Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Upper Room Liturgy - First Sunday in Lent

Upper Room Liturgy, First Sunday of Lent
Jim Marsh and Donna Rougeux
A Reading from selected quotes of the Dalai Lama
“The whole purpose of religion is to facilitate love and compassion, patience, tolerance, humility, and forgiveness. The purpose of all the major religious traditions is not to construct big temples on the outside, but to create temples of goodness and compassion inside, in our hearts. This is my simple religion.... No need for temples…. Your own mind, your own heart is the temple.”
“We can never obtain peace in the outer world until we make peace with ourselves. World peace must develop from inner peace. Peace is not just mere absence of violence…. and conflicts; differences will always be there. Peace means solving these differences through peaceful means; through dialogue, education, knowledge; and through humane ways. Peace is the manifestation of human compassion.”
“You must not hate those who do wrong or harmful things; but with compassion, you must do what you can to stop them — for they are harming themselves, as well as those who suffer from their actions. The topic of compassion is not at all religious business; …it is human business. Love and compassion are necessities … without them, humanity cannot survive. If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion. Compassion is the radicalism of our time.” 
These are the inspired words of His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, and the community responds by saying: AMEN!

A Reading from the Gospel of Mark [Mk 1:9-15]
Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized in the Jordan River by John. Immediately upon coming out of the water, Jesus saw the heavens opening and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. Then a voice came from the heavens: “You are my Beloved, my Own. On you my favor rests.”

Immediately the Spirit drove Jesus out into the wilderness, and he remained there for forty days, and was tempted by Satan. He was with the wild beasts, and the angels looked after him.

After John’s arrest, Jesus appeared in Galilee proclaiming the Good News of God: “This is the time of fulfillment. The reign of God is at hand! 
Change your hearts and minds, and believe this Good News!”

These are the inspired words of Mark, disciple of Jesus, and the community responds by saying: AMEN!

JTM’s Homily Starter First Sunday Lent – Feb 18, 2018

We have just heard:
“The reign of God is at hand. Change your hearts and minds, and believe this Good News!”

“This is my simple religion …. no need for temples …. Your own heart is the temple.”

“Love and compassion are necessities … without them, humanity cannot survive.”

“World peace must develop from inner peace. Peace is the manifestation of human compassion.”

Do you all remember the reality TV series “Survivor?” It was shot in some wilderness area with all sorts of challenges, tests, and even temptations to see who would persevere, and which team would be named ‘survivor.’ This wilderness was new and uncharted territory—the old and familiar structures no longer support or define life as each person experienced it before.

Perhaps this Lent will afford us the time to stop, reflect and figure out how to handle some of our tests and challenges—confronting the clutter, distractions, addictions, and any dis-eases in our lives.

Mark’s gospel reading today is very terse and lacks the details found in Matthew and Luke.  Perhaps, this allows us to make the story our own—with our very own details. What wilderness do I find myself in, or even in myself? What wild elements challenge me? Who are the unseen angels that wait on me? Will my wilderness experiences result in defeat or determination, courage or cowardice? How are we tested and challenged, and what choices will we make? What will help us do this?

Immediately, after his baptism the Spirit leads Jesus out into the wilderness where he prays and is tempted by Satan (though a more accurate translation according to many scripture scholars would be tested).  Clearly, this was not a personal choice. Returning from his wilderness experience, Jesus begins to proclaim God’s dream for humanity and all creation by announcing the in-breaking of God’s kin-dom, a healthy global community of beloved equals.  Jesus demonstrates this new reality by his words and actions. He returns to preach, teach and to heal. Jesus challenges his peers and us to repent, that is, to change the way we think and behave so we are in sync with this new reality. 

We need to be persons of prayer; prayer not being some repetitive formula but being in tune with the thoughts and plans of the Holy One. The Dalai Lama emphasizes the development of a good attitude and a good heart through meditation and mindfulness, focusing on kindness and compassion, and acting responsibly as global citizens.

Jesus was tempted/tested and so are we. We tend to externalize temptations and make them about behavior, but the real challenges are often within us. Do we believe that we are also the Beloved daughter or son of the Holy One or are we tempted to not trust that the Holy One is with us in the dusty, and sometimes dirty messiness of our world? We, too, are called to do great things on earth. Like Jesus, we must meet our tests and challenges, individually and as the human community across the wonderful planet that we call home. With each remembrance of who we are authentically, the demons will be banished and through our acts of loving kindness and compassion, the dream of the Holy One will become more real.

So what did you hear? How are you challenged and tested today? How will you respond?