Tuesday, November 14, 2017

What we do versus who we are

Matthew 23: 1-12

I know this is a gospel reading from ten days ago, but through all the readings this is the one that was on my heart to write about today.  When I was brought into the church I nearly wore a mantilla at my confirmation, but then didn’t, because of this scripture.  I had to examine my heart, pray, and humble myself before I began wearing the head covering to church due to this scripture.  I had to make sure that I was doing the right thing, for the right reasons.  In this instance, for me, I was. I wanted to show humility before the Lord, it was scriptural to do, and it wasn’t to show anyone else that “Me-so-holy.”  That was important.

The human ego hasn’t changed much since the time of Jesus, believe it or not, and the behavior of the Pharisees can be found in the church today.  Let’s explore what Jesus said, what it might mean for us, and how we can mindfully apply it to our walk.  It also may help us reveal who our true teachers are, which is also important. 

Matthew 23: 1-4

Jesus spoke to the crowds and to his disciples, saying,

"The scribes and the Pharisees

have taken their seat on the chair of Moses.

Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you,

but do not follow their example.

For they preach but they do not practice.

They tie up heavy burdens hard to carry

and lay them on people's shoulders,

but they will not lift a finger to move them.

This, of course, is the essence of hypocrisy that Jesus is describing.  The people he is describing seek titles for power over other people.  They seek control for the sake of control, and do not aid those people they seek to control.  It’s here we get the old saying, “Practice what you preach.”  It’s important that we consider this scripture mindfully for a couple reasons.  If we are in a position of power, in the church or even in the world, it is important that we consider a few things.  The first being, are we in this position because this is God’s will, and what he truly called us to, or alternatively-is this the title we chased for our own glory.  That understanding is the foundation of the rest.  If we can answer that question honestly then we know how the rest is going to pan out for us.  If we sought the title for ourselves then I can almost promise you the rest of our behaviors are going to fall in line with what Jesus describes the Pharisees with, because we aren’t serving the Almighty, we are serving our own ego.  That is not a promise God wants from us.  If we place ourselves high when it’s not truly our place to be then we feel the need/desire to prove we belong there and that is how we become Pharisaical in nature.  Other people won’t notice we are frauds, if we assert our might on them keeping them in bondage to impossible standards.  If we are truly leaders, then we are as Jesus was, servant leaders helping reveal truth and also helping people live the truth.  We can, with examination, discern for ourselves and to a degree those who would teach and lead us, with this scripture what the is truth.  Beware, it is paradigm shifting.  It may mean we have to back away from things or people.  It may mean we have to step down and humble ourselves to release the human glory to obtain true obedience.

Matthew 23: 5-12

All their works are performed to be seen.

They widen their phylacteries and lengthen their tassels.

They love places of honor at banquets, seats of honor in synagogues,

greetings in marketplaces, and the salutation 'Rabbi.'

As for you, do not be called 'Rabbi.'

You have but one teacher, and you are all brothers.

Call no one on earth your father;

you have but one Father in heaven.

Do not be called 'Master';

you have but one master, the Christ.

The greatest among you must be your servant.

Whoever exalts himself will be humbled;

but whoever humbles himself will be exalted."

Before I go on about this, I want to clarify what a phylactery is and why widening it or lengthening tassels is an important picture to understand.  A phylactery (called a tefillin which is still in use in the Jewish religion) is a small leather container worn on the forehead connected to a leather strap which is wrapped around the arm.  It contains a bit of scripture.  It’s worn in morning prayer through the week day and was created as a sign that the Almighty brought the Children of Israel out of Egypt.  ( Exodus 13: 16 and 19, and Deut 6:9 Deut 11:18) The prayer tassels He is referring to are called Tzitzit (Numbers 15:38 and Deut 22:12) They are specially knotted fringes on a prayer shawl.  Each knot is symbolic of something important, and so an extra-long tassel might be to show just how much more observant the wearer happens to be.  If you want to translate this understanding into Catholic, Gentile/Goy, terms you might imagine someone carrying a massive rosary around to show how very prayerful they are.  You may also consider a priest who wears a bit extra for the glamor.  Even as I described in the beginning, a woman who wears head covering for the reason of showing off the humility. 

Jesus puts it plainly.  What they do is not done for the humble reason of obedience to the Lord, but for people to look at them in awe for how ‘holy’ they appear to be.  It’s not just what they/we do it’s why we do it that matters. 

If we want to be a priest, nun, brother, some kind of minister, for the title and honor we think it bestows on us, then we are calling ourselves to temporary glory.  The Lord does not honor that as Jesus explains in this passage.  Whatever we do, we should do it humbly as servants, for nothing other than the peace obedience brings. 

Just some food for thought and prayer.

Heavenly Father, show me where I work for my own glory so I may rectify my actions and make of myself an obedient servant that pleases you.  In Jesus name, AMEN!

Here I am, Lord, send me,

Lisa Brandel

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Turning down a free banquet

Luke 14:15-24 and Rom 12:5-16ab
I have to admit I got a little chuckle out of today’s Gospel reading because I applied it to the modern mindset. 

Jesus is using something very primal to describe the invitation to Him, the Father, and Heaven.  It’s not something we even have to put into historical context, we can wrap our minds around it in completely modern understanding.  A rich man throws a feast and then invites everyone to come for free food.  Let’s pause for a moment.  Free. Food.  Literally a banquet.  Food all prepped up, probably some entertainment, wine…an absolutely free party.  All you have to do is come.  So, what happens….

Well, we see as the gospel unfolds, that the people invited give a list of excuses.  They purchased property, they got oxen, they got married.  All of which, if the person who had been invited had been truly committed and dedicated to going to the party, could have gone and tended to the other things later.  The newly married man could have brought his new wife to meet the host and dine with them.  The other two excuses, well, the property and oxen would still be there after the banquet had they truly wanted to come.  The rich man knows this and that is what/why enrages him.  He sees that these friends disregard the sacrifice and effort he put into the gift of his hospitality and he sees that none of that matters to the people he has invited.  It’s insult and injury, they wounded the master’s heart.

What happens next is allegory for how the goy (gentiles) were invited to share in the Kingdom.  The master calls for the lame, poor, sick, feeble, and stranger so that his house may be filled.  While this is/can be a picture of the evangelization of the pagan nations, we can also apply this to our own personal holiness and walk with the Almighty Father.  We are all called to his Kingdom, because it’s an individual invitation, not a corporate movement. When we do feel that call to follow and obey- how many of us have used some of those very lame justifications to excuse ourselves from going?  Too busy to pray? Too busy for church? Too busy to help your neighbor? Too busy, toobusy,tobizzy,cantdietoobusy.  So, we end up doing our will, and what we think can’t wait, and we miss out on the blessing of the free banquet.  That takes many forms too, not just the eternal.  How many blessings have we missed here on this earth because we were too busy to be obedient?   That’s why it made me chuckle.  We’ll break our necks to get to the breakroom for some store-bought cupcakes, but when the Maker of all things calls us to the eternal banquet suddenly we have to get our “to do list” done right this second.  As a people, we have not changed from that time to this. 

Now, what happens and how should we be if we do accept the Master’s invitation? Glad you asked, because our reading today in Romans helps us with that. 

We accept the invitation to the party and we get the image that there is one party and many partiers.  The party is the body of Christ, the Church, and within the church there are many parts.  (Hint, we are those parts.)  Each part, for coming to the party, has been given gifts by grace. Here is the catch, yes there is a catch, we are supposed to actually use these gifts at the party to make the party better. 

Romans talks about the Church body and gives us, once again, the charge to love and take care of each other, not by our own power, but using the gifts of the Almighty. 

Romans 12: 5-16

Brothers and sisters:

We, though many, are one Body in Christ

and individually parts of one another.

Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us,

let us exercise them:

if prophecy, in proportion to the faith;

if ministry, in ministering;

if one is a teacher, in teaching;

if one exhorts, in exhortation;

if one contributes, in generosity;

if one is over others, with diligence;

if one does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.

Let love be sincere;

hate what is evil,

hold on to what is good;

love one another with mutual affection;

anticipate one another in showing honor.

Do not grow slack in zeal,

be fervent in spirit,

serve the Lord.

Rejoice in hope,

endure in affliction,

persevere in prayer.

Contribute to the needs of the holy ones,

exercise hospitality.

Bless those who persecute you,

bless and do not curse them.

Rejoice with those who rejoice,

weep with those who weep.

Have the same regard for one another;

do not be haughty but associate with the lowly.

Boiling that down to the most basic understanding here is what we are to do and be:  Obedience, love, blessings, serving, equality.  If your gift is to teach, then teach, and don’t see yourself as superior or more important than those whose gifts are different.  Instead, find a way to teach them so they can learn to use their gift more effectively.  Be who you are, who God made you to be, in his Kingdom and that edifies those who need to be who they are as well and trust that their gifts and service will lift you up too. 

We are one.  Proverbs 27:17 As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.  This is the party we are called to attend and the favor we are given. 

Just some food for thought and prayer…

Heavenly Father, I have heard the invitation of your call and I am coming to you!  Show me who I am in the body of your Church and guide me to use these gifts to glorify You and edify your people. Let me not be haughty, but always humbly obedient to your will.  In Jesus name, AMEN!

Here I am, Lord, send me!

Lisa Brandel

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Forsaken, unharmed, sacrificed- What a difference a word makes.

I was reading the Psalms the other day and came upon Psalm 22 when I had an “AH-HA” moment.  For years, I’ve contemplated the meaning of what the Messiahs words on the cross were, including “Eli Eli lama sabachthani.”  When I was a protestant, it was explained to me that in that moment, with that cry, that the Almighty had turned his back on Jesus so He would never have to turn His back on us.  As poetic and profound as that sounds my mental reply was, “Meh, mebbe.”  It wasn’t satisfying to me at all, since, to me, it implies disunity in the trinity.  Something just didn’t jive.  When I read Psalm 22, I thought I had finally figured it out: Jesus was praying the Psalm of David.  The opening line of Psalm 22 is “My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me.”  It’s the same, right?  No, no, it isn’t.  The Hebrew here is: Eli Eli lama azavthani. 

The suffix of both words are thani, which means “To do this to me”.  Azavthani literally means forsaken me, while sabachthani means sacrificed me.  So, why did we end up saying “Forsaken”.  Get ready for this: Luther changed it for azavthani or interchangeably shebakthani (Shebak appears several times in scripture Ezra 6:7 and in Daniel, and means to leave unharmed and is also a Chaldean word.) While Zabach or Sabach is well known in Hebrew scripture as sacrifice. 

None of those words are interchangeable.  We literally have: forsaken me, leave me unharmed, and sacrificed me.   We also can’t pick, choose, and change what Jesus said.  Putting words into His mouth to fit our belief makes our belief based in a lie.  The funny thing is, Luther changed it and then tried to explain the cognitive and spiritual dissonance the change caused.  So did Calvin.  The truth is that none of the prophecies point to the Messiah being forsaken by God.  They do point to His being sacrificed.  All of the animal sacrifices made in atonement throughout the temple age pointed to the act of the Messiah for ultimate atonement.  Nothing about the prophecies of the Old Testament (Tanach) indicate that the Messiah would be abandoned.  In fact, St. Paul in our scripture points out in Acts 2: 31 that he was not abandoned in death. 

Matthew 27:26 About three in the afternoon ( the 9th hour) Jesus cried out in a loud voice, "Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?"  Understanding that at the 9th hour the second Tamid lamb was sacrificed, this is also called the hour of confession, and connecting that with Jesus’s cry makes a lot more spiritual sense than saying forsaken.  As far as why he cried out that particular thing, well, it only took me 20 or so years to really begin to understand what it said.  I don’t know if I have twenty more to understand the complexity of what he was actually crying out, but I know the answer I will give to his cry.  “So all who are lost may be reconciled, washed, made clean, and adopted into the Kingdom, which will have no end.” 

Just some food for thought and prayer.

Here I am, Lord, send me!

Lisa Brandel

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Don't trust yourself until the day you die

Mt 22:34-40, Ex 22:20-26

The Almighty Father has been saying the same thing to us since the dawn of time, and Sunday’s readings reminded me of this again.  As for the title of this blog, well, as much as I’d like to take credit, it comes from-in my opinion-one of the greatest Jewish Rabbis, Rabbi Hillel (Hillel HaGadol, Hillel the Elder). Who also is famously quoted as saying, “"That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow. That is the whole Torah; the rest is the explanation; go and learn."  Which, if we are paying attention, is the sum up and call to action, of both our Exodus and Matthew readings.

Exodus 22: 20 begins thusly: "Do not mistreat or oppress a foreigner, for you were foreigners in Egypt.”  It almost always amuses me that God must remind us to be people we needed when we were in hardship.  In fact, all the angst that people have about why bad things happen to good people should be answered right there in this understanding.  Even when we have endured some suffering, after the suffering is over we have to be reminded to treat other people who still are suffering nicely.  Can you imagine how heartless we might be, if we had never suffered at all?  So, I would think that sometimes we endure suffering just so we aren’t insufferable.  Small price, really.  As Catholics, we are taught that there is a redemptive quality to suffering which also makes sense in this context since it seems we need to be reminded not to be neglective jerks to people in pain, which leads us to acting in the obedience of loving one another, and obedience brings us closer to holiness.  Make sense?  I hope so, but I tend to doubt it because people far better and smarter than me have been saying the same things for thousands of years and we still don’t seem to be able to get a hold on this. 

As the Exodus verses go on God gets more detailed and levels more than a couple parental threats, along with trying to make us think about our actions as they could relate to our own lives.  You shall not wrong any widow or orphan. If ever you wrong them and they cry out to me,I will surely hear their cry. My wrath will flare up, and I will kill you with the sword; then your own wives will be widows, and your  children orphans.  If we pay attention God is asking for us to protect the most vulnerable people of society at the start of this verse.  He then promises He will intercede if we do.  Then he says there will be consequences if we disobey, and tries to evoke compassion/fear by making us think about our own loved ones in the same situation. 

Continuing in Exodus: "If you lend money to one of your poor neighbors among my people, you shall not act like an extortioner toward him by demanding interest from him. If you take your neighbor's cloak as a pledge, you shall return it to him before sunset; for this cloak of his is the only covering he has for his body. What else has he to sleep in? If he cries out to me, I will hear him; for I am compassionate."  The same pattern  as the beginning of our reading.  We are told not to do this thing, reminded of compassion and holy fear, told there are potential consequences if we don’t act accordingly. It’s not nuclear-rocket-brain surgery-science, it’s very simple.  Hillel sums it up eloquently in the quote attributed to him at the beginning of my writing, which ties together with our Gospel reading.

The Pharisees (the people who are supposed to know the Torah and Law better than anyone) ask: When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them, a scholar of the law tested him by asking, "Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?"

Jesus replies: He said to him, "You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Everything that the Torah had been trying to teach is summed up in that, in the order it needed to happen.  God is love and the origin of love, if we do not place him first then we fail from the start.  We cannot begin to do the second without doing the first, it’s impossible.  The foundation of the second part must come from first loving God.  At the same time, we cannot claim we do the first thing without then doing the second.  That too is impossible.  Loving each other is/should be a natural consequence of first loving God in the way Jesus describes in his answer.  This is why they are the two greatest commandments.  Without these two things everything else is the beating of a hollow gong. 

To sum it up, and explain at last why I titled this writing the way I did, we cannot trust that we will do that every day until our very last, because that’s what it is..a daily choice.  The devil may be in the details, but God is found in this simplicity.  We cannot, apparently, learn once to love God and each other, or our scripture would be just one page with that written boldly in the center.  That’s all we’d need.  Instead, we have the whole of scripture, thousands of books of apologetics, and billions of words detailing it all out so we can make the minute by minute, action by action choice to do those two things.  And we can’t trust that we will or have until we are dead, because that is the living dynamic act of being a saint in training. 

Just some food for thought and prayer…

Here I am, Lord, send me!

Lisa Brandel

Friday, October 27, 2017

The beatings will continue until moral improves-Reformation

Mark 9: 38-40

38John said to Him, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in Your name, and we tried to prevent him because he was not following us.” 39But Jesus said, “Do not hinder him, for there is no one who will perform a miracle in My name, and be able soon afterward to speak evil of Me. 40“For he who is not against us is for us. 41“For whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because of your name as followers of Christ, truly I say to you, he will not lose his reward.

 The reformation is a personal topic to me, for several reasons.  The first of which is because I am a convert, and if you trace my lineage back you’ll find on one side of my family that we came to America as Quakers and our names can be found on the first Quaker church in Philadelphia. My family was a small part of the reformation.   The second is that because I have converted, people who loved me now shun me as they believe I have gone in league with the literal devil.  Nothing could be further from the truth, of course, but it’s caused me to have to love God and be more obedient to him than I am to those people who shun me.  It’s not as easy as it sounds when you don’t have much in the way of a family or support system, but obedience to my call-comfortable or not-has to be more important because Jesus said in Matthew 10: 36-38 that we are to love God more than we love the members of our own house.  That means we need to be obedient to His call more than the opinions of others.  Not always easy or comfortable, but needed if we are to live a Holy life.  All that in mind, the reformation and church divides are deeply personal to me. 

As I contemplated writing this, the above bible verse came to mind.  Before we explore it let’s talk numbers.  Right now, as you read this there are at least 50 types of “Independent Catholic” sects.  Those are groups that identify themselves as Catholic, with some kind of twist.  These are not recognized as Catholics by the Catholic church but they consider themselves practicing Catholics.  There are twenty four Eastern Rite Catholic churches, who are recognized by the Pope, but have their own leader.  They are in communion with the Roman Church, but that hasn’t always been the case.  There has been schism between the Roman and Eastern Churches before.   There are 22,000 independent Christian sects and 9,000 protestant sects give or take.  In other words, the church is shattered.  But it’s not enough that it’s shattered, we have to fight and judge each other and keep shattering.  It’s happening now even in the Roman church, where people are infighting and talking of schism.  All of it reminds me of the few concise words the Apostles speak in the first verse of my scripture reading, “There are people preaching in your name and we tried to stop them.”  The tremendous ego of the apostles cracks me up in that simple phrase.  I imagine a bunch of ticked off men pouting that only they were allowed to talk about Jesus.  It’s one of those moments that if you read it you can’t doubt that scripture was written by men with divine inspiration, because if I was an apostle I’d have been tempted to write myself a little less arrogant in that moment, but no they are Adam naked and very real. 

The problem with the shattering is that as Jesus said in Mark 3:24-25 that a house divided against itself cannot stand.  We have seen 500 years of that proof as a few factions became many became what we have today in the tens of thousands of shattered pieces.  I’ve seen and experienced a protestant church split over some problem or what amounts to a tiny doctrinal issue.  Half the church goes one way, the other founds another kind of church.  We are straining gnats out of the milk of the Gospel and swallowing entire herds of camels, and if we boil it down to the most essential reason it happens because we (individual or in small collectives) can’t imagine that anyone else might be more knowledgeable or authority than we are/do.  We are the ultimate authority over whatever matter we are wrapped around the axel about, which can be categorized as….rebellion.  Rebellion is an insidious sin, because we oft times don’t see it as that, we merely see ourselves as invincibly correct. 

Scary stuff, especially if you consider that Mark 9: 42 Jesus says, 42 “If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them if a large millstone were hung around their neck and they were thrown into the sea.”  So if we think we are right, and convince others we are too and they follow us we are going to be held accountable. 

I imagine Jesus knew this time was coming though because we are human, and even the men who got to walk with him directly did the same thing we are doing to each other today.  He tells us in Mark 9: 39-41 how to handle it all, and it’s no different than he tells us how to handle each other in general, because He understands something we humans don’t seem to be able to grasp-that is that you can’t fix a glass with a hammer.  So the truth is, if they are for Jesus then they are not against us, and if they aren’t against us why are we fighting them?  When we live our faith, our truth, and do so in love of God first and to act as God’s hands in the world as we are supposed to, then the truth of God attends to itself.  It is then we become obedient witnesses to others, whether they are believers or not.  We can’t keep living the “Beatings will continue until moral improves” philosophy and expect to put the glass back together. 

Now, for my protestant brothers and sisters, who believe church unity, or one unified Christian church is the vehicle for the apocalypse and the beasts religion, let me explain something.  The enemies church isn’t going to talk about Jesus, or contrition, or grace, or agape love, or serving God by serving one another.  That church is going to preach the gospel of self, of us not needing God, of pleasure above servitude, of self-determination, and that there is no truth beyond what we create.    Summed up the foundation of that “church” system will be laid on the concept of “Do as thou wilt.”  That should sound familiar to everyone with an eye to see, as it is the pervading darkness that is creeping over the world as we waste time fighting each other. 

It’s time to call for healing.  It’s time to draw together as the Bride we are meant to be.  We cannot change what happened 500 years ago, and we can’t fix it with the same thinking we used to create the fracture.  It’s time to pray for a renewal of unity to drive out the encroaching darkness.

Just some food for thought and prayer…

Heavenly Father, you asked us to Love each other as you loved us, and we have failed.  I ask for your forgiveness for my part in that, and guidance in how to be the light the world needs for your glory and the good of all your Holy Church.  In Jesus name, Amen! 

Here I am, Lord, send me!

Lisa Brandel

Monday, October 23, 2017

Do we have faith or fear?

Luke 12:13-21

There are a few worldly describing words that, when you add the title Christian or Catholic to, don’t make sense to me.  Things like: Christian doomsday prepper, or Christian hoarder, Christian miser.  There are more, but you get the drift of where my mind is going with those.  While part of the reason those words together don’t make sense to me is found in how God handled the Exodus (nowhere does it say the Lord told His people to pack 100 days’ worth of supplies leading up to Him calling them out of bondage), and the other was a Gospel reading we had not long ago about Jesus sending his disciples out in twos. He told them pretty much to take nothing with them and let God supply their needs through the towns and people they’d be ministering to.  (Luke 10: 1-23)  In both those cases, and many other smaller cases like Lot’s family, God said, “Go and do.” Not, “Prepare, hoard, then move the hoard, gather all the things, pack 10.5 bags, gather a satchel of money, don’t forget to pack more underwear, bring your favorite abacus…”  No, none of that.  He always seems to say, “Be obedient and do as I say, your needs will be provided for.”  (Philippians 4: 19, Matthew 6: 7-8)  The heart of this understanding, I believe, is that when we are relying on ourselves and what we can provide, then we aren’t relying on God and God calls us to lean into him, in faith, at all times. 

Which brings me back to today’s Gospel reading.  Jesus tells us of a rich man who got richer as a parable warning us against greed.  Now, what is greed?  If we boil greed down to its’ essence, greed is fear.  We greed because we fear that we lack or will lack in some way, and fear is the absence of faith.  In the parable the rich man finally gets what he thinks is “enough”.  He finally doesn’t have to fear not being rich anymore, so he can retire and party (just a modern translation of what Jesus explained as “eat, drink, and be merry”).  So, he no longer fears, but he has put all his faith in his own ability.  He put all his trust in his possessions, and that along with his wealth of possessions he would also have a wealth of the rarest most valuable commodity, that being time.   Boiling it all down to the simplest parts, Jesus is telling us a story about a man leaning on himself and his own understanding, living a life in fear (which does not come from God), who gets himself the success he thinks he needs, only to be bit by the thing he didn’t ever prepare for because he was preparing for his own fear.  It’s a story about how someone replaces faith with fear, and money is just the mcguffin. 

Jesus says two sentences that haunt me in these verses.  "Take care to guard against all greed, for though one may be rich, one's life does not consist of possessions."  And “Thus will it be for the one who stores up treasure for himself but is not rich in what matters to God."

I read the first sentence with the understanding that all greed is fear, and the seed of that fear is our own will, with the reminder at the end that our life is more than the sum of those parts.  The second sentence I read with the understanding that when we live like that, and we do not live in the abundance and gratitude that faith provide, that we get exactly what we can get-not what God wants for us.  It’s haunting to me, to realize that in every genre of my life, money, health, love, companionship, and everything in between this applies.  In all things, we should stop hoarding and preparing, and walk in faith because God does not change and he will provide for us when the time comes.  He gives us what we need, when we need it, at the perfect time. Not a moment before, and not a moment late.  Believing and living that out, gives us a better relationship with all that is in the scope of our world, whether it’s people, places, or things.  If we can practice this, we can be free as Jesus promised.  Imagine your world without fear. 

Just some food for thought and prayer…

Heavenly Father, I thank you for all that you have provided for me and ask that I have the right heart about it all.  Allow me to walk in faith and not fear so I may be obedient and reap the true treasure of Your promises.  In Jesus name, Amen! 

Here I am, Lord, send me,

lisa brandel

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Don't hold it against them

 2 Timothy 4:16-17

At my first defense no one appeared on my behalf,

but everyone deserted me.

May it not be held against them!

But the Lord stood by me and gave me strength,

so that through me the proclamation might be completed

and all the Gentiles might hear it.

I’ve worked with the grieving, the dying, and the addicted, and so when I was reading the daily mass readings today the above passage stood out to me in a big way for many reason I’ll write here.  In my opinion, 2 Timothy-the last of St. Pauls Epistles- is probably one of his more important letters.  We tend to save what we think is most important for the last.  Before you leave the babysitter, you remind them where the emergency contacts are, and before you leave for a long trip or some surgery you tend to try to say the most important things you want the people to remember.  As I read this letter, I see a lot of that reflected in St. Paul’s writings.  He seems to be summing up the life and body of work he’s done in Christ, while leaving as many instructions for the church he is leaving behind as he can, the ones he feels are the most important for people to know and remember.  He’s doing what Jesus did before his ascension when he gives the instruction in John 13: 33-34 33 “Little children, I am with you only a little while longer. You will look for Me, and as I said to the Jews, so now I say to you: ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’ 34A new commandment I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so also you must love one another. 35By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another.”…

That’s how I see this last letter.  It’s the love letter goodbye, written with a lot of mindful heart.  So, as I read the verses we are discussing today I began to, not only personalize it, but overlay it in the lives I’ve been privileged to be a part.  I see St. Paul’s situation isn’t unique and very applicable to our lives.  While not many of us will know the privilege of being put to literal trial for our faith, as he was, we are and we do go through trials.  We have that we can apply/overlay as we contemplate this scripture.  The people Paul is referring to, the ones that did not stand with him, are likely people he considered family in Christ.  They are people he likely healed, taught, nurtured, brought the Gospel, and helped in every way. Again, even though we likely don’t have literal disciples, we have those kinds of people in our lives.  They are people we invest in, people we love.   In the same vein as Paul, those people sometimes vanish when we go through our trails.  (This understanding of mine comes from the aforementioned people I have worked with. Many times, I’ve seen at critical moments the people in need watch their friends and family vanish when things got hard.  The reasons varied, some can’t, some are too hurt and scared by the pain, but there is always a fear based reason.)   I see this is a common theme of people’s lives, one that sows seeds of bitterness and discontent, which are not from God.  It can cause us to falter in our own walk with God. 

The way I read the next verse it’s like St. Paul doesn’t even take a breath before he asks the Almighty  and the people reading the letter what at times seems unthinkable, and does so vehemently. “May it not be against them!”  He’s not asking God to judge them according to their deeds.  He’s not asking for the Church to disown them.  He’s very strongly crying out that what they did, and what they did not do, not be held against them.  A role model portrayal of Jesus’s teaching that we forgive seven times seventy times!  More than that, I get the feeling that he didn’t have to forgive it because he wasn’t offended by it at all.  He was more saying it, not for himself, but as a plea to God and the people around him.  “Don’t hold them accountable for what they have done.”   That does two things, one it puts no barriers between him and God. Then it also puts no barriers between him and the people.  His witness is all the more powerful!  He has taught them these lessons, and shown them in his life how they apply. 

He goes on in the last part of the verse to give God the Glory.  He claims no part of the power it took to get through his trials.  He points to the victory.  Not his victory done by his power, he gives God all the credit.  People will fail us, but God never does.  But when people fail us, the greatest witness we can give is to allow God to work through us to accomplish whatever trail we face and still be able to love those people as God loves and forgives us.  Asking God not to hold someone’s sin against them is what Jesus said when he cried out, “Forgive them, Father, they know not what they do.” St. Stephen said the same as they stoned him in Acts, he and Paul were following Jesus, and so should we. 

Just some food for thought and prayer…

Heavenly Father, We praise you and offer thanks giving for never failing us even in our darkest hour. We ask that nothing be held against those who fail us, as we have surely failed others before.  In Jesus name, Amen!!

Here I am, Lord, send me!

Lisa Brandel