You are the Christ

MT 16:13-19

When Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi
he asked his disciples,
“Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”
They replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah,
still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”
Simon Peter said in reply,
“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Jesus said to him in reply, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah.
For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father.
And so I say to you, you are Peter,
and upon this rock I will build my Church,
and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.
I will give you the keys to the Kingdom of heaven.
Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven;
and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

 

Go Peter! You rock! (Yes, I had to go there)

We have three stages to this reading. The first part is basically Jesus establishing a political poll. Jesus and his disciples have been going about, doing their thing, and he wants to know what the public opinion is. Is that what he is really looking for? This may be something of a personal opinion, but I think he just asks to give them a basis of judging the difference between that and his next question.

Who do you say that I am? There’s a loaded question. That’s like someone sidling up to you and asking… so what do you think of me? Warning bells should be going off at that point. You better watch out how you respond to that one. It’s up there with Does this dress make me look fat?

But does Simon Peter hesitate? Not so much that Matthew chose to let us know. He immediately comes out with, “You are the Christ!” What does that mean? We through it around like a full name. John Doe. Jesus Christ. Christ was not a last name, but a title. Christ means anointed, or annointed one. To be an annointed one in those days meant one thing. King. I read somewhere (please don’t question where because I have no idea) that if you go through the bible and everywhere you see Jesus Christ to read it to yourself as King Jesus. It can really change how you read some passages.

Jesus seemed to be pretty chuffed about that. Not because Peter was singing his praises, but because the only way he could know, to be truly certain, would be if God told him Himself. From there Jesus goes on to call Peter the rock that his church would be founded on. Not only is Peter the foundation of the church, be he also serves as a different definition of a rock. He is a stumbling block. By holding up to Jesus’ standards he will cause the wicked to stumble. But he also stumbles himself, especially in the garden when he fell asleep and later flees. He doesn’t know it at this time in the Gospel, but it is likely one of the reasons why he is to become the foundation of the church. He knows from his own flawed nature that we can repent our sins and be forgiven just as Jesus forgives him of his own doubts and fears. He gives him the keys to heaven. He basically establishes that Peter will tend the Kingdom of God. He will control the doors, he will declare who will be forgiven and not forgiven on earth as Jesus declares will be matched in Heaven. That’s a load of responsibility. Could you handle the knowledge that if you do not forgive someone looking for forgiveness, they will not be forgiven in Heaven? I don’t think I could carry that burden.

What This Means To Me

The biggest thing that grabs me from this passage is the second question. “Who do you say that I am?” When it comes right down to it, the opinions of others do not matter as long as it does not influence our own. But if everyone else around us chooses to disbelieve, do we have the strength to say, “You are the Christ! Son of the living God!” I would like to say yes, but I have not been put to the test to find out.

There is an old (super old) saying that naming something gives it power. In a way it is true. If you come out and say that you believe that Jesus is Christ, King, where do you go from there? It colors your whole world. You just admitted that Jesus is your King. Can you follow that with immoral behavior? Can you support infanticide, or abortion? Or any types of killing? Jesus when being captured in the garden rebukes the violence and heals the ear of one of his captors. If this is what our King does, how do we follow that up? Can we forgive those who wrong us? Can we repair the damages down by others for no other reason than the fact that it was wrong and done in our name?

Jesus gave his life to save us from our sins. Can we do the same for our neighbors? Jesus did command us to love God and our neighbor as our selves. Can we sacrifice ourselves to save our neighbors as Jesus sacrificed Himself to save us?

I know how I would like to answer that, but deep down I’m not certain I’m ready for God to test me on it.

What do you get from this passage? What changes can you make in your life to bring this to the forefront?

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Evil Generation

LK 11:29-32

While still more people gathered in the crowd, Jesus said to them,
“This generation is an evil generation;
it seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it,
except the sign of Jonah.
Just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites,
so will the Son of Man be to this generation.
At the judgment
the queen of the south will rise with the men of this generation
and she will condemn them,
because she came from the ends of the earth
to hear the wisdom of Solomon,
and there is something greater than Solomon here.
At the judgment the men of Nineveh will arise with this generation
and condemn it,
because at the preaching of Jonah they repented,
and there is something greater than Jonah here.”

An evil generation. That just sticks with me. How can a generation be evil? And why would Jesus describe the current (at the time) generation evil? The people are asking for a sign because they do not truly want to believe Jesus. They are the doubting Thomas, asking for proof. In the back of my mind I am wondering what the difference is between this “evil” generation and poor Thomas. Was Thomas evil for wanting proof that his savior and lord was still alive? Are we evil if we begin to have doubts and ask God for signs or proofs? I’m not questioning my readers here, I am questioning in my heart. I believe this is one of those times where there is more behind Jesus’ meaning that it is not yet time for me to understand.

Jesus tells us that the only sign he will give is Jonah’s sign. What was Jonah’s sign? Jonah, our favorite friend of the whales. He journeyed, unwillingly at first, to the Ninevites to call them to repentance as God told him that the whole city was to be destroyed. It is no wonder that Jonah was a bit put out when God “changed” his mind when all of the Ninevites did repent and come back to God.

There are many parallels that Jesus is giving us to lead to his coming trials. For three days and nights Jonah was in the whale (or the belly of the sea-monster depending on your translation) just as Jesus was suffering after his crucifixion. Similarly, the Good News of Jesus’ return mirrors the good news that the repentance of the Ninevites heals their divide from God and saves them.

And who is this Queen of the South? This story comes to us from 1 Kings at the beginning of chapter 10. The Queen of the South travels a great distance to meet Solomon and to hear his wisdom. And what is Jesus telling us? There is something so much greater than Solomon here.

If we put it all together what is Jesus really telling us? Jonah was indignant after God’s compassion forgave the Ninevites. Why? Because he knew that God had such compassion for His people. He claimed that was why he wanted nothing to do with the ministry placed before him. In this way Jonah was made to be a sign for the Jews in that time that God’s love was for more than just the Jewish. He loves all of us. Even those of us that don’t accept His love.

What This Means To Me

When you really unpack this one I can just say one thing… wow. The evil generation wanted signs beyond the signs that Jonah gave. Jonah brought the Good News of God to the people of Ninevah. I think this is telling us that this should be enough. God in His goodness should be enough. “Testing” or asking God for “proof” of Himself or His love will likely be our downfall. Should knowing of the Good News be enough? No, I think Jesus’ mentioning of the Queen of the South should be a reminder that we need to seek the one out that is greater than Solomon. It is not enough to know of Jesus. We need to search him out. To bring ourselves closer to him. To recognize His goodness and compassion and love. Is it enough to call Him our Lord or our Savior if we do not follow in his path?

What do you get from this passage? What changes can you make in your life to bring this to the forefront?

Leaving Everything Behind

LK 5:27-32

Jesus saw a tax collector named Levi sitting at the customs post.
He said to him, “Follow me.”
And leaving everything behind, he got up and followed him.
Then Levi gave a great banquet for him in his house,
and a large crowd of tax collectors
and others were at table with them.
The Pharisees and their scribes complained to his disciples, saying,
“Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?”
Jesus said to them in reply,
“Those who are healthy do not need a physician, but the sick do.
I have not come to call the righteous to repentance but sinners.”

Reading this passage I get this image in my mind. I can’t help it. I don’t know how good of an analogy it is, but it works for me. I can see a father taking aside a rebellious teenager in order to bond and to bring him back into the way of the family. I see the teenager’s siblings looking on with jealousy and disbelief as the father gives this extra attention to the one who, in their opinion, didn’t deserve it. Honestly. The child causes so much trouble and discord and here he is being rewarded by more attention?

I can hear the indignation two thousand years later.

And really, isn’t that what the Pharisees are doing? Pointing fingers at the slight that they see without looking at the bigger picture. Part of the image I see in my mind is a disapproving father frowning and saying that he needs more help to come back to the good path.

Prodigal son, anyone?

What This Means To Me

Am I a jealous sibling or an accepting patient child? Am I a pharisee or a disciple? Am I jealous of the sinner’s attention or accepting that I am a sinner myself with just as much to work on?

The truth becomes another slap in the face. We see ourselves as good and holy, doing the right thing. How often is there a little voice in the back of our heads pointing out that we are more holy than others we see. I could be wrong but I believe it is only human to have the voice. Our way to perfection, in my opinion, is on how long we allow the voice to sow seeds of dissent before shushing it. After shushing it often enough, I’m sure it will become silent all together.

And that would bring us to where God wants us. Being His face to those around us. If we do not echo Him, or at least try to, how to we bring Him to those who cannot see Him?

Taken Away

The disciples of John approached Jesus and said,
“Why do we and the Pharisees fast much,
but your disciples do not fast?”
Jesus answered them, “Can the wedding guests mourn
as long as the bridegroom is with them?
The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them,
and then they will fast.”

MT 9:14-15

When I meditate on this passage I get stuck on the entire concept of fasting. Fasting is one of those things that few people want to do many most can agree with the necessity. Fasting is not necessarily a religious act either. Some people fast in protest and others for health reason. Some, the poor, fast because they have no choice in the matter. I am blessed that it doesn’t happen often, but even I have gone without to allow my son something to eat when money is tight.

The fasting that Jesus is discussing with the disciples of John is a religious fasting that occurred regularly. Not the type of fasting anyone would want to do aside from wanting to please the Other. In this passage Jesus reminds us that when He is with us there is no need to fast and morn. We should be joyful of His presence first.

What This Means To Me

Here comes the personal diary part of this blog. What sticks most with me is Jesus’ emphasis on how the bridegroom will be taken away and then the time for fasting will come. On the surface I know we are looking at the crucifixion. But you can connect it with todays life if you look a little deeper. Jesus is with us in the Eucharist. Sundays are not counted amidst our Lenten sacrifices. There is no need to mourn Him while He is with us. Look deeper.

What truly seperates us from Jesus? Our sins. It is not just the crucifixion taking Jesus away from the disciples, but our sins taking us away from Him.

So how do we fix that? Really fix it. If we look deeper at the analogy of fasting. What is fasting? In essence… doing without. We need to fast from that which pulls us away from Jesus. Is it the same thing every day that pulls us away from God? Not necessarily. It can be, to be sure. I used to give up Chocolate for Lent. It was easy. It was something that I shouldn’t have so much of. But did it really serve the purpose.

My Lenten sacrifice this year is to focus on my faith and that which draws me away from God. Each day the devil will work towards drawing me away. My goal is to fight the good fight on a daily basis to bring myself back. I plan on starting with these daily blog entries based on praying the Lectio Divina. I am sure there will be plenty to try to stop me. That which tries to stop me will become my Lenten sacrifice.

Will I be successful? I’ve already missed two days so I do not believe I can be called out as being perfect. It does mean that I have made a decision and will work to being a better child of God. That is all he ever asked of us.

Labor Day… Or Whose Season Is It Anyway?

It’s that wonderful, brilliant time of year again. The South is notorious for it, but I’m sure we’re not the only ones. Labor day is over. It’s fall again.

In the coming weeks, there will be mornings that start out cool enough to need to wear jackets. It’ll be delightful until the temperatures skyrocket halfway to lunch time and we’re sweltering in those warm clothes. In childhood, it meant lost jackets and sweaters. If you’re anything like me, it’s much the same as an adult. I can’t tell you how many times that I’ll be getting ready to head out, feel the chill in the air, and step back in to grab my jacket. But do I see it? Of course not. It’ll be a few minutes, but I’ll realize that once again my jacket has been left behind in the car. And when you’re young it’s usually one of those not quite plastic coats that are ten times colder and seem to take forever to warm up to body temperature. And during the Southern Fall that’s usually about the time to take it off.

Of course we’re not there yet. It’s still hot as anything outside. Which begs the mention of the other great Southern Fall disagreement. White after Labor Day. Some say it’s an etiquette detail and nothing more. Others say that it’s just because of the weather and thusly to be ignored thanks to the strange Southern Fall. After doing my homework I found the truth behind it even more bizarrely annoying. According to an article on the White Rule in Mental Floss magazine (a greatly diverse magazine that always has something in it that you never knew that you didn’t know) the background of the White Rule was less about the weather and more about money. Apparently, it was part of a list of etiquette rules created sometime in the 1800s to primarily let old money know if they were dealing with new money or old money.

That being said, we’re getting to my favorite part of fall. My favorite yearly writing competitions and challenges all happen at this time of the year. And on top of that, my favorite writing clothes have always been sweat pants and sweat shirts. Good comfort clothing. Is it possible to wear during summer and the first part of fall? Of course not.

But that time is coming. My time is coming.

What is your beef with fall? Comment to commiserate or say a few words in support of fall.

The Three Doors

Once upon a dark dream
Stood a subconscious scheme
Before me stood three doors tall
Behind them my fate would fall

The first was inky black
With a sheen that oils lack
Oozing hatred and despair
I wish not to reside there

The second was of such beauty
That I did not feel at all worthy
The door painted of purest white
Was too holy, too perfect, too right

The third felt inadequate yet homely
A simple wooden door stood humbly
Neither painted nor perfectly carved
Not quite perfect but seeming deserved

The dream pushes on, the stakes are set
One I don’t want, one I feel a safe bet
And yet I feel the pull of the beautiful door
I want to choose the one which is more

Which door to choose, which one chooses me?
One of hate, one of love, one of mediocrity.
I open the pure door of the olive sprig
I choose to have high hopes, to dream big.

Daily Prompt: Just a Dream.

via Daily Prompt: Just a Dream.

Daily Prompt: Forever Young

Ageless waters sparkling clear
Daring many to take their sip
So many hold their youth dear
Hiding from that final trip

The vessel of water before me
Taunts with visions of second life
The thoughts of escape are distinct
But stalled by the thoughts of strife

Who would want to live forever young
Always pretty, always shallow
When age offers so much to learn from
For beauty or mind? Love would be hollow.

Daily Prompt: Forever Young.

via Daily Prompt: Forever Young.

Daily Prompt: Plead the Fifth

I absolutely despise subjective questions. Especially feelings. So many people can have such different meanings for the same feeling. If I say I’m feeling depressed does the person I’m talking to think I’m on the verge of committing suicide or do they just think I’m slightly off my game today.

That’s also why I prefer to write as opposed to speaking. When I write I can be fairly sure that the people reading will understand my meaning. Plus I get the benefit of proofreaders and editors. Sure you can get speech writers and the like, but who’s to say that their word meaning is the same as your own.

Conversations are the worst. I stutter, hesitate, repeat myself, basically all the things that you’re not “supposed” to do. As Christians we’re supposed to be evangelists in our daily lives. I wouldn’t dare. I believe that I would chase more people away then attract. Let me write a letter and we might actually get somewhere.

I’m looking forward to the day that they come out with neural implants that convey a person’s real meaning instead of their literal meaning. Of course that would probably bring on a slew of other issues too.

I think I’ll just write.

Daily Prompt: Plead the Fifth.

via Daily Prompt: Plead the Fifth.

Daily Prompt: Me Time

Daily Prompt: Me Time.

I have recently begun to believe that Saturdays are a good detox time in between the work week and Sundays. When I worked at McDonalds my schedule was irregular and I wasn’t as firm in my faith as I am now. Now though I am more centered in my faith, and I wouldn’t go back to the way I was anymore.

It works best for the Monday through Friday workers, but anyone with two days off in a row knows that the second day is the true day off. I can spend Saturday getting all of the issues from work out of my system and be able to fully appreciate Sunday for what it is supposed to be, a day of worship of God.

Is this Saturday everything I want from it? So far, yes. I’ve had a good night sleep. I’ve started a new short story writing project (If Zoo, the cat, will leave my materials alone). And I have great plans for spending time with my family. It only remains to be seen how those plans will turn out, but either way, I will feel better prepared to meet God tomorrow.

One Step Away

Your heart grows warm
This creation of your play
Your pride takes form
As we take one step away

As the wealth begins to roll in
More and more day after day
Avarice sets in, deepening the sin
As we take two more steps away

With the wealth comes the draw of the flesh
Before long lust has swept you away
Further from your spouse, further from the creche
As we take three more steps away

Secrets exposed, no longer seperated
Pointing fingers, sides are weighed
Anger draws forth, loved becomes hated
As we take four more steps away

We fall apart without the love
Food and drink taken in all day
Darkness is covered like a glove
As we take five more steps away

When so much is lost, so much is missed
The grass becomes greener when we stray
Happiness is gone when envy is in our midst
As we take six more steps away

It becomes too much and we feel so weak
Easier to let it happen than keep evil at bay
We hope our sins have reached their peak
As we take seven more steps away

Our garden has become our desert
Though it is darkest before the dawn
We can stand no more to deal the hurt
No more will we be the devil’s pawn

Seeing that only the one above can save
We finally see how far we have roamed
When we are crawling we find life we crave
Only seven more steps away from home

It is only through the heart of Jesus
That we can understand the holy tome
Offering kindness is the way to forgiveness
Only six more steps away from home

On the road home we take only what we must
We find overindulgence has become gruesome
Only our staff and sandles do we mark the dust
Only five more steps away from home

Away with those that drag us down
No more will we let our hearts roam
One spouse or none until we see the crown
Only four more steps away from home

A trip of many miles takes more than just a day
Patience must be learned to undo what’s been done
Though the trip is long and the outlook gray
Only three more steps away from home

It is only in giving that we may receive
Those that have nothing are ones that know
Nothing can we take when it is time to leave
Only two more steps away from home

It takes hard work to right the wrongs
It would be so easy from the path to roam
But the work goes easier as we sing the psalms
Only one more step away from home

Only once our work is finished
And our deeds undone
Will our Father say welcome home