Scripture Reflections

April 18: Third Sunday of Easter

Posted by Campus Ministry on April 18, 2021 at 8:04 AM PDT

A close up image of a hand touching lavender blooms in a field

View Scripture Readings

Today’s Gospel story begins with two disciples recounting to the rest of their friends the surprising encounter they had with Jesus only moments before. He met them in their confusion, but they did not recognize it was him until he did what was familiar – break bread and share a meal.

Can you imagine the energy in that room while the two disciples told this story? The disciples have already experienced a whirlwind of intense emotions as they dealt with their leader dying only days before. Here they are, hope destroyed, paralyzed with fear, devastated, confused, and now they’re being told that Jesus was alive again? Minds are being blown and I imagine a new wave of emotions rush over the disciples. Is it incredulousness, sparks of hope, more fear?

Amid this chaotic scene, Jesus appears and the first words he speaks to this bewildered group are “Peace be with you.” Peace would probably not be the first emotion my body would experience in an encounter like this, and yet I hear an invitation to ground myself in what I know to be true when my own world feels chaotic. In the times of our lives when we feel intense isolation, fear, uncertainty, can we lean into trusting that Christ is truly with us, standing in our presence? And that it isn’t an illusion? Jesus invited his disciples to touch him, perhaps helping them to pause and remember what is true and real. How do you recognize and remember Christ’s presence in the midst of your own uncertainties?  

Before he was crucified, Jesus tried to prepare his disciples several times about what would happen to him, and yet, the resurrection still came as a surprise. We too know the end of the story. We’ve heard it so many times! And yet, the truth of resurrection can still catch us by surprise. Where in your life have you experienced the surprise of new life? Does it come in the form of a fresh start, a restored relationship, the springtime weather, a newfound sense of peace or grace? New life seems to come when we least expect it. This week, can we open ourselves up to God’s transforming presence in all the cracks and crevices of our own lives and be surprised by God?

~ Megan Kush, Campus Minister for Pastoral Care

April 11: Second Sunday of Easter, Divine Mercy Sunday

Posted by Campus Ministry on April 11, 2021 at 2:04 PM PDT

Light reflects on a textured wall of the Chapel coming through a large window

View Scripture Readings

The Apostle Thomas gets a bad reputation. We’ve called him Doubting Thomas and made his name to mean a skeptic. But as I listen to the Gospel today, I find myself close to Thomas. Why wasn’t he with the other disciples when they all gatheredand Jesus appeared in their midst the first time? Was he still grieving, afraid, regretfulor feeling lonely and isolatedIt took longer for Thomas to have the courage to return to community, but when he arrives, he hears astonishing newsJesus is Risen! Yet, like the other disciples in the storyThomas cannot believe just by hearing the Good News. He yearns for what the other disciples had: an encounter with the Risen Christ and the visible wounds of the Crucified One. Thomas longs to be transformed with that same resurrection power, but locked away in his own darkness and fear, he cannot begin to hope or trust in this news.   

Thomas is one of my favorite apostles because he always speaks plainly (and sometimes comically) throughout the Gospel of John. This continues after Jesus’ death, when he shares with honesty and authenticity in today's Gospel: “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nail marks and put my hand into his side I will not believe!” Days later, Thomas’ desire is granted: Jesus returns to that locked away place, appears to the disciples again, and greets them with peace. Thomas courageously names his needs and desires before God and community, and Jesus draws near and shows Thomas his wounds. God meets his needs and offers Thomas an encounter with the Risen Christ! This is God’s Divine Mercy at work.  

As disciples, we are called to be as honest as Thomas, to speak our minds and express our hopes to God and community, trusting that Christ will meet us where we are, and provide for our needs.  Jesus says in our Gospel today, “blessed are those who have not seen, and yet believe. Perhaps some of us believed without seeing, but many of us, like Thomas and the disciples, need an embodied encounter with Resurrection Life. We desire to have Jesus’ transforming power come into our lives in palpable ways, so we can enter more deeply into love, trust, and relationship.  

Today’s scriptures remind me that we are not alone in this need and desire! Jesus meets the disciples where they are and invites them into life in the Spirit. So too, Christ invites us into new life, and empowers us by the Spirit to be the Body of Christ. This means we are also called to be the presence of the Risen Christto be instruments of gracemercy, and peace for those who are locked away, and to meet the deepest desires of those who cry out to God in our world today.  

As we continue in the Easter season, let us name our needs boldly to God and one another, and trust that God will continue to transform us, freeing us from all that locks us away or blocks resurrection life. May we become beacons of resurrection. May we be formed anew into disciples, into communities of faith and fellowship that proclaim God’s joy, hope, life, and transforming power, with our lives in tangible ways, that all may see and believe.  

~ JoAnn Melina Lopez, Campus Minister for Liturgy

March 21: Fifth Sunday in Lent

Posted by Campus Ministry on March 21, 2021 at 8:03 AM PDT

pink blooming cherry blossoms

View Scripture Readings

In today’s first reading we hear God’s promise of a renewed world: an irrevocable covenant, written upon the heart, which binds God together with God’s people, so that “all, from least to greatest shall know” the Lord, and live in reconciled relationship.  

God’s promises of renewal seem far off for me this week. I’m caught up in the gravity of our messy present reality: the pain of violence, death, racism, homophobia, economic inequality, poor leadership, and so many other intersecting injustices, weighing down on many folks in our communities. My heart is broken by the pain and suffering of the world.

This Sunday, as I turn to God in prayer, I ask: How do I respond to the crushing weight of sin and injustice? What does it mean to be a Christian, a disciple of Jesus, in this world?

As I consider Jesus this Lent, I meet someone who deeply encountered the love of God inscribed on his heart, who was willing to let his heart be broken in compassion which led to loving action. The love Jesus knew led him into a life of teaching, healing, reconciling, feeding, and prophetically proclaiming God’s dream for the world. Jesus did not deny, ignore, or numb himself to the cruelty and pain of this world – instead, he acknowledged their impact and challenged the status quo with action. This life of love and prophetic action led to condemnation, betrayal, suffering and death for Jesus, as it does for prophets in every age. Jesus proclaims this reality to us in today’s Gospel, and calls us to follow in his way.

“Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there also will my servant be.”

In today’s Gospel Jesus calls us to a life like his. I don’t believe this means that Jesus wants us to be martyrs, but rather to live a life that allows our encounter with God’s love to shape our whole life.

So on this day, when I am brokenhearted as I read the news, and I can’t quite imagine God’s promise for the world, I instead imagine Jesus, kindly smiling, arms flung open wide, saying “welcome, I’ve been waiting for you to allow your heart to break like mine.” I sit beside Jesus, and ask him to help me to continue to follow in his ways, to find courage to live like he did, and to keep dreaming and acting for God’s promise of transformation in our world. I imagine my heart is like that seed Jesus spoke about in the Gospel, breaking open with vulnerability and compassion so that new life may emerge for me and for the world.  

A friend recently told me this story of wisdom from the Hasidic Jewish tradition:  

A disciple asks the Rabbi: “Why does Torah tell us to ‘place these words upon your hearts’? Why does it not tell us to place these holy words in our hearts?” The Rabbi answers: “It is because as we are, our hearts are closed, and we cannot place the holy words in our hearts. So we place them on top of our hearts. And there they stay until, one day, the heart breaks and the words fall in.”

What is breaking your heart today as you consider this world, and your own life? What words of God's love and promise of transformation do you notice falling in? How does God’s love invite us into new action in our world today? 

March 14: Fourth Sunday of Lent

Posted by Campus Ministry on March 14, 2021 at 8:03 AM PDT

A hand holds out a glass sphere which reflects a sunset over water in the background

View Scripture Reading

Interpreting our lived human experience through the lens of faith, we come to know more of who God is and who we are. For the people of ancient Israel, whose story we hear about in the first reading, their captivity and their subsequent liberation brought them to encounter a God who tirelessly labors out of love for the transformation and renewal of creation. When the Israelites think that they must be so far from what God has dreamed for the world, they experience God as one who doesn’t abandon, but rather, one who constantly calls them back into a loving and empowering relationship. We are never far from the grace of God.

The first few lines of today’s Gospel are some of the most well-known lines of the Bible: “God so loves the world.” The grace of God is not only this incredibly beautiful gift, it is also a responsibility: God so loves the world, through us. Rabbi Kushner in one of his poems ends with, “To another, whether you know it or not / Whether they know it or not / You are a messenger from the Most High.” God’s dreams for this world are embodied through us. We are part of making that happen. May we not forget that God is always laboring out of love in transforming our world. Let’s join in, shall we?

Lent is a time of preparing ourselves for the Resurrection - this reality that shouts from the rooftops that the destruction of the human spirit and the human body will never have the last word. Since we know the end of the story, why live any other way? Let us live into the promise – already here, but not yet fulfilled – of the Resurrection. So, as we round the corner closer to Easter, let us take the time to reflect: Where has the darkness pervaded our hearts that has kept us from living more fully into the promise of the Resurrection? Where do we need God’s grace and mercy to transform our lives? Are we open to receiving that grace?

God so loves the world. God so loves you. God so loves everyone else, no exceptions, ifs, ands, or buts. So what are we waiting for? Can we bring our darkness to God, trusting in our transformation for the good of this world?

 

~ Megan Kush, Campus Minister for Pastoral Care

March 7: Third Sunday of Lent

Posted by Campus Ministry on March 7, 2021 at 8:03 AM PST

a flock of birds fly silhouetted against a sky that is blue and pink

View Scripture Reading

A bold prophetic gesture and a confusing follow-up conversation: that’s what John’s gospel gives us today to chew on and to challenge.

First, the gesture. In the time of Jesus, the Temple had an entire system of commerce, established to assist people in fulfilling their religious observance. Practically speaking, pilgrims traveling long distances would want to purchase an animal on site for sacrifice rather than bring one on the journey. And in order to make the sale and pay their temple tax, they would need to exchange their Roman money (idolatrous, inscribed with an image of Caesar) for temple currency. Reasonable, right? The ‘marketplace’ was necessary and in fact allowed people to participate in the ritual and experience God’s presence and promise. Certainly, corruption crept in with dubious exchange rates, but at least in John’s account, Jesus does not call out any ‘thievery.’ Instead, addressing those who sold doves (interestingly, the animal prescribed for those who were poor), he commands that the marketplace itself be stopped in its tracks.

Then, the follow-up. “Jesus, please tell us exactly what this sign means.” “Destroy this temple and I will raise it up in three days.” “Ummmm, OK, but that’s not what I was asking.” John’s gospel is famous for interactions like this that don’t flow as clearly as we expect or desire. Jesus is not trying to be obtuse or evasive. Rather, he is redirecting our attention to a new reality altogether. In this case, to the temple of his body, his crucified and resurrected body in fact. His body, which is the very Word of God made flesh, irrevocably joining divinity with humanity in the fullness of corporeal creation. His body, which even after being raised from the dead holds and redeems the worst wounds that murderous institutions can inflict. His body, which he promised once raised up would draw all people to himself, abiding within the community of disciples themselves as the permanent point of access to the divine.

Now, to chew and challenge. Keep in mind, Jesus was a faithful and practicing Jewish person, so he was critiquing his own tradition, from within. So rather than condemn ancient or current observance of others, it is our role to turn that prophetic gaze on our own. The authors of Living Liturgy write, “The contemporary church cannot consider itself beyond the reach of Jesus’s whip or overturning hands.” Have we constructed systems, policies, and procedures that attempt to mediate people’s experience of the divine but in reality throw up obstacles and exacerbate distinctions and divisions? What ‘marketplace’ of our creation needs to be dismantled? And, just as importantly, what needs to be built up in its place? Or rather, how do we need to allow ourselves to be built up into the crucified and resurrected body of Jesus, both experiencing and enabling access to all that is divine? Pandemic has taught us: access to the divine is and never has been restricted to the holy buildings. Instead, it is as close as our own miraculous bodies and the bodies of others in community, where Jesus, as promised, will always abide.

~ Bill McNamara, Campus Minister for Liturgical Music