Second Sunday After Epiphany 2019: The Gospel Passage – Mothers and Sons – the gift they are to each other

On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” (John 2:1 – 5)

It is my belief that in order to understand these first few verses of this passage, you have to have a visual, or at least a picture in your mind of what is going on. In short, Jesus’ mother is giving him “the look.” That “look” that mothers have when they are silently telling their children to shape up and fly right. Don’t think that because Jesus was/is divine he was immune to the look, or that his mother never used that persuasive device technique on him. Jesus may have protested that it was not the correct time, but when Jesus’ mother instructs the servants to do as Jesus tells them, and the next verse talks about what things Jesus used that were already there, you know “the look” worked.

“Now standing there were six stone water jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to them, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. He said to them, “Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward.” So they took it.” (Verses 6 – 8)

I don’t know what Jesus reason was that he did not want to show his “divine hand’ just yet. Maybe it was too public a place or he was concerned that the “miracle” that was needed in this situation was appropriate. But it is a mote point in any case; his mother convinced him that the time was here and now.

“When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward called the bridegroom and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now.” (Verses 9 – 10)

I like it that at first it was unknown where the good wine came from. Consider, beloved reader, Jesus could have created inferior wine or mediocre wine, and no one would have thought twice. But he created superior wine, most excellent wine. Why I wonder? Was it because he could do no less? Or was it because he knew his mother expected the best out of him?

“Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.” (Verse 11)

Jesus “revealed his glory” not because the Lord God instructed him to, or that the need was life threatening, or because it revealed an aspect of the Divine. No, Jesus did it because his mother asked him to. Mary I am sure was well aware (by this time) that Jesus was the Son of the Divine. And that he had his own heaven-given agenda. But he was also her son. She had nurtured him and guided, and had a strong hand in creating who he was as a man. How do I know this? The Lord God would not have picked her out if she was not suited to this role.

Each family member in families has a special type of relationship within the family group; fathers and sons, fathers and daughters, mothers and daughters, mothers and sons, parents/spouses, and siblings one to another. In choosing my title I did not mean to suggest that mothers and sons have a unique relationship set apart from the rest of the family. Each family member is a gift to the other family members. That is also true in the family of God, so please remember that. However this story gives us a unique view of Jesus and his mother. It functions on more than one level. And it is just a nice heartwarming story.

Beloved reader, may you find your home in the family of God. Selah!

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Second Sunday After Epiphany 2019: The Epistles Passage – Being inspired and gifted by the Divine Lord God

Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed. You know that when you were pagans, you were enticed and led astray to idols that could not speak. Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking by the Spirit of God ever says “Let Jesus be cursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except by the Holy Spirit.” (I Corinthians 12:1 – 3)

Words can have power – when spoken from the heart. It is easy to speak any number of words, phrases, sentences, paragraphs etc when you are not speaking with meaning or intent but are merely “flapping your gums”! The writer of I Corinthians wants his readers to understand that. I hope you do too, beloved reader. Think of all the people you know, beloved reader, who speak only to hear the sound of their own voice. Do you sincerely believe that they say? On the important matters of life then, only listen to those who speak sincerely and from their heart and soul.

“Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone.
To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the discernment of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses.” (Verses 4 – 11 [Emphasis mine])

I really need not say more. Just as in the first section the writer of I Corinthians cautioned his readers to discern who was able to say what in praise or curse of Jesus the Christ, so too the gifts of the Spirit are for everyone’s good; and not for the adoration and adulation of the spiritual “performer”. Those who are authentic in the Spirit use their gifts for the uplifting and aid of others. Those who do it for the “wow” factor may not be sincere in the practice.

In the youth group I was a part of we had several natural leaders, those of our age group that we looked up to and wished to emulate. Their commit to their faith and to those they lead was inspiring. The most inspirational though was when two of them made a mistake and confessed their mistake publicly to our group. Their honesty and transparency actually set a better example then the “saintliness” that they tried to portray to the younger members of the group. I wish I could tell them how their courage in the face of “sin” meant to me. I believe that even in their supposedly “sinful state” they had a great lesson to teach.

May you beloved reader have people within your faith circle that show forth the best gifts and attributes of authentic believers, and may they teach you a great deal. Selah!

First Sunday After Christmas Day 2018: Epistle Passage – Acting like members of God’s family

As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” (Colossians 3:12 – 14)

Everyone has good days and bad days. Yesterday (that is, the day before I am writing this) was a bad day for me. Just in a grumpy mood. The strange thing is, no one can tell when I am in a “bad” mood. I am told by others, my “bad mood” days look like other people’s regular days. My philosophy is, just because for some reason I am not in good spirits doesn’t mean I can, should, or will dampen other people’s good spirits. Now when asked, I will admit I am in a bad mood. And I can’t remember anyone saying, “I can tell.” I am not bragging; what I am doing is explaining that as Christians our exterior should reflect (as close as possible) the image and example of Jesus Christ.

“And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Verses 15 – 17)

You think we can be less than what Paul is extolling and exhorting his audience (which, beloved reader is us now) to be just because we are having a “bad day”! No, uh-uh, ain’t happening! You don’t have to be cheerful each day; but your woes and problems don’t need to be anyone else’s, and certainly do not need to be piled on someone else.

I was going to see that we need to act like loving, caring family members. But I have seen some families, and the care isn’t there! I have an agreement with each of my children; we do not do the “screaming me-mes.” That means we never say or act like our own personal agenda is more important than the other person’s. If there are problems, we work through it together, each person stating with care and honesty what the situation looks like for them and what they are feeling. Through listening and working together we resolve the problems that face us. We are not perfect – no, not perfect at all. We are a family with tight bonds though, and a deep sense of being there for one another.

I hope and pray, beloved reader, you are part of such a family; a family of origin, a family through marriage, or in a circle of faith family. And may you hold each other with care, compassion, and mutual respect. Selah!

First Sunday After Christmas Day 2018: Old Testament Passage – Moms and Dads

Samuel was ministering before the LORD, a boy wearing a linen ephod. His mother used to make for him a little robe and take it to him each year, when she went up with her husband to offer the yearly sacrifice. Then Eli would bless Elkanah and his wife, and say, “May the LORD repay you with children by this woman for the gift that she made to the LORD”; and then they would return to their home. . . . . Now the boy Samuel continued to grow both in stature and in favor with the LORD and with the people.” (1 Samuel 2:18-20, 26)

Every year a feel a little bit sad that the Christmas season, according to the Revised Common Lectionary, quickly moves into the lectionary year – with nary a look back . . . mostly. Okay, that was a weird sentence, but I think you (mostly) know what I mean. Here we are just a few days past Christmas and we are transported from the Christmas event to other considerations. That will become more clear as this week of scripture passages unfolds.

There is a slight backward glance however in this passage from Samuel, if one looks at it in a certain way. Jesus’ mother Mary was a caring and devoted mother – if she wasn’t/was not destined to be, she would not have been chosen by the Divine. Samuel’s mother was also devoted to her son, Samuel. Do not think, beloved reader, that her heart did not ache being apart from him most of the year. She stands in good stead with other mothers in the bible; John’s mother most easily and most recently comes to mind. Each of the biblical figures that we look up to had strong and devoted mothers.

They had good fathers too. As I made mention and note of, Jesus’ earthly father was of royal lineage. John’s father was a priest in the temple. And I am pretty sure (although it is not mentioned) that Samuel’s father also missed his son who was born to his favored wife.

So even if the nativity is behind us, there is still evidence of strong families. That is good to keep in mind. Also to keep in mind is that with the birth of Jesus the family of God is set in motion. That is very good to keep in mind. Christmas is one of the seasons that has strong emphasis and a firm setting in families. May you, beloved reader, relish your family connects; and include in that the family of God! Selah!

Season of Advent 2018 Year C – Fourth Sunday: The Old Testament Passage – Keeping hope and faith kindled

But you, O Bethlehem of Ephrathah, who are one of the little clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to rule in Israel, whose origin is from of old, from ancient days.” (Micah 5:2)

I like little towns. I did most of my formative growing up years in a little town. I like thinking that the most unlikely of things can come from the most unlikely of places. Give me the underdog, the forgotten and pushed aside. And I will champion it with all that I have.

“Therefore he shall give them up until the time when she who is in labor has brought forth; then the rest of his kindred shall return to the people of Israel.” (Verse 3)

Not only, says the writer of Micah, will the unexpected come from a small and insignificant place but it will seem like forever until the expected comes forth. This reminds me of Jesus’ prophecies that many things will come to pass before the judgment day. Often in the past two hundred years (maybe more) there have been predictions and prophecies that the end times are near at hand. The “signs” and “portents” seemed to point to it. But the writer of Micah says it will seem like the Divine has given up the called and chosen people, so long will it be until the unexpected comes forth.

Now I do not think the “she” is a specific or designated woman, but rather the analogy of the birthing of a child taking so long and being so arduous. Of course, some commentators are quite attached to the notion that their hindsight of how the Messiah was conceived and born should attributed and given to the prophets as foresight. I am really pretty persistent in my feeling that there is something not quite right in that.

And he shall stand and feed his flock in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God. And they shall live secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth; and he shall be the one of peace.” (Verses 4 – 5a)

What do you tell a people who are yearning for hope and shaking with uncertainty? You tell them that things will get better. That hope may not be seen now, or the soon after now; but in the time that is to come, there will be reason for hope. That past glories may have become dust but out of the dust will come greatness again. And that in the smallest and most forgotten places may be the very place that newness will spring forth. Was the writer of Micah inspired and given foreknowledge? I do not know. I am not in the business of squashing hope nor nay saying that improbable predictions will not come true.

It is nice to think that there are still people who nurture hope and hear the whispers of the Divine telling them to spread the good news. I strongly believe, however, that good news and messages of hope do not have to hitch themselves to blazing once in a lifetime events. Hope is kindled and nurtured best in peaceful corners of the heart and soul, warming the spirit and keeping one serene and at peace. I grew up in a small town where friendship, camaraderie, and faith got one through the toughest of times. I hope and prayer, beloved reader, that you have such places and people. Shalom!

Season of Advent 2018 Year C – Second Sunday: The Epistle Passage – A Corporate Christian Identity

I thank my God every time I remember you, constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you, because of your sharing in the gospel from the first day until now.
I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:3 – 6)

Paul did not usually write to individuals – well, he wrote to Timothy. But that letter was much more of a “behind the scenes” Paul writing to a fellow minister and contemporary as opposed to writing to a circle of believers. So the “you” in this passage is the plural “you” – which is denoted by the “all of you” comment, as well as the “among you” comment. Now, in some letters Paul will take an individual to task, but still the letter is to a group and not an individual. Paul will also sent greetings to an individual but asks the group as a whole to pass on his greeting.

“It is right for me to think this way about all of you, because you hold me in your heart, for all of you share in God’s grace with me, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. For God is my witness, how I long for all of you with the compassion of Christ Jesus. And this is my prayer, that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight to help you to determine what is best, so that in the day of Christ you may be pure and blameless, having produced the harvest of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God.” (Verses 7 – 11)

Paul also brags about some faith circles that have shown care and compassion – as a group – to other faith circles. In fact Paul at one point motivates one faith circle by bragging about another, exhorting each gathering of believers to emulate the other. Paul did not set out to convert individuals one by one, but sought to set up churches that would support and encourage each other. Then he sent group letters to those churches, continuing to give guidance and discipline to the corporate group. In reality, when Paul talks about living an authentic Christian life, he is talking about living it out in a group context. Remember too that the early churches supported each other, each member contributing to the group as a whole so no one had want or need. The early church did not have any individual (that is, single person) consciousness. The early Christian churches were very much interdependent. And if that reminds you of the Jewish faith, there might be good reason!

I promise you however, beloved reader, we will look at individual faith. But again here, we seem to be looking at scripture with an eye towards a group mentality. Revel in the fellowship of others, and support each other in the journey through this world. Selah!

Season After Pentecost (Proper 27[32]) – The Psalm Passage: Praise the providing Lord!

Praise the LORD! Praise the LORD, O my soul!
I will praise the LORD as long as I live; I will sing praises to my God all my life long.” (Psalms 146:1 – 2)

I have a dilemma, beloved reader. The psalm for the passage from the Old Testament that I commented on is the same one from last week – some psalms are good enough to use several times. And this is a good one, and could fit into my theme for the week of the Divine providing and our obligation to respond to the Divine’s providence and grace. And the other psalm – the one for the Old Testament passage from the book of Ruth – that declined to use has certain aspects to it that does not work well for me.

Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the LORD guards the city, the guard keeps watch in vain. It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives sleep to his beloved.” (Psalm 127:1 – 2)

The first two verses are good. I can attest to the fact that the majority of time I sleep well, regardless of what stress and tension I have in my life. Yes, at times I do suffered from fractured and unrest-full sleep. And if you know me personally, beloved reader, I may seem often fatigued. But rarely is it because of “the bread of anxious toil”. Even now, when I probably have the most stress so far in my life, it is not fractured my sleep much. So the first two verses are good. The other three – that is a different story.

“Sons are indeed a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the sons of one’s youth. Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them. He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.” (Verses 3)

These verse do go well with the Old Testament passage where Ruth gives Boaz a son and Naomi a grandson. It it does under gird my statements of last week that the psalms passage in the RCL are strongly tied to the Old Testament passages. In fact, it is not hard to find common themes amongst the four types of scripture each week. But what to do with the exultation for a “quiver” of sons? I would be better of seeking praise passages from last week.

Happy are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD their God, who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them; who keeps faith forever; who executes justice for the oppressed; who gives food to the hungry. The LORD sets the prisoners free; the LORD opens the eyes of the blind. The LORD lifts up those who are bowed down; the LORD loves the righteous. The LORD watches over the strangers; he upholds the orphan and the widow, but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin. The LORD will reign forever, your God, O Zion, for all generations. Praise the LORD!” (Psalm 146: 5 – 10)

Psalm 127 is pretty Old Testament-thinking, having the assurance of strong healthy burly sons having your back when you face down your enemy. Psalm 146 is more New Testament thinking, depending on the Lord God to have your back and support you. And really, beloved reader, I am more of a New Testament sort of person. Now, if Psalm 127 could be expanded to include daughters, husbands, friends, parents, and the support network that I have relied – and if the enemy is all manner of situations I have come up against, then I would weigh the two psalm passages equally.

May you, beloved reader, praise the Lord for all of the helps and supports that are in your life! Selah!