A Sacrifice for God in Syria

My prayer that I might live to see you all face to face has been granted. In fact, I have been given more than I asked for, since I now hope to greet you in the chains of a prisoner of Christ Jesus, if his will finds me worthy to reach my journey’s end. One thing only I beg of you: allow me to be a libation poured out to God, while there is still an altar ready for me. Then you can form a choir of love around it and sing hymns of praise to the Father in Christ Jesus for allowing Syria’s bishop, summoned from the realms of the rising sun, to have reached the land of its setting. How good it is to be sinking down below the world’s horizon toward God that I may rise again into the dawn of his presence!

I am writing to all the churches and assuring them that I am truly in earnest about dying for God, provided you put no obstacles in the way. I beg you to do me no such untimely kindness. Let me be a meal for the beasts, for it is they who can provide my way to God. I am God’s wheat, to be ground fine by the teeth of lions so that I become the purest bread for Christ. Intercede with him on my behalf, that by their instrumentality I may be made a sacrifice to God. Continue reading

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“Take these things out of here!”

Sermon for Sunday, March 8, 2015
Lent 3B
John 2:13-22

One of the reasons I love Lent is because Lent is an opportunity to “get back to the basics.” Our scriptures this morning touch on several Christian “basics.” The first lesson is the Ten Commandments – a Christian “basic” if there ever was one. The second lesson speaks about the cross – another important “basic.” But the “basic” I want to focus on this morning is one for which this morning’s Gospel story provides a good metaphor.

Jesus Purging the Temple by Giotto

The “basic” I want to talk about is…   the images we have of God. Not the stated images of God that we say we have, like “God is love.” But the operative images of God, the images that actually operate in our relationship with God – like, “God is a god of impossibly demanding expectations from which I always fall short.” We all carry images of God with us – some from an early age – and these images shape the way we relate to God in our lives. Not all of these images are helpful; some impinge on our freedom or diminish our sense of personhood or in some way are marked by coercion or passivity or cynicism, and undermine the possibility of a healthy relationship with God. From time to time in our spiritual life it helps to “Take these things out of here,” to drive out from our inner “Temple” old images of God (the “livestock” and “money changers” that have accrued there), and to make space for a God who is more “God,” more true, healthy and whole. Continue reading

Just to BE with Jesus

He went up the mountain and called to him those whom he wanted, and they came to him. And he appointed twelve, whom he also named apostles, to be with him, and to be sent out to proclaim the message, and to have authority to cast out demons.

– Mark 3:13-15

In Mark’s gospel the first thing Jesus appoints his apostles to do is not something to do, but something to be:  “And he appointed twelve… to be with him.” So often we think of Jesus as one who does.   Especially in Mark’s gospel Jesus seems to be perpetually doing, moving from one ministry opportunity to the next, preaching and healing and casting out demons at a pace that might well leave the reader breathless.  Given Jesus’ prodigious activity, we might suppose that Jesus would appoint apostles who could keep up with his action-packed schedule, who could join him in going “immediately” (one of Mark’s favorite words) from one act of ministry to the next.   But the first thing Jesus appoints the apostles to do is not something to do, but something to be:  “to be with him.” Continue reading