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Trail Notes: 03/04/2018

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An Angry Jesus?

Today we encounter Jesus turning over tables and driving animals out of the Temple courtyard with a whip of cords!  This story has always stood out against the “meek and mild” picture of Jesus many of us grew up with – a Jesus usually pictured with pale, delicate features and blue eyes.  But the Jesus in this story is strong, vital, and athletic…and no doubt dark-skinned and swarthy. 

While the other gospels use this story near the end of Jesus’ life, just after Palm Sunday, John’s Gospel begins with it: it appears in chapter 2.  Maybe John wants us to know from the outset that Jesus can get angry when he encounters behavior that he believes runs counter to God’s will.  He is even disruptive. 

To me, Jesus’ anger is a reflection of God’s own indignation when we contravene God’s commandments – when we treat each other badly, make war, despoil the creation, and disrespect the God who made us.  Anger is the very natural reaction to events and behaviors that we abhor – how else would we react? 

The big question, however, is how do we respond in our anger?  We teach our children to own their angry feelings, but still control their responses. Spiteful words and destructive behaviors are not okay, even though we are angry.  Yet Jesus does overturn the furniture and wreak havoc with the livestock in the Temple courtyard.  Are there times when such acting out is warranted? 

We need our righteous indignation to fight some crucial battles in our society right now.  One such battle is over guns: who should have the privilege of keeping a gun?  What kinds of guns are reasonable for citizens to own?  How do we keep guns out of the hands of irresponsible persons?  The March for Our Lives is gathering on March 24, 2018 in Washington to demand a response.  St. Dunstan’s will be hosting folks from out of town that weekend.  Palm Sunday weekend will be full of meaning this year.  JBM  


 

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Trail Notes: 02/25/2018

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“I would take a bullet for the kids.”

That’s what one of the Parkland, Florida teachers said to his wife after the shooting there.  We can all applaud his willingness to sacrifice for the sake of other. 

But I wonder how his wife felt hearing that.  If that were to transpire, she would face not only the loss of her life partner, but the father of her children.  Untold suffering would come with his selfless decision. 

Of course, without the evil of shooters such an act would not be needed.  But in our present climate where there is no political will to do anything to arrest this madness, this is the world we live in. 

This sad state of affairs helps me understand Jesus and his decision to “take a bullet for the world.”  Without human evil, it would never have happened, never have been needed.  But there was human evil aplenty in the first century, as in our twenty-first. 

Our Lenten theme is “Meeting God in the wilderness.”  Today we focus on “Meeting God in suffering” – a place I do not like to visit!  And yet suffering can be necessary.  Suffering can lead to a greater good.  Suffering can be sacrificial. 

 

If I were a school teacher, I have to wonder…if “I would take a bullet for the kids.”  JBM  


 

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Trail Notes: 02/182018

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“Seasonal Affective Disorder”

It’s Lent again – how does that make you feel? 

I have a hunch that many of us don’t look forward to Lent.  I, for one, like the jovial spirit of Mardi Gras with its pancake suppers, dancing in the streets, and colorful beads.  As winter wears on (and on), we need a pick-me-up.  Lent doesn’t seem to be it. 

I also believe that we all have plenty to feel bad about these days without heaping more onto the pile.  We’re well aware of our own failings, the struggles in our personal lives, and the huge troubles and dangers in the world today.  Political systems aren’t working well in the U.S. or many other nations.  Nuclear war is back on the front page.  Violence, disease, and famine rage.  Do we need a church season to make us feel S.A.D.? 

No, we do not.  Fortunately, Lent has received a theological and spiritual makeover in many quarters.  It doesn’t need to be maudlin, with an air of self-flagellation.  Instead, we can use Lent to acknowledge the tensions and struggles in life and bring God’s life-giving message to assuage them.  We can, in fact, Meet God in the Wilderness. 

One way to counteract the world’s heaviness is to reinvigorate a relationship that brings you joy and comfort.  If you are like me, you have wonderful friends whom you just don’t keep up with.  They may live far away, but these days that’s not a big impediment.  Reach out and contact that person, and see if the spark of delight is still there in that relationship.  If so, you have a companion in the wilderness, someone to walk with you.  Maybe that person can be Christ to you.  Maybe you can be Christ to that person. 

Jesus was baptized in the Jordan River, with a booming affirmation from God.  Then he was driven into the wilderness.  Life’s highs are fleeting; the wilderness times are less so.  Jesus took with him, into the wilderness, his relationship with God.  He borrowed strength from God and his loved ones.  And he survived.  We might say, he got by with a little help from his friends.

Lent doesn’t have to bring with it “Seasonal Affective Disorder.”  It can be a season of claiming our joy, and treasuring those who walk with us, even with wilderness all around us.  JBM  

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Trail Notes 02/11/2018

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Our Jewish Lord Jesus

How easily the Christian world forget just who Jesus was!  How many paintings of a blue-eyed, fair skinned Jesus have you seen?  How can Christians continue to denigrate the Jewish people, when Jews was a devoted, practicing Jew his whole life? 

I’ve been reading a lot about Jesus in his historical and cultural context lately.  This may not sound riveting to you, but I continue to be fascinated by this man who changed the world from during his short earthly life in an obscure corner of the Roman Empire.  No matter what one believes about Jesus, there is no question he has changed the course of human events, and still propels humanity with his simple challenge to love our neighbors. 

Today’s story called “The Transfiguration” comes every year just before we enter Lent.  In it, a few disciples see Jesus on a mountaintop glowing a dazzling white.  He is conversing with Moses and Elijah, two leading lights of Jewish tradition.  The message is clear: Jesus is a continuation of God’s revelation to the Jewish people through Moses, Elijah, and many other prophets and leaders.  Christians follow the same God as the Jews.  Jesus did not supersede or dismiss the Jews’ relationship with God – how could he, since he was himself a faithful Jew? 

As we enter the season of Lent again this year, our parish theme is “Meeting God in the Wilderness.”  We wander with Moses, Elijah, and Jesus in our various wildernesses.  Let us trust that God will meet us there – on a mountaintop, or in a deep valley, or on a dusty road.  JBM  


 

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