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. 😉

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. 🙂

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 🙂

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! +

Evening Prayer: March 22nd

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Psalm: 68
Gospel: John 4:43-54
Patristic Reading: An excerpt from the Confessions of St. Augustine

For those of you who don’t know, the Evening Prayer service begins with this versicle and response:

V: O Lord, I call to you, come to me quickly
R: Hear my voice when I cry to you
V: Let my prayer be set forth in your sight as incense
R: and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice.

In tonight’s Patristic reading, Augustine examines the implications of this imagery for the Christian understanding of who Jesus is:

The evening sacrifice is then the passion of the Lord, the cross of the Lord, the oblation of the victim that brings salvation, the holocaust acceptable to God. In his resurrection he made this evening sacrifice a morning sacrifice. Prayer offered in holiness from a faithful heart rises like incense from a holy altar. Nothing is more fragrant than the fragrance of the Lord. May all who believe share in this fragrance.

Aside from the sheer aesthetic beauty of this metaphor, it stands as a perfect example of why I read the Church Fathers.

There is no way in a million years that I would make that kind of mental leap as an academic theologian….but that doesn’t mean that the comparison offered by Augustine is useless. The early centuries of Christian thought allow us to see the Bible in a completely different light. For the early Church, the Scriptures were always a whole unit, as the complete revelation of God to the world.

It stands in stark contrast to the logical and often streamlined approach of the historical-critical method. It points to a fundamental difference in mindset…..When you approach the Bible….what hat do you wear? Does it make a difference? I think it does.

When we read the lections in a context and attitude of prayer….does that also make a difference??? Let me know what you think by leaving a comment below + 🙂

Morning Prayer: March 18th

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Psalms: 40, 54
Old Testament: Deut 10:12-22
New Testament: Hebrews 4:11-16

Circumcise, then, the foreskin of your heart, and do not be stubborn any longer. (Deut. 10:16)

Indeed, the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12)

So I’m posting now because I haven’t had access to a computer until now…..but anyways, on to the reflection 🙂

It’s not too often that I include two Bible verses for contemplation in the same post…..but I think they are related; especially for us as Gentile inheritors of the Gospel.

In our first reading, the question God addresses is: “What does the LORD require?” While the Law is upheld as something which needs to be followed, there is something deeper being hinted at.

In telling the Israelites to circumcise the foreskin of the heart, God is looking for relationship

The individual acts of obedience to statue and ordinance are good……but they are meant to lead to something deeper. A faith lived out, not in the hope of being rewarded…….but lived out with a sense of gratitude and a genuine desire to be close to God.

But how do we…..so far removed from the LORD’s great signs and wonders in Egypt and Calvary, come to believe??? The answer is the Word of God….both in its written form and in the Word that comes to us in the silent movements of the Holy Spirit.

The Christian story has been passed on through the words of Scripture. As North American Christians, we have no other source material. On one level, as Gentile inheritors, we literally take it on the authority of others that the Gospel story is true…we have no choice….especially in light of the plethora of interpretations that came as part of the Protestant Reformation.

On the other hand, we have the Word of God in Scripture…..a text that we can go to for ourselves……to study and critique and question for ourselves…….a process that can crack open our hearts, and let the Light permeate our darkness. +

Morning Prayer: Feb. 8th

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Psalm: 78:1-39
Old Testament: Isaiah 59:1-15
New Testament: 2 Timothy 1:1-14

Eek! The readings for this morning are a little rough not gonna lie. First we get the Israelites in Psalm 78 totally totally forgetting about God, then Isaiah reminding us that we are sinful and straying from God’s will and then St. Paul saying we have to suffer for the Gospel. Awesome!!! :S

It’s true there are some days where the lectionary texts are rather blunt. But that’s the beauty of sequential reading of the Bible. It forces us to read the whole narrative (or at least 80% of it) and wrestle with the parts that are dark, judgmental and harsh.

Whether we like it or not, the Bible tries to form a cohesive canon with a distinct message. The Scriptures and passages included were kept for a reason…..and they deserve to be dealt with on their own terms….as we contemplate what they mean for us….and what role they play in our journey towards santification. +

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