‘At that time Jesus said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants…’
Who are “the wise and intelligent” to whom Jesus is referring? Any one of three groups who held power. One, the scribes and Pharisees who were the educated, Jewish elite. Second, the Greeks, whose intellectual prowess was recognized even by Rome. And thirdly, Rome, which was the occupying and controlling force in Palestine. To a Roman ear, when Jesus, the peasant, prays aloud to the God whom he calls “Father,” – Papa – I thank you, Papa, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things – his revelation – from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants – Jesus is an idiot to the Greeks[i], blasphemous to the Jews, and treasonous to the Romans because Caesar, only Caesar Augustus, was called “God from God.”[ii]
“So he said to him, ‘What is your name?’ And he said ‘Jacob.’ Then the man said, ‘You shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with humans and have prevailed.’”
Jacob wrestling the angel until daybreak is surely one of the more mysterious and dramatic episodes of the Bible. Jacob not only prevails, but he is given a new name, a new identity: Israel. Continue reading
The disciples of John came to [Jesus], saying, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast often, but your disciples do not fast?”15And Jesus said to them, “The wedding guests cannot mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them, can they? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast. 16No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old cloak, for the patch pulls away from the cloak, and a worse tear is made. 17Neither is new wine put into old wineskins; otherwise, the skins burst, and the wine is spilled, and the skins are destroyed; but new wine is put into fresh wineskins, and so both are preserved.” Matthew 9:14-17
“I made your name known to them, and I will make it known, so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.” The last words at the Last Supper.
John’s Gospel likes to be obscure at times. What was the name Jesus made known to the disciples? The pronunciation of the Hebrew name for God was supposedly only known by the High Priest; he only pronounced it, whispering, once a year on the Day of Atonement inside the Holy of Holies. Is this the name Jesus made known to the disciples? How did he find out the divine name? Does that mean he was conferring a kind of priesthood upon the disciples? Who knows? Continue reading
This day in the Christian Year marks the day after Jesus’ Ascension into heaven when the Disciples knew that Jesus was no longer with them in the way that he had been.
Today’s Gospel is a flash-back to Jesus preparing his Disciples for that time when he would no longer be with them physically. After speaking of pain and joy Jesus said to his Disciples; “I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.” (Jn 16:22) Continue reading
Acts of the Apostles 9:1-20
I wonder how many of you remember Kathryn Kuhlman. Ms. Kuhlman, who died in 1976, was a well known evangelist and faith healer. Her television program featured a now familiar mix of preaching, music (with Dino at the piano) and faith healings. Ms. Kuhlman began each of her broadcasts with these very carefully enunciated words, “I believe in miracles” or more precisely in Ms. Kuhlman’s own inimitable pronunciation, “I believe-a in miracles.” Continue reading
Something mysterious happens to us when we find something to believe in. We discover that some task, some project, some idea has so captured our imaginations that we want to give ourselves wholeheartedly to it. We become dedicated to its fulfillment. Perhaps it leads us to support a cause or join a campaign, perhaps to take up a new role or responsibility, perhaps to make a commitment of time, energy or financial resources.
Isaiah 49: 1-7
Psalm 71: 1-14
I Corinthians 1: 18-31
John 12: 20-36
I’ll tell you a secret about me. Maybe those of you who have listened to me over the years can guess what it might be, but maybe not. It is not some earth shattering secret. I am not about to tell you some deep dark secret from my past. Rather it is about the way I approach scripture, and increasingly the way I approach life. Continue reading
Today’s Gospel tells us that Jesus told some Jews who had believed in Jesus previously, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” They responded, “We have never been slaves to anyone.” That was not the response that was expected. They must have been following different premises than Jesus. They must have heard something different from what Jesus had said to them. Continue reading
Many of you, I suspect, will be familiar with that wonderful story of extravagant love by O. Henry, called The Gift of the Magi. The story centers on a young American couple, Della and Jim, who are very poor but very much in love. Each of them has one precious possession. Della has exceptionally beautiful long hair, which is her glory. Jim has a gold watch, given to him by his father, which he cherishes above all things. It is the day before Christmas and Della has exactly one dollar and eighty-seven cents with which to buy Jim a present. She so badly wants to express her love for him that she goes out and sells her beautiful hair for twenty dollars. With the proceeds she buys a platinum fob for Jim’s precious watch. When Jim comes home that night and sees Della’s shorn head, he is speechless. Slowly he hands her his gift, a set of expensive tortoise-shell combs with jeweled edges for her lovely hair. He sold his gold watch to buy them for her. Each had given the other the most precious gift he or she had to give. The story is a lesson of love, love so deep and so extravagant that it does not hold back or count the cost, but rather gives all that it has. Continue reading
When we consider the things that Jesus said and taught, things like those in today’s Gospel Reading, we need to remember that Jesus was born and brought up in a Jewish family, in a Jewish country.
What we call the Old Testament; especially the Books of the Law, the Books of the Prophets, and the Psalms; were the only Scriptures that Jesus knew as Scriptures.
Earlier this year Queen Elizabeth II celebrated her diamond jubilee. I remember seeing her on the television, her tiny figure standing at the front of a boat as it made its way down the Thames, with thousands of people waving and cheering. I lived in England for the first 44 years of my life, and every day of my life I must have seen her face, on the coins, the bills, the stamps. Her presence was everywhere. It was ‘her majesty’s government’,’ her majesty’s prisons’, her majesty’s army, navy, air force ‘and even, every April, the dreaded envelope would land on the mat, bearing the words, ‘from her majesty’s inspector of taxes’!
The Roman Emperor Gaius Caligula was intent to install his bust in the Temple in Jerusalem. And why not? The Emperor was the emperor, after all, and one of his many titles, Divi Filius (Son of God), was inscribed on every coin used by Romans and Jews alike. In Jesus’ lifetime, the Roman Emperor was called “Divine,” and was titled “Lord,” “Redeemer,” “Liberator,” and “Savior of the World.” So why not install his own bust in the Temple in Jerusalem? There was huge resistance to this threat of desecration among the Jewish community, as might be imagined. A revolt was predicted… which is why we read in the Gospel appointed for today about wars and rumors of wars: the Jews versus Rome, nation against nation. And to compound the tension and despair, our Gospel lesson speaks of a severe, multi-year drought that affected the lands east of the Mediterranean. The good news we hear on Jesus’ lips is that the end is not yet. This may seem like the end, but it’s not yet… which is a word of hope. Our knowing that historic information will make a difference how we make meaning of this Gospel lesson appointed for today: the historical context in which Jesus spoke.
It’s refreshing that the Scriptures present folks just as they are. We see the characters in the Bible, warts and all. From Joseph’s lying and deceit, to King David’s adultery and murder, to Saul’s murderous campaign against the early Christians – it’s all there. And now, it’s Jesus’ own disciples who are exposed.
It might have been tempting for the gospel writers to cast these disciples in a better light, to put a more positive “spin” on their words and actions, to “photo-shop” their portraits in the gospels by covering up the blemishes. It might have been tempting to re-tell the story in a way that made them seem a little more heroic and a little less human.
Br. Curtis Almquist
While [Jesus] was speaking, a Pharisee invited him to dine with him; so he went in and took his place at the table. The Pharisee was amazed to see that he did not first wash before dinner. Then the Lord said to him, “Now you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. You fools! Did not the one who made the outside make the inside also? So give for alms those things that are within; and see, everything will be clean for you.
The Gospel reading today is The Lord’s Prayer in the version from Luke’s Gospel. Luke gives us a shorter form of that prayer than the familiar one we are used to, based on Matthew’s Gospel.
I feel that Jesus did not intend for the disciples to feel bound by a particular form of words. This is based on Jesus’ teachings on prayer and examples of his own prayers found in all of the Gospels. Jesus’ words in response to the disciples’ request, “Lord, teach us to pray,” are intended, I believe, as examples and guidelines to use and to expand upon when we pray.
Sergius, Abbot of Holy Trinity, Moscow
We live in a messy world; a world of contradiction, paradox, confusion, disorder, and inconsistency. We seek protection against so much of what seems uncontrollable in the patterns of our minds. The future can seem frightening because of this imperfect world we live in. “Thus we search for predictability, explanation, and order to give ourselves some sense of peace and control.”1 Continue reading
Today’s Gospel is a story about contrasts. We heard in Luke’s Gospel this morning that a Pharisee named Simon invited Jesus to eat with him. A woman of that city came to that house with a jar of ointment and stood at Jesus’ feet, weeping and washing his feet with her tears, wiping them with her hair and anointing them. Continue reading
The Bible speaks in many voices, in many modes: sometimes literally, as if to say “these are the facts”. Sometimes the Bible speaks poetically, that is, in figures of speech and parables and fiction.
Poetic language is open to interpretation, and yet it was Jesus’ preferred mode. And, as it happens, when we profess our faith in the Creed, saying “we believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth…”, “maker” translates ποιητής [poietes]. ποιητής being the Greek word for maker and also for poet. We believe in one God, the poet of heaven and earth.
Isaiah 48:17-19; Psalm; Matthew 11:15-19
This morning I’d like to propose as objects for our meditation the towering sycamore trees planted along Memorial Drive just outside our monastery. Sycamores are thirsty trees and thrive in wetlands or near rivers or streams. Their roots sink deep into the ground, soaking up nourishment and providing stability for their hefty trunks and branches, which often grow to 130 feet or more in height. Continue reading