’t his own and take care of this child’s mother, in spite of the circumstances that could have wrecked his relationship with her. In this reading, we hear of three times when Joseph was attuned to hear God’s voice to fulfill his specific mission.

In the first instance, an angel came with an urgent message that Joseph’s mission was in jeopardy. Joseph first had to discern whether this angelic being was from God or the adversary. The message was extreme and required immediate action if the information was accurate. The actions of these political forces who were seeking to destroy the child he was called to protect were beyond Joseph’s ability to anticipate or to stand against. For Joseph, the actions given by the angel resulted in the fulfillment of Scripture. In our day, even if we don’t expect to hear from angels, we do expect to hear from the Holy Spirit. Our promptings from the Holy Spirit might not always so direct, urgent, or clearly anticipated in Scripture, but we, as church, still need to listen for messages from God and obey. From what, as church, is the Holy Spirit telling us to flee?

Joseph was waiting for the second angelic encounter. How else would he know that it was safe to return? What are we, as church, called to patiently wait about until the Holy Spirit gives us a clear message?

In the third angelic encounter, we get some insight into how Joseph was listening for God’s direction. Joseph used reason and intuition as well as supernaturally supplied information to plan his course of action. Joseph must have been relieved to learn that he was to take his family back to their homeland even if it was not exactly to the same place from which they had left. In what way are we, as church, called to return to our traditional ways of doing things, but with modifications that are sensitive to circumstances?