Every month, Connections offers stories, images, reflections and meditations relating to the themes of each Sunday’s readings.  Material comes from the evening news and the every day, from the stage and screen, from the music world and the marketplace – all designed to help homilists “connect” the world of Monday through Saturday with the Gospel proclaimed on Sunday.

To give you an idea of what Connections is all about, we’ve assembled the following sampling of stories, meditations and 'connecting' reflections from recent issues of Connections:

Pentecost – June 9, 2019
The Most Holy Trinity – June 16, 2019
The Body and Blood of Christ – June 23, 2019
Second Sunday after Pentecost [Prop. 7] – June 23, 2019
13th Sunday of the Year / Third Sunday after Pentecost [Prop. 8] – June 30, 2019

14th Sunday of the Year C / Fourth Sunday after Pentecost C [Prop. 9] – July 7, 2019
15th Sunday of the Year C / Fifth Sunday after Pentecost C [Prop. 10] – July 14, 2019
16th Sunday of the Year C / Sixth Sunday after Pentecost C [Prop. 11] – July 21, 2019
17th Sunday of the Year C / Seventh Sunday after Pentecost C [Prop. 12] – July 28, 2019

Please note that, in every issue of Connections, we offer TWO stories/meditations for each Sunday’s Gospel.

After reviewing this “electronic sampler,” if you’d like information on subscribing – or receiving the next complete issue of ConnectionsCLICK HERE for subscription information and an order form.

Enjoy!  


Pentecost  [ABC]

And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim . . .
Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven staying in Jerusalem:  “Are not all these people who are speaking Galileans?  Then how does each of us hear them in his native language?”
Acts 2: 1-11

Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you.  As the Father has sent me, I send you.”  And when he said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”
John 20: 19-23

The “flow”

You are in the “flow” — everything is working the way it’s supposed to, everything is “clicking.”

The set of bookshelves you are building are turning out beautifully.

Every tennis ball you hit manages to stay inside the lines (for a change!).

You are now sailing through that homework assignment that you struggled to understand; that research paper that took forever to pull together suddenly takes flight.

Confronting a crisis, everyone in the family rises to the occasion — what could have been a painful, divisive situation becomes an experience of love and affirmation.

Artists and athletes often speak of “flow.”  When they are deeply involved in their craft or sport, time ceases to exist.  They don’t see themselves as separate from what they are doing — they become “one” with the lathe, the brush, the clay, the bat, the puck.  They move as much by instinct as thought.  They become part of something bigger than the self.  They are “in” the flow.

The “flow” is not something you make happen.  You don’t do it.  It does you.  You don’t find the flow.  The flow finds you and carries you.  And when you find yourself in the flow, it feels like it has always been there, always available to you, but now is finally happening and you are in it.

[Suggested by An Altar in the World by Barbara Brown Taylor and a sermon by the Rev. Samuel I. Lloyd III, Washington National Cathedral, May 23, 2010.]

The Spirit of God that “blows” through the community of disciples is the ultimate “flow” of God’s compassion and peace, giving shape and direction to Jesus’ community.  From that Pentecost to our own day, the Spirit catches us in its “flow,” drawing us into communion with God, with the world, with one another.  The “flow” is the Spirit “working” through us, carrying us, inspiring us to Easter transformation.  Pentecost is a moment of profound realization and transformation for the small band of Jesus’ disciples: the Word they had heard and the wonders they had witnessed came together in a “flow” of understanding, clarity, unity and courage that compelled them to carry on the work Jesus had entrusted to them — and now, to us.  Pentecost is the “flow” of God’s love in our midst, a love that transcends words and laws and sentiments to embrace the heart and soul of each one of us.  It is the very presence of God in every act of charity and compassion, in every moment of forgiveness and peace we extend and experience, in every effort we make for justice and community.   


The Holy Trinity [C]

“The Spirit of truth will guide you too all truth . . . ”
John 16: 12-15

Once upon a time . . .

A writer has an idea for a book.  He or she nurses it along in his or her mind where it might “exist” for a long time.  After many long hours of hard work, the idea becomes a book, and the idea can now be touched, seen and heard.  As a book, the idea generates energy – an energy that affects those who read it.  The energy released by the book may even change the lives of its readers.  And while some may like the book, others may dislike it so much they will do their best to destroy it, by bad reviews, whispering campaigns, or burning it in the public square.  Despite the attempts to destroy the book, the book’s appreciative readers draw ongoing power from it, sharing its message with others.  Some will remember parts of the book; some will write down everything they learn from the book; and some will tell all who will listen the wonderful story or facts contained in the book.  The power released by the book endures long after its pages are no more.

[An idea suggested by Dorothy Sayers in The Mind of the Maker.]

God is the writer with the ‘idea’ – an idea for a world of men and women created in his image who live in his love.  The idea takes the form of a "book" – Jesus, the human “face” of that idea.  Despite the failed attempts of some to destroy the book, the energy of the book endures, the book takes on a power that “rises” above those who seek to “crucify” the idea.  Such is the Spirit of God giving life to the idea and inspiring those who embrace it.  That is the God of the Trinity.  May we embrace the God's “idea” of love and reconciliation as mirrored in the "book" of the Gospel Jesus; may that idea energize us to transform our world in that idea through the power of the ever-present Spirit.  


The Body and Blood of Christ [C]

Taking the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, Jesus said the blessing over them, broke them, and gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd.
Luke 9: 11-17

A PBJ blessed and broken for you

While the kids are getting dressed for school, Mom is in the kitchen making their lunches.  Katie likes her sandwiches cut in quarters; Bobby prefers strawberry jam.  As she packs the sandwiches, she smiles, imagining the delighted look on their faces when they open the dessert treats she places in the bag.  What she is doing is a sacrament – not the miracle of transubstantiation, but certainly parallel to it, moving in the same direction.  If she could give her love to her children to consume again and again, like the loaves and fishes going endlessly into their mouths and stomachs, she would do it in an instant.

A few days before Christmas, the kids take over the kitchen to make Christmas cookies.  Mom is there too, more to protect her kitchen than to supervise.  Truth be told, the cookies that result are anything but spectacular – the reindeer-shaped cookies look more like fat cocker spaniels, the Santa cookies bear no ready resemblance to the jolly old elf, and the red and green sparkles are piled on rather than sprinkled.  But the kids have a ball – and are making memories that they will remember long after they celebrate this same messy sacrament with their own children.

Her heart is breaking for her friend and all that she and her family have had to endure: the diagnosis, the difficult surgery, the chemotherapy, the unknown future.  All she can do for her is pray – and make lasagna.  And so, she does.  Two or three times a week she takes her turn making some hot dish for her friend and her family.  The food that she and the other friends prepare is nothing less than sacrament – compassion and concern made real in cheese and meat sauce.
[Suggested from a story by Andre Dubus.]

A sacrament, St. Augustine said, is the visible sign of God's invisible grace.  The gifts we give to one another are sacramental when they manifest the love and mercy of God; they are Eucharistic when they transform us into a community bound by that love.  Today's feast of the Body and Blood of the Christ celebrates Christ's gift of the Eucharist, the source and summit of our life together as his Church.  In our sharing of the body of Christ, may we become the body of Christ for one another – to make the limitless, complete love of Christ real for all. 


Second Sunday after Pentecost C [PROPER 7]

Jesus casts out the unclean spirits from the possessed man Legion.
Luke 8: 26-39

The wedding dress

For Susan, it was the trip of a lifetime; for her 14-year-old daughter Marina, it was a step into adulthood — and a gift to her mom.

Susan and Marina, along with Susan’s sister Stephanie, made an appointment at Kleinfeld’s of Say Yes to the Dress fame.  Mother and daughter looked at the endless racks of beautiful gowns.  A handful of dresses were selected and Marina began to try them on.  No, this one was too formal.  This one was too ornate.  This one was too “poofy.”

The gracious Kleinfeld staff then brought out a dress with long lace sleeves, an Empire neckline, a ruched fitted waist, and a long, smooth silk skirt.  Marina disappeared into the dressing room.  When the door opened, she looked a foot taller and a decade older.  In that beautiful gown, the teenager stood straight, tall and radiant. Susan could see clearly the beautiful woman her daughter would be one day.

Susan will not see that day.  She is dying of ALS.  She has made provisions in her will to pay for her daughter’s wedding dress.  But, with the help of Kleinfeld’s, Susan was able to see that moment.

“You look beautiful,” Susan said, her tongue barely cooperating.  Stephanie took some photos:  Mom, looking as if she were about to float out of her bulky wheel chair, and her daughter, realizing what this moment meant to both of them.

The dress has been put aside until that day sometime in the future.

But the memory was made.

[From Until I Say Goodbye: My Year of Living with Joy by Susan Spencer-Wendel.]

While accepting the reality of her illness, Susan refuses to live “in the tombs” or be “possessed” by hopelessness and despair.  Despite her devastating illness, Susan possesses a spirit of gratitude for the opportunity to still be part of her daughter’s future and the generosity of heart to make Marina’s future possible.   A wedding dress becomes a sign of God’s love in their midst, a love that transcends time and space, a love that triumphs over hopelessness and fear, a love that will always bind mother and daughter.   


13th Sunday of the Year C / Third Sunday after Pentecost C [PROPER 8]

“No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”
Luke 9: 51-62

The kind of player you can’t coach

A tall, gangly, self-conscious seventh-grader was on her junior high girls’ track team.  A meet scheduled for one Saturday had to be postponed to the following Saturday — when the girl’s church had planned a community service project that she had signed up for.  She went to her track coach and told him about the conflict.  He told her, “Your teammates are counting on you and you can’t let them down.  I expect you to be here for the meet.”

She went home in tears.  The next day she talked to him again; he responded, “You are either here for the meet or you turn in your uniform.”

After a sleepless, tearful night, she made her decision.

The next day she went to the coach’s office, handed him her uniform and walked away.

Her parents and the parents of her teammates were surprised and even shocked: their own teenage daughter was actually choosing God and church over her track team, even though that was the way they raised her.

The girl said simply, “This is about God.”

[From “Expect a call” by Kyle Childress, The Christian Century, January 9, 2007.]

This seventh-grader responds to the responsibility of discipleship with the clear, unhesitating, unambiguous and total commitment that Jesus asks of anyone who would be his disciple.  There can be no “but first . . . “, no “in a minute”, no “on second thought.”  Jesus’ Gospel is not a collection of pious words we commit to memory but a perspective and attitude by which we live our lives.  We cannot be disciples by being mere spectators of God’s presence; possessing a baptismal certificate alone does not mark us as disciples of the Risen One.  Authentic discipleship calls us to become involved in the hard work and courage of making the reign of God a reality — regardless of the cost, regardless of the difficulty, regardless of the sacrifice.  


14th Sunday of the Year [C] / Fourth Sunday after Pentecost [C]

The Lord appointed seventy-two others whom he sent ahead of him in pairs to every town and place he himself intended to visit.
“Carry no money bag, no sack, no sandals; and greet no one on the road.  Into whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this household . . .’  Cure the sick who and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God is at hand for you.’”
Luke 10: 1-12, 17-20

Twinkies and root beer with God

There was once a little boy who wanted to meet God.  He figured it would be a long journey, so he filled his backpack with Twinkies and a six-pack of root beer.  And then he set off.

When he had gone about three blocks, he met an old woman.  She was sitting in the park quietly, just watching the pigeons.  The boy sat down next to her on the bench and opened his backpack.  He was about to take a drink from his first root beer when he noticed that the old lady looked hungry, so he offered her a Twinkie.  She gratefully accepted it and smiled at him.  Her smile was so wonderful that the little boy wanted to see it again, so he offered her a root beer.  Once again she smiled.  The boy was delighted.  They sat there all afternoon eating and smiling, never saying a word.

As it grew late, the boy got up to leave, but before he had gone a few steps, he turned to the old woman and gave her hug.  She gave him the biggest smile ever. 

When the boy opened the door to his own house a short time later, his mother was surprised by the look of happiness on his face.

“What did you do today?” she asked.

“I had lunch with God.”  But before his mother could respond, he continued. 

“You know what?  She's got the most beautiful smile I've ever seen!”

About the same time, the old woman returned to her home.  Her son was stunned by the rare smile on her face.  “Mom, what happened that brought such a smile to your face?”

“I ate Twinkies in the park with God.”  But before his son could respond, she continued. 

“You know, he’s much younger than I expected.”

[Author unknown.]

In our love for others, God resides in us; in the kindness and care we are able to extend to others, the very presence of God is realized.  Like the seventy-two in today’s Gospel, Jesus appoints every disciple of every time and place to go before him to bring such “peace” into the lives of others, to be his agents of compassion, reconciliation and hope in this needy world.  Such is the work of discipleship: to bring the peace of God into every home and heart – with a healing word or a shared root beer.  


15th Sunday of the Year [C] / Fifth Sunday after Pentecost [C]

“And who is my neighbor?”
Luke 10: 25-37

The Good Samaritans at table seven

You and your family push your way into the restaurant on a Friday night.  After a long wait, you finally get a table.  The place is packed — and loud.  After a long wait, your waitress hurries over to your table with menus.  Deena, her name tag reads.  Deena cannot be more than 16 or 17 — the same age as your daughter.  After a quick hello and welcome, she disappears to serve another table.  Deena returns several minutes later to take your order — including the four different ways your party wants their burgers.  You can tell she is working really hard to keep it together.

While you wait, Deena is summoned by the man at a nearby table.  You can see and hear the encounter:  He all but throws his underdone steak, his soggy French fries, and warm beer at Deena.  He berates her for the slow service and dismal food.  She apologizes profusely and removes the food.  When she returns a few minutes later with new servings, he takes a bite and a sip, grunts and glares at her.  At another table, she tries to mollify screaming children; another party changes its order four times; she collides into the kid bussing tables and a tray of glassware and dirty dishes crashes to the floor.

Deena finally comes to your table with your food.  She has forgotten your son’s onion rings and one of the soft drinks.  She runs off and is back in a minute with the food.  She is very apologetic.  You smile and say everything’s is great.  You say you realize it’s a busy night.  You say how impressed you are that she and the wait staff can serve so many hungry patrons so quickly and efficiently.   She smiles a real smile for the first time all evening.  “Thanks,” she says.  “We try.”

You leave a larger tip than usual.  And on the way out the door, you make a point of saying to the manager:  “Our waitress Deena was terrific.  We hope we have her again next time we’re here.”

Hearing Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan, we resolve to act the same way should we ever encounter someone lying in a ditch, beaten and bruised, and near dead.  But every day, without realizing it, we encounter people who are in a ditch of discouragement, who have been beaten and bruised by the abuse and anger of others, who have been left near dead in frustrating hopelessness.  We don’t have to look very far to find such “victims” — and we can become Good Samaritans by extending to them compassion, understanding and a helping hand.  May we embrace the perspective of Christ that enables us to see one another as our “neighbors” and seek to “take care of them” as we travel together to Jericho.    


16th Sunday of the Year [C] / Sixth Sunday after Pentecost [C]

“Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things.  There is need of only one thing.  Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.”
Luke 10: 38-42

‘A simple human thing’

A psychologist ran every morning in a park near her home before going to her office.  She often met a colleague there, a well-known psychiatrist.  Without any formal arrangement, they had run together every morning for many years.  But after she was diagnosed with cancer, somehow her running companion was never there.  A strong and determined woman, she continued to run, despite a difficult course of surgery and chemotherapy.  After a few months of running alone, she called the psychiatrist, but he never returned the call.

About a year after the completion of her treatment, she took a different path on her run one morning and saw the psychiatrist running up ahead.  Being twenty years younger, she caught up with him easily.  As they ran side by side, she told her one-time running companion that she was hurt by his not calling back.  Everyone in their small professional community knew about her cancer.  Surely he had heard.

The psychiatrist replied, “I’m sorry.  I simply did not know what to say.”

What would she have wanted to hear?

“Oh, something like, ‘I heard it’s been a hard year.  How are you doing?’  Some simple human thing like that.”

[From Kitchen Table Wisdom by Rachel Naomi Remen, M.D.]

Too often, we hide behind our credentials, our expertise, our work, our designated role or function in order to avoid the awkwardness of simply being human.  Like the psychiatrist in the story, we can be experts in the science of hurt but find ourselves too afraid to extend the simplest form of healing; like Martha in the Gospel, we bury ourselves in our work and agendas and calendars to avoid loving and being loved by our “guests.”  Jesus invites each one of us to make a place in our lives for the “better part” — for welcoming the joy and love of family and friends that is the very presence of God.  


17th Sunday of the Year [C] / Seventh Sunday after Pentecost [C]

“When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be your name . . .
“Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock and the door will be opened for you.”
Luke 11: 1-13

Prayer (clothes) line

Barbara Brown Taylor is a writer, college professor and Episcopal minister, as well as a wife, mother and grandmother.  How does prayer fit into her busy and varied life? 

She writes in her best-selling book An Altar in the World: A Geography of Faith:

“When people ask me about my prayer life, I describe hanging laundry on the line.  After a day of too much information about almost everything, there is such blessed relief in the weight of wet clothes, causing the wicker basket to creak as I carry it out to the clothesline.  Every time I bend down to shake loose a piece of laundry, I smell the grass.  I smell the sun.  Above all, I smell clean laundry.  This is something concrete that I have accomplished, a rarity in my brainy life of largely abstract accomplishments.

“Most of my laundry belongs to my husband, Ed, who can go through more clothes in a week than most toddlers.  Hanging his laundry on the line becomes a labor of love.  I hang each T-shirt like a prayer flag, shaking it first to get the wrinkles out and then pinning it to the line with two wooden clothespins.  Even the clothespins give me pleasure.  I add a prayer for the trees from which these clothespins came, along with the Penley Corporation of West Paris, Maine, which is still willing to make them from wood instead of colored plastic.

“Since I am a compulsive person, I go to some trouble to impose order on the lines of laundry: handkerchiefs first, then jockey shorts, then T-shirts, then jeans.  If I sang these clothes, the musical notes they made would lead me in a staccato, downward scale.  The socks go all in a row at the end like exclamation points.  All day long, as I watch the breeze toss these clothes in the wind, I imagine my prayers spinning away over the tops of the trees.  This is good work, this prayer.  This is good prayer, this work.”

To truly understand the words of Jesus’ prayer in today’s Gospel is to approach prayer as a connection between the compassion of God and the love we experience in our lives, between God’s forgiveness and the forgiveness we extend, between the holy creativity of God and the work of providing for our daily bread.  Prayer is to live our lives conscious of God’s grace in every moment, an awareness of God’s love in our midst in both the bread of the Eucharist and the lunch we make for our families, in both the waters of Baptism and the never-ending laundry, in both our quiet moments of reflection and the rambunctious joy of playing with our kids.  May we become people of prayer: to embrace the spirit and attitude of prayer that actively seeks out and gratefully celebrates God’s presence in all things.