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Join Us For Worship!

Join Us For Worship!
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Thursday, April 30, 2015

Thinking About the Emmaus Road: Week 2

by Kristin Berkey-Abbott

Last week, I thought about the ancient theme of hospitality.  We are called to offer hospitality to all; we never know when we'll discover that we've entertained angels, as with the story of Abram, who became Abraham, who invited strangers to dinner and was told of God's plan for his descendents to be more than the stars in the Heavens.

The Emmaus travelers might never have realized that Jesus was with them, if they hadn't given him the chance to break bread.

But what does this look like in modern life? 

Jesus calls us to a Eucharistic life, which requires a major readjustment of our mindset around the issues of food, drink, time, and hospitality.

One thing we can do in our individual lives is to adopt a Eucharistic mindset. Never has this been more vital. Most people have ceased cooking for themselves, and many Americans are eating at least one meal a day while they drive.

Rebel against this trait. Look for ways to make meals special.  Each week, go to a different bakery and buy yourself some wonderful bread. Open a bottle of wine and savor a glass.  Buy your favorite bubbly water, even if it costs more.  Cook for yourself, even if it's not something truly special. Invite your friends and loved ones to dinner. Occasionally, invite a stranger.

But it's about more than dinner, more than hospitality, of course.  It's the hospitality that allows us to take the time to slow down and dine together.  It's hospitality that allows us to truly know each other.

So, before the day gets later, go and buy some bread. Think about the many ways that bread (and other grains) sustain most of us throughout the world. Drink some wine and think about the miracle of fermentation; ponder the reality that in many parts of the world, people drink fermented beverages because the water supply is tainted, but fermentation provides some protection. Invite someone to share your bread with you.

You are the leaven in the loaf, the yeast that turns grape juice into the miracle of wine--how can you make that manifest in the world today?

What miracles might come into our lives when we open them to the ancient practice of hospitality?

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Meditation on This Sunday's Gospel

The reading for Sunday, April 26, 2015:

Luke 24

Today we read of the sojourners on their way to Emmaus. This story gives us an important window into the lives we are to have as Christians, particularly when it comes to the sharing of a meal, and our basic obligations when it comes to hospitality.

That hospitality is the often overlooked side of the Emmaus story. The travelers have walked seven miles together.  For those of you who are wondering, that might take the modern walker, walking at a fast clip, a bit over two hours; in Biblical times, with unpaved roads with poorly shod feet, I'm estimating it would take half a day.  It wouldn't surprise me if it took much longer.

When they get back to their house, they don't say to Jesus, "Well, off you go.  Good luck on your journey."

No--they invite him inside. What remarkable hospitality. They share what they have. They don't say, "Well, I can't let you see my house in its current state--let's go out to dinner." No, they notice that the day is nearly done, and they invite a stranger in to stay the night.

Those of you who have read your Bible will recognize a motif. God often appears as a stranger, and good things come to those who invite a stranger in. For those of you who protest that modern life is so much more dangerous than in Biblical times, and so it was safer for people like Abraham and the Emmaus couple to invite the stranger to stay, I'd have to disagree.

We are called to model the same behavior.  Jesus calls us to a Eucharistic life, which requires a major readjustment of our mindset around the issues of food, drink, time, and hospitality.

One thing we can do in our individual lives is to adopt a Eucharistic mindset. Never has this been more vital. Most people have ceased cooking for themselves, and many Americans are eating at least one meal a day while they drive.

Rebel against this trait. Look for ways to make meals special. Cook for yourself, even if it's something special. Invite your friends and loved ones to dinner. Occasionally, invite a stranger.

But it's about more than dinner, more than hospitality, of course.  Without that hospitality, those strangers never would have known their fellow traveler. It is through the meal that the Emmaus Road sojourners realize who has been walking beside them.

What miracles might come into our lives when we open them to the ancient practice of hospitality?  More thoughts on that idea next week.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Meditation on Our Second Week with Doubting Thomas

by Kristin Berkey-Abbott

The reading for Sunday, April 12, 2015 and April 19, 2015:


John 20:19-29

I continue to think about Thomas in our second week with the text.  I've always wondered what else he did, and whether or not he'd feel annoyed that he's most remembered for that moment that he doubted.  I have this vision of Thomas as having amazing artistic talent for example, and no one knows that now.  We remember him for that one moment of disbelief.

It's not so strange that he doubted, after all.  He saw Jesus die an agonizing death.  Why would he believe his fellow disciples with their strange tales of seeing Christ back from the dead?  He must have thought they'd finally lost their collective minds, which wouldn't have been improbable, given the events of the week.

I love the post-Resurrection stories where Jesus shows up and forgives everyone:  Thomas for doubting, Peter for denying, everyone who ran away.  I was always taught that Judas would have been forgiven too, but he disrupted that potential by taking his life.  In my grown-up view of an all-forgiving God, I think that Judas was still forgiven.  I believe that a God who has lived with us in human skin understands the despair that can lead to suicide.

But back to Thomas, who should serve as a hopeful tale for all of us .  It can be hard to maintain our faith, especially in the face of the spirit-cracking grief of disappointed hopes.  We may yearn for evidence that's supported by our five senses.  We may get that evidence.

Thomas gets credit for bringing Christianity to India, although that's legend that's hard to support with facts.  A few years ago, I played with an idea that finally made its way into a more formal, rhymed poem than I usually write.  I was inspired by this blog post by Jan Richardson.  Her post made me think of those fancy Easter eggs that had a charming scene inside, and the interesting juxtaposition between those eggs and Jesus' open wound.

Into the Wound


Thomas approached his Savior’s bloodied side,
Everything for which he longed, yet so feared.
He felt the warm flesh and looked deep inside.
The vision left him changed and scarred and seared.

He saw a series of worlds in that wound.
He saw a future that could be so fine.
He saw a world of absence, so ill tuned.
He saw a table set with bread and wine.

He saw the start of all the universe
And staggered back, but Christ kept him steady.
“Wash your hands,” Christ said, his voice almost tense.
Christ knew the dangers for those unready.

Legend says Thomas walked to India;
What dream prompted him, we always wonder.
But you, too, could hike to outer Asia,
If you had the same vision to ponder.

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Meditation on This Sunday's Gospel

by Kristin Berkey-Abbott

The reading for Sunday, April 12, 2015 and April 19, 2015:


John 20:19-29

This week's Gospel returns us to the familiar story of Thomas, who will always be known as Doubting Thomas, no matter what else he did or accomplished.  Years aso, one of the bloggers at RevGalBlogPals said, "You have to love him (while being glad that we're not all branded for centuries on account of one aspect of our characters; you can so imagine it...'She's a bit of a panicking Kathryn, you know...')"; I would forever be Fretful Kristin, I'm afraid.

And yet, what I love about the Gospels most is that we get to see humans interacting with the Divine, in all of our human weaknesses. Particularly in the last few weeks, we've seen humans betray and deny and doubt--but God can work with us.

If you were choosing a group of people most unlikely to start and spread a lasting worldwide movement, it might be these disciples. They have very little in the way of prestige, connections, wealth, networking skills, marketing smarts, or anything else you might look for if you were calling modern disciples. And yet, Jesus transformed them.

Perhaps it should not surprise us. The Old Testament, too, is full of stories of lackluster humans unlikely to succeed: mumblers and cheats, bumblers and the unwise. God can use anyone, even murderers.

How does this happen? The story of Thomas gives us a vivid metaphor. When we thrust our hands into the wounds of Jesus, we're transformed. Perhaps that metaphor is too gory for your tastes, and yet, it speaks to the truth of our God. We have a God who wants to know us in all our gooey messiness. We have a God who knows all our strengths and all our weaknesses, and still, this God desires closeness with us. And what's more, this God invites us to a similar intimacy. Jesus doesn't say, "Here I am, look at me and believe." No, Jesus offers his wounds and invites Thomas to touch him.

Jesus will spend the next several weeks eating with the disciples, breathing on them, and being with them physically one last time. Then he sends them out to transform the wounded world.

We, too, are called to lay our holy hands on the wounds of the world and to heal those wounds. It's not enough to just declare the Good News of Easter. We are called to participate in the ongoing redemption of creation. We know creation intimately, and we know which wounds we are most capable of healing. Some of us will work on environmental issues, some of us will make sure that the poor are fed and clothed, some of us will work with criminals and the unjustly accused, and more of us will help children.

In the coming weeks, be alert to the recurring theme of the breath of Jesus and the breath of God. You have the breath of the Divine on you too.

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Meditation on Holy Week and Easter

by Kristin Berkey-Abbott

The readings for Sunday, April 5, 2015:

First Reading: Acts 10:34-43

First Reading (Alt.): Isaiah 25:6-9

Psalm: Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24

Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 15:1-11

Second Reading (Alt.): Acts 10:34-43

Gospel: Mark 16:1-8

Gospel (Alt.): John 20:1-18

Finally we move through Holy Week to Easter Sunday. At last, our Lenten pilgrimage draws to a close.

But perhaps you still linger back at Ash Wednesday. Perhaps you find the Good Friday texts more evocative than the Easter texts. It's interesting how our emotional lives aren't always in sync with the liturgical seasons or the Lectionary.
Maybe this year we can approach the Holy Week stories differently.   Maundy Thursday gives us a view of how to love each other.  Notice that it's about what we do:  we eat together, we wash each other's feet, we anoint with oil.  It's not about an emotion--it's about an action.  It's not a theory of love, but a concrete way of being loving.

We are called to break bread together, to drink wine together. We are called to invite the outcast to supper with us. We are called to care for each other's bodies--not to sexualize them or mock them or brutalize them, but to wash them tenderly. Thus fortified, we are called to announce that the Kingdom of God is breaking out among us in the world in which we live, and we are called to demand justice for the oppressed.

Perhaps we find ourselves more like the disciples who would transform the loving act of anointing with oil into a way to help the poor by selling that oil and giving the money to the poor.  It seems a good way to show love.  Jesus rebukes this way of thinking.  We will always have the poor; we won't always have the ones we love.  This year, a year when so many mourn such severe losses, those words speak to me.

Good Friday gives us a way to think about betrayal and how we can respond.  The Good Friday message is that we will all betray God.  But some of us will try again, while others will give up in abject despair.

I also find myself thinking about the tree that must wish for a great destiny, but is transformed into an instrument of torture.  Likewise, Jesus, who has been in some amount of control of his own actions, but finds himself handed over to others.  In this past year when I've watched so many friends and colleagues battle cancer--handed over to the medical-industrial complex--the idea of the Passion takes on an excruciating hue.

Easter promises us that our efforts will not be in vain. In Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church, N. T. Wright says forcefully, " . . . what you do in the Lord is not in vain. You are not oiling the wheels of a machine that's about to roll over a cliff" (208). We may not understand how God will transform the world. We may not be able to believe that bleakness will be defeated. But Easter shows us God's promise that death is not the final answer.

Spring reminds us that nature commits to resurrection. Easter reminds us of God's promise of resurrection. Now is the time for us to rekindle our resurrection selves.