Sabbatical, Day 2

Day 2 of the sabbatical. Definitely in resting mode. Worked on some final edits for my upcoming book. Then I napped. Worked on a web page for my upcoming book. Then I napped again. I’m also finding it hard to take my mind off church business although I expect this will be easier as the days go on. I’ll probably get the hang of it about the time sabbatical is ending! Feeling blessed at the moment… had wonderful sleepytime comforting images running through my head during nap #2 🙂

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City deer

Took this picture of the back yard earlier this week. This is in the middle of the city!

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Sabbatical

As of today I’m officially on sabbatical for the next three months. It’s a time to be renewed and re-energized, but not exactly a vacation. I’ll be doing a little traveling: going to two conference type things (Festival of Homiletics and Wild Good Festival), doing a little sight-seeing, and seeing some friends. Other than that I want to rest, connect a little deeper with Spirit, do some reading and writing, and spend some time reflecting on life. Two other projects: I need to finish up final edits on my book that should be out fairly soon and I need to find a new place to live. That should all be plenty to keep me occupied. Right now, I’m thinking I’ll try to blog fairly regularly as a way of reflection, but who knows?

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The Story That Must Be Told

When the religious leaders ask Jesus to tell his followers to quiet down (Luke 19:29-44), he responds that “if they were to keep silent, the very stones would cry out!” What is so important that nature itself demands it be said? The disciples are shouting a message of peace. What’s so bad about that? Well, the real problem is that they are referring to Jesus as “king.” Not a good idea in an occupied city overloaded with religious pilgrims and political tension. Jesus and his followers were challenging the injustices of their time by declaring that our loyalty should belong to God’s way of Love (as revealed to us in the life and teachings of Jesus) and not Caesar.

This is the story that must be told: God’s way is better than Caesar’s way – love wins over hate; compassion wins over oppression. This is still true today. This is a story we must still tell. We don’t have a Caesar today but patriarchy still looms large and sexism is still the rule in our culture of power and greed. The would-be kings of our modern world must not go unchallenged. When the world tries to force their kings upon us we have a choice to make. Do we go along with their corruption, their lying and false promises, their scapegoating of other religions and immigrants or do we choose love and compassion? Do we choose justice?

Today, we are still called to declare that our Caesars are false leaders and that God’s love is our only true guide, our only true hope. This is the story that must be told. The disciples shouted their hosannas and they were cautioned to be silent. Where and why are the oppressed being told to be quiet today – or else? We should always remember the hosannas, the calls to love and action. They, I believe, will keep us from turning to shouts of “crucify him” and call us to justice and compassion in response to the world’s cruelties. With the stories of despair that need to be told, there is one story that must also be told or even the earth will shout it out: the light that Jesus brought into this world cannot be extinguished. God’s love cannot be defeated.

(I originally wrote this short reflection for my church’s newsletter. It was inspired by my sermon from Sunday, April 9, 2017. The church’s website is http://www.phoenixchurch.org)

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Road to Jerusalem

In Luke 18: 31-19:10 Jesus is traveling the road to Jerusalem and he knows things are going to get real when he gets there. He tries to warn his disciples but they don’t understand. Maybe they have plans and desires of their own. Like many of their day maybe they foresee themselves as a movement to liberate Israel from Roman oppression and they can’t see past their own hopes. Perhaps they are having a hard time understanding that our hopes and plans aren’t necessarily in line with where the Divine would lead us. Whatever the reason, Jesus tries to interrupt their lack of understanding and wake them up.

Often, we get so focused on one thing that everything else gets blocked out until something happens to interrupt us, to wake us up to what is happening around us. How much of life seems like an accident? We make plans and then the plans go in unexpected directions. Some of the most important things that happen in our lives are not planned but are unexpected. These are often life-changing, unexpected interruptions in our lives. Sometimes they’re difficult and sometimes they’re joyous, but they wake us up in some way. In other words, being interrupted or woken up from the hum drum routine of our lives often leaves us stopped in our tracks and not knowing what comes next. These times, and perhaps this is the really sacred part, ask us to be mindful of the opportunities we might have at that point in our lives.

Jesus on the road to Jerusalem could be seen as a metaphor for our own spiritual journey to realize God’s Kin-dom, where in the end God’s ability to create life and love wins over the worst that human tyrants can come up with. But on that journey, Jesus is constantly providing interruptions for people and being interrupted himself. For example, the blind beggar interrupts Jesus with his shouting and Jesus interrupts the beggar’s life by healing him. This was a momentous event and completely unexpected. And just imagine what new opportunities then awaited. Likewise, Zacchaeus, who as a tax collector and therefore a colluder with Rome is despised by his neighbors in Jericho, climbs the tree to see what’s happening and when Jesus notices this guy up in a tree, he’s interrupted. He in turn stops to talk and eat with Zacchaeus and his family, interrupting his life and reminding him that he too is loved by God and thereby opens him to new opportunities, to new and better ways of living.

Jesus is still trying to interrupt us today, to wake us up, asking us to be mindful of the opportunities that life gives us in unexpected events and encounters. Perhaps when something stops us in our tracks we should imagine ourselves as Zacchaeus in that tree and Jesus has just stopped to say “come down, I have a surprise for you.” The Divine wants to wake us up, interrupt us, but we have to open ourselves to those interruptions. We have to do some interrupting of our own. The sick man has to go outside, the beggar has to shout, and Zacchaeus has to climb a tree. We too need to open ourselves to sacred moments that ask us to slow down, listen, and remember the holy in our lives, to stop and ask what new life, what new opportunities we might find as we journey together on our own spiritual roads toward the kin-dom just as Jesus walked the road to Jerusalem with his disciples.

(I originally wrote this short reflection for my church’s newsletter. It was inspired by my sermon from Sunday, April 2, 2017. The church’s website is http://www.phoenixchurch.org)

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