Lenten Reflection Series – Reflection 4

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Theme: Healing- Regaining Sight

Scripture: John 9:1-41

As Jesus walked along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him. We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva and spread the mud on the man’s eyes, saying to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). Then he went and washed and came back able to see. The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar began to ask, “Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?” Some were saying, “It is he.” Others were saying, “No, but it is someone like him.” He kept saying, “I am the man.” But they kept asking him, “Then how were your eyes opened?” He answered, “The man called Jesus made mud, spread it on my eyes, and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ Then I went and washed and received my sight.” They said to him, “Where is he?” He said, “I do not know.”

They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. Now it was a sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes. Then the Pharisees also began to ask him how he had received his sight. He said to them, “He put mud on my eyes. Then I washed, and now I see.” Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not observe the sabbath.” But others said, “How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs?” And they were divided. So they said again to the blind man, “What do you say about him? It was your eyes he opened.” He said, “He is a prophet.”

The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight and asked them, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?” His parents answered, “We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; but we do not know how it is that now he sees, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age. He will speak for himself.” His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews; for the Jews had already agreed that anyone who confessed Jesus to be the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue. Therefore his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.”

So for the second time they called the man who had been blind, and they said to him, “Give glory to God! We know that this man is a sinner.” He answered, “I do not know whether he is a sinner. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” They said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” He answered them, “I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?” Then they reviled him, saying, “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.” The man answered, “Here is an astonishing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners, but he does listen to one who worships him and obeys his will. Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” They answered him, “You were born entirely in sins, and are you trying to teach us?” And they drove him out.

Jesus heard that they had driven him out, and when he found him, he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” He answered, “And who is he, sir? Tell me, so that I may believe in him.” Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and the one speaking with you is he.” He said, “Lord, I believe.” And he worshiped him. Jesus said, “I came into this world for judgment so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind.” Some of the Pharisees near him heard this and said to him, “Surely we are not blind, are we?” Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would not have sin. But now that you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains.”

Reflection- Marti Nodine:

In John 9:1-41 Christ heals a blind man with a bit of spit and an incantation about revealing God’s works through a sufferer. The parable’s theme—“Healing: Regaining Sight”—perhaps speaks to spiritual blindness as well as to physical blindness. Can we see past the obvious “flaws” in other human beings to the godliness and beauty they often project, despite great obstacles?

I struggle with a skeptical, if not outright cynical, outlook about our destructive human behavior. One source of comfort is the love and acceptance I feel from the Body of Christ at St. George. I am grateful for the general lack of negative gossip, backbiting, snarky comments and not-so-hidden agendas we might hold as individuals. Many in our congregation have dealt with great personal hardships and tragedies and have emerged with a purity of spirit, observable as a radiance from within, which touches and energizes us all.

Probably anyone at St. George is holier than I am, but volunteering at Christian Assistance Ministry is another uplifting influence in my life (aside from my being married to a truly spiritual man who is also my best friend and confessor.) To experience the warmth and graciousness of people who face one daunting day after another with little hope of lasting relief has truly opened my eyes to the saving power of forgiveness and acceptance. To share a smile, grasp a hand, exchange a hug or a prayer with a person who has stood in line for an hour to get a sandwich and a piece of fruit is a privilege. That person blesses me more than I can ever bless him or her.

I am grateful that St. George offers many chances  to celebrate Christ through service.

Reflection: Therese Trahan-Edussuriya:

Jesus said, “I am the Light of the world.”  Where do we find the Light?  It will never be extinguished.  In some situations, the Light seems hard to find. See beyond the apparent darkness, with your true sight – the eyes of your heart.  

How do we reflect the Light of Christ? Our reflection can bring new sight to those who have been blind, shrouded in darkness. The beauty is that as we reflect the Light, we become transformed by it, until we are the Light. Become the Light, and pierce through the shrouds.

The definition of faith is believing in things unseen, but evidence for our faith is all around. The man in our story was healed and this led him to believe in Christ. However, what of those who are shown, yet refuse to accept?  They ignore what is in their sight, just as the Pharisees refused to believe. Perhaps the refusal to accept is rooted in fear of persecution or judgement. The man who had been given sight was cast out – judged – for something which others knew nothing of. His parents feared speaking that which those in power did not want to hear. Who or what holds power over our sight? Can we challenge preconceived notions accepted by society and dare to see differently? When we trust in the only One who has the right to judge, we truly see for the first time.

Sight is more than our physical eyes. What is it that we have been blind to? Is now the time to be restored to wholeness? Are we ready to see that which we could not see? Pray that He open our eyes in His perfect timing. And when that moment comes, allow your new sight to be used for his glory.

Lenten Reflection Series – Reflection 3

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Theme: Forgiveness

ScriptureJohn 4:5-42

Jesus came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon.

A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” (His disciples had gone to the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?” (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” The woman said to him, “Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?” Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.”

Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come back.” The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true!” The woman said to him, “Sir, I see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem.” Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us.” Jesus said to her, “I am he, the one who is speaking to you.”

Just then his disciples came. They were astonished that he was speaking with a woman, but no one said, “What do you want?” or, “Why are you speaking with her?” Then the woman left her water jar and went back to the city. She said to the people, “Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?” They left the city and were on their way to him.

Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, “Rabbi, eat something.” But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” So the disciples said to one another, “Surely no one has brought him something to eat?” Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work. Do you not say, ‘Four months more, then comes the harvest’? But I tell you, look around you, and see how the fields are ripe for harvesting. The reaper is already receiving wages and is gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.”

Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I have ever done.” So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them; and he stayed there two days. And many more believed because of his word. They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the Savior of the world.”

Reflection- Carol Reposa:
Even during my teen years, friends would rib me about my “brown stamp” tendency, my habit of recording every slight, real or imagined, on an ever-growing scoresheet in my brain.  This ledger expanded steadily during college, young adulthood and marriage, but it was my divorce in 1985 that triggered the real growth spurt.  I would devote hour upon hour to tabulating my grievances.

Then, nine years ago, my ex suffered a neurological trauma that destroyed his short-term memory.  He declined with each passing week, month, year.   It was like watching the lights go out, one by one, in what once had been a bright and shining city.  A few days before he died, in June of 2013, I kept vigil with him in the hospice where he had been placed.  He slept in his narrow bed, oblivious.  I puttered with the bedclothes, filled and refilled his water carafe, arranged and rearranged the potted plants on his windowsill.  Suddenly he opened his eyes and looked straight at me.  I looked back, transfixed.  He gazed at me urgently, almost pleading, as if to say, “What does our divorce matter now?  Let it go.”  In that freeze-framed moment, I could see my ledger dissolving before me, its many pages crumbling to dust.

I left the center and returned to my baking car, where I unlocked the door, slumped over the steering wheel and wept for 20 minutes.  I finally began the drive home, but everything seemed somehow different.  I felt younger, lighter, better looking, and almost eerily at peace for the first time in decades.  My ex was right:  what did all the wrongs on both sides matter now?  In forgiving him, I could forgive myself.  An alternative Jacob Marley, by some miracle I had shaken off my chains.  I never want to wear them again.

Reflection- Steve Alwais:

In this gospel reading, Jesus is talking to a Samaritan woman at the well.  It further states that the people who saw them talking, “were surprised that he was speaking to a woman.”  The reason is that at that time that men were not supposed to talk to women in public, but Jesus was.  In addition, he knew all about her past and told her many things that she had done.  The woman was surprised.  We, however, should not be surprised that Jesus also knows about her past, just as he knows all about ours.  Even though he knows about our past, he is still willing to be with us.

In her excitement, the woman left her water jar at the well and went back to the city to tell everyone about the Messiah.  She wanted them to know about Jesus.  The same should be our excitement.  We should be excited to tell everyone about Jesus and his love for us.

As a Jew that became a Christian, I am more than willing to tell everyone of the man I found.  I want everyone to know about Jesus.  I want everyone to know about the loving God that blessed my life.  Many people have heard that story from me.

As Christians, we are called to be witnesses of Jesus love.  The word “witness” scares many Christians.  But witnessing is just like in the courtroom.  It is telling the facts.  We are not called to convince anyone of anything.  That is the job of the Holy Spirit.  We are just to give the facts.  All that we have to do is tell others about the man that met us where we are.  Just as Jesus met the Samaritan woman at the well; he has met us where we were.

The woman was excited to tell everyone.  We should be equally as excited.   Go ahead.  Be bold!  Be willing!  Be a witness!

Lenten Reflection Series – Reflection 2

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Scripture:

John 3:1-17

There was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. He came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.” Jesus answered him, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be astonished that I said to you, ‘You must be born from above.’ The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” Jesus answered him, “Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things?

“Very truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen; yet you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.

“Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”

Reflection:

Lenten Reflection-John 3:1-17

The first scripture I ever memorized is John 3:16, part of the passage about which I write. In the faith tradition in which I was raised, memorizing scripture was a big part of our formation: in Sunday School, Training Union (Sunday night services), Wednesday night services, and Girls’ Auxiliary (a girls’ study and service group). To this day I can hear a portion of scripture, and I’ll play out the rest of the verse in my mind in King James style.

“For God so loved the world that He sent His only begotten son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” This verse was the basis of just about every sermon I ever heard while growing up. We didn’t have a lectionary like the Episcopal Church that laid out verses throughout the Bible to be read throughout the year. Instead the minister preached on whatever passage he felt called to use. Because there was great urgency for each person to make a public profession of his or her acceptance of Christ as Saviour, most of the sermons came from the salvation texts in the New Testament, especially verses like John 3:16. I probably made my public profession of Christ as my savior when I was about ten years old and was baptized by being fully immersed under water in the baptistry. Now you would think that I would have felt a relief, a lightness for being forgiven of all my sins and being eternally saved. However, what I felt was fear and guilt. How could I live up to my promise? It’s one thing to say you accept this gift; it is another to feel worthy of it.  

Much later in my adult life, I began attending an Episcopal group in Saudi Arabia where we lived at the time, and I thought, “When does the guilt start? When do I start getting shamed? When do I start thinking I’m unworthy?” To my infinite surprise and delight, those negatives never came. I felt uplifted and positive when I listened to the message of God presented as joy and not guilt. As peace and not fear. As grace and not worthlessness. Yes, I was hearing the same scripture, but I was hearing a different tone. That lightness I had missed on my initial salvation experience had finally come. At last I understood God’s gracious gift as it was intended. That’s when I moved from darkness to light.

-Pam Piedfort

Lenten Reflection Series – Reflection 1

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Scripture: Matthew 4:1-11

Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished. The tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But he answered, “It is written,

‘One does not live by bread alone,

but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

Then the devil took him to the holy city and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written,

‘He will command his angels concerning you,’

and ‘On their hands they will bear you up,

so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.’”

Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor; and he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! for it is written,

‘Worship the Lord your God,and serve only him.’”

Then the devil left him, and suddenly angels came and waited on him.

Reflection:

    Jesus suffered temptation.  Fasting forty days and nights has left him hungry and weak.  The devil moves in with temptations that hit at the physical, mental and soul levels.  And underlying all are the words that lie at the heart of all temptations – “if you are the Son of God.”

    Every human being experiences moments of deep spiritual hunger.  We all know what it is like to be physically or spiritually weak.  What Jesus experiences in a barren place is known to each of us who have had spiritually dry times.

    In these moments we often wonder whether or not God is truly concerned with us – God’s beloved children.  The Deceiver plants a seed of doubt as to our status and we misuse our power of free will to seek food which does not last, to lay claim to God’s power in ways that feed our egos, and to imagine ourselves as CEO of the Universe free to use and abuse all within our grasp.

    What saves Jesus – and what can save us – is to hear the echoes of a single word:  “Beloved.”  For indeed that is the word his Father spoke to Jesus and about Jesus.  “Beloved” is not just a state, “Beloved” is a unit of measure.  “Beloved” means that Jesus and we, who hear that we are beloved at our baptism, are in the very depths of the Father’s Heart.  The grace of the One who calls us “Beloved” is what gives each one of us the power to overcome the temptations of this life, to wait upon the goodness of God and to entrust our lives to Almighty God now and in the age to come.

-The Rev. Father Ram Lopez