Morning Prayer: Holy Saturday

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Psalm: 88
Old Testament:Lamentations 3:37-59
New Testament: Hebrews 4:1-16

Your wrath has swept over me;
your dread assaults destroy me.
They surround me like a flood all day long;
from all sides they close in on me.
You have caused friend and neighbour to shun me;
my companions are in darkness. (Psalm 88:16-18)

In many ways, this is the darkest time of the Church year. Our Saviour lies dead in a tomb….and like the Psalmist echos, there seems to be only darkness as a companion.

This particular psalm is interesting in that 88 is one of the very few Psalms that end in doom and gloom. There is no expression of deliverance, or of praising God’s goodness and power. Only a frank statement of fear and despair.

The disciples too were once at this point…..their teacher gone, their friends scattered……the 12 huddled away in mourning and grief.

But the difference is that now…..we know the end of the story…….we know that there is something more going on here. So what do we take away from this Holy Saturday???

For me, the most important thing is that by laying in a crypt….dead and motionlesss….God literally lays beside all of humanity. As a result of his Incarnation, death and burial……there is now no place where God is not.

Even in the dread silence of death….of the shock and horror of betrayal and defeat……Christ is here amongst us.

We know the glory that awaits us tonight…but for this moment in time……our souls wait in silence for God….. +

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Evening Prayer: Good Friday

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Psalm: 40, 54
Gospel: John 19:38-42
Patristic Reading: An excerpt from the Catecheses of St. John Chrysostom

I have told the glad news of deliverance
in the great congregation;
see, I have not restrained my lips,
as you know, O Lord.
I have not hidden your saving help within my heart,
I have spoken of your faithfulness and your salvation;
I have not concealed your steadfast love and your faithfulness
from the great congregation. (Psalm 40:9-10)

Morning Prayer: Good Friday

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Psalm: 22
Old Testament: Lamentations 3:1-9;19-33
New Testament: 1 Peter 1:10-20

For the Lord will not
reject for ever.
Although he causes grief, he will have compassion
according to the abundance of his steadfast love;
for he does not willingly afflict
or grieve anyone. (Lamentations 3:31-33)

The Lamentations of Jeremiah are words spoken from the very depths of pain. They reflect a people who feel abandoned, discouraged and defeated. Yet here…..even at the point of feeling utter desolation…..the writer holds on to hope…..that God will show up.

And indeed He does. In the greatest way possible……Instead of inflicting his wrath and justice on us….He instead turns it inward… He takes what should have been our death and nails it to a tree……Today is not Good because our Lord suffers…..but rather because by that act of love, he has set us free from pain…and reminds all who suffer that they are not alone. The One who formed us from the dust shows compassion and solidarity with us, so that even he is not above our experiences.

In dying for us, he restores our life……Lord Jesus…..come in glory! +

Morning Prayer: Maundy Thursday

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Psalm: 102
Old Testament: Lamentations 2:10-18
New Testament: 1 Corinthians 10:14-17; 11:27-32

The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a sharing in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a sharing in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread. (1 Cor 10:16-17)

Maundy Thursday is always an interesting Feast Day for me, especially growing up a Roman Catholic background. In that particular tradition, the emphasis for today is placed on the institution of the Lord’s Supper…..celebrating the fact that Jesus took ordinary things, and transformed them so that we might never be without His presence.

But gathering around the table has a greater significance than being fed for our own benefit. In sharing the Body and Blood of our Lord with others, we are united in a spiritual bond that cannot be broken. A bond which makes us not only fellow human beings…..but brothers and sisters who find ourselves in relationship with one another.

I don’t know about you……but I DEFINITELY know some folks in Churchland that I don’t particularly enjoy. Personalities clash, differences of opinion arise, and in some cases, that schism can manifest itself in fighting, arguments, and seeing that person as “somebody else….someone I don’t have to interact with”

Holy Thursday challenges us to sit with others that we don’t enjoy or get along with. Don’t forget: Even Judas was able to share in this sacred meal. 😉

As we enter into the Three Great Days heading towards the Resurrection, may we come to see ourselves in the stories of Scripture, and recognize that we are called to enter into God’s presence….. even when the images are gruesome and ones that we would rather ignore……It is only through suffering, service, and fellowship with sinners that the Paschal mystery can really happen. +

Being Weak……And not necessarily worrying about finding strength

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So…..yeah….I haven’t posted since Ash Wednesday…….I /FAIL at this whole blogging thing :P.

There are a lot of reasons I haven’t but I don’t want to really get into it right now……Rather…I want to reflect with you on something I’ve been thinking about all throughout Lent.

As I’ve continued in my ministry to those with low (or non-existent) income…..I have heard many different stories about struggles with depression, anxiety, addiction and broken relationships.

To be sure, there are also stories of hope and resurrection and new life in that mix….bringing hope, recovery and joy. But that’s not what I want to focus on. At least not today. 😛

I am always struck by these people’s willingness to share their stories; even when there are some serious embellishments attached :).

In many ways, those who are feeling neglected and persecuted by society, or by those who have hurt them in the past are more open to sharing their suffering.

But what about those of us who are not necessarily marginalized in the big picture? What if we have a job, a stable(ish) income, and expected to be strong??? Especially if we find ourselves in leadership positions in the care of others??? Those of us who lead can’t be weak? Can we???

Won’t those we serve think less of us if we have a breakdown? Will our doubts and fears mean that they might not take the Church seriously? In our moments of uncertainty, does that mean that others will think less of us??? That we are not worth anything???

Those are tough questions for anyone, and scary to even think about, let alone discuss….but I think it is one that is important for us to grapple with…..not only for our faith….but for our sheer well-being.

Last week, I read an article from a fellow pastor in London that touches on this issue….and I think it’s important to highlight what he talks about.

Being caught up in our emotions and our mental struggles, doesn’t mean that we don’t have enough faith. Being honest, not only with ourselves, and with those who are part of our lives…is the only way we can be real. Embracing brokenness is to say “ya….you know what…. I am human……I ain’t perfect…..and this sucks….really bad!” 😛

It takes the pressure off of all of us to be mere actors, but more than that…….to admit that we are weak means to join with all of humanity. Our willingness to feel bruised and battered and to have the courage to share means to join hands with a fellow brother or sister and to walk with them along the road. Helping them to know they are not alone….While at the same time, giving us a companion in dealing with your own roadblocks, stumbles or…as is more common for me– outright face-plants :P.

Believe me…..speaking from my own personal experiences…..taking that leap is scary….sometimes even paralyzing……but here’s the Good News….we–on our own–are not expected to be strong. That might be the expectation of society…..but it’s not the expectation of the One who loves us first.

Think about the woman at the well. A lot of commentators speak about the woman coming to the well….coming to faith…..drawing the water herself….All the while forgetting, Jesus was there first……..

Jesus was in a place he shouldn’t have been. Speaking civilly to someone he should insult, offering love to someone who should be despised. It was God who acted first….He even admitted his own need and thirst for water…….he shared his own distress…He was willing to be broken with us….

We don’t have to worry about being strong….because that isn’t what we’re expected to be…..we are simply meant to be who we are……and the crazy part is….God will come meet us anyway….and surround us with brothers and sisters to help hold us up 😀 +

Shrove Tuesday: Cutting Away All the Fat

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Mmmmmmm…..pancakes /drool

Today is one of my favourite feasts in the Church Year. Reason a) We get to have breakfast food for dinner…..always a plus! and b) It is a chance to reflect on where we have been, where we are, and where we are going as we head in to Lent.

The verb to shrive means to cleave, or to cut off. Traditionally, Fat Tuesday was the last opportunity to enjoy meat, eggs, and dairy products before the period of fasting 40 days before Easter.

The idea of getting rid of all decadence from one’s food, also came–in time– to apply to the soul as well.

Sin–that is, the times when we “miss the mark” and seperate ourselves from God– has been understood (especially by medieval theologians) as adding weight to one’s immortal self.

Any time we indulge in pleasure, like gluttony, lust, and pride…it was thought to shield the heart from God’s presence…covering it instead with a weight of guilt and shame, dragging it slowly to Hell……

Actually, if you think back to a certain Christmas story we see this idea still prevalent in English literature and theology:

Jacob Marley’s ghost, weighed down by his greed confronts Scrooge

So….if we fast to clean out our bodies, what can we do for our souls???? The answer lies in the ancient practice of Confession.

In Anglican services, the Sacrament of letting all our past sins go is usually a general affair, and is an integral part of almost every liturgy we celebrate. Sometimes though, something a little more personal is needed.

1:1 Confession is not a grocery list of sins, and saying a multitude of prayers to make up for our mistakes. At it’s best, the Sacrament of Reconciliation not only allows us to drop the chains which keep us tied down to worry, anxiety, and hopeless consumption, but to receive Spiritual Direction and healing.

In offering counsel to the penitent, the priest aims not to instill piety, but to guide each individual in such a way that helps avoid future chains. It also offers hope that even though we have fallen, we ALWAYS get another chance.

If there is anything which has you down, I would encourage you to try out Confession with a priest you are comfortable with, and would ask that as we walk with Christ together, you might pray for me, a sinner. +

Morning Prayer: Holy Saturday

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Psalm: 88
Old Testament: Job 19:21-27
New Testament: Hebrews 4:1-16

You have put me in the depths of the Pit,
in the regions dark and deep.
Your wrath lies heavy upon me,
and you overwhelm me with all your waves (Ps. 88:6-7)

In the Incarnation, God became man to save us. Part of that salvation comes from the fact that our Lord was dead and buried. Just as he felt our pain and anguish and emotions when he lived amongst us, so now he tastes the finality of death.

This morning his body has no life in it, his flesh is cold; and the disciples have fled and hidden themselves away.

The resurrection means nothing unless there is a day where God lay in the tomb. How can the rising to new life be considered a miracle if there is never a day where God is still??? a span of time where God is inactive????

This morning, there is desolation and emptiness….this morning, it seems that the Messiah rests in shame and defeat.

This morning, we wait.

O God, Creator of heaven and earth:
as the crucified body of your dear Son
was laid in the tomb and rested on this holy Sabbath,
so may we await with him the coming of the third day,
and rise with him to newness of life;
who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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