Archive for the ‘Lent’ Category

Transfiguration – A Big Word 2-25-24

Friday, February 23rd, 2024

Michelle and her mother had made the trip to the hospital
many times. For the past two years the five-year-old had been receiving
treatment for acute lymphoblastic leukemia – and the treatments had
been a success. But today’s mission was to remove the port used to
inject medications and draw blood.
As they waited, Michelle wrapped her arms around herself and
began to rock. Soon Dr. Jardine, the anesthesiologist, entered the room.
He asked Michelle’s mother some questions, while little Michelle
anxiously rocked faster and faster.
As Dr. Jardine was scribbling notes, he watched Michelle try to
rock away her fears. Dr. Jardine put down his pen and sat down on the
bed next to the frightened little girl. “Say, Michelle, would you rather
have gas, with no needles? I’ll let you pick your favorite flavor.”
Michelle nodded and stopped rocking. She chose the bubble-gum
flavor. Dr. Jardine then asked her what her favorite bedtime story was.
After placing the bubble-gum mask on her face, Dr. Jardine leaned down
and whispered. “Once there were three bears: Papa Bear, Mama Bear
and a beautiful small bear named Michelle.” And the little girl drifted
off with a smile and transformed the last, dreaded procedure into a
gentle triumph.
The figure of the transfigured Christ on Mount Tabor calls us to the
Lenten work of transfiguration – to transform the fear, sadness and
despair around us into the compassion, forgiveness and hope of Easter.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu has said that “God places us in the world as
God’s fellow workers – agents of transfiguration. We work with God so
that injustice is transfigured into justice, so that there will be more
compassion and caring, so that there will be more laughter and joy, so
that there will be more togetherness in God’s world.”
A group of computer salesmen from Milwaukee went to a regional
sales convention in Chicago. They assured their wives that they would
be home in plenty of time for dinner. But with one thing or another the
meeting ran overtime so the men had to race to the station. As they ran
through the terminal, one man inadvertently kicked over a table
supporting a basket of apples. Without stopping, they all reached the
train and boarded it with a sigh of relief. All but one. He paused. He
waved goodbye to his companions and returned to the terminal. The
ten-year-old boy selling apples was blind.
The salesman gathered up the apples and noticed that several of
them were bruised. He reached into his wallet and said to the boy,
“Here, please take this ten dollars for the damage we did. I hope it
didn’t spoil your day.” As he started to walk away the bewildered boy
called after him, “Are you Jesus?” He stopped in his tracks. And he
The work of Lent is to transform the fear, sadness, and despair
around us into the compassion, forgiveness and hope of Easter.
“Lord, there is a lot of work left to be done. Please help us to do
our part now.” Amen.

First Sunday of Lent 2-18-24

Tuesday, February 13th, 2024

On T.V. today, we see a lot of political debates. Reporters
usually interview the winners and losers. To the losers, the
reporters often ask very blunt and often irritating questions.
I would like to take you to one of those interviews—except
the participants are not politicians.
They are Jesus and the Devil. The Devil, like in the gospel,
has just lost very badly in his debate with Jesus over such things as
power, prestige, values. I believe it would go like this—let’s
“Mr. Devil – How are you feeling after the debate?”
“Terrible, lousy – how would you feel if you just got your _____
kicked by Jesus?
“Do you plan on a rematch — A second debate?”
“You can count on it, but next time, I am going to develop a
new strategy, a new plan of attack! I’ll tell you one thing, Mr.
Reporter, the next time I won’t be wearing a red outfit with horns
and a tail. That outfit is too obvious. I must come up with some
new outfits, with some new temptations, and remember this—you
can count on one thing—I am not going away!” shouted the Devil.
Till the day we die, we are going to be tempted to do or say
things that hurt ourselves—hurt others—and damage our
relationship with God. We are going to wrestle on a regular basis
with how to keep things like food, work, relationships, sex, money,
computers, sports, the list goes on—how do I keep them in a
healthy perspective and not abuse them, not allow them to get out
of balance.
In these areas of our life and in many others, we are gong to
be under attack. We are in a Giant Tug of War with Mr. Devil.
It’s OK to tell little lies, your wife will never find out.
Cheating in school doesn’t hurt anyone. You don’t need God, look
out for number 1. Church is for hypocrites—you’re a virgin—
everyone does it—a couple of pills won’t hurt at all—come on—
just one drink. “A Tug of War”.
The Good News is that we are not in this “Tug of War”
alone. Our God has said over and over—I am with you. It won’t
be easy, but no matter how dark it gets—you are not alone. I want
to be your partner!
In closing, I have one final and very important point to make.
What happens when we blow it, when we give into
temptations that get us into trouble, cause us to sin, leave us with a
lot of guilt?
Do we pretend like it’s no big deal? I hope not.
Do we beat ourselves up over and over again with tons of
unhealthy guilt? I hope not.
Or, do we take responsibility for our actions—stop blaming
other people, sincerely ask for forgiveness and healing and move
on trusting in a God of second chances? A God who says, start
over – try again. I hope so.
“I am not going away”, proclaims the Devil.
“I am with you always, through it all”, shouts the Lord of
Hope. “Don’t forget, we will win the battle together—Believe it!”

The Raising of Lazarus 3-26-2003

Saturday, March 25th, 2023

Let’s allow our imaginations to create a Hollywood version of the raising
of Lazarus.
Picture it: Lazarus comes out of his tomb-bound up, mummy-
like, wrapped tightly in burial garments.
See those tight wrappings around his body? Even as he comes
forth to Jesus, they restrict his sight, speech and freedom of
Listen carefully to the words of Jesus. “Untie him and let him
go free.”
I believe Lazarus coming out of the tomb represents every person!
What is it in our lives that binds us up? At times ties us up,
immobilizes us, limits our perception, and gets in the way of us
reaching out to others and to God?
Is it an attitude or possibly our own fears that restrict us? Maybe it
is a prejudice toward a particular group of people? Perhaps it is
something that worries us? Something we did in the past that we
are ashamed of? Could it be financial problems or a medical
concern? Is it a broken relationship in our family, a habit of lying,
trying to cover our tracks? Are we being squeezed to death by
bitterness, resentment, anger, grief, guilt or a poor self image?
Remember these words. “Untie him and her and let them go
As we reflect on what has us all wrapped up. What is preventing us from
moving freely and experiencing real life?
I think it is important to also ask ourselves: Are there situations or
relationships going on right now, where we are binding or tying up
other people? How would we do this?
Does our sour, negative attitudes and biting criticism destroy the
spirit of those around us? Are we quick to see the bad, and blind to
the good and positive in the people close to us?
How about back stabbing rumors, parking lot gossip and unfair
“Untie him and her and let them go free.”
During this Lent as we take some time to look inward, as we think about
what binds us and how to remove the tight wrappings. I think our Gospel
reminds us of 3 significant realities that need to be clearly stated.
As Martha mentioned, regarding her brother, it is going to be a
smelly procedure. Taking off these bindings will be a slow and
painful process. It will be very messy. No real conversion happens
without pain. We may be tempted to short circuit the process. We
may want to fantasize that everything will be fine in the morning.
But it will not go away by itself!
Jesus tells others to help unbind Lazarus. We will need help also.
A good friend to listen and to challenge. A teacher, a minister, a
trained counselor and a support group. We are fooling ourselves if
we think we can do it alone!
The final point may be the most important. Right in the middle of
this smelly, messy process of unbinding that we are challenged to
enter into, we too, just like Lazarus, have the presence and
reassurance of Jesus. “I am with you!” “You are not alone, even
when it is the darkest.” “Don’t give up!” “Keep trying!”
“Untie him and her and let them go free.”