Chapters 5, 6 and 7 of Matthew's gospel constitute the Sermon on the Mount. The chapters contain many of the most well known words of Jesus. These teachings direct us in the way of true discipleship, true following of Jesus.
In reflecting on these words of Jesus, I try to put myself on the mountain with Jesus or among the listeners. The words themselves are so full of meaning that we might tend to read them slowly, or they may be so familiar that we may tend to read them through quickly.
But HOW did Jesus speak the words. Certainly Jesus did not have a written script. The words developed in Jesus' heart as he looked at the face of each person in front of him, and into the heart of each person in front of him, one by one. The words were given to him from above, just as Jesus assures us that words will be given to each of us at the appropriate moment.
I imagine that Jesus spoke these words slowly, clearly and directly. I imagine that Jesus spoke these words while looking into the eyes of a child, woman or man. And isn't this what was meant when the people responded that Jesus spoke with authority? His words cut through self will and hardened egos. HIs words cut through falsehood and temptation and gave encouragement and inner strength. HIs words dispelled all doubts and all fears and left each listener with a deep peace as each knew in her/his own heart the truth and the personal love of Jesus.
Jesus spoke with great care and affection. He knew that what he was asking was difficult, the narrow way. With the words came the strength to follow through. If we can but take the first step, Jesus will take us the rest of the way. We can count on it! We need only keep our eyes fixed on Jesus. (Hebrews 12:2)
Perhaps this Lenten season, which begins with Ash Wednesday this Wednesday, February 13, we might further reflect on the Sermon on the Mount. Seat yourself in your mind before Jesus as he speaks the words with great care to you personally. Does Jesus intend certain words specifically for you at this time in your life? Which words are those? Can you take that first step of mind, heart of body and allow Jesus to follow through?
The last three books that I have randomly found via the public library or friends have had a common theme: The Sermon on the Mount. I think that God is trying to tell me something.
The first book was a textbook used by the students who helped us here in Guatemala from Mount Vernon Nazarene University. They use Kingdom Ethics as the text for their ethics class. I only had a chance to read the introduction, but hope to be able to pick the book up at a later date. The approach to ethics is based on the Sermon on the Mount.
The second book was a lesser-known work of none other than Leo Tolstoy. The book is entitled: The Kingdom of God Is Within You.
I am reading the third book now, and was not at all surprised that once again I stumbled upon the theme of the Sermon on the Mount. This is the biography entitled: Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas.
So, I know that I will be reflecting on the Sermon on the Mount in the upcoming days. Perhaps you will join me.
Gardens at the Kindergarten in Purushila. When we arrived at the school this morning, a team of at least 20 women were already clearing the land next to the school. There will be four gardens. One for each age group of 4, 5 and 6 year-olds and then one for the women. Ismael talked with the ladies about the goals and process. This, however, is Peter's first project. I am not sure who is most excited!!!
Computers at the Kindergarten in Purushila. When we arrived at the school this morning, twenty six-year olds were prepared to begin their first computer class. Ten Dell computers had been set up and four adults were ready to be of assistance. The children practiced finding the letters and numbers on the keyboard and typing them onto a blank page in the word processer. They continued practicing these recognition skills using two alphabet games. The use of the projector allowed the students to follow the procedures of moving and clicking the mouse. I was more than surprised with how well things went on this first day!
Learning English. Two sisters, Priscila (above) and Josselin (below), met with me for the first time to study English. We met in a small room in the kindergarten building. Today we focused on the alphabet and letter recognition as well as on a few sight words. Their homework was to teach the other family members what they learned today. These are two promising young women in the village of Purushila.
Thoughts from the porch in Santa Ana…
When we come down for a short trip, whether one week or even one month, we are consumed by work. Our time is so limited that we push ourselves to the edge, remaining however, fully aware that our “real” lives will soon pull us back to a more routine and sustainable existence. For the first time, I have gotten the privilege to stay behind with Orfe, Ismael, Baby Cati (Anita), Franklin, Hermana Pamela and Peter to experience what their daily existence entails when our groups are not disrupting every aspect of their lives.
Orfe’s day somehow includes taking care of a one year old whose well deserved nickname is “Trouble,” running a household of 7, cooking three meals a day, and an endless stack of dishes and laundry to wash by hand. Add on to this that her life is currently divided into two houses, one of which is in a state of construction and you will not wonder at my surprise that somehow she maintains a full time job for SewHope, helping all those in need with an endless stream of compassion and kindness.
Ismael, Franklin and Peter are continuing their work on the house with the hope of moving in on Monday (earlier this week). Amidst the chaos, Franklin helps care for Anita with all the patience I would never expect from a 15 year old boy. Peter helps out in any way he can while searching for his niche to make the most of his unique environmental passion and knowledge.
Hermana Pamela fits into life here seamlessly. She made a possibly imaginary friend named Cornelius (a GIANT spider). She lost a chicken this morning, which has now returned to her. Perhaps it was “Up on the Roof.” Her main goals here involve microfinance and education, but she maintains a positive outlook even when many of her days are filled with other tasks.
Transportation seems to be the biggest obstacle for the group down here. With multiple projects in different locations, getting people to where they can make the biggest impact seems impossible. Of course, the impossible somehow happens in Guatemala, so I have no doubt that a solution will be found.
I have to admit that I feel somewhat lost without the clinic and my patients. There can be little more satisfying in this world than working hard all day with women who need and appreciate your help. The sense of purpose that fills me with energy is less easy to hold on to now that “La Clinica” is no longer the priority. Too much time for self doubt, perhaps? The usual questions of “Why do I come down here? And have I really changed anything?”surface once again. I don’t have the answers, but while I sit on this porch with the rain gently tapping the roof, chickens and ducks wandering around, the boys and Hermana Pamela making a chair and laughing at each other, I know that this is what we are fighting for: this calm, this peace, this sense of community.
Puja Venkat is a first year resident at Saint Joseph Mercy Hospital in Ann Arbor, Michigan in what is called a transitional year. Next year Puja will begin a four year residency at Moffett Cancer Center in Tampa, FL, in the field of radiation oncology. Puja chose this field because cancer is such a life-changing medical diagnosis, and she feels that she can help people come to terms with the changes and the fear in one of the most fragile times of their lives. Puja has joined SewHope for five trips to Guatemala working with the medical team in the clinics each time. One of her trips extended for a full month. After so much time of service here, Puja now speaks Spanish. We wish you well Puja and look forward to your next visit here.
Sr. Pam Buganski
Sr. Pam joined SewHope as our first American Project Coordinator in 2012