March 9, 2014
1st Sunday in Lent
Dan 9:3-10 Heb 2:10-18 John 12:44-50
We find three significant themes in today’s readings. Jesus is the sacrament of God and whoever has a relationship with Jesus has an experience of God. Secondly, Jesus came to offer us a pathway to God through his words. This is the universal channel to establish and deepen our relationship with the Divine Essence. Thirdly, the Sinai Covenant now includes the whole of humanity: I shall be your God and you shall be my people! God’s covenant is unconditional and universal.
As we continue our Lenten journey we need to ask if our lives are an epiphany of God. Have we stepped out of our narrow paths and now move into the universal channel heading towards the Divine Essence? And do we trust God’s covenant where there is no judgment, only love?
March 8, 2014
Phil 4:10 – 20 John 17: 20 – 26
Paul is writing a letter of freedom to the Philippians and rejoicing while he is in prison! Now that Paul is basking in the love and the presence of the Divine he is completely at peace. He has learned to be content in riches and poverty, health and sickness, long life and a short one. The serenity at the depth of his being reflects the heart of the Universe this is unaffected by the turmoil of life.
In John’s gospel we see that this gift of contentment and freedom is given not only to Christians but to all who believe in God – those who seek a relationship with the Divine. Jesus prays that we may ALL be in the Divine Essence. During this Lenten celebration, when we allow ourselves to be drawn ever deeper into the Divine Essence, we will experience our true selves and, like Paul, find the peace and freedom in the turmoil of our lives and live the fullness of life.
March 7, 2014
Phil 4: 1- 9 John 17: 9 – 19
St. Paul reminds us that Lent is a season of rejoicing and gratitude becomes our way of life. The more we open ourselves to receive God and all God’s gifts, the less anxious we are in our daily lives and the more peace we experience. Like Mary who accepts to bear God in her life we too can make her song our Lenten prayer,
“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my saviour, for he has looked on the no-thingness of his handmaid. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is God’s name.”
In reading John’s gospel we realize that God loves each of us as much as Jesus was loved. God wants to give us infinite gifts and our spirits are capable to receiving infinite gifts.
March 6, 2014
Phil 3:12-21 and John 17: 1-8
In today’s readings we are introduced to St. Paul’s spiritual journey. Paul had his foundational experience on the road to Damascus and like Jesus went to the desert to soak in this tremendous revelation of a loving God. Once he begins to taste and celebrate this loving relationship he does not waste his time wallowing in his past sinful life but strains forward to deepen and celebrate the incredible gift. In John’s Gospel Jesus offers this same gift to all who believe, that is to all who seek a relationship with God.
God offers everything that God is and all that God possesses to anyone who knows how to receive. Remember the challenge of a loving relationship is not to love but to allow myself to be loved.
As we journey with God during this season of Lent, imitating Paul and Jesus, we need to forget our past and open ourselves to receive the tremendous gifts that are offered to us.
These reflections are being prepared for the First Congregational UCC Church St. Louis. Hopefully this will inspire you to respond so that many who follow these reflections will also be helped.
Ash Wednesday, March 5, 2014
Lent is a celebration of the forty days that Jesus spent in the desert and Ash Wednesday sets the backdrop for this celebration. The desert experience of Jesus is an integral part of the Baptism of Jesus and the foundational experience of Jesus when he experienced the total acceptance and unconditional love of God. It was in this experience that Jesus finds the meaning of his life, his strength, inspiration and happiness. In one sense this experience was tattooed on Jesus — A tattoo that marked him permanently.
The tribal in India are all tattooed with symbols of God. They believe that while they are alive people can deprive them of material comforts, take away their human dignity and leave them with no rights, yet no one can touch their God who is tattooed on their bodies. When they die the only thing that they will take with them is their intimate relationship with God.
Christians begin the Lenten season with Ash Wednesday. The symbol of those ashes is a reminder that God is tattooed on our bodies and that we are carved (tattooed) on the palms of God’s hands. Like the tribal, people can take away all we have but no one can touch God who is tattooed on our bodies or in our hearts. When we die the only thing that we will take with us is our tattoo. Nothing can separate us from the love of God. And so Lent is a time given to us for a celebration of this extraordinary divine gift.
Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass, the world is too full to talk about. Ideas, language, even the phrase “each other” does not make any sense.
Mevlana Jelaluddin Rumi – 13th Century
Rumi’s invitation is to dwell in the field of the essence of life and experience Bliss, Anand, Shanti, Shalom, Eternal Peace. This field offers freedom from appreciation/criticism, praise/blame, honor/contempt, riches/poverty, pride/humility, success/failure, long life/short life, health/sickness, color/race/gender/sexual orientation. It is to live like the butterfly that is not affected by the thorns and roses or the lotus flower that is untouched by the dirt all around.
When the soul finds repose in that field, nothing exists and everything is alive – perhaps we had this experience when we felt one with the ocean as we sat alone on the beach watching the setting sun; the day we might have climbed a slippery roof just to watch the full moon light up the snow covered mountain range; the time we slept out in the open country side and felt one with the canopy of the stars; the day we let ourselves dance in the park as the Fall leaves glistened in the golden rays of the setting sun while the mist creates a magic land.
Maybe we could find a few moments every day and bring to memory an experience “When the soul lies down in that grass, the world is too full to talk about. Ideas, language, even the phrase “each other” does not make any sense.”
May we live a Bliss-Full life!
There is a famous legend of the Zen master who every time someone asked him the secret of his spiritual life and mysticism would raise a finger. Every time people would ask one of this master’s young disciples what his master’s secret was, this young disciple would raise a finger. When the master heard about this disciple he seized him and cut off his finger. The boy groaned in pain and began to run away. The Zen master called out to the boy who stopped, turned around and the master raised his finger. At that moment the boy became enlightened and became a Zen Master.
This powerful legend makes us reflect on whose lives are we living? Some repeat doctrine, dogmas and rituals that were handed down to them without ever questioning them. Others follow authors and speakers and quote them without integrating them in their own lives. They have the words but not the music. Like the young disciple in the legend we all go through a phase of mimicry and imitation. But then we need to be open to the shock treatment of getting our ‘fingers cut,’ ready to stop, look back, be enlightened and find our own symbol and expression of the secret of our spiritual life and mysticism.
The finger that is cut off may be security that comes from family, society, culture, religion and God. The mind with all the philosophies and theologies stops; the heart with all our past experiences stops; and we are now AWAKE and ENLIGHTENED. Our lives become models that others follow or envy!
What is the secret of YOUR spiritual life and mysticism and how will that change the way you live your life? Do you want to be awakened, enlightened and allow people to follow you?