The Ministry of Jesus and our place in it
A Lenten Meditation By the people of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church
St. Paul’s Episcopal Church 576 Roscoe Road Newnan, GA 30263
Forward We are all theologians. Theology simply means ‘the study of GOD.’ For many of us, we leave this study for the ‘experts’ and go on with our lives. Sometimes we even let others tell us what we ought to think. But baptism makes us all members of the royal priesthood and we are therefore all responsible for theology. It is with this spirit that I invited people from all over the parish, including vestry members, newcomers, and people that I know or am getting to know to write theology: to reflect on Scripture and GOD’s mysterious movement in their lives. I challenged them to accept a reading and respond to it. I didn’t tell them how, but encouraged them to try to make it personal. As you flip through this booklet, you can see that each day has a meditation on a piece of Scripture. With only a few exceptions, the readings are from Mark and 1 Corinthians. To use this meditation, I encourage you to do so with a Bible in one hand and this booklet in the other. Read the day’s reading, printed on the right side of the daily header, from your own Bible. Take a moment to see what stirs in you. Then read the reflection. Take a few moments to see what comes to mind. Over the course of Lent, you will have read nearly all of Mark’s gospel, following the life of Jesus from beginning to end. Some chapters aren’t covered, so that we could make room for some readings from 1 Corinthians. During those two weeks, there’s no harm in reading both parts of Scripture! The Scripture for Sundays were taken from the Sunday lectionary. I hope you enjoy meditating with this booklet as I had in putting it together!
Acknowledgements This project moved quickly and with both eagerness and apprehension. That you are holding something in your hands is a testament to the generosity and good will of many people. Thanks go to Fr. Matthew Greathouse for suggesting the project and letting me run with it. To Brian Wallace, whose leadership, experience in its previous incarnation, and editorial skill were necessary to both getting the project started and completed. To Eston Jennings for helping edit several of the contributions. To the Vestry of St. Paul’s, whose participation in the project both demonstrates their love for our church and their willingness to help each of us continue to build it up. To each of the many contributors, some of whom overcame great anxiety to produce some truly meaningful reflections. And to each of you marking your time in Lent with these devotions. May you have a blessed season.
Drew Downs+ ii
Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21
So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. (v. 2) Let me begin with a confession. Not all scripture immediately resonates for me. There are times when I read a passage and feel a disconnect. Some passages take longer for a connection. Lent is a time for reconnection and private contemplation of our unique relationship with Christ. In Matthew 6:2 we are reminded, ―whenever you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be praised by others.‖ Lent is a special time in the Christian calendar to allow ourselves to struggle with our disconnect and to prepare for the resurrection celebration. Many people prepare by praying, fasting, and repenting. It is a time of moderation and a time to reshape our spiritual selves. God calls us to care for others, to give alms, and to encourage. As a teacher this can be a daunting daily task. It is no secret that children like to buy friendships, trade things, and bargain. Thus, I have become a well practiced moderator of ―trades‖ and ―she gave it to me‖ moments. It is during these moments, when a cherished baseball card, ice cream money, or trinket has been bargained away that the indignant child cries out and the giver pleads for a reprieve. During these impasses, I indulge my own philosophy. Do not give to others if you expect to get it back. Think of a loan…always as a gift. Ultimately, most children have a change of heart. The gift receiver will un-due the trade or the giver will re-gift the treasure. Christ has given to us without human strings attached. Our loans will not come due and our baseball cards will not be ransomed. We are called to care for one another and to reflect on our connection to God and community during Lent. As we prepare, we are reminded that our alms, our repentance, and our prayers are not practiced for earthly rewards. Moth and rust may destroy our earthbound ―toys‖ but our ultimate ice cream party awaits. Let this be a time of renewal. Eston Jennings 1
I spelled out your character in detail To the men and women you gave me. (v. 6, The Message) When Jesus prays, it is often an interesting opportunity for the reader to get a glimpse of Jesus‘s spiritual life. What do you learn from this prayer? How do you see yourself in it?
Everything mine is yours, and yours mine, And my life is on display in them. (v. 10, The Message) Yesterday‘s reading, today‘s, and tomorrow‘s are part of a singular prayer. Do you see any difference in the way Jesus sees the people at the beginning and at the end? What do you think we can learn from Jesus‘s prayer?
[Jesus prayed] ―The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, 23I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.‖ (vv. 22-23) I can remember a time when I would have considered myself to be among those ―looking out for‖ God‘s people. It‘s really comical. The more I learn, the less I know.
At each phase of my development, I am convinced that I am fully formed and ready to share. Even now, I am constantly facing obstacles to my serenity: great, big, ego-busting blocks that fill up the entire passage. It seems that there is no way around. I certainly cannot reason my way through many of the struggles. Unfair and unjust is simply unfair and unjust. To be honest, I don‘t want to remind myself that if I got what I deserved I would be beyond dead. I might be chained to a cliff with my liver being eaten out like some Promethean martyr. Sometimes, though, when I really get to stewing, I eat my own liver (figuratively). Sometimes I forget to pray. Sometimes I am too angry to pray. It is in that moment that I try to remember that anger and confusion are actually part of my path, part of my growth. And sometimes that makes me the angriest of all. I find comfort in the fact that I am a work in progress. I am one of those that Jesus is asking God to look out for. I am not actually the guardian angel. Imagine that! I feel better, already. Polly and Walt Haugen have been members of St. Paul‘s for 12 years. Their children, Clara Berry and Edie, have grown up loving the fellowship of St. Paul‘s through the youth and acolyting. Polly has enjoyed serving through Outreach, Children‘s Chapel, Newcomer‘s and now L.E.M. She loves Wednesday night supper.
He ate nothing during those days, and when the time was up he was hungry. (v. 4, The Message)
How is Jesus depicted here?
Is there something in the way Jesus responds to the devil that makes you say ―that‘s the guy I want to follow‖?
1 Corinthians 1:1-19
I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that has been given you in Christ Jesus, for in every way you have been enriched in him, in speech and knowledge of every kind— just as the testimony of Christ has been strengthened among you— so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ. He will also strengthen you to the end, so that you may be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful; by him you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. (vv. 4-9) The two main elements of these verses are concerned with God‘s grace and the spiritual gifts He provides for us. To better interpret and understand this passage I used A New Testament Greek Commentary on 1st Corinthians chapter one. Paul gives thanks to God for the Corinthians and for the grace given them in Christ. This grace (the favor of God) that is directed toward the Corinthians is specific. Often times we forget that the Church is about Jesus and not ourselves. Paul reminds us that the grace we have was given to us by Christ, the Son of God. Grace is not of earthly works, and it is given even when we don‘t deserve it. God wants us, His body, to do the work he intended. He has appointed people to lead churches. We are leaders by identifying and using our spiritual gifts wisely. ―You have been enriched in him, in speech and knowledge of every kind.‖ We must not allow these gifts to become a source of pride and self-satisfaction. We gather together at St. Paul‘s because we are united in our beliefs and general attitudes to life. We should always hold true to the direction of Paul that together we are one, and walking with Christ can have an affect on people around us. The world needs to see us and how we lead our lives with our spiritual gifts. God wants to express himself to the world through us, and if we open our hearts he will reveal these gifts to us. What we thought we knew cannot compare to what we know when we receive God‘s grace.
―God is faithful; by him you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.‖ Bob Heaberlin is an active member of St. Paul‘s heading up the Usher Ministry, and the popular Men‘s Club. He is the principal of Lee Middle School and husband to Jane. They have three married children. Bob joined St. Paul‘s in 1997. 4
1 Corinthians 1:20-31
God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are, so that no one might boast in the presence of God. (vv. 27-29) ―Old Weird‖ (my somewhat irreverent term for The Holy Spirit) was clearly at work when I pulled this reading out of the proverbial hat at January‘s Vestry meeting. The ―Forward Day by Day‖ meditation for today is one written in 1998 by a former Oklahoma prison inmate, Bo Don Cox. During a two-year work contract in Oklahoma, the Kairos Prison Ministry was a very important part of my life. I never met Bo, but met several volunteers and inmates who knew him. Coming to recognize the ―Light of Christ‖ in prison inmates was transformational for me and Bo‘s 1999 book ―God is NOT in the Thesaurus‖ has been a source of inspiration for me and many others. Bo chose 1 Corinthians 1:28-30 for his ―Forward Day by Day‖ meditation and observed the following: ―God chose some pretty dubious characters to spread his message. Slaves, prisoners, crazies, a long-haired, locust-eating man, and a gang of roguish fishermen led by a radical left-wing carpenter. Being a long-haired, slightly crazy, radial prison inmate, I feel at home among that crowd . . . I know, on the surface, it doesn‘t make sense that God would use such unlikely people to carry this most important message. But when I realize what the message is, it dawns on me that no one would know more about it than those in dire need of it. The experts. It makes perfect sense when you consider the message: The message? Love. The messenger? You. You‘re in good company.‖ 5
So then, what does this have to do with me and Lent? I believe that the discipline of loving, honoring and respecting the ―Light of Christ‖ in others and myself is something to be practiced during these forty days and then lived out for the rest of my life. That doesn‘t mean I‘ll change my intellectual and meditative pursuit of a deeper understanding of God (wisdom) and what He wants of me (call). But it should help me see and reflect the ―Light‖ more often. Bill Harrison is a retired engineer-manager; husband of Dawn, father of 4, and grandfather of 5. He is completing his second term on St. Paul‘s Vestry as this year‘s Sr. Warden and serves as mentor for the morning EfM group.
1 Corinthians 1:21-13
And I came to you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling… For what human being knows what is truly human except the human spirit that is within? So also no one comprehends what is truly God‘s except the Spirit of God. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit that is from God, so that we may understand the gifts bestowed on us by God. And we speak of these things in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual things to those who are spiritual. (vv. 3, 11-13) As I began to read this passage I was struck by the humility Paul seemed to express in his approach to the people of Corinth. As we know, the church at Corinth was a bruised and battered church. Wracked by infighting and dissension, the church had become fractured. Though I never considered Paul as a humble man, I saw that this approach would enable him to be received by all factions. What can I learn from Paul in these passages? I began to take a look at how my approach toward others needed to change, both in the church and the secular world. What approach do I take? Am I humble in my approach to persons and situations? I also was attracted to his sentiments in verses 11 – 13. No one other than God 6
knows us but our self, and God knows us through the Spirit. I have often entered Lent with the notion of self denial as penitence for my sins. But as I read these passages I came to the realization the Lent is more a time of self reflection on my relationship to God. In the past I have focused too much on sacrifice and too little on enlightenment from God. I am too focused on the physical side of my spiritual journey. This year I invite you to join me in calling on God through prayer to fill me/us with the humility that will enable me/us to open our hearts to his calling. To fill us with His Spirit, the Spirit that I so desperately need to face the day to day rigors of life. Donnie Rowe is married to Derenda and is deeply committed to outreach and mission. He is currently serving his first term on the vestry and is the leader of Square Foot Ministries.
1 Corinthians 1:2:14-3:15
And so, brother and sisters, I could not speak to you as spiritual people, but rather as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for solid food. Even now you are still not ready, for you are still of the flesh. For as long as there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not of the flesh, and behaving according to human inclinations? (vv.1-3) These words spoke to my heart in many ways. How many times has my mind said ―Okay, I‘m ready for my next task Lord, speak now. I‘m ready, but can you hurry I have an appointment in 10 minutes.‖ And just as predictable the reply is silence because I‘m really not ready to open my mind, heart or spirit. It would seem that after 50 years I would have learned that the times that I am completely clear and sure of my next step in life has been when I completely open my heart and find strength in the message that comes to me when I don‘t expect it … in the car, shower, gardening, etc. 7
It is not that I have no fear of the message or doubts, but I know that its right. As human flesh it will always be a struggle to not ask the question ―Are you sure you have the right person for this?‖ But I know that as I am ready I will be fed the milk that is needed to go on, exactly at the time that I will need it. Catherine Mathews is blessed to be the wife of Thomas for 22 years and the mother of Charles. We have been members of St. Paul‘s for 3 years.
1 Corinthians 3:16-23
―Do you not know that you are God‘s temple and that God‘s Spirit dwells in you?‖ (v.16) During the time that Paul wrote these passages, the Corinthians were divided and arguing about which Christian leader to follow. Paul essentially tells them that they don‘t need to worry so much about who their human leaders are; they need to focus more on Christ‘s teachings, and rely more on faith in God‘s plans for the future than on their own knowledge of the here-and-now. My own journey of faith has similarities to what the people of Corinth went through. For many years, I couldn‘t fathom that I might possess God‘s spirit. Then, as I began to attend church on a regular basis and form a relationship with God, I recognized that maybe God does have a plan for me, that I might have a little bit of God‘s spirit in me; it just took some time to realize and to tap into it. No matter how smart I thought I was, I needed to have more faith in God‘s plans for me. Now, I try to keep myself open to receive God‘s guidance – my version of keeping my ―temple‖ holy. Paul admonishes the Corinthians to worry less about what divides them – including their human leaders – and to focus more on what unites them – they are all children of God. It seems like we are bombarded with information about how different we are – whether we follow Fox News or MSNBC, we are constantly told about how wrong the ―other side‖ is. I try to remember that for all the perceived differences among us, since we all belong to Christ, we are really more alike than different. I feel this unity every Sunday at St. Paul‘s, when we sit 8
at God‘s table next to people of different backgrounds, political beliefs, etc. Gathering together in church, we are all united, building up our personal temples, redirected to Christ's way, unified in doing God‘s will, and following the instructions that Paul handed down almost 2,000 years ago. Brian Lewis and his wife Kay have one son, Sam. Brian was baptized and confirmed at St. Paul‘s in 2001, and is an attorney practicing in Newnan.
1 Corinthians 4:1-7
Think of us in this way, as servants of Christ and stewards of God‘s mysteries. (v. 1) As Christians, we are frequently reminded that we are to be servants of Christ. Hence, most of us serve in a variety of ways: we give our time and talents to St. Paul‘s; we give our money and/or time to charitable organizations; we volunteer at our children‘s schools and organizations; we volunteer on behalf of civic organizations; and we take on added responsibilities and duties for our families and friends. Most of the time we don‘t give much thought as to why we do these things. If we‘re honest with ourselves, however, too many times we serve because of a perceived obligation to or expectation of others. We also compare ourselves to others sometimes and feel guilty that we‘re not ―doing‖ as much as they‘re doing or we think what we have to ―give‖ is unimportant. Paul reminds us, however, what others think of us--even what we think of ourselves-- is irrelevant. It is only God‘s praise and commendation that we should seek through our service. By keeping our focus on God, all our acts of service are successful, no matter how insignificant they may seem. What a relief! No matter how many ―masters‖ we create for ourselves, we truly have but one Master to serve. Go forth and serve the Lord! Dirk Rountree and his wife Kimberly are the proud parents of Cole Beckwith (age 11). Kimberly and Dirk have been active members of St. Paul‘s since 1999.
Today and tomorrow I'm busy clearing out the demons and healing the sick; the third day I'm wrapping things up. (v. 32b, The Message) Jesus is making his way toward Jerusalem in this passage. Where are you headed? What challenges are you facing now?
Jesus had healed many people, and now everyone who had something wrong was pushing and shoving to get near and touch him. Evil spirits, when they recognized him, fell down and cried out, "You are the Son of God!" But Jesus would have none of it. He shut them up, forbidding them to identify him in public. (10-12, The Message) The first thing that struck me when I first read this passage was the fact that Jesus commands the demons to keep his identity unknown. To me, of all people, Jesus earned the right for people to know Him as the Son of God. And yet he forbids the evil spirits to reveal who He is to the public. Why can‘t I be more like that? The first thing I do when I meet new people, especially people from Newnan, is inform them that I‘m John and Nina‘s daughter, as if that is supposed to validate my existence. My parents are great, but they‘re nowhere close to being God, yet I still feel the need to use them as my introductory backbone. Jesus, whose Father is the one and only God, kept his heritage a secret from all but his closest friends. Why did He choose to do this? Was He waiting to tell everyone so that He could make a dramatic entrance as the Son of God? Was He trying to avoid the ―third degree‖ from all those people that were gathered? Did He not think the people could handle or comprehend the concept that He is the Son of God? Did He not want all the attention that would surely come with everyone knowing that information? Whatever his reason was, I think the clichéd ―be yourself‖ lesson is exhibited here.
As I continue the transition from teenager living with her parents to independent adult, I am challenging myself to begin establishing relationships based on me and my attributes instead of depending on my parents‘ reputations to carry me through life. Cami Fanning is the daughter of John and Nina. She is a freshman at Georgia State University and has enjoyed becoming involved in diocesan activities in Atlanta.
―For whosoever shall do the will of God, the same is my brother, and my sister, and mother.‖ (v. 35) Happening is one of the most important things in my life. For those of you who do not know, Happening is a diocesan wide youth retreat. The love given by everyone at the retreat is immeasurable. We have a healing service where everyone lays hands on you and just prays for you. At that moment, I feel very connected to God and the people around me. The experience helped me understand Jesus‘ statement in Mark 3:19b-35. I consider many of the people at Happening my brothers and sisters. God is working through each of us as we help and pray for others. This kind of connection doesn‘t have to come from a church retreat. We can be good ―brothers‖ or ―sisters‖ everyday by acting godly towards others. You don‘t have to dramatically change someone‘s life; just being compassionate and helpful is doing the will of God. Going back to high school after the Happening weekend, I find it very easy to be kind and nonjudgmental towards others. Smiling at strangers in the hall gets old after a while when all they do is glare back. I usually want to give up, but then I remember Happening and try to do what God would want us to do. I continue smiling and try not to care if someone doesn‘t return the smile. One person may come along, having the worst day, and a smile could brighten their day. You never know whom you may affect with your kind actions. 11
Is there anyone in your life who could benefit from a simple smile? If so, try to be their ―brother‖ or ―sister.‖ Lindsay Graner is the daughter of Lou and Anne Graner. She is a senior at Newnan High School. She was confirmed in 2008 and is actively involved as an acolyte, LEM, lector and Happening rector.
―You have been given the secret of the Kingdom of God,‖ Jesus answered. (v. 11a)
This is a great, simple story. A farmer sows seed in a field. Some seeds fall on the paths, and the birds quickly eat it. Some seeds fall where there are rocks and very little soil. Plants grow quickly, but they die easily. Some of the seeds begin to grow in a place where there are too many weeds. The weeds stop the growth of the plants, and the plants die. But other seeds fall on good ground. So, the plants grow well. The farmer has a harvest from these plants. The seeds that fall on the path represent people who hear the good news Jesus brings but give no attention to it at all. The people represented here do not think about other people and are selfish. They forget about the Good News quickly. The seeds that fall where there are rocks represent people who listen to the good news. They like what they hear about Jesus Christ but this does not last. They go through a difficult time or others laugh at them. They soon have no more interest in Jesus because they never really trusted Him. The seeds that grow in the soil where there are too many weeds represent people that have no time for Jesus. They are selfish, greedy, and seek power. These people worry all the time and are very anxious about their possessions. Finally, the seeds that grow in the good soil represent people who love the Lord. They trust Jesus and believe in Him. God blesses these people and helps them love others as He does. They are able to forgive other people and live peacefully with 12
them. These people are happy and content; this is because God can change the people who put their trust in Him. During Lent especially, it‘s important to think about your relationship with God. What kind of dirt are you? Megan Gruber is a sophomore at The Heritage School and is the daughter of Mike and Sharon. She was confirmed at St. Paul‘s in 2009. Megan loves being a member of St. Paul‘s Youth Group!
"Listen carefully to what I am saying—and be wary of the shrewd advice that tells you how to get ahead in the world on your own. Giving, not getting, is the way. Generosity begets generosity. Stinginess impoverishes." (vv. 24-5, The Message) We hear ―shrewd advice‖ everywhere, and often see it positively. What do you think this does to our own understanding of generosity? Think of the most generous person you know. What would it take to be more like them?
He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, ―Peace! Be still!‖ Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. (v. 39) ―Quiet be still!‖ Maybe it is because I was trying to read the passage with Owl City blaring, and my roommate dashing around the room; maybe it is because I‘d just come from an Accounting test that I‘m almost positive I bombed; maybe it is just because I have a red letter Bible, but when I read today‘s verse, those were the words that stuck with me. 13
We all know the story about how Jesus calms the storm, but we rarely focus on what Jesus tells to the sea and his disciples. He orders the storm to ―Quiet and be still!‖ Then, he asks the guys why, after all that they have seen are they still afraid? ―Do you still have no faith?‖ Think about that question for a minute. We‘ve all had those days when the world is spinning out of control. At least I know I have. When I‘m fairly certain things will never be right again. When I have those days I usually try to fix things by ranting, throwing objects, and binge eating. These things, though, rarely help to calm me down. That‘s when I realize that I‘m acting as if I still have no faith. I have witnessed God‘s love so many times. How can I let myself fall into a depression when I know that I have something so much bigger than everything that is weighing me down? That‘s when I need Jesus to quiet my storm. At this point I grab my Book of Common Prayer. I have a couple prayers that I use quite often and one of them includes this line: ―..In quietness and confidence shall be our strength.‖ It reminds me of a verse from Zephaniah ―He will quiet you with his love.‖ I‘m usually at war with some internal struggle and these verses and prayers remind me to allow God to quiet these storms and take comfort in his all encompassing love. Basically- remember that Jesus has got my back. Lucy Hensley is a freshman at Georgia Tech and is the daughter of Sally and Dan Hensley.
And Jesus said to him ―Come out of him, you unclean spirit!‖ (v. 8) In this lesson we find Mark‘s account of the healing of the demoniac. This passage exemplifies a lot of the great value that Jesus sees in the life of each individual, and the powerlessness of Satan to interfere with Jesus‘ saving grace towards each person. The demons acknowledged Jesus right away and begged that they not be tormented so they pleaded for Jesus to let them enter a herd of about 2000 pigs. How many demons were there if they could enter 2000 pigs? 14
Do we, as Christians have to deal with demons, agents of the unholy spirit of evil? We do every day, but may not recognize their names. Some can be named as anger, greed, lust, envy, jealousy, sorrow, pride, hate, bigotry, despair, depression, rebellion, etc. It‘s not surprising to find the demoniac in such a pathetic condition when the scriptures confirm that he was being controlled by thousands of demons. Somehow by God‘s grace this man was surviving the ordeal, though barely. When the demons entered the pigs, their madness lacked any human reason, and they stampeded down the hill, over a cliff and into the sea. What is the difference between the control that Satan had over this man, and the control he has over any unsaved individual? Without Jesus, Christians were subject to the influence of these spirits that we listed. However, with Jesus, what happens to those spirits? When a Christian relies on the power of the Holy Spirit in life, we find the influence of evil overwhelmed by God's purposes for good. A spirit of anger is replaced with a spirit of forgiveness. A spirit of hatred is replaced with a spirit of love. Likewise we see the replacement of greed with generosity, lust with refocused desire, pride with humility, bigotry with love, depression with peace, despair with hope etc. When Jesus saves Christians, He performs this same work of exorcism. Where there was any list of these spirits, Jesus replaces them with the Holy Spirit who has life-giving power. Realizing this, what should be our response to God? Our response should be one of thanksgiving, praise, and the submitting of ourselves to His Lordship over us. Randy Winton has been the Director of Youth Ministries at St. Paul‘s for the last 7 years. He is married to Chattie and they have 3 children – Sarah Beth, Eason and Anna Grace.
…'Let's give it another year.‖
(v. 8, The Message)
Jesus responds to those killed by equating all in death. How do you receive news of tragedy? 15
What do you suppose Jesus suggests about the gardener in giving the tree another year?
Jesus said to her, "Daughter, you took a risk of faith, and now you're healed and whole. Live well, live blessed! Be healed of your plague." (v. 34, The Message) There are many questions to ponder about Jesus and the healing ministries. Which one do you wrestle with mostâ€”and why? The disciples have witnessed so many miraculous acts on the part of Jesus, why do you suppose they continue to run interference?
1 Corinthians 5:1-8
Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. (v. 8 KJV) So let us celebrate our festival, not with any old leaven, not with vice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of innocence and integrity. (v. 8 James Moffatt) Discard the old habits of vice and evil; go on with a life of innocence and integrity. However, disposing of the old leaven is more easily attempted than accomplished. It seems that a small amount is always left to contaminate the next batch of dough, growing until the casting away must be repeated. My own celebration of the festival, not only for Lent, but also for every other season of the calendar, begins every morning at first light, when my Labrador retriever reminds me that it is time to arise, go outside and enjoy the coming of the new day. The rest of my household is still asleep: our only close neighbor 16
goes to work long before dawn, and the school bus won‘t come for its children for an hour at least, so it is usually very peaceful. While my lab attends to her personal business, I try to recognize and count all of my blessings. It is difficult to remember them all, so I give thanks for those I can. The sun is not quite up, but it silhouettes the trees in our back lot with a brilliant red-orange light, more inspiring evidence of God‘s Presence then I have ever seen in the stained glass windows of a great cathedral. I gird my loins (so to speak) to meet the new day, freed by the love of Christ from the old leaven of vice and evil, with new innocence and integrity. I give thanks again, and remind God that I will need Him as much this day as I did the day before, and will in the days to come. Then reality erupts. Lights begin to come on inside. I go in, take my pills, and brew up a big pot of coffee. My household is beginning to stir. Frank Jarrell is the husband of Sissie, father of Robert Jarrell and Anne Berry, grandfather of Ellis, Will, and Frank Berry. Two more sons and five other grand children live in other communities. Also, by the grace of God, He is child and brother of several hundred communicants of St. Paul‘s.
When the people saw the sign that he had done, they began to say, ―This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world.‖ (v. 14) This is a terrible time for me to read this scripture. I remember it as a child and remember it fondly. Had I waited for another week or two my emotions might not be so raw. The thought of helpless, poverty stricken people being taken to their knees by a natural disaster in Haiti is upsetting. Unfortunately, for me I associate natural disasters with God. I don‘t know why, I just do. I was taught early on that God created the world. So he created 17
volcanoes that erupt, tidal waves that move across big seas and earthquakes that tear stuff up. Who/what else can bring such immense power to this world? He brought the world together in 6 days, so knocking down a few buildings is no big deal?? I cannot imagine a force greater than God. I do believe he created all that we are and do. Do most people associate God with high rise buildings, large reservoirs, and beach side communities? Isn‘t it all his creation? I cannot imagine the intensity of the earthquake in Haiti, the sheer force to tear apart buildings, streets and the infrastructure all in 5 seconds. But it happened. Why do we need to see people suffer to this extent? If Jesus can turn 2 fish and 5 loaves of bread to feed thousands, can he not take care of these poor suffering people in Haiti?? WHY CAN‘T GOD FIX THIS…..…OR IS THAT JUST IT? OK so, many humans not necessarily engaged in the belief that Jesus came to save our souls and offer eternal life may NOW be engaged to some degree that they might not otherwise have been. Is that what this is all about? Can it be that simple? Would God allow 140,000 people to die a miserable death so some humans may gain a belief that there is a higher power? Maybe these engaged people have offered prayers, money, clothing, and their time to the relief efforts for the Haitian people. Maybe some of these humans became Christians because of this disaster. Tell me God why do we do this and why does it have to happen this way? Anonymous
Jesus got them all to sit down in groups of fifty or a hundred—they looked like a patchwork quilt of wildflowers spread out on the green grass! He took 18
the five loaves and two fish, lifted his face to heaven in prayer, blessed, broke, and gave the bread to the disciples, and the disciples in turn gave it to the people. He did the same with the fish. They all ate their fill. The disciples gathered twelve baskets of leftovers. (vv. 39-43, The Message) In what ways do you think anger and confusion can actually help us understand Jesusâ€˜s ministry better? What do you think Mark (and John from Thursdayâ€˜s reading) wants us to see about Jesus? Observe in both of these readings what part Jesus plays and what part the disciples play. Do you sense anything familiar? What is it telling you today?
When Jesus saw that the disciples were straining at the oars against an adverse wind, he came towards them early in the morning, walking on the sea. (v. 48) And wherever he went, into villages or cities or farms, they laid the sick in the marketplaces, and begged him that they might touch even the fringe of his cloak; and all who touched it were healed. (v. 56) These verses from Mark remind me of a song recorded a few years back by the Fisherfolk, a musical group within the Community of Celebration, a religious order of the Episcopal church in Aliquippa, Pennsylvania.
Here comes Jesus. See him walking on the water. He'll lift you up and He'll help you to stand. Here comes Jesus. He's the master of the waves that roll. Here comes Jesus. He'll make you whole. My adverse wind came a little over 15 years ago when I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. I foolishly spent time straining at my oars as it was very frightening to face the unknowns of how the disease would affect me. 19
This song and these verses were particularly comforting during that time and in the years to follow. I've come to realize that Jesus is holding me close to his heart, is lifting me up and is helping me to stand. Sure, there are some challenges. I do limp, have some balance issues and have had a number of stumbles and skinned knees, but as my Godchild Kate said at age 5, 'It's not the worstest thing in the world.' In fact, having MS has been one of the best things in my life. It has made me aware of what is really important, has given me empathy for others and, most importantly, has provided for a closer relationship with Christ. What are your adverse winds? Are they physical? Emotional? Spiritual? Financial? Are you straining with your oars? Whatever your adverse winds are, it is my prayer that during Lent, you will reflect on how much our loving God is lifting you up and how he will help you to stand. Reach for the fringe of his cloak and be healed in the way that is God's best for you.
Here comes Jesus. He'll save your soul. What a marvelous gift! We have only to claim it! Candy Waldron and her husband David have been at St. Paul's for the five years they've lived in Newnan. Thanks to her Delta Air Lines retiree benefits, they travel frequently. Candy works with Christian Formation, the Sarah & Abraham Guild, the Healing Intercessors, Daughters of the King, St. Julian's Guild and Bible School.
Then the Pharisees and scribes asked him, Why walk not thy disciples according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashen hands? He answered and said unto them, Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. There is nothing from without a man, that entering into him can defile him: but the things which come out of him, those are they that defile the man.
(vv. 5-7,15 KJV)
As I mediated on these passages, my thoughts returned to the sermon given by Bishop Katharine at the 103rd Diocese of Atlanta Annual Council at the Cathedral of St. Philip. We were celebrating the feast of William Temple (Archbishop of Canterbury 1942-1944). I would like to share with you her words are so meaningful to me and I hope will be for you. ―William Temple may be best known for reminding us that the church is the only human institution that exists primarily for those who are not its members. That‘s a challenging view to some Episcopalians – that the church isn‘t here primarily for our benefit, that the church‘s basic job isn‘t to take care of us or meet our needs. The church‘s primary task is to help us care for, heal, and reconcile the world. We do that by becoming like the one we worship, into whose family we are baptized, and whose members we become as we share in his body at this table. We become what we eat here, we become the living water with which we are washed, we become what we worship, we become whom we emulate.‖ ―Poverty isn‘t just about what you have in the bank. Poverty is about where you look for hope. The world calls rich those who can look to the bank for hope. The blessed look to God, and the incarnate sharing-of-self evidence of God in Jesus and his followers – there is the treasure.‖ Ellie Hall
Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32
Then [Jesus] said, "There was once a man who had two sons. The younger said to his father, 'Father, I want right now what's coming to me.' (vv. 11-12, The Message) The parable of the Prodigal Son is one of the most famous and recognizable in the Gospels. When reading it this time, look for something new in it. Perhaps take a moment to think about where each of these characters is coming from. Does this change anything for you? We often focus on the father‘s generosity of reconciliation. But what do you suppose is being said about each brother? 21
1 Corinthians 10:14-11:1
―Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread…Do not seek your own advantage, but that of others…So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God.‖ (vv. 17, 24, 31) For several years now, during the season of Lent, I have chosen to focus on my growth in spirit. With this focus, Paul‘s verse 24, ―Do not seek your own advantage, but that of the other‖ has become part of my life. Time after time, I find that when I seek first to help others, my efforts come back to reward me. As a Eucharistic Minister, I receive joy and energy from serving others while we all partake of the one bread together (verse 17). Most Sundays I am so uplifted I‘ve carried that joy into the following week. On two recent Sundays I had the opportunity to guide Lindsey and Olivia as they served at the altar for the first time. It just felt really good. During Lent, I choose to seek new opportunities to help others, growing my faith that in turn, I too will grow. Another verse in Paul‘s letter that is inspiring me this season is 31, ―So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God.‖ When I pause to remember that everything I have is a gift from God, I can be more focused and purposeful in how I use those gifts. Here‘s a sample of how I see God‘s Glory. God didn‘t give me the speed or agility to catch a stray cat in my home office. He did give me the intelligence to ask Karen how to use a humane trap. Now this once stray cat is our farm mouser who answers to her name Scooter. Since Scooter arrived I haven‘t had to set one mousetrap. Or as lyrics from a Rolling Stones song state: ―You can‘t always get what you want, but you get what you need…‖ I believe my purpose and passion in life is helping people become the best they can be. I can be a catalyst for positive change. During Lent, my spiritual focus is on increasing my vision of how I can use God‘s gifts to the advantage of others. Rick Plasket joined St Paul‘s in 2001. He met Karen at a St. Paul‘s newcomers‘ brunch that fall and a year later proposed to her after the Christmas Eve candlelight service. The next Christmas, they were married in St Paul‘s new sanctuary. He 22
is starting his 4th year of EFM study, serves as an Usher, Eucharistic Minister, and Vestry Member. Outside church, Rick supports Karen as she completes her 3rd year of studies to become a veterinarian. He also owns his own business and is dedicated to helping others grow into their full potential so they may live the lifestyle they deserve.
1 Corinthians 11:17-34
So then, my brothers and sisters, when you come together to eat, wait for one another. (v. 33) This section of the letter of Paul to the Church of Corinth is part of his teachings on the ―Decorum in Public Worship‖. I had to go back in 1st Corinthians to understand why he was being so dogmatic...It is my understanding that he had had letters or had heard that things were not going as they should in this area... He promises to come to meet with the people to straighten out some things, but the matter of their behavior at church was of sufficient concern for him to write them immediately. He was concerned that people were not considerate and gracious to others. Some would eat and not leave anything for those less fortunate...He also told them that if they were hungry, they should fill their stomachs at home—that was not ―The Lord‗s Supper―. I have trouble with that. I think that most of us know the difference. My experience at St. Paul‗s is that we do eat and drink frequently, both at home and at church. As a Southerner that has been an integral part of my up bringing and an important and joyful thing in my life. I rejoice that. We are mindful of those less fortunate and, except when the children have already gobbled up the desserts (which most of us do not need) we are considerate of others when we are feeding the flock. We also reach out to the community through our gifts of food and money both here and abroad...We do need to ask our selves whether we are doing as much as we could. The needs are greater than ever. We cannot afford to be complacent. 23
Paul seems to be focusing on the disagreements or divisions among the people...Here at St Paul‘s we have people from different backgrounds, different ages, different interests and strong opinions...I think that is one of the things that makes us strong. I believe that we strive to honor each other even when we have to agree to disagree. I grew up in the Christian Church, actually the First Christian Church of Atlanta and then of Decatur, Ga. In the Christian Church, communion was served every Sunday...In the Episcopal Church the service is more formal and we gather at the Table rather than passing the body and the blood, to the congregation, but the purpose and the gifts are the same for me...It has always been the highlight of my worship and something that I feel I need. Paul is telling me that the Lord‘s Table is holy and that each of us is welcome there. I particularly cherish the fact that we welcome all who are baptized to the Table at St. Paul‘s...‖It is God‘s table, not ours‖. I believe that Paul would be happy with that. During this period of Lent, I shall try to better prepare myself to accept God‘s many blessings and to come to His Table with gratitude and thanksgiving that I am a part of this ―communion of saints‖ at St Paul‘s who inspire and support me. There is an old hymn that keeps running through my head. I hope you know it:
Blest be the tie that binds Our hearts in Christians love The fellowship of kindred minds is like to that above Mary Ben Christiansen
1 Corinthians 12:1-11
All these [gifts] are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses. (v. 11) When first reading this scripture, I think of all the gifts and talents I witness in the 24
parishioners of our church and the amazing things that take place because of them: from the nursery, Sunday School, Youth and Adult classes, Health and Healing ministries, the fellowship of Wednesday nights, Odyssey Reading Group, Men‘s Club, and more; all happening in the parish. I think of the wonderful outreach ministries which reach far beyond the confines of the church building. All these gifts and talents are from God working through us according to his will. Each one of us has a special gift that contributes to the whole, but we are all vessels through which our Lord chooses to work. If we open ourselves and listen to God‘s voice, we may find that we are vessels not only to one gift, but to any and all gifts God wants to use through us and which we hone to use for God‘s work. However, God may see fit to use us in ways that are less obvious or even unexpected. Just because he has not used us for healing or prophecy does not mean He never will. Likewise, because he has used us for discernment or teaching does not mean He always will. God uses us as He sees fit and as He chooses. It is our duty to pray and meditate for guidance and leave ourselves open to His will: that is when we will see the great things God can do. John Crow is a vestry member, Usher, Verger, and Children‘s Chapel volunteer. He also enjoys Men‘s Club and working with the Square Foot ministry. He is married to Katy and they have three children: Kelsey, Sarah, and Matthew.
1 Corinthians 12:12-26
For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. (v. 12) Paul's familiar comparison of a congregation to a body brings to mind our own parish. We may not have had the personality clashes the Corinthians dealt with, but we can certainly benefit from the unified spirit of cooperation he calls for. Without having to figure out which of us are the kidneys, the pinkie toes or the appendix, we can still strive to work closer together. The point of Paul's analogy, of course, is not just that the cool organs shouldn't look down on the less-glamorous ones or merely that Jesus is the one running the 25
show. It's also to stress the benefits of coordination. A body at war with itself will suffer fever, infection and pain. On the other hand, a body in harmony -- like a graceful athlete -- can set world records. We have all the components. You can name the people who provide the backbone and skeleton that we depend on, the muscles who propel us and the vital organs that bring life-giving breath and nutrition. What is sometimes lacking is the sensitivity to our nervous system that should be telling us when one part is sick, unemployed, depressed or somehow troubled. Our right hand benefits from helping our pancreas. As a single, unified body, we all benefit by restoring to health one of our own components. Indeed, love for a fellow parishioner is in essence self love, if we're all one body. Beyond care for one another, a body gains strength through stretching and exercise -- lifting progressively larger weights. The opportunities to do more are all around us. And I think Paul is calling us to do that as well. My prayer is that we endeavor to keep our church body fit, healthy and ever stronger to set our own world records. A cradle Episcopalian who grew up in Griffin, Walter Jones is married to Linda and is the father of Charlie and Meg. He serves on the Vestry and volunteers with Square Foot Ministry.
1 Corinthians 12:27-13:3
Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? But earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way. (vv. 27-31) Oddly enough, a bumper sticker I saw recently came to mind when I read through this scripture. It was on a rusted out pickup and read â€•You are unique.... just like 26
everyone else.‖ I laughed over it for a while but it resonated with me. One of the biggest challenges for me at work is ―meeting people where they stand‖. I will encounter those whose viewpoints and experiences are so different from my own that I have to stretch in new ways to reach a place of common understanding. The interesting thing is that the people who have stretched me the furthest, with the most discomfort, have been the ones from whom I learned the most. At church I find myself occasionally in the same conundrum. Each of us is open to God at different degrees during our lives. At this point in my life, my involvement with church and my faith in God have never been greater, but 15 years ago? 20 years ago? Not so much. We all vary in our involvement with our church community and the people around us, especially over time. Whether it be while trying to recruit volunteers for a project or simply getting to know new parishioners, we must meet people where they stand....without guilt or recrimination....without judgment.....but foremost with love and understanding for where they stand and the ―when‖ of what part of life's journey they are in. Their gifts at one particular moment may appear small in the eyes of some but in God's eyes they are valuable and welcome...whether it be the making of a poster at church or the contents of a child's piggy bank going to Haiti. Each unique person at church has a role, whether big or small; without each of us, there would be no church. The ―when‖ of that role is the hard part. Being open to those whose ―when‖ hasn't come yet. One gift we can give each other is recognition and acceptance of where we each stand, the second gift is recognizing each others ―when‖s and not diminishing the gifts we each bring, big or small. Elizabeth Ream
1 Corinthians 13:1-13
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. (v. 13) 27
In college I was in a car wreck in France and spent many weeks in a hospital in Paris. Of course, everyone at home was extremely worried about me and shared their concern with many, many cards, notes, flowers, etc. The nursing staff, all of whom were non-Americans, commented on how often the word love was used on the many pieces of correspondence. They would say things like ―you Americans, you throw the word love around so easily!‖ I have often thought of those comments. The outpouring of love from home did sustain me. But, were the nurses and staff right on some level? Love is a tricky word. Do we use it too casually? I love my family and friends. I love ice cream. In 1Corinthians 13:1-13, we are taught many things about love - but are we always patient, are we always kind, not boastful, or not envious? Do we love something one minute only to change our minds later? The only possession we really have is God‘s love. It transcends all time and it transcends all our many transgressions. God‘s love is a perfect love that never wavers. Our time here on earth as was my time in the hospital are really only ― blips‖ on a timeline of eternity. Our understanding and use of love is temporary. Only God‘s love is eternal. However, God‘s love is the perfect example of how we should love each other here on earth and more importantly, how we should love God. Of course, all my family and friends sent me love to help me heal. What they were really sending me were their prayers - knowing that God loved me unconditionally, he had the power to heal me, and to bring me home. Anne Josey is the wife of Taylor and the mother of T., a freshman at Georgia Tech, and Sam, a sophomore at Newnan High School.
Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples, even then getting ready to betray him, said, "Why wasn't this oil sold and the money given to the poor? It would have easily brought three hundred silver pieces." He said this not because he cared two cents about the poor but because he was a thief. He was in charge of their common funds, but also embezzled them. 28
(vv. 4-6, The Message) In John‘s telling, we receive insight into Judas‘s motivation. How does this motivation affect the way you understand his words? Many people who aren‘t thieves might sympathize with Judas‘s argument (saving money on worship to spend more on outreach). How do you think Jesus would respond to that from us? Jesus‘s response in verse 8 (―You always have the poor with you. You don't always have me.‖) has often been used to deny action on the part of others. How might we see Jesus‘s intention in this exchange?
―Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.‖ (v. 37) Two parallels presented in this reading relates so well to present-day life. In the initial reading, Jesus forecast his pending death and resurrection, ―The Son of man will be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him; and when he is killed, after three days he will rise.‖ The disciples, however, failed to understand or even hear his words. They were too busy debating amongst themselves who ―was the greatest.‖ I find irony in how we are so consumed by our own needs, desires and personal sensitivities that we forget how simply and lovingly Jesus lived his life. We forget His love of His Father, His teachings, His love of children. We forget how He gave aid, especially to the poor, the sick, and the outcast. We forget how He accepted all peoples; how He taught and practiced forgiveness……even toward those responsible for his arrest, torture, and death. Later, Jesus cautioned his disciples about judging a stranger and his motives; ―Do not forbid him; for no one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon after to speak evil of me……..For truly, I say to you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ, will by no means lose 29
his reward. Jesus added, for emphasis, ―Whoever receives such a child in my name receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me.‖ I find irony in how we judge others, some about whom we know so little. It is done repeatedly, often without impunity. Jesus was unselfish, and His brief time on earth was spent teaching us to love, give, and forgive. It was through these examples that we identify ourselves as Christians. I define a Christian as one who strives to be Christ-like. Our behavior, however, sometimes causes us to fail the JESUS TEST. In this time of Lent, my hope is that we all reflect on not being the greatest, not being first, on what it means to be amongst the least of these, and finally, on Jesus‘ suffering and using Jesus as our personal model. Kathy A. Ellison is the wife of Dwight, the mother of Kimberly and Dawn (J. R. Revere), and grandmother to Lana and Hank.
He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.‖ (vv. 31-32) ―
I think I know how the disciples felt. This past summer, I turned 51. There is nothing special about a 51st birthday. Nobody had planned a surprise party or special trip. I remember waking up that day, looking in the mirror, and asking "Who are you?" It was time to face reality, time to take stock of my life, time to discard improbable dreams and embrace more manageable ones. As the disciples approached Jerusalem it was their time to face reality. They had silently been hoping that Jesus was going to free them from Roman oppression, but now Jesus tells them that he is going to die, and not just die, but be crucified as a criminal. This was not the messiah they were hoping for. They wanted a warrior, a hero. Everything was unraveling. It too was time to take stock. 30
It was not only time for them to face the reality of who Jesus was, but to face the reality of their own lives. Jesus told them that they must die also, and that they must give up their lives to save their souls. The disciples could not love Jesus for who he was and what he was about to do, because they could not see beyond their own dreams and hopes for what he was going to do for them. When Jesus said, "Get behind me Satan", I don't think he was scolding Peter as much as he was telling us how to live our lives. Giving up, letting go, having faith, these are not easy things to do, but by clinging too preciously we fail to see the beauty around us. That birthday evening, I had forgotten about the missing milestone celebrations. My family and I were lazily eating ice cream at Brusters when my children pulled out a cupcake with a candle on it and began singing "happy birthday". This was the most beautiful birthday ever. Billy Newman is a professional fine art photographer, husband, father, and Boy Scout leader.
But when Jesus saw this, he was indignant and said to them, â€•Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs.â€– (v. 14) When I returned home after having a stroke, I was unable to catch my cats or get them to come to me so I could have a love session. I had to be content with watching them play. Isabella, our Siamese, a Clayton County finest feline, was watching a dust particle float on air, and chasing her tail. Donna Sue Gail, southern Persian and Fulton County finest, was cleaning herself in the sunshine, purring loudly. My walker seemed clumsy. I was awkward using it - so my furry friends were staying away. As I watched them play, a small voice said to me that we feed and water them, give them good veterinary care, clean their litter box. They have warm beds; the cat tree on the screened porch was definitely to their delight. The birds coming to our bird feeders are their special entertainment. 31
Again the small little voice: ―Are your cats like you, My child? I have and will provide everything for you. I just want you to climb up in My lap so I may love you.‖ Mark 10:1-12, states that people do as they please, not as God planned. Mark 10:13-16 tell of the Kingdom of God being received as a gift, freely and openly as a child receives, just for the love of God. That is how cats come to us. Time has passed and Isabella is now dying. No longer is she on my keyboard, between my book and eyes, not a loving pest. I am now checking on, caring more for her than ever. I believe God does the same for us, everyday, not just as we near death. I believe that God gave us the Cat so we might know how it feels to pet the lion or tiger. I also know He used them to teach me of His vast continuing love and my lack of understanding. Are you like a cat? Karol Vella
―You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.‖ (v. 21) I have long found the parable of the rich man troubling. Clearly in a global context I am wealthy and, like the rich man, I am keenly interested in what I must do to inherit eternal life. Jesus reminds us to keep the commandments, specifically mentioning the commandments relating to our neighbors. Then, looking at the rich man and loving him, Jesus says, ―You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.‖ 32
I have come to understand that the prescription to ―sell what you own‖ was specific to the rich man. Jesus knew that possessions were preventing the rich man from loving God completely and following Him. Just as he challenged the rich man, Jesus challenges us to reflect on what in our lives prevents us from loving God perfectly and putting our complete faith and trust in Him. We each must honestly identify those things in our lives holding us back from complete devotion to God. Only then, with God‘s help, can we let go of them, follow God and inherit eternal life. There is much good news in this parable. When Jesus spoke to the rich man, Mark tells us that Jesus loved him. And in response to the disciples wondering who can be saved, Jesus assures them and us that, ―For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible.‖ Jesus asks us to let go of our attachment to possessions, beliefs, fears and whatever else prevents us from following Him in a life of greater simplicity and service. We can do so with the blessed assurance that Jesus loves us and, with God in our lives, all things are possible. Lou Graner is married to Anne, and father of Jessica and Lindsay. They have been members of St. Paul‘s for seven years.
When the other ten heard of this conversation, they lost their tempers with James and John. Jesus got them together to settle things down. "You've observed how godless rulers throw their weight around," he said, "and when people get a little power how quickly it goes to their heads. It's not going to be that way with you. Whoever wants to be great must become a servant. Whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave. That is what the Son of Man has done: He came to serve, not to be served—and then to give away his life in exchange for many who are held hostage." (vv. 41-45, The Message) The disciples take James and John‘s bold request personally. How do you take it? Does changing the nature of first and last and servant and master change that? 33
What is Jesus telling you about power?
Then Jesus said to him, ‗What do you want me to do for you?‘ The blind man said to him, ‗My teacher,* let me see again.‘ Jesus said to him, ‗Go; your faith has made you well.‘ Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way. (vv. 51-2) Imagine you are a blind man at the beginning of the first millennia, forced by circumstance to beg for subsistence. You are entirely dependent on the good-will of others. Then, one day, the throng of passersby is different. The voices of the crowd speak not the mundane of the traveler or the merchant, but in enthusiastic tones call out ―Rabbi!‖ You dare call to him: ―Son of David! Son of David!‖ And you succeed: Jesus hears you and calls you to him. Your sight is restored. But, we are not blind men sitting on a dusty road outside a bustling city twothousand years ago. So, what does this passage mean for us? Is it simply more evidence of Jesus‘ divinity? (Let‘s take a look at our list of proofs that Jesus is the Son of God, hmmm, here it is: heal blind man, check!) It‘s certainly an impressive act, and maybe some people need such demonstrations of divine power in order to spark belief. Is it to show Jesus‘ compassion as a reminder that we, too, should have compassion on those that society casts aside? That certainly is a good message; it is most definitely a theme in the passage and a lesson to which we should listen. Is it to show that, if our faith is strong enough, Jesus can heal us? The stories of Jesus‘ miracles have been taken to mean just that, but, while physical miracles can and do happen, in addition to faith and prayer, we should make use of the talents and passion God has bestowed on those in the medical profession. However, Jesus 34
can heal what no scalpel can touch: our souls. So, what if we dig deeper, place ourselves in the shoes of the blind man and ask ourselves: in what way am I blind? Promise Whitley is the wife of Eric and the loving mother of Mouse, a small gray cat. She is a member of the St. Paul‘s choir and a Godly Play Storyteller.
Some Pharisees from the crowd told him, "Teacher, get your disciples under control!" But he said, "If they kept quiet, the stones would do it for them, shouting praise." (vv. 39-40, The Message) Palm Sunday is also referred to as Jesus‘s Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem—a comment on the Roman authorities‘ propencity for grand entrances. What does the manner of Jesus‘s arrival say to you? How does knowing what is to happen next affect the way you feel about Palm Sunday?
On the following day, when they came from Bethany, he was hungry. Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to see whether perhaps he would find anything on it. When he came to it, he found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. He said to it, ‗May no one ever eat fruit from you again.‘ And his disciples heard it. (vv. 12-14) As I read the meditation, I seem to be drawn more to the fig tree than to the more obvious message from Jesus that if you truly believe what you are saying then God will hear you and do what is promised. It is our responsibility to believe in that. In first reading through the passage, I stopped after Jesus curses the fig tree and 35
asked myself ―why?‖ Was it really necessary to punish that tree just because it was out of season and was bearing leaves but no fruit? I know I have certainly wallowed in the glory of seeing a lone green sprout poke its head up out of the hard, brown earth in the middle of winter and shine its beautiful color on an otherwise dry, weary world. Was it worth the life of the tree to prove a point? I would like to believe that I am not so hard headed that I cannot get the message without being smacked upside the head to get my attention. What was the point and why does it have to involve suffering? I want to envision that there was a plant somewhere that was not fairing as well and it could have been sacrificed or a huge rock that could have been broken into tiny pebbles. Why destroy something perfectly viable? I think because of all the uncertainty in my life right now, I want answers and I don‘t want them to be vague. I am sure we have heard that it is not our place to question God and his action. I have to believe that if I don‘t question what I don‘t understand then I will never come to terms with it. So I continue to question, but I do so with respect and reverence. I do it to find my answers and not to argue with His power. I know pain, suffering and sacrifice are often part of the journey to the glorious celebration at the end. I also know that if I ignore that pain and refuse to embrace it and its meaning then I have failed myself and my God. After all, isn‘t that what our Easter celebration is all about? Edie Teal is a cradle Episcopalian who has been a member of St. Paul‘s for 9 years. She is married to John and they have 4 children, Alex, Katie, Becca and MacKenzie. Edie is the PT Cruisers Sunday school teacher.
One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, he asked him, ‗Which commandment is the first of all?‘ Jesus answered, ‗The first is, ―Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.‖ The second is this, ―You shall love your neighbour as yourself.‖ There is no other commandment greater than these.‘ (vv. 28-31) 36
These chapters have a little bit of everything. Jesus teaches in the temple, is tested and questioned by the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Scribes. Then there is the story of the widow's mite and finally, we have a grand prophecy about the destruction of the temple and Christ's return. The first thing that really caught my attention in the text was the parable Jesus shared. Most of Jesus' parables have only one point, but in this case he used allegory or symbolic narrative. When I read this there was no denying that the vineyard was Israel, the owner was God, the tenants are the Jewish leaders, the servants are the prophets, and the only son and heir is Jesus. Mark doesn't tell us who the listeners are, but I think it's safe to assume that they were the chief priests and teachers of the law. Notice in the text where Jesus says, â€•not just a few, but many othersâ€– (12: 5). Jesus presses his audience to think beyond the parable and the history of Israel and the rejection of the prophets. Jesus seems to be warning the Jewish leaders that he will give the "vineyard" to others who will hear and believe his simple message. Jesus' message is simple and for everyone, not just the elite. The most powerful verses for me are in chapter 12: 28-31. A scribe asked Jesus what is the most important commandment. Jesus answered with Deut. 6:4, to love God with all your heart, soul, and mind and with, Leviticus 19:18, to love your neighbor as yourself. These two commandments just about sum up all of Jesus' ministry and the Christian faith. When you really think about it, the message is simple. The message for most of us is not complicated, but it is hard. Hard in the sense that it's hard to put into practice. It's easy to be selfish; it's hard to be selfless. That, for me, is what Lent is about. It is about reflection and pushing away all the distractions that deter me from focusing in on this very simple message. Brian Moore is the husband of Sandra and father of Bailey and Summer. He has been attending St. Paul's since 2000.
But Jesus said, "Let her alone; why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. For you always have the poor with you, and 37
whenever you will, you can do good to them; but you will not always have me. She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burying. And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is preached in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her." (vv. 6-9) As Jesus made his way into Jerusalem, he stopped along the way for what would become the Last Supper. Greed and trickery surrounded Him and He knew it. Jesus knew one of the twelve disciples would betray Him. He knew He was going to die. Greed has a way of taking hold of us and consuming us at times. We might want more money, more power, more control. This is not what Jesus taught us though. He wanted us to love one another and love ourselves. A woman interrupts the feast and approaches Jesus with nothing but love and her most valued possession to pour upon Him. She anoints Jesus with a very expensive oil used to prepare a body for burial. The woman was not filled with greed, only love for the one who showed her kindness and mercy. Jesus praises her deed amidst everyone‘s criticism. Jesus wants us to help one another. He wants us to be kind to each other. Jesus was willing to die for our sins. He wants us to pour out our love just as he poured out his blood. Courtney Schlottman is the mother of Nicholas and Alexandra. She works as a substitute teacher in Coweta County and has been a member of St. Paul‘s for eight years.
―O‘ God of second chances, it‘s me again.‖ I have always loved this little prayer; it is so ME. How many times have I been, as Peter, certain that I will not deny, betray or fail Jesus? But I do over and over again and I am not contending with Roman soldiers or chief priests out to get me. In the simplest of ways I fail, as in setting aside time for daily prayer and 38
devotion, only to not follow through in very short order. Peter, of course, did have real fears that I don‘t have to deal with. He and the other disciples faced possible arrest, beatings…even death. And so, they deserted Jesus at his arrest just as Jesus had told them they would. ―The scriptures were fulfilled.‖ Their futures would, of course, be different from what they had foreseen. They would find that wonderful peace of God but not in ways expected. Peter, the Rock, would be crucified head down. But, what would I have done at that arrest scene, or do now, or even will do tomorrow? I don‘t have the threats around me that the disciples did. I have no excuses. Yet I fail. And so I rely on the God of second chances every day and pray that what I feel in my heart will show in my actions. I awake each day with God‘s forgiveness and the opportunity to begin anew, empowered by the Holy Spirit to face whatever is before me, born again you might say. Should I some day be met with the fears that the disciples had I can simply pray for the marvelous peace of God. As Peter learned and I might too: The peace of God, it is no peace, but strife
closed in the sod. Yet let us pray for but one thing – the marvelous peace of God
from my favorite hymn, #661 in our Hymnbook 1982. I find great comfort in this song. David Waldron has attended Saint Paul‘s since arriving in Newnan five years ago. He is a federal retiree with Air Force and Air Guard pilot time and 23 years as an Air Traffic Controller. At Saint Paul‘s he is involved with Christian Ed, the Men‘s Club, VBS, the Garden Guild and acts as head Verger.
The soldiers took Jesus into the palace (called Praetorium) and called together the entire brigade. They dressed him up in purple and put a crown plaited from a thornbush on his head. Then they began their mockery: "Bravo, King of the Jews!" They banged on his head with a club, spit on him, and knelt down in mock worship. After they had had their fun, they took off the purple cape and put his own clothes back on him. Then they marched out to nail him to the cross. (vv. 16-20, The Message) 39
One of the traditions in the church is to have the congregation shout ―crucify him‖ as the crowd does in the gospel. How does/would that make you feel? Perhaps one of the most troubling parts of today‘s passage is the sequence printed above. What part do you think it plays in the story? The church has a tradition of marking the hours that Jesus was on the cross (from noon until 3). In what way could you mark that time for yourself?
He then rolled a great stone to the door of the tomb and went away.
On that fateful Friday, Jesus died. His body was taken from the cross and carefully placed in a tomb. But what is the next part of the story? Not the story you learned in Sunday school, but the ‗normal‘ one. What is the next part as you expect it to be written? The stillness and silence of the tomb is broken by the sounds of insects and maggots that begin to cover the body. Over the course of several weeks, the process of decomposition transforms this body into an unrecognizable corpse. Over time, and without treatment, the corpse would be reduced to bone and dust. For the world on Holy Saturday, this was the vision of what Jesus had become. A body. The revolution was over because its leader had been executed. No more Jesus Movement. No more disciples. The End. We know the rest of the real story, of course. Pretending that we don‘t is dishonest and perhaps not the best use of our time. However, Holy Saturday gives us the opportunity to look at our faith in light of this moment in our history, and what it symbolizes for us. Confusion. Sorrow. Fear. Anxiety. It is the death of our beloved, questions of our own mortality, and fear of the unknown all rolled into one. In other words, it is the greatest test of our faith.
To continue in faith; to love as Jesus loved; to work for the Kingdom of God without the benefit of life after death is the true mark of faith. In death and in not-yet-resurrected, Jesus gives us the opportunity to love God without expecting anything in return. No promise of salvation or life after death. No promise of heaven or hell. No promise of certainty and protection. It is faith, naked and vulnerable. Faith that the endeavor of following Jesus was invaluable. Faith that The Way is a path that others can follow. Faith that our place in the conversation is to believe without certainty, facts, or objectivity. I don‘t have any answers for this day, just as I don‘t have any easy solutions for the world around us. But we do have faith and the promise of the Holy Spirit to inspire us and work through us. Really, what else do we need? Fr. Andrew (Drew) Downs is St. Paul‘s Assistant Rector. He, his wife, Rose, and daughter, Sophia, love it here and look forward to some warmer weather. Drew+ loves engaging pop culture, talking about the meaning of life, and has just discovered Ken Ken.
… the women went out and fled from the tomb … they were afraid.
… and he went away, wondering to himself what had happened.
While I know the Easter story well, and have available to me the collective wisdom and insight that 2000 years provides, I‘m afraid that I‘m just like the characters we read about in the Gospels when confronted with the reality of the empty tomb … scared, wondering what happened, what it all means and what to do next. As I sit and read about that first Easter morning, I wish I had a well-crafted visual and musical representation of those events that would grab hold of me and transport me to a place … some emotional and intellectual plane … where I knew with 100% assurance and clarity what the resurrection means for me. 41
Done well, that combination of the visual and the aural can penetrate us so deeply that it actually serves as a catalyst for our understanding of what we‘re watching and binds us emotionally to the event that is being portrayed. Think of the stunning images from Schindler‘s List combined with the haunting music composed by John Williams, or of the artful use of Samuel Barber‘s ―Adagio for Strings‖ throughout the movie Platoon. That‘s what I need as I sit and read and think about that first Easter morning. But there is no soundtrack, no musical Sherpa, to help me navigate through my feelings and shape my response to this day, the day when we discover that the tomb is empty. All I can do is center myself and begin to look beyond what immediately leaps out at me from the Easter texts, that Jesus‘ followers were afraid and confused, and see if there is something else there. So I did just that and I finally found it, that something that I‘ve never really seen or thought of before. And that is that the tomb wasn‘t really empty. The tomb was full of energy that day and it resonated with a symphony of voices, both temporal and heavenly. The women, the disciples, heavenly angels and Jesus himself were there. Some were afraid and wept. Some spoke words of disbelief. Angels proclaimed the good news of the resurrection and Jesus spoke words of instruction and calm. I can research sermons and theologians and come up with any number of perspectives on what the resurrection means. I suspect that if we asked each member of St. Paul‘s that question, we‘d get various, and at times conflicting, interpretations. It is an important question that deserves our attention. But today, right now, I find comfort in the fact that the tomb wasn‘t really empty 42
that first Easter morning, but rather that it was a place where energy and chaos and drama resided. You see, that day at the tomb the sounds and emotions of life, our lives, were found. And amidst that chaos we find that we are not alone, that Jesus and the angels have not abandoned us, but have been with us the whole time. And for that, all I can say is â€•thanks be to God.â€– Brian Wallace is the husband of Carrie and the father of Whitney, six, and Bryce, three.