Elizabeth: Honey and Stings

 Story By: Shevlin Sebastian
Aleyamma Siby (Photo credit Ratheesh Sundaram)
It is 9 p.m. Outside their house at Panathady in Kasaragod district in Kerala, Aleyamma and her husband Siby are hurriedly placing bee hives inside a van. Later, they climb in, and the van sets out towards the Coorg district in Karnataka, which is only 30 kms away. Once they reach there, they quickly place the hives, in 3 feet high stands, below trees, at a distance of three metres. “We have to do this before the sun comes up,” says Aleyamma. “Because, at sunbreak, the bees would want to come out in search of nectar and pollen. And if we keep the hives shut they will die of asphyxiation.”
Aleyamma is a breeder who practices migratory beekeeping. Once the honey is harvested at all the hives placed near her home, during the months of January to March, she moves off to Coorg and does bee farming there. “Somehow, the quality of the honey is far better,” she says.
But there is a reason for that. In Kerala, the major source of nectar is from the leaves of the rubber tree. “This is called unifloral honey,” says Dr. Stephen Devanesan, Principal Scientist, All India Coordinated Research Project on Honeybees and Pollinators, Kerala Agricultural University. “But in Coorg, the hives are placed in forests where there is diverse flora. So, the quality of this multi-floral honey is much better.”
However, the collection of honey is not an easy process. First the bees have to be warded off, using smoke. Then the honeycombs are removed from the hive. With the help of a honey extractor, the honey is taken out from the cells and stored in containers. All this has to happen in less than an hour, before the bees start stinging the person.
“In the beginning the stings used to pain a lot and there would be a swelling,” says Aleyamma. “But now, although we get pain, there is no swelling. This is my bread and butter, so I have learnt to tolerate the aches.”
The biggest problem with honey is that it crystallises and ferments. To avoid this, Aleyamma uses the double-boiling method. In this technique, she pours water into a large container. Then she places a smaller bowl, which contains honey, inside it, resting on three bricks. The bottom container is heated, so that the temperature inside the smaller bowl reaches 45 degrees centigrade. Then the honey is taken out, and put through a sieve, to get rid of wax particles, dust and pollen. Following this, it is reheated to 65 degrees centigrade for about 10 minutes. “After the honey cools, it is filtered,” says Aleyamma. “Once this is done, the honey will last for years, without going bad.”
Interestingly, Aleyamma is the only woman bee keeper in Kerala. Last year, she produced 40 tonnes, thanks to the 5000 colonies of Indian and Italian bees that she has.
And thanks to this high productivity, Aleyamma was recently awarded the Stephen Memorial Award for the best bee keeper of 2014 by the State Agriculture Minister KP Mohanan. This award has been instituted by the Federation of Indigenous Apiculturists.
To get a high productivity, Aleyamma depends a lot on the Tamil workers, who are experts at bee collection. “They are sincere, hard-working and not afraid of being stung,” she says.
Aleyamma also credits her success to a workshop which she attended. This was conducted by Devanesan, along with Dr. K. Prathapan, Director of the State Horticulture Mission. Says Devanesan: “I have imparted training to Aleyamma and other breeders on how to maintain the health of the bees, manage colonies, and do high-tech apiculture. Today, they are all doing well.”
Like most good things in life, Aleyamma came to bee-breeding by accident. When she got married and went to stay at her in-laws home in Thodupuzha, she saw bee hives for the first time in the backyard. In the mid-1990s, she and Siby decided to move to north Kerala to improve their economic prospects. They tried pepper farming and rubber cultivation. “It did not do well,” she says. “That was when I thought about bee farming. And now, here I am, the only woman in Kerala doing this work.”
(Sunday Magazine, The New Indian Express, South India and Delhi)

ISIS Fighter Converts to Christianity

after Allah refuses him ‘Entrance to gates of heaven’
Aleppo, February 23, 2015: The man, that has miraculously survived multiple gun shot wounds after an altercation between ISIS and Syrian Army forces, was rescued by members of the Saint Dominican Catholic Presbytery of Ayyash hours after the conflict had erupted.
The members of the Christian organization wanted to give the man a proper Christian burial and carried him over 26 kilometers before the man miraculously came back to life as he was believed to have died from his wounds.
As the man came back to his senses, he reported to priest Hermann Groschlin of the visions he had whilst in the afterlife, an event that profoundly changed the 32-year old jihadist and eventually led to his conversion to Christianity days later.

“He told me that he was always taught that to die as a martyr would open him the Gates of Jannah, or Gates of Heaven” recalled the priest. “Yet, as he had started to ascend towards the light of the Heavens, devilish entities, or Jinns he called them, appeared and led him to the fiery pits of Hell. There he had to relive all the pain he had inflicted upon others and every death he had caused throughout his entire life. He even had to relive the decapitations of his victims through their own eyes”, images the jihadist claims will haunt him for the rest of his life, admits the priest.
“Then Allah, or God, spoke unto him and told him that he had failed miserably as a human soul, that he would be banned from the Gates of Heaven if he chose to die, but that if he chose to live again, he would have another chance to repent of his sins and walk along God’s path once again”
The young man claims he was brought back to life moments later and eventually converted to Christianity days later, believing he had been misled throughout his religious life under the worship of Allah.
The young man, who’s wounds have surprisingly healed in a very short time, has chosen to live amongst the members of the Catholic presbytery who rescued him from the desert and hopes his story will help other ISIS fighters change their ways and convert to the one and only true God, the priest told local reporters.
- world news daily reporter

Lent 4 B - The Venom becomes the Cure

From Fr. Tony Kadavil's Collection:

1) Glimpse of God’s love in the Amtrak tragedy:
Near Mobile, Alabama, there was a railroad bridge that spanned a big bayou. The date was September 22, 1993. It was a foggy morning, just before daybreak, when a tugboat accidentally pushed a barge into the bayou. The drifting barge slammed into the river bridge. In the darkness no one could see the extent of the damage, but someone on the tugboat radioed the Coast Guard. Minutes later, an Amtrak train, the Sunset Limited, reached the bridge as it traveled from Los Angeles to Miami. Unaware of the damage, the train crossed the bridge at 70 mph. There were 220 passengers on board. As the weight of the train broke the support, the bridge gave away. Three locomotive units and the first four of the train’s eight passenger cars fell into the alligator infested bayou. In the darkness, the fog was thickened by fire and smoke. Six miles from land, the victims were potential food for the aroused alligators. Helicopters were called in to help rescue the victims. They were able to save 163 persons. But one rescue stands out. Gery and Mary Chancey were waiting in the railcar with their eleven-year-old daughter.

 When the car went into the bayou and began to fill rapidly with water, there was only one thing they could do. They pushed their young daughter through the window into the hands of a rescuer, and then succumbed to their watery death. Their sacrificial love stands out especially because their daughter was imperfect by the world's standards. She was born with cerebral palsy and needed help with even the most routine things. But she was precious to her parents. We, too, are imperfect – our lives filled with mistakes, sin and helplessness. But we are still precious to God – so precious that He sacrificed his Son Jesus to save us. Today’s gospel tells us how a perfect God sent His perfect Son to save an imperfect world.

2) "I beheld only the face of the man who would die for me."
On the southern border of the Persian empire of Cyrus, there lived a great chieftain named Cagular who tore to shreds and completely defeated the various detachments of Cyrus’ army sent to subdue him. Finally the emperor, amassing his whole army, marched down, surrounded Cagular, captured him, and brought him to the capital for execution. On the day of the trial, he and his family were brought to the judgment chamber. Cagular, a fine-looking man of more than 6 feet, with a noble manner about him was a magnificent specimen of manhood. So impressed was Cyrus with his appearance that he said to Cagular, "What would you do should I spare your life?" "Your Majesty, if you spared my life, I would return to my home and remain your obedient servant as long as I lived." "What would you do if I spared the life of your wife?" "Your Majesty, if you spared the life of my wife, I would die for you." So moved was the emperor that he freed them both and returned Cagular to his province to act as governor thereof. Upon arriving at home, Cagular reminisced about the trip with his wife. "Did you notice," he said to his wife, "the marble at the entrance of the palace? Did you notice the tapestry on the wall as we went down the corridor into the throne room? And did you see the chair on which the emperor sat? It must have been carved from one lump of pure gold." His wife could appreciate his excitement, but she only replied: "I really didn’t notice any of that." "Well," said Cagular in amazement, "What did you see?" His wife looked seriously into his eyes and said, "I beheld only the face of the man who said to the emperor that he would die for me." Today’s gospel presents before us the face of God’s Son who was sent to die for us, demonstrating God’s mercy and love for each one of us.
3) The Hound of Heaven:
The Hound of Heaven, written by Francis Thompson, is one of the best known religious poems in the English language. It describes the pursuit of the human soul by God. It is the story of a human soul who tries to flee from God as it thinks that it will lose its freedom in the company of God. It is the story of Thompson’s own life. As a boy, he intended to become a priest. But the laziness of his brilliant son prompted Thompson’s father to enroll young Francis in a medical school. There he became addicted to the opium that almost wrecked his body and mind. He fled to a slum and started earning a living by shining shoes, selling matches, and holding horses. In 1887 Francis sent some poems and an essay to Mr. Wilfrid Meynell, the editor of a Catholic literary magazine called Merry England. The editor recognized the genius behind these works and published them in April 1888. Then Meynell went in search of the poet. He arranged accommodation for Francis, introduced him to other poets and helped him to realize God’s love. How Francis tried to run away from God, how God “hunted” him, how divine love caught up with him – these are the themes of his stirring poem, The Hound of Heaven. Once we realize, as did the poet Francis Thompson and all the saints, that God pursues our souls to the ends of the earth and beyond, then we will try to return to that love and allow the Hound of Heaven to “catch” us. Today’s gospel tells us about the breadth and depth and height of the divine love of the Hound of heaven for each one of us.

4) “Gee, Mom, she thinks I'm real!"
There is an old story about a family consisting of mother, father, and small son who went into a restaurant. As they were seated at the table, the waitress sailed up. You know, the particular kind of waitress who moves as though she were the captain of a ship. She sailed up, pad in efficient hand, looked, and waited. The parents ordered. Then the boy looked up and said plaintively, "I want a hot dog." "No hot dog!" said the mother. "Bring him potatoes, beef, and a vegetable." The waitress paused for a moment, and then looked at the boy squarely and said, "Yes, sir. What do you want on your hot dog?" "Ketchup - lots of ketchup - and a glass of milk." "One hot dog, coming up," said the waitress and sailed off toward the kitchen. The boy turned to his parents said, "Gee, Mom, she thinks I'm real!" One reason that we are real is because God thinks we are real. He created all of us to be His children. That process of becoming God’s children may be for us as radical as being born anew, as Jesus told Nicodemus, but it is precisely that for which we were created. For Christians, to be real, is to allow ourselves to be loved by God, and to love God in return, which, according to St. John, means doing the truth.

5) Nicodemus in art and history:
One of Rembrandt's most famous etchings portrays the scene. The limp, dead body of Jesus was slowly taken down from the cross. Joseph of Arimathea, dressed as the person that he was, in all his finery, stands close by. In the darkness, further away, veiled in shadow as only Rembrandt could do it, with his face lined in sorrow, is Nicodemus. He is holding in his hands the linen cloth in which Jesus' body would be buried. The Gospel says that Nicodemus also brought with him a mixture of spices, myrrh and aloes, "about a hundred pounds". One wonders what Nicodemus must have been thinking as he stood there, waiting for the body of Christ to be taken down from the cross. Obviously, much was going on in his life -- this wealthy man, bringing fine linen and a bountiful amount of expensive spices to anoint the body of one who had died as a common criminal. Was he still mystified as he had been when Jesus told him that he must be born again? Was he still puzzled by the response of Jesus when he pressed his question about how one could be born again? Jesus' answer had been totally unsatisfying for his rational mind: "The Spirit blows where it wills -- you feel it, and you hear the sound of it -- but you don't know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit."

6) Emergency Night call:
One of the things that pastors, doctors, fire-fighters, and police have in common that they all receive occasional night calls. And most pastors would agree that some of our most significant opportunities to help people have come in response to night-time calls, usually of an emergency nature. However, not all of our night calls are that significant. Dr. Robert Ozmont of First United Methodist Church in Atlanta received a call one night about 2:00 AM. He did not know the lady who called; she had found his number in the yellow pages. She had a problem. By any objective measure it was not an emergency; certainly it could have waited until morning. Nevertheless, Dr. Ozmont tried to offer what advice he could. Then he asked, "Ma'am, do you belong to a church in Atlanta?" "Yes," she replied. "I am a member of Calvary Presbyterian." "Why," asked Dr. Ozmont, "didn't you call your pastor about your problem?" "I thought about that," she said, "but my pastor works so hard that I just hated to bother him in the middle of the night." The gospel of John tells us about a night-time call Jesus received from a prestigious Jew named Nicodemus.

7) "Believe in the God Who Believes in You.”
 Mother Teresa was interviewed on American television a few years ago. She said, "It is very, very important, that the families teach their children to pray and pray with them." Then she added, "And we have enough reason to trust God, because when we look at the cross, we understand how much Jesus loved us. It is wonderful to be able to come to Jesus! That's why God made Him – to be our bread of life, to give us life! And with His life comes new life! New energy! New peace! New joy! New everything! And I think that's what brings glory to God, also, and it brings peace." Then she said, "I've seen families suffer so much, and when they've been brought to Jesus, it changes their whole lives." [Robert H. Shuller. Believe in the God Who Believes in You. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1989), p. 126.] I have also seen lives changed by the power of the cross. Have you? Today’s gospel gives a parallel between the bronze serpent erected by Moses to heal the Israelites bitten by snakes and Jesus raised on the cross to save mankind.

8) "Release this guilty man.”
 King Frederick II, an Eighteenth-Century king of Prussia, visited a prison in Berlin one day. The inmates jumped at the opportunity to plead their cases directly to the king. All except one. One prisoner sat quietly in the corner. This aroused the king's curiosity. The king quieted the other inmates and approached the man in the corner. "What are you in for?" he asked. "Armed robbery, your honor." The king asked, "Are you guilty?" "Yes sir," he answered. "I entirely deserve my punishment." The king then gave an order to the guard: "Release this guilty man. I don't want him corrupting all these innocent people." How ironic! Only when we admit our guilt can that guilt be washed away. One of the greatest promises of scripture is this one: "If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (I John 1:9) Repentance is the first step toward new birth mentioned in today’s gospel. Think for a moment. Is there some failing in your life that you have never admitted to God?

9) Only five percent of people are able to dream in color:
Did you know that a glass of hippopotamus milk contains eighty calories, or that only five percent of people are able to dream in color? Facts are intriguing but, just as quickly, they are easily forgotten. The recent knowledge explosion has had a great impact upon technology. With that technological 'know how,' we thought we had a blank check to the future. Then came the new bullies on the block: environmental pollution and computer impersonalism. The marriage of knowledge and technology was not creating the utopia we had hoped for. The yellow brick road to the future emptied into that old dirt path of breast-beating. It didn't break any record for moral progress, either. Many of us have to agree that any quest for knowledge as a thing in itself can be a dull date. Knowledge must ripen into truth. Okay, but what is the truth? To answer that adequately, we must recall Nicodemus. If ever a man were dead certain of himself, it was the Pharisee. For him all was quiet on the western front until he met Jesus. The Nazarene became the burr under his saddle. His intellectual absolutes shook like jello. His neatly spun web of Jewish theology slowly began to unravel.

10) “Well, Sarah, that is exactly right.”
A little girl went to the doctor for a check-up. When the doctor came into the examining room, she held up both hands to get his attention and then she said: "Doctor, I know what you are going to do. You are going to do 5 things. You are going to check my eyes, my ears, my nose, my throat and my heart." The Doctor smiled and said: "Well, Sarah, that is exactly right. Is there any particular order I should go in?" Sarah said: "You can go in any order you want to... but if I were you, I'd start with the heart!!!" That's what Jesus did, wasn't it? He started with the heart. He started with Love... and that is precisely what he wants us to do!

11) "God, I ain't got nothin' against nobody."
Anthony Campolo tells about a mountaineer from West Virginia who fell in love with the beautiful daughter of the town preacher. The gruff and tough man one evening looked deeply into the eyes of the preacher's daughter and said, "I love you." It took more courage for him to say those simple words than he had ever had to muster for anything else he had ever done. Minutes passed in silence and then the preacher's daughter said, "I love you, too." The tough mountaineer said nothing except, "Good night." Then he went home, got ready for bed and prayed, "God, I ain't got nothin' against nobody." Many of us know that feeling. To love and to be loved, what joy that simple emotion brings into our lives! Then to realize that the very nature of God is love is almost more than you or I can comprehend.

12) Chain of love:
Before we are able to give love we must receive love. Let me give you a powerful example. Once years ago there was a little girl in an institution who was almost like a wild beast. The workers at the institution had written her off as hopeless. An elderly nurse believed there was hope for the child, however. She felt she could communicate love and hope to this wild little creature. The nurse daily visited the child whom they called Little Annie, but for a long time Little Annie gave no indication she was aware of her presence. The elderly nurse persisted and repeatedly brought some cookies and left them in her room. Soon the doctors in the institution noticed a change. After a period of time, they moved Little Annie upstairs. Finally the day came when this seemingly "hopeless case" was released. Filled with compassion for others because of her institutional experience, Little Annie, Anne Sullivan, wanted to help others. It was Anne Sullivan who, in turn, played the crucial role in the life of Helen Keller. It was she who saw the great potential in this little blind, deaf and rebellious child. She loved her, disciplined her, played, prayed, pushed, and worked with her until Helen Keller became an inspiration to the entire world. It began with the elderly nurse, then Anne Sullivan, then Helen Keller, and finally every person who has ever been influenced by the example of Helen Keller. (Jeffrey Holland in Vital Speeches) That chain of love goes on forever. Before it began with that elderly nurse, though, we have to go all the way back to the beginning when God first loved His creation. 

13) “I resolve to compose no more.":
One day in his later years, the composer Johannes Brahms reached a point in his life when his composing almost came to a halt. He started many things, serenades, part songs and so on, but nothing seemed to work out. Then he thought, "I am too old. I have worked long and diligently and have achieved enough. Here I have before me a carefree old age and can enjoy it in peace. I resolve to compose no more." This cleared his mind and relaxed his faculties so much that he was able to pick up with his composing again without difficulty. Many of us are a bundle of anxieties. That is why we accomplish so little. What we need is to relax in the knowledge that we are loved. "God so loved the world that he gave his only Son that whoever believes in him..." Do you believe in Christ? Then what in the world are you worried about? Accept his love. Lay your deepest concerns at the foot of the cross.

14) Driving Miss Daisy:
Miss Daisy drove her Packard into her neighbor's backyard. Boolie Werthan, Daisy's son, thought that such an incident was sufficient evidence to warrant the end of his mother’s driving; she needed a driver, a chauffeur. Hoke Coleburn, a middle-aged black man, was Boolie's choice for the job. Daisy, however, would not accept this restriction, this change in her life; she was not open to being transformed. Boolie may have hired Hoke, but that did not mean that Miss Daisy had to use him. As Hoke stood idle, Miss Daisy took the street car wherever she went, to the hairdresser or the grocery store. Hoke Coleburn was being paid for doing nothing. That is exactly how Miss Daisy wanted things. As stubborn as she could be, Miss Daisy ultimately did change her attitude. One day she needed a few things from the store. She left the house and began to walk toward the streetcar. Hoke decided that Miss Daisy's refusal to use his services needed to end. As she walked down the sidewalk, Hoke slowly drove alongside in the new 1948 Hudson Boolie had purchased for his mother. "Where are you going?" scowled Daisy. Hoke replied, "I'm fixin' to take you to the store!" Although still not content with the arrangement, Daisy agreed to get into the car; her conversion had begun. Daisy did not approve, but Hoke had become her chauffeur. Whether it was to the temple (you see Miss Daisy was Jewish), the store, or a trip to Mobile to visit relatives, Daisy and Hoke went together. As the years passed, their relationship as driver and passenger grew; they bonded together. Then one day Miss Daisy's conversion became complete. The process had been long and sometimes difficult, but now it was finished. She could finally say, "Hoke, you are my best friend." Alfred Uhry's 1988 Pulitzer Prize winning play, Driving Miss Daisy, tells more than the story of a relationship between a black chauffeur and an elderly, rich, Jewish widow. It is a story of a challenge to be transformed in mind and heart from rebellion to a sense of acceptance in one's life. Lent is a season when the church calls us to reflect upon our lives and see how we need to be transformed, to enter into a stronger relationship with God. Daisy's experience is one illustration of a reality for all - transformation takes time, and shortcuts to its end product only lead to problems and disappointments. Today's popular and familiar passage from John's Gospel challenges us, like Nicodemus, to be transformed to Christ.
15) “I can’t imagine dividing love by eight.”
One of the “ministers” (that means lay persons) of a local church was delivering meals as part of his work with a “Meals on Wheels” mission. He took the meal to a home of a woman whose only child was visiting that day. He congratulated the woman for having such a nice son, and said “I have eight children of my own.” “Eight kids,” exclaimed the woman. “I love my son so much that I can’t imagine dividing love by eight.” “Ma’am,” the man said gently, “you don’t divide love--you multiply it.”
Jesus’ Love is not zero-based: The more you give, the less you have.
Jesus’ Love is eternity-based: The more you give, the more there is to go around.
 Jesus’ Love is other-based: we are to reach out in love to “all people” and “especially to those of the family of faith” (Galatians 6:10).
16) A baseball story:
Those who are "born again" claim Jesus Christ as both Savior and Lord. Let me share a sports story told by the outstanding Christian coach at Florida State University, Bobby Bowden. Back in the 1920s there was a great major league baseball player named Goose Gosling. His team was in the World Series one year. In the bottom of the 9th inning of the final game, the score was tied. Goose came to the plate. He got the kind of pitch he wanted and hit a solid line drive over the shortstop's head. It rolled all the way to the wall. The left-fielder fumbled the ball as he tried to make the play. Goose rounded second. As he neared third base, the coach was waving him toward home. The ball reached the catcher a half- second before Goose did. Goose lowered his shoulder as he had been taught and hit the catcher as hard as he could. The ball squirted loose and Goose Gosling stepped on home plate. The fans erupted in pandemonium and poured onto the field. In all the confusion no one noticed the first baseman retrieving the ball, racing to first, and tagging the base. He then appealed to the umpire, claiming that Goose had never touched first base. The umpire agreed with the first baseman and called Goose out. Many people are like Goose Gosling. They seem to be altogether successful. Everybody is cheering for them. They glitter with success. But if in the course of living, they never repent and claim Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, they never even make it to first base.

17) “I have lived my life the best I could.”
Perhaps the most powerful movie I have ever watched is Saving Private Ryan. Tom Hanks, as Captain Miller, along with a ragtag squad of soldiers in World War II, give their lives in search of Private Ryan so he can be returned to his parents. Private Ryan's parents had already lost their other sons in that terrible war that many of you know first hand. As they move in the search of Private Ryan, they argue with one another and sometimes fight with one another, "Why on earth are we risking our lives for Private Ryan? He is probably not worth it anyway." Still, they push on. Finally at the big battle at the bridge, one by one, they give their lives for this no-named person called Private Ryan. Finally there is Captain Miller, lying wounded and taking his final breaths, looking up into the eye of the Private, saying just two words, "Earn it." The movie fast forwards and now Ryan is an old man. Once more he goes to the rows of crosses that help us remember the high price of our freedom. He finds the grave of Captain Miller and falls to his knees, saying, "Every day I think about what you said to me that day at the bridge. I have lived my life the best I could. I hope that was enough."

18) Miracle of new birth:
One rainy Sunday afternoon, a little boy was bored and his father was sleepy. The father decided to create an activity to keep the kid busy. So, he found in the morning newspaper a large map of the world. He took scissors and cut it into a good many irregular shapes like a jigsaw puzzle. Then he said to his son, "See if you can put this puzzle together. And don't disturb me until you're finished." He turned over on the couch, thinking this would occupy the boy for at least an hour. To his amazement, the boy was tapping his shoulder ten minutes later telling him that the job was done. The father saw that every piece of the map had been fitted together perfectly. "How did you do that?" he asked. "It was easy, Dad. There was a picture of a man on the other side. When I got him together right, the world was right." A person's world can never be right until the person is right, and that requires the miracle of new birth. Don't you dare stop asking God for the experience of new birth until you can shout from the housetops, "Through Jesus Christ, God has fundamentally changed my life!"
Fr. Jude Botelho:

In the first reading of today we are told of the many misfortunes that God allowed to come upon Israel because of their sins, the greatest being the destruction of the temple and their banishment into exile. However Chronicles points out that this was not because God wanted to take revenge on his people. The author points out that during their misfortunes God did not abandon them but rather took care of them and moved persons and events in such a way that they would, after their exile, be able to come back to their land, rebuild their temple and once again prosper as His people. God did not keep a record of their wrongs but was ever ready to forgive. People may give up on us but God never abandons his people.

Take what you like best
Joachim and Rebecca were married for ten years but there was no sign of a child to gladden Joachim's heart and perpetuate his name. So he decided to divorce his wife and went to old Rabbi Ben Shamir to make the necessary arrangements. "Joachim son," said the Rabbi, "we had a party to celebrate your marriage, so before we do anything about the divorce we are going to have another party to mark your parting," and unknown to Joachim, he winked knowingly at Rebecca. The party came and acting on the advice of the Rabbi, Rebecca plied her husband with the best vintage wine. As she topped off the cup Joachim spoke to her, "Little wife, take what you like best from this place and take it with you to your father's house." Then he fell asleep. Rebecca put him to bed and then with the connivance of the Rabbi and the sturdy shoulders of some of the guests they brought the bed with Joachim in it to her father's house. When he awoke the following morning and recognized the surroundings he called Rebecca. "Little wife, what am I doing here?" to which she coyly replied: "I only did what you told me to, husband dear. I took what I liked best to my father's house - and that was you!" Joachim took her in his arms and forgot about the divorce. A few weeks later she told him she was pregnant.
James A Feeban from 'Story Power'

In the gospel we have Jesus' encounter with Nicodemus, who appears three times in the Gospel of John, each time at night. His caution in coming at night implies heavy opposition to Jesus in Jerusalem. This is the only time on record when Nicodemus meets Jesus and they speak. In today's reading, God orders Moses to make a bronze serpent, mount it on a pole, enabling all who looked at it to be cured of the bites of poisonous snakes as they trekked through the desert. Jesus used this story as a parable of himself. He told Nicodemus that for the salvation of the world, he himself would be lifted up. He meant it in a twofold sense: lifted up on the cross and lifted up into the glory of the resurrection. Jesus told Nicodemus and us through him, that if we look at Jesus and believe, we will experience healing pardon and new life. Jesus summed it all up by saying, "God sent his son into the world not to condemn the world but so that through him the world might be saved." This is the sum and substance of the good news that Jesus came to bring us: Salvation is ours in and through Jesus Christ. The only requirement is faith. If we believe then God's power comes alive in us, if we do not believe then we condemn ourselves and God's spirit lies impotent in us. Some people condemn themselves by turning away from the light.

A life that makes a difference
Several years ago a bomb was detonated outside the huge oak doors of a Greek Catholic church in Jerusalem. The heavy doors were blown inward so that they careened up to the front of the sanctuary and destroyed the chancel area. Windows were blown out, pews were destroyed, and the balcony collapsed. Dr. Ken Bailey, a Presbyterian missionary scholar and friend of the priest of the Greek Church, stopped by to assess the damage. It took little time to determine that the priest was in shock and unable to make necessary decisions. So Dr. Bailey took it upon himself to ask seminary administrators at the school where he taught to close classes, and he invited students to join him in helping the priest. They cleaned the church and boarded the windows to prevent looting. The next day, Bailey again called on his friend. The maid confided in him that the priest did not cry at the bomb's destruction. However, she added, "He did cry when you and your friends helped clean up the mess it made." Dr. Bailey has since remarked, "I did not teach any theology that afternoon -- or did I?" If theology is about love in action, he held one of his best classes that day. The truth is never so beautiful as when it has its working clothes on.
Steve Goodier

Coming to the light
In the Lithuanian city of Kovno there lived a Jewish professor. Though he had been an agnostic all his life the professor began to be more and more troubled by the sad, neglected condition of the Jewish graveyard in the city. Since the holocaust of the Jews by the Nazis and the harassment of them by the Soviets, no one had taken care of their graves. So out of his goodness of heart, the professor himself decided to do so. Whether or not he was aware that tending the graves is a mitzvah, that is a traditional good deed, we do not know. In any case the good man acquired a spade, a sickle, a pair of shears, and began his job of making the graveyard worthy of those buried in it. At first he was on his own, but as the weeks went by other Jews joined him in the work. Most of these were once observant Jews who had become agnostics like the professor. Eventually there were two hundred of them, all doing the true thing. As they worked a beautiful thing happened. Their Jewish faith came alight in them. Practically all of them became observant Jews once more.
Flor McCarthy in 'New Sunday and Holy Day Liturgies'

Judgement on ourselves
A visitor was once being shown around an art gallery. The gallery contained some beautiful paintings which were universally acknowledged to be masterpieces. At the end of the tour the visitor said, "I don't think much of these old pictures." To which the guide replied, "My good man, these pictures are no longer on trial. But those who look at them are."  The man's reaction was not a judgement on the pictures but on his own pitiful appreciation of art. In the same way those who prefer darkness to light have condemned themselves.
Flor McCarthy in 'New Sunday and Holy Day Liturgies'

Attitude towards the light
The Simon Community run night-shelters for down-and-outs. Each night volunteers bring soup and sandwiches to those who, for one reason or another, do not want to come to the shelters. They go looking for them in derelict buildings and such places. The most important aid they take with them is a torch, because often there is no light where the down-and-outs live. Most of the down-and-outs receive the volunteers as friends. But some refuse to have anything to do with them. The volunteers can tell at once which group they are dealing with by their reaction to the light. Some welcome the light. Others fear it. You could say that the light judges them, in the sense that it shows up the darkness in their lives - the darkness of alcoholism, misery, hopelessness, crime. But it doesn't come to judge them. It comes as a friend, to brighten up their lives, to comfort them. That's how it was with the coming of Christ's light. Christ did not come to judge people but to save them. He came bearing a light -of truth, goodness, and salvation from sin. Some welcomed his light, others rejected it because it shows the evil in their lives.
Flor McCarthy in 'New Sunday and Holyday Liturgies'

A number of years ago, these two verses, John 3:16 and John 3:17, took on extra-special meaning for many Bible readers. You may recall the episode. It involved our astronaut programme. Space engineers were designing space suits for the command module pilot and the lunar module pilot. A part of the design of each space suit was an umbilical cord, consisting of a long flexible tubing. The purpose of the umbilical cord was to supply oxygen to the astronauts when they "walked" in space or passed from one module to another. The suit receptacle into which the command pilot's cord fit was called J 3:16. Designer Frank Denton said he named the two suit receptacles after the two gospel passages: John 3:16 and John 3:17. Just as J 3:16 and J 3:17 supply the astronauts with what they need to survive in their journey from one module to another, so John 3:16 and John 3:17 supply us with what we need to survive in our journey from earth to heaven.
Mark Link in 'Sunday Homilies'

God so loved the world that he gave...
Once a certain saint asked God to show her the difference between heaven and hell. So God asked an angel to take her first to hell. There she saw men and women seated around a large table with all kinds of delicious food. But none of them were eating. They were all sad and yawning. The saint asked one of them, "Why are you not eating?" And he showed her his hand. A long fork about 4 feet long was strapped to their hands such that every time they tried to eat they only threw the food on the ground. "What a pity" said the saint. Then the angel took her to heaven. There the saint was surprised to find an almost identical setting as in hell: men and women sitting around a large table with all sorts of delicious food, and with four-foot forks strapped to their arms. But unlike hell the people in heaven were happy and laughing. "What!" said the saint to one of them, "How come you are happy in this condition?" "You see," said the man in heaven, "Here we feed one another." Can we say this of our families, our neighbourhood, our church, our world?" If we can say that, then we are not far from the kingdom of heaven.
John Pichappilly in 'The Table of the Word'

May we experience and believe that by God's love alone are we kept alive!


I can't think of a greater condemnation to be levied against a people than this: They loved darkness instead of light. I would never want that to be said of me. But that is the way God sees the world. You and I see the world as it is right now. Most of the people around us try and do the right thing and when we are wrong hopefully we apologize. So we tend to think well of most people. But look out on the passage of time. 

The Ancient World of Mesopotamia, Egypt, Hellenism, Rome, Persia, India, and East Asia was filled with the ignorance of hundreds of thousands of gods, magic, rituals, superstitions, human sacrifice, conquests, sewage(refuse was mostly thrown into the streets for the rats and dogs), disease (priests attempted to foretell the course of a disease by examining the livers of sacrificed animals). And the list doesn't end there: ethnic bigotry, civil wars, persecutions, despots, tyrants, class rule, and the systematic murders of tens of thousands. 

The Middle Ages of Persia, Constantinople, Islam, Britain, China, India, Genghis Khan and the Mongols, Timur and the Turks, Europe, African Empires and the Americas. All of them covered in the darkness of man's inhumanity to man: Revolutions, expansionism, Mohammad's Conquest and Christianity's Crusades, warlords, heretics, witchcraft, increased trade bringing death and plagues to millions, and the crowding in the cities spreading the misery all the more. And on top of this misery wars fought for every ridiculous reason known to man. 

The Enlightenment and the Modern world also have fared no better. We too have loved the darkness instead of the light... 
Who doesn't love the "Indiana Jones" series of movies? Harrison Ford was in an airplane crash last week, and it was the head-liner for all the prime time media. Ford is a good actor and seems to be a decent guy. But mostly he and his "Indiana Jones" screen persona seem to hit the "hero" jackpot. Ford's crash landing, and his amazing survival, made for media gold.

Ford made an emergency landing of his vintage airplane on a golf course, managing not to hurt anyone else or damage any homes or property. And he survived. Hero stuff all over again. 

Everyone who knows anything about "Indiana Jones" knows that he hates snakes. He is a strong, tough guy until he meets a slithery thing. Then he dissolves into a quivering mass of spinelessness. Now, there ARE people who do like snakes, who keep them as pets, and let them slide about their homes. But these people are definitely in the minority.  

Most of us do NOT want to be in the company of snakes. Most of us are right there with "Indiana Jones."  Snakes are slippery and scaly and slimy and scary. Snakes are creatures we really do not want to engage or embrace. "Anaconda" was a great title for a movie about the Amazon, but "Snakes on a Plane" -- was there ever a better B-movie title! Combining our fear of snakes with our loathing of economy class air travel - what a genius movie idea. Snakes are creatures so different from us that they evoke revulsion and fear, even when we do not know if the snake we are looking at is dangerous, or a harmless natural insect repellant.   

So we do not readily have a warm, fuzzy relationship with limbless reptiles...
Born of the Spirit

Windborne! That's a far better moniker for Christians than that mistaken term "born again." That's a phrase we picked up from Nicodemus' misunderstanding of entering a second time into the mother's womb rather than Jesus' terminology "born from above" or "born of the Spirit." "No one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and wind - Spirit - pneumatos."

Windborne speaks of being carried along by the wind of the Spirit of God. Here is a lifestyle that is not bogged down with the how questions, but a life that soars among the clouds powered by the mystery of God. "The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes." Ours is a life filled with mystery and the unexplainable.

Science has taught us to ask the how questions. Our contemporary culture seems to be obsessed with the tangible, the explainable, and the measurable. And we are tempted to believe that the only reality is that which we can see and touch. But Jesus calls us to a life of the spirit. It's a life lifted by the invisible power of the wind.

Mickey Anders, Windborne
 God Is Seeking You in Love

Fred Craddock tells the story of his father, who spent years of his life hiding from the God who was seeking him out: 

"When the pastor used to come from my mother's church to call on him, my father would say, 'You don't care about me. I know how churches are. You want another pledge, another name, right? Another name, another pledge, isn't that the whole point of church? Get another name, another pledge.'

My nervous mother would run to the kitchen, crying, for fear somebody's feelings would be hurt. When we had an evangelistic campaign the pastor would bring the evangelist, introduce him to my father and then say, 'Sic him, get him! Sic him, get him!' May father would always say the same thing. 'You don't care about me! Another name, another pledge. Another name, another pledge! I know about churches.' 

I guess I heard it a thousand times. One time he didn't say it. He was at the Veteran's Hospital. He was down to 74 pounds. They had taken out the throat, put in a metal tube, and said, 'Mr. Craddock, you should have come earlier. But this cancer is awfully far advanced. We'll give radium, but we don't know.' 

I went in to see him. In every window - potted plants and flowers. Everywhere there was a place to set them - potted plants and flowers. Even in that thing that swings out over your bed they put food on, there was a big flower. There was by his bed a stack of cards 10 or 15 inches deep. I looked at the cards sprinkled in the flowers. I read the cards beside his bed. And I want to tell you, every card, every blossom, every potted plant from groups, Sunday School classes, women's groups, youth groups, men's bible class, of my mother's church-every one of them. My father saw me reading them. He could not speak, but he took a Kleenex box and wrote something on the side from Shakespeare's Hamlet. . . . He wrote on the side, 'In this harsh world, draw your breath in pain to tell my story.' I said, 'What is your story, Daddy?' And he wrote, 'I was wrong.'" 

It is not until you know God is seeking you in love, not in condemnation; it is not until that moment that the gospel becomes Good News for you. 

Fred Craddock, adapted by James Fitzgerald, Serpents, Penguins, and Crosses
God Can Make Something Out of You

Some years ago, the great boxer, Mohammed Ali, was asked by a ghetto youth how he could quit school and start a boxing career since he had bad grades. Ali smiled at the young man and said in his poetic fashion:

"Stay in college and get the knowledge,
And stay there! Til you're through
Cause if God can make penicillin out of moldy bread,
He can make something out of you."

This is the good news of John 3. Because God so loved the world, He SENT His only son to make something out of us; when we accept Him into our lives and commit our hearts to Him, then He gives us new life in this world - and new life in the world to come.

James W. Moore, Encounters with Christ,

We Become His Son

There is a story that comes out of the Bedouin culture. "Bedouin" is the Aramaic name for "desert dwellers." These people live much as the characters of the Old Testament did. During a heated argument, according to this story, a young Bedouin struck and killed a friend of his. Knowing the ancient, inflexible customs of his people, the young man fled, running across the desert under the cover of darkness, seeking safety.

He went to the black tent of the tribal chief in order to seek his protection. The old chief took the young Arab in. The chief assured him that he would be safe until the matter could be settled legally.

The next day, the young man's pursuers arrived, demanding the murderer be turned over to them. They would see that justice would prevail in their own way. "But I have given my word," protested the chief.

"But you don't know whom he killed!" they countered.

"I have given my word," the chief repeated.

"He killed your son!" one of them blurted out. The chief was deeply and visibly shaken with his news. He stood speechless with his head bowed for a long time. The accused and the accusers as well as curious onlookers waited breathlessly. What would happen to the young man? Finally the old man raised his head. "Then he shall become my son," he informed them, "and everything I have will one day be his."

The young man certainly didn't deserve such generosity. And that, of course, is the point. Love in its purest form is beyond comprehension. No one can merit it. It is freely given. It is agape, the love of God. Look to the cross. At the cross we encounter love in its purest form. 

King Duncan, Collected Sermons,
Rules for Being Human

1. You will receive a body. You may like it or hate it, but it will be yours for the entire period this time around.
2. You will learn lessons. You are enrolled in a full-time informal school called life. Each day in this school you will have the opportunity to learn lessons. You may like the lessons or think them irrelevant and stupid.
3. There are no mistakes, only lessons. Growth is a process of trial and error experimentation. The "failed" experiments are as much a part of the process as the experiment that ultimately "works."
4. A lesson is repeated until it is learned. A lesson will be presented to you in various forms until you have learned it. When you have learned it, you can then go on to the next lesson.
5. Learning lessons does not end. There is no part of life that does not contain its lessons. If you are alive, there are lessons to be learned.
6. "There" is no better than "here." When your "there" has become a "here," you will simply obtain another "there" that will, again, look better than "here." 
7. Others are merely mirrors of you. You cannot love or hate something about another person unless it reflects to you something you love or hate about yourself.
8. What you make of life is up to you. You have all the tools and resources you need. What you do with them is up to you. The choice is yours.
9. Your answers lie inside you. The answers to life's questions lie inside you. All you need to do is look, listen, and trust.
10. You will forget all this.

Michael D. Powell, Look, Listen, Love, and Live
Judgment and Grace

Most preachers have preacher dreams. I am sure every profession has its own particular variation. They are often recurring and usually show clearly the preacher's feelings of inadequacy. Early in my ministry, I used to put my sermon on the pulpit before worship so it would already be in place when I got there to preach. The problem with that is the accompanying dream I would have on many Saturday nights. In my dream, I would step up to the pulpit and the sermon would not be there. The dream took many shapes and forms, but it always came down to the missing sermon and me having nothing to say. Nothing. The dream stopped when I started carrying my sermon with me. More recently I had a dream that I came by the church and a wedding was beginning. I suddenly realized I should be up there performing the wedding, and I was completely unprepared. So you can see a common thread in these preacherly dreams...unprepared and unable. It reveals the dark side of us, the part of us that really needs the grace. It reveals that even if I sing "God Is Love," and "Jesus Loves Me," there is nevertheless that judgment there that haunts me, even in my dreams. 

Sharon Rhodes-Wickett, God's Promises: Judgment and Grace
Complain, Complain, Complain

The story is told of a young man who entered a very strict monastic order. It was so strict that members were permitted to speak only two words per year to the abbot. At the end of year one the young man appeared before the abbot and spoke his two words, "bad food." At the end of the second year the young man appeared before the abbot and spoke two more words, "hard bed". At the end of year three he came to the abbot and spoke his last two words, "I quit." The abbot responded, "Well it is about time. Complain, complain, complain - that's all you've done since you came here." 

We humans are people of darkness. People who complain, rebel, work against the Kingdom of God. Death is all we know. Lives filled with the patterns of sin. However, God does an astonishing thing. He brings the light. He erects a cross of death that we might look up and live. He leads us out of the darkness. He loves the world and does not condemn it. He does not condemn you, if...if you will believe. 

Brett Blair,
Affirming What We Believe

In his autobiography, actor Alec Guinness tells a story that might keep every pastor and church school teacher awake at night. He was a teenager and it was the morning of his confirmation. The classes were finished. The students' heads had been filled full of Bible stories and theological doctrines. Guinness says Holy Trinity Church in Eastbourne was crammed with confirmation candidates, their parents, friends, schoolteachers, and sponsors. At the appropriate moment, he notes, "The girls, mostly in grey uniforms, filed up to kneel at the Bishop's left hand and the boys, in blue serge, to his right. I remember white episcopal hands and shaggy black eyebrows. A pale, greenish light filtered through the window-panes, giving a subaqueous hue to the perspiring congregation." Then he adds, "At the age of sixteen, one early summer day, I arose from under the hands of the Bishop of Lewes a confirmed atheist ... With a flash I realized I had never really believed what I had been taught." 

I don't know about you, but I am troubled by that story. I believe in Christian education. God's people are called to teach the Christian faith to children, teenagers, and adults. Sunday church school and confirmation classes are important educational activities. The church needs to do these things. And yet, here is the story of a bright, intelligent person who emerged from those experiences, and he did not believe a word of what he learned. As a professional church leader, as a Christian educator, that story bothers me. At a personal level, however, that story haunts me for another reason, namely, that it sounds surprisingly familiar. On a bright Sunday morning, it is easy to affirm what we believe. As the familiar verse we've heard today puts it, "God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but have eternal life." With sunbeams shining through stained glass, I can believe it. But late at night, after the lights are dimmed, sometimes I have my doubts, my questions, my lapses of belief. Perhaps I'm not the only one.

William G. Carter, Water Won't Quench the Fire, CSS Publishing Company
All You Need is Love 

Anthony Campolo tells about a mountaineer from West Virginia who fell in love with the beautiful daughter of the town preacher. The gruff and tough man one evening looked deeply into the eyes of the preacher's daughter and said, "I love you." It took more courage for him to say those simple words than he had ever had to muster for anything else he had ever done. Minutes passed in silence and then the preacher's daughter said, "I love you, too." The tough mountaineer said nothing except, "Good night." Then he went home, got ready for bed and prayed, "God, I ain't got nothin' against nobody."

Many of us know that feeling. To love and to be loved, what joy that simple emotion brings into our lives. Then to realize that the very nature of God is love is almost more than you or I can comprehend. 

King Duncan, Collected Sermons,
 All It Would Take To Make Me Happy

Charles Shultz, creator and author of the Peanuts cartoon characters often conveyed a message in his comic strips. In one strip he conveys through Charlie Brown the need we have to be loved and through Lucy our inability to love one another. 

Charlie Brown and Lucy are leaning over the proverbial fence speaking to one another:
CB: All it would take to make me happy is to have someone say he likes me.
Lucy: Are you sure?
CB: Of course I'm sure!
Lucy: You mean you'd be happy if someone merely said he or she likes you? Do you mean to tell me that someone has it within his or her power to make you happy merely by doing such a simple thing?...

Lent 3 B - God is in Command

Fr. Tony Kadavil

1)“Never argue with him when he's drunk!"
A man was driving without his seatbelt when he spotted a patrol car right behind him. He grabbed for the belt and put it on. But it was too late, and the red lights began to flash. "You weren't wearing your seatbelt," said the officer. "Yes I was," said the man, "and if you don't believe me, ask my wife." "So how ABOUT it, ma'am?" asked the cop. "Officer," she said, "I've been married to this man for forty years, and there's one thing I've learned: Never argue with him when he's drunk! Just give him a ticket for not wearing the seat belt.” In today’s Gospel, Jesus doesn’t bother to argue with the unjust merchants and money changers who have converted the Temple of Jerusalem into a noisy “market place” and a “hideout of thieves.” Instead, he frightens them with his angry order and chases them away, holding a whip in his hands.  

2) Beware of whip-lashing Jesus in April while you file your tax returns!
A man was having trouble sleeping with frightening dreams of angry Jesus chasing him with a whip in his hands. He knew in his heart it was his conscience that was keeping him awake. He'd been less than honest in filing his tax return, and it was getting to him. So he sent a check to the IRS with the following note: "Dear Sirs, in filing my 2011 tax return, I did not report all my income. Therefore, I am enclosing my check for $100.00. P. S. If my conscience still troubles me with those dreams of whip-lashing Jesus, I'll send you the rest." Guess what happened next! Today’s gospel challenges us to examine ourselves to see if Jesus will have to take a whip when he comes to our hearts – the temple of the Holy Spirit - in Holy Communion.
3) "Mother Who Abandoned Son Wins Half of His $300,000 Estate."
Did you read about a Connecticut Supreme Court case in which the court reluctantly ruled that a Suzanne Benson is entitled to half the estate of her dead son? If the newspapers are correct, this mother abandoned her two-year-old son 13 years ago. Recently the son was killed in a car/bicycle collision. His dad's insurance company awarded $300,000 to the son's estate. Mrs. Benson showed up after all this time to claim half the money. Under Connecticut law, if Mrs. Benson had officially terminated her parental responsibility, she could not have profited from the money. Abandonment of a baby, however, does not constitute formal parental termination. ["Mother Who Abandoned Son Wins Half of His $300,000 Estate," The Knoxville News Sentinel (May 10, 1989), Section A, P. 7.] So she collected $150,000. That violates my sense of justice, doesn't it yours? It's not fair. It's not right. But listen. There are far worse injustices taking place in our world than that one isolated case. We all know it's true. There are racial injustices, religious injustices, economic injustices. In today’s gospel Jesus reacts forcefully against religious injustice.  

4) Nitroglycerine and salad bar:
Someone has compared anger to nitroglycerine. Nitroglycerine is an unstable liquid which, in paste form, constitutes dynamite. However, nitroglycerine in very small amounts is what is given to heart patients to keep their hearts beating. Anger, of itself, is not sinful. The sin is in getting angry over the wrong things. We get angry when someone cuts us off in traffic, or when someone takes credit for something we've done at the office. We get angry at the kids when they're too noisy and at our spouses when they don't meet our expectations. Sometimes we get angry when we're simply tired and cranky. We don't even need anything to set us off. The media reported sometime back on a fight that broke out in a nursing home. The Spring Haven Retirement Community in Florida found their peace disrupted over a nasty incident at the salad bar. Mealtime turned ugly when an 86-year-old man complained to another gentlemen about picking through the lettuce. Name-calling soon gave way to punching and the police were summoned. Those in the way paid a price. One resident was bitten in his attempt to stop the fight, another knocked down. While no one was seriously injured, one of the men was expelled from the home. ( ) You and I get angry over all kinds of things-some of them exceedingly silly. Sinful human beings exploit religion just like they exploit everything else and for the same reasons--wealth, power, prestige. Jesus got angry when he saw people exploiting religion for their own gain. That's a little different from getting miffed over a salad bar.  

5) Jesus the meek lamb and ferocious lion:
C. S. Lewis illustrated the contrasting qualities of Jesus in his character Aslan, the Lion. In The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, two children, Lucy and Edmund, come to a grassy area. The field covers an area almost as far as the eye can see in greenery, except for one small white spot. The children can't figure out what the white spot is from a distance, so they hike down to it and discover that it's a lamb. This white woolly creature is not just any lamb but a lamb that can cook breakfast and have a conversation with them. The children want to know how to get to the land of Aslan. While the lamb is giving them directions a marvelous thing happens: "His snowy white flushed into tawny gold and his size changed and he was Aslan himself towering above them and scattering light from his mane" (C.S. Lewis, Voyage of the Dawn Treader, as found in "What's it going to take?" a sermon by Rev. John H. Pavelko). Lewis graphically illustrates one of the great truths of our faith: Jesus, the Lamb of God Who takes away the sins of the world is also the Lion of Judah. In Christ we find both the meekness of the lamb and the ferocity of the lion. Jesus could be both the strong and gentle man who welcomed children and the angry man who swung a mean whip to clear the Temple.  

6) "In his note there was a very naughty word."
Paul Harvey tells about a robber in Oceanside, California wearing a motorcycle helmet and carrying a gun who strode into a branch bank. He selected a teller who appeared fiftyish, soft, kindly, an easy mark. He handed her a note demanding money or her life. The woman reached for the cash drawer. Then she looked again at the note and her eyes flashed, her lips clenched. She pulled the entire cash drawer out, but instead of giving him money, she clobbered the robber over the head with the drawer. And again and again. She was scolding him. Money was flying everywhere and she was beating him and shouting shame on him and bouncing blows off his helmet "until the young man turned and ran. Police caught him in nearby shrubbery. Then they asked the woman teller how come she was about to give him money at gunpoint and then, suddenly, instead, became enraged? She said, "In his note there was a very naughty word." (Paul Harvey’s For What It's Worth"). Different people get upset at different things. Jesus shouted, "Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father's house a marketplace!" Jesus got their attention. Sometimes we need to get angry. Anger can lead to creative and constructive solutions. However, Jesus' anger is not the focus of this story.  

7) The court had to let Sweeney go free.
There is a most interesting story from American history about a man named George Wythe (pronounced with), a signer of the Declaration of Independence and perhaps one of the period's most noted legal minds. In 1776, George Wythe, Thomas Jefferson, and Edmund Pendleton began the task of reworking and updating the laws of the state of Virginia. The task took most of their time for three years. It was really an extraordinary piece of work. However, there was at least one flaw – a flaw that would one day haunt the family and friends of George Wythe. In 1806, Wythe suffered for almost 2 weeks from what almost certainly was arsenic poisoning and finally died. It is also reasonably certain that Wythe's grandnephew, George Wythe Sweeney, had added the arsenic to his elder's coffee. However, the only person who saw Sweeney commit this act was Lydia Broadnax, Wythe's devoted mulatto housekeeper; and negroes and mulattoes were forbidden under Virginia law to testify in court against whites – a law that George Wythe had chosen to let stand during his revision process. So despite fairly certain knowledge that Sweeney had murdered Wythe, the court had to let Sweeney go free. (Brother C. Edward, FSC. "The Law That Failed," American History Illustrated (Jan., 1973), pp. 38-45. ) I suppose we might consider that a case of poetic justice. If George Wythe had recognized the rights of African-Americans, his killer would not have gone free. Justice does not always work out that neatly, of course, but we should tremble when we reflect that God is a just God. For eventually justice does prevail. There is a time when Christians ought to get angry about some of the inequities and injustices in our world. As Melvin Wheatley once said, "There are situations in life in which the absence of anger would be the essence of evil." There is a time for anger.  

8) "Somebody ought to do something about that."
A man named Leonard Haslim got angry watching the 6 o'clock news. Hundreds of people had died in an airliner crash in Washington, D.C. because the plane's wings iced up, making it too heavy to fly. Haslim decided to make sure it didn't happen again. Haslim came up with a brilliant, but rather simple solution. Everyone who has studied science knows that opposite charges attract and like charges repel. Haslim used that principle to come up with the ultimate wing deicer. He wrapped a thin sheet of rubber around an airplane wing, with wire ribbons carrying electrical current underneath. When he threw the switch on, the positive wires jumped away from each other, as did the negatives, breaking the ice that had frozen to the layer of rubber above them. "It's like snapping a hall carpet," drawls Haslim, "and watching the dust fly." His invention can pulverize ice an inch thick on the surface of a wing. Yet it uses no more power than a single landing light, and costs less than an airplane tire. "It's so simple, lightweight, and cheap, it's nauseating," says Haslim. It may be that over the next several years, hundreds of lives will be saved because Leonard Haslim got angry watching the 6 o'clock news. (Success, October, 1990). Is there something making you angry? Is there some evil in the world that a voice within you keeps saying, "Somebody ought to do something about that." That is what Jesus did, as described in today’s gospel, by cleansing the Temple.  

9) One-man army:
Two men stood in front of a taxi cab arguing about who had the right to the cab. While they argued, the wife of one of the men stood and watched. After they had argued for a few of minutes, one man became calm, opened the door for his opponent, and returned to his wife. Curious, his wife asked him why he'd suddenly allowed the other man to take the cab. He explained, "You see dear, he needed the cab more than we did; he was late for his martial arts class. He's the teacher!" Today’s gospel tells us that Jesus had no such fear in confronting the animal merchants, the money-changers and the Temple police in the Temple of Jerusalem in his cleansing the Temple operation with prophetic courage. (The Pastor's Story File (Saratoga Press, P.O. Box 8, Platteville, CO, 80651; 970-785-2990), January 1996). 

10) Herman Kahn and nuclear war:
 Herman Kahn, who founded the Hudson Institute, a private center for research on national security and public policy, had been working on a paper on nuclear warfare, which he was to deliver at the Pentagon on July 8, 1983, when he died very suddenly on July 7. For 23 years he had been repeating the same theme: that nuclear war was not only a possibility but a probability, insisting that a nuclear war would not mean the annihilation of civilization. He believed in "degrees of awfulness," and prescribed arms control, negotiated disarmament, and a strong military deterrent to nuclear war. Kahn’s critics insisted that he minimized the dangers of nuclear war and played into the hands of the militarists calling for more powerful weapons systems. Some claimed that his thinking, writing, and speeches merely supported the system when he ought to have been challenging it. Jesus could never be accused of such a sell-out in the scheme of things prevailing in the Temple. He shook the building - and the system - right down to the very foundations of both. Why wouldn’t the priests and the other leaders be upset with him and begin to consider how they might get rid of this Jesus? 

11) The Temple Jesus cleansed:
It had a series of ascending courtyards. Your first entry was into the outer courtyard ... the place that was called the Court of the Gentiles. You could be admitted there ... because anybody could be admitted there. But if you were a Gentile ... which virtually all of you are ... you could not go beyond there. For it was "death" for a Gentile to penetrate further. Next came the Court of the Women, entered by the arch that they called the Beautiful Gate. Any Israelite could go there. This was followed by the Court of the Israelites, entered by Nicanor's Gate (a gate of Corinthian bronze which required 20 men to open and shut). It was in this court that the people assembled for Temple services. Lastly, came the Court of the Priests, into which only the priests might enter. There could be found the great altar of the burnt-offering ... the lesser altar of the incense-offering ... the seven-branched lamp stand ... and the table of the shew bread. It was at the back of the Court of the Priests that the Holy of Holies stood, accessible only to the High Priest, and only once a year. To enter the Holy of Holies was to approach the very throne of God. Which is why legend has it that more than one High Priest attached a rope to his ankle before passing through the veil, thus ensuring that (should he be struck dead by the power of God while praying), his colleagues would be able to pull him out without endangering themselves. So when Jesus went into the Temple for purposes of "cleansing," where did he go? Not to the Holy of Holies. Not to the Court of the Priests. Not to the Court of the Israelites. Not even to the Court of the Women. Jesus went into the outer court ... the Court of the Gentiles.  

12) Jesus and the IRS:
The voice on the other end of the line identified its owner as a representative of the Internal Revenue Service. The caller asked, "Did John Jones give $10,000 to your church last year?" The pastor thought for a moment, and then carefully replied, "He will!" If there is anything that strikes terror into the hardiest of hearts it is the dread acronym: IRS. "The Infernal Revenue Service." Er, I mean, the Internal Revenue Service. Someone has said, "You may not agree with every department in the government, but you really have to hand it to the IRS." Another cynic has said, "Death and taxes may always be with us, but at least death doesn't get any worse." Arthur Godfrey once said, "I feel honored to pay taxes in America. The thing is, I could probably feel just as honored for about half the price." Benjamin Franklin said that "in this world nothing is certain but death and taxes." The one we will have to confront but once; the other, like gospel on Jesus’ cleansing the Temple of Jerusalem, comes around once a year, frightening us about what would happen if he had to come to our hearts with a whip in his hands.  

13) Devouring monstrous “zeal” in the church:
There is a funny story about the childhood days of the former American president Theodore Roosevelt. Little Teddy Roosevelt had a problem. When he was a child his mother, Mitty, found that he was so afraid of the Madison Square Church that he refused to set foot inside it alone. He was terrified, as she discovered, of something called "The Zeal." It crouched in dark corners ready to pounce upon him. And when she asked him what zeal might be, he said that he couldn't exactly describe it, but he thought it might be something like an alligator or a dragon, and he had heard the pastor read about it from the Bible one day. So using a concordance, Mitty read him those passages containing the word zeal until suddenly he stopped her and, very excited, said "That’s it!" The line was from the Book of John, Chapter 2, verse 17, and it was the King James version- "And his disciples remembered that it was written the zeal of thine house hath eaten me up."

14) Commercials in the church:
A little girl was taken to the church for the first time. As she was leaving with her parents, the pastor asked how she had liked the Mass. “I liked the music,” she replied, “but the commercial was too long.” (Liguorian, March, 2006). 

15) “I don’t smoke during Lent.”
The story is told of a priest who was coming back to his parish house one evening in the dark only to be accosted by a robber who pulled a gun at him and demanded, “Your money or your life!” As the priest reached his hand into his coat pocket the robber saw his Roman collar and said, “So you are a priest? Then you can go.” The priest was rather surprised at this unexpected show of piety and so tried to reciprocate by offering the robber his packet of cigarettes, to which the robber replied, “No, Father, I don’t smoke during Lent.”
Fr. Jude Botelho:

Dear Friend,

Whenever people are commanded to do something, even if they want to do it, they revolt. When parents say to their child: “Do what I tell you!” the reaction often is, “I will not!” When youth are forced to observe rules and regulations of their college, often they rebel and do just the opposite, just for the heck of it! When laws are enforced in society, there will always be some who challenge the law and there is a breakdown of law and order. We want to do our thing! But God has given us commandments for our own good. Do we care to observe them, living according to them or do we deliberately go against them?

Let’s spend this weekend pondering on God’s law as a means of loving Him!


The first reading from Genesis speaks of the Ten Commandments and spells out the implications of these commandments. God did not give the commandments for his benefit but for the sake of the people. When the people observed the commandments they were the gainers, when they disobeyed they themselves were the losers. Someone has called the Ten Commandments ten guidelines to happiness; unfortunately some have interpreted the commandments as restrictions to man’s freedom. The first commandment forbids the worship of false gods, yet all of us at some time or another have created gods to suit us and often these false gods hold sway over our lives. Keeping the law for the sake of the law results in bondage, while observing the law out of love for God and respect for neighbour results in true freedom.

The Ten Commandments Indicator
On 3rd February 1959 10,000 meters above the Atlantic, Captain Lynch took a last look at the flight panel of the Boeing 707. The co-pilot was studying a map. Captain Lynch decided to stretch his legs, thinking that the worst was over. Shortly after leaving Paris they had run into a 120 kph headwind. But by now they had climbed above the storm. The captain made his way down the aisle. Just then the Captain felt the right wing tip and he was thrown against the seats on the right hand side. At the same moment all the lights in the plane went out. Next he found himself lying on the floor. But then he realised it was the ceiling he was on. The Boeing was on its back. He began to make his way back to the cockpit. He decided to try to hold the plane at 2,000 meters. The co-pilot had been knocked unconscious. He came to again and he and the captain managed to bring the Boeing to the horizontal. A few more seconds and the plane would have crashed. The whole incident lasted four minutes. What caused it? While the co-pilot was studying the map he did not notice the blue light on the indicator panel warning that the automatic pilot had stopped working. God has given us an indicator panel to guide us through life. That indicator panel is the Commandments. The Commandments are a gift from God to help us enjoy life by not getting lost along the way.
Author Unknown

The first part of today’s Gospel centres around the temple practices which had gradually become oppressive and corrupt. The motive for these practices should have been service of God and neighbour but instead the motive was profit. All the procedures were legal but were against the spirit of the law and done in the name of religion. That is why when Jesus entered the temple he was upset and angry because God’s house was being desecrated. Jesus’ action was amazing and unprecedented considering that the temple had pride of place and by his action Jesus was taking on the whole religious institution and challenging their power and authority. Whereas the first part centres on the temple the second part focuses on Jesus himself as God’s temple. He was referring to his bodily resurrection, but neither the temple authorities nor his own disciples understand the deeper implications. The last part of the gospel of today speaks of Jesus’ interaction with the people. Many of them were impressed by his challenging action in the temple. They did not understand his action but they somehow believed that God was with Jesus, but they failed to understand that God was within Jesus, that Jesus himself was God and that true worship was worship within one’s heart. The heart of all worship would be loving obedience to God and his commandments and therefore the true temple where one worshiped God was within one’s heart.

Righteous Anger
A man lived on the outskirts of a village. About thirty feet from his house, a large lime tree grew. The tree was something of a village landmark. However, it was getting old. It was clearly only a matter of time before it came crashing down. Every time there was a storm, the man feared for his house and his life. One day, unable to bear the strain any longer, he cut the tree down. He felt sure that the villagers would understand. But he was wrong. ‘Shame on you for cutting down such a splendid tree,’ said one. ‘You’ve deprived the village of part of its heritage,’ said another.  It’s amazing how worked up people get when their own interests are threatened, however marginally. But how few get worked up when it’s their neighbour’s interests that are threatened. Jesus didn’t get angry on his own account. His anger resulted from his love of God and of his neighbour. His action in the temple has been seen as a protest against the commercialization of religion and the desecration of the temple. But it went deeper than that.
Flor McCarthy in ‘New Sunday and Holy day Liturgies’

Living the Law
Several years ago, a preacher from out-of-state accepted a call to a church in Boston, Texas. Some weeks after he arrived, he had occasion to ride the bus from his house to the downtown area. When he sat down, he discovered that the bus driver had mistakenly given him a quarter too much in change. As he considered what to do, he thought to himself, “You’d better give the quarter back. It would be wrong to keep it.” Then he thought, “Oh, forget it, it’s only a quarter. Who would worry about this little amount? Anyway the bus company gets too much fare; they will never miss it. Accept it as a ‘gift from God’ and keep quiet.” When his stop came, he paused momentarily at the door, and then handed the quarter to the driver and said, “Here, you gave me too much change.” The driver with a smile, replied, “Aren’t you the new preacher in town?” “Yes,” he replied. “Well I have been thinking a lot lately about going somewhere to worship. I just wanted to see what you would do if I gave you too much change. I’ll see you at Church next Sunday.” When the preacher stepped off the bus, he literally grabbed the nearest light pole, held on and said, “Oh God I almost sold your Son for a quarter.” Our lives are the only Bible some people will ever read! As someone has said, “We need Christians to make Christians.”
J. Valladares in ‘Your Words are Spirit and they are Life’

Cleansing the Temple
Billy Martin tells the story of himself and Mickey Mantle in his autobiography, Number 1. Billy says he and Mickey were doing a little hunting down in Texas. Mickey had a friend who would let him hunt on his ranch. When they got there, Mickey told Billy to wait in the car while he went in and cleared things with his friend. Permission was quickly granted for them to hunt, but the owner asked Mickey to do him a favour. He had a pet mule in the barn who was going blind and he didn’t have the heart to put him out of his misery. He asked Mickey to shoot the mule for him. Mickey agreed. On the way back to the car a plan formed in Mickey’s mind. Reaching the car, he pretended to be angry. He scowled and slammed the door shut. Billy wanted to know what was wrong. Mickey replied that the owner wouldn’t let them hunt there after all. “I’m so mad at that guy that I’m going out to the barn to shoot one of his mules,” Mantle said. He drove like a madman to the barn. Martin protested: “We can’t do that!” But Mickey was adamant. “Just watch me,” he shouted. When they got to the barn, Mantle jumped out of the car with his rifle, ran into the barn and shot the mule and killed it. When he got back to the car he saw that Martin had also taken his gun and smoke was curling from his barrel too. “What are you doing Martin?” Mantle yelled. Martin answered, “We’ll show that son-of-a gun. I killed two of his cows.” Are we ever concerned about whether or not our anger is based on God’s will?
Gerard Fuller in ‘Stories for All Seasons’

Worthwhile Objectives
In a little country community, a farmer had a dog who spent part of his time sitting by the side of a large highway waiting for big red trucks. Whenever the dog saw a truck come round the corner, he would get ready, and as it passed him, he would take off after it down the road. One day the farmer’s neighbour said, “Sam do you think that hound of yours is ever going to catch a truck?” “Well Bill” Sam replied, “that isn’t what worries me. What does worry me is, what he would do if he caught one!” Many of us run wildly after things we could not use if we caught them. We are passionate about the wrong things in life.
Frank Mihalic in ‘Tonic for the Heart’

Knowing the Law
One of President Reagan’s favourite stories involves a farmer and a lawyer whose cars collided. The farmer took a look at the lawyer, then reached in the back of his car and took out a bottle of whiskey. “Here, you look pretty shook up,” “Take a nip of this; it’ll steady your nerves.” After taking five or six gulps, the lawyer suggested the farmer have a drink himself. “Not me,” declared the farmer. “I’m waiting for the traffic police.”
Christopher Notes

May our zeal be for doing the Father’s will in all things, no matter what the cost!

The portrait of our Lord Jesus Christ in the Holy Gospel appointed for this day has proven to be something of a conundrum for interpreters through the years. What we see is the Lord Jesus in a violent rage driving animals and people out of the Temple. Years ago Bruce Barton, in a very popular book, The Man Nobody Knows, used the story to demonstrate how virile the Lord Jesus was. He surmised that the Lord Jesus was capable of Herculean strength and prowess because of his outdoorsy lifestyle and vigorous walking missionary tours. However, others have been concerned that this public demonstration which had all the earmarks of a near riot was most unbecoming of the normal life style of Jesus. Also, if this were a pique of temper, could not someone accuse Jesus of being guilty of a sin which all of us dislike very much?

Then, of course, there is the additional problem of finding this story in the beginning of the Fourth Gospel, whereas the other evangelists place it in Holy Week at the beginning of his passion. Could it be true that Jesus cleansed the Temple twice? Is John right and the others wrong? Or is it the other way around? Or could there be another reason why John places the story where he does? There is good reason to think that it is the latter. The story of Jesus cleansing the Temple helps us to understand several very important aspects of the church and its worship.

1. The Context and the Importance of the Temple
2. The Shock of Challenging an Old System
3. The Body of the Church and the Sacramental Body
4. Our Worship in the Spirit of the Lord 

 Lent is a solemn season in the Church calendar. Supposedly, it's not meant to be fun, but rueful. It is a penitential time when devout Christians have typically "given up" some earthly pleasures - meats, sweets, parties, television, movies - to focus instead on spiritual growth - Lenten Bible studies, prayer groups, singular meditation-time.  In the words of Lord Williams of Oystermouth, from a 2012 sermon in Rome at St. Paul's Within the Walls, "Every Lent, we ought to be looking at the various ways in which we get involved in manufacturing the gods that suit us. Every Lent is a time to get that little bit further beyond the idolatry that constantly keeps us prisoner and draws us back to the old world. When Jesus has cleared out the temple, when he has thrown out those people involved in manufacturing religion, there he stands with his friends in a great silence and a great space." 

But this week's epistle text from Corinthians finds us reading about a topsy-turvy world, a ditzy divine scenario, which suggests the Lenten season is the time when Christians should be preparing themselves not to go all centered and solemn, but to go flat out "crazy."  

Paul's declaration in 1 Corinthians 1:18-25 is not about rising to be super spiritual, but about daring to be super strange.  Lent is the season in the church when we actively "celebrate" Jesus' doomed entry into Jerusalem and anticipate his criminal conviction and his cruel crucifixion upon the cross.

Talk about weird holidays...________________________
A Good Cleaning

When Jesus entered the temple that day he found a faith that was stale, downright dirty. People were taking advantage of others and ritual had become more important than the condition of the heart. What Jesus did, I believe, was challenge a smug, hypocritical religious system that desperately needed to change. Therefore, a little demolition was necessary, not to mention an all out assault to clean house.

The faith community at that time was so wrapped up in rules and ritual the fresh revelation of God could not get through. It was impossible for them to "see" because they were blinded by obstacles that hindered their ability.

In this story we get an image of Jesus as a one-man wrecking crew, swinging a sledgehammer. There is no way to make improvements in an old house without making a mess. There is plaster dust, dirt, nails and smelly carpet. It is hard work. It is impossible to paint without getting paint on yourself. I am sure that Jesus absorbed a few skinned knuckles that day, not to mention getting his garment dirty.

The faith community needed a good housecleaning and Jesus took it upon himself to do just that with zeal and determination.

Keith Wagner, Spring Housecleaning our Faith
Daylight Savings Time - Don't forget this weekend we Spring Forward one hour!

This is also a great time to remind your community to check their smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors.  Have your youth group or young adult class reach out to help older members check theirs. 
A Passover Crowd's Needs

It's estimated that the population of Jerusalem would swell from 50,000 to 180,000 at Passover. Pilgrims would come from as far away as Persia, Syria, Egypt, Greece and Rome. For comparison, think about College Station on the Saturday afternoon of an A&M football game, then double that number and hold on to the crowd for a week, instead of a day. That's a lot of hungry mouths to feed; a lot of weary travelers to put up for the night. Plus, they're coming to the temple to make a sacrifice. They're going to need an unblemished animal for that. They're also going to pay their temple tax. Somebody's going to have to help them exchange their currency. Get the picture? The commercial implications of Passover were enormous, perhaps comparable to the Christmas season in the United States today. 

So, I think it's safe to say the merchants were making a killing off the week of Passover, but were they really doing anything wrong? You could say that, by exchanging money and selling birds and animals for sacrifice, they were providing a service. Now, it's true, in the synoptic gospels; i.e., Matthew, Mark and Luke, Jesus accuses the merchants of cheating the people. He says, "My house shall be called a house of prayer, but you are making it a den of robbers." (Mt. 21:13) 

Perhaps there was some price gouging going on, but this is not the focus of Jesus' anger, according to John. As far as John is concerned, Jesus is upset because all this buying and selling has intruded upon the sacred space for worship. In John's gospel, Jesus says, "Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father's house a marketplace (a house of commerce)." (John 2:16) 

Philip W. McLarty, Spring Cleaning
Destroy the Temple

"Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up again." Given that Jesus was standing smack in the middle of a literal, brick-and-mortar temple at the time he said this, it seemed merely obvious that Jesus meant the physical building. And so everyone who heard him responded the same way, "It has taken us forty-six years just to get this far, and even so the construction project isn't finished yet! Now you tell us you could do the whole thing from scratch in under a week!? Right!" According to John, Jesus does not reply to this, and even the disciples didn't understand it until years later after Jesus rose again from the dead. 

But although he doesn't say it directly, maybe Jesus wanted them to have the wrong idea as a subtle, yet poignant, way to demonstrate that just generally they had the wrong idea. They had the wrong focus. They were obsessed with brick and mortar. Their mention of how long it had taken them to build the temple was a sign that they had lost their way. They no longer had the radical faith of Psalm 69. The psalmist endured insult and injury because of his outrageous belief that the living God actually dwelled in the temple. But some of the Jews in Jesus' day had forgotten. They saw it as their own accomplishment in which they could do whatever they wanted because it was, after all, their place. (I wish that did not sound so familiar).

Scott Hoezee, commentary on John 2:13-22
No Celebration without Confession

Another set of "money-changers" in the church seem to have lost their reason for forgiveness. Catholic priests have expressed concern over the sharp decline in the number of people desiring to take confession. We hear a lot of talk about the word celebration in our church today. There can be no celebration until there is first confession. In the parable of the prodigal son, the banquet does not occur until the boy had first come to himself. 

A Sunday School class in a church once made an unusual request one day. They requested that the prayer of confession be taken out of the order of worship. They gave the following reasons:

1. Confessions imply that we are bad people.
2. Our children will get a negative image of themselves.
3. Guilt is damaging; we need to think positively.
4. Worship should always be uplifting and make us feel good.

This sounds like the philosophy advocated by that book some years ago "I'm OK you're OK." Tell me then. If I'm OK and you're OK then what are we doing here? The refusal to acknowledge that we are sinful people is damaging the church today, and it is damage that is coming from within, not from without. We have bought in to the modern culture that we should have a positive self-image through positive thinking. Friends, sin is real, and it is too destructive to ignore. The cross reminds us just how serious our sin is. The failure to express our sin before God and one another devalues God's redemptive grace. It is not positive thinking that will remove our guilt; it is God's redemptive action. 

Brett Blair,
 Looking For a Loop Hole
W. C. Fields once claimed he had studied the Bible for years, in his words, "Looking for a loophole." He never did say if he found one. I wonder, though, if he came across chapter 12 of the New Testament letter to the Hebrews, verses 5 and 6 - verses of pure grace: My child, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, or lose heart when you are punished by him; For the Lord disciplines those whom he loves, And chastises every child whom he accepts. 

Peter Buehler, Cleansing
Why the Whip?

What would Jesus find in our churches? Although he probably wouldn't find cattle or sheep, would he find the same attitude -- religious rituals being just a business? Is the church building simply a place where people and God take care of business? Can worship become centered on the things we do, rather than the God who is present giving to us and forgiving us in Word and Sacrament? How can we change faulty worship attitudes? 

Can "church as business" be a problem for the "professionals" in the church? Can leading worship for the clergy become simply a job for which we are paid? Does the laity sometimes think that they are "paying" the minister to do the worship for them -- thinking, "We pay them to do this for us"? 

Do we think of God more as a vending machine -- put in our sacrifices or offerings or good deeds and out comes blessings? Do we misuse our (supposed) obedience to the Ten Commandments as bargaining chips with God? 

Why the whip (only mentioned in John) and the harsh actions? Wouldn't it have been more diplomatic and have caused fewer problems to sit down with the church leaders and discuss the problem? When are swift, harsh actions needed rather than diplomacy? When should a pastor just do what he believes is right, or go through the council or other governing board? 

Brian Stoffregen, Questions
 Leaders Have To Make Tough Decisions 

Not long ago a friend told me one of his co-workers had been promoted above him. "You wouldn't believe this guy," he said. "Power has gone to his head and he's becoming impossible." "How's that?"  I asked. "Well," my friend said, "when I'm late--even if it's only 10 minutes--he says something about it. And he's always on my back about meeting projections. He used to be great to work with, but now no one wants to be around him." 

Unfortunately, my friend's attitude reflects the attitude of many people. They don't understand that sometimes leaders have to make tough decisions. Sometimes leaders have to say things they don't like having to say. A leader can't be "one of the guys". Where others might be willing the let things slide, a leader has to deal with the problem. 

In fact, this is the most difficult aspect of being a leader: You no longer have the luxury of turning your head and looking the other direction when a problem comes up. Leaders have to take responsibility for making things right, even when the task is unpleasant. Sometimes this calls for taking stock of a situation and cleaning house. This applies to all leaders--pastors, parents, bosses, coaches, managers, or any other person in a leadership role. 

There was a time in Jesus' ministry when he found himself in the midst of a bad situation in desperate need of an overhaul. He couldn't--and certainly wouldn't--look in the other direction. Instead, Jesus did something that no one would have expected him to do. The saying "Desperate times call for desperate measures" might apply to this story today. 

Steve May, Confrontational Leadership
You Took My Place

There is a story about a man who visited a church. He parked his car and started toward the front entrance. Another car pulled up nearby, and the irritated driver said to him, "I always park there. You took my place!" The visitor went inside and found that Sunday School was about to begin. He found an adult class, went inside, and sat down. A class member approached him and said, "That's my seat! You took my place!" The visitor was somewhat distressed by this rude welcome, but said nothing. After Sunday School, the visitor went into the sanctuary and sat down in an empty pew. Within moments another member walked up to him and said, "That's where I always sit. You took my place!" The visitor was troubled, but said nothing.  

Later, as the congregation was praying for Christ to be present with them, the visitor stood, and his appearance began to change. Scars became visible on his hands and on his sandaled feet. Someone from the congregation noticed him and cried out, "What happened to you?" The visitor replied, "I took your place." 

Some things that happen in church are silly. Some things are downright scandalous. Some things may even be sacrilegious. But the Church is still the body of Christ and it was for the Church that Christ died. 

B. Richard Dennis, Over My Dead Body!

To know and to serve God, of course, is why we're here, a clear truth, that, like the nose on your face, is near at hand and easily discernible but can make you dizzy if you try to focus on it hard. But a little faith will see you through. What else will do except faith in such a cynical, corrupt time? When the country goes temporarily to the dogs, cats must learn to be circumspect, walk on fences, sleep in trees, and have faith that all this woofing is not the last word. 

What is the last word, then? 

Gentleness is everywhere in daily life, a sign that faith rules through ordinary things: through cooking and small talk, through storytelling, making love, fishing, tending animals and sweet corn and flowers, through sports, music and books, raising kids - all the places where the gravy soaks in and grace shines through. 

Garrison Keillor, We Are Still Married, New York: Viking, 1989. From the essay: The Meaning of Life.
Give Me Back My Bite

The story of Jesus cleansing the temple with a whip reminds me of the old eastern story about a snake that lived on a path on the way to a famous temple in India. Many people would walk along the path to worship, and the snake would often bite people with his poisonous bite. One time a swami was on his way to the temple and the snake jumped out to bite him, but before the snake could bite him the swami put the snake into a trance and ordered him to stop biting people. "It is not right to bite people with your poisonous bite," the swami told him. "From now on, you shall not bite anyone." A few months later the swami was passing that way again, and he notice the snake lying in the grass beside the path. The snake was all cut and bruised and was in an awful state. "Whatever has happened to you, my friend?" the swami asked...