Dear Friends, if we look out of our windows in Minnesota today, we see bright sunshine and the hope of spring, not far off! Yet the reality of life in Minnesota is that on March 6th, we can’t yet believe that there is no more snow in our future. It is somewhat the same in our lives as Christians, as followers of our brother Jesus–for all the advancements and good things accomplished that we may be able to name, if we are honest, we would have to say that there is yet more to do to make us more equal in our country and in our Church. But rather than this cause us to be disappointed, or disillusioned, let it be something that energizes us as we daily strive to be our best. Pastor Dick Dahl has gifted us with a homily today that helps us along these lines. He mentions an endeavor of the Winona Sheltering Network–that of preparing to welcome an Honduran family seeking asylum to our Winona community should we be accepted. I will have more to say about this should we in fact be accepted and of how we as a parish and as individuals may assist these newcomers.
In the meantime, please stay safe and well and get vaccinated as soon as you can! I had hoped that by Easter this year, we might be able to consider meeting in person again, but all the best science says that all adults won’t be vaccinated until at least June, and even then, it will be a while, before we can consider ourselves safe. so, with that in mind; we will stay on Zoom a bit longer. The next scheduled Zoom Masses are on Palm Sunday, March 28, 2021 and then on Easter Sunday, April 4, 2021. Please be in contact with me by phone, 507-429-3616 or by email, firstname.lastname@example.org if I can help in any way, or if you would just like to chat. Peace and love, Pastor Kathy
Our God says, “I will prove my holiness through you. I will gather you from the ends of the earth; I will pour clean water on you and wash away all your guilt. I will give you a new spirit.”
Let us Pray
God of all compassion and goodness, heal the wounds of our sins and selfishness. Call us to prayer, fasting, sharing with others and to whatever we most need to grow closer to you and all in your household of the people of God. We acknowledge our failings in love. When our weakness causes discouragement, let your compassion fill us with hope and lead us through a Lent of repentance to the beauty of Easter joy. Grant all this through Jesus, our brother and with the Spirit—who live and love us, God, forever and ever, Amen
- Exodus 20:1-17
- 1 Corinthians 1: 22-25
- John 2: 13-25
Pastor Kathy writes, “We are challenged this week around the rule of law–a black and white approach versus the rule of love, which often responds to more of the ‘gray’ areas of life. Ponder what this means to each of us.”
Today’s Gospel reading thrusts before us Jesus’ disruptive actions and his perplexing words. I have been grateful this past week that Richard Rohr’s daily meditations have focused on “The difficulty of seeing clearly.”
The quotation of Jeremiah comes from a parallel moment in that prophet’s life, some six hundred years before. Standing at the gates of the Temple built by Solomon, shortly before the onslaught of the Babylonian conquest, Jeremiah had issued a strident wake-up call to his fellow Judahites: they were violating every commandment on the tablets—idolatry, stealing, murder, perjury, oppression of the alien— and now they were acting as if their Temple rituals were going to make them right with God without any need to change their behavior. Thus, they had turned the Temple into a false haven, a “den of thieves.” So according to Mark’s version, Jesus’ similar confrontation in the Temple was an acting out of the essential message of his preaching: “The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel” —Mk 1:15
What a surprise now to turn to John’s version. Whereas in Mark the incident occurs during the final week, John introduces the episode early, right after the wedding feast at Cana. And John’s description is far more dramatic. In this version, Jesus makes a whip out of cords and we hear not simply of doves but of sheep and oxen. We witness a veritable stampede of livestock scarcely suggested in Mark’s version. And Jesus utters no quotations from the prophets but a direct command, “Take these out of here, and stop making my Father’s house a marketplace”.
What a mess he made! Talk about disrupting business as usual and making a statement! But what was it! Was it heard, received, understood? The difficulty of seeing clearly! What does it mean to us?
The point was not drama but symbol. In this Gospel John shows Jesus acting out the full Easter meaning of his life: he can drive out the animals of the Temple sacrifice because his own self-offering on the cross will permanently fulfill the purpose of Temple sacrifice.
If we ask what really happened in that Temple scene, Mark probably brings us closer to the events of history. If we ask what is the deeper meaning of that happening, John’s meditation draws us deeper.
Jesus’ clearing of the Temple was a prophetic action demonstrating that the expected reign of God was being inaugurated and that it will be an age for the inclusion of all, the end of business as usual—in the Temple and everywhere else—for those who have eyes to see and ears to hear.
Disruptions upset one’s sense of order and security but are sometimes necessary to reveal what is deeply disordered in society but not seen clearly or at all. Protests have repeatedly erupted after unarmed Black men and women have been killed by police. I’m not talking about destructive actions, but about disruptive ones, meant to make us see more clearly systems of injustice that we have been blind to and that we are part of.
Undoubtedly some were surprised but grateful at the time for what Jesus did: the poor who had been overcharged for the birds or animals they were required to offer for sacrifice; the Zealots who protested the arrangement the religious leaders had made with the Roman occupiers; perhaps even some of the Pharisees who believed holiness came from living the precepts of the Law and not just sacrifices and prayers at the temple.
John, however, combines Jesus’ cleansing of the Temple with his prediction of the Temple’s destruction, words that the other Gospels place at different times during his ministry. His claim that the temple would be destroyed (which it would be 42 years later by the Romans in 70 AD) and that he would rebuild it in three days was thrown back at him jeeringly as he hung nailed to the wood of the cross. Only after his death and resurrection did his followers begin to understand what he had meant and that he was referring to his risen body.
The cross is power and wisdom. But it is a paradoxical kind of power and wisdom—a foolishness in human eyes that is wiser than human beings, and a weakness that is stronger than we are. Only believers can penetrate the wisdom behind the folly, and the power behind the weakness. For all unbelievers, the message of the cross remains a scandal (for Jews) and folly (for all others).
John wants to make clear that the old order of worship is to be replaced by a new one—an order focused no longer on the old Temple but on the Body of Christ.
Father Rohr’s meditations that I referred to earlier focused on “The difficulty of seeing clearly.” They include insights from Brian McLaren, a colleague of Father Rohr, who writes about “contact bias:” This results when a lack of personal and ongoing contact with people who are different from us causes us to fail to see them for who they truly are. When I don’t have intense and sustained personal contact with “the other,” my prejudices and false assumptions go unchallenged. By distrusting and avoiding them, I never have sustained and respectful interactive contact with them, which means I will never discover that they are actually wonderful people to be around. . . .
In this way, the prejudice cycle spins on, unchallenged across generations. As prejudice persists, it becomes embedded in cultures and institutions, creating systems of racism and hatred, marginalizing groups who are stigmatized, dehumanized, scapegoated, exploited, oppressed, or even killed. . .
Our previous President referred to immigrants at the southern border as rapists and murders and wanted to build a wall to keep them out. But if we are willing to listen to [“the other”] and learn from them, we can break out of our contact bias, which opens us up to seeing in a new way. . .
On page after page of the gospels, Jesus doesn’t dominate the other, avoid the other, colonize the other, intimidate the other, demonize the other, or marginalize the other. Instead, he incarnates into the other, joins the other in solidarity, protects the other, listens to the other, serves the other, and even lays down his life for the other.
The one we follow into mission and ministry—Jesus the Christ—was an avowed boundary crosser, a reformer of the religious and secular culture of his time. We are in good company when we follow the way of radical inclusion of those different from ourselves.
The more we bump into the folks who are so-called “other,” the more we are stretched, the more we are pulled out of that bias and have new truths because we have tangible evidence of the beautiful, powerful creativity of our God who made all of this diversity for us to enjoy.
Jesuit John Kavanaugh writes: The new commandment of love of God and neighbor, may seem folly, but God’s folly is wiser than human provision. We will always struggle with this. And since Jesus himself has promised to remain in our midst, we can look to him to heal our blindness and our guilt.
In this spirit, a group in our community, under the aegis of the Winona Sheltering Network, have banded together to provide community sponsorship for individuals and families who have escaped terror and persecution in their home countries, traveled hundreds of miles only to be herded in unsafe camps at our southern border. Kathy and Robert have put their names on the line as the groups’ legal representatives as we wait to welcome our first family. I know that several of you are part of this group.
The sign Jesus offers in justification for this disruptive behavior is the genuine love, humility, and generosity that we ask of him to motivate and to guide us.
Recall that this is the Gospel that begins with a prologue announcing that the divine Word became flesh and pitched his tent among us.
Prayers of the Faithful
Response: “Loving God, hear our prayer.”
- Jesus, our brother and friend, as we continue the holy season of Lent, we ask that you would be our daily companion to be ever more like you, we pray—Response: “Loving God, hear our prayer.”
- Loving God, help our country and our world to be people who love peace and strive to bring it about—be with all world leaders to do everything in their power to use the tools of communication and negotiation and let war be the very last choice when there is disagreement, we pray—Response: “Loving God, hear our prayer.”
- Gracious God, bless each of us with healthy bodies, minds, and spirits–be with those who suffer with the daily uncertainty of illness of any kind, especially COVID, we pray—Response: “Loving God, hear our prayer.”
- O God, help us to be people of strength as we strive to share your love with your entire household, and especially now as the Sheltering Network prepares to receive a Honduran family for asylum into our Winona community, we pray—Response: “Loving God, hear our prayer.”
- O God, thank you for work and the ability to work—and be especially with all those who have lost their jobs and are looking for new work, we pray—Response: “Loving God, hear our prayer.”
- Loving God, teach us to think and act globally doing with less so that everyone can have the basics, we pray—Response: “Loving God, hear our prayer.”
- Loving God, be with your household of people, especially those suffering so terribly now in war-torn countries, we pray—Response: “Loving God, hear our prayer.”
- For our community, All Are One, continue to bless us and assist us to be open to all of your people and guide us to always make a place of welcome at our table, but more importantly, in our hearts, we pray— Response: “Loving God, hear our prayer.”
- Loving Jesus, be with all families who have lost loved ones this week, from COVID and all other causes—give them your peace, that they may find their way through their grief, we pray—Response: “Loving God, hear our prayer.”
10. Loving God, show us as a nation the ways to truly make our country safer from gun violence, we pray—Response: “Loving God, hear our prayer.”
***Let us pray for the silent petitions on our hearts—Pause–then response
Let us pray
Loving God, you have given us Jesus to show us the way. Assist us during this holy season of Lent to always keep our eyes on him—his ways of loving and reaching out in care to all that he met. He was on fire, consumed; the Scriptures tell us, for the household of God—give us that same fire so that no one is ever left without someone caring for them in this world. You have shown us the way—give us the strength to be your true followers—we ask this of you who are our Creator, Savior and Spirit of the Living God, loving us always and forever—Amen.
Let us pray—Again, we can’t be at the table together, but help us to know that you are always with us.
Prayer of Communion
Jesus, our Brother and Friend, your life gives us life—help us always to be your life for our world—we ask this in your loving name, Amen.