Evening Prayer: Feast of All Hallows (Nov. 1st)

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Psalm(s): 148, 150
Old Testament: Wisdom 5:1-5, 14-16
New Testament: Revelation 21:1-5, 22:5

We believe in the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins
the resurrection of the body
and life everlasting. Amen.

If you grew up in a confessional church, there is a high probability that you have uttered this sentence (or some form of it) in your lifetime.

When I was at McMaster, I remember a Baptist friend askimg me what Catholics meant by the “communion of saints.” In response, I rattled off some answer about holy men and women who pray for us….which is true…but not altogether accurate.

For how the saints pray and intercede for us, take a look at my post on the Dormition,,,,,,but tonight I want to concentrate on who is in that circle.

It might come as a shock….but the answer is all of us. πŸ™‚ Whenever Paul mentions the “saints” he clearly refers to the whole body….the whole community that believes in Christ and place their hope in his cross.

Saints are not saints because of their conduct, but because they have been made righteous vicariously through Christ. When we are baptized….we take on that identity….ever noticed that baptismal gowns are always white ;)????

The purity we receive is a gift and we are welcomed into a family where all are brothers and sisters. We have our common identity in proclaiming the Gospel and gathering around the table with gifts of bread and wine.

Our baptism means that we are connected in a history that is larger than we are. We are woven into the tapestry of the faith…connected with the threads of the past.

What we confess in the Creed is not a special circle of uber virtuous people……but a community knit together in fellowship….trying to walk down the road together….trusting in the forgiveness of the Christ who came to save us. Alleluia! +

Morning Prayer: Feast of All Hallows (Nov. 1st)

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Psalm: 111, 112
Old Testament: 2 Esdras 2:42-47
New Testament: Hebrews 11:32-12:2

Great are the works of the Lord,
studied by all who delight in them.
Full of honour and majesty is his work,
and his righteousness endures for ever.
He has gained renown by his wonderful deeds;
the Lord is gracious and merciful.
He provides food for those who fear him;
he is ever mindful of his covenant. (Psalm 111:2-5)

A few months ago, I was talking with a friend on FB about reading the Bible. She is genuinely interested in reading it, but–like all of us–has a hard time with some of the more miraculous stories, and the depiction of God as a vindictive deity.

I promised her that I would post on this blog about how the Bible might be read in a different way. A way that focuses on relationship rather than by myth, theology or narrative…so here’s my best shot at it. πŸ˜‰

Like the psalmist says this morning, all of God’s works are known….and like all great acts of history, those deeds tend to be recorded. πŸ™‚

The central themes of the Old Testament are many…..but they tend to revolve around two important aspects…creation and covenant.

In Genesis, God creates the world…..and it is not just good but very good. He also establishes a covenant with humanity that he will make them prosper…and that He will constantly be at their side.

But human beings–made in the image of an all-creative Father–also have an innate desire to be independent…..which causes them to sin….and to turn away from their one true companion; the God who made them.

At the risk of being overly simplistic, the rest of the Bible focuses in on how that broken relationship is lived out, and repaired…..that intimate bond between Father and children is built up, broken, and established again in a constant cycle. A cycle that ultimately ends with God and humanity coming out in joy and praise to take care of the earth and each other.

At its core, the Bible is a multi-faceted library of documents. I would go even so far as to say that it is an ongoing and eternal conversation.

As the reader flips through the pages of text, they are exposed to a multitude of voices……some divine, some human. Some sentiments of anger, hatred, and frustration…..met in turn with compassion, forgiveness, and Grace.

Despite what the reformers would have us think, Holy Scripture does not interpret itself …Adhering to the doctrine of biblical inerrancy will only leave with a pounding headache and a broken heart.

As a piece of literature, inspired by God and touched by the human hand…..it is a mixture of perfection and inadequacy….a living encounter between the Creator who wants his presence to be known…..and a world that struggles to listen for it’s Maker’s voice.

On this Feast of All Saints, one thing to keep in mind that we too are saints…by virtue of being baptized πŸ™‚

Whenever we open the Bible we join with the thousands who have come before us in trying to discern God’s will and true hope for us. We add our 2 cents (or 5 cents or 25 cents) to the conversation.

In the struggle to understand what God is saying to us and what we are saying to one another, Christianity is changed from a hollow, inanimate religion into a living, breathing, challenging Body of faith

Sure, this Body is weak and wounded at times….but is also glorious and triumphant when we get the message of Jesus right ;)….a message that we as Gentile North American inheritors of the Gospel have come to know through the written translation of the Bible.

Thanks be to God for the gift of his word on paper….but more importantly for the Word made Flesh that speaks from within those pages. Alleluia! +

Morning Prayer: Feast of the Nativity of St. Jean-Baptiste (June 24th)

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Psalm: 82, 98
Old Testament: Malachi 3:1-5
New Testament: John 3:22-30

So normally I use a piece of Scripture as the catalyst for my reflections here on this blog. Today, however, I was caught by the utter simplicity and directness of the Collect appointed for today:

Almighty God,
you called John the Baptist
to give witness to the coming of your Son
and to prepare his way.
Give your people the wisdom to see you
and the openness to hear your will,
that we too may witness to Christ’s coming
and to prepare his way.
Through your Son Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and forever. Amen.

Take a look at this prayer. It asks not only for correct vision to see God…..but the courage and strength to do His will. πŸ™‚

In the Forerunner John the Baptist, all Christians have a clear example of what it means to give witness and to be a prophet. He was not a man who messed around. He called a spade a spade, and never made light of people’s deeds. May the whole Church…the whole Body of Christ rejoice in this day and pray that some of John’s character will rub off we who are called to preach the Gospel and speak truth to power. +

Evening Prayer: June 6th

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Psalm: 89:19-52
Gospel: Luke 9:51-62
Patristic Reading: An excerpt from a treatise of St. Cyril of Jerusalem

No one who puts a hand to the plough and looks back is not fit for the kingdom of God. (Luke 9:61)

Oh look another uncomfortable bit of Scripture….awesome! πŸ˜€ [insert sarcasm here]

Seriously though, this is one of Jesus’ teaching that makes me distinctly uncomfortable. I don’t know about you, but I look back all the time. At past relationships, past work-experiences, past times where I was genuinely happy.

There are lots of times that I take my focus off of Jesus and place it somewhere else. If my mind is always meandering…how can I hope to do anything of value???

Now the good Protestant in me says..of cooooooourse we can’t do anything of value….we are all depraved sinners beyond the pale in need of Grace….but at the same time, I ask myself whether Jesus can really ask me to be unwavering in my determination. And the answer I’ve stumbled upon is that yes, he can. πŸ™‚

This isn’t to say that we won’t screw up multiple times in our efforts to follow our Lord…..but rather he has given us the Holy Spirit to put us back on the right path, through repentance.

Each time we confess our sins to God with a humble and contrite heart, we are given what St. Symeon calls the Baptism of Tears.

The fantastic and radical news of the Gospel is that Christ expects us to follow him with our whole heart, mind, soul and body. He knows that we–as finite, sinful beings–are going to need help along the way. We are not perfect and therefore he has sent his Spirit as our Advocate and guide.

To borrow from the Patristic reading tonight, St. Cyril puts it this way:

In the same way the Holy Spirit, whose nature is always the same, simple and indivisible, apportions grace to each man as he wills. Like a dry tree which puts forth shoots when watered, the soul bears the fruit of holiness when repentance has made it worthy of receiving the Holy Spirit.

Repentance is what allows us to see God. It is the process through which we can make peace with the past behind us and not look back on our mistakes. Each time we turn to the LORD in earnest, we are given the strength to walk forward and not look back. What was old is now made new….and what was once unable to do anything is now inspired and gifted to do things far greater than could ever be asked for and imagined.

Jesus tells us that even if we fall flat on our faces, we can cry out his name and keep walking the path of discipleship in faith. He never leaves us without hope and comfort. Amen, Alleluia! +

Evening Prayer: Friday in Easter Week

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Psalm: 118
Gospel: John 16:1-15
Patristic Reading: An excerpt from the Jerusalem Catecheses

Sacramental churches often get criticized for having rituals that are not entirely Biblical. In the Old Testament, chrismation (anointing with oil) was an important symbol of authority and office; usually for kingship and priesthood.

Using material things in ritual and ceremony also help us to engage with our physical senses, as well as our mental faculties. I think the Patristic selection for tonight offers some beautiful insight, and I would definitely encourage you to read the full excerpt from the link above.

When we were baptised into Christ and clothed ourselves in him, we were transformed into the likeness of the Son of God. Having destined us to be his adopted sons, God gave us a likeness to Christ in his glory, and living as we do in communion with Christ, God’s anointed, we ourselves are rightly called β€œthe anointed ones.” When he said: Do not touch my anointed ones, God was speaking of us….

The oil of gladness with which Christ was anointed was a spiritual oil; it was in fact the Holy Spirit himself, who is called the oil of gladness because he is the source of spiritual joy. But we too have been anointed with oil, and by this anointing we have entered into fellowship with Christ and have received a share in his life.

Our participation with Christ is not an abstract thing. It is an active engagement with the world and everything in it. Sacraments like Baptism, Eucharist, and Chrismation are a way for us to remember that God is with us. That Jesus came and walked the earth. Who got his hands and feet dirty….who washed the feet of his friends and who was anointed with fragrant perfumes.

Holy oil is seen as a seal, a definite sign of who we are and where we have come from. An announcement to the world that we have been brought from death to life and that the ministry of reconciliation and healing announced and enacted by Jesus is shared by us…the Church…the people of God. πŸ™‚

Don’t be afraid to have some blessed Chrism in your house….to help yourself to know that indeed the Holy Spirit is here and has sealed us as Christ’s own forever. πŸ™‚ +

Morning Prayer: April 12th

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Psalms: 121, 122, 123
Old Testament: Jeremiah 25:8-17
New Testament: Romans 10:1-13

β€˜The word is near you,
on your lips and in your heart’
(that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because* if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved (Romans 10:8-10)

Here Paul is quoting Deuteronomy 30:14. There is a constant theme running in the Old Testament that God not only wants an obedient people, but a people whose actions and words flow from love…….and a free choice to live out God’s will in their lives.

Prior to the Fall, that’s exactly what we were able to do. After the Fall, we fell victims to our own needs and wants. Our heart’s desire was no longer for God…..but for preserving ourselves.

In Christ….that disorder has been healed. In baptism, our heart has been washed, and we are given the ability to love the Light rather than darkness :). As we approach Holy week, we are given a new opportunity to walk with our Lord to the cross. To be reminded of our baptismal promises, and the saving power of Jesus’ death and rising to new life.

Let us move forward with open hearts so that the King of Glory might come in. +

Morning Prayer: March 31st

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Psalms: 42, 43
Old Testament: Jeremiah 10:11-24
New Testament: Romans 5:12-21

For just as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. But law came in, with the result that the trespass multiplied; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, just as sin exercised dominion in death, so grace might also exercise dominion through justification leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 5:18-21)

I was sorely tempted to put up the icon of the resurrection this morning but I resisted the urge…..it is Lent after all ;)…..Another 25 days and then we can put up the really fun and beautiful art of new life. πŸ™‚

In this morning’s reading from Romans we have an important analogy made by Paul and proclaimed loudly by the Early Church. Christ not only gained atonement for our sins…..but he has begun something new; a new creation has been born.

I suppose that’s why I am frequently frustrated by salvation as taught by the “evangelical” denominations.

In their quest to save and baptize everyone, I sometimes wonder if enough catechesis is going on….whether people are getting a true grasp in what happens at Baptism.

Entering into the Christian faith not only means adhering to doctrines, and sharing those ideas with others; it means being made new.

I think that if we were to get back to the basics of Baptism, we might be able to get away from the idea that the sacrament is only about citizenship in the Kingdom. Maybe, just maybe……we might be able to reclaim our identity as a people who are not only saved by abundant Grace, but transformed by it. +

Morning Prayer: Feb. 1st

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Psalms: 61, 62
Old Testament: Isaiah 52:1-12
New Testament: Galatians 4:12-20

St. Bridget

My little children, for whom I am again in the pain of childbirth until Christ is formed in you…. (Galatians 4:19)

I’m going to take a moment to jump to the defence of clergy this morning. Often clergy, teachers, and people in other positions of authority get a bad rap for trying to impose their will on others. Sometimes this can be true and there can be abuses of power…but mostly clergy are insistent because they want to see a positive change in the lives of all they serve.

This reflection is brought on in part by a series I read over at the Episcopal Cafe in which the author argued against open table communion.

For those of you who don’t know…open table Eucharist refers not to inter-denominational communicats…but giving the Body and Blood of Christ to those who are not baptized.

Many in the Church today are for this practice….believing that it spreads a message of Grace and inclusivity. While that is true to some extent……where does that leave the Sacrament of Baptism???

The point being made in this article is not so much that the Church wishes to exclude people……but to get people to take the message of Christ seriously. We are called not only to follow him but to die with him….which is a scary prospect and one hell of a commitment to be making! :S

Sometimes when clergy and teachers stick to their guns, it’s not in an effort to be authoritarian, but a genuine desire to see Christ grow within the congregation…..with a solid theological background.

Ministers and those in authority care for their church like they do their own families. Sometimes they are called to make hard decisions….and to insist on some very ancient practices…..but it is all in the hope that the Good News is planted….and a new and free person is born in the Light of Christ. +

Evening Prayer: Baptism of the Lord (transferred)

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Psalms: 111,112,113
Gospel: John 1:1-7;19-20, 29-34
Patristic Reading:An excerpt from a sermon of St. Gregory Nazianzus

In the Gospel accounts, there seems to be an embarassment on behalf of the four respective authors. How can the Lord of all creation be baptized? What is the point? Surely he did not need to be cleansed of sin! πŸ˜›

The early Church wrestled with this question and basically came up with this answer. Christ consented to be baptized so that all water would be made holy. So that we would have a tangible way of marking our commitment to the LORD and a physical sign that all of our sins….past, present, and future have been washed clean πŸ˜€

I highly encourage you to take a look at the reading from St. Gregory (linked above)…..it really is fantastic theology! + πŸ˜€

Morning Prayer: Feast of the Baptism of the Lord (transferred)


Psalms: 146, 147
Old Testament: Genesis 1:1-2:3
New Testament: Ephesians 1:3-14

So….I’ve prayed the Office……but don’t have time to write anything…….gotta catch the bus to church. Will post when I get back…….*Sigh* I love the LORD but man I hate the morning :(……

OK back…..so in the Genesis reading for today…there is mention of “the great deep”. When compared to other cultures (ie. Indian, Babylonian, Egyptian and Assyrian) of the Ancient world……it’s no big surprise that water ends up being a central focus for the authors of Genesis 1.

Water comprises about 2/3 of our planet and can be used for many things: drinking, washing, generating clean energy just to name a few. It also accounts for some 57% of our physical makeup.

As human beings we need water to survive and can’t last beyond a few days without a drink…and thirst acts as a big metaphor in the English language. Thirst in terms of desire, physical need, or outright desperation……Simply put: Water is an essential part of who we are.

Likewise…. the waters of Baptism are crucial. We cannot attain salvation without it….and Jesus refers to Himself as the living water which quenches all thirst.

As I reflect today on my own vows…….I am struck that I didn’t really have a voice in the decision. As an infant, baptism just kind of happened. It is only as I grew into baptism that I truly have begun to understand what it all means.

So here’s my question for the day. What does Baptism mean for you? Is it a rite of passage, is is a spiritual experience? Is it an archane and empty ritual of the Church? Let me know what you think :)+

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