“Tell her to help me,” Martha demanded of Jesus.
The gospel commends Martha in every way. Can you commend Martha for demanding an answer from Jesus? Who are the forceful women in your life who keep you on your toes? Can you admit when they’re right?
Maybe especially since the Holocaust, Jewish faith demands God be answerable for suffering.
Richard Swanson says, it insists “God owes creation an intervention, a ‘right-side-uping.’”
Martha demanded an answer from Jesus, and on the cross God also demanded an answer from God: “Why have you forsaken me?”
What answers or response does your heart demand from God today? Root your protest in the resurrection, and trust that seemingly small or domestic things can involve the kingdom of God.
What is the nature of the universe?“What happens to us when we die?” raises other uncommon but deep questions, like, “Where does consciousness come from?”
You might say, “the human brain,” and many scientists and philosophers do. Human awareness and personhood, they say, emerges from our brains and bodies. But others suggest consciousness is beyond humans and is in fact part of the nature of the universe. You wouldn’t go looking for the weatherman in your TV. Human minds and bodies are receptive to the consciousness that is beyond us.
Likely this sounds like impractical speculation, if not outright new age mumbo jumbo. And maybe it is. But then again, what is the character or quality of the consciousness that’s beyond us? Love? Anger? Is it distant and impassive? Engaged and active? What would you point to as evidence?
Do you see where this is going? It’s a way to explore questions of faith with people who claim no faith. Or to surface your own faith and questions.
God is what we call the consciousness beyond. This consciousness is our source (before birth) and end (after death). Its nature is love—deeply engaged, willing to suffer for the sake of life. Evidence? The cross and empty tomb.
“But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?’”
To want to justify yourself is to want to prove yourself right or worthy, to show (off) that you’re a good person, to win a moral contest, to get yourself off the hook.
Boy, is it tempting to live every moment of every day in this defensive/aggressive stance! Jesus frees us from such fruitless posturing. Only as we are overwhelmed by great suffering and great love (that is, forced to let down our guard) do we begin truly to experience--and share--the grace and compassion of God.
Who is someone, if they showed you compassion or mercy today, you would balk at receiving help from? Who do balk at giving compassion or mercy to? Ask Jesus for the help you need.
What happens to us when we die?My son, Amos, recently drew me close to whisper a secret in my ear. He made a long series of whispery noises and then said, “You’re gonna die.”
He giggled; I laughed to tears. So creepy! So true! I want to carry this memory and Amos’ playfulness to my deathbed.
You’re gonna die. And then what? At L’Arche’s anniversary dinner, we didn’t get metaphysical, but when core members die, L’Arche responds to that question. What happens next?
Spend a good week at least ruminating. What do you believe? Any response is, by its nature, a profession of faith…if not in God, then something.
I’m most interested to wonder with people who live the question in a meaningful way. People who’ve experienced—or fear—the death of a loved one. People in touch with whispers like Amos’. People who want to live purposefully in the time they have left. They know the question goes beyond science, beyond even religion, at least its pat answers.
You can learn a lot about other humans—and discover a lot about yourself—by asking: What happens to us when we die?
“Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you,” Jesus said.
Notice that Jesus did not tell his disciples to be welcoming. Jesus sent his disciples out to seek a welcome. What’s the difference?
Would you rather be the welcomer or the welcomee? Why?
Where or to whom is Jesus sending you? Who is Jesus sending with you? What are the risks? The potential joys? The good news you get to share? Let these questions be your prayer today.
45 years of L’Arche ClintonI attended L’Arche Clinton’s 45th Anniversary dinner last month, along with a handful of other St. Paul people, including Gregg Petersen. L’Arche is well over 100 intentional Christian communities around the world, home to people with and without intellectual disabilities. L’Arche Clinton is one of the oldest such communities in the U.S.
The anniversary program was quite moving. Former L’Arche directors told stories. St. Paul was celebrated more than once. Lois and Mert Schmidt and Pastor Last were remembered. Do you know the date when L’Arche started using its first office at St. Paul? July 1, 1989. Thirty years ago, this month.
At first, the L’Arche office was just a small, single room, just to the south of the downstairs kitchen. Now, L’Arche offices occupy nearly the whole south wing downstairs! L’Arche has grown—both in terms of numbers of core members and houses and the administrative complexity of the organization.
And with the gains, also losses. As new core members joined the community, so also many have died. Including Johnny Olson, whose funeral was at St. Paul last year. Maybe in the loss is when the faith of L’Arche matters most
“Let the dead bury their own dead,” Jesus said.
The same God who said, “Honor your father and mother,” seemed to dismiss a potential follower’s desire to attend their father’s funeral. How can this be? Why do you think Jesus chose to make his point so bluntly?
The story of the call of the prophet Elisha would have been well known to Jesus’ first followers. Elisha was indeed permitted to go home and say goodbye. What is the difference between the way of Jesus and the way of that historic prophet of old? What’s the difference between being good and decent and being a disciple of Jesus?
Can you imagine following Jesus with reckless abandon? How would that be different from the way you follow Jesus now? Ask Jesus, “What do you want from me?”
Vine and branchesJesus said, “I am the vine, and you are the branches.” Life flows from the source to you, for you and for others. Jesus continued, “Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing.”
Vine and branches is an image of flow, of becoming open, of working together in love.
How do you do to help Jesus open you head, heart, and body? What do you do?
Surrender to the One “you can trust more than yourself.” Turn your life “over to the care of God.” Accept your unworthiness (and we’re all unworthy). Stop playing games of “heroic sacrifice” and “seeking superiority, admiration, and control.” (Again, these are Father Rohr’s words.)
Trust the Holy Spirit, who, Jesus said, “will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you.” I’m still learning what really are acts of faith, surrender, and acceptance for me. I’m learning it’s more about being than doing. “I am…” Jesus said. And, “You are…” You already are.
Thanks be to God.
Pastor Clark Olson-Smith