Sunday, June 28, 2009

RENEWsletter for July 5, 2009 - 14th Ordinary

Hello, Folks--
Summer is here in earnest, and depending on where on this planet you make your home, the weather can get pretty hot. Of course, none of this holds if you reside in the southern hemisphere. There you could be dealing with cold. No matter. The point is that when the weather gets severe -- triple digit temps, or minus double digits -- and a break in the pattern brings relief, we feel thankful. Mother Nature will occasionally be merciful.

And there's my segue into this coming Sunday's readings. :-)

We are ready for the Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time with a group of passages that at first glance appears to be kind of a miscellaneous hodgepodge. But within each of the readings there's a pointer to the abiding mercy of God. You'll find these readings on the web at:, and in your Bible at:

Ezekiel 2.2-5
Psalm 123.1, 1-2, 2, 3-4
2 Corinthians 12.7-10
Mark 6.1-6

The First Reading relates the call of Ezekiel (Ez. 2.2). "Go to this obstinate people of mine and whether they heed or not, they'll at least know that a prophet has been sent to them" (v. 5). God in his mercy is sending yet another prophet to his rebellious children (v. 3). He does not wipe them out and start fresh... he perseveres and keeps knocking at the shut and barred door of their obstinate hearts (v. 4).

The Responsorial Psalm is a song of supplication, begging for respite from ridicule, surcease of suffering, mercy. We are looking to the LORD for mercy (Ps. 123.2). We are overcome with the way the arrogant and proud are treating us. We are tired of their insults, their contempt, their disdain (vs. 3, 4). We need the LORD's help (v. 3).

The Second Reading is the confession of Paul concerning his "thorn in the flesh" (2 Cor. 12.7). Paul has begged the Lord three times to remove the "thorn" (v. 8). We don't know what the thorn was, but we know why he was given it... God knew that a personality like Paul's would tend to make him a loose cannon if it weren't for that thorn nailing him down... anchoring him to the truth that "when I am weak, then I am strong" (v. 10). This is a different aspect of God's mercy: the strategic long-range variety. What at first glance may look like uncaring, insensitive neglect on the part of the Lord, turns out to be really the best for us in the long run. And it may even "hurt him worse than it does us!" But it teaches us that God's grace is sufficient and his power is made perfect in weakness (v. 9).

The Gospel Reading shows God's mercy in yet another way. Even though it was a foregone conclusion that the people of Nazareth, the town where Jesus grew up and apprenticed as a carpenter, would not be able to accept him as the prophet he was, yet still God sent him there (Mark 6.1). It was merciful in that even though the turnout was tiny, at least some few got healed (v. 5). Better than nothing! Beyond that it gives us something to remember when we get discouraged by the small return on our investment of faith... our time, talent, and treasure... even Jesus bombed at least once! It won't hurt if we do.

If there's one thing I've learned in my life, it is that God is gracious, slow to anger and abounding in mercy (Psalm 103:8). Let's look for a sign of his mercy this week. It could be a patient repetition of a lesson we haven't got yet. It could be a soul-felt plea for relief. It could be acknowledgement of the good side of an infirmity or persistent failing. Or it could be a feeling of contentment with a little bit. I think I can find examples of all four in my life! :-)

Grace, and peace, and mercy be with you all.

Randy Jones
"Those who say there is no mercy haven't been paying attention!"

Monday, June 22, 2009

RENEWsletter for June 28, 2009 - 13th Ordinary

Dear Hearts Renewed--
There is something about summer that fills us with life and hope. It's not so much the weather -- some pretty nasty storms can mar the sky and the landscape -- but rather the life that teems in summer. The very first line of the First Reading says, "God did not make death." Winter comes only to be followed by summer. God brings life, not death.

This Sunday is the Thirteenth of the Numbered Sundays, and the readings can be found on the web at:, and in your Bible at:

Wisdom 1.13-15; 2.23-24
Psalm 30.2, 4, 5-6, 11, 12, 13
2 Corinthians 8.7, 9, 13-15
Mark 5.21-43

The First Reading, as mentioned above, starts off with the declaration that death is not a creation of God (Wis. 1.13). When God created this Universe, he intended that all his handiwork would have being -- nothing built-in would cause anything to decay or be destroyed (ch. 1, v. 14). According to the original specification, justice was to be undying (ch. 1, v. 15), and we humans were to be imperishable (ch. 2, v. 23).

Well, it didn't stay that way. Envy of God's power, jealousy of his goodness, brought death into the world, and we've all inherited it (ch. 2, v. 24)!

Then, as we see in the Responsorial Psalm, God stepped in again and rescued us (Ps. 30.2). We were in danger of going down into the pit, but he drew us clear (v. 4). The nightfall of sin brings the weeping of death, but God's good will brings the dawn of rejoicing in life (v. 6). Let's give thanks to God because he has turned our mourning into dancing (v. 12).

In the Second Reading we see what this rescue operation cost God. Paul is exhorting the Corinthians, who are strong in faith, strong in defending their faith through discourse, strong in knowledge of the Scriptures, strong in earnest steadfastness, and strong in love (2 Cor. 8.7). Yet there is one more thing Paul wants them, and by extension us, to be strong in. And that is grace (v. 14).

In order to rescue us from death, God had to allow his Son to die. He didn't have to do that. He could have just written us off and started all over again. He was rich, but he became poor, so that through that heavy price, we could be saved (v. 9). Paul's message is: Share the wealth, and it is the example he cites... God's sharing of his wealth... that moves us to heed that message.

The Gospel Reading is a story within a story of wealth-sharing. These are two gracious acts of our Lord Jesus that overlap. The synagogue official's daughter was sick unto death (Mark 5.22, 23), and the woman who'd spent all she had trying to get her hemorrhage cured needed help too (vs. 25, 26). Jesus didn't have a lot of privacy back then. He was way too busy sharing his wealth of healing powers. The crowds mobbed him whenever and wherever they found him. He had escaped just before this reading by taking a boat across the lake. But he was back now (vs. 21).

Now we know that, due to the press of the crowd, many many people touched Jesus, but he noticed when one touched him in faith. "Who touched me?" he said (v. 30). The disciples who no doubt were trying to make a path for Jesus through the crowd so he could get the to synagogue official's house, were incredulous. "You're kidding, right? Only about a thousand people have touched you" (v. 31). But Jesus knew who had touched him in faith. He found her, blessed her, and assured her that her faith was what had healed her (v. 34).

Just then word arrived that the synagogue official's daughter had died (v. 35). Jesus was too late. Or was he? God still retains power over death. Jesus continued on the way to the house and took the little girl by her lifeless hand, amidst ridicule from the mourners (vs. 40, 41). "Little girl", he said. "Arise!" The only ones who were not surprised were Jesus and the little girl herself. Jesus knew he could raise her from the dead, and she didn't know she had been dead!

How often, do you suppose, has God rescued us from death... and we didn't even know it? Well, he has, and we do know it, because once we were blind, but now we see (John 9.25). We can see the salvation of our God, and with the Psalmist, give thanks!

Randy Jones
"Those who cannot live say death is inevitable!"

Monday, June 15, 2009

RENEWsletter for June 21, 2009 - 12th Ordinary

Dear Renewing folks--
As of June 1, according to the US Weather Service, hurricane season began. Of course, violent storms can occur any time of year in any part of the world, but hurricanes generally stay between June 1 and November 30. The term "hurricane" is reserved for storms in the northern Atlantic. The same types of storms in other parts of the world are called "typhoons" or "cyclones". God has something to say about storms in the readings for next Sunday.

This coming Sunday is the Twelfth of the Ordinary, or Numbered, Sundays. The readings can be found on the web at: and in your Bible at:

Job 38.1, 8-11
Psalm 107.23-24, 25-26, 28-29, 30-31
2 Corinthians 5.14-17
Mark 4.35-41

What God has to say about storms in the First Reading, he said to Job in the midst of a storm (Job 38.1). Job was suffering, and his "counselors" were explaining to him that God was punishing him just because he could (see the previous chapter in Job). But then God spoke and reminded Job and everyone that he is in control. And he's not fickle. Since creation the sea has bounds (v. 8). It is God who made things thus and set limits on the natural forces (v. 10). The word of God is the final word (v. 11).

The singer of the Responsorial Psalm is one who knew the power of God to save in the midst of the storm. A storm at sea can be terrifying indeed. For one thing, we're within the bounds set by God for the sea to exert her power (Ps. 107.23,24). Caught at sea in a storm, we sailors are at the mercy of those natural forces (vs. 25, 26). Yet we raise our pleas to God who hears and answers (vs. 28, 29). We are wise to give thanks to God for our rescue (vs. 30, 31).

In the Second Reading Paul explains how we should view things once we've been rescued through God's mercy: we no longer live for ourselves (2 Cor. 5.15). What does this mean? It means we don't worry about our own comfort and safety... our "flesh" as it were. We don't have to be afraid of the storm anymore. Because once we are safe in Christ, once we've been rescued from sin and death, we are a brand-new creation. The old, fearful, self-serving attitude has passed away; everything has become new (v. 17)!

Finally we turn to the Gospel Reading where Mark in his terse, no nonsense, get-right-to-the-point style tells the story of a storm on the tiny land-locked Sea of Galilee. Jesus had just finished teaching a crowd of followers in several parables. He was tired and wanted to slip away, skipping the Q and A session that might have followed. So he suggested that they boat across the sea to the other shore (Mark 4.35). That was fine with the disciples so they all piled into boats and shoved off (v. 36).

Well, maybe it was "squall season" on the Sea of Galilee, because a squall came up -- a pretty violent one that was threatening to swamp the ship (v. 37). Now some of these men were fishermen. They knew how to weather a storm in a fishing boat on a big lake, but this one was a monster storm and they were afraid they were going down. Yet where was Jesus? Asleep?! You gotta be kidding me! "Jesus! Wake up! Don't you care that we're all gonna die?" (v. 38).

Jesus got up, rebuked the storm (v. 39), and then rebuked the disciples (v. 40). He didn't understand why they would be terrified. They should have known that God loves them and will take care of them. We should know that God loves us and will take care of us. It doesn't mean we won't drown! Even God's own Son wound up dying. But as Paul says in the Second Reading, "...he died and was raised" (2 Cor. 5.15). Even death is not something to be afraid of.

When we understand that God controls the storms, we understand that he has control of everything, up to and including our own deaths... and beyond! When we realize that, we can marvel with those terrified fishermen, "Who then is this whom even the wind and sea obey!" (Mark 4.41).


Randy Jones
"Those who fear the storm say we're all gonna die!"

Monday, June 8, 2009

RENEWsletter for June 14, 2009 - Body and Blood

Dear Friends--
Well, a new week is starting beautifully. God has blessed us with beautiful weather and much more than that! Other parts of the country, the midwest and northeast especially, are experiencing God's power in thunderstorms and wind. But we are also reminded of his power to bring blessing out of the worst disaster. Among all our many blessings are the blessings of Christ's Body and Blood that came out of the disaster of his death. Next Sunday we celebrate this and although the readings are filled with bloody images, the meaning of it all is made clear.

The readings for next Sunday, the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, are on the web at and in your Bible at:

Exodus 24.3-8
Psalm 116.12-13, 15-16, 17-18
Hebrews 9.11-15
Mark 14.12-16, 22-26

Let's look at the Responsorial Psalm first. We were speaking of blessings. The psalmist sings, "How shall I make a return to the LORD for all the good he has done for me?" (Ps. 116. 12). What can we do to repay the Lord for our salvation? We can raise the cup of salvation and call upon his name (v. 13), that is, accept God's salvation, trust him to meet our needs, and (v. 18), pay our vows to the LORD in public! The phrase that struck me was verse 15: "Precious [or very costly] in the eyes of the LORD is the death of his faithful ones." Keep this in mind as we look at the rest of the Scriptures.

The First Reading takes place at the point where Moses is telling the Israelites what he had received from the Lord. The people were enthusiastic then. "We will do everything that the LORD has told us," they said (Ex. 24.3). They sacrificed, joyfully, the best of their herds (v. 5). They allowed themselves to be "washed" with the blood of the young bulls that were killed for the offering to atone for iniquity (v. 8). This was the first covenant between God and his people.

"Precious in the eyes of the LORD is the death of his faithful ones."

The Second Reading speaks of a new covenant. A final sacrifice has been made (Heb. 9.12). God's own Son sacrificed himself. Now it is God's own blood that washes us free of iniquity. Now we have "cleansed consciences" knowing that we will receive the "promised eternal inheritance" (vs. 14, 15).

"Precious in the eyes of the LORD is the death of his faithful ones."

The Gospel Reading shows us how to be reminded that the supreme, once-for-all sacrifice continues to cleanse us from our sins. We celebrate the offering of the Body and Blood of Christ (Mark 14.22-24), which not only cleanses our past sins, but all those sins we are still going to commit in the future. This is Grace unbounded. This is Love without condition. This is our inheritance, available now and for all Eternity.

"Precious in the eyes of the LORD is the death of his faithful ones."

At the end of the Gospel Reading (v. 26), the disciples departed for the Mount of Olives, where the final betrayal of our Lord was to take place. But those disciples went singing!

"Precious in the eyes of the LORD is the death of his faithful ones."

In our daily lives we sometimes fail to see how much God loves us. Trials abound. Remorse and guilt overtake us. We sometimes despair that we can ever please God. To this I offer a few words of a song by the Beatles... "There will be an answer, let it be, let it be." Trust God to do everything you can't. And thank him in advance.

Have a great week, folks, and don't stop singing. There will be an answer!

Randy Jones
"Those who cannot sing say the lute is out of tune!"