Plans

So as I look at the week ahead and review my to do lists, what we will cook for dinner, what still needs to be done around the house, and what will occupy my time at work and at home, I look to this morning’s Gospel for direction.

And, as usual, Luke interrupts my thoughts with a challenge. We have all been the man in the story from this morning’s Gospel reading. He has a wonderful harvest and makes plans to build bigger barns. But then something comes along and ruins those plans – or in his case, his own death gets in the way of the new barns he wanted to build.

In the story, the man is chastised not because he plans but because his plans do not include God. “Here is what I will do…I shall tear down…I shall build… I shall store…then I shall say to myself…”

He keeps his wealth instead of sharing it. He plans to take care of himself and forgets those in need around him. He looks out for number one and avoids eye contact with the man or woman standing next to him, those standing on the corner, those sitting across from him or suffering across the world.

It’s a story to which we can all relate.

But, as the poet reminds us, “No man is an island…”

So I go back over my schedule for the week. When is time for prayer? When will I make sure I am present to others? When will I go out of my way to share the harvest, limited though it may be at times, with others?

Planning is good. Plans that include God are better.

 

 

Healed

After last night’s televised freak show, I am tempted to reflect on the demise of American democracy, but thankfully, I am distracted by the story in Sunday’s Gospel.

The author of Luke’s Gospel has Jesus’ healing ten lepers. It’s a story that always causes such consternation. Ten were healed but only one returned to say “thank you.”

It is good to give thanks.

But to concentrate on the one who returned is to miss the point. Maybe the other nine had good reasons.

Maybe one was a mother who had been kept away from her children for so long by this disease that turns you into an outcast. She was healed and she rushed right home and returned to her family.

Maybe one didn’t believe he had been cured because he didn’t do anything to deserve it. He couldn’t face unconditional love – healing without a price – so he couldn’t see he was healed and just went back to the colony.

Another was really, really excited about being free from the ravages of his illness and in his excitement, he just forgot.

Maybe another was alone, having already lost his family and now the only family he knew – the other lepers – were gone too. He was cured but now he was alone. He wasn’t grateful, he was ticked.

I could go on but you get the point.

Ten were healed and only one said “thank you.”

To concentrate on the one is to miss the point. Then again, I sometimes think we’ve institutionalized missing the point.

Ten were healed.

Ten were healed.

Ten cried out for mercy. Ten longed to be near Jesus so they just shouted as loud as they could. And Jesus, never one to leave someone wanting, responded simply, “Go, show yourselves to the priest” (the priest being the only one who could verify that they had in fact be healed).

They asked for Jesus’ mercy and received so much more.

Ten were healed. One said thank you.

It is good to say thank you.

But something tells me it is better to be healed.

 

 

 

artwork The Ten Lepers by John Steel

Three Steps

Looking ahead to this week’s Gospel readings had me searching through the archives of this blog when it appeared in another form. I love the reading about walking on water (Mt 14). It puts me in the mood for impossible things. So here is the earlier reflection with some updates:

I can imagine the storm, the darkness, and the fear. I can imagine what it must have been like to feel alone, wondering if anyone would help as the waves got bigger and I feel smaller. It’s like that feeling you get when you are in bed and you swear you hear a noise…and you freeze. It gives me chills just thinking about it.

Then Jesus comes along – wait, is that Jesus? Sometimes I don’t recognize Him. Is He in a boat? Or are we that close to shore? No, wait. He is walking on the water. Holy cow. It’s like He is stepping on stones as he comes closer and closer.

Then Peter, that rock, that steady but sometimes dim witted leader, says something to Jesus and Jesus responds. What are they talking about? Then Pete hops out of the boat and starts walking on the water too. This is incredible. I forget about the storm. I forget about my fear. I am watching the impossible; or rather two men doing the impossible.

Suddenly Peter begins sinking. What did he say? He must have called out, because Jesus reached after him and brought him to safety, but he had that look on his face, Jesus did…that look that says, “Why do you persist in your unbelief? Why are you so hard hearted?” I’ve seen that look before.

Later Jesus is asleep and we are giving Peter a hard time. He did, after all, lose faith and start to sink. If it weren’t for Jesus he probably would have drowned.

Peter takes it all in stride. He just listens for a bit and then starts to smile. It’s a smile that comes from knowing the Truth.

“Three steps,” he say. We are silent.

“Three steps,” he repeats.

“How many steps did you take on the water? I may have started sinking, but I took three more steps than the rest of you…”

He is right. We are well rebuked.

Jesus will be all around me this week and in many cases, I probably won’t recognize Him. I am often distracted by life.

“Three steps,” I say to myself.

How many steps will you take this week?

 

Photo: Sea of Galilee, taken on visit with CRS in 2000

 

Five Years On

As I look back on the five years since we lost Dad, I am moved this morning by the reading from the second letter of Paul to the Corinthians.

Brothers and sisters:
We hold this treasure in earthen vessels,
that the surpassing power may be of God and not from us.

Dad taught us that we are not in control. Ours should be a life of quiet service to others, not one of power or prestige.

We are afflicted in every way, but not constrained;
perplexed, but not driven to despair;
persecuted, but not abandoned;
struck down, but not destroyed;

In the last few months of his life, Dad came to know what persecution really meant. Still, he was a man of prayer and confidence, never despairing, never losing hope. Though he knew the ending of the story, he filled its pages well, living intentionally, knowing that each day mattered.

…always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus,
so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our body.

He knew he became what he received, so he received the Body and Blood of Christ often. He let Jesus live in him and through him and with him.

For we who live are constantly being given up to death
for the sake of Jesus,
so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh.

The ups and downs of life are a shared effort between us and Christ, so long as we remember that we are rooted in Him. If we connect our sufferings to Christ, so too will we share in Jesus’ resurrection.

So death is at work in us, but life in you.

The relationship is changed, not ended.

Since, then, we have the same spirit of faith,
according to what is written, I believed, therefore I spoke,
we too believe and therefore speak,
knowing that the one who raised the Lord Jesus
will raise us also with Jesus
and place us with you in his presence.

Dad professed his faith proudly, knowing that care for his wife and family – bringing others to Christ through himself – was his ticket home to God.

Everything indeed is for you,
so that the grace bestowed in abundance on more and more people
may cause the thanksgiving to overflow for the glory of God.

Thank you, Dad, for who you were and what you continue to be in our lives. We miss you every day and give thanks again and again for all you taught us about life, love, and peace.

Signs

In today’s Gospel reading from Matthew, we hear some of the scribes and Pharisees demand of Jesus, “Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.”

Wouldn’t that be nice?

As violence begets more violence and the world seems to go indiscriminately mad around us, wouldn’t it be great to get a sign from God that everything was going to be okay and that if we really try, we can achieve peace?

And yet those signs are here. In the children who resolve differences without fists, in the parents who love their children without hitting them, in the neighbors who learn to get along, in the countries that settle disputes without declaring war. We ask for signs from God while we ignore the presence of God around us. Like the man waiting to be rescued from the flood, we miss the radio announcement, the boat, and the helicopter….you know the story.

Once upon a time, when Gandhi sought to enter a church, he was told he was not welcomed. “I’d be a Christian,” he was reported to have said, “If only the Christians acted like Christians.”

Perhaps this week we can find the signs of God around us. Perhaps this week we could look for opportunities to spread peace instead of violence, joy instead of fear, love instead of anger.

Because I am willing to bet, if you look around, God is here.

Waiting to be recognized.

The Ditch

I’ve been thinking all weekend about Sunday’s Gospel reading. It is one of my favorite parables and I used to love when it would come up in class when I was teaching. But as I reflect on the events of the last year or so, the parable has taken on new meaning for me as I wonder how that scenario would play out in today’s world.

Someone would probably have video taped the attack on the man as he traveled down the dangerous road and then they would have posted it online. Every talk show would be checking in with experts to discuss why the priest and the Levite did not stop to help the man in the ditch and how much culpability they shared in the man’s plight. The Samaritan would be hailed as a hero and his story would be made into a movie.

But others would ask: “Why couldn’t the man just get up on his own?” “Why do the priest and Levite get a pass?” “Why does the Samaritan get honored for doing what he ought to do?”

They would ask those question because they have never been in a ditch.

The reality is the man couldn’t get up. I imagine it might have been because of the beating he experienced at the hands of the robbers. But most people know it isn’t always a physical reason that lands you in a ditch. Once in a great while you experience something so powerful and painful that you simply cannot help yourself. Call it depression. Call it addiction. Call it a crisis. Call it whatever you want. It’s an abyss, a darkness, and it can envelop you.

How we respond to those in the ditch says an awful lot about where we are in our own journey. It says a lot about who we are as children of God.

The truth is we are always on a journey. We are, by our nature, unfinished. By the grace of God, we are always longing for more. We must be patient. With ourselves. With each other. We must, in the words of Teilhard de Chardin, “trust in the slow work of God.”

But being unfinished is not an excuse to ignore the need around us. Longing for more does not give us permission to pass by on the other side of the road.

Who around you sits in darkness this week? Who around needs a hand? Who among you lies helpless in a ditch?

And what do you plan to do about it?

 

 

Artwork: “The Good Samaritan” by Paula Modersohn-Becker, 1907.