Music and the Gospel: “Hopeless Wanderer,” Mumford and Sons

God within us guides and inspires us, accompanies us in exciting times and difficult ones. This week, SPIRIT explores how a young woman, 16 and pregnant, makes a difficult decision about the baby with her boyfriend and family. In the gospel Jesus heals Peter’s mother-in-law, who begins to serve him as the first woman disciple. Both women feel the stirring of God within their hearts and put these feelings into action. When you feel the Holy Spirit burning within you, do you smother or fan the flames?

Key Lyrics:So when your hopes on fire / But you know your desire / Don’t hold a glass over the flame / Don’t let your heart grow cold / I will call you by name / I will share your road

Questions: Think of a time when you knew within your heart what decision to make, even if those around you didn’t feel the same as you. How did you recognize this feeling? What did you do to let that feeling move you to action? How can you help this flame within others grow and be put into action?

Our Suffering God

Christians claim that Jesus is simultaneously fully human and fully divine. This is a difficult concept to think about, a confusing notion to believe in. Many heresies in our Church’s history center around leaning away from the human/divine balance that Jesus carried in his being, some losing sight of his humanity and focusing too much on his divinity, some the opposite. Declaring that we believe that Jesus is fully human and fully divine is bold.

In the passion story, Jesus cries out on the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” This is a deeply human moment, where Jesus articulates that he is experiencing complete abandonment by God. Jesus is feeling totally fragmented from God even while he is divine. Yet it is in this very moment that he is God. God is a dying human, put on trial and crucified. This human plea of Jesus, this vulnerable pain of abandonment by his Father is so essential to our faith. We all, at times, feel that God has abandoned us. Yet maybe those are the moments when God is most near. If Jesus Christ himself felt utterly alone on the cross as a human, then God knows what that abandonment feels like. Jesus dies a painful, humiliating death as a full human being, as fully divine. God feels abandoned, God suffers, God dies, God resurrects.

It fills me with wonder and awe. Seeing Jesus cry out and die, knowing that he is God, these are challenging things to hold in our heads and hearts. It is hard to talk about, hard to know what to believe. No wonder Judas betrays Jesus, Peter denies Jesus, and Mary, Mary and Salome are too afraid to tell anyone that Jesus has risen. I know there are times in my life I have betrayed and denied Jesus. There have been times that I am too afraid to talk about what I believe. It is comforting to know that Jesus’ friends experienced the same thing.

When was a time you felt abandoned by God?

When was a time that God may have felt abandoned by you?

What are your favorite Gospel stories that you think highlight Jesus’ divinity?

What are your favorite Gospel stories that you think highlight Jesus’ humanity?

Today, who do you identify most with in the passion story: Judas, Peter, Mary, Simon, Pilate? Why?


Photo courtesy of  Lawrence OP via Creative Commons License

Compassionate Vision

When I read Spirit for Sunday, March 4th, a unifying theme that emerges for me is compassionate vision. With faith, we can have moments of seeing people clearly. We can see people for who God made them to be. If we use compassionate vision, we can start to see God’s presence alive and well in the world. We can grow a worldview of abundance and grace that is rooted in God’s presence here and now.

In the Gospel this week, Peter, James and John see Jesus for who he really is. They see Jesus literally light up, and hear God say that Jesus is God’s son. His divinity shines in his humanity. Maybe before this moment, they saw Jesus as a friend and mentor. But on the mountain, with eyes of faith, compassionate vision takes over. It is as if, for the first time, the disciples really truly see Jesus.

Has there been a time in your life when you are struck with the real presence of Jesus? What did that look like? What did that feel like? Where do you go to look for Jesus in your life?

In the story about The Bridge, Kalvin is having trouble with his teachers, his father, his football schedule and his grandmother. Finally, he decides to go to The Bridge. There, he is met with compassionate vision. People do not see him as simply a trouble maker or marijuana user, but as a young man dedicated to getting his GED. He gets the attention he needs from teachers who see his learning potential.

Do you have teachers you feel like really see you? Who in your life uses compassionate vision to help you remember who God made you to be? Who sees your potential?

When Malcolm went to The Bridge, he could have been seen as a young man who has been abused and spent time in juvenile detention, and is now staying at a shelter. Unfortunately, all three of those things come with a lot of assumptions and negative connotations. Malcolm says, however, that he feels safe at The Bridge, like it is a place where people are friendly and help him build a life. People there use compassionate vision to see past the stereotypes and see him the way God sees him.

Have you ever caught yourself stereotyping someone else? What would it take for your school or youth group to practice more compassionate vision?

Sacraments help us grow our compassionate vision. Our faith can, at times, seem so intangible and transcendent. Sacraments make God visible. Things like water, oil, bread, and hands are real life elements that can symbolize healing and God’s love for us here in this place. By engaging in the sacraments, we become signs of God’s presence in the world. We can take the compassionate vision that is nurtured during the sacraments and bring it to other areas of our lives.

What sacraments do you enjoy? How do you feel that you represent God’s presence in the world? What would it look like if you pledged to use compassionate vision this Lent, to try to see each person as who God made him or her to be?