Some preachers begin their sermons with a reflection, a prayer or confession. On Ash Wednesday, it’s important to begin with a reminder about Lent. It’s not a time of self-sacrifice or punishment… or time to relive past grievances. Rather, Lent is a time to let go of all of the things that hold us back and prevent us from what God needs of us. It’s a time to look more deeply at our own self; where we are here and now, in our own lives.
Midst all of this time of reflection and self-examination, Lent is also a time to remember that God loves us in spite of ourselves and despite what we do … God loves the sinful, human people that we are today – tomorrow – and long beyond this Lenten journey. Jesus allows us to know the grace and love of God by becoming our sin by his sacrifice on the cross.
Our lessons for today call us to live our lives as a faithful response for all that God has done. Beautiful Isaiah has a powerful invitation that stands in contradiction to all the noise that we hear around us. It is a clear reminder once again that our Christian faith is counter-cultural. Isaiah says it simply “…offer your food to the hungry…satisfy the needs of the afflicted…loose the bonds of injustice…house the homeless…cover the naked.” (more…)
Mountains are often described in Scripture as places where God is revealed. There is something mystical, almost magical about those moments. It’s those moments when we experience a sense of unity, a sense of peace that surrounds us.
We call them “mountain top experiences.”
It might happen when we witness the birth of a child or the death of a friend. It might happen when we have an intimate conversation or a family meal. It might happen in a quiet room during prayer or meditation. But whenever and however it happens we say to ourselves: “This is it … everything fits … all I ever hoped for is here.” This is the experience that Peter, James, and John had when they saw Jesus’ face change and his clothing become sparkling white. They wanted that moment to last forever. This is the experience of the fullness of time. These moments are given to us so that we can remember them when God seems far away, and everything appears empty and useless. These experiences are true moments of grace. (more…)
We have an interesting set of readings this morning. The familiar story of Joseph offering forgiveness to his brothers after thinking they had done away with him long ago. Paul’s invitation to listen, trying to explain Christ’s message, and addressing the Corinthian people directly – helping lead them to change their behavior and their lives. And in Luke’s words from our own Gospel reading this morning, Jesus reminding us that we might not always agree with one another, but it’s critical to listen, in order to understand; to walk away and forgive; and to love and care for one another.
My parents instilled in me a love of travel. We’d pack up the car, often leaving early in the morning, while it was still dark. When my kids were younger, we did the same with them. Just ask them – good memories of getting everyone up and out early.
Traveling enables us to experience other people and cultures – different ways of life and living. It helps us learn and expand our understanding of the world. It teaches us about history and geography. Teaches us about different political and economic systems. It gives perspective and teaches us that not everyone looks like us; or looks at the world in the same way that we do. We gain new insights that help us better understand ourselves, as well as others. Along the way, hopefully you get to talk to people – listen to a different language…maybe speak a different language.
During a recent vacation, we visited La Perla, just outside the walls of Old San Juan. La Perla was originally a home for former slaves and servants, as they were people exiled to settlements outside the walls. It’s one of the areas seen as abandoned by relief efforts after Hurricane Maria. Our visit was part of a give back to the community – that involves any number of different activities – that have included putting together toiletry kits for a homeless shelter; serving at a soup kitchen; sometimes planting trees. We walked along some of the streets there – while listening to the history of the area – with remnants of brightly painted houses, many of which were leveled during the storm – several others abandoned. We then stopped to clean and plant sprouted herbs in the hydroponic garden – that is set up next to the Community Center. The hydroponic system and supplies were donated by a previous visitor to the area…set up to provide some way for the residents to raise their own vegetables and herbs. A way for them to see that in the midst of this devastation life continues. (more…)