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Jun 1 20

The Fall Hebrew Feasts

by davesandel

June 1, 2020

 The Fall Hebrew Feasts (see more at May 31, 2020 post)

God’s feasts revolve around Israel’s spring and fall agricultural seasons. There are seven of them, and the number seven constantly recurs within them. The first four celebrate planting in the spring, and the last three commemorate the harvest.

  1. God’s Passover begins at sundown on the fourteenth day of the first month of the Hebrew calendar of 354 days. It initiates a week long observance of …
  2. God’s Feast of Unleavened Bread, which begins on the day following Passover. Eat unleavened bread for seven days. Hold a sacred assembly (a celebration) on the first and seventh days and do no regular work on either of those two days.
  3. God’s Feast of First Fruits takes place on the day after Sabbath in the week of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. This is our Easter.
  4. God’s Feast of Weeks, or Shavout, or Pentecost is celebrated on the day after exactly seven weeks following the Passover Feast, because according to tradition on that day “the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob – the Holy One of Israel – bound himself in covenant with his people at Mt. Sinai amid lightning, thunder, fire, billowing smoke and a shofar blast. From then on they would be a nation who would manifest His glory and bring redemption to the world. (see more in yesterday’s post for Pentecost, May 31, 2020)
  5. God’s Feast of Trumpets (Rosh Hashanah or “Head of the Year”), on the first day of Tishrei, the seventh month of the Jewish calendar. This is the Jewish world’s civil New Year’s Day and entry into the ten “Days of Awe.” The trumpet and the shofar blast a wakeup call for us to repent and keep repenting for ten days until …
  6. God’s Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur), on the tenth day of the seventh month. After Shabbat itself (the weekly Sabbath), this day is the holiest day in the Jewish calendar, a day for somber reflection, prayer, and fasting from both food and work. Do no work from the evening of the ninth day until the following evening.


On the Day of Atonement two goats are brought to the High Priest, one to be sacrificed and other (the scapegoat) released into the wilderness. The blood of the sacrificed goat will be sprinkled on the “mercy seat.” The High Priest will lay hands on the second goat, confess the sins of Israel, and send him away, carrying and thereby freeing the people from their guilt.


  1. God’s Feast of Tabernacles, or Booths/Shelters (Sukkot), begins five days later, on the fifteenth day of the seventh month. This is the most joyous of times. It is the ingathering of our crops, and of God’s crop – us! After gathering the grain, celebrate this festival for seven days. Begin with a sabbath day and do no work. End on the eighth day with another sabbath. Jesus cried out his offer of redemption to Israel on the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles, that great day: “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink” (John 7:37)!


Dance through the first sabbath with palm and willow leaves. Use the leaves to make tents in which to dwell during the feast, to remember the lives of our ancestors in the desert. Hang fruit from your crops in these tents. Party every day! We might need to work at being joyful now, but not forever. “On that day there will be one Lord and his name the only name” (Zechariah 14:9). Joy will come easy then, in the morning and the noontime and the night.


The Jewish calendar has 354 days, and 12 months, at least most of the time. The names are a little different: Nisan, Iyyar, Sivan, Tammuz, Ab, Elul, Tishri, Heshvan, Chislev, Tebeth, Shebat, and Adar. There is a thirteenth month, Veadar, which comes along once every two or three years. Complicated!

Anyway, since the four spring feasts are in the first three months, and the three fall feasts in the seventh month, that leaves a lot of months without much to celebrate. But there are other holidays.

Most notable is the Festival of Lights/Dedication (Hanukkah) in Chislev (near our December), which celebrates the re-dedication of the Temple in the second century BC. It is not religiously significant, it is not one of “God’s Feasts,” but it matters a lot to Jewish people who, like all of us, get tired of cold winter days and want a break. Christians have Christmas, but they don’t. This is a good time for Jewish folks to give each other gifts.

And there is Purim, held on the fourteenth day of Adar (March or April before Passover). This is Esther’s day, the day the Jewish people were saved from Haman (see the whole book of Esther in the Bible). On this day, the mitvot is celebrated: read the book of Esther twice, donate to the poor, exchange gifts of food, have a feast. Dress up and have a party. This is often the “most fun” Jewish holiday.


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Jun 1 20

In Mary’s footsteps

by davesandel

June 1, 2020, Monday of the Ninth Week of Ordinary Time          (today’s lectionary)

 In Mary’s footsteps

Today begins the second and longest period of Ordinary Time, beginning the day after Pentecost and ending at Advent. It is also the Memorial of Saint Justin Martyr. And in 2018 Pope Francis designated this day to be the Memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church.

In 2002 Cardinal Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI) wrote beautifully of the idea that the church is like Mary: “The Church is virgin and mother, she is immaculate and carries the burdens of history. She suffers and she is assumed into heaven. Slowly she learns that Mary is her mirror, that she is a person in Mary. Mary on the other hand is not an isolated individual, who rests in herself. She is carrying the mystery of the Church.”

Mary carries Jesus, bears him as a baby, raises him as a son, follows him as a disciple, grieves as a mother at the foot of his cross, and stays with his disciples even after he dies, is resurrected and ascends into heaven. She redeems Eve, the fallen woman, at least symbolically, as Jesus redeems Adam, the fallen man. When Eve is tempted by the serpent to eat the fruit of knowledge and gain the “privilege” of knowing good and evil, Mary comes to redeem her.

Lonely, God calls out to Adam, “Wherefore art thou?” Adam comes out of hiding, clothed sort of, knowing something was very wrong. “I was afraid because I was naked. I ate that apple you told me to stay away from, and suddenly I knew I was naked and shouldn’t be.”

There had never been a “should” in his life, and suddenly there were shoulds everywhere. He tried to get away. “It was Eve’s fault. She made me eat.”

But Eve blamed the serpent. Not that we’re much better, but nobody in those early days seemed to know how to admit the truth, take responsibility, assume the position and accept the blame. God’s response gave them lots of room to learn those things, if they wanted to. “On your belly you shall crawl … I will put enmity between you and the woman. Her son will strike at your head, while you strike at his heel.” Now the man would sweat and suffer, the woman would bear children and suffer, and they would live their lives suffering outside the garden he had prepared for them, fending for themselves. Rather than receive and grow in the gift of dominion over all the earth, they would be afraid forever and strive to dominate each other. And then they would die anyway. Fending for themselves.

This was a very bad day for all of us.

Of course God did not exactly leave us alone. When we fended too far for ourselves, and began falling on our own swords, God would somehow make himself known. Before Jesus, and before Mary even agreed to bear the son of God and bring him into the world, there was Zion.

Not Eden, not even close, but something. “Of Zion they shall say: One and all were born in her, and he who has established her is the Most High Lord. All shall dance and sing, “My home is within you!”

And yes. The church is like Zion. But far more, the church is like Mary. In the bosom of Abraham, in the womb of God, O Lord as we sing and dance and praise you, carry us back to Eden, give us another chance to trust and obey, say no to the serpent, lose every should that ever was, and be happy. Warm our hearts with the Spirit of your son.

Not so fast. You don’t get something for nothing, do you?

Can you see them? Mel Gibson’s movie and others too, show Mary in tears, showered in her son’s blood, standing at the foot of the cross. Others were with her, women all but John, and they wept together. They looked up and saw Jesus looking down at them. “Woman, behold your son.”

See me, yes, but see John also. He is your son now. You are the Theotokos, yes, but you are also the Mother of the Church. “Behold your children. You are their mother now.”

Mary carried the body of the Christ. Through her, the body of the Christ inhabits Jesus, inhabits the Church, and inhabits the bread sanctified for us to eat in the Lord’s Supper. What more could we want? Shoulds must never rule us, only Jesus. The body of the Christ here and now. Life everlasting. The Garden of Eden. Redemption.

This is one of those really Good Memorial Days.

(Genesis 3, Psalm 87, John 19)


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Jun 1 20

Haikus for every day of May

by davesandel

MAY 2020

Haikus every day:


May 1

Small celebrations

April still slips into May

Raise the roof and smile


May 2

Chickens sweat it out

Blue sky warm sun quiet day

Jesus, fill my soul


May 3

Mom’s mother’s day gift

Essential oils necklace

But chain broke too soon 


Aly’s birthday: eight

FaceTime stories – bike crash, park

Hunt, friend’s pinata


May 4

Good day to putter

Get space ready for Marc’s work

Have to make a plan


May 5

Two male rose-breasted

Grosbeaks eat together, and then

Scorch the air and fight!


May 6

Marc/Myr, clean gutters

We work outside together

Sweet home family


May 7

Ate too much today

Sun, birds, work with M & M

This week’s Saturday


May 8


Friend healed from virus

Antibodies growing strong

Can I get a hug?


May 9

Ice cream with grandkids

Even if we can’t give hugs

Smiles for Mother’s Day


May 10

Brrr cold, wind, ugly

This? Fifth Sunday of Easter?

Just take a long nap


May 11

Brent. Truck. Home Depot.

Hooray. Got our lattice home

Gazebo’s new roof


May 12

Our hedge now trimmed smooth

Marc knows how to cut green hair

Learning on the job


May 13

Stacey! Help! Blog looks wrong

Where did my italics go?

We get chance to talk


May 14

This one is from Dan Frachey:

Known by many names

Author, counselor … I like

Jolly grandpa man


And I responded:


Ha! Jolly haiku

Brings a smile to grandpa’s face

Dan’s chiara song


May 15

Nice outside all day

I move sand, reset red bricks

Smooth out place to sit


May 16

Puttering is one thing

Move listless is another

Today I’m have dead


May 17

Rain all day, Lincoln

Trip, see Mom, sit up straight, breathe

Be patient with my self


May 18

Too much food? Shut up!

Too much mess? Count your blessings!

Don’t be stupid!


May 19

Morning, folded hands,

Close my eyes: “Come Lord Jesus,

Hold me, be my guest.”


May 20

Alone, I sit, think

With Marc/Myr so much gets done

Just do it right now!


May 21

Read write listen pray

Rhythm for every day

Sacred, divine song


May 22

Marc and I built gate,

Cover for hen’s nesting box,

And a little shelf


May 23

My first smoked pork butt

Low heat, smoke, two twenty five

Gas grill, hot day, sun! (and 12 hours!)


Seventh Sunday of Easter, May 24, 2020

Writing these in church

Always during the sermon

I love that rhythm


First smoked ribs gas grill

Five hours this time, better

Even than the butt!


May 25

Writing at home, not

Church? But spirit and truth

Travel light and free


May 26

Webcams came today

We can show ourselves and smile

All the world to see


May 27

co-vid 19 test

Margaret does not have it

Hope she stays that way



May 28

We have done so much

There is still so much to do

Time, we fly away


May 29

Paint, mow, trim, rest, romp

Tuna fresh from Asian seas

Another picnic (with Marc & Myranda)


May 30

With Marc, fence is done!

Our loggia, garden home

Chickens, only look!


May 31 (Sunday of Pentecost)

Lord in your mercy

Let the Spirit wind blow free

Please hear our prayer

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May 31 20

The winds of God

by davesandel

Sunday of Pentecost, May 31, 2020   (today’s lectionary)

The winds of God

In Leviticus 23 God named and claimed the Hebrew festivals (after which Porcius Festus of Acts 25 was decidedly NOT named). They are a gift to us, but they belong to God.

The feasts revolve about Israel’s spring and fall agricultural seasons. There are seven of them, and they recur around the number seven. The first four celebrate planting in the spring, and the last three commemorate the harvest. I will try to understand the harvest festivals in tomorrow’s post.

  1. God’s Passover begins at sundown on the fourteenth day of the first month of the Hebrew calendar of 354 days. It initiates a week long observance of …
  2. God’s Feast of Unleavened Bread, which begins on the day following Passover. Eat unleavened bread for seven days. Hold a sacred assembly (a celebration) on the first and seventh days and do no regular work on either of those two days.
  3. God’s Feast of First Fruits takes place on the day after Sabbath in the week of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. This is our Easter.
  4. God’s Feast of Weeks, or Shavout, or Pentecost is celebrated on the day after exactly seven weeks following the Passover Feast, because according to tradition on that day “the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob – the Holy One of Israel – bound himself in covenant with his people at Mt. Sinai amid lightning, thunder, fire, billowing smoke and a shofar blast. From then on they would be a nation who would manifest His glory and bring redemption to the world.

 After Jesus’ crucifixion (on the day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread), his resurrection (on the day of the Feast of First Fruits) and his ascension, today in Jerusalem God’s manifested glory is “made personal” during Shavout, which begins exactly seven weeks after Passover. On the second day of Shavout, the fiftieth day after Passover, the Pentecost, the priest offered a new grain offering of two leavened loaves. Just fifty days after Jesus’ last supper with his disciples, this day changed everything!

And there was a sudden sound from the sky, the roar of a violent wind, and it filled the whole house. They saw tongues of fire and the fire came to rest on each of them. They were filled with the Ruach Hakodesh (the Spirit of Yahweh). They could suddenly speak in all kinds of different languages.

The Tower of Babel stood between us for millennia, and now the babble could at last be understood. I think even now, when we mostly still do not comprehend each other’s words, we understand deeper down that we are one, not each other’s enemy but brothers and sisters made by God. Jesus words in John 14 bear fruit. No one comes to the Father except through the Son. We all come to the Father, of course in our own will and assent but far more via the “deeper down” conduit, made by God and protected in all of us by God. God does not abandon – he keeps us. And he keeps us not as we have made ourselves, but as he has made us.

 Clothed in majesty and splendor,

O God, how great thou art!

All of us creatures here on earth are yours

You have made us all

Do not hide your face or we will fall in fear

Do not remove our breath for we will die

Instead breathe ON us, o breath of God

Send forth your spirit and create us new

Again and again here on the face of your earth

Please o Lord, let the words of our mouths

And the meditations of our hearts

Be acceptable in thy sight

O Lord!

 Can it be? No one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit. And so,  in one Spirit we are all baptized into one body and given to drink, all of us, of one Spirit.

 And Jesus calls us all together. Why are we here like this, gathered so close together in one room the size of all the earth?

He appears in person, in his own body, and we see him. It is amazing. And he says, “Peace be with you.”

But these are words. Just words.

So he says again, “Peace be with you.” But this time he lifts his hand and says, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” And he breathes on us, and we are new again. Babes in Christ, and men and women growing mature and strong. We are changed forever. Nothing will ever be the same.

(Acts 2, Psalm 104, 1 Corinthians 12, John 20)

A paragraph written by Ken Garrison, Pastor Emeritus of the Fellowship Church of Winter Springs in Florida, sticks with me. You can read the whole post, and much more, here:

The Biblical meaning of these festivals is rich with significance. Why would anyone want to change them and, hence, take the chance of losing their meaning? Christianity, after the 2nd century, did this very thing.

Christianity of this era wanted desperately to distinguish itself and separate itself from anything associated with Israel. They began to define themselves as “catholic” or universal so not to be seen as a part of national Israel that God had designed them to be.

They changed their Shabbat to the first day of the week in the place of the last day of the week that God had prescribed.

They substituted “Good Friday” for Passover which they no longer celebrated and renamed Firstfruits as Easter. In doing so they opened the door for all kinds of pagan influences like the fertility symbols of eggs and “Easter Bunnies”. Many of these changes were authorized by the First General Council of the Church held at Nicea. Emperor Constantine who convened and presided over this council was a sun worshipper. As a result I am suspicious of the origin of the “Sunrise Service”.

Ken Garrison has a sense of humor, but of course he’s serious about the early church’s changes, and the unintentioned havoc they have wrought upon God’s feasts.

Which do, don’t forget, belong to God. They are gifts to us, but they belong to God.


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May 30 20

Stretch out your hands

by davesandel

May 29, 2020               (today’s lectionary)

 Stretch out your hands

Paul’s haters don’t give up easily. Banding together to gird up their courage, forty of them will not eat or drink until they have killed Paul and spilled his blood. This is exciting, and inevitably this “secret” gets out.  Paul’s family finds Paul and warns him.

I would guess these bad guys don’t normally waste much time on fasting. They certainly aren’t used to being thirsty. Let’s get this over with quickly. So they hatch a plan to ambush him tomorrow.

The Roman commander and Paul have, by now, become friends. When he hears of the plan from Paul’s nephew he orders two hundred soldiers, seventy cavalry and two hundred auxiliaries to accompany Paul out of Jerusalem back to Caesarea, into the safekeeping of Governor Felix.

As we know, governors cannot always be relied on to act in their citizens’ best interests. The governor ordered that Paul be kept in Herod’s prison until his accusers could arrive for another verbal battle. They quickly came.

The Sanhedrin’s attorney sucked up to Felix and asked him to hear their case with his “customary graciousness.” He called Paul a pest, ringleader of a cult called “The Way,” and accused him of desecrating the temple. Paul, given his chance to speak, denied the desecration, in fact saying that “after many years I came to bring alms for my nation.” And he spoke of “The Way” not as a sect but the true path to salvation for all Jews and everyone else.

Felix was accurately informed about The Way and postponed the trial. In the meantime he protected Paul and kept him comfortable. However, this went on for two years.

In 2001 over eight hundred prisoners were held in the US prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Today there are 40 left. None of them have been criminally charged. None of them are scheduled to be released. There is no judicial explanation for holding them. They are what today we call being “detained.” This is a lot like what was happening to Paul, although for twenty years, not two.

Felix left Caesarea, succeeded by Porcius Festus, and Paul stayed in prison. The Jewish leaders again asked for Paul’s head, and Festus smartly insisted they come up to Caesarea to plead their case. After hearing them, Festus wanted to please his new people and asked Paul to go to Jerusalem to stand trial.

Paul, the Roman citizen, said no. Instead he said, “I appeal to Caesar.” Festus was more than willing to get rid of him. He said, “You have appealed to Caesar. To Caesar you will go.”

Not so fast, however. And today’s lectionary begins at this point.

There must be time for the Herod Family to get their hands dirty in this mess. Besides, Festus was hoping to pass Paul along to them.

Just who’s in charge here?

The Lord has established his throne in heaven.

You’re in charge, right Lord?

Bless the Lord, o my soul.

Forget not all his benefits.


So far have you put our transgressions from us.

Your angels are mighty in strength.


Paul’s sojourn, like Peter’s, involved a lot of dialogue with God.

Simon, do you love me?” “Paul, do you love me?

Feed my lambs.

“Simon, son of John, do you love me?” “Paul of Tarsus, do you love me?”

Tend my sheep.

And Jesus said a third time, recalling the cock’s crow, “Simon! Do you love me?” So Peter was distressed. “YOU KNOW that I love you!”

And Jesus might have thought, “Do I?”

PAUL! Do you love me? “Jesus, you know that I love you!”


Blessed are those who are persecuted because of Jesus. And you Peter, and you Paul, and so many more of you, “When you grow old you will stretch out your hands and someone else will dress you. They will lead you where you do not want to go.”

And even so Jesus says, “Follow me.”

Reading this I have always thought simply of getting old, which goes something like this:

Sitting old and somewhat forgotten in a nursing home somewhere in Siberia, or central Illinois, I read these verses near the end of the gospel of John and I think, with at least a little self-pity, of myself. My body no longer cooperates or allows me to do much for myself. Others dress me and help me up, hold my by the hand and lead me. I am going to a dinner I don’t want to eat, to exercise I don’t want to do, to playtime when I don’t want to play.

Living in this end-of-life time, must I be a sad, foolish martyr, or can I relax and let myself be loved?

“Stretch out your hands,” Jesus says. And so I stretch them out.

“Let me lead you,” Jesus says. I look into his eyes, they are clear and bright. I trust him.

Let these others lead you in my place,” Jesus says.


“Trust them, because you are safe with me.”


The way it was is not the way it is.

And that’s OK.       (Acts 25, Psalm 103, John 21)


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May 30 20

The strong will of the Spirit

by davesandel

May 28, 2020               (today’s lectionary)

The strong will of the Spirit

We say it easily, mostly in our comfort, that our God reigns. How often would Paul have been tempted to add an “s” in the middle of that last word and sigh, “Our God resigns.” Over and over he is attacked and persecuted. Sometimes his disciples need to protect him from himself. Paul wanted to go before the crowd in Ephesus, but the disciples would not let him.

But Paul is one of the most strong-willed people you could ever know, and he really didn’t listen much to others. In Tyre, the disciples kept telling Paul through the Spirit not to embark for Jerusalem. But we boarded the ship, and they returned home. In Caesarea, Philip the Evangelist bound his own hands and feet and said to Paul, “Thus says the Holy Spirit: this is how the Jews will bind the owner of this belt in Jerusalem.” They begged him not to go. But he would not be dissuaded.

Guess what? In Jerusalem, despite efforts to appease the Jews, Paul was quickly pulled out of the temple and beaten. Roman soldiers rescued him. Rather than beating him themselves, in a great testimony to Paul’s persuasive power, their centurion allowed him to speak to the mob. He spoke to the centurion in Greek and to the mob in Hebrew. For a moment that quieted them, as he told the story of encountering Jesus on the way to kill Christians in Damascus.

But they could not stay quiet for long. Paul mentioned the Gentiles, and it was like a match to a fuse. Confused and angry this time at everyone involved, the centurion ordered a second rescue. But now he thought he would whip Paul to elicit a “confession.” Surely he had done something!

Paul was stretched out for the whips, and then he played his trump card. “Is it lawful for you to scourge a man who is a Roman citizen?” Of course not! So the next day he was “freed” and ordered to appear before the Jewish leaders, those same “chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin” guys who had killed Jesus. At this point the lectionary text continues from yesterday.

If Paul was not political already, these last few encounters with the powers that be heightened his sensitivity to the “needs” of others. In this speech he played the Pharisees against the Sadducees. A great uproar ensued, and the commander, afraid Paul would be torn to pieces, rescued Paul from their midst.

Paul wanted to go to Rome, and he was about to get his wish. In the night God stood by him. He told Paul what he so often tells all of us, “Do not be afraid. Be strong and take heart. The Lord thy God is with thee.” And in specific, “Just as you have borne witness to my cause in Jerusalem, so you must also bear witness in Rome.”

Just what Paul was thinking himself!

Keep me safe, O God, for in you I take refuge!

You are my portion, you are my cup

You counsel me, I thank you!

At night, even in darkness I see you ever before me

My heart is glad!

My soul is high and lifted up!

My body rests in confidence and peace!

For you have never abandoned me, you will never abandon me

You show me the path to life and the delights at your right hand

O God you are my only hope


Just what Jesus was thinking himself … praying in the night …

You Father are in me and I in you

And they also will be in us, all those who believe in me

I have given my friends the glory you gave me

And they will be one as we are one

Brought to perfection AS ONE

And the world will know you and all your joy in them

You loved me before the foundation of the world

I know that you sent me.

Your love for me, let it be in them

And I in them          (Acts 22, Psalm 16, John 17)


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May 28 20

Our God reigns

by davesandel

May 27, 2020               (today’s lectionary)

 Our God reigns

Watch yourself! And after that watch everyone else. They depend on you, and God depends on you.

Know-what-I-mean? In Ernest Goes to Jail, he goes on to say, “We’re sequestered. And on top of that we can’t even leave! This is just great.” Everywhere I look there are intended references to our strange but true situation. We shelter in place with the best of them.

Paul asked the Ephesian church leaders to come the thirty miles to Miletus because he had his unspoken reasons not to go there himself. Paul asked them to come, he told them he would not see them again, he warned them of savage wolves that will not spare your flock, sometimes even from your own group. Be vigilant. Watch yourself and all of those you love, I love, God above all … loves you, loves them.

Like Jesus, Paul spent three years with his disciples. These very hands have served you. By hard work we must help the weak and remember always what Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than receive.”

Somehow, Paul was able to quote Jesus’ words. Then he knelt before them and prayed for them, overwhelmed.

Deep true emotion, grief in fact, pours over them all. They sob, they throw their arms around Paul and kiss him. This cannot be, but is.

So they escorted him to the ship.

Paul was off to other kingdoms, while they stayed home and used their own “very hands” to serve, to give and be blessed by it.

Paul too was sad, but standing at the bow of the ship he heard the siren song of the Spirit, and he looked ahead to Jerusalem, and on to Rome. “Sing to God, O kingdoms of the earth! Let the kings bring gifts to your temple in Jerusalem. I chant praise to you, Lord. You ride on the heights of the ancient heavens!” Now you are carrying me along with you.

Paul’s thoughts tumble before him in the salty ocean breeze, and he echoes the voice he hears, the voice of power: “Confess the power of God!”

It is God from whom I receive power and strength.


We have no record of Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians. But surely in the back of his mind Paul listened to, and echoed, Jesus’ prayer for his disciples.

Holy Father keep them … in your name

These that you have given me

Let them become one with you as I am one with you

I protected them, I guard them and none was lost except Judas so Scripture could be fulfilled

Because I gave them your word, the world hated them

But they no longer belong to that world.

In this world where they continue to live

Protect them from the Evil One. Hold them, make them holy in your word, in the truth.

As I have come, now you go into all the world, and be consecrated in the truth.    

(Acts 20, Psalm 68, John 17)


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May 26 20

Abundant rain

by davesandel

May 26, 2020               (today’s lectionary)

Abundant rain

Paul speaks as Jesus spoke at the Last Supper, with a fond, sad farewell. Now compelled by the Spirit I am leaving for Jerusalem. In city after city the Spirit warns me of coming imprisonment and hardship. But that matters little. What matters most to me is to finish what God started in me and then through me.

On the road to Damascus Paul’s life was upended. He was thrown off his horse. His ego fell heavily to the ground. Then, blinded in panic and confusion, he collapsed straight into “the incredibly extravagant generosity of God.” Of course he would never be the same.

After his desert encounter Paul couldn’t wait to be God’s messenger, to challenge the boring rituals of others and help them move out of their usual empty self-protective hedonistic desert life into the same cool, deep, wide pool of grace where God cleansed Saul. Yes. Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean.

Now so many years later, Paul must say goodbye. And not just “until we meet again.” I know that none of you will ever see my face again. I’ve done my best, and now it’s up to you. Care for your people, God’s people, the people I have learned to love.

God himself thought these people were worth dying for.”

I feel sad.

Imagining Paul’s farewell, I remember saying goodbye to my family the evening before I left to hitchhike to California. I left the next morning at dawn. And I remember how I couldn’t say goodbye to my friends in the Moonies, because I felt I needed to leave under cover of darkness. Forty-five years later I still feel the void left from that choice.

Yesterday I got a note from my friend Bobby in North Carolina. I met him on the UC campus in Berkeley. Like me, he had been hitchhiking. Like me, he carried his guitar. For a couple of months we were constant companions. He joined the Unification Church then, and two years later after I left, we stayed friends. He still writes songs, plays guitar and harmonica, and he loves God. Yesterday’s few sentences from him were precious to me.

Like you, I’ve had many relationships that simply ceased with little shared grief or celebration. We just didn’t see each other anymore. Faces and words flow through my mind, mingling together, from grade school and high school and college, from jobs in all those places, from those friends and family I loved so much. And still do.

My tears flow from sadness, yes, but in that moment of surrender, the tears also bind and repair ancient walls.

You pour out abundant rain, O God. Your inheritance was weak, and you repaired it so we can dwell there. We can establish ourselves in you because you have established a place for us, the poor. In your goodness you carry us and save us. We escape the passageways of death simply because you show us the way.

 Jesus speaks to us, and then he prays for us. He knows his Father so well. Nothing stands between them. In the upper room he knew, as Paul knew, that things were going to change completely for all his friends. He raised his eyes toward heaven.

Father, the hour has come.

In this glorious moment of time, I remember the glory I had with you before the world began.

This is how my friends must see eternal life, just that they should know you and the one you sent. Nothing more complicated than that.

They belong to you, and you gave them into my safekeeping. They have believed my words, they have believed in you.

Jesus nearly falls to pieces as he heaves his words through the sobs of his heart, showering his friends with heavenly prayers.

They are yours and everything of mine is yours

And everything of yours is mine

And I have been glorified in them

And now I will no longer be in the world

But they are in the world

While I am coming to you.

He is not nearly finished. Two more days of lectionary, two more days of Jesus’ parting prayer. Surely he’s still praying just this way for all of us. Our relationship just gets richer. No longer any parting, no farewell, no sayonara, not even an au revoir.

I just close my eyes and breathe. The spirit wind blows across my face, and it brings the smell of Jesus walking on the road, sweaty, smiling, with me still.               (Acts 20, Psalm 68, John 17)

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May 25 20

May God arise

by davesandel

May 25, 2020               (today’s lectionary)

 May God arise

Paul’s travels continue. On his three missionary trips the sun rose and set on 10,000 miles. Just between Antioch and Ephesus the distance is 1000 miles, and this was the journey he now undertook. When he arrived footsore but happy, he rejoiced in the wake of Apollo’s fine teaching.

Paul stayed a long time. Three years. He wrote, he taught, he prayed, he encouraged the followers of Jesus. Apollos had begun with John’s baptism of repentance, and Paul continued with the baptism of the Holy Spirit in the name of the Lord Jesus. They began to speak in tongues and talk about God with each other.

In all there were about twelve men. That surprises me, how few. On the other hand, twelve was the number of Jesus’ disciples. At any rate, Paul stayed and debated boldly in the synagogue. “He had the run of the place,” as Eugene Peterson puts it.

May God arise, let his enemies be scattered!

Wax melts before the fire, smoke is driven away, and haters flee before Him.

Sing and chant praise to the father of orphans and defender of widows.

You give a home to all forsaken, Lord, and lead prisoners forth into prosperity.

Of course, Paul will not have his way in the synagogue forever. Resistance will form. As Jesus said, “The hour is coming AND HAS ARRIVED when you will be scattered to your homes. You will leave me alone. But I am not alone because the Father is with me.

“In the world you will have trouble but take heart!

“Be of good cheer.

“Have courage!

“I have overcome the world.

“Let God arise, let his enemies be scattered!”             (Acts 19, Psalm 68, John 16)


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May 25 20

And then what?

by davesandel

Seventh Sunday of Easter, May 24, 2020      (today’s lectionaries 1      and 2)

And then what?

Who was Theophilus? Catholic novelist Michael O’Brien imagines he is Luke’s adoptive father. Luke, away on business, writes to him often – in fact he writes the book of Acts to him. But disbelieving the stories, Theophilus becomes very concerned about Luke’s turn toward Jesus and away from the Greek philosophical truth he had been taught. Then when Theophilus travels far and wide to find his son, thinking to rescue him, he discovers instead that Luke’s epistemology, ethics and humility are deeper than ever.

Theophilus also discovers Jesus. And so it is a wonderful story.

As is the book of Acts, which begins here on Ascension Sunday and continues for one more week through Pentecost before the lectionary’s Reading One returns to its Old Testament roots. Luke is simply not satisfied with one book. In that first one, I dealt with all that Jesus did and taught until the day he was taken up. And now the story continues with what happened next.

One of my favorite counseling questions is: “And then what?”

Jesus spent three years with his disciples. “I pray for them. The words you gave to me, I have given to them. Now these men and women are yours, and I am glorified in them. They are in the world, even while I am coming to you.”

In these final forty days Jesus met with his disciples and spoke again about the kingdom of God. He told them to wait in Jerusalem for the baptism of the Holy Spirit, wait for the Spirit and the Truth. Jesus told them, as Jesus told Nicodemus, as Jesus told the Samaritan woman, that they would worship in Spirit and in Truth. Those words were about to excite the very air in Jerusalem. (See next Sunday, the fiftieth day after Passover. In Greek we call it Pentecost.) The winds were blowing, and the winds were here.

Will you restore the kingdom to Israel? Jesus was patient during their Shabat picnic on Mt. Olivet. You are asking the wrong question, he said. In fact, stop asking God any questions about his plans. The future is God’s, this moment belongs to you. So “I will not leave you orphans. Receive power and be my witnesses to the ends of the earth. Make disciples of all nations, baptizing them, teaching them to do what I have commanded you. Let your hearts rejoice!

“For behold I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.”

And that was that. Then without warning Jesus was lifted up and a cloud took him from their sight. Two angels looked at the disciples and asked, WHY are you looking up at the sky? Jesus is lifted up, but he will return in the same way.” He is not here, he is risen! He is with you always. Let your hearts rejoice.

They looked at each other, confused, and then even the angels were gone. The disciples really had hoped Jesus would be always there to hug them and be fed fish, ask them to put their fingers in his wounds and roll his eyes at their bad jokes. But no. Instead as he said, they would have to settle for his presence “in Spirit and in Truth.”

Live into those words, folks.

And so they returned to Jerusalem – the eleven, Mary his mother, a few other women, a few other men, me, you – to the upper room, and they waited for the eyes of their hearts to be enlightened, when they could see for themselves the hope, the riches, the surpassing greatness that belonged to God’s call. They struggled toward what they would someday know as the sacrificial joy of sharing in the sufferings of Christ, never again ashamed to glorify God in the name of Jesus.

Who better than Peter to write those words?

God mounts his throne to shouts of joy. The King of all the earth is God. He reigns. Let the trumpets sound!

You have put all things beneath the feet of Jesus. In his body he is the fullness who fills all things in every way.

There are psalms that pour out celebration and burst with excitement (Psalm 47, Ephesians 1). And there are others (Psalm 27, 1 Peter 4) that call us to wait and rest, to have confidence in absence rather than presence, in suffering rather than celebration.

The Lord is my life’s refuge, and I only ask to dwell in his house forever. I seek your face, O Lord,, let me gaze on your loveliness. Hear me, hear me, hear me, oh God. Have mercy on me, a sinner. I know you answer me. I wait here and always for the goodness of the Lord, now and forever in your land of the living.

Stand with the disciples on Mt. Olivet as Jesus rises up and the angels chant their welcome. Celebrate, celebrate! Dance to the music!

And wait with them in the silence of the Upper Room. Hear, feel, taste, smell, see what happens next. Be still, and know that I am God. Be still and know. Be still. Be.

Breathe deep. Sleep with one eye open, alert but not afraid.

And then what?                 (Acts 1, Psalm 47, Psalm 27, Eph 1, 1 Peter 4, Matt 28, John 14 and 17)



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