#LentWellLived Daily Reflections

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February 26, 2020

Daily reflections on the Lenten Gospels, written by the people of St. James.
Read along at www.LectionaryPage.net

"Lent is a season of the Church meant to mirror the forty days that Jesus spent in the desert before his public ministry began. As Lent begins, I think about the experience we sometimes have of entering into and residing in “wilderness." What happens when we enter such seeming barren places, spaces, or mentalities? What do we learn and how might we grow? In today's Gospel reading, Jesus "was praying alone, with only his disciples near him" (Luke 9:18). What is reveled in this quiet moment? After being named by Peter as “The Messiah of God,” Jesus describes his own death and resurrection and he tells the disciples: "If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves, take up their cross daily, and follow me" (Luke 9:23). Oftentimes, when we read the Gospels, we may be perplexed and maybe overwhelmed by precisely what Jesus is calling us to do. I know I struggle with the simultaneous simplicity and strangeness of that calling. But in the wilderness of Lent, we can begin to break well-worn patterns and to quiet the cacophony around us, and in such stillness we might, like the disciples, begin to recognize who Jesus is and we begin to understand the implications of his presence. We can freely contemplate the immensity of his calling for us. And we can begin the painstaking work of inscribing that recognition, that understanding, and that calling firmly onto our hearts."
- Sean Bala, St. James Young Adults

"How wonderful it is that Jesus’ disciples were willing to rebel! We read in today’s Gospel that Jesus and his disciples were eating with tax collectors and sinners and we hear Jesus’ inspired response to the cynics. But what was going through the minds of his disciples? Were they willing? Or were they still anxious? 'Feel the fear and do it anyway,' says Susan Jeffers. Then the disciples are criticized again – this time because they are not fasting when they ought to be. They were stepping away from the normal expectations probably knowing that they would attract criticisms. What was going through their minds this time? Scared? Worried? Or perhaps starting to feel free from expectations; starting to think for themselves; to celebrate Jesus’ bold, fresh approach to love. If we are disciples of Jesus we need to feel the fear and get on with it anyway."
- Alison Barrington, St. James Staff Member

"Dear Lord,
We thank you for calling the tax collector Levi to be a follower of you. This gives us sinners hope that we can also be called to be followers of you.
We thank you for sharing the table with Levi and his fellow tax collectors. May we learn to share the table with people from walks of life outside our own.
We thank you for surprising the Pharisees by keeping the company of the unrighteous. May we not let our identity as Christians to blind us from realizing our own unrighteousness.
We thank you for coming to this world and calling your worldly company to repent. May we do our best to actively repent this Lenten season.
We thank you for transforming the tax collector Levi into one of your disciples. This gives us sinners hope that we can also be transformed by you to share the Good News with others.
Amen."
- Connor Riggs, St. James Young Adults

"In this early part of our Lenten journey, the church’s cycle of readings throws at us the frightening vision of the day of judgement that closes Jesus’ teachings in Matthew’s gospel - the teaching about the division of humanity into ‘sheep’ and ‘goats’. It is frightening stuff, and not just because the fate of the ‘goats’ is to be cast into the eternal fires of hell prepared by the devil. It is really frightening because neither the good guys or the bad guys are remotely aware of what they have done: 'Lord, when did we see you hungry….?' is the cry on everyone’s lips. Lent is a time to practice discernment, and, in so doing, to change our behavior to make it more Christ-like and thus more pleasing to God. Let us pray we never have to look Christ in the eye and ask, 'but when did we goof up, Lord?'"
- The Very. Rev. Dominic Barrington, Dean of the Cathedral

"Our Father knows what we need before we ask him. What a comfort and blessing! We must remember he is all-knowing and caring about each of us. We pray to God in The Lord’s Prayer that 'YOUR will be done,' not OUR will. Remembering this focus should guide us throughout Lent and life. We ask GOD to 'give us this day,' but WE must take each day and make it a productive gift to honor God."
- Kaye Wertz, St. James Usher & Reader

"How often do we look back at the people in the Bible and think how ridiculous and out of touch they were? How inconceivable it is that the Son of Man was right there in front of them, and yet, somehow they still were not satisfied by his presence? How absurd that they demanded more proof of God's power and ability to perform miracles even while hearing from Jesus Christ himself, who would soon rise from the dead--the greatest miracle this world has ever seen? But, if we're honest with ourselves, how often do we demand the same of God today? How many times have we asked for a sign or demanded that God work a miracle in our lives? And then, refuse to be satisfied when his answer is "no," or sometimes the even more difficult answer, 'wait!'? This Lenten season, ask yourself, are you challenging God to provide proof of his providence over your life, or are you satisfied by his presence? He wants us to prayerfully share our joys, struggles, and fears with him, but, unlike our Biblical friends, we must learn to trust him, no matter his answer."
- Lesli Vipond, St. James Young Adults

"A door can be viewed as a barrier or an opportunity. How often do we close doors to people and opportunities that need us, or truly open our doors to the lonely and marginalized? Do we find ourselves on the outside, too fearful or insecure to knock? To knock, ask for help, or ask for acceptance takes courage. It’s an overcoming of fear that requires faith in the person behind the door. Jesus assured us that the door will be opened to us if we knock. But we must knock. We must seek in order to find, and we must ask in order to receive. May we learn to recognize the people knocking on our doors, especially when the knocking comes from a place of vulnerability. May we have courage and faith to knock on the doors in our lives, and the faith to knock on the door of Jesus."
- Gemma Wilson, St. James Choir

"We all have the capacity for chaos, hostility, and evil within us. It can be easy for evil to overtake us. How do we control our anger instead? During the season of Lent, we need to remember Jesus telling us that all people are our brothers and sisters. We need to make forgiveness and reconciliation more important than anything else. If we don’t, Jesus says there will be a price to pay.”
- Dorian Abbot, St. James Meals Ministry

"In a world filled with hate, it is challenging to convince ourselves to ‘love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.’ We need a daily reminder of this when life throws hatred at us. People use hate to devalue others and take control. It is one of the most destructive, demoralizing traits of human nature and takes on a social status in communities throughout the world. Jesus asks us to go beyond our feeling of hate towards those we assume have done wrong and treat them with an open heart. We look to our faith to give us strength to be more accepting of others and become more humble people. Negative feelings towards others only amplify more negative feelings; they don’t resolve or help show others the love of Christ. When we struggle to show compassion and love towards others who display profound hatred, we can ask God to change their hearts and minds to understand the needs of others. It is only through forgiveness that we can be at peace with the hate we feel inside."
- Jane Marienau, St. James Parishioner

"We read today the verses where Jesus instructs us in what is often called the Golden Rule: do not do to others what you would not have them do to you. This is, of course, a teaching that some of us have heard often since childhood. However, in reading the passage anew today, I am struck by something new, namely, how radical Jesus’ call is, but, at the same time, what he tells us about himself and our relationship to him. I have tended to think of the Golden Rule as a standard of behavior that we try to achieve willfully through our own action. But what Jesus asks us to do appears so radical—almost beyond ourselves—that I cannot imagine any longer trying to practice that kind of love without seeking his help. In this sense, Jesus extends to us the love he asks us to extend to others."
- Arthur Clement, St. James Verger and Young Adult Member

"There are times in the Gospels when Jesus is speaking to the Pharisees in which I feel like Jesus is speaking directly to me. As someone who preaches, I desperately hope that my sermons are a supportive guide on people's faith journeys. I also know my imperfections and would prefer for others to not emulate them, yet people watch. As Christians, the people in our lives watch the way we live: the decisions we make, the way we treat others, the votes we cast, the love, or lack thereof, that we share with the world. Do we live our lives like Jesus? Do we simply talk the talk or are we also trying to humble ourselves and walk the walk that leads to the cross of Jesus Christ?"
- The Rev. Anna Broadbent, Curate

"We should have sympathy for Salome, the mother of James and John. Like every good mother, she wanted a preference for her children. But Jesus warned her: be careful of what you ask for. Before great rewards in the heavenly kingdom, there is service to others, terrible trial, danger, and even death. We should also remember Jesus’ advice to the wife of Zebedee - when we pray, we should not ask for foolish things. In the 1960s, singer-songwriter Janis Joplin sang, 'O Lord won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz.' It is better that we should ask for our daily bread."
- Bob Wertz, St. James Usher & Reader

"In the gospel of Luke, Jesus began his ministry by announcing 'The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed; to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.' (Luke 4:17-19) Luke illustrates multiple times throughout his gospel writings that the poor are central to Jesus' message and ministry. Jesus warns his followers against showing favoritism and encourages them to not only show mercy to the poor, but also to invite them in. The gospel has always been for the poor, the oppressed, and the marginalized. The gospel is where the hungry are fed, the naked are clothed, and the poor are given the seat of honor. As followers of Christ, how do our lives reflect this aspect of the gospel?"
- Elena Buis, Summer in the City Volunteer & Parishioner

"Today’s gospel reading is Matthew's version of Jesus’ story known as the Parable of the Bad Tenants. This is one of a series of Jesus’ sermons where his punchline flips the story into a scathing rebuke of the religious elites listening from the crowd, which eventually leads to his arrest and execution. Even during Lent when I’m supposed to be open to self reflection, I find it too easy to skim these stories just deep enough to catch the harsh judgments on someone else, on those self-righteous religious hypocrites. I have no trouble closing the book without myself considering whether Jesus’ words might also be directed at me. But the priests who heard the parable were furious, because they understood that Jesus was talking about them. So could I also be like a tenant entrusted with a valuable inheritance? Might I also be rejecting Jesus’ challenging teachings? Do I live my life as if I’m aware of having received a great gift from God?"
- Clay Johnson, St. James Choir Member

"Sometimes, we lose track of our faith; our priorities and sense of direction in life become compromised. Like the prodigal son, Christ calls us to renew our commitment to God, and to each other. With God's grace, it is never too late, or too early, to come to terms with our own shortcomings. Other times, we are jealous of others who we see as less deserving than us. Rather than measure our sins against theirs, we are called to celebrate our brothers and sisters who return home to Christ. This Lent, may we turn our hearts to the Lord, conscious of our own shortcomings, and support our brothers and sisters who seek to do the same."
- Isaac Drewes, St. James Organ Scholar

"Is your capacity for belief in Jesus stunted?
At first, it seems like Jesus’ audience was likely to believe his words, but as he finished speaking someone piped up 'Isn’t this Joseph’s son?' After all, Jesus grew up with them. I can imagine him as a child playing with them, sharing meals, and learning about them through his father’s trade, and maybe even attending this house of worship with them. It’s as if they are ashamed that they’ve been unknowingly part of some scandal, the wool has been pulled over their eyes, or they are jealous of his boldness or capacity to do the great things he was coming to be known for. Regardless, familiarity with him led to a skewed perspective of his credibility. Have you allowed the familiarity of your situation, environment, or attitude to undermine your trust in God? In addition to himself, all of the examples Jesus presented were individuals who were most effective when traveling outside of their hometowns. Are you too comfortable? Have you heard the same passages from the Bible so many times that you’ve accidentally allowed them to lose their power in your eyes? Today, pray for a fresh perspective, a new challenge, a change of heart, or that God would simply reveal himself to you in a new way, or maybe in a way that you just forgot."
- Jeremiah Vipond, St. James Young Adults

"In this reading, Jesus stresses the importance of true forgiveness. As a Christian, it can be easy to say we’ve forgiven someone verbally, but as a human, it can be equally as easy to hold a grudge, to say 'I forgive you' but not truly mean it, or to let the person’s actions against us alter our relationship or the way we see them as people long after we’ve said the words. It takes a great amount of grace to truly forgive, but when we look to Jesus’ teaching and see God’s abundant mercy, even for imperfect people like us, it’s clear that true forgiveness is strongly linked to unconditional love. This season, may we get closer to true forgiveness, letting go of the past, and being generous with the people around us, who are as imperfect as we are. May we learn the value, action, and conviction behind true forgiveness of those who have wronged us, even after apologies we never got."
- Alexandra Kunath, St. James Staff & Choir Member

"What is Lent? Lent is a time to prepare to celebrate the greatest gifts we humans have ever received: the Easter gift of God’s love and forgiveness. In today’s Gospel reading, Mark tells of Jesus’ instruction to the crowds that he has come ‘not to abolish but to fulfill’; not to dispense of the teachings of the Old Testament, but to offer himself in fulfillment of that covenant. As Christians, we believe that Jesus taught us to view the Law through a new lens – that the Law is best understood as a Law of love: to love God, neighbor, and self. We are taught the real definition of love and forgiveness in Jesus dying for our sins and God sending his only son into the world for us. Jesus wants us to live in a community of that love, supporting one another in faith. To be in true community with one another, we must be able to forgive, following the example of Christ, who forgave the sins of all of us in order that we might live in community with him."
- The Colao Family, St. James Choir Members

"Today's account of Christ's childhood reads a bit like Charlton Heston meets 'Home Alone.' Every parent (or choirmaster) has a horror story of a child wandering off. They don't always heed the boundaries we adults find obvious. But sometimes, boundaries blind us from the truth, and it takes the wisdom of a child to open our eyes."
- Stephen Buzard, Director of Music

"No miracles, no parables, just a simple declaration: 'You are not far from the kingdom of God.' That is very good news. Isn’t that what we all hope to hear? And all it takes, apparently, is to affirm what Jesus said. We’ve heard it so often that most of us can recite it without hesitation. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, with all your strength, and love your neighbor as yourself. But what does this gospel really mean? Just agreeing with Jesus that this is what’s most important is all that’s needed to get near to the kingdom of God? It seems too simple. My Sadducee mind wants to ask more questions, parse the words more carefully, find out what conditions apply. And then I close my eyes, take a breath, and try to stop thinking so hard and hear the words with my heart. Yes, it is simple – though maybe not easy. But truly, all that is needed is to be sure love comes first with every action I take. I affirm what Jesus said not just by saying, 'yes, I agree,' but by saying yes with all my heart, with all my soul, with all my mind, and all my strength."
- Laura Jenkins, St. James Welcome Committee Member
"How does it look when we, the 'repentant tax collectors' judge the Pharisees? These two characters are both human and neither is free from sin. This story is simple. The Pharisees, being locked in their own understanding of orthodoxy, were missing something of great depth that the truly repentant tax collector received. Living in a world of 'tax collectors,' it’s easy for us to look at the Pharisee and say, 'I’m truly repentant; thank you for not making me like the Pharisee.' This Lent, it’s a perfect opportunity to truly go into the desert alone with Christ and judge ourselves instead of others to get closer to God and to the realization that no human is better or more entitled to God’s love than another. Judging someone else based on what we think God feels, other than love, is missing the ultimate point. 'For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.'"
- Kevin Godsil, St. James Head Acolyte
"There are some times in the Gospel where Jesus seems grouchy (like in Mark's Gospel when he cursed a fig tree that didn't have any fruit because it wasn't the right season). In today's Gospel, a man asks Jesus to come to Capurnaum to heal his son and Jesus replies 'Unless you see signs and wonders, you will not believe,' which is essentially a 'No'; this seems mean. Why dash this man's hope or make him jump through hoops?  Even if he has to believe before a miracle can happen, surely God can put in some extra effort to speed up the process and save a dying child. But perhaps, rather than being stubborn, Jesus is trying to make a point: that miracles don't happen to convince us to believe, instead they happen when we're so in need of a solution that we'll believe that anything is possible. I think that Jesus is reminding me that miracles can still happen, even when signs and wonders are nowhere to be found. He's asking me to believe that the world can change in impossible ways."
- Karl B., St. James Young Adults
"The invalid in today’s Gospel reading waited thirty-eight years for someone to notice him. Thirty-eight years he waits for someone to help him into the pool of water. Is the invalid ignored, or does he lack the strength to ask for help? For many of us, asking for help is a challenge. But revealing our weakness does not mean admitting defeat. When we recognize our own limitations, we open a window for divine connection. We allow Jesus to work through the hands of a friend or a stranger. 'Do you want to be made well?' Jesus asks. Like the passers by, we carry our own pain, sickness, grief, and brokenness. Let us not be so consumed with our burdens that we fail to recognize the life-giving potential of the simplest action: reaching out for help."
- Lieve Buzard, St. James Young Adults & Choir Member
"God’s selection of Mary as the mother of Jesus leaves us with a thousand questions. Why her? Why now? Why there? But Mary’s response is one of the reasons she has been revered throughout the millennia: 'Let it be with me according to your word.' This Lent, let us pray to have the trust that Mary does."
- Preston Winstead, St. James Young Adults
"Justice is decided today in a similar way as it was in Jesus' time. A person is accused, witnesses testify, and a judge or jury decides the accused's fate. Doubts, preconceived notions, and prejudices can impact how those accounts are received. Jesus faced a jury who persecuted him for breaking the Sabbath and claiming to be equal to God. Jesus' jury was doubtful and biased toward John and Jesus' testimony, and rejected the physical evidence of Jesus' works placed before it. With church buildings closed and regular worship interrupted, it can be a challenge to believe the evidence of God's presence all around me. Jesus asks us today: in our faith journeys, are we seeing and listening without doubt and bias to what he and his faithful witnesses are telling and showing us?"
- Erin Maus, Cathedral Chapter Member, Meals Ministry

"'Yet we know where this man is from; but when the Messiah comes, no one will know where he is from.' The people in the crowd saw what Jesus was doing, and how the religious authorities were reacting to him. They recognized and then discounted Jesus’ special nature, waving it off because it did not look as they had expected. Their religious formation had led them to expect someone different-
certainly not a person from a neighboring town- to bear the message of God’s liberation from oppression. In this time of COVID-19 driven isolation, most of us find our worlds much smaller, with only our most intimate relations nearby. While we miss encountering the divine presence in our beloved cathedral setting, let us not discount the flashes of the Risen Christ that we glimpse in those well-known to us."
- The Rev. Canon Lisa Hackney-James, Sub-Dean of the Cathedral

"And here Jesus was once again. Among those who believed him and longed to be with him - and even one willing to speak on his behalf. Among those who were unsure. Among many who loathed him. And Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, ‘Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink.’ So the question is how do we as believers respond to this invitation? Is this loud voice one we silence when preoccupied with our earthly lives? Or do we hear him? In good times and bad? And so I pray. To listen. To drink what he offers. To feel his presence in my daily comings and goings. To accept the gift of the Spirit. And to live a life that reflects him and his love for me in all circumstances."
- Cathy Hill, St. James Meals Ministry

 

"Today’s Gospel reading is that well-known chestnut, the story of the woman caught in adultery. The scribes and the Pharisees bring the woman before Jesus and remind him that the law of Moses requires that she be stoned. 'Now, what do you say?' they ask Jesus.  Reading this story today, I am struck by how little attention Jesus pays to the Pharisees and their question. He is not at all interested in what these busybodies are up to. He has more important things to do; he is busy writing down his thoughts, and he keeps doing so until it becomes obvious the Pharisees won’t stop pestering him until he answers. Then he responds casually, almost over his shoulder, and returns immediately to his writing, not even bothering to notice how they react to what he says. And what does Jesus say? 'Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.' With this one sentence, he reminds the Scribes and the Pharisees that the woman before them is not a legal case, but a human being. They melt away, one by one. So often, like the Pharisees, I tangle myself up with worry about someone else’s business, instead of going about my own, which is to remember and respond to the humanity of everyone I meet, every day."
- Marianne Culver, St. James Choir Member

"Although we are in physical isolation right now, we are not alone. God is always with us. This is a great time to reflect on our relationship with him and ask ourselves if we are following in the footsteps of Jesus: Are we always saying and doing what is pleasing to God?"
- Jilliann Smith, St. James Sunday School Parent & Parishioner

"Lent is a time of reflection. When Jesus has us confront the truth about our priorities, values, loyalties, and sins of omission as well commission, we naturally resist. If we do not recognize the sin in our lives, we cannot see how entangled our lives are. Jesus told the Jews, ‘If the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.’ We have the promise that we may live each day in the freedom of this knowledge.
 
Here are some questions we might consider in light of the Gospel regarding freedom:
Are we truly living each day in the freedom of knowing the Son? 
Which areas in our lives do we need to inspect for selfishness, lack of faith, or lack of love? 
Do we accept God’s direction in all we think, do, and say?
Do we commit ourselves daily to understanding the depth of God’s love for us as children of God?
Are we sharing that love with others each day?
 
As disciples of Christ, let us strive to immerse ourselves in God’s merciful love. Let us repent, accept His live-giving forgiveness, and go into the world to joyfully share this freedom founded on love."
- Sharon & Charles Peterson, St. James Reader & Altar Guild Member
"'Very truly I tell you, whoever obeys my word will never see death.'
There are many pieces to this particular Gospel reading. There’s the promise of eternal life; the trust and faith one puts in that promise, in spite of what the world tells us. And there’s the all-too-familiar loneliness we feel when others twist our words and refuse to hear. Jesus is telling us that his way—the way of love—is the only path forward. Contrast that with the world in which we live, one that is angry, volatile, and seems determined to advance an agenda of hatred and division—out of all of that confusion we can find peace and strength through God’s light, and give agency to his promise."
- Noel Morris, St. James Invite Committee & Choir Member
"Earlier this week we had the story of the woman caught in adultery and the Pharisees demanding that she be stoned. In today’s Gospel, the Jews want to again take up stones against Jesus for his words, rather than his actions, because they are afraid of his words and cannot control who hears and believes. But Jesus admonishes the Jews, saying '[B]elieve the works,' which are tangible and also public and full of hope in spite of fear. Then the Jews tried to arrest Jesus, and spoiler alert: he escaped from their hands. From there, Jesus travels across the Jordan to a land formerly occupied by John the Baptizer, who performed no signs but caused many to believe in Jesus with his words. How can we as an Easter people live into both the works and the words of Jesus, in spite of fear?"
- Karen D'Angelo, St. James Young Adults

"This Gospel passage follows immediately after Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, the last of the seven signs told in the Gospel of John*. For some, it was the final proof that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of God. But for others, it was the last straw. They went straight to the authorities, putting into motion the plan to put Jesus to death.

From the vantage point of two millennia removed, I like to imagine I would be in the first group, the believers, convinced that Jesus is Emanuel, God with us. But I wonder. Knowing my own doubts and fears, where would I have stood? This Maundy Thursday, as I sit alone at home to pray for an hour at a makeshift altar of repose, sheltering from an uncertain world, I will pray for faith to fill my heart anew with belief."     

*The seven signs are (1) changing water into wine, (2) healing the royal official’s son, (3) healing the paralytic, (4) feeding the five thousand, (5) walking on water, (6) giving sight to a man born blind, (7) the resurrection of Lazarus. 

- Robert Black, St. James Staff & Choir Member
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