Archive | January, 2013

Last Sunday after Epiphany – Yr C (2/10/13)

31 Jan

Exodus 34:29-35

2 Corinthians 3:12 – 4:2

Luke 9:28-36,(37-43a)

 

Psalm 99

Extol the Lord our God,and worship at his holy mountain;
for the Lord our God is holy.

 

Opening Questions

  1. Think of your personal experience with a dramatic life changing event.
  2. Did it produce some benefit; and would you welcome such an experience again?

Appointed Passages[1]

Exodus 34:29-35

29Moses came down from Mount Sinai. As he came down from the mountain with the two tablets of the covenant in his hand, Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God. 30When Aaron and all the Israelites saw Moses, the skin of his face was shining, and they were afraid to come near him. 31But Moses called to them; and Aaron and all the leaders of the congregation returned to him, and Moses spoke with them. 32Afterwards all the Israelites came near, and he gave them in commandment all that the Lord had spoken with him on Mount Sinai. 33When Moses had finished speaking with them, he put a veil on his face; 34but whenever Moses went in before the Lord to speak with him, he would take the veil off, until he came out; and when he came out, and told the Israelites what he had been commanded, 35the Israelites would see the face of Moses, that the skin of his face was shining; and Moses would put the veil on his face again, until he went in to speak with him.

  • How do you think Moses relationship with God changed after he received “the word”?
  • Assuming his relationship with God was closer and improved, how might we pursue growth in our own relationship with God?

2 Corinthians 3:12-4:2

12Since, then, we have such a hope, we act with great boldness, 13not like Moses, who put a veil over his face to keep the people of Israel from gazing at the end of the glory that was being set aside. 14But their minds were hardened. Indeed, to this very day, when they hear the reading of the old covenant, that same veil is still there, since only in Christ is it set aside. 15Indeed, to this very day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their minds; 16but when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. 17Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit.

4:1Therefore, since it is by God’s mercy that we are engaged in this ministry, we do not lose heart. 2We have renounced the shameful things that one hides; we refuse to practise cunning or to falsify God’s word; but by the open statement of the truth we commend ourselves to the conscience of everyone in the sight of God.

  • How might we engage hope as a catalyst for acts of “boldness” (v.12) in our religious development?
  • Assuming that the “veil that lies over our minds” describes being bound in our own comfort zone, what actions might we take to move us out of that zone in order to enhance spiritual growth?
  • What does it mean to commend yourself to the conscience of those around you (v. 4:2)?

Luke 9:28-36 (37-43)

28Now about eight days after these sayings Jesus took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. 29And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white. 30Suddenly they saw two men, Moses and Elijah, talking to him. 31They appeared in glory and were speaking of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. 32Now Peter and his companions were weighed down with sleep; but since they had stayed awake, they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. 33Just as they were leaving him, Peter said to Jesus, ‘Master, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah’—not knowing what he said. 34While he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were terrified as they entered the cloud. 35Then from the cloud came a voice that said, ‘This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!’ 36When the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and in those days told no one any of the things they had seen.

37On the next day, when they had come down from the mountain, a great crowd met him. 38Just then a man from the crowd shouted, ‘Teacher, I beg you to look at my son; he is my only child. 39Suddenly a spirit seizes him, and all at once he shrieks. It throws him into convulsions until he foams at the mouth; it mauls him and will scarcely leave him. 40I begged your disciples to cast it out, but they could not.’ 41Jesus answered, ‘You faithless and perverse generation, how much longer must I be with you and bear with you? Bring your son here.’ 42While he was coming, the demon dashed him to the ground in convulsions. But Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, healed the boy, and gave him back to his father. 43And all were astounded at the greatness of God.

While everyone was amazed at all that he was doing, he said to his disciples,{ 44‘Let these words sink into your ears: The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into human hands.’ 45But they did not understand this saying; its meaning was concealed from them, so that they could not perceive it. And they were afraid to ask him about this saying.}

  • Peter obviously wanted to translate the experience into something meaningful by actions.  If building dwellings to commemorate the event was inappropriate, what would have been better?
  • After the resurrection, the disciples were empowered to heal (apparently in this passage, that power had not been engaged – v.46).  Do you think your religion has the power to heal?

Comment

We read of Jesus and Moses having mountaintop experiences in today’s scriptures.  God becomes present and they become prescient.  They become living pipelines of spirituality from God to humanity.  While their relationships with God were already strong, the mountain top experience infused them with Holiness in a way that both dramatically and physically changed their human existence and set them apart.  They received the word of God and were transformed into exemplary messengers.

Paul reminds us that by we also, by receiving the message of God, have hope which can empower bold acts.  We can therefore also become servants and messengers for God in ways both large and small.  I think of instances when I am leaving work at the end of a long day and encounter someone whose face reflects the anxiety of a grueling workday.  My usual tactic is to suggest “its martini time” as an icebreaker.  It is fascinating to see life return to their faces.  I’m not sure God would support my encouragement of a martini, but suspect he would appreciate the attempt at lifting their spirits.

The transformations that Moses and Jesus experienced helped them become more transparent in terms of their connections with God as fundamental to their sense of values.  We tend to trust those whom we know well enough to understand their motivations.  Such trust empowers those who earn it with an extraordinary strong connection to those who trust them.  This connection also opens unusual access to the “trustors” inner person – and thus the ability to recommend actions or helpful ideas…perhaps in a sense, healing the trustor.

When we open ourselves to receive God’s word, we can and do become transformed into agents of change.

 

Quotes for Today:

To be trusted is a greater compliment than to be loved.

George MacDonald

 

The most successful people are those who are good at plan B.

James Yorke

 

These days people seek knowledge, not wisdom. Knowledge is of the past, wisdom is of the future.

Vernon Cooper


[1] New Revised Standard Version of biblical passages

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4th Sunday after Epiphany – Yr C (2/3/13)

31 Jan

Jeremiah 1:4-10

1 Corinthians 13:1-13

Luke 4:21-30

 

Psalm 71: 1-6

Be to me a rock of refuge, a strong fortress, to save me,

for you are my rock and my fortress.

 

Opening Questions

  1. When does love lead you to be confrontational?
  2. If the power of speaking openly (about what you believe) has the capacity to change you (and others), what are the conditions that might limit when and how we use it?

Appointed Passages[1]

Jeremiah 1:4-10

4 Now the word of the LORD came to me saying, 5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” 6 Then I said, “Ah, Lord GOD! Truly I do not know how to speak, for I am only a boy.” 7 But the LORD said to me, “Do not say, “I am only a boy’; for you shall go to all to whom I send you, and you shall speak whatever I command you, 8 Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, says the LORD.” 9 Then the LORD put out his hand and touched my mouth; and the LORD said to me, “Now I have put my words in your mouth. 10 See, today I appoint you over nations and over kingdoms, to pluck up and to pull down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.

  • Describe circumstances under which the term prophet might be appropriately applied to you.
  • If you have you experienced an instance in which you may have spoken for God, how did you know?

1 Corinthians 13:1-13

1If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

4Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant 5or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. 7It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

8Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. 9For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; 10but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. 11When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. 12For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. 13And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.

{In an earlier years sermon, Frank Logue reminds us that “A quick look at the Greek text of this passage shows that Paul writes using the word agape. Agape is one of the three Greek words for love used in the New Testament. There is eros or “erotic love,” and phileo or “brotherly love.” Finally there is agape, a “self-giving love,” routinely shown to be the love God has for us. It is this agape that bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. It is this self-giving agape love of God that never fails.”}

  • Why would love as described in this passage “rejoice in the truth” (v.6)?
  • Is love a precondition for faith and/or hope?
  • Is love something that we simply have (or not), or are there stages of love that increase as we get better at it?

Luke 4:21-30

21 Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” 22 All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. They said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?” 23 He said to them, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, Doctor, cure yourself!” And you will say, “Do here also in your hometown the things that we have heard you did at Caper’naum.” 24 And he said, “Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s hometown. 25 But the truth is, there were many widows in Israel in the time of Eli’jah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, and there was a severe famine over all the land; 26 yet Eli’jah was sent to none of them except to a widow at Zar’ephath in Si’don. 27 There were also many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Eli’sha, and none of them was cleansed except Na’aman the Syrian.” 28 When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage. 29 They got up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they might hurl him off the cliff. 30 But he passed through the midst of them and went on his way.

  • Why is it difficult for a prophet to be accepted in their hometown?
  • If familiarity dulls our sense of openness to new ideas, how do we counteract it?
  • It appears that Jesus was at least in this instance somewhat confrontational.  When is confrontation a good thing, and what situations call for us to use it?

Comment

Today’s passages represent an ironic combination of love and confrontation.  These are two concepts which we rarely think of as related, but perhaps we should.  There is an aspect of love, as Paul describes it, that seems not only to rejoice in the truth, but is almost a coexisting element of it.  Love cannot survive delusions, but achieves its most robust power in the clarity of truth.

By truly embracing God’s unconditional love for us, we find encouragement to confront the truth of who we are – and more importantly, who we are not.  That process can lead to stronger self awareness and strength of character – if we are astute enough to pursue it.  We can then be more open to seeing others with similar clarity and less risk to the possible erosion of our self image.

Jesus’ reference to the early prophets addressing the needs of widows and lepers who were “outsiders” to Israel suggests it is good sometimes to move outside of our comfort zone.  Love for others would seem to have a stronger foundation when it is based on the clarity of a deeper understanding and more empathy, particularly when it comes to their human weaknesses and shortcomings.  Sometimes, familiarity and comfort of a protecting community blocks our ability to get there.

Our relationships with others are enhanced when built on a foundation of honesty and truth.  We more easily live the truth of who we are in those relationships.  More importantly, we will help others feel the refreshing warmth of unconditional love – and embrace the truth of who they are – even when it requires a bit of confrontation.

 

Quotes for Today:

I hear and I forget.  I see and I remember.  I do and I understand.

Chinese proverb

 

God offers to every mind its choice between truth and repose.  Take which you please; but you cannot have both.

Emerson

 

The average man does not want to be free. He simply wants to be safe.

H.L. Mencken


[1] New Revised Standard Version

3rd Sunday after Epiphany – Year C (1/27/13)

18 Jan

Nehemiah 8: 1-3, 5-6, 8-10

1 Corinthians 12: 12-31a

Luke 4:14-21

Psalm 19

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you,

Oh Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

Opening Questions

  • Should a “good” Christian be biblically literate?  If so, to what degree and how is it measured?
  • What do your actions say about your faith?

Appointed Passages[1]

Nehemia 8:1-3, 5-6, 8-10

1all the people gathered together into the square before the Water Gate. They told the scribe Ezra to bring the book of the law of Moses, which the Lord had given to Israel. 2Accordingly, the priest Ezra brought the law before the assembly, both men and women and all who could hear with understanding. This was on the first day of the seventh month. 3He read from it facing the square before the Water Gate from early morning until midday, in the presence of the men and the women and those who could understand; and the ears of all the people were attentive to the book of the law. 5And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people, for he was standing above all the people; and when he opened it, all the people stood up. 6Then Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God, and all the people answered, ‘Amen, Amen’, lifting up their hands. Then they bowed their heads and worshipped the Lord with their faces to the ground. 8So they read from the book, from the law of God, with interpretation. They gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading.

9And Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, ‘This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn or weep.’ For all the people wept when they heard the words of the law. 10Then he said to them, ‘Go your way, eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions of them to those for whom nothing is prepared, for this day is holy to our Lord; and do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.’

  • What role does biblical literacy (i.e., the “words of the law” in v. 9) play in shaping our faith; and why would it make people weep?
  • What is “the joy of the Lord” (v. 10) and how does it provide strength?

1 Corinthians 12:12-31a

12For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.

14Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15If the foot were to say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body’, that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16And if the ear were to say, ‘Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body’, that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? 18But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20As it is, there are many members, yet one body. 21The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you’, nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’ 22On the contrary, the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23and those members of the body that we think less honourable we clothe with greater honour, and our less respectable members are treated with greater respect; 24whereas our more respectable members do not need this. But God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honour to the inferior member, 25that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another. 26If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honoured, all rejoice together with it.

27Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. 28And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers; then deeds of power, then gifts of healing, forms of assistance, forms of leadership, various kinds of tongues. 29Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? 31But strive for the greater gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.

{Note: J. Ted Blakely, in A Lector’s Guide and Commentary, explains the context of this passage from First Corinthians. He writes, “Paul is speaking to Christians who consider certain spiritual gifts to be greater than others, with the result that those who exercise the so-called greater gifts are afforded greater honor, prestige and privilege than those who exercise the so-called lesser gifts.”  Thus, Paul needed to remind us that all gifts are equally valuable.}

  • What defines your relationship to others when you are “suffering together” (v. 26) when they experience misfortune or “all rejoicing” a benefit received?
  • How do we develop relationships with others to strengthen our sense of spiritual connection?  (i.e., being “one body in Christ” (v. 13)?

Luke 4:14-21

14Then Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and a report about him spread through all the surrounding country. 15He began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by everyone.

16When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, 17and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:

18‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
19to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.’

20And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21Then he began to say to them, ‘Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.’

  • In what way does the passage from Isaiah (v. 18 and 19) apply to each of us as members of the body of Christ?
  • Jesus both proclaimed and lived his responsibilities to this passage.  What, as Christians, are our responsibilities to do the same?

Comment

There are a couple of thoughts that emerge to me from today’s passages.  First is the reminder that scriptures are a vital element in not just maintaining, but also growing our faith.  The second is that we find meaning by exercising our gifts with and through others.  Solitude is necessary but not sufficient to the growth of our faith.  We have to share some of ourselves with others to truly become members of the spiritual body of Christ.

Life is a process of discovery of how living it defines who we are (i.e., our character).  The scriptures seed our minds with situations that stimulate questions of self discovery and examples of spiritual responses.  By seeking periodic solitude, we can reflect on what life has handed us; how we did respond versus how we perhaps should respond.  It is a time of digesting mentally the intellectual food of experience and growing our relationship muscles to add to the strength of our connection to God through others.  The process can produce a seasoned sense of values that help guide our future daily life decisions.  We become armed with clearer self awareness and strength of spirit – we have grown in character, mental strength, spiritual resilience, and ultimately our faith.

But that faith is only realized when we live it through interactions with others.  We must exercise our gifts in bringing good news to the poor, proclaiming release to the captives, recovering sight to the blind, and helping free the oppressed.  In a strange way, we receive more of the Holy Spirit by giving it away to others.

I pray we embrace the hope of the Holy Spirit by exercising our gifts with others in the active service of God.

Quotes for Today:

In general, American social life constitutes an evasion of talking to people.  Most Americans don’t, in any vital sense, get together; they only do things together.

Louis Kronenberger, Company Matters

…a dog we know is better company than a person whose language we do not understand.

Montaigne, “Of liars”, Essays

You cannot change anything in your life with intention alone, which can become a watered-down, occasional hope that you’ll get to tomorrow. Intention without action is useless.

Caroline Myss


[1] New Revised Standard Version of biblical passages

2nd Sunday after Epiphany – Year C (1/20/13)

18 Jan

Isaiah 62:1-5
1 Corinthians 12:1-11
John 2:1-11

Psalm 36: 5-10

May the LORD give strength to his people!
May the LORD bless his people with peace!

OPENING QUESTIONS

  • When you think of a “good marriage” relationship, what are the 3 most important elements that in your mind make it meet that definition?
  • How is “imagination” helpful to a successful relationship?

APPOINTED PASSAGES

Isaiah 62:1 – 5

1For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent,
and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest,
until her vindication shines out like the dawn,
and her salvation like a burning torch.
2The nations shall see your vindication,
and all the kings your glory;
and you shall be called by a new name
that the mouth of the LORD will give.
3You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the LORD,
and a royal diadem in the hand of your God.
4You shall no more be termed Forsaken,
and your land shall no more be termed Desolate;
but you shall be called My Delight Is in Her,
and your land Married;
for the LORD delights in you,
and your land shall be married.
5For as a young man marries a young woman,
so shall your builder marry you,
and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride,
so shall your God rejoice over you

  • What aspects of our relationship with God are like a marriage?
  • What words in addition to “glory” describe a loving marriage relationship?

1 Corinthians 12:1 – 11

1Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed. 2You know that when you were pagans, you were enticed and led astray to idols that could not speak. 3Therefore 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.

4Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; 6and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. 7To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 8To 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, 10to 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. 11All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses.

  • Do each of us have a responsibility to identify, develop, and utilize our gifts?
  • How can the success of using our gifts be measured in terms of their helpfulness?

John 2:1 – 11

1On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. 2Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. 3When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, ‘They have no wine.’ 4And Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.’ 5His mother said to the servants, ‘Do whatever he tells you.’ 6Now standing there were six stone water-jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. 7Jesus said to them, ‘Fill the jars with water.’ And they filled them up to the brim. 8He said to them, ‘Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward.’ So they took it. 9When 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 10and 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.’ 11Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.’

  • The transformation of water into wine was a magical unexpected gift from God through Jesus. As you think of your loving relationships, can you name examples of magical moments that you are thankful for?
  • What other signs of “abundance” emerge in a loving marriage (or marriage celebration)?

COMMENT

Today’s lessons present the idea of identifying similarities between a human marriage and our relationship with God. In both, we have a responsibility to contribute toward maintaining the relationship – and yet need to have patience of not necessarily understanding the specific rationale behind each of the actions our partner undertakes. We accept, and abide in our knowledge of the love we have for each other, and endure. We know that there will be times of difficulty and joy. Joy that will make us rejoice in ourselves and each other, and challenges that, if we digest them appropriately, will make us stronger and of healthier character.

God gives us a glimpse of his abundance in the descriptions of todays old testament lesson (all the kings will see your glory… a royal diadem in the hand of God… my delight is in her) that are expressions of His love for us. As well, with the gift of transformation of water to wine in remarkable abundance at the wedding, Jesus hints at what is to come through his life with us. When we think about them, both stir our imaginations to explore who we are in relation to who we can be. Aspirations are important elements of our faith….and it is healthy to develop them.

Indeed, the Corinthians passage references our different gifts of the Holy Spirit with a hint that we might celebrate their existence. Just as in the relationship of marriage, we also have a responsibility to recognize and embrace our capabilities (our gifts) – and engage them to the best of our abilities.

My prayer for each of us is that we contemplate the immense possibilities that God’abundance brings to each of us. Also that we translate those possibilities into dreams and visions for how to engage our gifts for ourselves and each other. The world is a better place when our purpose is clear. We feel right with God, ourselves, and those with whom we share a loving and committed relationship.

QUOTES FOR TODAY:

Marriage is the triumph of imagination over intelligence.

Oscar Wilde

A good marriage is that in which each appoints the other guardian of his solitude.

Rainer Maria Rilke

Without leaps of imagination, or dreaming, we lose the excitement of possibilities. Dreaming, after all, is a form of planning.

Gloria Steinem

1st Sunday After Epiphany – Year C (1/13/13)

11 Jan

Isaiah 43: 1-7
Acts 8 14-17
Luke 3:15-16,21-22

Psalm 29
May the LORD give strength to his people!
May the LORD bless his people with peace!

OPENING QUESTIONS

  • Is the Holy Spirit imbedded in our souls, dormant until we engage it, or does it only become present we take steps to invite it?
  • If our action is required, what is it and how often need we take it?

APPOINTED PASSAGES

Isaiah 43:1 – 7

1 But now thus says the LORD,
he who created you, O Jacob,
he who formed you, O Israel:
Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.
2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.
3 For I am the LORD your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Saviour.
I give Egypt as your ransom,
Ethiopia and Seba in exchange for you.
4 Because you are precious in my sight,
and honoured, and I love you,
I give people in return for you,
nations in exchange for your life.
5 Do not fear, for I am with you;
I will bring your offspring from the east,
and from the west I will gather you;
6 I will say to the north, ‘Give them up’,
and to the south, ‘Do not withhold;
bring my sons from far away
and my daughters from the end of the earth—
7 everyone who is called by my name,
whom I created for my glory,
whom I formed and made.’

  • Do we need to reclaim (redeem) our souls (v.1)? If so, from whom and how often?
  • The passage suggests we are rewarded when we are “called by His name” (v.7). What actions on our part are required to deserve that label?

Acts 8:14 – 17

14Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them. 15The two went down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit 16(for as yet the Spirit had not come upon any of them; they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus). 17Then Peter and John laid their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.

  • What does it mean (i.e. what are the consequences) of accepting the word of God (v.14)?
  • Is there special power in human contact (touch) that conveys or shares the Holy Spirit?

Luke 3:15-16, 21-22

15As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah, 16John answered all of them by saying, ‘I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.
21Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, 22and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.’

  • What is the connection between the Holy Spirit and fire (v.16)?
  • What responsibilities does baptism bring to both the individual and his/her community

COMMENT

Today’s lessons raise a question to me of how our souls and the Holy Spirit are connected. Free will suggests that we have the power to align ourselves with God (or not). We have the freedom to love whom and what we wish. Our souls are eligible to be shaped in ways we deem appropriate. There is also somehow an interaction in that we shape our soul yet it also somehow can shape us. My sense is at the core, our souls embody our fundamental moral values; the essence of who we are but with a uniquely human quirk. That quirk is that they also reflect what we hope to be – our aspirations. I believe God smiles when we think creatively about those aspirations then share the energy and enthusiasm with others in exchanging our dreams and visions of the future – as we would like it to be and perhaps have some ability to make happen.

It is also interesting to note that being loved can be a remarkable catalyst. I think about the people I have come to know over years of life – and believe that those who have either grown up with, or experienced being the recipient of unconditional love have something uniquely valuable. It is empowering to know that there is someone who loves you so strongly that they would do anything for you; it fundamentally changes who you are, and in some ways expands the possibilities for who you might become. It provides a sense of confidence and comfort so substantial, that over time, you are able share that love with other people.

My prayer is that we embrace the comfort of being loved by God and other people. Also that love empowers us to continue our life journey of enhancing the substance of our souls and the wisdom and guidance in shaping our aspirations the future toward a meaningful life.

QUOTES FOR TODAY:

Challenging the meaning of life is the truest expression of the state of being human.

Victor Frankl

If you aren’t good at loving yourself, you will have a difficult time loving anyone, since you’ll resent the time and energy you give another person that you aren’t even giving to yourself.

Barbara De Angelis

Life is a process of becoming, a combination of states we have to go through. Where people fail is that they wish to elect a state and remain in it. This is a kind of death.

Anais Nin