Sunday, February 19, 2017

3rd February Trinity 2017, Be Ready

3rd February Trinity
Luke 12: 35-48

Waiting Servants, Eugene Burnand
“Be dressed and ready for service and keep your lamps burning. Be like men who are expecting their master back from the marriage feast, so that they can open the door to him at once when he comes and knocks. Blessed are the servants whom the master finds awake when he comes! Yes, I tell you, he will put on an apron himself and show them to the table and serve them. And if he does not come until the second or third watch of the night, and yet finds them awake: Blessed are the servants! You know: If the master of the house knew at what hour the thief would come, he would not let his house be looted. So be ready: the Son of Man comes at an hour that you had not thought.”

Then Peter said, “Lord, are you telling us this parable, or is it for all human beings?”

And the Lord answered, “Imagine a faithful and competent steward whom his
Jan Luyken
master appoints to be in charge of the whole staff, to give to each one what he is entitled to. Blessed is that servant if the master comes and finds him carrying out his duties.  I tell you, he will entrust him with all his goods. But if the servant says in his heart, ‘My master will not be coming all that soon,” and begins to mistreat the other servants and the maids, himself all the while eating and drinking and becoming intoxicated, then the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him, and at an hour that he does not know. The master will virtually tear him to pieces; he will treat him as those deserve who have not proved faithful.

A servant who knows his master’s will but does not act according to it and so does not carry out his will deserves the severest punishment. If he does not know the master’s will and then does something that deserves punishment, he will escape more lightly. From one who has many gifts, much will also be expected; and from one who has been entrusted with much, much more will also be demanded.

3rd February Trinity
February 19, 2017
Luke 12: 35-48

We all know what happens when something unexpected occurs – being surprised, we may fail to respond appropriately. Emergency crews prepare for events
with drills, over and over. They train their consciousness to remain awake and recognize what is happening. With exercises, they train their will until it responds appropriately, habitually, almost instinctively.

Christ asks us to become, not necessarily emergency workers, but at least people willing to serve Him, and ready to respond appropriately. First of all, this means we need to be awake and alert for His arrival. And the great secret is that He could arrive at any moment, in the guise of anyone. A Celtic rune of hospitality says;

I saw a stranger yesterday . . .
He blessed myself and my house . . .
And the lark said in her song
”Often, Often, Often,
Goes the Christ in the stranger’s guise.”

We are to open the door of the heart to the Christ in them.

Further, we are to protect His treasure in our own hearts, so that the adversaries do not break in and steal it. What is the master's treasure? It is our love – our love for Him, our love for each other, our love for the earth. As Christ points out, being full of ourselves, intoxicated with power, mistreating others, destroys our integrity of heart and its treasure of love and service. What we sow we will reap. If we serve, we will receive service; if we mistreat others, we are in effect tearing our own true being to pieces.

So, in the words of Christ: "Be ready; the Son of Man comes at an hour that you had not thought." Luke 12:40

Sunday, February 12, 2017

2nd February Trinity 2017, My Grief or My Gladness

2nd February Trinity
Luke 8:4-18

And as a great crowd had gathered, and ever more people streamed to him out of the cities, he spoke in a parable:

Van Gogh
A sower went out to sow his seed. As he sowed, some seed fell on the path. It was trodden upon, and the birds of the sky (air) ate it up. Other seed fell upon the rocks, and as it sprouted, it (the sprouting green) withered, because it had no moisture. Still other seed fell under the thorns; the thorns grew with it and choked what came up. And some fell upon good soil, grew, and brought forth fruit a hundredfold. When he had said these things, he called out: “He who has ears to hear, let him hear!”
His disciples asked him what this parable might mean. And he said: To you, it has been given the gift of being able to understand the mysteries of the kingdom of God; but to the others, it is given in pictures and parables, for they see and do not yet see, and hear, although they do not yet understand with their thinking. The meaning of the parable is this:

The seed is the Word of God. That which fell upon the path are those who hear it; afterward the tempter comes and tears the Word out of their hearts so that they cannot find healing through the trusting power of faith working in them.

Those on the rock are those who, when they hear the Word, take it up with joy; but they remain without root. For a while, the power of their faith works in them, but in times of trial, they fall away.
Harvest of Earth, Mattias Gerung, Ottheimer Folio detail
What fell under the thorns are those who hear the Word from the spirit, and as they go on their way, the sorrows and the riches and the joys of life choke it, and they bring no fruit to maturity.
And the seed which fell in the good soil are those who hear the Word, and take it up into their hearts, feel its beauty, become noble and worthy and patiently keep it alive, tending it there until it brings forth fruit.

No one lights a light and hides it under a vessel or under a bench; instead, he places it on a lamp stand so that all who come in see the light. For nothing is hidden which shall not be revealed, and nothing is secret which shall not be known and proclaimed.

So attend to how you listen. For he who has enlivened in himself the power to bear the spirit, to him more will be given. He however who does not have this power, from him will be taken that which he thinks he has.

2nd February Trinity
February 12, 2017
Luke 8:14-18

Christ uses today's parable of living things, seeds, to describe Himself. He is the seed of the living, Creative Word of God. He is sown into our hearts. But whether He grows there depends on the inner conditions into which He falls.

One could say something similar about what happens to our own words. How they are received, whether they live and grow in another's heart, depends largely on the conditions into which they fall. Say what we will, unless the conditions are right, nothing will grow.

There is a further element to consider: God's Word is His living, Creative Word of Love. This is what He has sown and wants to grow in our hearts.  But we humans have the option to strew all kinds of words. We can broadcast words of kindness, mercy, comfort. Or we can fling words of hate, cruelty, meanness. We can scatter words that create or words that destroy.

Depending on where these words land, they will sprout. Kind words will grow kindness; mean words will grow hatred. And we will inevitably harvest what we have sown.

Rudolf Steiner said, "We easily allow ourselves through a wrong judgment to be
Hortus Deliciarum, Das Gleichnis vom Sämann Wiki Commons

carried away into hurling an insult, for example, without thinking of the consequences of our action. We hit a person and we are unaware that we have raised our hand against ourselves because this blow will come back to hit us at the given time."*

So even an enlightened self-interest would caution us to be careful of what we speak. For we will inevitably reap what we sow. In the words of e.e. cummings:

my life is the life of the reaper and the sower;
my prayers are prayers of earth's own . . .  children
whose any sadness or joy is my grief or my gladness **

*Source (German): Rudolf Steiner – GA 125 – Wege und Ziele des geistigen Menschen – Kopenhagen, 4 June 1910 (page 56-57). This English translation has been copied from the book: GA 125 – Paths and Goals of the Spiritual Human Being – Life questions in the light of spiritual science – Chapter 4 – Copenhagen, 4 June 1910  **e.e.cummings ~, Complete Poems 1904-1962

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Sunday, February 5, 2017

1st February Trinity 2017, I Have Received

1st February Trinity
11th Century Codex Aureus Epternacensis

Matthew 20: 1-16

[But many who are last will be first, and many who are first will be last.] The kingdom of the heavens is like a man, the master of his house, who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. Agreeing to pay them one denarius a day, he sent them out into his vineyard.

At about 9 o’clock he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace, and he said to them, “Go also into my vineyard, and I will give you whatever is right.” So, they went.

He went out again at about noon and at 3 o’clock and did the same. At 5 o’clock he went out and found others standing there, and he said to them, “Why do you stand here all day idle?” They said, “Because no one has hired us.” He said, “You, too, go into the vineyard.”

And when evening came, the master of the vineyard said to his steward, “Call the workers and give them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.”

Those who had been hired at 5 o’clock came forward, and each received one denarius. Therefore, when it was the turn of those who were hired first, they expected to receive more. However, they too also received one denarius each. They took it, but they began to grumble against the master of the house. “These men who were hired last only worked one hour, and you have made them equal to us, who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.”

However, he answered one of them, saying, “Friend, I am not being unjust to you. Did you not agree with me for one denarius? Take what you have earned and go. I wish to give to the man hired last the same as I give to you. Have I not the right to do as I wish with what is mine? Or do you give me an evil look because I am generous? Thus will the last be first and the first will one day be last."

1st February Trinity
February 5, 2017
Matthew 20: 1-16

Rembrandt, Workers in the Vineyard, WikiCommons, Salomon Koninck
Some individuals seem to have all the luck – everything they do turns out well and is rewarded. Meanwhile, others sweat and toil under difficult circumstances and seem barely able to exist. Those for whom things go well may be guilty of pride – they may think that the others just aren't applying themselves enough, while the disadvantaged individual may likely suffer envy.

Without knowing about each other's past lives, it is impossible to determine the reason for the differences. On the great wheel of incarnations, we are sometimes up and sometimes down. The whole purpose of incarnating is to develop a strong and independent self. In the parable, this selfhood is the 'one denarius' that is the reward of a day's labor, the reward for our daily labors on the field of earth. This single selfhood can then open in gratitude and be offered as a container for a higher, truer Self.

Some seem to come to selfhood only after a tremendous amount of labor and suffering. Others may seem to achieve their 'one denarius' quickly, late and with little effort. What we do not know is how much this individual has suffered or labored in the past, either in this lifetime or another. The parable seems to be saying that grumbling and envy are in any case detrimental; they won't bring you greater rewards; in fact, they erode the self.

In addition, the parable assures us that, despite what the envious may think, the Master is generous. He always rewards our labors, no matter how it may appear to us. He gives us our daily bread, sufficient for the day's needs. In fact, we are all working together to achieve the harvest. Albert Einstein said, "Many times a day I realize how much my own outer and inner life is built upon the labors of my fellow men, both living and dead and how earnestly I must exert myself in order to give in return as much as I have received."

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Sunday, January 29, 2017

4th Epiphany 2017, Small and Do-able

4th Epiphany
John 5: 1-18

Carl Heinrich Bloch, WikiCommons
Some time later, there was a Jewish feast, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Now there is in Jerusalem, near the Sheep’s Gate, a pool, called Bethesda in Hebrew, which is surrounded by 5 covered porches. Here lay a great many invalids, the blind, the lame [crippled], the weak [withered], waiting for the water to begin moving. For from time to time, a powerful angel of the Lord descended into the pool and stirred up the waters. The first one in the pool after such a disturbance would be cured of whatever ailment he had.

And there was a certain man there who had been an invalid for 38 years. When Jesus saw him lying there and became aware that he had been ill for so long, he asked him,
“Do you want [have the will] to become whole?”

The invalid answered him, “Lord [Sir], I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.”

Artus Wolffort, Wiki Commons
Then Jesus said to him, “Rise up, take up your pallet, and walk.”  At once, the man was healed and

picked up his pallet and walked.
However, it was the Sabbath on that day. Therefore, the Jewish leaders said to the man who was healed, “It is the Sabbath; the law forbids you to carry your pallet.”

But he replied, “The man who healed me said to me, “take up your pallet and walk!”

And they asked him, “Who is the man who said to you ‘take it up and walk’?”

But the one who was healed had no idea who it was, for Jesus had slipped away, as there was a crowd in the place.

Later, Jesus found him in the Temple and said to him, “Take to heart what I say: Behold, you have become whole. Sin no more, lest your destiny bring you something worse.”

The man went away and told the Jewish leaders that Jesus was the one who had healed him. That is why they persecuted Jesus and sought to kill him because he did these things on the Sabbath.

Then he himself countered them with the words, “Until now my Father has worked, and from now on I also work.”

Then they sought all the more to kill him, because not only had he broken the Sabbath, but also because he had called God his own Father and had set himself equal to God.

4th Epiphany
January 29, 2017
John 5: 1-18

There is a part in all of us that is like the invalid at the pool. This part suffers from a sort of paralysis, the part that cannot rightly take up our destiny and move forward with it. Our inner stuckness comes from a certain basic problem. A hindrance arises from assuming that someone else will make our destiny happen. As the invalid says, "I have no one to help me." His not being helped is made worse by the fact that all the invalids are in competition against one another for a meager resource. The healing properties of the waters suffice only for one. And so all have become naturally selfish in their hope for a cure.

There is a problem in expecting one's own insufficiencies to be overcome by someone outside of oneself. For isn't is at least as comfortably familiar to lie down under our burdens and wait? A thirty-eight-year habit of waiting! 

The only Being who can supplement what we lack is Christ. And Christ asks our inner invalid, "Do you have the will to become healed and take up your pallet of destiny?"

That the invalid suffers from a kind of weakness of will is evident also from the warning Christ gives him later in the Temple. He tells him not to allow himself to relapse into his former state, or his destiny will become even worse.

We all set intentions and make resolutions and promises. What is spiritually important is not the resolution, but the follow-through. Every intention, every promise we make and then fail to follow through on, however small, has a negative consequence. Not only does it compromise our integrity, our inner wholeness; it also weakens our will. Best to build inner strength by keeping our intentions small and do-able.

The New Testament Greek word for sin is hamartia, missing the mark. So, in the words of Christ: "Take to heart what I say. You have become whole; sin [miss the mark] no more, lest your destiny bring you something worse. 

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Sunday, January 22, 2017

3rd Epiphany 2017, Love Thaws

3rd Epiphany
Matthew 8, 1-13

When he came down from the mountain, large crowds followed him. And behold, a man with leprosy approached him, and kneeling down before him said, “Lord, if you are willing, you are able to make me clean.”

Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him saying, “I am willing; be cleansed.”

And immediately he was cleared of his leprosy. And Jesus said to him, “See that you tell no one. But go and show yourself to the priests and offer to them the gift that Moses commanded as a testimony of your cleansing.”

When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a Roman captain, leader of a hundred soldiers, approached him, pleading with him and saying, “Lord, my boy lies at home, paralyzed, suffering great pain.”

Jesus said to him, “I will come and heal him.”

The centurion answered, saying, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof. Just say a word, and my boy will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. If I say one word to this one—‘Go, ’ he goes, and if I tell another ‘Come,’ he comes. If I tell my servant ‘Do this,’ he does it.

Hearing this, Jesus was amazed and said to those following him, “Amen, the truth I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great power of trust. And I tell you, that many will come from the east and from the west and will take their places at the feast with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of the heavens. But the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into the darkness of [godforsaken] external existence, where there will be wailing and gnashing of teeth.”

And Jesus said to the centurion, “Go home.  Let it be done to you as you have believed.”

And the boy was healed in that hour.

3rd Epiphany
January 22, 2017
Matthew 8, 1-13

Today we hear of two different healings. The leper asks for his own healing. The centurion asks for the healing of another's suffering and paralysis. Furthermore, the centurion humbly asks for a healing at a distance. Christ responds, both with a healing and with warm praise for his trust.

We, too, like the centurion, are used to controlling certain things, making them happen. And at other times, especially when praying for another, we recognize that Christ can work at a distance.

In the Act of Consecration, we, like the centurion, are humbly aware of illness. It this case, it is the illness of our own soul and bodily constitution. Before communion, the priest acknowledges that Christ is entering a dwelling that is sick. And at the same time, there is humble trust in the power of Christ's Word of Healing.

Jane Delaford Taylor
Christ heals because He loves. He stands respectfully at a distance, waiting for us to approach. It is our trust in Him which allows Him to ease our suffering and paralysis of soul. 

As Theresa of Avila says,

And God is always there, if you feel wounded.  He kneels
over this earth like
a divine medic,

and His love thaws
the holy in us.*

St. Teresa of Avila, "When the Holy Thaws," in Love Poems From God: Twelve Sacred Voices from the East and West --versions by Daniel Ladinsky

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Sunday, January 15, 2017

2nd Epiphany 2017, Wisdom, Maturity, Grace

2nd Epiphany
Luke 2, 41-52

Jesus found in the Temple, Tissot, Brooklyn Museum
Every year his [Jesus’] parents went to Jerusalem for the feast of the Passover. And when he was twelve years old, they took him with them. Now after they had gone there and fulfilled the custom during the days of the feast, they set off on their way home. But the boy Jesus remained behind in Jerusalem. His parents did not know this; they thought he was among the company of the travelers. After a day’s journey, they missed him among their friends and relations. When they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem to look for him.

After three days, they found him in the Temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. And those who heard him were amazed at his mature understanding and his answers.

And when they saw him, they were taken aback, and his mother said to him, “My child, why have you done this to us? Behold, your father and I have been searching for you in great distress.”

And he said to them, “Why did you look for me? Did you not know that I must be and live in that which is my Father’s?”

But they did not understand the meaning of the words he spoke to them. And he went down with them again to Nazareth and followed them willingly in all things.

And his mother carefully kept all these things living in her heart. And Jesus progressed in wisdom, in maturity and grace [favor] in the sight of God and man.

2nd Epiphany
January 15, 2017
Luke 2, 41-52

Most parents of an adolescent know the feeling: you wake up one day, and the sweet child you knew has suddenly become a stranger. He or she has a mind of their own, with their own agenda. Where does this all come from?

James B. Janknegt
We all carry a 'young son' within us. It is our destiny, our karma, which we brought with us – our mission, our calling, our intentions for our life. It rises up in youth, sometimes dramatically, sometimes more quietly. It is often not so clear for us as it was for the young Jesus.

These promptings of destiny can continue to arise throughout life. Some can be fulfilled and disappear, while others arise only later. There are surprises, sometimes dismaying, as we hear what our inner 'young son' has to say to us.

Much about our own destiny we may not understand. But we need to follow it willingly. And, like Jesus's mother, we need to keep all these things in our hearts, so that we, too, can progress, in wisdom, in maturity and in grace.

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Sunday, January 8, 2017

1st Epiphany
Matthew 2: 1-12

When Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea—during the time of King Herod—behold: wise priest-kings from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying,
Albani Psalter
“Where is the one born here King of the Jews? We have seen his star rise in the east and have come to worship him.”
When King Herod heard this, he was deeply disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. And he assembled all the high priests and scribes of the people and inquired of them in what place the Christ was to be born.

And they said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it was written by the prophet:

And you Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
Are by no means the least among the rulers of Judah;
For out of you shall come forth the ruler
Who will be shepherd over my people, the true Israel.”

Then Herod, secretly calling the Magi together again, inquired from them the
Herod consulting the Three Kings, Tissot
exact time when the star had appeared. He directed them to Bethlehem and said, “Go there and search carefully for the child, and when you find him, report to me, that I too may go and bow down before him.”

After they had heard the King, they went on their way, and behold, the star that they had seen rising went before them, and led them in its course over the cities until it stood over the place where the child was.

Evangeliar Altom√ľnster
Seeing the star, they were filled with [there awakened in them] an exceedingly great and holy joy.

Entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; they fell down before him and worshipped him. Then they opened their treasures and offered him their gifts: gold and frankincense and myrrh.

And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their country by another way.

1st Epiphany
January 6, 8, 2017
Matthew 2: 1-12

The three priest kings are on the watch for the appearance of a new kingly
artist unknown
being. And this kingly being shows himself to them at a distance. He appears in the realm above the earthly in the form of a star, which guides them to himself. They are overjoyed when the star of the one they love and revere leads them to a house with a mother and child.

They offer him the durable and radiant gold of their wisdom, the sweet frankincense of their devotion, and the bitter myrrh of healing. The child absorbs these spiritual components, which he then in turn, later, offers to the salvation of humankind.

We each have a star of destiny guidance. It shines above our heads at birth. It dives down into us at maturity, working from within, as inklings and intimations, as dreams and conscience.
artist unknown

Can we develop an eye for the destiny guidance, the star that lives in another? Do we feel a reverent joy when we glimpse it? Are we willing to offer our wisdom, our reverence, our capacity for healing in support of their path?

A traditional prayer from another part of the world says:
Journeying god,
pitch your tent with mine
so that I may not become deterred
by hardship, strangeness, doubt.
Show me the movement I must make
toward a wealth not dependent on possessions,
toward a wisdom not based on books,
toward a strength not bolstered by might,
toward a god not confined to heaven.
Help me to find myself as I walk in other's shoes.*

*Prayer song from Ghana, traditional, translator unknown

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