Reflection - September 23, 2018

Beacon of Hope
Commitment Weekend

“They came to Capernaum and, once inside the house,
he began to ask them,
‘What were you arguing about on the way?’
But they remained silent.
They had been discussing among themselves on the way
who was the greatest. 
Then he sat down, called the Twelve, and said to them,
‘If anyone wishes to be first,
he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.’”

It is here! The Beacon of Hope Commitment Weekend has arrived. As a community, I believe we have done our best to discern our needs, listen to the feedback given by our members and adjust our priorities, and present our case for support prayerfully and as clearly as possible. In a very special way, I want to thank our Campaign Directors and the close to 80 members of our Campaign leadership team. Also, our staff has done a terrific job of balancing campaign work and the ongoing ministry needs of our community. I am especially grateful to God for this moment in the life of our community. In the midst of the ongoing crisis in the Church, the faith of those involved in our campaign and of those who have already pledged or given has been a bright spot for me. It is amazing to see. 

From the beginning of the campaign, I have had a profound trust that God will provide for what He wills for us to accomplish. The only way this happens is through your cooperation with God’s plan as you are able: proportionally to your means, generously with joyful giving, and sacrificially out of love. It is clear that the money to reach our goal over 3-5 years is present in our community. It is a profound and humbling reality, however, to experience the faith choice many are making to give their very hard earned money to support our community’s ministry, outreach, and service to others. Many of you have never been asked to consider giving at the level we have asked you to consider. Many of you have never given before at the level you have pledged. This is nothing short of a miracle: God’s grace, through faith, in action. 

Foundational to this campaign is the steadfast belief that Jesus is our true Beacon of Hope. It has nothing to do with status, individually or as a community, but is all about the mission God has given us. We are only here because of what Jesus, sent by the Father and empowered by the Holy Spirit, has done for us and for the whole world. Each of our lives, our precious time, our varied talents, and our financial resources are essential to our mission. We cannot do what God has called us to do without, first, recognizing God’s great blessings in our lives and, second, the participation of each of you. It takes all of us through our small and big decisions to make manifest God’s love in our community and world. Every one of you has a significant, even essential, contribution to make for God’s purpose. 

The Beacon of Hope campaign is not about who is greatest, but about how through the miracle of your faith and your giving, we as a community can become the servant of all. As a beacon of hope, we do not shine our own light, but the light of Jesus Christ, to those who are wounded, searching, marginalized, or lost. May the light of Christ, the true Beacon of Hope, shine through us. 

Reflection - September 16, 2018

“He began to teach them
that the Son of Man must suffer greatly
and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes,
and be killed, and rise after three days. 

He spoke this openly. 
Then Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 
At this he turned around and, looking at his disciples,
rebuked Peter and said, ‘Get behind me, Satan. 
You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.’”

It was a pretty brazen move on Peter’s part to rebuke Jesus, even in private. We all want to avoid pain and suffering. We go so far as to deny it exists, minimize it’s power, gloss over it’s ramifications, pretend everything is alright. Jesus doesn’t do that. He shows us that the way of love is to embrace suffering. It is the only way to victory, from death to new life, from the cross to resurrection. We must not avoid, but embrace the pain. Jesus says:

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Reflection - August 26, 2018

“As a result of this, many of his disciples returned
 to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him.
Jesus then said to the Twelve, ‘Do you also want to leave?’
Simon Peter answered him, ‘Master, to whom shall we go? 
You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe
and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.’”

If I am honest, there have been several times in my life when I wanted to leave the faith of my parents, and later my own. That has varied from leaving the Catholic Church to leaving Christianity all together. Three examples are below:

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Reflection - July 8, 2018

“...a thorn in the flesh was given to me...Three times 
I begged the Lord about this, that it might leave me,
but he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you,
for power is made perfect in weakness.’” 

“So he was not able to perform any mighty deed there,
apart from curing a few sick people by laying his hands on them.
He was amazed at their lack of faith.”

I really wish there was an easy answer! There is not. It is not only too simple, but also wrong, to say that God would answer all of our prayers if only we had enough faith. God doesn’t work that way and neither does faith. Prayer, even intercessory prayer or petition, is not a math equation where, if we get the variables right, the answer is assured. It’s not even like a probability problem where, if we get the variables mostly right, the answer is mostly assured. As St. Thérèse of Lisieux wrote about prayer, “For me, prayer is a surge of the heart; it is a simple look turned toward heaven, it is a cry of recognition and of love, embracing both trial and joy.” Even prayers of petition, by their nature, are more than asking for some good thing. They contain within them a deep and mysterious communion with God. They are a relationship with the one who is love itself and depend upon the gift of ourselves to the divine in response to God’s gift of himself to us. They depend upon our trust in God, or upon our faith. 

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Reflection - September 9, 2018

“He took him off by himself away from the crowd. 
He put his finger into the man’s ears
and, spitting, touched his tongue;
then he looked up to heaven and groaned, and said to him,

Ephphatha!’— that is, ‘Be opened!’ —
And immediately the man’s ears were opened,
his speech impediment was removed,
and he spoke plainly.”

I can imagine a child hearing these words and responding, “Ewww! Gross!” It is all very earthy with fingers in ears, spit, tongue touching, and groaning. The Jesus who is usually seen healing in other gospels with a word and in total command seems here to be a little less like God and a little more like a two-bit magician or snake oil salesman. Sure the man gets healed, but it’s hard to imagine that the all powerful God who created the universe out of nothing by the power of his word would need such paltry tricks to simply heal a person. Maybe this God-man is much more man than God. How embarrassing!

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Reflection - August 12, 2018

“All bitterness, fury, anger, shouting, and reviling
must be removed from you, along with all malice. 
And be kind to one another, compassionate,
forgiving one another as God has forgiven you in Christ.”

In Paul’s letters, he often admonishes those to whom he is writing about specific behaviors that should be changed. The Letter to the Ephesians includes several such passages. Paul usually hears word of how his communities are behaving and addresses those behaviors with gospel values, making practical corrections to how they have been acting. The lines above are such an address. Like the above, however, Paul often goes beyond the simple behaviors, themselves, to focus on the condition of the heart, giving Jesus’s antidote for misguided interior dispositions. 

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Reflection - July 1, 2018

“God did not make death,
nor does he rejoice in the destruction of the living.
For he fashioned all things that they might have being;
and the creatures of the world are wholesome...
For God formed man to be imperishable;
the image of his own nature he made him.”

As far as we know, the first written use of the phrase “down to brass tacks” was in a Texas newspaper in 1863. Very quickly, within a few years, it can be found in citations across the country. Although there are a few other theories as to the origin of this phrase, the most compelling research deals with the actual use of brass tacks at the time of the first citations. By the 1860’s, they had become a common form of customization and decoration for coffins, even advertised by hardware dealers to undertakers. Brass tacks were used to provide decoration for the final resting place for the deceased. Perhaps because he was president, Abraham Lincoln’s coffin in 1867 was decorated in part not by brass tacks, but by the more expensive silver tacks. The Ohio Wyandot Pioneer wrote in May of 1868, “...brass tacks are suggestive of stern, inexorable reality...Brass tacks have equalized all human earthly conditions. The peer and peasant, king and common, old and young, wise and otherwise, lie down in a common mortality from which there is no escape.”

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Reflection - September 2, 2018

“He summoned the crowd again and said to them,
‘Hear me, all of you, and understand. 
Nothing that enters one from outside can defile that person;
but the things that come out from within are what defile.

From within people, from their hearts,
come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder,
adultery, greed, malice, deceit,
licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly.

All these evils come from within and they defile.’”

How much money you make, what kind of clothes you wear, what kind of car you drive, how many followers you have on Instagram, where you live, where you went for you last vacation, what your title is, what degrees you have earned, what level of success you have achieved—these things may be significant accomplishments, reflect your talents and drive, and be recognized as gifts from God. They will not, however, get us to heaven nor do they indicate our value as a human beings. They may even become chains that bind us. We live in a world where image counts and status means something. I get that. When the image or status becomes more important than the reality of our hearts, however, we are trapped. Trapped on a treadmill of keeping up appearances, maintaining the outside as our inside crumbles. 

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Reflection - July 15, 2018

“He instructed them to take nothing for the journey
but a walking stick—
no food, no sack, no money in their belts. 
They were, however, to wear sandals
but not a second tunic.”
Let go of the things that weigh you down. 

Practically, traveling light can allow us to go faster and farther. As you read this, I am somewhere in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness in Colorado on a backpacking trip for seven days in the backcountry. While backpacking, every ounce matters for what is essential and what is not. Jesus may have wanted his disciples to go out far and wide, streamlined for the most efficient travel possible, because the mission is what mattered the most. Unnecessary things, like a second tunic, or a fresh change of clothes everyday on the trail, can slow us down and get us stuck. Just go. Get out there. Go!

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