Archive for the ‘4th Sunday’ Category

We are all Nicodemus 3-14-2021

Friday, March 12th, 2021

Nicodemus is one of us. This Jesus has struck a nerve in this
teacher and “ruler” of the Jewish establishment. He has questions – but,
given his position, he has to stay under the radar, so he comes to meet
Jesus privately, late at night.
Jesus talks about God in ways that Nicodemus has never thought
of: a God of compassion rather than a God of order and law; a God of
forgiveness rather than a God of condemnation; a God of light who
illuminates the darkness; a God who constantly calls us back to him; a
God who is Father of all.
Nicodemus’ reaction to all of this is not recorded – but something
clicks. When the Jewish council plots to condemn Jesus, Nicodemus
will protest and defend Jesus; on Good Friday, when the body of Jesus is
taken down from the cross, Nicodemus will be there, with myrrh and
aloes (not an inexpensive contribution) to bury Jesus.
Slowly, Nicodemus moves from the edge of faith to the center
where the Spirit of God dwells. For Nicodemus, Jesus’ image of God is no longer just an ideal but a powerful sign of compassion and mercy
dwelling in our midst.
Nicodemus struggles with Jesus – as we all do. But he possesses
the grace of an open heart and mind and so comes to find God. He seeks
God – and finds God. And so can we.
We are all Nicodemus: We struggle to make sense of Jesus; we
wrestle with trying to reconcile his Gospel with the demands of our
world. In his questioning and confusion, in his fears and doubts,
Nicodemus is welcomed by Jesus with understanding and compassion.
Like Nicodemus, we are all seekers and Christ has assured us of his
company on our journey; like Nicodemus, we find ourselves coming to
Jesus in the middle of our darkest nights, seeking hope and consolation,
direction and comfort – and Jesus neither rejects us nor admonishes us,
but welcomes us. We discover the God that Nicodemus discovers: a
God of light who transforms our despair into hope; a God of wisdom
who enables us to re-create our Good Friday deaths into Easter
resurrections; a God of compassion who heals our broken spirits into hearts made whole. We are all Nicodemus. Amen

Leave Us Alone 1-31-2021

Sunday, January 31st, 2021

As Jesus was preaching in the synagogue at Capernaum, a
poor crazy man created a scene. He cried out, “What do you want
with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us?” In
effect what the man was saying was, “Leave me alone! I’m no
good. I’m evil. I’m not worthy of love or care.”
It’s a cry we hear more than once in the Gospel from people
who believed they were possessed by devils. “Don’t meddle with
us. Leave us alone. Don’t try to change us”. They recognized that
change is painful. Whether they were actually possessed by devils
we do not know. But what we do know is that they were sick,
broken, isolated, unloved people, who had no dignity and whose
self-worth was nil.
There are many such people in our world today – in our
prisons, in our psychiatric hospitals, and on the street. Any of us
can be caught in some desperate situation. At least the man in the
synagogue didn’t try to hide how he was. He came to Jesus. Jesus wasn’t put off by his desperate cry. In the cry, “Leave me alone!”
Jesus heard a cry for help. And he cured him. People find it hard
to admit that they can’t manage their problems. Pride tells them: I
should be able to handle my own problems. Recognition that there
is a problem is the first step towards rehabilitation. The
acknowledgement of our weakness and need would open the way
to recovery. It’s the courageous ones that ask for help.
Psychologists tell us that sometimes people don’t really want
to be cured. Why is this? Because a cure can be painful – it
involves a process which requires a lot of change, and all change is
painful. The idea of recovery can even be terrifying.
Often we are afraid to talk about something that is hurting us.
We keep it locked up inside us where it festers. We may not say,
“Leave me alone”, but that is what it amounts to: “You wouldn’t
know, you couldn’t possibly understand.” Unvoiced suffering is
more harrowing than suffering that cries aloud.
Shortly after the birth of her son a young mother discovered that he was blind. She called her family together and said, “I don’t want my child to know that he is blind.” She insisted that from
that point on everyone should avoid using words such as ‘light’,
‘color’, and ‘sight’. The child grew up believing that he was like
everyone else until one day a strange girl jumped over the garden
wall and used all the forbidden words.
The story symbolizes much of our behavior. Many of us
seek to hide what is strange and painful, and to act as if things are
normal. We act as if we had no problems, no abnormalities, no
pains, no wounds, and no failures. The urge to hide is very
powerful, and can be more harmful than what it tries to conceal.
I close, when we have the courage to face our problems, new
creative energies became available to us. Fear, shame, and guilt
often make us stay in isolation. It is by showing our wounds, by
allowing ourselves to touch and be touched that we are healed. It
is in our brokenness, our woundedness, that God the Holy can heal
us – if we give God a chance. Will we give God a chance?

The Gift of “Long Walk” 12-20-2020

Saturday, December 19th, 2020

One Christmas, a boy in an African village gave his teacher an
exquisite seashell as a gift. He had walked many miles to find it, to a
special bay, the only place such shells could be found. The teacher was
quite moved by the boy’s gift: “What a beautiful shell. You must have
walked many miles for it. I am deeply grateful for your gift”, the teacher
said.
“Teacher”, the boy said, “long walk part of gift”
Often the most beautiful gifts we give are not the seashells, but the
“long walk” of forgiveness, empathy, love, and understanding.
Especially at this busy time of the year, we can be overcome with the
shopping, the mailing, the addressing, and the decorating. Remember
that “long walk” is as much a part of the love we give and receive as the
destination, that the best Christmas presents are those of the heart and
spirit.