Tuesday of Fifth Week of Easter

May 17, 2022

Today, in in God’s Lavish Mercy, Jesus blesses his disciples, and us, with Peace.

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.
Not as the world gives do I give it to you.
Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.
You heard me tell you,
‘I am going away and I will come back to you.’

John 14: 27-28

I used some beautiful poems to pray about Peace this morning. Listening to the music, placing myself in the artwork, pausing to breathe and listen for God’s whisper – it was a good prayer. I hope you are blessed by these poems as I was.


rudder

I Many Time Thought Peace Had Come – Emily Dickenson
I many times thought Peace had come
When peace was far away,
As wrecked men deem they sight the land
When far at sea they stay.

And struggle slacker, but to prove,
As hopelessly as I,
That many the fictitious shores
Before the harbor lie.


tagore

The Gardener LXI: Peace, My Heart – Rabindrinath Tagore
Peace, my heart, let the time for
the parting be sweet.
Let it not be a death but completeness.
Let love melt into memory and pain
into songs.
Let the flight through the sky end
in the folding of the wings over the
nest.
Let the last touch of your hands be
gentle like the flower of the night.
Stand still, O Beautiful End, for a
moment, and say your last words in
silence.
I bow to you and hold up my lamp
to light you on your way.


cummings

let it go – e.e. cummings
let it go – the
smashed word broken
open vow or
the oath cracked length
wise – let it go it
was sworn to
go

let them go – the
truthful liars and
the false fair friends
and the boths and
neithers – you must let them go they
were born
to go

let all go – the
big small middling
tall bigger really
the biggest and all
things – let all go
dear

so comes love


Music: Agnus Dei, Dona Nobis Pacem – City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra
(Lamb of God, grant us peace.)

Lent: Written in Dust

April 3, 2022
Fifth Sunday of Lent

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, Jesus writes new rules for life in the venerable Jerusalem dust.

Jn8_1_11JPG

Jesus enjoys an early morning walk from the Mount of Olives to the Temple. The weather, no doubt, was typically beautiful since others easily gathered and sat around Jesus to hear his teaching.

But the Pharisees, vigilant for an opportunity to condemn Jesus, executed a mean-hearted plot.

Dragging a woman “caught in the act of adultery” before the encircled men, they demanded Jesus’s judgment of the distraught woman.

Woman Taken in Adultery – Rembrandt, National Gallery London

Imagine the woman’s terror.  Her poverty and loneliness have already forced her into an ignoble commerce. Had she the chance, she surely would have chosen an easier life.

Now, her meager quarters have been broken into, her privacy invaded in the most intimate of circumstances.  Her adulterous accomplice has either turned her in, or absconded in cowardice. She is surrounded by brutal accusers, many of whom are likely her former customers.

But Jesus sees the woman, not her sin. He responds to her heart not her actions.  He also sees these evil, plotting men and responds to their veiled motivations.


Wouldn’t we love to know what Jesus scribbled in the Temple dirt as these blood-thirsty hypocrites hung over him?

Might it have been the names of those who also visited the woman on earlier nights?

Might it have been some of their hidden sins?

Challenged to cast the first stone if they were sinless, the plotters slowly slink away.  Jesus is left to forgive and heal this suffering woman.

Jesus tells her to go and sin no more, to -as the first reading says – “remember not the things of the past”. Jesus has made her into a new person by the power of his mercy.


May that renewing Mercy touch us, and our world, where we sorely need it.

May it flow through our renewed hearts to everyone we encounter, no matter the circumstances.


Poetry: Two beautiful poems today. The first refers specifically to Rembrandt’s painting above:

Rembrandt, “The Woman Taken in Adultery,” National Gallery, Trafalgar Square, London
by Peter Cooley, Senior Mellon Professor in the Humanities and Director of Creative Writing at Tulane University and lives in New Orleans.

Just as I came out of the Gallery,
I saw a gull among hoards of tourists
encircling the statue of Lord Nelson,
crazed while I prayed he'd make it out, resume
flight I attribute to all birds, boundless.
But my dying: I try to keep it lined
around the edges of the ordinary
so I can—shall I say—appreciate?

Drawn to that picture by the glowing dark
around the woman, kneeling, Christ standing,
the Scribes and Pharisees shrouded in black,
I saw she, too, has just discovered light,
knowing, moments ago, she escaped stoning.
She just this instant came to where I'm going.

The second poem is by the beautiful Franciscan poet, Irene Zimmerman, OSF.

From the angry crunch of their sandaled feet
as they left the courtyard, Jesus knew,
without looking up from his writing on the ground,
that the Pharisees and scribes still carried their stones.

The woman stood where they’d shoved her,
her hair hanging loose over neck and face,
her hands still shielding her head
from the stones she awaited.

“Woman,” he asked, “has no one condemned you?”

The heap of woman shuddered, unfolded.
She viewed the courtyard — empty now —
with wild, glazed eyes and turned back to him.
“No one, Sir,” she said, unsurely.

Compassion flooded him like a wadi after rain.
He thought of his own mother — had she known such fear? —
and of the gentle man whom he had called Abba.
Only when Joseph lay dying had he confided
his secret anguish on seeing his betrothed
swelling up with seed not his own.

“Neither do I condemn you,” Jesus said.
“Go your way and sin no more.”

Black eyes looked out from an ashen face,
empty, uncomprehending.
Then life rushed back.
She stood before him like a blossoming tree.

“Go in peace and sin no more,”
Jesus called again as she left the courtyard.

He had bought her at a price, he knew.
The stony hearts of her judges
would soon hurl their hatred at him.
His own death was a mere stone’s throw away.


Music:  Remember Not the Things of the Past – Bob Hurd

Lent: Discerning the Golden Calves

March 31, 2022
Thursday of the Fourth Week of Lent

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we are challenged to assess our true and deepest values.

Our first reading describes a moment when God and Moses are having a nice chat. Suddenly, God makes Moses aware of the fact that his people have gone haywire:

The LORD said to Moses,
“Go down at once to your people
whom you brought out of the land of Egypt,
for they have become depraved.
They have soon turned aside from the way I pointed out to them,
making for themselves a molten calf and worshiping it,
sacrificing to it and crying out,
‘This is your God, O Israel,
who brought you out of the land of Egypt!’

Exodus 32: 7-8

It might seem crazy to us that people would worship a metal statue. But let’s take a look at what that golden calf represents. The idol is a symbol of the Israelite community’s “economy”, what they really deem most important, what they really worship when they think God isn’t looking. When they look upon the idol’s golden reflection, they see themselves mirrored back the way they want to be – rich, powerful, and dominant.

In our society, those desires may not reside in a golden calf – but maybe in a shiny car, a flashy gemstone, a corner office, an elite club membership, an ivy league degree, etc. Does this mean that such things are necessarily wrong! Not really. It means that when these things become our gods, captivating our attention and worship, then we have really lost our soul.

When we begin to believe that such idols make us who we are,
we disconnect from God Who actually makes us who we are.

Further, we disconnect from the human community
which is meant to mirror God’s face to us.

As our Psalm reminds us:
Our fathers made a calf in Horeb
            and adored a molten image;
They exchanged their glory
            for the image of a grass-eating bullock.
They forgot the God who had saved them,
            who had done great deeds in Egypt,
Wondrous deeds in the land of Ham,
            terrible things at the Red Sea.

Psalm 106:19-22

In our Gospel today, Jesus confronts a group of Pharisees and others who have their own sort of “golden calf”. They have turned their religion into a tool to gain power and dominate others. They are no longer open to God and to the message Jesus offers them. They see their fellow humans as “things” to be used for their own advancement:

But you have never heard his voice nor seen his form,
and you do not have his word remaining in you,
because you do not believe in the one whom he has sent.
You search the Scriptures,
because you think you have eternal life through them;
even they testify on my behalf.
But you do not want to come to me to have life.

John 5:37-40

There are serious warnings in our readings today. Perhaps some of them might speak to us personally. And for certain, they speak to us as a society. May we hear God’s voice in whatever way we need to.


Poetry: The Golden Calf – by John Newton

When Israel heard the fiery law,
From Sinai's top proclaimed;
Their hearts seemed full of holy awe,
Their stubborn spirits tamed. 

Yet, as forgetting all they knew,
Ere forty days were past;
With blazing Sinai still in view,
A molten calf they cast. 

Yea, Aaron, God's anointed priest,
Who on the mount had been
He durst prepare the idol-beast,
And lead them on to sin. 

Lord, what is man! and what are we,
To recompense thee thus!
In their offence our own we see,
Their story points at us. 

From Sinai we have heard thee speak,
And from mount Calv'ry too;
And yet to idols oft we seek,
While thou art in our view. 

Some golden calf, or golden dream,
Some fancied creature-good,
Presumes to share the heart with him,
Who bought the whole with blood. 

Lord, save us from our golden calves,
Our sin with grief we own;
We would no more be thine by halves,
But live to thee alone.

Music: Song of the Golden Calf from the opera Faust by Gounod.

The aria is delivered by Mephistopheles who is associated with the Faust legend of an ambitious scholar, based on the historical Johann Georg Faust. In the legend, Faust makes a deal with the Devil at the price of his soul, Mephistopheles acting as the Devil’s agent.

The calf of gold is still standing!
One adulates his power,
One adulates his power,
From one end of the world to the other end!
To celebrate the infamous idol,
Kings and the people mixed together,
To the somber sound of golden coins,
They dance a wild round
Around his pedestal
Around his pedestal
And Satan leads the dance, etc, etc.

The calf of gold is the victor over the gods!
In its derisory (absurd) glory,
In its derisory (absurd) glory,
The abject monster insults heaven!
It contemplates, oh weird frenzy!
At his feet the human race,
Hurling itself about, iron in hand,
In blood and in the mire,
Where gleams the burning metal,
Where gleams the burning metal,
And Satan leads the dance,etc.

Lent: Releasing Praise

March 26, 2022
Saturday of the Third Week of Lent

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we are encouraged to pray. Hosea tells us:

Come, let us return to the LORD,
it is he who has rent, but he will heal us;
… the LORD will come to us like the rain,
like spring rain that waters the earth.


Let the image of that truth sink into your parched spirit.

rain

Our Gospel leads us to pray humbly:

But the tax collector stood off at a distance
and would not even raise his eyes to heaven
but beat his breast and prayed,
‘O God, be merciful to me a sinner.’

As we pray humbly today, let us ask for God’s refreshment for all our sisters and brothers across the earth. In good times and in trials, let us always praise God.


I would like to share one of my own poems with you today, as we kneel before God with all struggling Creation begging God for humanity to be washed in Mercy.

        All Creation    

 All Creation kneels,
a Single Being,
to praise God.

 From its immense heart,
it sings myriad songs at once,
Morning and Evensong,
Praise and Dirge,
Alas and Alleluia,
intermingled

 It sings even over its own scars,
where the chasms cry out for balm.
It sings both the remembrance
and the hope of blessing.
It sings the endurance of faith
and the confidence of love.

 In roar and silence,
darkness and light,
Creation kneels,
a Single Being,
to praise God.


Music: Total Praise sung by the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir.  Just watching these faith-filled people lifts my heart and gives me hope.  I trust it will do the same for you, dear friends as we pray for one another.

Careful … Compassionate

March 12, 2022
Saturday of the First Week of Lent

Moses spoke to the people, saying:
“This day the LORD, your God,
commands you to observe
these statutes and decrees.
Be careful, then,
to observe them
with all your heart
and with all your soul.



Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, Moses tells us this:

Be careful, then …

Dt. 26:17

Be careful of what? Does Moses mean be careful like, ”Don’t fall down the steps!”. Or does he mean be careful like, “Hold tenderly to love in your life.”?

In this passage from Deuteronomy, Moses goes on to say one of my favorite biblical phrases:

… today the LORD is making this agreement with you:
you are to be a people peculiarly his own, as he promised you…

Dt. 26:18

Since the 17th century, the word “peculiar” has taken on the meaning of “odd” or “unusual”.  But the original sense comes from the Latin peculiarismeaning “of private property”

Moses is reminding us that we belong to God and God to us in a covenant similar to, but far exceeding, the mutuality of a marriage.

So we should “be careful”, full of care, in appreciation for this infinite love.


chick
When Catherine McAuley instructed her sisters in the practice of caring for the sick, she told them always to use great tenderness…

In our Gospel, Jesus tells us how to take this exquisite care of our precious relationship with God:

But I say to you, love your enemies,
and pray for those who persecute you,
that you may be children of your heavenly Father,
for God makes the sun rise on the bad and the good,
and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.
… Be compassionate as your Heavenly Father is compassionate.

Matthew 5: 44-48

So, let’s be careful of love today
when we find this precious God
in our sisters and brothers
and in all God’s Creation.
“great tenderness in all things…”


Poetry: Tenderness – Rumi

When inward tenderness 
finds the secret hurt,
pain itself will crack the rock and
Ah! let the soul emerge.

Music:  Compassion Hymn – The Gettys

Lent: Persevering Prayer

March 9, 2022
Thursday of the First Week of Lent

Today, in Mercy, our readings could be so reassuring about the power of our prayer, except …..

How often have you prayed
for something that you didn’t get?


In our reading from the Book of Esther, Esther certainly puts everything she has into her prayer for deliverance:

Queen Esther – By Jean-François Portaels

She lay prostrate upon the ground, together with her handmaids,
from morning until evening, and said:
“God of Abraham, God of Isaac, and God of Jacob, blessed are you.
Help me, who am alone and have no help but you,
for I am taking my life in my hand.

The passage, in isolation from the rest of the Book, might lead us to conclude that Esther’s prayer is simply about her asking for, and receiving, what she wants from God. It’s about much more.


Esther, like Christ, is in a position to save her people. She must risk her life to do so. She is praying for the courage to do God’s will, to look past her own comfort and become an agent of grace in her circumstances.

Now that’s some kind of prayer!


Prayer can be like looking in a mirror. All we see reflected back is our own need and desire. We don’t pray honestly and openly enough to let God open a door in the mirror – a door into God’s own will and hope for us.

That’s the door Jesus is talking about in today’s Gospel.

  • What we ASK is not just for something we want, but rather to know God’s heart.
  • What we SEEK is not our own satisfaction, but the grace to embrace God’s mysterious energy in our lives no matter how it comes to us.
  • What we KNOCK for and desire to be opened to us is deeper love and fuller relationship with our loving God.

Sometimes, the problem with prayer is that we think it’s like asking our rich uncle for a permanent loan. It’s only when we comprehend that prayer is a relationship that the RECEIVE, FIND, and OPENED parts become real for us.


Poetry: Morning Prayer – Renee Yann, RSM

Photo by WARREN BLAKE on Pexels.com

I walk the earth, soft
from yesterday’s long rain.
Mists ascend like incense
under my indulgent footfalls.
Birdsongs thin themselves
between the early light;
chanting, contrapuntal, in
the well-laved trees.

Nothing grey is left now
in the wide sky.
Rinsed in light
it spreads to dry
in sere, blue wind.

Momentarily, earth
is wholly God’s;
deep, true colors fall to it,
rich, unshadowed.
Your Word, Creator,
WaterGod, has penetrated.
It returns to You in crystal images
from a finally uncomplicated world.

As if within a lucent globe
I hold You still,
in perfect, silent love,
clear, inexplicable
like sunlit rain.


Music: two offerings today. One is old-time revival. The other is classic beauty. Enjoy.

Prayer Is the Key to Heaven – Alan Brewster

Music: Overture from Esther – George Frideric Handel

Lent: Second Chances

March 9, 2022
Wednesday of the Third Week of Lent

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, one line from our readings hit me like a lightening bolt:

The word of the LORD
came to Jonah
a second time.

Jonah 3:1

Yes, it’s the truth! God will keep coming back again and again to encourage us to hear the true message for our lives.

Our Gospel gives us a hint about how resistant we sometimes are to do this deep listening:

This generation is an evil generation;
it seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it,
except the sign of Jonah.

Luke 11:29

What is the sign of Jonah anyway?

To put it simply, it is the witness of the Resurrection – that overarching event that changed everything for believers. For just as Jonah was able to return from certain death in the whale’s belly, so Christ conquered death and rose to new life, promising us the same power.

This is the central, life-changing belief for Christians. It should make a difference in how we live.


By our Lenten repentance, we can be like Jonah, grasping the second chance God always gives us to respond to our life circumstances with faith, hope, and love.

I would bet there is something in your life right now that is calling you to such a response. Someplace in your life, you may be caught in a bit of a “whale’s belly 🐳” about some issue, am I right?

God makes us ask ourselves questions most often when He intends to resolve them. He gives us needs that He alone can satisfy, and awakens capacities that He means to fulfill. Any perplexity is liable to be a spiritual gestation, leading to a new birth and a mystical regeneration.

Thomas Merton, The Sign of Jonas

Today’s readings remind us that we already have the glorious sign of the Resurrection to inspire us to leap from that dark “belly” into God’s hope for us!


Poetry: WE ARE JONAH – Rabbi Rachel Barenblat

In Rabbi Eliezer’s vision
Jonah entered the whale’s mouth
as we enter a synagogue.
Light streamed in through its eyes.
Jonah approached the bimah, the whale’s head.
Show me wonders, he said, as though
his own life weren’t a miracle.

The whale obliged, swimming down
to the foundation stone,
the navel of creation
fixed deep beneath the land.
Tsk tsk, chided the fish:
you’re beneath God’s temple —
you should pray.

Prayer requires stillness.
Running away had always been
so easy. Sitting silent
in self-judgement — forget it!
But waves only churn the surface.
In the deep beneath the deep
Jonah was wholly present.

We all flee
from uncomfortable conversations
the drip of a hospital IV
the truths we don’t want to own
the work we don’t want to do.
Now we’re in the belly of the whale,
someplace deep and strange.

God calls us to awareness:
to stand our ground
in the place where we are,
to do the work which needs doing.
To bring kindness and mercy
even to those who are unlike us.
Are we listening?


Music: a fun song “In the Belly of Whale” – The Newsboys

Lent: Fired by the Word

March 8, 2022
Tuesday of the First week of Lent

So shall my word be
that goes forth from my mouth;
It shall not return to me void,
but shall do my will,
achieving the end for which I sent it.

Isaiah 55:11

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, as I pray with today’s readings, I ask myself two questions:

“What has God’s Word accomplished in me?”
“What does God’s Word yet want to accomplish in me?”


If you’re like me, you’re always thinking about what you haven’t done, still must do, wish you had done.

Let’s just STOP that and, instead, praise our gracious God for the good accomplished through our lives. I know every one of you reading this blog is an amazingly good person. God has already done beautiful things in you and through you. Thank God. Give God the glory.


Let’s consciously pray for one another today as today’s Gospel encourages us:

Our Father who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name,
thy Kingdom come,
thy will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread;
and forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us;
and lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.


Poetry: My Psalm – Renee Yann, RSM

May my life be its own psalm of praise to You.
Within its melody, my whole being
bows to you in gratitude.
You chose to breathe your soul into me,
to warm my name in your cupped hands,
to wind your Divine Heart into the notes of my life.
Thank You.
My years have unfolded like flowers, 
slowly warming to your grace.
The petals of my years have each been kissed by You.
Whether in joy or sorrow,
silence or song, seen or unseen,
You have been with me.
Thank You.
You loved the child I once was and You played within me.
You loved the young girl who walked toward your call
along the precious, winding path of mercy.
You loved the woman I became, over and over,
as I learned to find You hiding in the world.
Thank You.
Now, as years deepen and with them,
our comfort in each other's love,
let my trust also deepen.
Let my faith reflect You,
like the face of a well-polished rock,
fully turned to your steadfast Light,
fully afire in your Abiding.
Thank You.

Music: My Tribute ( To God Be the Glory)

How can I say thanks
For the things You have done for me?
Things so undeserved,
Yet You gave to prove Your love for me;
The voices of a million angels
Could not express my gratitude.
All that I am and ever hope to be,
I owe it all to Thee.

To God be the glory,
To God be the glory,
To God be the glory
For the things He has done.

With His blood He has saved me,
With His power He has raised me;
To God be the glory
For the things He has done.

Just let me live my life,
Let it pleasing, Lord to Thee,
And if I gain any praise,
Let it go to Calvary.

Lent: Listening with the Heart

March 6, 2022
First Sunday of Lent

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy,  our reading from Romans tells us:

The word is near you,
in your mouth and in your heart.

How is the Word of God near us, with us? 

Certainly, our sincere study and prayer with scripture is one way. Sitting quietly with scriptural passages, letting them speak to us, and inviting them to inform our lives is a life-giving discipline.

Sometimes, we might choose just one word or phrase from a beloved reading, turning it over and over, gently in our prayer. How has this precious word informed our lives, inspired us, called us, comforted us? How is it speaking to us in this moment?


As we move more deeply into the “words” of scripture, we move closer to the Word – the Incarnate God. John writes: 

In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God.
He was with God in the beginning.

Through him all things were made;
without him nothing was made that has been made.

John 1:1

Today in our prayer, we might recommit ourselves to a deepening love of scripture, of the Word given to us there.

In his book, “The Bible Makes Sense”, Walter Bruggemann says this:

The Bible is not an “object” for us to study but a partner with whom we may dialogue. It is usual in our modern world to regard any “thing” as an object that will yield its secrets to us if we are diligent and discerning. And certainly this is true of a book that is finished, printed, bound, and that we can buy, sell, shelve, and carry in a briefcase or place on a coffee table…[But] reading the Bible requires that we abandon the subject-object way of perceiving things… [If we do,] the text will continue to contain surprises for us, and conversely we discover that not only do we interpret the text but we in turn are interpreted by the text… We may analyze, but we must also listen and expect to be addressed.


Poetry: God – by Khalil Gibran

In the ancient days, when the first quiver of speech came to my lips, I ascended the holy mountain and spoke unto God, saying, 'Master, I am thy slave. Thy hidden will is my law and I shall obey thee for ever more.' 

But God made no answer, and like a mighty tempest passed away. 

And after a thousand years I ascended the holy mountain and again spoke unto God, saying, 'Creator, I am thy creation. Out of clay hast thou fashioned me and to thee I owe mine all.' 

And God made no answer, but like a thousand swift wings passed away. 

And after a thousand years I climbed the holy mountain and spoke unto God again, saying, 'Father, I am thy son. In pity and love thou hast given me birth, and through love and worship I shall inherit thy kingdom.' 

And God made no answer, and like the mist that veils the distant hills he passed away. 

And after a thousand years I climbed the sacred mountain and again spoke unto God, saying, 'My God, my aim and my fulfilment; I am thy yesterday and thou art my tomorrow. I am thy root in the earth and thou art my flower in the sky, and together we grow before the face of the sun.' 

Then God leaned over me, and in my ears whispered words of sweetness, and even as the sea that enfoldeth a brook that runneth down to her, he enfolded me. 

And when I descended to the valleys and the plains, God was there also.

Music: Word of God Speak – Mercy Me

Lent: Stretching toward God

March 5, 2022
Saturday after Ash Wednesday

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, Isaiah continues his advice begun in yesterday’s reading. When he finishes the list of things we should and should not do, Isaiah tells us how God will respond:

Then light shall rise for you in the darkness,
and the gloom shall become for you like midday;
Then the LORD will guide you always
and give you plenty even on the parched land.
God will renew your strength,
and you shall be like a watered garden,
like a spring whose water never fails.
The ancient ruins shall be rebuilt for your sake,
and the foundations from ages past you shall raise up ~

Isaiah 58: 8-12

Oh, who can resist these glorious Isaiahan lines. It’s a beautiful picture, isn’t it? To imagine it offers us great encouragement as we limp out of winter toward a spring horizon.


Each of our readings today carries a sense of shaking off old and lifeless ways to stretch toward a new promise.

The psalmist asks for God’s help in that stretching.

Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth.

Psalm 86:11

As I thought about “stretching” in prayer this morning, an image came to me of an experience some of you might share. After my knee replacement, I had to learn to streeeeetch my old ligaments around the new implant. It wasn’t exactly “hell” to do so, but it was at least the edge of purgatory! My perseverance paid off though when I began to walk freely and painlessly.



Stretching into the depths of God also takes a full measure of willpower and HOPE. We can hear these pleas in the rest of Psalm 86:

Incline your ear, O LORD; answer me,
for I am afflicted and poor.
Keep my life, for I am devoted to you;
save your servant who trusts in you.
You are my God.

Have mercy on me, O Lord,
for to you I call all the day.
Gladden the soul of your servant,
for to you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.



They say that rehabbing from knee replacement surgery is a lot easier if you have exercised and kept in fair shape beforehand. In our Gospel, dear Matthew does a total , full-hearted stretch — one that he must have been preparing for all his life. Otherwise, how could he have been so immediately responsive to Christ’s unexpected invitation?

Jesus saw a tax collector named Levi sitting at the customs post.
He said to him, “Follow me.”
And leaving everything behind, he got up and followed him.

Luke 5:27

Visualizing this scene, we can almost see Matthew not only get up — but his spirit actually jump up at the amazing invitation of God!


Lent is a time for us to do some jumping into grace — so many invitations come to us in this season’s beautiful scriptures and rituals. So many inspirations to grow come to us in our changing seasons! Let’s not be so distracted by our daily un-importances that we miss the call to streeeetch!


Poetry: St. Matthew by John Keble – this is a section of the poem which reflects on today’s Gospel passage.Matthew is the “meek publican” of the second stanza below. Amid all the clamor of the world around him, Keble’s Matthew has a clear eye and heart for Christ.
John Keble, (1792 – 1866) was an English churchman and poet, one of the leaders of the Oxford Movement. Keble College, Oxford, was named after him.

There are in this loud stunning tide
Of human care and crime,
With whom the melodies abide
Of th' everlasting chime;
Who carry music in their heart
Through dusky lane and wrangling mart,
Plying their daily task with busier feet,
Because their secret souls a holy strain repeat.
How sweet to them, in such brief rest
As thronging cares afford,
In thought to wander, fancy-blest,
To where their gracious Lord,
In vain, to win proud Pharisees,
Spake, and was heard by fell disease-
But not in vain, beside yon breezy lake,
Bade the meek Publican his gainful seat forsake:
At once he rose, and left his gold;
His treasure and his heart
Transferred, where he shall safe behold
Earth and her idols part;
While he beside his endless store
Shall sit, and floods unceasing pour
Of Christ's true riches o'er all time and space,
First angel of His Church, first steward of His Grace.
Nor can ye not delight to think
Where He vouchsafed to eat,
How the Most Holy did not shrink
From touch of sinner's meat;
What worldly hearts and hearts impure
Went with Him through the rich man's door,
That we might learn of Him lost souls to love,
And view His least and worst with hope to meet above.
These gracious lines shed Gospel light
On Mammon's gloomiest cells,
As on some city's cheerless night
The tide of sunrise swells,
Till tower, and dome, and bridge-way proud
Are mantled with a golden cloud,
And to wise hearts this certain hope us given;
“No mist that man may raise, shall hide the eye of Heaven.”
And oh! if e'en on Babel shine
Such gleams of Paradise,
Should not their peace be peace divine,
Who day by day arise
To look on clearer heavens, and scan
The work of God untouch'd by man?
Shame on us, who about us Babel bear,
And live in Paradise, as if God was not there!

Music: Stretch Out – Gospel/Soul song by the Institutional Radio Choir

The Institutional Radio Choir was a gospel choir that recorded between 1962-2003. The choir began in 1954 at the Institutional COGIC in Brooklyn, NY, under Bishop Carl E Williams Sr. After recording an album entitled: “Well Done,” the choir backed up Shirley Caesar on her two albums, I’ll Go and My Testimony. Caesar allotted the choir’s director two songs on the album, one of which was entitled (When Trouble Comes) Stretch Out. The song went on to become a gospel standard, especially in Pentecostal circles. The choir went on to record over 20 albums, most of which charted in the Top 10 on the Gospel Billboard charts.

When troubles come and storms begin to rise
Hold on and learn to stretch out
Oh keep on fasting, keep on praying
Hold on and learn to stretch out

When Satan get on your track
And tries to turn me back
I won’t worry, i won’t fret. i just stretch out
Stretch out, oh stretch out

When days are dark and cloudy are my skies
I hold on and learn to stretch out
Oh keep on fasting, keep on believing
Hold on and learn to stretch out

Cause the race isn’t given to the swift
Neither is it given to the strong
But to him that endureth to the end
Stretch out, oh stretch out

When troubles come and storms begin to rise
Hold on and learn to stretch out
Oh keep on fasting keep on believing
Hold on and learn to stretch out

Cause the race isn’t given to the swift
Neither is it given to the strong
But to him that endureth to the end
Stretch out, oh stretch out

When i am lost, when i am sad
Jesus is there, he’ll make me glad
The Lord won’t deceive you
The Lord he won’t leave you

Stretch out

Stretch out
Stretch out
Stretch out on his word

Stretch out
Stretch out
Stretch out
Oh, stretch out

Stretch out!