Archive for March, 2007

At mass today, the NT reading was from Phillipians 3 and the Gospel reading was the story of the adulterous women.  Working off of those passages, Father made the most powerful connection related to reconcilliation that I’ve heard in a long time.  He said that only at the place where forgiveness and sorrow intersect will reconcilliation lie. He talked about how Christ will wipe away our sins and we can give/ask for forgiveness amongst our brothers and sisters, but if there is no sorrow, there will be no reconcilliation or moving forward towards the goal.  Without sorrow, he said, you will only be forgiven.  Nothing will change, nothing will be reconciled.  Instead of moving forward, you will find yourself back in the same place, once again asking to be forgiven for the same sins. 

I thought about this throughout mass and my whole walk home.  When Father was talking about reconcilliation, I got the definite impression that he was not talking about simply setting this right.  He spoke of a reconcilliation that was not about making things okay, but making things whole.

I’ve always been one to tackle and resolve conflict as quickly as possible.  I wanted forgiveness to take place and for things to be smoothed over and made right.  The problem is that, especially when I was the one in the wrong, I tried resolve the conflict long before any sense of sorrow could set in.  And really, the resolution wasn’t about change or moving forward.  It was about fixing things so we could go back to life as usual. 

Then I thought about the one or two relationships in my life where genuine, heart-ache, humbling sorrow has intersected with forgiveness.  They have been relationships that have only found (or will find) wholeness because the Holy Spirit has stepped in, much like Christ stepped in to save the adulterous woman.  It’s such a long process though, because I think both sides of the conflict have to arrive at that intersection.  Maybe once we arrive there and the other person hasn’t, maybe Christ has worked it out so that we can remain grounded in that intersection yet move forward and change.  Then when the other person arrives there too, we can come back, a changed person, more ready to cry out for reconcilliation than ever. 


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XYZ PDQ. That’s what my mom taught us when we were kids. I know a guy who taught his son to say, “Hey, look at the duck!” in order to distract people from the ‘issue’. Personally, I prefer to give the eye and the nod. If that fails I’ll mouth or whisper, “check your fly.”

Part of me wishes someone would have done that for me today. Part of me is glad they didn’t, because my fly wasn’t actually down. I had to take my jeans to the dry cleaner because the zipper needed to be replaced. When they replaced it, they must have done something funky because now the flappy thing over the zipper sits wide open.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t aware of this until about 5:30 this evening. Several times prior to 5:30, I sensed people of both genders looking at me oddly, their eyes persistently floating downward. I didn’t know what the deal was. I kept checking to make sure I wasn’t flashing to much skin.

Then at about 5:30 I went to apply for a part-time job. As I talked with the manager and then handed her my application, I sensed that she too was looking up and down my body kind funny. I just assumed she had poor communication skills. When I got out side, I was kind of tugging my shirt down, when I realized I’d been walking around all day long with my jeans looking like this…


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Yeah, 6-11 upset

 Can I please tell the world that I picked VCU over Duke?!  I took heat for this, but there were several reasons behind it.

  1. VCU has been playing tough the last half of the season.  I’ve only seen scores, but I’ve been impressed.
  2. Duke has been playing not to lose all season.  When it comes to crunch time, I’ll take the fired up little guy over the cocky, kind of nervous hot shot any day of the week.
  3. Being a pseudo Carolina fan, I am partially required to hate Duke.
  4. If I didn’t have a rivalry reason to hate Duke, I’d hate them anyway because they are dirty, dirty arrogant ball players whose coach signs commercial deals.  (Find a way to watch somewhere between the 10th and 12th minutes of the second half.  I’d make a case for adding racist to my list of Duke descriptors, but the ref probably deserves that tag as much as anything.

All you will probably hear from me in the next couple of weeks will probably be basketball related.  Just a warning.   Also, a specific warning to any Carolina fans in the general Balkan area, I had to hold myself back from calling in the middle of the night to tell you about this game.  It may be even harder for me to resist if Michigan State upsets Roy’s team.

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The Calling

If you have $10 burning a hole in your pocket, you must buy Mary Chapin Carpenter’s latest album, The Calling.  Patty’s latest made me all warm inside; Chapin made me cry, clench my fists and sigh deeply.   It’s very, very good stuff.   I will, however, admit my bias.  This woman’s music has been walking me through life since 8th grade.


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My fabulous sister is here for a long weekend.  She is my fashion guru.  She makes me wear jewelry and clothes that are not black or brown.  She also steers me away from gym-wear.

One of the first things she did when she woke up was inspect my closet.  She pulled out this black t-shirty thing with purple flowers on it.  Our mom bought it for her when she was in 5th grade.  I later stole from her because I wanted to wear t-shirts to work in a professional setting and that was a fancy t-shirt.  The shirt was ugly when Mom bought it.  It was ugly when I stole it from my sister and it’s still ugly hanging in my closet.

This weekend she and I are going to go through all of my clothes and get rid of anything that is ugly, professional, or that fit when I was skinnier.  Here’s her reasoning: I don’t wear professional clothes right now and the next time I do, the professional clothes I own will no longer be in style.  They may also not fit by then.  The same goes for the skinny clothes.  I obviously don’t wear them right now and if I do ever fit in them again, they probably won’t be in style.  Thus, there are women in the community who could use those clothes, and giving the clothes away would do them more good than me.   She said that I was clearly using those clothes as motivation to get skinny or professional or both.  Clearly, she said, it’s not working.  She said I had to give them up so that someone who actually is skinny and/or in the process of becoming professional can get some use out of them.

That’s pretty wise for a college freshman.

She didn’t have anything wise to say about the ugly clothes.  But we’re getting rid of those too.  After we purge the closet and drawers, I’m giving her a $100 budget and we’re hitting Target, Kohl’s and the two high-end consignment stores in town.  I’m betting she can put together at least three sassy ensembles for me.  The ensembles will no doubt involve dangley earrings and lime green and polka dots, but hey, it’ll be fun.

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Jesus went out again beside the sea and the whole crowd gathered around him and he taught them. As he was walking, he saw Levi son of Alpheus sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Come, follow me.” And he got up and followed him. As he sat at dinner in Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinner were also sitting with Jesus – for there were many who followed him. When the scribes of the Pharisees saw this, the said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with sinners and tax collectors?” When Jesus heard this, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need for a physician, but the sick. I have come not to call the righteous but the sinners.

Mark 2:13-17

 That’s the passage with which I am to thrill the masses. I’m to preach the gospel and hopefully get a good grade while I’m at it. I’ve been working on this since January. Okay, so I’ve had my assigned passage since January. I’ve probably only been working on it for a few weeks. You know, resting my little head on one side of the toilet seat and my Bible on the other. Wait…this post is about Jesus, not being sick. Let’s move on.

In some ways I’ve fallen in love with this passage. It’s so normal. It’s the kind of passage that I think even non-Christians know the gist of. It’s definitely been the kind of passage that you have to hold up to the light and turn around and around, gazing at all the beautiful new angles until you find one that really catches your eye. What’s been interesting is that I found the part that catches my eye…the whole ‘what is he thinking?’ thing…but I totally don’t have any answers. Just a bunch of imaginative speculation. Works for me. We’ll see if it works for the preaching prof.

Working through this passage naturally caused me to ask who I would have been in the story. What would I have been thinking. I don’t know that I’m going to be preaching this part of it, but this is what I’ve been mulling as I’ve let this passage work me…

I can start at looking at all of the groups involved in the story – Jesus, the disciples, Levi, the sinners and tax collectors, and the scribes of the Pharisees. If I were really a part of this story, what would I be thinking? Who would I be? Where would I fit? Would I be a sinner or tax collector?

Would I be Levi, willing to just leave it all behind at follow Christ?

Would I be a Pharisee or scribe, condemning the sinners and judging those who aren’t playing their calloused game? Would I be like Jesus, welcoming everyone, paying special attention to the down and out?

Who’s left? Oh yeah. They’re easy to forget because they don’t really have a part in the story. No lines. At best, they mumble. Would I be like them? What would I be thinking? Who would I be?

Well, right off the bat, there’s one option we can eliminate. I’m not much like Jesus. No chance, can’t do it. What was I thinking? Like I really could be just like Jesus? I really should know better than to take a story such as this and think that I have it in me to respond to everyone involved just like Jesus did.

And then there are the Pharisees. I really really don’t want to be them. But I know that when I reflect on what they were thinking in comparison to what I am thinking a lot of the time, oooh…that’s just too close to home. I know I am not a Pharisee all the time, but I think there are probably a lot of things going through my head that should cause me to say “What am I thinking??!!”

I know that at one point I was part of the crowd. Whether I was playing the whore or the tax collector, or just tagging along, part of the crowd was who I was. It’s who we’ve all been. There’s a million and one things to be thought when that’s who you are. I might be amazed by Christ’s nature; I might be ashamed to be seen. Maybe I think Simon’s kind of cute. Maybe I heard there’s going to be free food. I know when I was there in the crowd, I was thinking a lot of different things, but rarely if ever did it occur to me that Jesus knew that I was there in that crowd. It never occurred to me that Jesus had anything to do with me.

But then he called me. Just like he’s called so many before. Just like he’s maybe already called you or how he’s getting ready to. So that’s who I really am – one that he’s called. I guess I’m not like Levi so much, because I wasn’t called just a few moments ago. That makes me more like a disciple – like Simon, Andrew, James or John.

In this passage, how do they feel? They’re a little skeptical, a little protective, a little jealous. They’re committed, willing to go the distance. They’ve faded into the background here; they’re not on center stage. Interesting. Is that a role I can play?

So I think about it. A disciple. I look at who they are in this passage. What are they thinking? What am I thinking? They’ve moved beyond the crowd of sinners because of Christ’s work in their life – not because they’ve been able to pull themselves up by their bootstraps and prove that they’re better. In this passage, they’re not trying to do anything or save anyone apart from what Christ tells them. They’re letting Jesus do his thing and they’re just hanging out with people. I wonder if Andrew’s trying to work the room or if James is chilling quietly off to the side. I noticed there’s really no dialogue for the disciples in this passage. And I do believe that says a little bit about the way they hung out in the group.

I mean, they’re hanging out at this dinner party was quite the cast of characters, but we don’t read about them mingling around asking people “how can I pray for you” in that – you know – that Christianeze way of saying “ I want the dirt on you.” They aren’t saying any of that, and even though they are shouting at Jesus in their heads, silently screaming, “What are you thinking?” they’re not saying it out loud. They’re not gossiping, they’re not complaining and they’re not condemning people the way that the Pharisees are.

Now as I try to weigh the meaning behind all the “what’s he thinking questions in the story” along with the “what are you thinking?” questions that come with the role of an apostle, I guess the only question left to ask is –

What am I thinking?

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According to the Gospel of Mark, at this point Jesus has called four disciples – Simon, Andrew, James and John. Everywhere that they go, Jesus attracts more and more people. All kinds of people sit and listen to him talk, but when it’s time to move on to the next place, it always seems like it’s the most awkward and unhealthy types that keep following along. It seems like these outcasts are willing to follow Jesus wherever he goes.

So they’re walking along – Jesus, Simon, Andrew, James and John, along with a bunch of dirty people, blind people, women with kids, prostitutes, you name it, they were part of the crowd. Simon and the other guys couldn’t figure out why those people would want to follow Jesus.

Really, what are they thinking?

It’s not like they can actually understand what Jesus was talking about. The scribes and pharisees barely get what he’s talking about. Oh well. They probably don’t have jobs; guess there’s nothing better for them to do and they’re not hurting anything.

Now the disciples can’t figure the crowd out, but the crowd can’t figure out the disciples either.

What are they thinking?

How long is this going to last before they chase us off and call us dogs and trash and whores? Why haven’t they done that already? Don’t they know what kind of people we are?

As the disciples nod uncomfortably and offer the crowd the kind of friendliness you can pick up from good Christian kids at a soup kitchen, they clench their teeth and hold their tongues.

For real, what is Jesus thinking?

Doesn’t he know what kind of people they are? Doesn’t he know that this is totally going to mess with his reputation? I’m mean, sure, it’s great to show them sympathy, but these people are going to make all of us unclean! Doesn’t Jesus know this?

I picture Jesus walking up at the front of the pack; maybe the disciples are directly behind him, maybe not. Either way, I’m sure they are kind of whispering back and forth to each other trying to sort this all out. They’re half paying attention to Jesus, half talking to each other out of the side of their mouths, when all of a sudden Jesus says, “Hey you! Levi! Follow me”

“Follow me?” What? This goes beyond just letting the guy follow them around. Jesus directly called him. Jesus just called a tax collector just like he called James and John and Simon and Andrew. The same way that he had called them.

But they weren’t tax collectors. They were better than that. For starters, they were honest hard workers. They were fisherman. They didn’t have notorious reputations. Heck, they didn’t really have a reputation either way. And now Jesus is asking a guy like Levi to join their ranks. I don’t know about you, but I bet they were asking,

What is he thinking?

Okay, so there’s our group – Jesus, the disciples, Levi and this band of ragamuffins. They walk some more and end up at Levi’s place. I don’t know if it was on the way or Levi was just so excited that he was like “Hey, come on Jesus, everyone can come over to my place to eat tonight.” It doesn’t really matter; just off they go and then they wind up at Levi’s.

So they’re all at Levi’s having dinner. The disciples must have be off to the side or mixed in with the party somewhere else, because the passage tells us that Jesus is surrounded on all sides by folks like the tax collectors and other sinners.

No doubt the Pharisees hear about this little shindig and get a little bent out of shape. I can all but guarantee that this was the first thing to cross their minds –

What is he thinking?!

So they sent their little lackeys, the scribes, to go find out what was going on. The scribes show up at Levi’s dinner party, take one look at whose hanging around and then said to each other,

What is this guy thinking?!

I mean, this Jesus could be a legit rabbi, a Pharisee. He’s smart enough, suave enough. He knows how to get things done. Why would he be wasting all that on these people?

One of them jabs the other in the ribs and says, “Umm, he says he’s the son of God I think that’s why.”

The other one looks back, rolling his eyes and says, “Oh yeah. I forgot.”

What is this guy thinking?

Then one of the scribes walks very inconspicuously towards John or Simon and asks him,

What is he thinking?

Why is he eating with sinners and tax collectors? The disciple’s mouth just drops, and he stammers a little bit and then Jesus comes over. He looks the scribes squarely in the eyes and boldy says,

What are you thinking?

Do you think the healthy and righteous need more help than the sinners and sick? What’s wrong with you?

What are you thinking?

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