Lent Day 13 | John 6:1-21

Today’s reading: John 6:1-21

OpeningMay we sit at the feet of Jesus
And lay down our judgement and tendencies to point at others

When we have a plank firmly lodged in our eye
Take the pedestals we hold on to
And give us a Spirit of humility

Give us this day our daily rice
As we feast with you
Let us see each other as you see our very beings

I want to show love
Embody love  
Love as you love

Let your spirit empower us
Surround us

Forever and ever
Amen

ReflectionOne of the women from two houses down calls to me
/The Teacher has arrived in our town
He will tell his stories on the hillside/
I am so weary
The children have too much energy
The one I am carrying inside my womb will come soon
There are chores to be done before my husband comes home
But I have heard stories from my sister about this Teacher
They rumor that he is the Messiah, this Jesus
My entire life I have lived for others
Let me take this afternoon and hear what he has to say

///

It is almost sundown
I sit down in the courtyard in front of our house
My unborn child kicking gently
It was a hot day on the hillside
Little trees to provide shade against the scorching heat
My mind swirls with the miracle I have seen with my own eyes
The other women had been chattering non-stop on our walk back to the village
/He IS the messiah, the Prophet, the King we have waited for/
I do not know if I can believe, but I desperately want to
Our people have searched for so long
We have waited
Is this the time?
God has said that we would not be forsaken
If this Teacher, Jesus, could multiply a bowl of rice and two fish for all those on the hillside today, with each woman carrying bowlfuls more to take home, what other miracles can he do for our people?
My spirit has never felt so full
When he taught today…
Despite the thousands of people there,
he was speaking directly to me.

//

That day, when Jesus performed his miracle
He saw the needs for all of us
He did not leave any behind
He provided for the spirit and for the body  

He fed the eager and hungry
He even gave them more to take home.

//

ClosingJesus, having the power of God, could have done the miracle by himself without anyone else’s participation. Instead he went on to share the power of the miracle with those around him. In all of these exchanges, Jesus practiced radical inclusivity. From the children, women, and men sitting on the hillside to the boy who gave his lunch to the disciples, all partook in the miracle that Jesus invited them into.

In this Lenten season, how do you view those you invite into your communities, your homes, your churches? Do we see ourselves as ‘helping’ those around us? Or are we sharing rice as equals and sharing the power of the miracle with those around us?


Created by: Symphony Chau
About the author: Symphony (she/her) is an avid reader, part-time artist, and self-proclaimed plant parent. A 2nd generation Chinese-American, she grew up between Northern Jersey and NYC’s Chinatown, where she developed her passion for youth empowerment and anti-displacement movements. Symphony loves all the shows your teenage sibling does, and chances are if she’s not journaling with a coffee in hand, she is forwarding articles to CAAC’s about what’s wrong with the evangelical church. Symphony lives in Brooklyn where she works in communications and public health, forever adding new plant babies to her apartment.

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Image by: Sheri Park
About the artist: Sheri Park is a interdisciplinary visual artist, with a focus on video & performance. She completed her undergraduate degree from Union College in 2013, and her Certificate in Theology and Art from Fuller Seminary in 2015. When she’s not making art or at her graphic design job, she enjoys making breakfast, reading, and watching ducks by the lake with her husband in Fremont, California.

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About the image:
(photograph by Ola Soler)
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Lent Day 12 | John 5:14-47

Today’s reading: John 5:14-47

OpeningO Steadfast One
You are the Author of our journey.
Remind us that You have made us like You.
Remind us when we are overwhelmed by challenges
that you remain the Perfecter and Finisher of our faith.
Amen.

ReflectionHas this happened to you? After doing the right thing, the beautiful thing, the best thing, the truly holy thing, the only good thing your conscience would clear you to do… the world as you know it begins to turn on you? 

Did you come out on the side of justice? Maybe you were advocating for historically oppressed communities of color, defending hunted undocumented neighbors, allying with persecuted LGBTQI siblings. Did you march in support of #BLM or post your #MeToo story on social media?

Whatever it was, where did the well-intended and not so well-intended warnings come from? Were they public or quiet? From family and friends, or strangers? Be careful, beware. With surreal warnings and social shake down grew a sense of desolate isolation. People become cooler at first, then colder; looks get darker, and words become ominous as you become an isolated, walking target.

Jesus, in today’s passage, has become a walking target as a result of the spiritual audacity inherent in his claims to intimacy with God. No surprise then that John 5 leads us to the core reality grounding Jesus: the belovedness of being in intimate community with an unshakable love. The truth of this saving power of intimate community remains a core confession for progressive Christians. We, in all our profound diversity of struggle, are invited to discover that our journey is not alone. We are in the company of the Divine Presence. Jesus shares the truth of luminous intimacy realized in community with those who empower our sense of belovedness by God.  

It’s interesting, then, to note what this passage omits. Unlike passages willing to offer us gratifying glimpses and insight into the oh-so-sane and kick-ass mind of the divine incarnate who fearlessly exposes hypocrisy and calls out his haters, this passage practices restraint. This passage withholds insight into the poignant human realities of Jesus’ disillusionment, hurt, uncertainty, terror (and even rage that might serve as a comfort to us when facing the regrettable persecution of threats to our well-being or our loved ones).

What we have instead are a series of confessions by Jesus that some consider unmatched elsewhere in scripture. Jesus professes his utter interdependence and reliance on God for originating his way of being. He confesses experiencing intimate belovedness with God. He proclaims a confidence in the clarity and authority of his own discernment. He confesses confidence in a promise of eternity replete with endless Presence. He promises the ability to hear and know the Divine can be ours. He declares that the validity of his testimony will be confirmed by others.

In all this, he bears unfaltering witness to the fact that he is not alone. Not. Alone.

The words of Jesus testify to an unshakable conviction in an enduring sense of community with the Divine. His claims are unstintingly audacious throughout, and in them we are reminded: we should be no less confident and audacious in our knowing of the love of God for us. John 5 reminds us that we do not live and love and serve apart from our enduring relationship with the Divine. We are bathed in a relationality of light and love that promises to glow all the more luminously against the darkness of threats and hate that we may encounter in our faithfulness.

ClosingWhat do you fear losing by doing the right thing?

Are there vulnerabilities in your sense of intimacy with God?

What promise for yourself do you find in the transparency of Jesus’ confession about the comforts he finds in his relationship with the intimate divine?


Created by: Mari Kim, PhD
About the author: Korean North American constructive theologian and passionate nonprofit professional. Happy single mom of two sassy, smart, and kind-hearted sons who love bouldering and constantly remind her, “Mom, I’m taller than you.” Lover of local farmers markets, Canadian Butter Tarts, and Transcendental Meditation.

Image by: Hannah Yoon
About the artist: Hannah Yoon is a freelance photographer/photojournalist based in Ontario. She focuses on issues revolving around race and identity.

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Lent Day 11 | John 5:1-15

Today’s reading: John 5:1-15

OpeningGod, may our faith not stray away from yours.

“Do you want to be made well?”
“Stand up, take your mat and walk.”

“The man who made me well said to me, ‘Take up your mat and walk.’” They asked him, “Who is the man who said to you, ‘Take it up and walk’?”

ReflectionOne of the miracles Jesus worked was healing a man who had been physically disabled for 38 years. In the passage, Jesus encounters a man who was living without the same access as others in society and decides to approach him. In the process of healing, multiple steps took place:

Jesus notices. He notices that someone was in need.
Jesus engages. He communicates with the man in need.
Jesus listens. The Bible does not state if the man simply answers, “yes,” when asked if he wanted to be cured. Instead, we see that he explains what his problem is.
Jesus gives him tools. He directly heals the man’s physical disability.
The man now has the power to be autonomous and will be less ostracized.

One would think that this was an occasion to celebrate. It took faith for the man to drop his doubt, to leave behind all the pain of living in neglect, and to get up on his feet. After 38 years of living on the margins, this must have been a very joyous affair.

Then, some of the religious leaders notice something out of the ordinary on the Sabbath. Surely, if I were to run into a healthy-looking person doing something he is not supposed to do, I would wonder, too. So, they decide to engage him, but they do so differently than how Jesus did it:  

They are quick to judge and point out his disobedience to the law.
They are not interested in the man’s well-being.
They are interested in who is responsible, not for the healing, but for authorizing him to go against the rules.
They ask him a question, but to find blame, perhaps blinded by their own religious biases and fears.
Being at first clueless, upon knowing Jesus’ identity, the healed man, perhaps out of naïve joy and excitement, goes out of his way to follow up with the authorities to credit Jesus with his healing.

***

We see that while Jesus acts out of love and care, the faith leaders act out of judgment and perhaps fear of being unfaithful through their cherished rules. However, if we had enough faith, would we have so much fear that it constricts us from seeing goodness?

I think we often miss out on the goodness we have been given. For one, we are given Sabbath to rest because we need to: We can get caught up looking for more things to do to just get by or to satisfy our interests and neglect to take proper care of ourselves. I believe it is intended for the well-being of our humanness, for taking care of our bodies and minds to heal. This is meant to be a grateful and joyful process–not one laden with obligation and guilt.

ClosingAs we set boundaries for ourselves to rest and heal, my hope is that we are not constricted by so much fear and rules that we become blind to the Light–a miracle–present in our daily lives. We ought to fear God in a way in which we see the joy in our faith and know that it is good.

How are you seeing God’s love and healing today?


Created by & image by: Miya Kim
About the author/artist: Miya is a realistic optimist who sees all things as art. Through her gifts and beliefs, she is on a journey to help this world be a better place.

Lent Day 10 | Selah!

Today’s reading: Isaiah 41:18-20

ReflectionGod of seas and sky, you make rivers to flow in barren lands. You craft wastelands into living oases, clearing rubble and calling forth fresh growth. So too, you summon from within us bubbling springs, raising to new life all that we have put to death.

Wet our dryness. Flood our parched hearts. Dance on our tongues, that we may sing forth with your praise.

We know that our thirst for justice comes from you, and that this hurting world longs to brim with your mercy and presence. Let the world know by our acts and activisms that you are at work in our lives, that you are Risen, that each creature was made in the fluid image of a good and gushing God.

This Lent, as your people across this earth experience severe water shortages and go without safe sustenance, we ask that you move in this world. As you nourished your people in deserts past, let each creature now be able to drink deeply of living and clean waters. Plant fertile growth in the soil of our souls, that we would labor for all who thirst.  

Today, we also pray in gratitude for the faithful witness of all the middle spaces in your creation. For salamanders and all amphibians, for water lilies and platypuses, for dusks and dawns, swamps and ocean sands, and each gift which shimmers in between the stark binaries of dry and wet: we give you thanks.

We pray, too, in special gratitude for your liquid mercies in the lives of our queer and transgender siblings in Christ, whose created beauty and gifts go too often forgotten in your church. Shatter our fearful clinging to either-ors, our bondage to sharp and sterile edges, and buoy us towards the incarnate and cosmic peace into which you have called us.

Amen.


Created by: Kenji Kuramitsu
About the author: Kenji Kuramitsu is a graduate student at McCormick Theological Seminary and the University of Chicago. He serves on the boards of the Japanese American Citizens League and the Reformation Project.

Lent Day 9 | John 4:43-54

Why Did Jesus Take the Time to Heal the Child of a Wealthy Royal Official?

Today’s reading: John 4:43-54

OpeningWe ask for your presence and guidance as we reflect on our beliefs. Lighten our steps as we walk by faith and continue to follow your ways of love and justice.

ReflectionIn this text, Jesus is a local legend, the one who turned water into wine. I often wondered about the role of miracles in Jesus’ ministry. In this case, Jesus talks about how the people around him, without wonders and miracles, would not see him for who he was.

Yet, even knowing this about the people, Jesus still performs a miracle for them.

Not only that, but Jesus’ miracle was to heal a royal official’s child.

In other translations, this official is said to be a Centurion who was a commander in the Roman army, or a wealthy aristocrat who was an official under King Herod. Out of all the people Jesus could have healed in Galilee, why choose to help a royal official and his child? Why care for an official’s child, who is so privileged within society, when many other children who lacked the same privilege probably had similar needs?

I wrestled with this. It does not align with my own worldview in which Jesus expressly is concerned with alleviating pain and poverty, for people on the margins and those who are excluded from society. The royal official was wealthy and powerful. He was an elite. Yet, Jesus takes the time to heal his son and send him on his way.

But perhaps Jesus healed the royal official to make a bigger point. Perhaps he performed this miracle in such a way, so others could see that he was more than just a magician, but someone with true authority. Or did he also have genuine care for the royal official’s concern? Did it matter to Jesus what the royal official’s status was within society or what he did for a living?

I don’t know the answers to these questions, but I do know that Jesus healed the royal official’s child. I also know that prior to this passage Jesus meets a Samaritan woman, another gentile who he cares for. After this passage, he meets with and heals a paralyzed man waiting for a miracle by the pool. In many study bible commentaries, these three passages together (i.e., the Samaritan woman, the royal official, and the paralyzed man) represent how Jesus did not discriminate against anyone who needed help, no matter their status in society. This uncritical interpretation does not do justice to the whole picture of who Jesus was. Jesus declared judgments on those who took advantage of those who had less. Jesus also reached out to widows and orphans.

Yet, this passage remains and I am challenged by it. While I know he did not condone those with power and privilege taking advantage of people, he still showed care for those in need, even those who had advantages that others did not.

In my own life, I confront racial dominance in my profession and battle conservative evangelical circles in my personal life. Often I get upset and angry and it is easy to hate those who willfully ignore and participate in the injustices of this world. Yet, I am challenged by Jesus’ care for the royal official and I am reminded that my anger at injustice should not turn to hate towards fellow humans. It is a constant battle that I fight within myself and one that Jesus continues to refine in me.

ClosingHow do we engage in the battle for justice, support those who have been marginalized or forgotten, and confront their oppressors? Do we still need to care for those who have every advantage? If so, how do we do that without further hurting people who have been marginalized?


Created by: Amos Lee
About the author: I was a former public school teacher in elementary and middle schools and am currently an adjunct professor for teacher education at a state college. My interests include: Calling out cultural (mis)appropriation of Korean food, battling on Facebook with colorblind and post racial rhetoric among friends, and being a resident skeptic that continues to push back against dominant narratives and norms.

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Image by: Dae Jeong
About the author: Dae is a photographer, ex-pastor, and stay-at-home dad. He lives with his wife and two children in Maryland. He is a recovering Calvinist. 😉

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