Contemporary Scripture Reflections for Spiritual Seekers
Dr. Elizabeth-Anne Stewart, BCC, PCC
SUNDAY BIBLETALK
September 12th, 2021

Excerpt from
A Pocketful of Sundays
(2005)


What are we looking for? How tragic if we were to respond, "Nothing!" Sadly, there are many Christians for whom faith is a matter of habit, offering a predictable set of rules, duties and obligations, a sense of respectability and a comfortable social life built around church and community. Threatened by anything and anyone who might challenge them, such Christians would have little use for Jesus though they would be unlikely to admit this.

Then there are those who are actively seeking Christ in every aspect of their lives, investing time and money in books, seminars, retreats, spiritual direction, therapy, support groups, pilgrimages and more; such Christians may be passionately committed to the quest but perhaps rely too much on their own efforts and not enough on God. Ironically, they may end up knowing a great deal about Jesus while never getting to know him intimately.

And then there are those whose greatest desire is to become the Christ for others -- to be so at one with him that they act as he would in all circumstances, bringing his peace and love to a suffering world.

What are we looking for? Are we followers of a "Convenient Jesus" or of a "Packaged Jesus" or of the Jesus who calls each of us into full, active, conscious discipleship?




QUESTIONS
FOR REFLECTION

  • Who is Jesus for you?

  • What Gospel stories resonate with you the most deeply?

  • How has your image of Jesus changed over the years?

  • What events in your life have helped you to encounter the Living Christ?

  • How would you differentiate the historical Jesus from the Cosmic Christ?

Greetings, SBT Readers!

Today's Responsorial Psalm -- Ps. 116-- is one of my favorite texts; it is, in fact, the very first psalm I worked on as a poet consultant for the ICEL Psalter many decades ago. There is a tenderness to this Psalm that is lost in most translations. Compare, for example, the first three verses of the ICEL version with those of the standard psalm in the lectionary:

I am filled with love,
for the Lord hears me;
the Lord bends to my voice
whenever I call.

Death had me in its grip,
the grave's trap was set,
grief held me fast.
I cried out for God,
"Please, Lord, rescue me!"

Kind and faithful is the Lord,
gentle is our God.
The Lord shelters the poor,
raises me from the dust.
Rest once more, my heart,
for you know the Lord's love.

There is one line in particular from the ICEL version that resonates with me and that is the last line of the fourth verse:

"I walk with the Lord in this land of the living."

In the lectionary version, the word "this" is omitted, but the missing "this" is more than a "filler word" or "four letter word":
Everything, in fact, depends upon "this," if you believe that the world as we know it -- despite chaos and suffering-- is a divine milieu. Despite the worst that can happen, God is with us in the here and now, inviting us to experience fullness of life wherever we find ourselves.

Many Blessings!

Elizabeth


SCRIPTURE REFLECTION

Jesus and his disciples set out
for the villages around Caesarea Philippi. 
Along the way he asked them,
“Who do people say that I am?” 
They replied,
“Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah,
and still others one of the prophets.” 
Then he asked,
“But who do you say that I am?” 
Peter responded,
“You are the Christ.” 
Then he warned them not to reveal this to anyone.
Mk 8:27-35

Jesus' question--"Who do people say that I am?"-- is neither a casual question, nor a random question, but one that occurs at a specific point in his disciples' formation. By now, they have observed him heal those with every physical infirmity from having a fever (Mk 1: 29-31) to paralysis (Mk 2:1-12). They have heard him forgive sins (Mk 2:5) and interpret teachings on fasting and keeping the Sabbath (Mk 2:18-28). They have listened to his parables (Mk 4:1-34), and watched him calm storms (Mk 4:35-41), cast out demons (Mk 5:1-20) raise the dead (Mk 5:35-43) and feed the crowds (Mk6:34-44; Mk 8:1-10). Now Jesus wants to know what all this means to his closest friends: "Who do YOU say that I am?" Only when Peter provides the correct answer --"You are the Christ"-- does Jesus begin to teach the disciples about the coming of his Passion. The timing of this prophecy suggests that Jesus holds back this information until he believes that his disciples can receive it. This time, however, Peter fails the test! He ends up "rebuking" Jesus and Jesus, in turn, "rebukes" him.

Who do WE say that Jesus is? Our answer depends not only upon our inherited faith, but also upon what we ourselves have seen and heard. Scripture, of course, provides a powerful lens through which we can form our own impressions of who Jesus is; our own sacred stories, however, also hold important truths. What moments of grace punctuate our autobiographies? What sacramental encounters or moments of forgiveness and mercy live in our memories? What experiences of Jesus' Presence convince us without a doubt that he is with us? When has he healed us physically and emotionally? Or "cast out" our addictions, obsessions and paranoia? Or calmed the storms in our lives, bringing calm in the midst of anguish and turmoil? When has he invited us back to life when we have become anxious, apathetic or depressed? When has he companioned us in our loneliness, inviting us into deeper intimacy? When has he nurtured us, providing the sustenance we need to live purposeful lives? In his company, have we walked on water, evaded our "enemies," and found the courage to do the impossible? With Jesus at our side, have we dared to take up our cross, surrendering to his love?

Because of all that he has seen and heard, Peter declares that Jesus is "the Christ"; what does YOUR life story reveal about the Christ? Who do YOU say that he is?



RESOURCES
Check out my Resiliency Assessment Tool on the home page of my new website: https://www.embracingpossibility.com

Try my Spiritual Self-Assessment Tool! After you take the Quiz, you will auto-matically receive a computer-generated analysis of your strengths and "growing edges." https://assess.coach/eastewart/

Please note that I offer Writing Coaching/ Editing, in addition to Life Coaching, Spiritual Direction, and Retreats.
SPIRITUAL DIRECTION AND LIFE COACHING BY PHONE OR ZOOM
This video explains my approach to this ministry, while my website provides further details as well. During COVID-19, sessions are by phone or on Zoom; I am also available to facilitate "virtual" retreats for groups and individuals.
Dr. Elizabeth-Anne Stewart | www.elizabeth-annestewart.com | e.a.stewart@sbcglobal.net

C. All Photos by Elizabeth-Anne Stewart, www.artfulphotographer.com