Wednesday, July 20, 2022

Peace Be With You!

Sermon preached at Mission Bend UMC on April 24, 2022. Read John 20:19-31

One day an artist was commissioned by a wealthy patron to paint something that would depict “peace.” After a great deal of thought, the artist painted a beautiful beach scene. There was white sand and crystal-clear blue water. The waves felt like they were alive and the birds, the birds were flying with ease and majesty. It felt like you could walk right into the scene. The artist gave the picture to the patron but was met with a look of deep disappointment. "This isn’t a picture of true peace. It isn’t right. Go back. Try again.

The artist went back to the studio, thought for several hours about peace, then went to the canvas and began to paint again. When the artist stepped back from the canvas, there was a beautiful picture of a young mother, holding a sleeping baby in her arms, smiling lovingly at the child. Surely, this is true peace.  The artist hurried to give the painting to the wealthy patron. But again, the patron refused the painting and asked the artist to try again.

Returning once more to the studio, the artist was feeling an exceptional sense of rejection. Discouraged, tired, disappointed, and angry, the artist then prayed for divine inspiration to create an image of true peace. Suddenly an idea came. 

The artist rushed to the canvas and began to paint as never before. When the painting was finished, the artist hurried to bring it to the hard to please, patron.

The artist barely breathed as the wealthy patron stood staring into the image for what seemed like hours. With a pensive whisper, the patron said, "Now … this is an image of true peace." 

If you were to paint a picture of true peace, what would your painting look like?

This artist painted a stormy sea pounding against a cliff, the fury of the wind lashing out at enormous rain clouds, whipping back and forth against the dark and gloomy sky. Streaks of lightening zig-zagged across the image. The sea was roaring in turmoil and chaos, waves churning, the dark sky filled with the power of the furious thunderstorm.

And right there, in the middle of the picture, under a cliff, the artist had painted a small bird, safe and dry in her nest snuggled safely in the rocks. The bird was at peace right in the center of the storm that raged about her in sheer chaos. 

Stormy Chaos! Do you remember the time that Jesus was asleep in the middle of a raging storm, and the disciples cried out in fear? Jesus spoke into the chaos and said: “peace be still,” and the storm dissipated. 

In our reading today, it is a little different, isn’t it? Jesus does not take the storm away. Instead, he offers the disciples an ever-deepening “peace” while the storm still rages around them. They are gathered in community, together because of their shared grief. 

They are in hiding because they are afraid of what will happen to them because they are Jesus followers.  In truth and in time, early Christian history tells us that 10 of the 12 original disciples, and many other followers of Jesus, WERE martyred because of their faith in Jesus Christ. 

Have you ever felt the kind of “peace be with you” peace that Jesus is offering here? Peace that comes in the middle of your fear, your chaos, the storms of your life, the grief that comes from losing someone you love. Have you ever felt that kind of peace? 

The truth is that kind of peace, God’s peace, the peace that Jesus offers the disciples in that locked room, doesn’t depend on our circumstances but on our faith. 

The word that is translated “peace” in the New Testament is the Greek word “Eirene.” Jesus would actually have said Aramaic Hebrew, “Shalom.” 

Rabbi David Zaslow says Shalom comes from a Hebrew root-word that means “wholeness.” In the Hebraic way of thinking, wholeness is the joining together of opposites. That’s why “shalom” is offered both when we come AND when we go. 

Friends, as followers of Christ, we are wondrously linked together through the hidden connections of our comings and goings, our beings and doings, our inner lives and our outer lives, in our agreements and in our disagreements. In the Ubuntu theology of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, my humanity is bound together with your humanity. I am what I am because of what we all are together. When one suffers, we all suffer. And when one is made whole, we all experience a deeper wholeness. 

When we realize this relational truth, we begin to long for wholeness in our lives, in our communities, in our world. 

That deep longing for wholeness is the source of peace expressed as “shalom.” 

When my daughter, Katie, was very young, I asked her one day, “What is your favorite part of the worship service?” She was very thoughtful about her answer, I could almost see her going through the service in her mind, and finally she said, “the passing of the peace.” Now my daughter is a very quiet person, and she was shy in her younger years, so I was really surprised. I asked her to tell me what she experienced in the passing of the peace that made it her favorite part of the worship service. She said, “well, most of the time adults don’t pay any attention to me, it’s almost like I’m not there. But when we pass the peace, I feel like they really see me and when they look in my eyes and say, “peace be with you,” I feel loved. 

What Katie was experiencing in that community was shalom. 

Shalom is what Jesus offered the disciples.  The risen Christ walked into that locked room and saw them in all their chaos and fear and grief, and he loved them. When he showed them the scars on his hands and in his side, they felt the sacrificial love of God come alive! Can you imagine the joy of that? 

Shalom. Eirene. Peace … be with you. 

Jesus meets the disciples where they are, in all their fear and strengthens them with his presence as he calls them out. 

What I love the most about Jesus is that Jesus is always goin’ be Jesus!  Right after the JoyJoyJoy, he commissions them for their mission, empowers them with the Spirit, and encourages them to be faithful to their beliefs and to their mission. 

With each of the three “Peace be with you,” Jesus offers, he leads them, and us, deeper and deeper and deeper into true discipleship. 

And discipleship, my friends, is not for the faint of heart, but for the faithful!

Shalom. Eirene. Peace … be with you. 

The first peace is the peace of Easter Sunday. We have journeyed deep into the remembrance of Maundy Thursday, the Darkness of Good Friday and the Silence of Holy Saturday … only to wake up on Easter Sunday morning and celebrate! Christ the Lord is Risen, every year, year after year, without fail! Christ the Lord is Risen! Hallelujah! 

Amen? Amen!

When the risen Christ first appeared in that locked room and speaks, those disciples experienced a relief that against all odds, death had not won; after all of the blood, the nails, the thorns, the beating, and the cross …  Jesus IS alive! 

Shalom. Eirene. Peace … be with you. 

The second peace is the “not so fast” kind of peace, because Jesus didn’t show up just to make the disciple feel better. 

This is the peace that lasts beyond that initial rush of joy … this is the peace that holds us together when we remember that there are challenges that lie ahead.

When Jesus then speaks the second “Peace be with you” he says, God sent me, so I am sending you! Go into the world and share the Gospel with everyone you meet: God loves you so much that if you will just believe in Jesus, you won’t perish but you will have eternal life. And even better than that, God loves everyone in the world so much that anyone who believes in Jesus will not perish will have eternal life and not just any kind of life but life abundant!

There’s the challenge but here’s the gift: we are not alone: Jesus breathed on those disciples and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” 

Do you believe in Jesus?  Then YOU have received the Holy Spirit to empower you to go into the world to share the love of God through your own witness. So, what’s your story and who can you share it with? 

Shalom. Eirene. Peace … be with you. 

So, the third peace, maybe it’s the “are you kidding me” peace. It’s a week later, after Jesus has commissioned and empowered those disciples with the Holy Spirit … and they are still locked away behind closed doors. It could be the “it’s not as easy as it sounds” peace, because it really isn’t easy at all. 

But it could also be the “communal reconciliation” peace. Thomas has basically said, “I’m not moving until I get what you got.” Congregations and Communities of Faith often do not do well with dissidents, direct challenges, and conflict. Sometimes we allow our conflicts to create doubts in one another.  Those conflicts then create an inward turn, one that keeps us from the mission we’ve been commissioned and empowered by the Holy Spirit to do.  

And so, we have who I call Thomas the Dissident. We often call him “doubting” Thomas but all he really asks for is to experience what the other disciples have experienced.  Mary doesn’t recognize Jesus until he calls her name. Even though she had told the disciples what she had seen, they weren’t so sure. They needed to see Jesus for themselves. So does Thomas. 

So, in order to bring peace to the community so they can get on with their mission, Jesus is more than willing to offer his wounds again. And I think that what he says next, “No more disbelief. Believe!” is an invitation for us to get on with our own mission, whatever that may be, to put our faith into action!

The Greek root of the word Jesus uses here, translated “believe” is pist. While overwhelmingly rendered as the noun faith or the verb believe, the deeper meaning in this Greek word is “trust.” Trust is highly relational and exists on a spectrum of growth. Belief is just the beginning and as our belief grows into trust, it is manifested as faith in action! 

When Jesus offers Shalom, Eirene, Peace, to the community of disciples, they have been immobilized by fear after Jesus’ crucifixion and paralyzed by conflict. Death is at their doorstep. 

For what Jesus is sending and empowering them to do — to put their faith into action by continuing his mission, spreading the good news of God’s grace and love for all, they must come to a place of deep trust, a place of Shalom, resting in the center of chaos that is now their life. 

Do you believe in Jesus?  Do you trust Jesus?  

We may not have death at our doorstep today, but we, too, are sent and empowered by the Spirit to walk right out that door and trusting God, to proclaim God’s love made known in Jesus Christ!

Shalom. Eirene. Peace … be with you. 

   Alleuia & Amen!

Monday, February 14, 2022

Upside-Down Spirituality

Now that I've retired, I hope to have more time to write but in the meantime, here is the message I offered at Mission Bend UMC in Houston, Texas on February 13, 2022. 

Read Luke 6:17-26

Not long after Rosa Espinoza and her husband, Eleazar, moved into their first home, they started wondering if they’d made a huge mistake. “Boys with baseball bats hung out on the corners, and they weren’t looking for a pick-up game,” recalls Eleazar. “After a drive-by shooting on our street, we started to really worry about the safety of our eight-year-old son. I thought, ‘What have we gotten our family into? What are we going to do now?’”

Rosa and Eleazar Espinosa initiated a neighborhood watch group, but the morning after the first meeting a clear message was spray-painted on their truck, ‘keep your mouth shut!” Rosa paused. She listened and she looked around her neighborhood. It’s like she took a shell, like this … it’s outer shell is brown and rough and tough and she turned it upside down and looked at the other side: delicate and beautiful and different. 

Then, Rosa decided to take a different approach to the bullies in her neighborhood. She transformed her two-car garage into a free after-school K-12 tutoring program. Rosa’s Garage, complete with computers, books, and banners for kids who made the honor roll, that was her way of looking beyond just her own problems to address some of the issues in her neighborhood. Rosa said, “We started by offering homework help and free lemonade. Sixteen kids showed up the very first day,” she remembers, and she started recruiting high school students with solid grades as tutors. “This was the first tutoring program in the neighborhood, and it was clear that these kids really did want to learn.”

Rosa’s Garage literally transformed the Espinoza’s neighborhood; within two years, academic scores went up and the crime rate went down. Rosa and Eleazar invested in their community and their community was transformed by their efforts. All because they were “upside down spirituality” kind of people. 

How would you “feel” if your car was spray painted, vandalized, for no good reason?  Angry? Confused? Fearful? Hurt?

When their car was spray painted, Rose and Eleazar could have gotten angry and demanded the kids who did it be caught and put in juvenile detention, or worse. But they turned their situation upside down to see it from a different perspective.

Jesus shows us upside-down spirituality with every encounter he has and with every story he tells. Just like Rosa and Eleazar, Jesus calls us to be upside-down spirituality kind of people, too! 

As we look at our scripture reading this morning, let’s see what we can learn from Jesus and the Prophets about being upside-down spirituality kind of people.

This passage may have seemed a little familiar. And that’s because it’s Luke’s version of Matthew’s “Sermon on the Mount” where Jesus offers us the “beatitudes.” Luke’s version is called “the Sermon on the Plain.” Wait! Is that a think? How many of you have ever heard of the Sermon on the Plain? Well, it is a thing!

It’s called the Sermon on the Plain because Jesus has just come down from the mountain where he had been praying. He has chosen his disciples.  He has engaged in healing Jewish people from Judea and Jerusalem and Gentile people from Tyre and Sidon. This was a large healing event. 

In the midst of all of this healing, Jesus turns to the disciples and to us. He gives us 4 blessings (or beatitudes) and 4 woes (warnings). 

The word "blessed" is translated from the Greek word, Makarios. It expresses the kind of happiness rich people would experience because they are free from care, they have nothing to worry about. It can also refer to a spiritual state of well-being that comes from prosperity. 

The word translated "woe" is from the Greek word ouai (oo y) which is "an interjection denoting pain or displeasure. It is also an expression of pity for those who stand under divine judgment. 

This literary mixing of blessings and woes in this way was quite common at the time. What sets these blessings and woes apart is that Jesus turned them upside down. They are 180 degrees contrary to human reason. You'd expect someone to say, "The rich are fortunate ... but the poor deserve what they get." Instead, Jesus says just the opposite. Take this couplet for example: 

Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.

Woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation

The other couplets are no more reasonable:

Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled. Woe to you who are full now, for you will be hungry.

Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. Woe to you who are laughing now, for you will mourn and weep.

When we hear something like this, something that is so contrary to our human reason, we might spiritualize it to the point that it really has no meaning at all. I think that is a mistake, Jesus doesn’t just say things for no reason. 

We do tend to add to the poor, “in spirit” because Matthew does. But when we read them in these couplets, like Luke wrote them, it doesn’t really feel like Jesus intends us to spiritualize them, or he would have said so.  

The other thing we do is dismiss people who are poor or hungry because hey, they are going to get reward in heaven. That’s true, right?  It says so right there.  So why worry about them? At the same time, if we take these couplets literally like that’s a major WOE for rich people. We might even condemn people for having possessions. Or expect them to give everything away?  Should I seek to be poor and hungry and full of grief? After all, Jesus met a rich young ruler seeking eternal life and told him to give everything away to the poor. 

Let’s not forget that it is not money itself that is the root of all evil, but the love of money/possessions/power that is the root of all evil. 

Woe to all of us who do not have the desire and the ability to share what we have with those who don’t have anything. The reality is that we have enough food in this world to feed every person, but we don’t. because why?

This is hard isn’t it. If we can’t spiritualize these couplets and we can’t literalize them … Is there a balance here, is there anything in between?  Could the balance be found in upside-down spirituality?

What IS this upside-down spirituality that Jesus is calling us to anyway?

More than anything, I think that Jesus calls us to think, to take situations, turn them upside-down which is just maybe a catchy way to say, I think Jesus wants us to see things from a different perspective.  I think Jesus wants us to see people the way he sees people, as valuable human beings who deserve to be cared for simply because they exist, valuable even though they are different, valuable even if we don't think so, valuable even if they can't do anything for us. People are valuable. 

And I think he wants us to understand the things we have here on earth are fleeting, and they aren’t worth watching people suffer when we could help them. Whenever Jesus turns things upside down as he does in this passage and so many others, it is an invitation to seek the kingdom of God. 

Jesus told some of his best upside-down stories, we call them parables, to help us try to understand the Kingdom of God. Do you remember the parable about an employer who hires workers to harvest grapes in his vineyard? He hires members of the crew at various times of the day, so that at the end of the day, some have only worked an hour or a few hours while others have worked all day long. Oh my goodness, the anger when everyone is paid the same standard day’s wage, regardless of how long they worked. To add insult to injury, those who started last got paid first. You know I have heard more people complain about this parable than any other.

“It’s not fair!”

Maybe it isn't fair, that's true. But Jesus says this is what the Kingdom of God is like if you want an invitation. 

Here is the key for me to this passage: the Kingdom of God/Upside down spirituality of Jesus, as seen through the lens of Luke’s theology, is firmly rooted in the prophets.  And that is where we have to go to truly understand how this passage is relevant for us today. It’s no wonder that Jesus mentions the prophets in this passage in such a provocative way, mentioning the way they were treated by the ancestors.

True prophets were hated, excluded, reviled, and defamed because they preached an authentic truth that was hard to hear. Whereas false prophets were spoken well of because they told the people what they wanted to hear … It was really the prophets who started all of this upside-down spirituality. 

The 3-fold message of the prophetic books (followed in the New Testament by John the Baptist) is 

1) a call to repentance

2) Without repentance there will be consequences, judgment

3) Promise of a Messiah who would bring forth the Glorious Kingdom of God for the people of God!  

Our responsibility in this 3-fold message is repentance. The 2nd and 3rd part of their message, that’s God response. And they are not mutually exclusive. 

The prophets call for us to repent. Repentance comes from the Greek word metanoia. It means to “turn” from those things that damage our relationship with God. There are specifically three areas of sin that the prophets were concerned with.

1) A Call to Repentance from:

Idolatry: "An idol is anything more important to you than God, anything that absorbs your heart and imagination more than God, and anything that you seek to give you what only God can give."  Jesus repeatedly tells us that it is hard for rich people (and by this he means anyone who has money and possessions) to put their whole and complete trust in God. Money can easily be an idol. At the very least, I think we might not understand how much our trust in God relies on our circumstances. A couple of years ago I had a friend who was going through a terrible divorce. Her husband was rich and powerful, and he knew a lot of people. She wound up with nothing and lost her children to this man. She said to me, you know it is a lot easier to have faith when you have money. I look at people differently now that my life has been turned upside down. 

Social Injustice: God demands that we care for the vulnerable and marginalized. I honestly don’t think that we have any idea just how seriously God takes social injustice, structures and institutions that thrive on systemic evil. God has always cared about widows and orphans. God has always cared about poor people, so much that in the ancient new east at harvest times, farmers were instructed to leave behind pods for the poor. When Jesus was confronted by the Pharisees because he and his disciples were taking grain from the fields on the Sabbath, his response was, “we were hungry.” The only time it was recorded that Jesus was angry. He turned over the tables of the moneychangers who were taking advantage of poor people. In the Jewish social system, although there is no evidence it ever happened, there was to be a Sabbath, or Jubilee, year. During this Year of Jubilee, the land was to rest (no sowing or reaping). Slaves, servants, and even captives were to be released. Property was to be returned to original owners. Outstanding debts were to be canceled. It was a year to re-set the communal imbalance between the rich & poor. When we look at Luke's couplets in our passage today, we can see jubilee.

Empty Spiritual Practices/Rituals: God desires a intimate relationship with people and with communities, supported by spiritual practices and rituals, such as (in early time) sacrifice, prayers, worship. But these rituals (spiritual practices) are only a means to a relationship with God, they reveal your relationship with God. They are not an end in and of themselves. Rituals and spiritual practices are not THE relationship. Worship is NOT a relationship with God, it is a means to nurture the relationship. If you come to worship, and sing and lift your hands (or not) and pray fervently so that everyone talks about how faithful you are and then you go out that door and step over the homeless person lying on the ground in front of you, call your neighbor to gossip about how much weight the lady in Sunday school gained, make everyone in your orbit miserable with your negativity and never give another thought about God until the next Sunday you walk in the door, well the prophets have something to say to you and I say, may God be merciful to you. You need to check yourself and turn your life upside down for Jesus!

There are the three main responsibilities we have in our relationship with God according to the prophets and Jesus: 

to put God first in our lives, 

to care about marginalized persons, 

to nurture our relationship with God thru spiritual practices.

The other 2 main concerns of the prophets are judgment and the promise of the Messiah, which are God’s responsibility, or God's response to sin. 

2) Divine Judgment 

When it comes to judgment, I think we should be very careful. For the most part I believe that there is an unfolding of natural consequences in life. Truly, what goes around comes around. I think it is never a good idea to pronounce that something bad that happens to someone or to a community is God’s punishment, for how would we know that? 

3) The Promise of a Messiah

Finally, the prophets gave the people hope through the promise of a Messiah. When we really think about it, Jesus himself is an upside-down Messiah! The Messiah was supposed to be a military and political leader who would rule as a king; a king who would bring everlasting peace to Israel. Even the disciples never understood what Jesus was about. Up until the very end, they just didn’t get it. There are commentators that believe Judas Iscariot's sole purpose in betraying Jesus was to force him to overthrow the Roman government and place himself on the throne as the true and rightful King of Israel, to rule the world I suppose. 

But that was not then, nor is it now the kind of Messiah that Jesus was. For God so loved the world, that God gave us Jesus, the Beloved with whom God was well pleased … as promised, so that we might not perish but have everlasting, eternal life. Why? Because we are valuable, every single one of us is valuable to God!  We should be valuable to one another, too!

While we cannot be sure about judgment, we have whole-heartedly embraced the promise of the Messiah because that is our story and our witness. As you live out your story and your witness, how is Jesus calling you to be an upside-down spirituality kind of person? 

Since it is Black History month, we close with a Prayer of Maya Angelou, an African-American poet, memoirist, civil rights activist, and (I dare say) an upside-down spirituality kind of person. 

Father, Mother, God

Thank you for your presence during the hard and mean days.

For then we have you to lean upon.

Thank you for your presence during the bright and sunny days,

for then we can share that which we have 

with those who have less.

And thank you for your presence during the Holy Days, 

for then we are able to celebrate you and our families and friends.

For those who have no voice, we ask you to speak.

For those who feel unworthy, we ask you to pour your love out 

in waterfalls of tenderness.

For those who live in pain, 

we ask you to bathe them in the river of your healing.

For those who are lonely, we ask you to keep them company.

For those who are depressed, 

we ask you to shower upon them the light of hope.

Dear Creator, You, the borderless sea of substance, 

we ask you to give to all the world that which we need most--Peace.

Sunday, April 4, 2021

Psalm 118: Easter Sunday

Psalm 118:1, 21-29

O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
   his steadfast love endures for ever!

I thank you that you have answered me
   and have become my salvation.
The stone that the builders rejected
   has become the chief cornerstone.
This is the Lord’s doing;
   it is marvelous in our eyes.
This is the day that the Lord has made;
   let us rejoice and be glad in it.
Save us, we beseech you, O Lord!
   O Lord, we beseech you, give us success!

Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.
   We bless you from the house of the Lord.
The Lord is God,
   and he has given us light.
Bind the festal procession with branches,
   up to the horns of the altar.

You are my God, and I will give thanks to you;
   you are my God, I will extol you.

O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
   for his steadfast love endures for ever.

Is music is a spiritual pathway for you, listen to My Redeemer Lives sung by Nicole C Mullen and let the words lift you into God's gentle presence on this beautiful Easter morning! I suppose I'm thinking about Mary's realization that Jesus wasn't in the tomb and her overwhelming wonder at what that actually means ... Our Redeemer, Jesus lives!

Join us for Live-Stream Easter Worship today at 11:00 and anytime on demand @ ... Scroll down on the page to find the link.

Breath Prayer for the Day:
Breathing In ... Oh Lord, my God
Breathing Out ...I give you thanks

Saturday, April 3, 2021

Psalm 62: Praying in Silence on Holy Saturday

Scripture:          Psalm 62, Luke 23:56

Focus Verse:        Psalm 62:1
For God alone our souls in silence wait.  

CommentaryIn Jewish tradition the Sabbath day begins on Friday evening and ends on Saturday evening.   Jewish law mandated the dead body of Jesus be removed from the cross before the Sabbath day began … I call Holy Saturday the "time between times."  As we leave the cross with those who cared for Jesus on Friday evening, anointing his body and preparing it with spices.  

Together we walk into the holy and mysterious darkness that envelops our body, our mind and our soul.  At some point, we let go.  We let go of our hopes and dreams for the future.  Tomorrow will never be the same.  Our world will never be the same.  The truth is that we can never really know what tomorrow holds.  When the sun rises and the dawn envelops the world wherever you are, you are suddenly looking tomorrow in the face whether you are ready or not.  Because we know the end of this story, we can wait in silent expectation on Saturday … 

Psalm 62 is a psalm of trust in God.  The psalmist exhorts the listener to wait on God, who is imaged as a fortress or refuge, one of the most common images in the Psalms.  The psalmist encourages us to denounce faith in anyone or anything else, only God!  When we pray with Psalm 62, trust grows through our silent waiting as God brings prayer to us.  This helps us to move beyond our list of wants and encourages us to pay attention to the needs of others.  

Reflection:  How do you "keep the Sabbath and make it holy, which means 'set apart?'"  How comfortable are you with silence and waiting?  How often do you pray in silence, waiting for God to "speak" to you?  Note: God speaks in many different ways, mostly it is in thoughts or feelings that come to us rather than in a "voice." 

If music is a spiritual pathway for you, I offer Holy Darkness, a song written by Dan Schutte and sung via YouTube by John Michael Talbot with some adaptation to the lyrics but it is the beauty of the chorus that makes this the song for me and for this day:

Intercessory and Breath Prayer:
Gentle God, sometimes words escape me, and I simply want to sit in your presence, being with you without words.  Let the names of those who need my prayers bubble up for me as I sit in your silence. I will hold them in my heart.  

Breathing in … God of Silence
Breathing out … Hear my Prayer

Friday, April 2, 2021

Psalm 126: Praying with Tears on Good Friday

ScripturePsalm 126, John 19:16-30

Focus Verse:  Psalm 126:5
May those who sow in tears reap with shouts of joy.

Commentary:  I can’t imagine the tears of Mary, the mother of Jesus. Of course, there were others who were close to Jesus there with her as Jesus died at the cross.  There were undoubtedly many others weeping as well.  Somehow a mother's (and a father's) tears are different.  I often wonder how a mother lives on after the death of a child.  To hear the words, “It is finished.”  NO, It’s not fair!   

Psalm 126 is one of the later Psalms of Ascent, a song of deep trust in God, a song that understand life, fair or not.  One day we will find joy in our heart again.  It is a psalm we can pray and deepen our faith with!

:  Have you experienced the journey from tears to joy?  How has God comforted you in overwhelming grief? 

Sometimes, in our grief, it is hard to hold so many words.  If music is a spiritual pathway for you, listen to this instrumental piano cover of Via Dolorosa, which means "Way of Suffering," beautifully played by Kaleb Brasee… you can listen and read the lyrics in silence or just listen and let the music soothe your soul.

Intercessory and Breath Prayer:
Comforting God, sometimes the losses we experience are overwhelming, especially when we lose loved ones.  Sometimes, we aren’t sure how to move on.  When others are grieving, we aren’t sure what to say to them.  Send an extra measure of peace to those who have lost children. Help us all to remember that joy will come again one day. 

Breathing in … God of our Tears
Breathing out … Hear our Prayer

Thursday, April 1, 2021

Psalm 147: Praying for the troubled on Maundy Thursday

Scripture:      Psalm 147, Luke 22:54-62

Focus Verse:    Psalm 147:3
God heals the brokenhearted, bandages their wounds and is a stronghold in times of trouble. 

Commentary:  O what a night!  So much has happened!  Jesus has spent so much time with the disciples, trying to prepare them for the events that will unfold … Jesus knew Peter would be tested to his limits, Jesus knew Peter would deny knowing him, and Jesus knew it would break Peter’s heart that he did not have the strength on his own to stand up for Jesus in his time of need.  Yet, what an example for us that Peter could fail so miserably yet accept the forgiveness that God offered him so he could grow beyond that moment of denial to become a great leader in the church.  

Psalm 147 is a psalm of praise that highlights God's character and divine action leading us to know that God is intimately interested in our life and well-being.  This is a beautiful song to remember that God cares for us, is always with us and protects us when we are in times of struggle. 

Reflection:  Have you ever been brokenhearted when you fell short of what you expected of yourself?  How did that make you feel in your heart?  How has God been your stronghold in times of trouble, trouble that you brought on yourself or troubled that came because of other circumstances. 

If music is a spiritual pathway for you, listen as Lauren Daigle sings “Rescue.”  Here is her beautiful story behind the song: “I wrote Rescue with a loved one in mind so this makes that one of the most personal songs I’ve ever been a part of. I remember getting this vision about a girl who was caught in a really desperate situation. She was running to all of these vices in order to find just an element of hope or just something to keep her in the process of this desperation. And in came walking down the hall Jesus. And instead of judging her for maybe some of the actions she had chosen that were really painful and difficult, He sat with her in the midst of it all. He didn’t try to fix her, He just was with her.” ~Lauren Daigle

Intercessory  and Breath Prayer:
Healing God, thank your for your grace and mercy.  We pray for all who need healing in body, mind, or spirit and ask your comfort for them, their families and those who care for them.  Rescue, O God, all those who feel so lost they aren't sure how to find you. 

Breathing in … God of the Brokenhearted
Breathing out … Hear our Prayer

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Psalm 12: Praying for the Poor on Holy Wednesday

Scripture:      Psalm 12, Luke 19:45-46

Focus Verse
:    Psalm 12:5 

The Eternal God says, “I will rise up because the poor are being trampled, and the needy groan for help and I will lift them up to the safety they long for.”  

Commentary: Animals, wine, oil, salt, and doves were needed for sacrifices in the temple.  There is some indication the selling of these items had been moved into the Temple Courts from a more neutral location.  Money changers charged a surcharge on the taxes required by the Torah, some of which may have gone into the pockets of the high priest’s family.  Jesus was angered on behalf of the poor people who were being taken advantage of IN the temple. 

Psalm 12 is a plea for help from one who is in trouble, one who knows that God will always rise up, protect, and advocate for those who are poor, victims of injustice.  Jesus did just that!  The psalms invite us to join God in work for justice, beginning with prayer. 

Reflection:  Who are the poor in our community?  Who are the people being taken advantage of?  How do you join God in helping others?  How do you pray for them?

If music is a spiritual pathway for you, listen to Beauty for Brokenness: God of the Poor  in a video created by Dalgety Parish Church of one of their beautiful praise hymns from the Church of Scotland hymnary.

Intercessory & Breath Prayer:
Merciful God, I confess I have not always seen the poor and troubled around me, and I have not always stood up for people being taken advantage of. Change my heart, O God, and reveal how I am called to reach out to others with your love. 

Breathing in … God of the Poor
Breathing out … Hear our Prayer

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Psalm 8: Praying for Creation on Holy Tuesday

ScripturePsalm 8, Luke 19:41-44

Focus Verse:  Psalm 8:1
O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!  

Commentary:  As Jesus neared the city Jerusalem, he would have gazed upon the majestic beauty of God's mountainous creation. Perhaps the beauty of creation helped him feel the presence of God and gave him comfort as he wept over the city and future he "sees" for his people. 

Psalm 8 celebrates creation and when we pray we can join the psalmist thanking and praising God.  It is a lovely song to pray with!

Reflection: How does the beauty of the natural world help you feel God's presence?  How should we care for God's creation?  How does God comfort you when you are weeping?

If music is a spiritual pathway for you, listen to Shane & Shane's beautiful arrangement of Psalm 8.

Intercessory & Breath Prayer:  
Creating God, thank you for creating such beauty in nature.  Help us know how to care for your creation to ensure it for future generations. 

Breathing in … God of the Earth
Breathing out … Hear our Prayer

Monday, March 29, 2021

Psalm 96: Praying for the Nations on Holy Monday

At HCKaty, we’ve been praying with the Psalms as we have interceded on behalf of others in the “Prayers of the People” on Sunday mornings all through Lent.  As we make our Holy Week journey, we’ll lift up portions of Jesus’ journey and engage in Interceding with Psalms.  This will be a lovely week of turning outward as we move toward Easter Sunday.

ScripturePsalm 96, John 12:12-15

Focus Verse:    Psalm 96:9-10
Worship the Lord in holy splendor. Let all the earth tremble before God. Tell all the nations, “The Lord reigns!”

Commentary: Holy Week begins as Jesus enters Jerusalem.  The people exalt Jesus, crying out "Hosanna, Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord—the King of Israel!”  It is an exciting way to begin a week that will take us deeply into sadness and grief.  

Psalm 96 begins, "Sing to the Lord a new Song" and we hear the Israelites singing and shouting and exalting God to all who hear.  This psalm invites us to widen our prayers to include the world, its leaders and its people! 

Reflection:  When you think of the world, what do you pray for?  Who do you feel like God is calling your to tell "the Lord reigns?"  How do you worship God with your prayers?

If music is a spiritual pathway for you, listen as Taya sings Hosanna during the Hillsong Tour of Israel, live on the Temple Mount.

Intercessory and Breath Prayer:  
Lord of Holy Splendor, strengthen those working for peace, that we may be guided along new paths of dialogue and understanding.  When we encounter people who don't look like us, help us remember you love them just as you love us. 

Breathing in … God of all People
Breathing out … Hear our Prayer

Sunday, March 28, 2021

Psalm 34: Palm Sunday

Psalm 34:1-8 (NRSV)

I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth.

My soul makes its boast in the Lord; let the humble hear and be glad.

O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together.

I sought the Lord, and he answered me, and delivered me from all my fears.

Look to him, and be radiant; so your faces shall never be ashamed.

This poor soul cried, and was heard by the Lord, and was saved from every trouble.

The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them.

O taste and see that the Lord is good; happy are those who take refuge in him.

If music is a spiritual pathway for you, listen to the Diocese of St Benedict perform Hosanna to the Son of David written by Dan Shutte.

Join us for Live-Stream Worship today at 11:00 and anytime on demand @ and scroll down on the page to find the link.

Breath Prayer for the Day:
Breathing In ... Hosanna Lord of Lords, King of Kings
Breathing Out ... I exalt you and praise your Name!