Ascension Day

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While [Jesus] was going and they were gazing up towards heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. They said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up towards heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.’ (Acts 1:10-11)

The Feast of the Ascension has always struck me as a very mixed bag of emotions. I can just picture the bewildered disciples staring up into the sky…thinking to themselves: What the hell just happened???

Caught somewhere between the elation of spending time with their Risen Lord, and the sudden shock that they are once again “on their own”……this is a day of both celebration and apprehension.

You see..at this point in the story….the Holy Spirit hasn’t arrived yet. Pentecost is still a week away……and in many ways, the disciples are right back where they’ve started. A frightened minority, locked behind closed doors……And yet, something is different compared to the time when they hid themselves away on Good Friday.

Now….the followers of Jesus know something is different. They have touched the hands and feet of their Lord and know that he lives! Despite Christ’s sudden departure from their midst….they can’t simply ignore what they have experienced. They know they have something special…..but the question remains….what do we do with it????

Something holds them back. How exactly are we supposed to feel about this? On the one hand, we know that we have been blessed by Grace, forgiveness and love, and seen it with our own eyes….and yet…on the other hand, we find ourselves staring into nothing as it travels somewhere beyond our knowing.

At the risk of sounding too personal…I can relate to this bewilderment and confusion. given some of the life-events which have occurred in the last three weeks.

Between the call to priestly ordination, and the (mutual) break-up of a loving and life-giving relationship….I feel that I’m caught between two extremes…..Joy and celebration at the fact that a life-long dream is coming true…..while at the same time, sadness at having to let something go that has been equally precious to me.

I honestly don’t know what to do when these feelings come at me simultaneously……but I take comfort in knowing that even the Church recognizes and holds on to those feelings within it’s own traditions and feast-days. Ambiguity and a sense of being uncomfortable and confused is not something that I–or any of us–are alone in…it is a shared experience with our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Like the infant church…..scared and unsure…..we move ahead even though we are clueless of the direction…..and with the sure knowledge that somewhere along the way, the Holy Spirit will come to be our comfort, our guide, and the one who lights a fire under our ass ;)…(or in our hearts if you prefer the more traditional image) +

Easter Day (Combo Post)

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Alleluia! The Lord is Risen! +

We have made it to the dawn and discover the tomb empty. Christ has trampled on death, and given us freedom from sin! Christus Victor!

Today the whole Church…..from North to South, East to West rejoices in new life as we celebrate this feast of victory for our God. Alleluia!

On this great day of hope, celebration and praise, let us all hear with joy the Paschal invitation of St. John Chrysostom.

If any man be devout and love God, let him enjoy this fair and radiant triumphal feast.
If any man be a wise servant, let him rejoicing enter into the joy of his Lord.
If any have labored long in fasting, let him now receive his recompense.
If any have wrought from the first hour, let him today receive his just reward.
If any have come at the third hour, let him with thankfulness keep the feast.

If any have arrived at the sixth hour, let him have no misgivings; because he shall in nowise be deprived therefor.
If any have delayed until the ninth hour, let him draw near, fearing nothing.
If any have tarried even until the eleventh hour, let him, also, be not alarmed at his tardiness;
for the Lord, who is jealous of his honor, will accept the last even as the first;
he gives rest unto him who comes at the eleventh hour, even as unto him who has wrought from the first hour.

And he shows mercy upon the last, and cares for the first; and to the one he gives, and upon the other he bestows gifts.
And he both accepts the deeds, and welcomes the intention, and honors the acts and praises the offering.
Wherefore, enter you all into the joy of your Lord; and receive your reward, both the first, and likewise the second.

You rich and poor together, hold high festival.
You sober and you heedless, honor the day.
Rejoice today, both you who have fasted and you who have disregarded the fast.
The table is full-laden; feast ye all sumptuously. The calf is fatted; let no one go hungry away.

Enjoy ye all the feast of faith:
Receive ye all the riches of loving-kindness.
let no one bewail his poverty, for the universal kingdom has been revealed.
Let no one weep for his iniquities, for pardon has shown forth from the grave.
Let no one fear death, for the Savior’s death has set us free.

He that was held prisoner of it has annihilated it.
By descending into Hell, He made Hell captive.
He embittered it when it tasted of His flesh.
And Isaiah, foretelling this, did cry:
Hell, said he, was embittered, when it encountered Thee in the lower regions.

It was embittered, for it was abolished.
It was embittered, for it was mocked.
It was embittered, for it was slain. It was embittered, for it was overthrown.
It was embittered, for it was fettered in chains.

It took a body, and met God face to face.
It took earth, and encountered Heaven. It took that which was seen, and fell upon the unseen.

O Death, where is your sting?
O Hell, where is your victory?

Christ is risen, and you are overthrown.
Christ is risen, and the demons are fallen.
Christ is risen, and the angels rejoice.
Christ is risen, and life reigns.
Christ is risen, and not one dead remains in the grave.

For Christ, being risen from the dead, is become the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.
To Him be glory and dominion unto ages of ages. Amen.

Evening Prayer: Holy Saturday (Easter Eve)

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Psalm: 27
New Testament: Romans 8:1-11
Patristic Reading: An excerpt from a sermon on Holy Saturday

Alleluia! Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us! Therefore let us keep the feast. Alleluia!

The Great Vigil of Easter is always my favourite liturgy of the Church year. In it, there are many signs and symbols juxtaposed in a way that helps make clear both where we are coming from….our salvation history…..and where we are going.

The service starts in the dark of night, and we read of how God created the world, saw that it was good and continually established covenants with Noah, Abraham, Jacob, David, and even foretold of a future redemption through the prophets. A new relationship with God that cannot be broken.

The new Easter Fire is lit, and gradually the Church fills with light…..a light which has not been seen since Thursday night at the Holy Thursday liturgy. We give thanks for this light and then organ music and the sound of bells fills the sanctuary as we commemorate the fact that Jesus has risen from the dead! Our sins are forgiven, and more importantly, death, despair, and misery hold no more sway over us.

In this moment…..on this night……we are invited to remember who we are, and to remember that God loves us beyond everything. We are given a chance to renew our commitment made in Baptism….and are reassured that nothing can hold us back from making these promises….Not even if we have been turning against God for the whole of our lives…..On this night…..everyone is invited to be made new:

This is the night
when first you saved our fathers:
you freed the people of Israel from their slavery
and led them dry-shod through the sea.

This is the night
when the pillar of fire destroyed the darkness of sin!

This is the night
when Christians everywhere,
washed clean of sin and freed from all defilement,
are restored to grace and grow together in holiness.

This is the night
when Jesus Christ broke the chains of death
and rose triumphant from the grave.

May each and every one of you find joy in this message, and I pray that all of our hearts will be moved to love God and love one another even more…from this time forth, until the end of the world. +

Morning Prayer: Feast of St. Barnabas (June 11th)

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Psalm: 15, 67
Old Testament: Sirach 31:3-11
New Testament: Acts 4:32-37

Apologies for the lateness of this post. I had prayed this morning without realizing it was St. Barnabas Day and had to go back and do the readings lol 😛

One who loves gold will not be justified;
one who pursues money will be led astray by it.
Many have come to ruin because of gold,
and their destruction has met them face to face.
It is a stumbling-block to those who are avid for it,
and every fool will be taken captive by it. (Sirach 31:5-7)

In one of its more practical moments, the Apocrphya offers some solid advice when it comes to every day living: Don’t let money rule your life.

This is something that is echoed in this morning’s selection from Acts in which we are told that Barnabas and the other apostles held everything in common. The early church, it seems, wanted to do everything it could to avoid the pitfalls of wealth.

In the modern context of 2011….I wonder what that would look like. Could we really live without a sense of private property??? Could we really distribute wealth according to the community’s needs instead of making a profit???

It seems so counter-intuitive and radical to the way in which we live….and it was just as crazy in the first century CE.

While it is true that smaller communities in the Roman Empire stuck together and supported one another…those in the cities wanted to emulate Rome. Each urban centre wanted to reflect the Great City with all its of citizenship privileges, wealth and pomp. To share with others was considered lower class. A step down from perfection.

The Holy Spirit often turns things on their head…of prompting us to do something which seems absolutely insane. To realize that the status-quo is not enough…..that power is not all it’s cracked up to be…and that our belongings are meant to be shared.

As we move forward to the season of Pentecost and the long stretch of Ordinary Time that follows….let us never forget that the Gospel message is meant to shock and amaze…to jolt us out of complacency…..and might even ask us to give up something of ourselves…..and give it up completely. +

Evening Prayer: June 10th

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Psalm: 107:1-32
Gospel: Luke 10:38-42
Patristic Reading: An excerpt from a treatise on the Holy Trinity by St. Hilary

Mary and Martha by He Qi 

So……..this post is gonna read more like a confession than a full-out reflection…..but part of me hopes that a) readers will get something out of it and b) that maybe someone in this universe (or maybe even someone within Churchland) has the same problem I do.

My problem is not the problem of Martha. I’m not always busy….I’m not stressed with my tasks…..in the vast majority of cases, I am very laid back. In fact, for those that really know me……they will tell you–with as much love as possible– that I am one lazy dude :(.

I am a very happy and introverted Mary-type. I could sit and listen to music, sermons and Scripture all day.

The funny thing is….what I hear in those words is not always to my liking. Love my enemies???? Pray for those who persecute me???? Go and make disciples out of all nations???? Be a harvester for God’s kingdom???

Eeew….can’t I just sit and here contemplate God’s love instead??? :S

Many many times I have contemplated monastic life……but for me–assuming I could find a First Order who would accept someone with CP–the contemplative life is almost too good.

For me…the cloistered life is the easy way out. A way to escape doing important work that needs to be done….work that the Spirit in Her Wisdom is calling me to do.

So even though Jesus applauds Mary for listening, I think he would be just as quick to say–as he does in so many parables and teachings–“Come and follow me.”

Morning Prayer: June 10th

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Psalm:102
Old Testament: Ezekiel 34:17-31
New Testament: Hebrews 8:1-17

As for you, my flock, thus says the Lord God: I shall judge between sheep and sheep, between rams and goats: Is it not enough for you to feed on the good pasture, but you must tread down with your feet the rest of your pasture? When you drink of clear water, must you foul the rest with your feet? And must my sheep eat what you have trodden with your feet, and drink what you have fouled with your feet? (Ezekiel 34:17-20)

Sheep are dumb. No, really…. They’re dumb. If left to their own devices, sheep will continue eating grass until they pull the roots right out. Without someone to shepherd and guide them, the flock would inadvertently starve itself and die off.

It is in light of this metaphor that God assures his people that he will set someone over them to be their protector. Time and time again this week, the words have repeated that They shall be my people, and I YHWH will be their God.

Over and over, God invites us into relationship with Him. The call to holiness is constant….not because of moral duty, but because of a sincere desire on behalf of the LORD to be in relationship with us….and so that we can share in his joy and divine nature.

For us…..the Good Shepherd is none other than Christ himself. He is the one who lays down his life on our behalf, and brings us back when we are lost. For all our sheepish stupidity, we have the ability to hear the voice of God in our midst. May we always heed that call and follow Jesus wherever He might lead.

Evening Prayer: June 9th

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Psalm: 105:23-45
Gospel: Luke 10:25-37
Patristic Reading: An excerpt from A Commentary on John’s Gospel by St. Cyril of Alexandria

Whenever the Lectionary asks us to reflect on the Good Samaritan…..I always find it difficult to comprehend the radical nature of this parable. As a Canadian who finds himself in a post-Charter context and surrounded by a fairly liberal circle of family and friends…..the issue of race or ethnicity has never been a source of conflict in my life…at least not overtly.

That’s not to say that racism is gone, or the biases that surround different nationalities don’t exist…but it’s something that I don’t personally understand.

A couple of years ago, I heard a sermon by one of the youth at St. Christopher’s in a way that touched me and blew my mind all at the same time :P.

I wish I still had access to the MP3 so I could share it; but essentially, she challenged my assumption of who the Good Samaritan is.

Normally when we think of this story, we think of someone who is in need of being rescued….someone on the margins of society we are called to help be a voice for.

Or perhaps–on the metaphorical level–we picture the God as the one picking us up…. binding our wounds, our emotional hurts and our sins with healing and love.

But what if….in this age of atheism, consumerism, and moral apathy….the robber suffering on the road…..half beaten to death….what if that person was God???

What if….instead of God saving us, we needed to save God???

I leave you tonight with that question. Feel free to leave some thoughts in the comments section below.

As always, I continue to pray with and for you as we joyfully anticipate the Feast of Pentecost. +

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