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Fourth Sunday of Easter: I am the Gate of the Sheepfold

John 10:1-10

Jesus said, “Very truly, I tell you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate but climbs in by another way is a thief and a bandit. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of strangers.”

Jesus used this figure of speech with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.“Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” (John 10:1-10)

“I am the Gate… I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”

In our Gospel Jesus says, “I am the Gate of the Sheepfold,” but what does he mean by that? The answer is in the very next verse, not included in our lectionary text. “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” That’s the verse we know and are most familiar with. So how is Jesus the Gate and the Shepherd?

During the time of Jesus, the Shepherd would end the day, by bringing the sheep into the sheepfold, which was a fenced area to gather the sheep for rest. After all the sheep were in, the Shepherd would lay himself down between two posts, essentially creating a gate that protected the sheep. The sheep could not leave the enclosure without disturbing or waking the Shepherd and a thief could not capture the sheep without trying to go around the gate. Therefore the Shepherd literally, lays his life down for the sheep. “I am the Gate,” Jesus says, “whoever enters by me will be saved.”

Yes, this is a foreshadowing of Jesus laying his life down for all humanity. It is an act of selfless love for the other. The same love we hear of God in John, “For God so loved the world He gave His only son.” We also hear in John other “I am” statements in regard to Jesus, “I am the way, the truth, and the life, I am the bread of Life, I am the resurrection and life. So how does “I am the Gate” translate into eternal life?

On January 13, 1982, Air Florida Flight 90 took off from Washington National Airport and moments later crashed into a bridge and landed in the Potomac River. 74 passengers including the pilot and crew perished. 6 people survived the initial crash and floated down the icy river until they came to a point where they were stuck in the mud. Twenty minutes later a helicopter came to the rescue and threw down a rope and a ring. The first time it came down, a man grabbed it, went up, and flew off to safety. The second time it came down, the ring landed in the arms of Arland Williams, but instead of riding up to safety, he passed the ring to the women beside him. The crew returned, Arland got the ring again, and once again passed it on. The fourth time was no different, Arland received the ring and passed it again, ensuring the safety of everyone around him. When the crew returned for a final time, his lungs had filled water and he died in the icy river. Arland like a good shepherd laid his life down for the sheep with an act of selfless love and compassion for the other.

Dr, Liviu Librescu was a professor at Virginia Tech. When he heard the gunfire of a deranged teenager, he realized that the only thing between the teen and his students was the door. At 76 years old, he threw his body against the door and held it shut. He was shot five times and died, but because of his actions because of his selfless love and compassion for the other, all but one student in the classroom made it out alive.

These selfless acts of Love gave life not only to those whom they saved but to everyone who hears their stories.

I am the Gate of the Sheepfold…I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

This week we heard a missive from our presiding Bishop, “What would Love do?” He spoke of God’s rubric of Love… to love one another, to feed, tend, and feed my sheep. So how does “I am the Gate” translate into eternal life?

Jesus’ sacrificial love for all humanity and the world gives life not only to those whom he saved but to the masses that hear and rise to the occasion meeting Jesus at the gate. This is the place where we leave our old lives of selfishness and self concerns and transition into a world of loving our neighbor, having compassion, thinking of the other, and sacrificing our worldly lives for our spiritual ones. This is the gateway to eternal life, to love one another as God has loved you.

So as our presiding Bishop has asked, in all you do, in every decision you make, in every place you walk, “What would unselfish sacrificial love do?”

I mentioned a couple of heroes this week from the past, who exemplify this Sacrificial Love, but we see the heroes every day, around us; from our healthcare providers to our postal workers, grocers, and more. Let us always remember to thank and exemplify those who give of themselves, all of themselves for the other. Let us remember all who have laid down their lives in Love for one another as we walk together through this time, and may we always demonstrate in our own lives this life-giving, unselfish, sacrificial love for one another. This is the gate, the true and holy work of the Shepherd.

May God Bless you and keep you always safe in the arms of our Good Shepherd, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Blessings, Mo. Allison+

Prayers, Uncategorized, Video

Sunday of the Passion, Palm Sunday, April 5, 2020, Caterpillars and Butterflies, Hosanna in the Highest

Passion Sunday April 5, 2020

Some years ago I worked for Grace Presbyterian Church, we had a preschool, Sand Hills Preschool, that was connected to the congregation. One year for science and nature the school adopted Caterpillars. This was a cool science project, rather boring, but cool. We ordered caterpillars from an educational science company, received care instructions and basically, watched, and watched, and watched, and waited.

In the last days of the caterpillar’s growth, which was the most exciting, you can see the rustle inside the cacoon as the caterpillar was growing and forming, trying to make its way out. Now when we see a living being struggle, our instinct is to want to help, want to ease its struggle, want to take away its pain, but here when the caterpillar struggles the most important thing we could do is sit still, wait and witness. If we are to touch the caterpillar too soon and try to bust it out of it cacoon, it wouldn’t be fully developed. Perhaps it would lack its wings, or even die, but if we carefully witness and observe the caterpillars struggle, a miraculous transformation takes place, the caterpillar is born again into a new life as a butterfly.

This process of waiting fills us with mixed emotion, both sorrow for the struggling caterpillar and joy for the celebration of new life in the butterfly. Imagine for a moment the first human to witness the transformation of a caterpillar into a glorious butterfly with its colorful wings. I wonder what their spirit said to their souls… sit, wait, witness.

Our Gospel tells us the story of Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem. Jesus’ three years of ministry coming to the focal point of our faith. This is the moment we’ve been waiting for. This is the week we’ve prepared for. This is the center of our Salvation history.

I can remember when the box with the caterpillars arrived and all the young eyes looking inside the box with excitement, anticipation, and hope as their teacher gently guided them.

“Hosanna to the Son of David!”

The people of Bethpage and the disciples were excited to see the Son of David, who was here to save them. Hosanna, Hosanna in the highest heaven! The very definition of Hosanna is to save or rescue. They march into Jerusalem proclaiming Jesus of Nazareth is here to save us.

Now this left the people of Jerusalem in turmoil, some not knowing who Jesus was, but had heard of the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee. What were they to believe?

This begins the struggle.

A caterpillar stays in their cacoon for anywhere between five to twenty-one days. You can imagine the great disappointment in our children when their expectations of the birthing of a glorious butterfly didn’t meet their imaginations.

Christ, humbles himself as a servant slave. He doesn’t very much look like a king who will save his people. He is betrayed by Judas and suffers great pain. He is persecuted and condemned to die. Imagine the disappointment, the sorrow felt by many. Imagine the pain of his mother and the disciples who believed in him, had faith in him, trusted him and walked with him.

We walk into Holy Week much like children, excited for its arrival. As Christians this is what we prepare for, the highlight of our liturgical year. As a priest there is no greater anticipation than to walk alongside a congregation through this unfolding story, to experience and learn through the rustling of our own cocoons as we journey with Jesus on his way to Calvary.

While we experience mixed feelings of joy and sorrow into every Holy Week as we affirm our faith and trust in Christ Jesus, it appears we do so, even more, this day. As our world has changed and the comfort of being in the presence of community has altered our experience of Holy week, it is never more important for us to be present in Holy Week. Waiting, witnessing, and utilizing this journey, during this time of lockdown to deepen our faith and trust in our Saviour Christ. This week, the holiest of holies is calling us to be enlightened by the Passion and Resurrection, calling us to be empowered by the Gospel and march forward carrying the knowledge and understanding of God’s deep abiding love for us with all our faults and frailties. We must be present to the call to journey forward holding with us the gift of compassion and forgiveness, for beloveds, each of our struggle in the birthing of our ressurected life will be different. By taking on the way of Christ, journeying with him aspire to be in His likeness and humbling ourselves to His service becoming vessels of His love and mercy. Jesus poured out His love for us by suffering death on the cross. He died for the good of all people from each end of the earth to the next.

Hosanna, save us, Hosanna, save us now!

No, Jesus didn’t appear as one would imagine a king. He appeared as a healer, a lover, a voice for the people, a sacrificial lamb. He humbled himself, and all this time later, still, we remember, we reflect, and we recall the hope, the light, and the life that transformed the world.

We may each struggle to birth forth from our cocoons, especially as we grieve what communal life once was, but remember beloveds, we are an Easter People, full of hope, eyes set on the light of the world given to all nations. The Risen Lord is before us.

Remember, reflect, be still, abide in your faith, journey along, and trust in the almighty healer of the world, our Saviour Christ Jesus.

May God’s good blessing, be upon you.

In Christ,
Mo. Allison+
Prayers, Thoughts, Uncategorized, Video

Lent V: For the Glory of God

Ezekiel 37:1-14
Romans 8:6-11
John 11:1-45
Psalm 130

It is my instinct to get up and go when someone calls. It is my instinct to be by the side of the sick, the suffering, or those in need. When I was in school in NYC, I’d stop and pray with those living on the street, never afraid to hold hands or bless a forehead or even give a hug. It is my instinct to be present, to love, to break bread with a stranger. I naturally presumed that is what I was called to do, but the truth is not in and of itself the action but in the revelation of the glory of God that comes from the action.

Today I’m called to obey, to listen, and wait.

Waiting is hard. I want to fix everything. I want to ease the pain, to be by my loved ones who are secluded, alone or even hospitalized, yet I’m called to be still, to pray, to love from afar, to wait for the Glory of God to be revealed.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus is called. He is called by Mary and Martha to be by the side of his ailing friend, but does he drop everything and run? No, for he is also called by God. He continues his ministry from where he is and waits two days, loving from afar. Some may say, but how O’Lord can you do this? Why are you allowing the suffering of the ones you love? Many of us may be asking that question now?

Out of the depths have I called to you, O Lord;
Lord, hear my voice”

The answer is both simple and complex.

If Jesus jumps and goes to Lazarus too soon how then how would the Glory of God be revealed for all to see? Jesus must wait, still, and set his sight on God, having faith and abiding in His steadfast love.

So too must we… Abide, have faith and obey.

On Wednesday Christians all around the world stopped what they were doing at noon and called upon the Lord through prayer. All eyes on our Sovereign God.

On Friday Pope Francis held the special Urbi et Orbi from the steps of St. Peter’s Basilica. As the rain fell steadily, the Pope offered his prayers, his blessing and sat in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. My heart stopped for a moment as I watched him stand and receive the Monstrance. I could feel both the almighty power of God and the deep sadness of the world. With his feeble body and all his might the Pope turned to the Square and the world; he lifted the monstrance holding the Body of Christ high making the sign of the cross from the east to the west. As he then returned the Blessed Sacrament to the priest, I can feel the gasp of my Breath. “Oh Lord out of the depths, I cry to you.” With the rain falling on a dark and empty St. Peter’s square, I cried.

And I remembered, Jesus wept too!

Jesus, returned to the village where Mary and Martha were with Lazarus, and although he knew the Glory of God was about to be revealed, he recognized their suffering, and he wept. There is no greater two words in our Gospel, “Jesus wept.” He shared in their suffering, he shared in their love, he shared in their grief, and he shares in ours as well.

Jesus shares in our grief, in our suffering and in our world. Stillness does not mean nothing is happening or that God is ignoring our calls but rather that God’s Glory is about to be revealed in ways we never could have imagined. Just as we could never imagine that a man dead for four days could rise and live.

“Lazarus, come out!”

Just when you imagine all hope to be gone, all life to be dead, hope rises and a new life begins, to and for the Glory of God!

“I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe in me?”

I will never take another hug, another handshake, or kiss for granted. When the oil of my hand touches another, their imprint, their bond, will live on.

Yes, Lord, I believe! I believe the Glory of God is at hand. I believe that Easter is coming and you, O’Lord will rise and conquer the hearts and lives of all your people.

Yes, Lord, I believe, I believe you are the light and life and with you, in you through you, life is eternal.

May the Blessing and love of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit be revealed in his Glory and abide in you always.

In Christ, 
Mo. Allison+
Prayers, Thoughts, Uncategorized

Lent IV: Spiritual Transformation, Emotion vs. Direction

A couple of weeks back, John introduced us to Nicodemus. Throughout the entirety of the Gospel, we see Nicodemus in the background slowly undergoing a spiritual transformation as he moves from identifying Jesus as a man to the prophet to God, Christ the Messiah, a slow steady witnessing that requires him to let go of everything he knew and trusted to become a believer.

Our lectionary today brings us to the same awareness.

Samuel grieving over Saul was hurt and rejected yet takes God’s charge, heads to Jesse to seek out a king. He sees Eliab and by his stature, he is reminded of Saul. “Surely this must be the Lord’s anointed,” but the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him.

Why do we seek to hold on to things that God has rejected?

Samuel cast judgment based on emotion. Feelings that held him back and tied him to the past, not to God’s direction. How often do we do this in our own lives, hold onto people, places or things that we know are toxic, bad for us, or simply stunts our spiritual growth keeping us stuck?

How often do we allow our fears, our hurts, our sorrows or insecurities to speak over the truth and the direction of God?

You see, seven more brothers pass him by. The Lord chose none of them. No instead he chose David, the smallest of them. David the sinner. David the one out in the field. Surely he appeared nothing like Saul, but God sees what Samuel couldn’t.

Jesus sees a blind man, outside the synagogue, and on the Sabbath, he makes mud, rubs it on his eyes. Jesus then sends him to wash, and as the water cleanses the mud, he sees. Then almost immediately the man must account for Jesus.

In the first paragraph, he says, “The man called Jesus made mud and spread it on my eyes.” Recognizing Jesus as a man. In the second paragraph, he answers the Pharisees, “He is a prophet,” and then in the last paragraph, he says, “Lord, I believe,” recognizing Jesus as the Messiah. The transformation of the man was more than the physical, it was a spiritual transformation.

Now the people wanted to see Jesus as a sinner, after all, he made mud on the Sabbath and that would be a no, no. It’s always easier to lay blame on someone or something when our belief or way of life is challenged or suddenly changed. It can almost feel threatening to our own comfort and security to be thrust into a new way of life or perspective.

Emotion and fear of letting go and allowing God to direct our lives can be overwhelming. After all that’s why they sent the healed man away and why his parent’s feared to answer the people in the synagogue. Spiritual growth and Change can happen over the course of time, slowly like Nicodemus. It can happen systematically like Samuel or it can happen quickly causing a stir like the blind man.

From man, to prophet, to God… I believe.

We have been thrust into a new way of living. The Corona Virus has impeded and changed just about everything. How we engage as people, how we live our daily lives, how we dine, how we worship, perhaps even how we pray. In this new era, we have a choice, to hold on to what and how we lived, mourning like Samuel or embrace a spiritual transformation through the desert, opening our selves to a new life and perspective. No, growth is not always easy, it’s bumpy and sometimes even scary, but letting go and moving one step at a time forward gives us all room for God’s good grace.

So, don’t let how you feel get in the way of what God desires for you in your life and in the life of others and don’t be so quick to count others out, and don’t be so quick to let others count you out, for we look at the outward, but God looks at the inward. We cannot see what God sees, but we can trust, let go, and let God. A new day, a new glory is on its way… If you’ll allow it.

In Christ,
Mo. Allison+
Psalm 23 (I Am Not Alone) [Live at Linger Conference] People & Songs ft Josh Sherman
Prayers, Thoughts, Uncategorized, Video

Lent III: To Be Known is to be Loved, To Be Loved is to Be Known

Almighty God, you know that we have no power in ourselves to help ourselves: Keep us both outwardly in our bodies and inwardly in our souls, that we may be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

On Thursday evening I received a call from my son. I barely said hello as in his excitement he exclaimed, “God humbled me Ma’! God wanted to humble me. I swear.” I could tell that something big happened to him, something special, something memorable. “Slow down, breathe. What happened?” I said. “God was active in my life, God was active.” I could hear the tenderness in his voice as he began his story. I could tell he was moved more deeply as if he was spooked but at the same time at peace, a deep peace, that kind of peace you feel when you are brought to tears by an exuberant joy. “I missed the 5:06, and had to catch the next train when it came I jumped on, but it was an Express to New York. I had to get off in Woodbridge so I waited for the next train. I was cold, really cold, and just as the train was supposed to come, I heard the voice on the loudspeaker, the train was canceled. My phone was dead and I didn’t know what to do. Then out of nowhere, this old black man began to talk to me. I asked if he could call me a cab, so he dialed the number and the station no longer exists, so he offered me a ride to Linden.” He was excited, he had to share. As a mom I wanted to say, “Are you mad! What if something happened to you?” but as I priest, I took a deep breath, stayed still and I could hear something did happen to him, something big.

“I got into his car and we talked the whole time. He told me that when he was in college all of his friends had cars. They would pass him by with a beep and a wave. He took the bus to get to school from one end of New York to another. It was far. Well, one day he missed the bus. His friends drove by, beeped and waved like they always did and then there was this guy in a pick-up truck with a big dog. He stopped, waved him on in and gave him a ride to class. Mom, he said, “From that day on son, I promised to never let any one man go stranded. If ever there was someone stranded, I would pick them up and give them a ride.” Ma’ he knew me. He knew that’s what I do for all my friends, that’s what we should do and he did it for me. God was active in my life today. He wanted to humble me Ma’, humble me. I’ll never let anyone go stranded.”

In a world where we are building walls, social distancing and shutting out the other, Jesus engages the other in the story of the woman at the well. It’s not about quenching his physical thirst as a man or asking for a favor. The story is deeper, more lovely and beautiful as Jesus expresses his knowledge of her for all that she is, even as a Samaritan woman, he loved her without shame, without pretense, without expectation.

Then the woman left her water jar and went back to the city. She said to the people, “Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?” They left the city and were on their way to him.

Excited about her encounter with Jesus, she rushed to the city to tell everyone she knew. God was active in her life, humbled her and she was known and to be known is to be loved and to be loved is to be known.

In a world that at times, seems to lose its sanity, engulfed in fear, and stockpiling silly amounts of toilet paper, are we still enough to trust and know our encounters with our active God? Are we brave enough, to engage in a relationship with those who are seemingly unlike ourselves? Do we allow ourselves to be nourished, not by tap, well or bottle, but by the spirit of God that lives among us? The spirit that truly knows who we are, faults and all.

I keep wondering, what if I had a mom reaction and instilled my fears in my son, would I become an obstacle to his grace, or would I miss the blessing of his shared grace? He evangelized his mother. He trusted, had the courage and felt the call of God who nourished him and in turn nourished me. That’s evangelism, that’s God.

To be known is to be loved and to be loved ist to be known.

In this time of “social distancing” be intentional, be in a relationship, reach out and let another know how deeply they are loved and proclaim the Grace that God has given to you, to everyone. Engage, lovingly engage.

I am so very grateful to the man and to the God who loved my son.

Blessings,
Mo. Allison+
A modern interpretation of the Woman at the Well from John 4:1-42 originally scripted by Student Life Creative.

Psalm, Thoughts, Uncategorized

Getting out of our Comfort Zone: The Risk of Seeing and the Risk of Going Unseen.

When I was a mere 21 years of age, I lost a dear friend and mentor. I remember her brother sitting in a wheelchair alongside the family near the coffin. We were still in the middle of the AIDS crisis. Everyone knew he had the disease. He had the visible sores, on his hands, face, and arms. He did not have much time left in his flesh.

The line for the viewing was long, it wrapped around and outside the funeral parlor, my mentor was well-loved and touched many, many lives. As I stood slowly inching my way through the room, I saw person by person, walking by her brother, barely a nod, afraid to touch him, console him or acknowledge him as if their seeing him would somehow endanger themselves. They shied away, looked elsewhere and passed him by. They created boundaries around themselves of not only flesh but of the spirit. Our mourning grew sadder.

Connection

By my very nature, that is not who I am. I can’t pass you by, overlook you, or walk away. As I approached him, I hugged him, kissed him on the side of his cheek, and together holding hands we mourned and reminisced. I shared how deeply I loved his sister and shared my condolences. I remember the look in his eyes, the feel of his hand, his long beared as he gazed back at me. That moment was powerful for us both.

At the risk of being seen, I loved. At the risk of being unseen, he was loved.

The Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you.”

What if Abram didn’t listen? What if Abram hid from God and buried himself in the busyness of his days? What if Abram was so full of fear that he refused to be seen by our creator? After all, it is risky to get up and go, to leave our place of comfort and go out into the darkness of the unknown. It is risky to trust, to give up control, to lay aside the presence of those we are familiar with, to change our routines, and to reach out to those we do not know. We risk the feeling of loss, of rejection, or of being alone, but when we sit refusing to see or to be seen, when we hideaway, and we say, not me God, not now God, I can’t do it, God, I’m too busy God, then we risk our spiritual lives. We risk not being born.

Like a seed planted in the garden, so is the life of our spirit. If we do not tend to the seed it will not flourish, but if we love the seed, give food to the soil, water the seed and pay attention to its needs; giving it shelter when it’s grown too cold, and providing it with light when darkness is too much, the seed will grow, it will be nourished, it will have endless potential to grow into everything God has intended it to become, and as it grows, as it flourishes, the essence of its being will nourish life along the way. Think of your favorite flower, the smell of a rose or a lily, and how your breath and step changes its pace as you preserve the moment of its grace in your presence. Think of the wind as it blows the pollen of a flower to reach the soil, or the bee or hummingbird that feeds on the nectar giving and sustaining life as it risks to be seen.

It was the week of Passover, people flocked to Jerusalem. The town swelled to a number several times its size. Jesus was teaching in the streets, performing miracles, drawing large crowds. He drew the attention of the Sanhedrin, who was the supreme council and tribunal of the Jews headed by a High Priest and having religious, civil, and criminal jurisdiction, they were not fond of Jesus. The Sanhedrin feared that Jesus was causing a rebellion, an uprising among the people.

Nicodemus, a member of the Sanhedrin, then goes in the cover of darkness, sneaks out at night, afraid to be seen by others, who may mock him, or ostracize him, or accuse him of betrayal to the council in which he served, to go and speak to Jesus. While dodging the risk of being seen by his community who knows him well, he also risks being seen by God who knows him best.

He sits before Jesus…

Imagination Reborn

The Spiritual life of Nicodemus was not born here but it began here, it was conceived here. He knew the teachings and was well versed in Jewish law, but he had not yet been born by the spirit which breathes life into us all if we allow ourselves to see and be seen.

Any woman who has conceived a child and given birth knows the process does not happen overnight. The process is long, it’s arduous, it draws us out of our comfortable places into a vulnerable existence whereby everything changes, from our bodies to our souls, to our minds. Like being born from our mother’s womb so too is our spiritual life, our relationship with God. Being born again is not an instantaneous lightbulb moment but a journey of deepening witness allowing ourselves to be vulnerable, to be seen as we seek, to be drawn out of ourselves and into the complete care of our creator.

Here in our Gospel of John, Nicodemus shows up for the first time, like a seed deep in the soil, in the dark, but as we move through our Gospel, the spiritual life of Nicodemus is being fed, it’s being drawn out from the darkness and into the light. From seeing Jesus as a man in the flesh to seeing Jesus as the Savior, the Christ. Nicodemus stands up for Jesus in Chapter 7 against his own, he begins to believe. Then after Jesus is hung on the cross Nicodemus comes with a 100lbs of Myrrh in which to bury him. Born out of God’s brokenness on the cross, is the spiritual witness, the deepening faith, the love of Nicodemus, being born again and breathing new life into us all.

Nicodemus like Abram was drawn out from the comfortable place of his existence, where the boundaries were clear and defined by law, concrete, and into existence with the unlimited possibility that goes beyond the flesh and into the promise of immortal eternal life.

Our lectionary invites us to leave our comfort zones, to let go of the flesh, and see more deeply beyond the surface; to give up control, to open ourselves to new people, places and things, and to surrender our lives to the care of our almighty God.

We can do this in many ways; by being in the presence of God, through the active stillness of centering prayer allowing the Holy Spirit room to dwell among us, or we can do this through communal prayer and worship and by seeking God in everything and everyone. We can do this by being present to God and being in the presence of God with others, by acknowledging the dignity of every human being.

Take the risk, allow yourself to see, and be seen. Smile at someone, bless them, pray for them, hold a door and be kind, and most importantly, listen and be present to one another, You will see God, and God will see you.

All we have to do is make time for God, make God our priority and take the risk.

No, prayer in the car on the way to work is not enough, or while you are doing the laundry, not enough, be intentional, truly intentional and give God your time, your space, your presence. Allow yourself to truly be seen, to be known, to be touched, to grow.

Be vulnerable.

Take the Risk and GO! Believe.

In Christ, 
Mo. Allison+
Psalm 121 in HEBREW! בעברית // LIVE at the TOWER of DAVID, Jerusalem // Joshua Aaron //

Archive, Prayers, Thoughts, Uncategorized

Lent 1: Illusions in the Wilderness: Pleasure, Pride, and Possessions

There was a priest I knew who lived in Princeton. One evening he went to visit with a gentleman from his congregation. He had never been invited in until this day. As he approached the home and drove into the long drive, he took special notice to the meticulously taken care of lawn. It was a seven-bedroom estate, large, and beautiful.

In awe of his surroundings, the priest crossed the threshold, and the man led him to the living room. He sat on a chair that was tattered and worn and quickly noticed the silence. The home was nearly empty. This was the only furnished room. The priest was confused, the gentleman never missed a tithed, showed up on Sunday regularly and was always dressed in a suit and smiled at those he greeted.

The walls were bare, the space was silent, and the man began to weep before his priest.

According to Homer in Greek mythology, there are creatures, hideous monsters, half-bird, and half woman, referred to as Sirens. They lived on an island and lured sailors to their death. They would sing and by the power of their sweetness in their song, they stirred an illusion to every sailor who would hear, an illusion of beauty, the sailors couldn’t resist.

Our Gospel tells the story:

Jesus went out into the desert for forty days and forty nights. This is an image of a new Exodus where Israel spent 40 years before reaching the promised land, with Jesus as the new Israel. He would face a time of testing, temptation, and struggle.

Wherever in the bible we see the number 40, note the struggle and temptation. The number 40 represents the purification from sin. For instance, Noah and the flood, there were 40 days and 40 nights of rain. Moses spent 40 days on the Mount before he could be received in the presence of God and Elijah fleeing from Jezebel spent 40 days and nights in the desert preparing to meet God, a time of preparation and purification.

This is our Lenten season. So how do we prepare ourselves for our Lord?

Sirens of Greek Mythology

Well, going back to our Greek myth and the story of the Sirens; Odysseus who was the King of the isle Ithica who wanted to hear what the fuss was all about so he ordered his men to tie him, tightly to the mast and not let him out. The men, knowing better and not wanting to fight temptation, took beeswax and put it in their ears. As they rowed by Odysseus heard the song and frantically tried to undo his ties, yelling at the men to realease him, but the men could not hear, and rowed on by.

The men who rowed with beeswax in their ears simply walked away from temptation, but Odysseus, wanting to hear, basically tasted temptation then couldn’t resist without the help of his mates.

And then there was Orpheus, a beautiful poet, and musician. He was considered a prophet of his time who learned to play the Lyre from the Greek God, Apollo. It is said that his music was so powerful, he could make the trees bend and the animals dance. As the Argonauts passed through the waters where the Sirens could be heard, he remembered his gift, he pulled out his Lyre and played the most beautiful song, drowning out the call of temptation. Filling his boat with all that is good, true and beautiful.

Jesus in the desert is tempted by the Devil. Like our Greek myth, he is tempted with the sin of Pleasure, by the Flesh, to satisfy his hunger.

“if you are the son of God then just change the stones into bread and fill your
belly, eat your fill.” Jesus resists that temptation by saying “man doesn’t live by
bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”

Jesus quotes scripture.

Then knowing Jesus quoted scripture, the devil levels up, he takes Jesus to the pinnacle of the Temple and says,

“if you’re really the son of God then throw yourself down because ‘he will give his angels charge of you.”

Here the devil veiled himself with scripture, Psalm 91,

“God will give his angels charge of you and they will bear you up less you strike your foot against a stone.”

Jesus Tempted in the Desert

He tried to tempt Jesus with the sin of Pride. If you are who you say you are, then do this, prove it.

Finally,

“the devil took him to a high mountain and showed him all the
kingdoms of the world and all of their glory; and he says ‘I’ll give this to you if you
just worship me.”

The devil knew Jesus was here for all the souls of humanity, so he tempted him with the sin of possessions and offered them up, in a way that would eliminate Jesus’ suffering and humiliation, via death on a cross, if he just turned his back on God.

Jesus replies, once again with scripture, “you should only worship the Lord
your God and him alone shall you serve.”

We live in a world full of illusions, the temptation of the devil, the call of the sirens dress in glamour, glitz and beautiful sounds to satisfy our instant need of pleasure, to embolden our pride, our ego or to relish and clothe ourselves with material things. Each gives us an appearance of wellness or satisfaction but leaves us thirsting for the spirit of God who is the only power who can give us the fullness of life both here and the hereafter.

I opened with a story of a man who appeared to be wealthy, no one knew the depth of his suffering, his wounds or scars. He was too proud to ask for help before this day or admit to his failures. He had fallen into sin and darkness. He gave in to the flesh, cheated on his spouse, and drank to numb his pain. His son died of drug addiction, and though he owned a multi-million dollar business, he was spiritually bankrupt and had nothing. He lost everything in the hunt for the easier softer way.

The Christian life is not an easy life. It is filled with suffering and pain, obstacles and temptation, but when we are wise and aware of the devil’s tricks and tactics, how he hides in false prophets, quotes scripture, offers instant gratification, or the promise of goods, we have the tools to resist with the help of one another, through prayer, fasting, giving alms, and reconciliation.

Over the next 40 days, arm yourself with wisdom in the reading of our scriptures, arm yourself with prayer calling on God to walk with you and guide you, and give of yourself to another human being and to the church assisting one another on this journey through a Christian life.

Love, Lift, guide and support one another, for the mercy of God is Great and the Power of God is forever.

Blessings,
Mo. Allison+
The Lord’s Prayer sung by Jackie Evancho
Prayers, Thoughts, Uncategorized

Ash Wednesday, Speaking Truth to Power even when that Power is Me

Isaiah 58:1-12

It is good to speak truth to power, even when that power is me.

Being new to my congregation and not yet officially starting until this coming Sunday, we didn’t host Shrove Tuesday, so I attended a nearby church. They were a warm and friendly congregation. As I entered the doorway I saw some familiar faces and felt right at home introducing myself and working my way around the room. They were warm and friendly. The spirit led me to the right place.

The evening turned out to be more than pancakes and sausage, more than just fellowship or meeting new people and introducing myself, more than Mardi Gras, it turned into a moment of reconciliation and healing. A couple, who has been together for forty years mustered up the courage to confront me, share their woundedness and offer their truth. I am grateful they did. If they hadn’t I would not know the hurt they and their community had suffered, and they would not know that I am them.

We chatted for some time and in the end, I believe we all left with a sense of hope, healing and the opportunity to repair a relationship even though we never met until this day. This only happened through Grace of God, their courage to confront and my willingness to receive them. It didn’t matter whether or not I was the one who inflicted the pain of their wounds, as our scripture says,

If you remove the yoke from among you,
the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil,
if you offer your food to the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the afflicted,
then your light shall rise in the darkness
and your gloom be like the noonday.

I am responsible to offer empathy, understanding, and bridge to healing. I left feeling their pain, but hopeful for renewal, not only for them but for all they and who they represented.

My friend Moe posted a video and a quote on Social Media today by Moira Rogers, “The two hardest things to say in life are hello for the first time and goodbye for the last time.” Moe went on to say,” In our life, we are blessed by those who are surrounding us. There are those out there placed specifically in our lives to make us the people we end up being today.”

When we are humble and let go of our ego; when we remember our mortality, we begin to correct our course and focus more deeply on the meaning of the cross and the sacrifice Jesus has made for us all. We open ourselves to the workings of God, to the people in our lives and the people we’ve yet to meet. We allow ourselves to be vulnerable and hear what the spirit is saying, especially when we have fallen short, kept silent or chosen the easier softer way.

Here on Ash Wednesday and through the Lenten season, we have the opportunity to correct the course, to turn and repent, learn, pray, and worship together, to be formed in a way that follows the teachings of Jesus.

Speak to me Lord, speak truth to me Lord, have mercy on me a sinner.

When our fast is recognized not of what we are depriving ourselves but what we are giving and shedding for the sake of all life and God’s creation, we truly come to understand that our Ashes are not a mark of who we are but whose we are and everything in our lives is meaningless without Him, Jesus Christ our Lord.

May this Ash Wednesday bring you deep introspection, the beginning of reconciliation, and lead you into a Holy Lenten Season building bridges and healing relationships. The relationships you have with God, with others and with all of God’s creation.

In Christ, 
Mo. Allison+
“Speak to Me”

Archive, Prayers, Thoughts, Uncategorized

Sacred Mountains: Recognizing Christ Among Us

Have you ever had a dream in which you didn’t want to wake? Perhaps you wanted to sleep long enough to see the ending, to see what happens next. Perhaps you didn’t want to let go of the feeling or of the place. Perhaps there were people in your dream that you haven’t seen for years or who have passed on. People who made you feel loved, or safe, or empowered. People who by their very touch, or presence you knew were special, or magical, or connected to a higher power in some way, connected to God.

I had such a dream last night. My teacher, my PEER Leader, and mentor from High School appeared. She was as stunning as ever. She was the type of woman who never seemed to age. Well dressed, make up perfect, her hair lit golden in the sunlight as she smiled at me. She hugged me, brought me food, nourished me and then she talked about how she was going to design this new place of hers in the finest of materials. She was peaceful and endearing as she had always been. Wise, we exchanged conversation. Then I noticed my Joe, he was my protector, my friend, my contemplative guide who passed many years ago. He looked at me with a nod, and when I looked back toward my teacher she was gone. I didn’t want to wake. I wanted to hold on to her, to that moment, to that place. I wanted to see what happens next. I wanted to see the finished room adorned with everything she imagined. I wanted to feel her presence with me.

Transfiguration

Tried as I might, I kept my eyes tightly shut, “No No, don’t wake! I want to stay here for a while.” But the sun shone through my window and my eyes defied my appeal and into the world here, I awoke, to fulfill God’s call, at the very least for another day. Somehow though, through the mystery of our Lord, her presence remains. I can see her eyes, smell her perfume and feel her touch.

Matthew 17:1-9
Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. Then Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if you wish, I will make three dwellings here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” While he was still speaking, suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud a voice said, “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!” When the disciples heard this, they fell to the ground and were overcome by fear. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Get up and do not be afraid.” And when they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus himself alone.
As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus ordered them, “Tell no one about the vision until after the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”

I understand why Peter didn’t want to leave the Mountain. How he wanted to hold that very special moment and those very special people. He himself must have felt special, being invited up with Jesus, being in the presence of God.

My first day at Seminary, as I was moving boxes in, I wore a T-shirt. It said, “God loves you, but I’m his favorite.” I can’t say I didn’t prepare them for who they were about to form. I wonder who on the mountain top would have worn such a shirt. Would it have been, Peter, James, or John, or would Jesus after being transfigured turn around like a superhero and glaring on his chest, ” My Father loves you, but I’m his favorite.” Thoughts like that make me chuckle.

Every day of our lives we climb mountains, sacred mountains, some are as small as hills, others as big as Mt. Tabor, the place in Israel historians point to where our Gospel story takes place, or bigger, the size of Everest. Sacred mountains of what appears as scarcity, or illness, or sacred mountains of achievement and success. Every day we journey forward with Christ by our side, interceding where he sees fit. Sometimes in ways that are fiercely notable, like when the disciples saw Moses and Elijah, or when they heard the voice of God or witnessed the very transfiguration before them. We know when we come across that special person, that gift, that spirit whose connection changes us in some way, significantly. At other times, we recognize the workings of the incarnate Christ, maybe after the fact or in subtle ways, like when Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do you say that I am” and only Peter replied, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.” The others knew he was special, they knew he was connected, they just didn’t or couldn’t recognize him for who Jesus really was, but after this moment, they can see, recognize and know who was standing before them.

Thinking back, I can see those times, where I can say, “Oh, that was you, God. It was you who come to me on the side of the road, you who lifted from despair, you who guided my success and comforted me in my failure. You who fed me when I was hungry, nourished me when I was thirsty and comforted me when I fell.”

Can you see those times in your life? Can you see, hear and recognize the voice of God in those moments past and present? Will you allow yourself to be touched and unafraid as you move forward, off your mountain and into the Loving Grace of God?

I can see, now, the living Christ in my teacher who cared for every child she met like we were her own, the living Christ in my Joe who protected and guided me and the living Christ among us all who has the power to open us to the experience of God, the power of God and God’s good, good grace.

Yes, God loves you, and Yes, YOU, we are God’s Favorite. Allow God to awaken in us the Spirit of His Grace and the Power of His Love to walk down from the mountain and share our witness with those among us, Transforming the World, one disciple at a time.

At the Transfiguration, God, You showed Jesus in glory, a glimpse of what His disciples
would see in His risen life. Bless us in our humanity, with an awareness of Your presence, leading us to share in Your divine life even in our daily struggle.
Help us to deepen our knowledge of the Law and the Prophets, channels of Your grace throughout history, and signposts for our journey.
 
Amen.

Blessings,
Mo. Allison+