Scripture Reflections

April 21: Tuesday of the Second Week of Easter

Posted by Campus Ministry on April 21, 2020 at 6:04 AM PDT

A bee is perched on a yellow and red flower.

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We look back on this description of the community in Jerusalem as idyllic. “The community of believers was of one heart and mind." So difficult to imagine! It is rare that in even our own selves we experience perfect coherence between our hearts and minds! There is a famous expression: the longest journey is between the head and the heart. It sounds like the members of the early Christian community were making this journey.

This bears scrutiny, especially in this time when so many people have such urgent needs—in the essential areas of life: health care, food, work and safety. The early Christians shared the needs evenly, some people giving up their possessions and privilege to make sure others had what they needed. Their premise was that there is always enough for all. Let’s be honest: this community did believe that, within their lifetimes, Christ would return to transform their lives. It took a while for folks to reflect on the truth that the Christian community would go on beyond their own lives and that, in fact, their lives were already transformed by the resurrection.

This paradox of the ‘already and not yet’ is why the early Christian community still inspires us. The love they shared translated into the sharing of what was essential—food, safety, shelter—even when they didn’t know what the future would bring. Our commitment to following Christ is a commitment to the journey between the head and heart. Out of an abundance of love, the early Christians sacrificed their own needs to share with each other. We can follow their way right now, each of us experiencing the sacrifice in a different way. For some it is the sacrifice of isolation, for others, money, direct service to the sick and suffering, giving time with those who are lonely, advocacy to our elected officials for those most in need... We, like the early church, do this not for ourselves, in the end, but for an unknown future lived in hope and faith in the resurrection and the promise of new life.

 

 

Tammy Liddell, Director of Campus Ministry

April 20: Monday of the Second Week of Easter

Posted by Campus Ministry on April 20, 2020 at 6:04 AM PDT

a view of a body of water between mountains on a dark and cloudy evening

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Sometimes it’s hard to keep the faith in times such as these, as we bear witness to all that is happening around us.  Sometimes it’s hard to believe in God when it feels like COVID keeps winning. Stuck at home yet again, another zoom call, another class lecture interrupted by janky wifi, another bowl of frosted flakes, another bored child or sibling wanting us to entertain and keep their attention, another paper or email I have to write when I can’t seem to focus.  And worse yet, another job lost, another life lost, and health professionals and essential employees risking their lives. Real people, real families, not just news reports.  Another, another, another.  And yet, in the midst of all this uncertainty and for many of us, our very ordinary and monotonous existence, there are signs of God’s activity and presence in the world and there is hope.  What I am suggesting, then, is that it is possible for us as people of God to hold the tension of belief and unbelief, of sorrow and joy, of despair and hopefulness. Like the father who asks Jesus to heal his demon-possessed child in Mark chapter 9, we cry out to Jesus, Lord, we believe, help our unbelief!

Maybe some of us are like Nicodemus who we learn about in today’s reading, in the third chapter of John’s Gospel. Nicodemus who recognizes that Jesus comes from God and is with God because he has performed so many signs and wonders, this Nicodemus who still has many doubts.  Many of us have approached this idea of God with a certain level of skepticism and our belief and faith waxes and wanes as life has had its way with us, as we deal with the profundities of life. Sometimes it seems like God is active and present, as Nicodemus seems to offer us, but other times it feels like we are all alone. It doesn’t make sense. What does it mean to be born again? How can I be born twice? No no, what does it really mean?  What difference does being born again make in my life and the lives of those who believe?

Some of us approach God in our dark nights of the soul because we want to believe and perhaps like Nicodemus the Pharisee, with all our learning and education, we question the Lord and we doubt.  Or perhaps under the cloak of darkness, we admit there may be something to this Jesus, something that feels right, that stirs our spirit to belief and action, but we are too ashamed to share with our friendship groups, our family, and our classmates that there is something real here. Certainly, this Jesus must come from God.  We know Jesus is God, in fact, but we are too ashamed to say we are Christians. Some of us don’t want to use that phrase “born again” with all its negative connotations of fundamentalism and right-wing beliefs, of keeping gay folks in the closet and women chained to the kitchen, barefoot and pregnant. We don’t want to be associated with those types of born-again believers.

But to be born again means we set aside preconceived notions of who gets in the Kingdom and who doesn’t. Being born again means we set-aside human labels that we ascribe to others who we don’t like, or who we blame, or who we don’t want to help. Being born again is a spiritual rebirth that is not subject to any human sense of time or place and to me that is good news because it means at any moment, we can accept God’s invitation. It means that no matter how many times we mess up or how often we have doubts about where God is in the midst of all this chaos, we can also have hope. We always have a fresh start, we are always renewed, and our faith will always be deepened if we trust in God.  Being born again in the spirit doesn’t seem to make sense, but neither does God’s unending, far-reaching, and deep love for us. And so on today I pray that through our spiritual rebirth God’s grace and transformative love would spread throughout this world through our actions, thoughts, and deeds.

 

 

Rev. Victoria Carr-Ware, Ecumenical and Multifaith Campus Minister 

Second Sunday of Easter (Sunday of Divine Mercy)

Posted by Campus Ministry on April 19, 2020 at 6:04 AM PDT

April 17: Friday in the Octave of Easter

Posted by Campus Ministry on April 17, 2020 at 6:04 AM PDT

“I am going fishing…” I have always imagined Peter saying those words with a sigh and sunken shoulders, feeling a bit defeated by his attempt at discipleship, burdened by his betrayal of Jesus, self-critical over his continual misunderstanding of Jesus’ message, and resigned to retreat to his former life, catching fish. Yet today I hear it in a different way. What if there is some excitement in his tone, some lilt in his step, even an exclamation point on the phrase: “I am going fishing!” You see, for the previous two stories in John’s gospel, Peter has been in a sort of self-quarantine: gathered with the community of first disciples, yes, but locked up behind closed doors out of fear of the religious authorities. Now, perhaps finally trusting and activating the Spirit’s breath of life and reconciliation and mission bestowed by the risen Christ, he’s back in the world and yearning for something familiar, something “normal.” So it’s easy for me to imagine him energized by the smell and sound and spray of the sea, the mystery of the dark expanse of sky, the thrill of lowering the nets into the deep, the companionship in the boat. And yet, their normal way of doing things ends up being quite unproductive, unfulfilling… until the stranger on the shore suggests going about their familiar routines in a slightly different way.

As I write this, there’s a lot of speculation and planning—unsurprisingly even heated discourse—around how fast we might “re-open our country,” never mind who will control it and by what authority. Clearly, there are vital considerations and ethical dilemmas imbedded in these issues: who will benefit, and who will suffer, and how will our actions affect those who are most vulnerable?

One way another, sooner or later, the day will come when we will be able to return to our “normal” life, and I expect we’ll be excited to go about our familiar routines once again, like Peter: “I am going to work!” “I am taking the kids to school!” “I am going to class – in a classroom!” However, I suspect that we will quickly discover that we will have to go about things differently—casting the nets over the other side of the boat, so to speak. It’s hard to say exactly what that will look like right now, but this gospel assures us that when the time comes, the risen Christ will direct us and nourish us.

I find that it’s better not to live too far in the future these days, and it’s Easter after all, so this scripture’s good news is also for us today, wherever we find ourselves. This story, like other resurrection stories, reminds us that the risen Christ is not obvious. That stranger on the shore ends up being the Lord! Most every time Jesus appears to disciples after being raised from the dead, they need to look again or look more closely. It takes a minute. If you’re not quite perceiving where the risen Christ is today, be gentle with yourself. Then look again. And again. But keep looking. As for those first disciples, Jesus will appear. There will be rejoicing. There will be abundance. There will be a charcoal fire prepared for breakfast.

 

Bill McNamara, Campus Minister for Liturgical Music

April 16: Thursday in the Octave of Easter

Posted by Campus Ministry on April 16, 2020 at 6:04 AM PDT

Today’s Gospel story begins with a couple of the disciples telling the rest of their friends all about their encounter with Jesus moments before, and how they recognized him in the breaking of the bread. When I consider how this scene may have played out, I imagine that the energy among the group feels flurried, everyone experiencing emotions of both confusion and amazement.

Then Jesus appears to them again, and the very first words he speaks to the bewildered group are consoling words: “Peace be with you.” I imagine now, the disciples frozen in their tracks, mouths gaping open, thinking they have just seen a ghost. We see Jesus allay those thoughts as he invites his disciples to touch his flesh and see his wounds, perhaps helping them to pause and realize what is true and real in the midst of their uncertainty. Jesus reveals to them that he is not a figment of their imagination, nor is he a ghost. He is flesh and bone, transformed, and standing before them.

Given our current circumstances, we may feel as though we are going through an emotional rollercoaster like the disciples. I imagine Jesus saying to us, “Peace be with you.” Like the disciples, that feeling of peace may not be felt suddenly or sink in right away. Still, I hear the invitation to find our ground in what we know to be true and open ourselves to experiencing the risen Jesus in our midst.

Encounters with the Risen Christ can transform us. After his offering of peace, Jesus reminds his disciples that something new and powerful is happening and that they are very much a part of it. We then see Peter share this message with the crowds in the first reading, reiterating that they too are witnesses to God’s work in the world in a very personal way. And still today, we stand witness to God’s labor of love and grace unfolding in our own lives.

Take a moment and reflect: Where have you encountered God, perhaps in surprising and unexpected ways? When has God been present to you? How did those moments make a difference in your life? Stay with these memories and remember what that feels like in your heart, mind, and body.

May we, together, lean into trusting that God continues to meet us right where we are, inviting us to open our hearts, to encounter Jesus anew, and to be transformed by the peace that God offers every one of us.

 

Megan Kush, Campus Minister for Pastoral Care