Greet the Day, contemplative photo by Dr. Kathy Bozzuti-Jones
In this time of pandemic, racial reckoning, ecological collapse, and political vitriol, how can we respond faithfully, when it feels like it is just…all…too…much? We can choose where to focus our attention, for one thing. As Christians, we know that we are called to focus on the quality and character of our relationships. We can focus on our common life. We can cultivate gratitude for our many blessings and set our intentions to strengthen and expand our web of relationships. We can focus on mutual service. We can choose to live lives of compassion, even in times of distress and uncertainty — especially in times of distress and uncertainty! We can be a blessing for one another. We hope that this week’s offerings, which encourage us to think like Jesus, find God in one another, and develop empathy, will be a blessing to you and your family.
Blessings and peace,
Associate Director, Faith Formation and Education
- This Sunday
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- Adult Practice
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- Song of the Week
To prepare for Sunday, see this week’s readings.
Contemplative photo by Dr. Kathy Bozzuti-Jones
Can We Finally Get It Right?
Have you ever experienced a comedown like Peter’s in this week’s gospel? One minute Jesus praises him as “the rock” on which he’ll build his church. The next he calls him Satan. The poor guy goes from cornerstone to stumbling block in the course of one conversation. I don’t know about you, but in my own life I’ve noticed that stumbling often follows closely on winning praise. I wonder whether a modern title for Matthew 16 might be, “Disciples, they’re just like us.”
In many ways they are. What could be more human than Peter’s “No way!” when Jesus says he’s going to suffer and die at the hands of the religious authorities? Jesus’s response may seem harsh at first, but his rejection of Peter’s advice actually enables him to fulfill his mission.
Remember, “Messiah,” like “Christ,” is not a name. Both words mean “anointed” in Hebrew and Greek. In Judaism one was anointed by God for a special purpose to serve the nation. The kings of Israel were anointed. The prophet Isaiah even calls Cyrus, the pagan ruler of Persia, “messiah.” God uses him to free the people from Babylonian captivity.
Where Cyrus carried out his mission by violence, Jesus’s power comes not from the sword, but through love. Jesus calls Peter “Satan” not as an insult but because it’s the devil who spreads the lie that violence is supreme (in John he’s called “the father of lies”). And the reason Peter’s a “stumbling block” is that if Jesus allows himself to think that way, God’s mission will fail. In this exchange, Peter presents Jesus with his greatest temptation — not to cheat or steal, but to think the way we’ve come to regard as naturally human.
On the cross, Jesus exposes the horror of “naturally human” violence and offers a different way to live. Jesus’s whole life, ministry, and teaching show what humans can be and do if we aren’t driven by violence, but by love. That’s why gospel reflection is so important to Christian formation.
And if the full scope of the gospel feels like a lot to take in, we can be grateful to Paul. In Romans 12:9–21, he condenses Jesus’s Way into guidelines so succinct you could carry them in your pocket on a little card. (You could even memorize them, old-school as that may sound.)
“Let love be genuine,” he begins. Then he details what that looks like in practice. He talks about finding empathy and compassion, even for those we see as enemies. Do you ever wonder why, in this polarized election season, media chatter focuses on ridiculing and undermining the experience of others? Might the vitriol come from fear of what would happen if we understood and empathized with one another?
Could we, like Jesus, confront the violence of our time by thinking differently? In his lifetime of discipleship, Peter came to see things as Jesus did and to let that worldview guide his actions. He finally got it right. Will we?
Loving Kindness Meditation
Franciscan teacher Richard Rohr, who’s taken as his life’s mission to heal religion from dualistic, “us vs them” thinking, shares the Buddhist practice of Loving Kindness Meditation as a path to empathy. His description of the basic practice appears below. Read further and consider subscribing to his daily emails.
- Begin by finding the place of loving kindness inside your heart (Christians might call this the indwelling Spirit).
- Drawing upon this source of love, bring to mind someone you deeply care about, and send loving kindness toward them.
- Now direct this love toward a casual friend or colleague, someone just beyond your inner circle.
- Continue drawing from your inner source of loving kindness and let it flow toward someone about whom you feel neutral or indifferent, a stranger.
- Remember someone who has hurt you or someone you struggle to like. Bless them. Send them your love.
- Gather all these people and yourself into the stream of love and hold them here for a few moments.
- Finally, let the flow of loving kindness widen to encompass all beings in the universe.
Prepare for tomorrow by reviewing today:
- Come into stillness and become aware of God’s presence.
- Review the day with gratitude — recall moments, encounters, conversations…
- Call to mind your emotions — in the good moments and the challenging moments.
- Choose one experience from the day — offer a prayer of thanks, pardon, or guidance.
- Invite the Holy Spirit to help you face tomorrow in your fullness, as a child of God.
The Examined Life
Watch this video featuring Cornell West on self-examination, wisdom, truth, catastrophe, and resiliency, in excerpts from The Examined Life.
Whole Community Learning in St. Paul’s Chapel
Seeing and Hearing God
Did you play peek-a-boo when you were little? How about hide-and-go-seek? Do you cover your eyes during scary movies? How about when something is very suspenseful? Do you plug your ears if you don’t want to hear something? Do you escape into a screen?
When a child covers their eyes and believes that they’re invisible, it’s endearing. Not so much when adults avoid confrontation with inconvenient truths, or when teens notice the tiniest imperfections in their parents but sometimes seem blind to their enormous and abiding love. It's pretty fantastical when God gets Moses’ attention with the burning-not-burning bush. God’s command to lead the Israelites to freedom seems like a lot, too. I can’t really blame Moses for hiding his eyes and resisting all that.
For most of us, facing the “image of God” is not quite as dramatic. In fact, most of us feel it’s entirely optional. Most of us aren’t required to do anything for anyone outside of our immediate families. Or are we? What would it look or sound like if we really tried to see God or hear God?
Family Worship: Home Edition
See Family Worship: Home Edition to see this week’s activity for children and families.
Each week, we’re sharing a song of the week to help you go deeper with each Sunday’s theme. The playlist will be updated weekly, and the song of the week will sit on top.