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Provisions for the Journey to Jerusalem

Brief reflections on the week’s Scripture readings,


Sunday, May 22: Some who had come down from Judea were instructing the brothers, “Unless you are circumcised according to the Mosaic practice, you cannot be saved.” (Acts 15:1-2, 22-29)

Let’s put ourselves in the sandals of the new Gentile Christians. Paul and his compatriots have introduced them to a loving, saving God who welcomes not just the “chosen” people but all humanity. These new converts are neophytes,
youngsters in the practice of a monotheistic faith. Then some other guys show up and tell them, “Well, yes you are welcome, but only if you meet these particular and onerous requirements So the new converts think: “So, you say I am welcome…but not as I am? I have to change to
really be welcomed.” Talk about being confused! Add that everyone’s
preaching that Christ will return soon, but it will take Paul and the others probably 40 or days to traverse the hundreds of miles to Jerusalem and back to get them a definitive answer. Who or what are they to believe? I pray the gift of the Spirit they received gave them comfort and assurance in God’s unconditional love, but I wonder how many of them just gave up and went back to their former lives. How would you feel? What would you do?


Today’s Provision: The Spirit of Love loves you as you are. And we wonder why young people are leaving organized religion in droves, the faith-filled ones relying on the Spirit of love and acceptance rather than to endure the confusion, infighting, and hypocrisy prevalent in institutional bureaucracies. This story in Acts brings to mind the famous line from George Orwell’s Animal Farm: “All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others.” What do you believe? Does God love everyone but some people more than others? Is everyone welcome as they are?


Monday, May 23: …“the hour is coming when everyone who kills you will think he is offering worship to God.”  (Jn 15:26-16:4)

I shudder at the thought of the millions of lives lost over the millennia due to our divergent views of God. From the early Christian martyrs, through the Crusades, the Inquisition, and the Shoah, to the horror of so-called “religious”
violence today. It is nothing less than a grave sin if we think we have God figured out. We don’t. We never will. As Christians, we claim our God is Jesus. If so, Jesus’ messages of love, equality, tolerance, forgiveness, and nonviolence should be the real worship we offer. Think about it.

Today’s Provision: Nonviolence and patience. Gosh, this can be hard. I find myself growing more intolerant of intolerant people, and no, the irony is not lost on me! And it dumbfounds me that my view of Christ can be so different from others who call themselves Christian. My anger and lack of patience can be triggered quickly. That’s why praying for peace of spirit each morning and when faced with situations that challenge me is essential to remain true to the God I claim. Do you struggle with this too? Remember to pray for lovingkindness and peace each day.


Tuesday, May 24: About midnight, while Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God as the prisoners listened, there was suddenly such a severe earthquake that the foundations of the jail shook; all the doors flew open, and the chains of all were pulled loose. (Acts 16:22-34)

Here’s another reading to use for imaginative contemplation. Picture yourself as one of the prisoners in jail with Paul and Silas. Why are you locked up? Philippi is a Roman city, so maybe you’ve been hanging around with these two Jewish rabble-rousers. Or maybe your crime is a minor infraction of Roman law. Chances are, though, you’re pretty distraught but these guys keep praying and singing joyfully to their God even though their crime is way more serious than yours. You find their singing brings you a sense of peace, more peace than you have ever felt. All of a sudden, the ground shakes violently, flinging the prison doors open and you see your opportunity to escape. What do you do now?


Today’s Provision: Stay with what brings you God’s peace. Have you ever experienced a difficult or sorrowful situation that somehow brought you a palpable sense of God’s presence and peace? It might have been confusing; it might have seemed more logical to flee or fight or freeze, but instead you stayed right where you were. Maybe it was with someone in crisis or in pain. Maybe it was you who were in pain and yet you knew God was with you. Or perhaps, you have heard in your heart a call from God that others see as dangerous or foolish. It’s important that, if we have the chance, we discern that it is indeed God’s presence and call, but often we don’t have the luxury of time. Have faith.  Trust that God will lead you to peace.


Wednesday, May 25: “For as I walked around looking carefully at your shrines, I even discovered an altar inscribed, ‘To an unknown god.’ (Acts 17: 15, 22-18:1)

Hmmh…this makes me think…what altars “to an unknown god” do I have set up around my life without even being aware of them? We can think about this phrase in two ways: one, of course, are those idols I pay homage to every day that have nothing to do with the real God: my ego, my wants (as opposed to my needs) which lead to overindulgence and distraction, my need to be right and in control….the list goes on. But there’s another, more subtle way of thinking about this phrase: How well do I really know God? My God, Jesus Christ?

Today’s Provision: Get to know God. Are you comfortable with Jesus? If you’re not, why would you want to spend time with him? We don’t tend to spend much time with those who make us uncomfortable unless we are forced to.  Why are we uncomfortable? Some portrayals of God can be pretty scary and if we were fed those images as children, it can be hard to put them aside. Are you uncomfortable being with God because you are afraid of not living up to God’s expectations? These are all very good questions to bring to honest conversation with Jesus. Tell him what is troubling you and ask him what he expects of you. (Spoiler alert: Check out Micah 6:8: “Do what is right, love mercy and justice and walk humbly WITH me”…as my friend.)


Thursday, May 26: “What does this mean...‘A little while and you will not see me, and again a little while and you will see me...’ What is this ‘little while’ of which he speaks? We do not know what he means.” (Jn 16:16-20)
I feel for Jesus’ disciples. Just read John’s Last Supper Discourses (chapters 14-16). So much to take in. Scholars say these discourses were likely not spoken all at once but instead compiled from John’s writings, then put together as one summation. But still…it’s a lot! And he often spoke in confusing and frustrating ways like in the passage today. I give the disciples credit. They were tenacious. They didn’t give up. One thing they had going for them though: Jesus words, “a little while,” were pretty accurate. While it might not have seemed that way to them at the time, three days wasn’t too long a time to wait to see him again! What about for us?

Today’s Provision: Patience. Anyone who has or works with young kids knows that your definition of “a little while” is NOT the same as the kids! (Fair warning to parents of toddlers — the definitions will be reversed in about 10 years!) God does not always answer our questions or prayers in the timeframe we might want, and not always with the answer we hope to hear. God’s timing can be very different than ours. But like the early disciples, let’s be tenacious and have hope and faith in God’s plan, even if it takes “a little while” longer for us to see the results.


Friday, May 27: “God is king of all the earth. All you peoples, clap your hands, shout to God with cries of gladness, For the LORD, the Most High, the awesome, is the great king over all the earth. He brings people under us; nations under our feet.” (Ps 47)  There are some psalms I struggle with…this is one of them! “All you peoples clap your hands! God is awesome, the great king over all the earth!” And from the Hebrew translation, “He crushes peoples beneath us and beneath our feet!” YAY! Unfortunately, there are those who take such tribal, violent words of Scripture literally. Some modern commentators say this refers to God’s desire to bring all the earth’s creatures to an understanding of God’s Kingdom.  And God’s Kingdom is not one of violence or coercion: quite the contrary as we discussed Sunday and Monday. If you read further in the psalm (from tomorrow’s verses), we proclaim, “The princes of the peoples are gathered with the people of the God of Abraham.” All are brought together; all will be as one to praise the Creator that loves each one of us just as we are. I’d say that pretty awesome!


Today’s Provision: Shout to God with cries of gladness! No shouting about anything else! Let us do today all we can do to bring all peoples together, despite the efforts of some “princes” to keep us apart. Advocate for people and laws to bring about the Kingdom of God!


Saturday, May 28: Apollos…was an authority on the Scriptures. He had been instructed in the Way of the Lord and, with ardent spirit, spoke and taught accurately about Jesus, although he knew only the baptism of John…when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the Way of God more accurately. (Acts 18:23-28)

I like the whole dynamic we hear in this passage. Paul has left Ephesus to check on all the other communities. This Scripture scholar named Apollos shows up and begins preaching about Jesus but he doesn’t have the most up-to-date info. The local Christian community is really happy to have him there and they don’t jump to correct him when he speaks in the synagogue. Instead, simple tentmakers — one a woman, no less — take him aside to complete his education. And he – a scripture scholar – is more than willing to listen and learn. That’s just great! Nobody gets indignant, nobody thinks they are either too lowly to teach or to lofty to learn. They work together, scholar and trades people, men and women, Jews and Gentiles, by the grace of the Spirit to further the Kingdom


Today’s Provision: Work together. I’m happy to see the changes Pope Francis is making to the Curia of the
Catholic Church, bringing more diversity of thought, gender, and experience to leadership positions. So much needs to change, even in those denominations where women and lay leaders have more of a say in how things are done. God created diversity in thought and experience for a reason. Everyone deserves an equal place and voice at the table.


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