Thursday, August 27, 2009

Mark 14: 12- 26 (NRSV)

12 On the first day of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover lamb is sacrificed, his disciples said to him, "Where do you want us to go and make the preparations for you to eat the Passover?" 13 So he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, "Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you; follow him, 14 and wherever he enters, say to the owner of the house, 'The Teacher asks, Where is my guest room where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?' 15 He will show you a large room upstairs, furnished and ready. Make preparations for us there." 16 So the disciples set out and went to the city, and found everything as he had told them; and they prepared the Passover meal. 17 When it was evening, he came with the twelve. 18 And when they had taken their places and were eating, Jesus said, "Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me, one who is eating with me." 19 They began to be distressed and to say to him one after another, "Surely, not I?" 20 He said to them, "It is one of the twelve, one who is dipping bread into the bowl with me. 21 For the Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that one by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that one not to have been born." 22 While they were eating, he took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to them, and said, "Take; this is my body." 23 Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, and all of them drank from it. 24 He said to them, "This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. 25 Truly I tell you, I will never again drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God." 26 When they had sung the hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.

“Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me, one who is eating with me...It is one of the twelve, one who is dipping bread into the bowl with me.”

Have you ever eaten at an Ethiopian restaurant? The meal is served on a common platter. Each diner takes a piece of bread and uses that bread to pick up the morsel of food. Ethiopian dining is akin to the dining experience Jesus would have shared with his disciples. They would have reclined to dine and shared a common bowl in which to dip their bread.
Jesus identification of his betrayer was actually no identification at all. Or was actually more true than it seems at first look. We know that Judas betrayed him to the authorities and so we think, projecting our knowledge back through time, that Jesus had singled out Judas. Actually Jesus had identified all of his disciples as betrayers. And it was so. When Jesus was arrested the disciples fled. Each, in his own way, betrayed Jesus.
Each, in his own way, betrayed Jesus. But each, except Judas, was able to face the truth of his failing. So all of them, except Judas, lived to see Jesus again. Judas betrayal was complete. He betrayed Jesus to the authorities and then he betrayed the hope that was in him. Each of us will be guilty of a betrayal at some point in our lives. We may betray a loved one or a friend. We may betray our own ideals. If we have the courage to face our failings Jesus will be there to to redeem them. Only when we abandon hope will any betrayal be complete.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


Mark 14: 1- 11 (NRSV)
1 It was two days before the Passover and the festival of Unleavened Bread. The chief priests and the scribes were looking for a way to arrest Jesus by stealth and kill him; 2 for they said, "Not during the festival, or there may be a riot among the people." 3 While he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at the table, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very costly ointment of nard, and she broke open the jar and poured the ointment on his head. 4 But some were there who said to one another in anger, "Why was the ointment wasted in this way? 5 For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii, and the money given to the poor." And they scolded her. 6 But Jesus said, "Let her alone; why do you trouble her? She has performed a good service for me. 7 For you always have the poor with you, and you can show kindness to them whenever you wish; but you will not always have me. 8 She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for its burial. 9 Truly I tell you, wherever the good news is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her." 10 Then Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve, went to the chief priests in order to betray him to them. 11 When they heard it, they were greatly pleased, and promised to give him money. So he began to look for an opportunity to betray him.
“You will always have the poor with you.” Jesus tells those who witness the unnamed woman’s act of adoration. The rebuke may come as a dismissive surprise. But there is no diminution of the needs of the world in it. True, sustained and sustainable care for the world begins in the prayer of adoration.
I was given ACTS as a mnemonic for the well rounded pattern of prayer. Adoration or loving contemplation of God; Contrition, that is repentance for sins of thought, word, deed and things left undone; Thanksgiving for the innumerable gifts and graces that God showers on us each day; Supplication, asking God to meet the needs of the world, the needs of those I love, and my own needs.
The opening movement of prayer is adoration, in a way all other movements of prayer flow from that first. Loving contemplation of God awakens the recognition of how we have fallen short of the glory of God and our contrition. Contrition for our misdeeds calls to awareness all of the mercies for which we must give thanks. All that we have to give thanks for reminds us of those things and situations for which we offer our prayerful pleas to God. We are the way that God answers prayer. Ours are the hands, feet, eyes, ears and hearts that are God’s answers to the supplications of God’s people. And so the cycle begins again, our work in the world calls us into adoration...

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Keep Awake!

Mark 13: 28- 37 (NRSV)
28 "From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. 29 So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates. 30 Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. 31 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. 32 "But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33 Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come. 34 It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his slaves in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch. 35 Therefore, keep awake-for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, 36 or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly. 37 And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake."
Keep awake!
Most of us, I am sure, have had the experience of the untimely nap. Who has not dozed off during a soporific lecture or sermon; studied the insides of their eyelids instead of the assigned text; or sunk into a dopey slumber in the middle of a meeting? In those instances we are jerked awake and embarrassed by our inattention.
There is another way of dozing off. It is the sleepwalking through life that popular culture allows. It is that practice of Christianity that merely goes through the motions: we trundle our bodies off to church on Sundays, we say our daily prayers, we may even tithe or volunteer. But we do not hold our days and our decisions up to the scrutiny of our faith. If Jesus stood beside us he might not recognize our thought, words, and deeds as patterned on his.
The Holy Spirit is within us from moment to moment from day to day. We do not have to travel far to know what obedience to the Christ entails. The journey of faith does not demand mindless adherence. The journey of faith demands that we keep awake!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Ask the Question

Mark 12:28-34 (NRSV)
28 One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, he asked him, 'Which commandment is the first of all?' 29Jesus answered, 'The first is, "Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; 30you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength." 31The second is this, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." There is no other commandment greater than these.' 32Then the scribe said to him, 'You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that "he is one, and besides him there is no other"; 33and "to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength," and "to love one's neighbor as oneself," -this is much more important than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.' 34When Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, 'You are not far from the kingdom of God.' After that no one dared to ask him any question.

After that no one dared to ask him any question. Is that a good thing? One would think that having a teacher who answers wisely in your midst would prompt you to ask all your questions. But, perhaps that is not the point that the evangelist is pressing. Perhaps the evangelist is writing with more than his immediate audience in mind. Maybe he is letting us know that we will not have answers to all of our questions and that we will have to learn to live with mystery.
My younger child is in the “why?” phase of toddlerhood. Each question opens the door to another question. “Why do I have to take a bath?” “because it’s almost time for bed.” “why do I have to go to bed?” “because you need rest” “But why do I need rest?” can see where this is going.
Having asked the first question and received a wise answer why didn’t the scribe ask the next question “If I am not far from the kingdom of God, what would draw me nearer?”
Maybe, like many of us, he didn’t really want to know the answer. Loving God and neighbor is enough work to be getting on with for now. If there is more required to enter the kingdom better not to know.
Maybe the reason that question remained unasked is that the answer is different for each of us. All of us are required to love God with heart and mind, soul and strength. Each of is commanded to love neighbor as self. When we have done those things the last step to draw us into the kingdom is as unique as a fingerprint. Ask the question, God will answer you.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009


Mark 12:18-27 (NRSV)
18 Some Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him and asked him a question, saying, 19'Teacher, Moses wrote for us that "if a man's brother dies, leaving a wife but no child, the man shall marry the widow and raise up children for his brother." 20There were seven brothers; the first married and, when he died, left no children; 21and the second married her and died, leaving no children; and the third likewise; 22none of the seven left children. Last of all the woman herself died. 23In the resurrection whose wife will she be? For the seven had married her.'
24 Jesus said to them, 'Is not this the reason you are wrong, that you know neither the scriptures nor the power of God? 25For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. 26And as for the dead being raised, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the story about the bush, how God said to him, "I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob"? 27He is God not of the dead, but of the living; you are quite wrong.'

So what is at issue here? This is one of those passages that I, as a Christian, read and decide there is some obscure theological point I am just not getting. I know that Jesus is giving some snappy answers to silly questions but it seems to fly way over my head. I don’t get what the argument is about.

To get what the argument is about and to understand why it matters to a Christian of the twenty-first century requires a few facts about Judaism of Jesus time.

The Sadducees say there is no resurrection. A man’s only hope of eternal life - and it was only men who could hold this hope - was in having progeny. Specifically a man lived on in his children. A man who died with no children was dead for all eternity. The custom of levirate marriage, was the priestly solution to this problem. If a man died with no children then the law of Moses prescribed that his brother should marry the widow. Any offspring of that union would be considered children of the deceased brother and he would live on through them.

For the Sadducees the law of levirate marriage, carried to its logical conclusion, would preclude the possibility of resurrection.

Jesus answers “You have it all wrong!” In the minds of the Sadducees the resurrection life looks like this life except that it happens after we die. But Jesus says the resurrection life is not just an overpopulated version of this life. It is different in ways that are still shrouded in mystery for us. The certainties and assumptions of this life will not hold true. And eternal life does not begin with death eternal life starts now and here. God is not a “God is not a God of the dead but of the living.”

So what does this mean for a Christian of the twenty first century. It means that we are called not to be slaves to the certainties of our time. We are called to live as citizens of God’s kin-dom coming. We who claim a resurrection faith must live with that faith constantly in mind.

What difference does it make that death is not the end? If death is not the end then life must be lived with an eye on eternity. If death is not the end then what we do today tomorrow and next year all play a part in shaping forever. If death is not the end, and forever doesn’t look like this then faith demands that we pattern our lives on the blueprint of love that Jesus showed us. We called in faith to build shalom, peace and flourishing for all God’s creation.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


Mark 11:27-12:12 (NRSV)
27 Again they came to Jerusalem. As he was walking in the temple, the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders came to him 28and said, 'By what authority are you doing these things? Who gave you this authority to do them?' 29Jesus said to them, 'I will ask you one question; answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I do these things. 30Did the baptism of John come from heaven, or was it of human origin? Answer me.' 31They argued with one another, 'If we say, "From heaven," he will say, "Why then did you not believe him?" 32But shall we say, "Of human origin"?' -they were afraid of the crowd, for all regarded John as truly a prophet. 33So they answered Jesus, 'We do not know.' And Jesus said to them, 'Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.'
Then he began to speak to them in parables. 'A man planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, dug a pit for the wine press, and built a watchtower; then he leased it to tenants and went to another country. 2When the season came, he sent a slave to the tenants to collect from them his share of the produce of the vineyard. 3But they seized him, and beat him, and sent him away empty-handed. 4And again he sent another slave to them; this one they beat over the head and insulted. 5Then he sent another, and that one they killed. And so it was with many others; some they beat, and others they killed. 6He had still one other, a beloved son. Finally he sent him to them, saying, "They will respect my son." 7But those tenants said to one another, "This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours." 8So they seized him, killed him, and threw him out of the vineyard. 9What then will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the tenants and give the vineyard to others. 10Have you not read this scripture:
"The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; 11this was the Lord's doing, and it is amazing in our eyes"?'
12When they realized that he had told this parable against them, they wanted to arrest him, but they feared the crowd. So they left him and went away.

How do you respond when someone finds you in error? Do you try to deny or conceal your wrongdoing? Do you react angrily? Do you accept the criticism and the opportunity to change?
My guess is that, at one time or another, each of the above has been true.

The parable that Jesus tells offers his hearers a chance to see themselves and change their ways. They choose otherwise. They allow themselves to be driven more deeply into rage and wrong.

We can take the questions that the parable provokes as an opportunity for course correction. We can ignore challenge and continue to do those things that hurt us and harm those around us. What do you choose?

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Prayer for the Poor

For the poor and the oppressed, for the unemployed and the destitute, for prisoners and captives, and for all who remember and care for them, let us pray to the Lord. Lord, have mercy.

Source: Book of Common Prayer 1979

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Inner Dolphins

My older daughter, Nyaniso, had a slip of the ear. She heard that physical activity releases not, endorphins but “inner dolphins”. The image delights me.

As I took my grumpy self on a morning jog I could see my inner dolphins being set free to play and chasing my grouchy mood away.
Take a little time today in a fully embodied act of praise and release your inner dolphins.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

South Africa 4 Day Mini-Pilgrimage Sept. 10-13, 2009

The Tutu Institute for Prayer & Pilgrimage on a
September 10 - September 13, 2009
Lead by The Reverend Mpho Tutu
Level 1 Price: $1,750.00(US)* if paid in full by Friday, July 31, 2009**
Level 2 Price: $2,000.00(US)* if paid in full by Monday, August 10, 2009**
Level 3 Price: $2,500.00(US)* if paid in full between August 11 and September 1, 2009**
*All price levels are based on double occupancy and include accommodations, meals, and ground transportation in South Africa. There are limited single occupancies available for an additional fee of $499.00(US). Prices do not include airfare.

PILGRIMAGE Itinerary (subject to change)
DAY 1 --------- Registration and Orientation
DAY 2 ---------Visit historic Robben Island Prison where Nelson Mandela and other political prisoners were incarcerated. A scenic drive will take end at a game lodge for an overnight safari experience.
DAY 3 ---------An early morning game drive followed by breakfast at the game lodge before return to Cape Town. Explore the District Six museum. A community built site that retells the story of one area demolished by the apartheid government.
DAY 4 ---------Experience Sunday worship with a congregation in one of the black townships. Enjoy a panoramic view of Cape Town from Table Mountain. Lunch and a closing ceremony mark the end of this mini pilgrimage and prepare you for the beginning of the CHI World Congress.

**No refunds for cancellations
For more information please visit our website at or contact us at 703-677-5642 or email us at

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Cupboard Love

John 6:24-35
The next day, when the people who remained after the feeding of the five thousand saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum looking for Jesus.
When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, "Rabbi, when did you come here?" Jesus answered them, "Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For it is on him that God the Father has set his seal." Then they said to him, "What must we do to perform the works of God?" Jesus answered them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent." So they said to him, "What sign are you going to give us then, so that we may see it and believe you? What work are you performing? Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, `He gave them bread from heaven to eat.'" Then Jesus said to them, "Very truly, I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world." They said to him, "Sir, give us this bread always."
Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty."

I don’t know whether the phrase is current or if it is just a term dredged up from the recesses of my memory. What the crowd experienced was cupboard love. It is that which made our grandmothers say, “The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.”
The crowds had eaten their fill the day before and came chasing Jesus and his disciples in the hope of getting more. They wanted more of that good bread. But Jesus wanted to give them more than just good bread. More than just stomach satisfaction. Food for the stomach is good for today but then tomorrow you have to come back for more. What Jesus wanted to give was the bread of life. Jesus wanted the crowds to have food for the Spirit that feeds forever.
How long can you fast? A day? Ten days? With juice or water a month or longer? What sustains you through the fast? A thought, an ideal, a passion or a principle?
Jesus talks to the crowd. He talks to us through space and time. Stop chasing after what is enough for now that leaves you hungry later. Seek out what will sustain you even when the physical cupboard is bare. Nurture and nourish your body. But do not forget to feed your soul and your spirit. Spiritual hunger may be hard to recognize; it devours the person in need then reaches out to ravage everyone in its path. Feed your spirit and your soul.