Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Tuesday October 31st - Eve of All Saints … what it’s really about

Hallowe’en.  The promise of chocolate, or a scare, only faintly echoes the mystery of this ancient Christian festival. Chocolate just may be, for me, a mysterious foretaste of what we all hope for – the best chocolate is, after all, truly awe-some! – but Hallowe’en lost something along the way.  Do you long for everything to make sense, for a fulfilling life, for a society that serves the ideals of justice and fairness that are planted deep in every human soul?  Do you anticipate something much more wonderful than chocolate … that all will be well?  That’s the original promise of Hallowe’en.

Graham

Monday, October 30, 2017

The absence of evil is no guarantee of goodness

Morning: Psalm 41, 52; Zechariah 1:7-17; Revelation 1:4-20

When you measure your virtue by the evil you avoid rather than by the good you do, you are vulnerable to evil without realizing it.  The rich ruler in the Gospels does no wrong, but evil lingers close at hand, in his attachment to his wealth.  In the fight for right, only to shun evil is not enough; it may even be a dangerous betrayal of those who depend on you.  Goodness is not the avoidance of evil (“I didn’t do it!”). Positive action in service of the truth is what builds kinship and community.

Graham

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Be still, say nothing, be open, & quit thinking

Morning: Psalm 63:1-11; 98; Haggai 1:1-2:9; Acts 18:24-19:7



Today is Reformation Sunday; it remembers Martin Luther’s role in the Protestant Reformation … Christianity realized that loving God is what enables you to love others – ‘works’ depend on faith.  What is this … loving God?  For me, it’s about relationship – spending time together, learning about one another, enjoying one another’s company.  Paradoxically, you can get to ‘know’ the unknowable God well enough that you come to love her.  The best way I have found to do this is to be still each day, say nothing, be open and quit thinking I control my life, or anything else.  Try it.

Graham

Saturday, October 28, 2017

What we do flows from who we are

Morning: Psalm 66; Isaiah 28:9-16; Ephesians 4:1-16




Jesus taught that good actions flow from the heart.  500 years ago, Martin Luther nailed 95 theses to the door of Wittemberg castle church. Luther echoed Jesus’ teaching … you cannot buy your way to goodness or grace.  And you cannot make yourself whole by doing good things.  On the contrary, the capacity for good actions comes from inner wholeness, which is a gift received from the Spirit.  A tree cannot control what nourishes its roots, and yet “the tree is known by its fruits”.  Similarly, who we humans are is a gift from beyond us, not our own doing.

Graham

Friday, October 27, 2017

A house divided against itself cannot stand

Morning: Psalm 31; Ezra 3:1-13; I Corinthians 16:10-24

A divided self or a divided heart says or believes one thing yet does another.  Hypocrisy literally means ‘pretending’ or ‘playing a part’, ‘play-acting’.  They accuse Jesus of using evil means to heal people, implying evil motivations and access to dark powers.  He suggests to them that pretending to be who you are not is one kind of brokenness; it cuts you off from yourself. You can find your way back from that. But making out that goodness is evil is a more profound brokenness, because it cuts you off from the source of your own possible wholeness and healing.

Graham

Thursday, October 26, 2017

To suffer in the service of justice

Morning: Psalm 37:1-18; Ezra 1:1-11; I Corinthians 16:1-9
The ‘Suffering Servant’ in Isaiah stands for justice and suffers in the service of justice.  Justice, in this sense, means right relationships for all creatures, human and non-human. Jesus suffers and dies for his people, to bring them to a new kind of freedom.  Paul speaks of a door for effective work, and that “there are many adversaries.”  It’s as if Paul believes that the work is worthwhile because there is opposition.  Are you being invited to give up some comfort in the service of justice?  That may be one indicator that it’s the right thing for you to do.

Graham

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

When the rules don’t cover it … what then?

Morning: Psalm 38; Lamentations 2:8-15; I Corinthians 15:51-58

In workplaces, law courts, and our personal lives, there are countless questions the ‘Policies and Procedures Manual’ doesn’t answer. All kinds of situations go beyond what the rules anticipate.  Life is just too complicated to be summed up easily. So when the Laws appear stupid, it’s good to be reminded that they are there only to serve the community’s well-being. We also seem to have an in-built moral compass – some call it the Spirit – to help us find our path.  The trick is to listen and to watch for where the Spirit points, and then to go that way.

Graham

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Are you tired? Worn out? Come to Jesus

Morning: Psalm 26, 28; Lamentations 1:1-12; I Corinthians 15:41-50  
Right after Jesus laments his generation’s childishness, he admits that children understand what sophisticated adults may miss.  Children don’t complicate things.  Here is Jesus’ uncomplicated invitation, according to Eugene Peterson: “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” Come.
Graham

Monday, October 23, 2017

Tempted to childishness? Pray for wisdom.

Morning: Psalm 25; Jeremiah 44:1-14; I Corinthians 15:30-41  
I wonder if Jesus is surprised by people’s childish behavior? He asks: “To what shall I compare this generation?  It is like children sitting in the market place and calling to one another …” A modern version of this story might include the familiar taunt, “Na na na na na!”  What do you think, has our generation progressed much beyond this kind of childishness?  Anthropologist Bill Plotkin says that 50% of North American adults never will mature beyond adolescence.  But Jesus said: “Wisdom is proven by wise actions.”  I don’t always show such mature wisdom, but I pray for it. 

Graham

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Do not go alone

Morning: Psalm 148, 149, 150; Jeremiah 29:1,4-14; Acts 16:6-15
Jesus sends his disciples on their mission in pairs.  Their work is to call people to something better, something brighter than what they think is possible.  A new reality is trying to break into this present reality. When we work together, we support one another in bringing that new reality into being – we are that new reality.  When we work together with someone else, there is always the possibility of: a listening ear, a word of caution to guide us, a shoulder to lean on for comfort, a companion for the journey.  We were not made to be alone.

Graham

Saturday, October 21, 2017

What do you expect? Expect great things.

Morning: Psalms 20, 21:1-14; 2 Kings 25:8-12,22-26; I Corinthians 15:12-29

How much do a person’s looks or behaviour or role affect how you respond to them?  Do your expectations govern your reactions?  ‘What do you expect?’ is a crucial question.  For Jesus, there is more to John – and us – than meets the eye.  John is unexpectedly wild and strong.  And Jesus calls him a great prophet, the greatest man that ever lived.  Is there someone who fails to live up to your expectations? Check to ensure that your expectations do not reflect passions or prejudices that make you blind to the goodness or greatness in others, or in yourself.

Graham

Friday, October 20, 2017

Some plant seeds that others will water

Morning: Psalm Psalm 16, 17; Jeremiah 38:14-28; I Corinthians 15:1-11  
You may spend your life pursuing a dream only to realize that it’s going to take longer than you have. Like a ninety-five year old man I once met planting asparagus, which takes 5 years to yield.  Or like the beautiful avenue of oak trees that fulfil the vision of a farmer who planted acorns there 100 years ago.  Some plant seeds that others will water.  John the Baptist only needed to hear that Jesus was continuing his work.  Labour in a just cause is never in vain; others will tend your seeds when you cannot.  So plant them anyway.

Graham

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Finding yourself

Morning: Psalm 18:1-20; Jeremiah 38:1-13; I Corinthians 14:26-40

The journey of self-discovery is hard.  Getting to know yourself is so disruptive it sets you at odds with people you hold dear.  Does this mean you must be in open conflict with everyone?  Not at all.  It does mean, though, that you must differentiate yourself from the priorities of others enough that you can live your own life according to your own priorities, not theirs.  This may be gut-wrenching; you may feel as if you’re losing yourself … until, you finally realize that you’re actually discovering that you are a wonderfully unique human being, and everyone else is too.

Graham

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Luke “the beloved physician” of body & soul

Morning: Psalm 103; Ezekiel 47:1-12; Luke 1:1-4  
When my doctor asks me about Mona, or my life in general, she is regarding me wholistically. Today is St. Luke’s Day.  Luke’s Gospel gives “an orderly account” of Jesus’ life.  His Acts of the Apostles describe the early Church.  Luke went on missionary journeys with Paul, who called him “the beloved physician”. Good physicians connect our body’s health with our lives.  The Way of Jesus would have taught Luke that our bodies and our whole being – our physical and spiritual selves – are inseparably bound together.  Luke’s stories invite us to live undivided lives, with body and spirit ‘in sync’.

Graham

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Be wise as serpents, innocent as doves

Morning: Psalm 5, 6; Jeremiah 36:27-37:2; I Corinthians 14:1-12  
What is so dangerous about Jesus’ work that he calls his followers “sheep amongst wolves”?  Well, Jesus opposes those who abuse religious power for their own benefit. Religious leaders in his day hide behind the power of rulers, and Jesus and his followers are caught in the crosshairs. Integrity and honesty are rare, risky and dangerous.  Naivety is not an option.  You must be as smart and wily as those whose power you challenge. You will probably always be vulnerable, though. For, if what you believe in never tests your wisdom, innocence, or safety, you may be compromising on something.

Graham

Monday, October 16, 2017

Wise, respectful Love

Morning: Psalm 1, 2, 3; Jeremiah 36:11-26; I Corinthians 13:1-13  
When Jesus sent out his disciples, he said: travel light; work among your own people; heal the sick; share good news; work respectfully on behalf of those to whom you are sent. Paul, the great apostle, reached a wider audience. Paul gave pointers about the attitude we must carry into all our work … namely, act from a stance of Love. Humble Love is patient, kind and persistent.  Jesus encouraged his disciples to embody wise love in the world.

Graham

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Love forgives and the forgiven love

Morning: Psalm 146, 147; Jeremiah 36:1-10; Acts 14:8-18

Jesus’ purpose is reconciliation … to bring things into right relationship.  For him, reconciliation is our human purpose, above all else.  Where relationships are broken, the way to heal them is through forgiveness.  Someone must take the initiative.  Jesus tells the woman who anoints his feet that she is forgiven – they both know for what. Then her actions overflow with gratitude.  Jesus is not only saying that he forgives her, he is saying she is forgiven, completely. Love forgives, naturally, and those who are forgiven love.  Seek Love so you can forgive and forgiveness so you can love.

Graham

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Loving is like breathing, like being fully alive

Morning: Psalm 137:1-6; Jeremiah 35:1-19; I Corinthians 12:27-13:3

Inspired speech, or great deeds, or sacrificial acts without love are of no use, says St. Paul.  But when these things are done in love … then there’s magic! The opposite of ‘without’ is ‘within’ or ‘in’. You do not have love; love is something you’re in, like an atmosphere, or an ocean.  We cannot gather up Love so as to have lots to give away. We can only step into Love and let it change us.  To give Love, we must first receive it, and embrace it; then, loving is like breathing, like being fully alive.

Graham

Friday, October 13, 2017

Who’s the Harvest for anyway?

Morning: Psalm 140, 142; 2 Kings 23:36-24:17; I Corinthians 12:12-26

When Jesus says, “the harvest is plentiful but the labourers are few,” I need it to make sense.  Was Jesus talking about harvesting human ‘souls’, as if God needed them? I cannot serve a needy God. The idea is as difficult for me as herding people like ‘sheep’ or catching them like ‘fish’.  But isn’t a ‘harvest’ about bread? … to satisfy our need, not God’s?  Jesus is called “Bread of Life”, broken and shared for our nourishment.  So the ‘harvest’ is Jesus himself, who is everything people need to satisfy their souls’ deep hunger, the embodiment of Love.

Graham

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Life finds a Way

Morning: Psalm 131, 132; 2 Kings 23:4-25; I Corinthians 12:1-11

Why does a woman with haemorrhages touch Jesus’ cloak, hoping to be cured?  Why does a religious leader, whose daughter has died, seek Jesus’ help?  They find, in Jesus, a Life force that challenges death’s power. Of course, we still all long for life and healing.  The problem is … our culture believes that eventually we will heal ourselves and conquer death.  In this, we are as misguided as those who ridiculed Jesus for giving hope to the sick or bereaved.  Even the Jurassic Park movie declared, “Life finds a way”.  Jesus points our little lives towards that larger Life.

Graham

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Mercy not sacrifice

Morning: Psalm 119:145-176; 2 Kings 22:14-23:3; I Corinthians 11:23-34

How many perfect people do you know?  Alternatively, how many people do you know who live with regret or shame about some aspect of their lives – a personal failure or wrong-headed action?  There are few, if any, in the first group, while the second group is large.  It certainly includes me. Moral uprightness is not a measure of success in life, but rather honesty and authenticity about who we are and what we still need.  What I need most is forgiveness, not a new list of the good things I must do. Mercy, not sacrifice, is Jesus’ message and method.

Graham

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Take heart … you are forgiven

Morning: Psalm 121, 122, 123; 2Kings 22:1-13; I Corinthians 11:2,17-22

When Jesus says to the paralytic, “Take heart, your sins are forgiven” it is unacceptable to me to think of his paralysis as punishment for something he had done.  The connection is more like this  … broken relationships and evil actions do indeed have crippling consequences for body, mind and spirit.  They hurt us and make us ashamed. So when you forgive people, you help them to let go of their shame, and so help heal their hearts.  You tackle the crippling consequences of evil and help them to get up, walk and live again.

Graham

Monday, October 9, 2017

Thanksgiving dinner … like bread and wine

Morning: Psalm 106:1-18; 2Kings 21:1-18; I Corinthians 10:14-11:1

Jesus broke, blessed and shared bread and a cup of wine as a way for us to remember him.  Churches call this ‘eucharist’, or ‘thanksgiving’. Such meals are acts of gratitude for all that we receive by grace (gratis).  Thanksgiving dinner is a sort of ‘eucharist’, an act of thanksgiving … for our loved ones, our life and our land.  Like bread and wine, all we have and all we are is for sharing, because it was never really ‘ours’ in the first place. Thankfulness leads naturally to giving, because grasping at things is not our true nature.  Happy Thanks-giving!

 Graham

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Release … from prison and from death

Morning: Psalm 118; 2 Kings 20:1-21; Acts 12:1-17

Peter’s miraculous release from prison and Jesus’ raising the widow’s son from the dead are astounding, unheard-of events.  People debate whether they happened.  Or are they just stories to remind you – when caught in prisons of your own making, or when grief and loss deaden your spirits – that now and then ‘chains’ do fall off and, inexplicably, you taste freedom?  Or you feel alive again after terrible discouragement or loss. The release really happened, and it’s best described in a story … and all you need then is to decide whom you need to thank for your freedom. 

Graham

Saturday, October 7, 2017

More than personal satisfaction

Morning: Psalm 107:33-43; 2 Kings 19:21-36; ICorinthians 10:1-13

Many have regarded Christian faith as a source of special privilege, status or rights.  Yet Jesus had “nowhere to lay his head”.  His frightened disciples cried “save us!” – perhaps even they expected a comfortable, storm-free berth.  Yet Jesus was ready to die for the urgent goal of human transformation.  It makes sense for us to want comfort and peace.  But until the world is healed, the Way of Jesus serves a purpose bigger than personal satisfaction.  Jesus’ disciples are called to become agents of the transformation he sought.  Sometimes, that comes at significant personal cost.  But Love is strong.

Graham

Friday, October 6, 2017

Broken, yet whole

Morning: Psalm 102; 2 Kings 19:1-20; I Corinthians 9:16-27

Typically, we do not witness dramatic healings, so what do Jesus’ healing stories mean?  For me, Jesus enlists the healing powers of the Cosmos. Our bodies, minds and spirits rarely let us down, yet it’s easy for us to forget our many experiences of healing. The Creation’s healing power is always available to us, if not in the ways we expect or hope for.  Healing does not always mean cure, but healing can help us to bear the burden of suffering.  Though broken, we can be whole.  If you know someone who died contented with life, you have seen this.

Graham

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Build on strong foundations

Morning: Psalm 105:1-22; 2 Kings 18:28-37; I Corinthians 9:1-15

A young colleague died tragically and unexpectedly this week.  To cope with such moments, Jesus reminds me, you need to draw upon inner resources and strength built up over time.  In dream theory, a dream about a house is a dream about life as a whole.  Just as you cannot build a sturdy house overnight, it takes time to build a resilient life.  You need to build solid foundations on the ‘rock’ of ancient wisdom and prayer, day by day over months and years. Then, in time, when ‘storms’ rage, your house (your life) will be able to withstand them. 

Graham

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Francis and Jesus … living reminders

Morning: Psalm 101; 109:1-30; 2 Kings 18:9-25; I Corinthians 8:1-13

On this St. Francis’ Day, Matthew aptly invites reflection on the narrow, hard path that leads to fruitful living. Well apparently, the “new thing” for Baby Boomers is theme park living, because we might get bored!  How will I prioritize my next roller-coaster ride against the value of a balanced life and harmony with all created things – moon, sun, animals, and you, my sisters and brothers?  I want to give megaphones to Francis and Jesus, so we Boomers hear, above the noise of the circus, what our lives are for, right to the end.  Then we won’t be bored.

Graham

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

And when I mess up? … Help is available


Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount is full of sound advice – “Don’t judge others, or you’ll be judged.  Don’t be blind to your own faults.”  Then there’s the Golden Rule.  We’ve heard it all a thousand times. But what if I do judge or criticize or mistreat others?  What then? Jesus anticipates these fears and failings by telling us to ask for help. You’re not all good, he says, but even you know how to treat your children with kindness.  Kindness is at the heart of Creation. We may disagree about how this happened, but we know we can trust kindness.

Graham

Monday, October 2, 2017

No worries! … If you look out for one another


These are anxious times. Anxiety comes from fear of loss. Not much seems stable or certain; especially for the young … Can the earth sustain us all, given current climatic, political and social tensions?  Jesus’ words, “do not worry”, may sound hollow.  But notice, Jesus says we should strive first for right relationships and the rest will follow.  This is not an easy discipline.  Instead, we push past others in pursuit of our own security, forgetting that our own safety depends on theirs.  When we serve one another, Jesus’ words, “do not worry”, will ring true.

Graham

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Captivated by Good News

Morning: Psalm 66, 67; 2 Kings 17:1-18; Acts 9:36-43
Evening: Psalm 19, 46; Luke 5:1-11

I dislike some of Jesus’ metaphors … The idea of “fishing for” or “catching people” is one of them. Being “caught” is worse still.  But Jesus did not intend for people to be entrapped. Rather, I think he expected they would be “captivated by” or “caught up in” his ideal.  Jesus’ Good News “hooks me” by inviting me to become the very person I was intended to be.  If you’re trapped, you cannot be fully yourself.  But if you’re enthralled by Jesus, you may choose to follow him, as the disciples did.

Graham