Living Boldly for Others

“Keep asking, seeking, knocking” (Luke 11:9)

Luke 11:1-13 He was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” He said to them, “When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us. And do not bring us to the time of trial.” And he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; for a friend of mine has arrived, and I have nothing to set before him.’ And he answers from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door has already been locked, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.’ I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, at least because of his persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs. “So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

Reflection: St. Mother Teresa said of prayer, “God shapes the world by prayer. The more praying there is in the world the better the world will be, the mightier the forces against evil.”

In today’s gospel text, Jesus provides his disciples with a framework for effective prayer after a disciple asked him to teach them how to pray (11:1). The framework Jesus offered is known as the Lord’s Prayer (11:2-4). The prayer contains five foundational elements that guide every disciple’s worldview and life. They are: (1) praise of God as divine, caring, relational, and holy; (2) an unwavering hope that the world is headed toward a peaceable and just future; (3) a vision for the wellbeing of the whole human family (“give us”); (4) a vision for freedom from guilt and resentment through the grace of forgiveness; and, (5) an acknowledgment of the need for strength to live life with a God-centered spiritual morality and virtue. 

It would have been enough if Jesus would have stopped after sharing the framework for effective prayer, but he continues the teaching in a way that seems to take an unsettling turn. He continues his teaching by telling his disciples a parable about a man who received a friend that unexpectedly arrived at his home (11:5-8). Not having the food to meet the basic needs for his guest, the morally obligated and resourceful host in turn boldly goes out at midnight to one of his neighbors in town to ask for bread so that he can feed his hungry friend and guest. After some reluctance, the host’s neighbor gets up from his slumber and gives him some bread for his hungry friend waiting back at home. The teaching would be confounding if Jesus is implying through the parable that God is like the slumbering and reluctant man that eventually and reluctantly fulfills a petitioner’s request, but only after continued knocking on the doors of heaven, harassment, and shaming. This is certainly not a proper way to think about nature of God in relationship to our prayer life.

Through his overall teaching on prayer, Jesus makes a connection between God’s care for humanity (especially the vulnerable), a disciple’s moral and social responsibility to the vulnerable, and God’s divine activity in the world through the the life of a disciple. Jesus’ teaching on prayer enjoins his disciples to the plight of the vulnerable. Jesus teaches that effective prayer is human action on behalf of others guided by God’s good gift of the Holy Spirit (11:13). The beautiful work of the Holy Spirit in our lives, beckons and empowers us to go boldly into the nights of unknowns on behalf of others in unceasing efforts – continually asking, seeking, and knocking – to meet their needs. It is the Holy Spirit who inspires our imagination to envision new life-giving possibilities for others. The Holy Spirit leads us to identify resources to meet the basics needs of others such as food, clothing, shelter, safety, community, and the peace of knowing that God loves and cares for them (11:6). It is the Holy Spirit who imbues us with the spiritual boldness to keep asking, seeking, and knocking in ways that enable us to fulfill our discipleship obligations and demonstrate God’s care and love to the vulnerable among us. It is the Holy Spirit who that gives us the ability to actively entrust ourselves and the needs of others with faith, hope, and love into the hands of God who cares for and leads us toward the fulfillment of human wholeness.

Prayer: God of life and love, may the prayers and lives of your disciples throughout your creation help shape the world in ways that usher in hope, peace, and life for all peoples in all places.

Singularity of Purpose – Sunday, July 21, 2019

“You are worried and distracted” Lk. 10:40

Scripture: Luke 10:38-42 Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.”

Reflection: For everything there is a a season, and time for ever matter under heaven, says the writer of Ecclesiastes (3:1). How we generally live out our discipleship is also seasonal and singular. There are seasons in our lives when we engage in seeking for and welcoming more of the fullness of God into our lives through the spiritual disciplines of worship, study, prayer, and reflection. And there are seasons when we live out our discipleship in acts of service and advocacy that seek the common good and God’s justice in the world. Both spiritual dispositions are right and both are part of the fullness of our Christian discipleship.

In today’s lectionary reading, Jesus invites Martha – “who is worried and distracted by many things” – to recognize that while he is near, the season to singularly welcome more of his fullness into her life is more important than everything else she could engage in at that particular time.

I can identify with Martha. When I was in seminary, my mind was occupied with all I could be doing in ministry and for the sake of others in the name of Jesus Christ. On one particular day while in my Introduction to Theology (speech and thought about the nature and work of God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit) class, I thought to myself, “I’m wasting my time reading, writing, and reflecting about theology when I should instead be preaching, teaching, discipling others, and ministering to the disinherited. Dr. Ellen Charry, my professor, must have read my mind. In the middle of her lecture, she stopped and said,

“Some of you here today are thinking you are wasting your time in seminary because you should be out in the world serving God. Let me remind you that the greatest commandment is that we are to “love the Lord our God with all our heart, with all our soul, all our strength, and with all our mind’ (Deut. 6:4; Matt. 22:37; Mark 12:30; Luke 10:27). What you are doing in seminary in this season of your life is singularly loving God with your mind. You are learning how to think clearly about God. What you think about God is important because the people you serve will depend upon it. Your singular work as a seminary student is to build the theological framework that will guide your ministry in the years to come.”

There are so many pressing local, state, and national issues that clamor and call out for our immediate attention and response as disciples of Jesus Christ. With so much clamor in our world calling our for our attention, we can easily step into all kinds of frays, expend ourselves running in all directions with uncertainty, become overwhelmed, and flail at air to exhaustion like a fighter without landing any solid punches (1 Corinthians 9:26). In seasons of so much to do with so little time to do it, we need the time and space to reflect and think deeply about God’s nature and ways and our calling as God’s people so that our actions in the world can be grounded in our understanding about who God is and what God desires for our clamoring world. Our devotional time with God enables us to discern what God is calling us to singularly give ourselves to as individuals and congregations with clarity and a sense of purpose in the hope that our devotional, prophetic, and missional efforts will be Christ-centered, God-pleasing, Spirit-led, fruitful, life-giving, and not be in vain.

Prayer: Call us to you presence Lord when we are worried and distracted by so much clamor in our world. Fill us with the desire to desire to choose your essential life which cannot be taken away from us.

Taken but Never Forgotten – July 7, 2019

Namaan’s wife slave girl

Scripture: 2 Kings 5:1-3

Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Aram, was a great man and in high favor with his master because by him the Lord had given victory to Aram. The man, though a mighty warrior, suffered from leprosy. Now the Arameans on one of their raids had taken a young girl captive from the land of Israel, and she served Naaman’s wife. She said to her mistress, “If only my lord were with the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.” 

Reflection: Today’s lectionary reading from 2 King 5:1-14 is primarily about the healing of Namaan, a powerful and prideful military leader from Aram.

The story begins when a young slave girl from Israel serving Naaman’s wife, hears of Naaman’s leprosy – a fungal infection, leukoderma, impetigo, psoriasis, and eczema are all possibilities.

The unnamed slave girl mercifully bore her captor’s burden (Gal. 6:2). She suggests to Namaan’s wife that a prophet from her homeland would cure him. Naaman believes the slave girl’s recommendation passed on through his wife. He travels to Israel with an entourage of servants, silver, gold, and garments to reward the prophet for healing him. Namaan reluctantly obeys the prophet Elisha’s directives and participates in his healing by immersing himself seven times in the Jordan river. His healing led him away from sacrificing to other gods and to worship the Lord God of Israel. He asks Elisha for two-mule loads of dirt from Israel so that he can worship God in his homeland of Aram on Israelite soil.    

While we know to some extent what happened to Namaan, we do not know what happened to the young slave girl. Although nameless, she is a leading figure in the story. It was her recommendation that led Namaan to Israel, Elisha the prophet, his healing, and eventually to Namaan’s faith in the God of Israel.

Like so many nameless young girls, boys, and adults in the world today, the nameless servant girl was taken against her will by force and violence. She was separated and broken away from her family, her friends, her known way of life, and her homeland. Her fate rested in the hands of others who did not have her particular best interest in mind.

I wonder if the young slave girl was treated as a person or a possession? Did she inconsolably cry herself to sleep at nights? Did she wake up in the middle of the night because of nightmares? Did she ever see or speak to her mother or father again?

I can imagine her mother, father, siblings, and friends in Israel – like millions throughout the world today – could only wonder with anguish and uncertainty about her whereabouts and fate, praying that she was still alive and not in danger. The precious moments of watching their daughter grow, laugh and play stolen from them. They are in continual emotional distress, always grieving because to stop grieving is to give up hope of ever seeing their daughter again.

The slave girl in today’s text reminds us of all the children and adults in our world today who are taken, abducted against their will, trafficked, and exploited because of human violence and greed. It also reminds us that God is with them.

Human trafficking is happening all around us. Victims are often hidden away. It’s essential to know how to ‘spot the signs’ of trafficking that could save lives.

For more information on how you can spot the signs of trafficking, respond, and advocate to bring modern slavery to an end, visit the website:

A Prayer for the End of Human Trafficking as shared by the Sisters of Charity of Saint Elizabeth, Convent Station, N.J.

God of freedom, beauty and truth
we believe that your deepest desire,
your most powerful energy, 
is that all creation might know abundant life.

We raise our voices in anguished prayer
for our sisters and brothers,
women and girls, men and boys,
who are modern day slaves;
They are your beloved daughters and sons,
exploited sexually or forced to work
because of human violence and greed.

Fill us with your holy anger and your sacred passion
that those who are trafficked might know healing and justice;
that traffickers will come to repentance and conversion;
that all of us might live in such a way
that others are not made to pay the price
for our comfort and convenience.

Hasten the coming of the day when all people
and our precious Earth itself
will be treated, not as a commodity,
but as radiant images of your freedom, beauty and truth.
Amen. May it be so.