Last Sunday Before Advent: Feast of Christ the King (Combo Post)

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Psalm(s):118, 145
Old Testament: Isaiah 19:19-25
New Testament: Romans 15:5-13
Gospel: Luke 9:11-27
Patristic Reading: Anexcerpt from a discourse on prayer by Origen

Wow! It’s been almost a year since I started this blog, and the Church once again prepares itself to contemplate the great mystery of the Incarnation, the payment of the Cross and the victory of the Empty Tomb. A victory that inaugurates the feast which we celebrate today.

The Feast of Christ the King (since renamed the Reign of Christ to remain gender neutral) is a time when the community of the faithful takes a collective breath. To recognize that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the father and that the promises of God have been realized.

More than that, this is a celebration…..a rejoicing in hope…..not of what the world was….broken, dark and sinful……..but of what the world IS a creation made new…….a world where everything is made possible.

A world where segregation, hatred, and injustice are no more. Where Jew, Gentile, women, man, slave and free live as one…….but I’ll let a better preacher than myself take the lead here…..While his message is in the context of the civil rights movement, dreams are always bigger than we can ask or imagine.

The bright day of justice will emerge, all will live in the light….. and thanks to the love of Jesus we are set free at last, if only we drop our chains! +

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. 🙂 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. 😉

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: Eve of the Transfiguration of the Lord

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Psalm: 84
Old Testament: 1 Kings 19:1-12
New Testament: 2 Cor 3:1-9;18

The angel of the Lord came a second time, touched him, and said, ‘Get up and eat, otherwise the journey will be too much for you.’ He got up, and ate and drank; then he went in the strength of that food for forty days and forty nights to Horeb the mount of God. (1 Kings 19:7-8)

When most people read this passage from Kings, the focus is usually on the fact that God is present in the silence. That is all well and good…and an important excerpt for understanding God…but I find myself drawn to the angel’s words.

If you have been reading this blog for a while, you know that I place a big emphasis on santification and theosis in my writing and preaching.

But where do we get the strength to be transformed? Who gives us the insights to change our lives inside out and upside down? The angel reminds us tonight that all of these things come from God Himself.

Nothing we ever do comes strictly from our own efforts….but with the help and love of the One who made us so that:

All of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another (2 Cor 3:18a)

As we prepare to celebrate the Feast on which we see Christ as He truly is….I pray that God will remove the scales from our eyes…..to lift the veils of our own bias and ignorance…of our laziness and apathy….so that we can travel up the mountain to be see God’s glory in all creation; and make our way back down to bring that vision and life to those who are in darkness and lost in despair.

Praise to the Holy Trinity who gives us everything we need :). Amen, Alleluia! +

Evening Prayer: July 14th (Combo Post)

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Psalm: 37
Old Testament: 1 Samuel 20:24-42
New Testament: Acts 13:1-12
Gospel: Mark 2:23-3:6
Patristic Reading: An excerpt from a treatise on the Mysteries by St. Ambrose (Scroll down to Reading II)

earing the garments given her in the rebirth by water, the Church says, in the words of the Song of Songs: I am black but beautiful, daughters of Jerusalem. Black because of the frailty of humanity, beautiful through grace; black because she is made up of sinners, beautiful through the sacrament of faith. When they see these garments the daughters of Jerusalem cry out in wonder: Who is this who comes up, all in white? She was black, how is she suddenly made white?
When Christ sees his Church clothed in white – for her sake he himself had put on filthy clothing, as you may read in the prophecy of Zechariah – when he sees the soul washed clean by the waters of rebirth, he cries out: How beautiful you are, my beloved, how beautiful you are; your eyes are like the eyes of a dove, for it was in the likeness of a dove that the Holy Spirit came down from heaven.

A lot of Patristic and medieval sources look at the Song of Songs as an allegory for Christ and the Church; and I gotta be honest….sometimes I don’t always get it :P.

The book itself is actually a Hebrew poem which frames the dialouge between two young lovers. It traces the relationship from courtship all the way to marriage…..and some of the sexual references are VERY obvious! 😛

I suppose it’s that erotic imagery is the reason why I could never jump into metaphorical mode with this poem. Aside from the mystical tradition, Christianity has never been all too comfortable with sex-talk….let alone when it is applied to their own institution.

Unlike the Hindu religion which is very comfortable talking about semi-erotic expressions of the Divine, the Church–more especially in the West–came to view any form of “lover” language as sinful.

And yet….in Ambrose’s treatise we get a different glimpse of how God loves us. It’s not simply the agape love of a benevolent Creator….but the eros of a King who loved us so much that he clothed himself in the flesh. A Christ who takes on both joy and sorrow, pleasure and pain so that we can be brought closer to the Father.

God is not only concerned for our well being, but he is passionate in his desire to make us his children. It is not a detached love…..but a love filled with give and take….a love that is real and vulnerable. It is a love that can be rejected, and a love that can hurt us….but it is also a love that has the potential to embrace us and change us as well.

We are made beautiful in Christ…that is how God sees us…..and it’s also how He wants us to see ourselves. +

Evening Prayer: Monday of Holy Week

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Psalm: 69:1-23
Gospel: John 12:9-19
Patristic Reading: An excerpt from a sermon of St. Augustine

Photo Credit: Fr. Dave Giffen of The Anglican Church of the Transfiguration (Toronto, ON)

More in number than the hairs of my head
are those who hate me without cause;
many are those who would destroy me,
my enemies who accuse me falsely.
What I did not steal
must I now restore?
O God, you know my folly;
the wrongs I have done are not hidden from you. (Ps. 69:4-5)

I recently read Bonhoeffer’s Life Together. The book is an open meditation on what it means to be the Church….the community of God.

In his section on the Psalms…he offers an intriguing interpretation of what the Church is doing when it reads, chants or sings the from what he calls the “Prayerbook of the Bible”:

“The Man Jesus Christ, whom no affliction, no ill, no suffering is alien and who yet was the wholly innocent and righteous one, is praying in the Psalter through the mouth of his Church. The Psalter is the prayer book of Jesus Christ in the truest sense of the word. He prayed the Psalter and now it has become his prayer for all time. . . . Jesus Christ prays through the Psalter in his congregation. His congregation prays too, the individual prays. But here he prays, in so far as Christ prays within him, not in his own name, but in the Name of Jesus Christ. . . .

The Psalter is the vicarious prayer of Christ for his Church. . . . This prayer belongs, not to the individual member but to the whole Body of Christ. Only in the whole Christ does the whole Psalter become a reality, a whole which the individual can never fully comprehend and call his own. That is why the prayer of the psalms belongs in a peculiar way to the fellowship. . . .

In the Psalter we learn to pray on the basis of Christ’s prayer. . . .”

In our prayer life together…..and especially in the recitation of Psalms..we are of one voice…..one hope. Bonhoeffer goes even further to say that the parts in the Psalms which are difficult for us to understand….are in fact rooted and spoken in the Word of God…

In taking all the pain and sin of the world unto Himself…Christ can speak both knowing the fullness of God’s presence and God’s glory…but also to know the depths of despair that come with the Flesh and the rejection of the righteous.

If you have been following this blog for a while, you know that the Psalms is one of the books that I struggle with the most. And yet, in reading Life Together I realize that I don’t have to comprehend everything I read. I don’t have to understand all of Scripture and Sacred Mystery. Instead, I am too walk hand in hand with my brothers and sisters…..knowing that Christ–the Word and Rock on which we are founded–speaks for us, in us, and through us.

For that…I give many thanks to God 🙂 +

Morning Prayer: April 8th

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Psalm: 102
Old Testament: Jeremiah 23:1-8
New Testament: Romans 8:28-39

Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! says the Lord. Therefore, thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, concerning the shepherds who shepherd my people: It is you who have scattered my flock, and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them. So I will attend to you for your evil doings, says the Lord. (Jeremiah 23:1-2)

A little bit of personal indulgence here. I have to say–as someone who feels called to ordained ministry–this passage scares the crap out of me. 😦

I feel like I make mistakes all the time. I flub liturgy, give people bad advice….I have days where I don’t care about what I do and don’t have the patience to deal with human weakness.

Don’t get me wrong…..I believe that (through pure Grace) there are other points in which I have actually led liturgy in a way that allows people to see God, not me. I believe there are times when I have pointed people in the right direction. I believe that there have been times when I am there for people who are suffering…..but i always wonder…..is it enough????

I don’t mean this in terms of “works vs. grace” deal…..Rather a question of whether what I am doing is leading others to life or sending them over a cliff that leaves them confused and with God nowhere to be found. If I am totally honest with myself, as a potential leader in the Church, I feel responsible towards those I serve.

I suspect that this is true for all who feel called to ordained ministry…..or anyone who feels called to their particular vocation whether as a parent, a spouse, or career.

As a result of our nature as stewards and agents of creation, the world is affected by our actions. What happens if those effects are for the evil instead of the good? Does that mean we are screwed???

Yet……in all of these doubts, I find myself confronted with Paul’s words:

For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39)

Whatever my doubts and fears…..whatever your doubts and fears……whatever our doubts and fears as a community together….we are never totally lost….we are never irredeemable, we are never beyond the pale…..and God loves us just as we are. +

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