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inner stillness: when everything is all the same to you, and you live for the day, and you are not dreaming and waiting
John R. Harrison, Pastor
Pomme de Terre United Methodist Church
Hermitage, Missouri
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Some Books I'm
Trying to Read
Seeds of Sensitivity: Deepening Your Spiritual Life by Robert J. Wicks

May I Have This Dance?
by Joyce Rupp

Jesus, the Gift of Love,
by Jean Vanier

Communion, Community, Commonweal: Readings for Spiritual Leadership by John S. Mogabgab

The Cloud of Unknowing,
edited by William Johnston

The Ascent of a Leader,
by Bill Thrall, Bruce McNicol, and Ken McElrath

Handbook for the Soul,
by Richard Carlson and Benjamin Shield

Loyalty to God: The Apostles' Creed in Life and Liturgy,
by Theodore W. Jennings, Jr.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008
Ash Wednesday
Old Testament Reading:  Amos 5:6-15
"They hate the one who reproves in the gate, and they abhor the one who speaks the truth."  We don't much like hearing bad news.  And we can't take criticism.  After all, how could we ever do anything wrong?  We build lives on deceit.  Indeed, it sometimes seems that there are those who cannot live without deceit.  But the prophet is quite clear:  "Seek good and not evil, that you may live; and so the Lord, the God of hosts, will be with you."  There are many warnings of punishment in this text.  But we must remember that the punishments were often a long time in coming, and folks thought they could ignore the threats because they were not imminent.
Epistle Reading:  Hebrews 12:1-14
"...since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses..."  We like to think that that cloud of witnesses is somebody else at some other time.  We too often fail to realize that we are part of a cloud of witnesses in our own time.  Our lives, for better or for worse, witness to our values and to the times in which we live.  But we should be hearing a pep talk in this passage:  "...let us lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us..."   We are reminded that we have a model in Jesus, "who endured ...hostility against himself from sinners."
Gospel Reading:  Luke 18:9-14
This is the story of two men praying.  One has come to God to brag on himself and all that he has done for God, while finding fault with others:  thieves, rogues, adulterers, and tax collectors  The other man--a tax collector--has nothing to brag about.  All he can ask is "God, be merciful to me, a sinner!"  God doesn't have much use for our bragging.  What can we tell God that God doesn't already know?  So, we might just as well spend our time asking God for God's forgiveness.  Jesus is clear:  "...all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted."   

Posted by John at 12:01 AM CST
Monday, April 3, 2006

Daniel 13:1-9, 15-17, 19-30, 33-62

John 8:1-11

Alexander Schmemann has written that, “Instead of asking fundamental questions--'What is fasting?' or 'What is Lent?'--we satisfy ourselves with lenten symbolism.

“In church magazines and bulletins appear recipes for 'delicious lenten dishes,' and a parish might even raise some additional money by means of a well-advertised 'tasty lenten dinner.'

“So much in our churches is explained symbolically as interesting, colorful, and amusing customs and traditions, as something which connects us not so much with God and a new life in God but with the past and the customs of our ancestors, that it becomes increasingly difficult to discern behind this religious folklore the utter seriousness of religion.

“Let me stress that there is nothing wrong in the various customs themselves. When they appeared they were the means and the expressions of a society taking religion seriously; they were not symbols, but life itself.

“What happened, however, was that as life changed and became less and less shaped by religion in its totality, a few customs survived as symbols of a way of life no longer lived.

“And what survived was that which on the one hand is most colorful and on the other hand the least difficult.

“The spiritual danger here is that little by little one begins to understand religion itself as a system of symbols and customs rather than to understand the latter as a challenge to spiritual renewal and effort.

“More effort goes into preparing lenten dishes or Easter baskets than into fasting and participation in the spiritual reality of Easter.

“This means that as long as customs and traditions are not connected again with the total religious world view which produced them, as long as symbols are not taken seriously, the church will remain disconnected from life and have no power over life.

"Instead of symbolizing our 'rich heritage,' we must start integrating it into our real life.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote:

“It is not some religious act which makes a Christian what he or she is, but participation in the suffering of God in the life of the world. This is metanoia. This being caught up into the messianic suffering of God in Jesus Christ takes a variety of forms in the New Testament.

“It appears in the call to discipleship, in Jesus' table fellowship with sinners, in conversions in the narrower sense of the word, in the act of the woman who was a sinner, an act which she performed without any specific confession of sin, in the healing of the sick, in Jesus' acceptance of children.

“The centurion of Capernaum (who does not make any confession of sin) is held up by Jesus as a model of faith. There is nothing of religious asceticism here. The religious act is always something partial; faith is always something whole, an act involving the whole life.

"Jesus does not call us to a new religion but to a new life.”

Posted by John at 12:01 AM CDT
Updated: Thursday, February 15, 2007 1:58 AM CST
Saturday, April 1, 2006

Jeremiah 11:18-20

John 7:40-53

Francis Martin writes that,

“Once again Jeremiah's words open for us some secrets of the soul of Jesus. God has made known to Jeremiah the plans of his enemies.

“Let us try to enter into the sacramental power of his prayer in reaction to the betrayal and suffering being prepared for him. There we can see, even if only imperfectly, a foreshadowing of the suffering of Jesus, who knew what awaited him.

“Jesus could see himself as a lamb being led to the slaughter, and this rejection and lack of love, this hatred of the light, filled him with great sadness.

“Far more than Jeremiah, Jesus knew how much those who were plotting his death ran the risk of depriving themselves of the eternal life he came to restore to humanity. His sadness was a human sadness.

"As St. Jerome expresses it: 'Our Lord, to prove the truth of the manhood he had assumed, experiences real sadness.'

“To appreciate this sadness is to be purified of sin and to grow in likeness to Jesus, who has promised, in the fourth verse of the fifth chapter of Matthew: 'Blessed are they who mourn, they shall be consoled.'

“There are three things to bear in mind when considering Jeremiah's prayer for justice. First, Jeremiah knows that God is just, he is the Just Judge, and he will punish those who plot murder and carry it out.

“Secondly, Jeremiah sees that his death will mean that the word of God entrusted to him, which has caused him so much suffering, will no longer be available to the people whom he loves so much. Thirdly, in other places Jeremiah prays for his enemies.

“In the eleventh verse of the fifteenth chapter we read, 'I swear, O Lord, that I have served you for their good, I have interceded with you in time of trouble and misfortune: you know I have.'

“This third point teaches that a prayer for justice is not always a prayer of anger and revenge. The proof of this particular kind of justice can be seen in the prayer of those slain for their Christian faith.

“In the tenth verse of the sixth chapter of Revelation, we read, 'O Lord, holy and true, how long will you not judge and avenge our blood on the inhabitants of the earth?'

“This too is not a prayer for personal satisfaction at seeing one's persecutors punished, but a plea that God manifest his justice as he sees fit.

“Again, we read after the parable of the insistent widow who finally prevails upon the unjust judge, in the seventh and eighth verses of the eighteenth chapter of Luke: 'Will not God obtain the rights of his chosen ones who cry out to him by day and night?

'Will he delay long over them? I tell you, he will give them justice soon enough. But when the Son of Man comes will he find faith [prayer and an understanding of God's justice] on the earth?'

“Justice is not served by making light of wrongdoing, but it is brought to a divine perfection in forgiveness. The proof of this principle of God's justice is made manifest in the cross of Christ.”

Posted by John at 12:01 AM CST
Friday, March 31, 2006

Wisdom 2:1, 12-22

John 7:1-2, 10, 25-30

Francis Martin writes,

“There is a text in the Gospel of John that summarizes well what the readings of today's liturgy are teaching us.

“It is the nineteenth through the twenty-first verses of the third chapter: 'This is the judgment: the light has come into the world and men loved the darkness rather than the light, for their works were evil.

'For everyone carrying out evil hates the light, and does not come to the light, so that his works be not exposed. The one doing the truth comes to the light so that his works be manifest because they have been done in God.'

“Darkness hates the light, and when our deeds are dark we do everything we can to stay away from the light and even to extinguish the light itself. The words of the evildoers in the Book of Wisdom, which we hear today, give voice to this principle.

"They find the 'just one' unbearable because his very life as well as his words are an affront to them. This comes to such a pass that they decide to extinguish the light itself.

“It is with great spiritual insight therefore that St. Matthew's Gospel expresses the insults at the cross in such a way that we see, in the allusion to the Wisdom text, the same opposition to light.

"In both texts it is the same principle at work; and we read in the forty-third verse of the twenty-seventh chapter of Matthew: 'He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he desires him; for he said, “I am the Son of God.”'

“Twice in the gospel text we read that 'the Jews' were 'trying to kill' Jesus, and once that 'they tried to arrest him.' This is the same opposition to the just one described for us in the Book of Wisdom.

“However, at the very center of the gospel passage is a debate among the inhabitants of Jerusalem concerning where Jesus comes from: he cannot be the Messiah because they know his origins. Jesus responds with another affirmation of his relation to God.

“It is as if Jesus were saying, 'You know something of my human origins, but my real identity and my real origin are hidden from you. I am from God, the true One, I am one with him and yet he is my Origin.

“You do not know this because you too resist the light by which it is revealed. If you knew this you would understand the true significance of my death for you.'

“These words are addressed to us. Do we ourselves really know who Jesus is? Do we understand the death of him who from all eternity is equal to God and proceeds from him?

“In this awareness, which is a gift of the Holy Spirit, we find the true meaning of our own life, and we come to an intimacy with Jesus, the Son of God.”

Posted by John at 12:01 AM CST
Thursday, March 30, 2006

Exodus 32:7-14

John 5:31-47

Francis Martin writes,

“In the first reading today from the Book of Exodus, we understand that Moses is a foreshadowing of Christ. In the gospel Jesus appeals to Moses as a witness to himself, while the Exodus passage shows us Moses as an intercessor.

“While he was on the mountain with God receiving the law that was to form God's people, the people were on the plain worshipping the golden calf and thus breaking the very first and most fundamental commandment, from the third verse of the twentieth chapter of Exodus: 'You shall have no other gods besides me.'

“God tells Moses to 'leave him alone' so that he can destroy the people who have sinned. But Moses knows what God is really saying.

“Later, through the mouth of Ezekiel, God says, in the thirtieth verse of the twenty-second chapter: 'And I sought for a man among them who should build up the wall and stand in the breach before me for the land, that I should not destroy it; but I found none.'

"Here God does find one who, like Christ, will stand in the breach and save the people.

“Parents should intercede for their children; pastors should intercede for their people; teachers should intercede for their students; everyone should intercede for the world by the power of the cross of Christ.

“We should stand in the breach, like Moses and like Jesus, as an instrument of salvation for the people close to us.

“To the Jews who took exception to Jesus' calling himself God's Son and making himself equal to God, Jesus first responded, as we heard yesterday, with a description of his relation to God.

“Today the gospel gives us the second part of that response, namely Jesus' appeal to witnesses.

"In answer to a supposed objection that in describing his relation to God Jesus is testifying on his own behalf, he invokes four witnesses: John the Baptist, the works God gave him to accomplish, God himself, and the Scriptures, especially the Law of Moses.

“Testimony evokes belief or disbelief, yet believing is part of the human condition.

“It is important that we receive and yield to the testimony offered in regard to the divine nature of Jesus, since the heart of our faith is the acknowledgment that 'Jesus is Lord.'

“The witness of the Baptist is the witness of the last prophet of the Old Testament, a man sent by God who can tell us that Jesus has been sent by God.

“Jesus is still performing works; in fact, he tells us, in the eleventh verse of the fourteenth chapter of the gospel according to John, 'Believe me: I am in the Father and the Father in me. If not, believe because of the works.'

“The testimony of the Father is constant. Through the Holy Spirit he is always speaking to our conscience, leading us to yield more profoundly to the Truth that is Jesus: 'No one comes to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.'”

Posted by John at 11:41 AM CST

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