Minnesota Nice?

April 2nd Sunday Readings.

Last week, I got flipped off while driving . I had moved into a turn lane to make a left at a stop light when a TruckCensoredlarge heating and air conditioning truck swerved into the turn lane. I clomped on my breaks and gave a little “honk honk” with my horn to let the driver know I was there and to avoid an accident. I didn’t lay on the horn angrily or scream – just a little, “maybe you can’t see me, fyi, I am here” kind of a honk.

The fellow Minnesotan driving the truck looked at me through his side mirror and proceeded to let me know that I was #1 in his book. This didn’t seem very Minnesota nice. Nor is it wise since his company’s name and phone number were painted on the side of his truck.

To further compound this awkward exchange, we were both heading to Menard’s and pulled into the parking lot at the same time. In a true act of Minnesota nice, we both avoided each other on our way into and while shopping at the home improvement store.

Minnesota has this reputation of being full of nice people. For the most part, this is true. When I told my wife the story of my morning, she responded that it wasn’t Minnesota nice to honk at the other driver in the first place, even if it did prevent an accident. Which made me wonder, is “nice” always good?

Sometimes we use the word nice when really we mean kind or generous or charitable. If those are the kinds of things we mean when we say nice, then by all means, be nice. But I don’t think that Jesus Christ left heaven, came to earth, suffered, and died on a cross just so that we would become irrationally polite.

Our readings for this Sunday teach us that Jesus’ mission was not to make mean people, nice, but to make dead people, live.

In the first reading God says through the prophet Isaiah, “O my people, I will open your graves and have you rise from them, and bring you back to the land of Israel.” In the second reading Paul writes to the Romans, “If the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, the one who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also, through his Spirit dwelling in you.” And the gospel is the beautiful story of Jesus raising his friend Lazarus from the dead. Jesus says, “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.”

If Jesus didn’t come to make us nice, but to make the dead, live, then the question we need to ask ourselves when we lay our heads on our pillows each night is not, “Was I nice?” but instead we should ask, “Was I fully alive today?”

Man-Fully-AliveIs being kind, generous, and charitable part of being fully alive? Yes. Is being nice our sole goal each day? No. Being alive in Christ is our #1 priority and purpose each day. Are you alive?

 

LIVE IT:
Right now – Take 3 huge breathes and let the air slowly out of your lungs. Feel what it feels like to be alive. Now make a plan for something you are going to do tomorrow to be more alive than you were today.

She said, “Maybe.”

March 26th Sunday Readings.

When I was sixteen years old, I asked a girl out for the very first time. I didn’t ask herrejected red square  stamp friends if it would be cool ahead of time. I didn’t make sure she was open to it. I just went for it.

She said, “Maybe.” Not a good sign. That maybe turned into a “no” the next day.

I was rejected. To be honest, I wasn’t that upset. Mostly I was just proud of myself for having the courage to ask. Have you ever been rejected?

In the readings this Sunday, we are going to hear about two people who have been mostly rejected by their families, cultures, or communities (find  the readings here). In the first reading, Samuel goes out looking for Israel’s next king. When he comes to Jesse’s house, Samuel thinks he’s found the guy in Eliab, but he’s not the guy. Samuel goes through all of Jesse’s sons and doesn’t find the chosen one. Finally he asks if Jesse has any more sons and that is when David, the youngest, the one sent out to do the worst and grossest job-shepherding, comes and is chosen.

In the gospel, Jesus heals a man born blind. This man is reject by his culture because they believe his blindness is punishment for his or his parent’s sin. They see his affliction as a sign of God’s rejection. In actuality it is that affliction that is the reason he is chosen by Jesus for a sign of God’s desire to heal and restore humanity.

In both cases, God choses the rejected. In the first reading we hear, “Not as man sees does God see, because man sees the appearance but the LORD looks into the heart.” These are two examples of times that God choses someone that maybe we wouldn’t have chosen for that task.

I’ve heard it said that God doesn’t chose the qualified; he qualifies the chosen.

David wasn’t ready to be king immediately after his anointing, but it is through his time as a shepherd that he is being prepared to shepherd the people of Israel. The man born blind doesn’t know who Jesus is, but he know that Jesus healed him. His witness is simple, but powerful.

Could it be that God is choosing you for some task? Maybe you feel like the last person God could use to demonstrate his love. Perfect, that’s just how he likes them.

LIVE IT:
Take out your phone and open up the calendar app. Make a daily, repeating reminder to say the following short prayer each morning, “Dear God, whatever way you choose to use me today, I say yes.” Then pray that prayer everyday for 7 days.

Josh Groban Said No.

March 19th Sunday Readings.

Josh Groban tells a great story about being invited to sing a duet with Celion Deon at the 1f342816b7f861b1699e0605e21ad4381998 Grammy Awards rehearsals. Andrea Bocelli was delayed in travel and couldn’t make it to LA in time for the rehearsal. The producer David Foster called the 17 year-old Groban, a high schooler at the time, to see if he would step in and sing with Celion.

Groban told him no.

As Groban explained, he was a little intimidated by the offer and told Foster that he was busy and had a big social studies test to study for and so couldn’t sing at the Grammys. Needless to say after a second phone call and discussion with his parents, Groban said yes, and the rest is history. Have you ever said no when faced with a dream offer?

In the gospels this week we read the familiar story of Jesus and the woman at the well. Throughout the first several lines of dialogue the woman gives reason after reason why Jesus shouldn’t be speaking with her. She, or her culture, set up barrier after barrier to connecting with Jesus. We can almost hear her say, “Jesus, it’s not you; it’s me. We can’t be friends.”

Yet, Jesus, after each objection is stated turn back to her. Jesus doesn’t give up. He continues to engage her in conversation until finally he reveals to her that he is the Messiah, the Christ, the chosen one that she, her village, and all people are waiting for. At the heart of the matter Jesus reveals himself completely to her.

I think often we put up barriers to letting Jesus know us. I think we say things like “I’m not a church person,” or “I’m only human, I could never be a saint.” It’s as if we are being offered the best gift ever, the opportunity of a life time, everything we could ever want, but come up with some reason to say no. It’s almost as if we talk ourselves out of happiness.

Jesus never gives up.

No matter how many times we’ve said no – no matter how often we’ve denied God’s invitation –  No matter how far away we feel from Jesus right now, Jesus is always pursuing us and ready for when we to turn to him.

Could today be the day we stop resisting and let God love us without condition?

LIVE IT:
Make a list of all the things that keep you from being closer to Jesus. How many of them can you control or get rid of or cross off your list? Do it today.

I failed Lent.

March 12th Sunday Readings

I failed in one of my Lenten commitments on the Thursday after Ash Wednesday. Yes, Fgradeliterally, on the 2nd day of Lent, I didn’t do one of the things I had committed to do. Part of me was, “Wow, that’s terrible.” This first born doesn’t like falling short.

As I was reflecting more on my failure, I started to feel a sense of relief. No longer was I bound by my desire to “pull off” a good Lent. No longer was it about my “perfect attendance” for my Lenten promises. I was free from having to do a good job, and could just see my Prayer, Fasting, and Almsgiving for what they were, a means to a end.

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I mistake my means for my end. I think this is especially true when it comes to my spiritual practices. It’s as if I celebrate what is getting me to the thing I should celebrate.

In our gospel this Sunday, Peter makes the same mistake. Jesus is transfigured before him. Scripture says Jesus’ clothes turned dazzling white and his face shone like the sun. Peter got a taste of what Jesus resurrected looked like. Experiencing this moment, Peter asks if they can just stay on the mountain.

But Jesus eventually leads them back down to head into Jerusalem and ministry. The transfiguration wasn’t the end, it was the way in which God showed Jesus’ true identity and directly told the key leaders of Jesus’ followers that they should listen to Jesus.

Silhouette of Jesus with Cross over sunset concept for religion,The end was nothing less than Jesus’ death and resurrection and our salvation.

What if Peter had settled for the mountain top?

God used that moment to serve the bigger purpose. In the first reading, God tells Abram that he is going to make Abram’s family a great nation, but that is just a means in order to bless the whole world.

What is the greater purpose for your day to day actions? What are you working and living for?

LIVE IT:
Take 1 day or just 1 hour and every time you make a decision or do something, ask yourself, “Why?” Keep asking “Why?” until you think you’ve reached the end.

How many times…

March 5th Sunday Readings.

“How many times do I have to ask you bring your clothes basket upstairs?” I uttered in is-that-not-brilliant-i-think-it-s-brilliant-hv4hw7-clipartfrustration. It finally happened. I realized I was becoming my mother.

Which honestly isn’t a bad thing, my mom is great. As my kids have gotten older, I feel like I understand my parents better and better. It’s like I understand why they said what they said. More than that, I understand something I really didn’t understand as a young person –

Obedience is a form of Love.

In the second reading, Paul outlines this way of thinking about Jesus as the one who, when Adam was disobedient, was totally obedient to the Father. If Adam disobeys God, it is Jesus who redeems through total obedience. If Adam’s disobedience caused a separation between man and God, then Jesus’ obedience repaired that rift. If Adam’s act brought death, Jesus’ obedience brings life.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t usually value obedience. Maybe it is that us Americans seem to enjoy a rebel. Maybe it’s just that I rather like being in control and obeying someone else means that I have to give up that control. Whatever the case, I rarely have thought well of simple obedience.

Yet Jesus shows us that one way to love, and to love well, is to obey the virtuous request of those who love us. Obviously, I’m not suggesting we just do whatever someone else tells us. But when asked, by someone with total care and love for us, obedience is a way to love.

How can I love my spouse? How can I love my parents? How can we love God? Obedience.

Live It:
How do we know what God is telling us? Read scripture. Try reading this Sunday’s readings by clicking here.
or if your my kids, take your baskets upstairs. 😉