Evening Prayer: July 23rd

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Psalm: 138, 139
Gospel: Mark 6:1-13
Patristic Reading: An excerpt from the 2nd Letter to the Corinthians by St. John Chrysostom

[The disciples] went out and preached that people should repent. They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them (Mark 6:12-13)

I always find it interesting that the commissioning of the disciples is so simple. 🙂

Notice that Jesus doesn’t ask the 12 to go around asking people if they had accepted Christ as their own personal Lord and Saviour. In fact, that approach to evangelism is nowhere to be found.

Instead, the instructions are to travel light and to accept hospitality. The content of the disciples preaching was not on doctrine, but on a call to repentance and a conversion of the heart.

I wonder if churches today–for all their focus on social justice and communicating the love that God has for all creation– are as eager to preach this message of radical change as the early followers of Jesus.

You see….repentance is not a popular message…..we like absolution, Grace, and forgiveness….but repentance not so much.

I suspect that part of the reason for this is that when we confront all our sins and wrong-doing, we are faced with the reality that we are not living our lives the way we ought.

Although it might not seem like it….this attitude is extremely counter-cultural. We live in a world that emphasizes over and over that our short-comings are due to a lack of self-confidence, that we are all good moral beings, with no need for God and simply in need of embracing our own system of ethics.

Tomorrow morning, I have the joy of leading the Liturgy of the Word at our regular Eucharist. As part of that ministry, I have the privilege of inviting people to confess their sins……inviting them to confront the ugliness of their lives…..and to earnestly seek God’s guidance and assurance that even though we are not perfect, God will use us to reflect his glory and be living icons to the world.

The apostles call to repentance is not to make us feel bad about ourselves…but so that we can claim Grace and forgiveness as our own. A chance to make the abstract personal…and that the Perfect Physician will heal us completely in body, mind and spirit. +

Morning Prayer: Feb. 22nd

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Psalms: 121, 122, 123
Old Testament: Ruth 1:15-22
New Testament: 2 Corinthians 1:12-22

Where you go, I will go;
where you lodge, I will lodge;
your people shall be my people,
and your God my God.
Where you die, I will die—
there will I be buried.
May the Lord do thus and so to me,
and more as well,
if even death parts me from you!’ (Ruth 1:16b-17)

In this astonishing speech, Ruth reaffirms her commitment and love for Naomi…but there is something else going on here…something much more subtle, and probably more recognizable by the contemporary Jewish audience who first read this story.

The Book of Ruth is unique in the Biblical canon in that it focuses on the outsider. Together with the Book of Jonah, it is not simply a tale of intrigue and ethics, but of conversion.

Ruth’s declaration that Naomi’s people shall be hers, and that she will henceforth worship YHWH is a move away from her polytheistic Moabite religion.

In the ancient world, to change religion was not only to change one’s mind about the nature of metaphysics, but it it ran the risk of leaving your family, society, and culture of origin.

This is not the first time we have seen such action. In Genesis 15, a young Abram was asked by the LORD to get up and leave Ur….to forsake his ties to the world he had known and to embark on a new journey…with little more than a promise to go off of.

Ruth is doing the same thing here….and she follows up her declaration with an oath. The whole “may thus and thus be done to me” is an echo of the language surrounding a covenant sacrifice.

In a covenant sacrifice…the two parties of a contract would cut up various animals on an altar and then walk between the dead carcasses. The message: “May I be like these dead animals if I break the promises I have made with you today.”

I wonder what would happen if we took even half of our words and commitment to others with this kind of seriousness. My guess is people would be much more hesitant to make promises they can’t keep…and we might have a little more honesty in the world.+

Morning Prayer: Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul

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Psalm: 19
Old Testament: Isaiah 45:18-25
New Testament: Philippians 4b-11

Yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ. 8More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ,* the righteousness from God based on faith. (Philippians 3:7-9)

I have to admit……I never fully understood this passage from Scripture until about two years ago. During CPE, I committed a grave sin–which essentially amounts to knowing that something is really bad and doing it anyway.

Feeling wracked with guilt, I actually arranged for a private (auricular) Confession. This was (and is) a rare practice for me…but I needed some guidance and forgiveness.

Suffice it to say, there was no physical repentance that I could perform to make up for my mistake….and as such, my confessor simply asked that I pray for the person I had offended.

It was at that moment I realized two things: 1) I am actually a depraved individual in need of saving and 2) Every action of the Church is based on faith alone.

Baptism, Eucharist, and all the other sacraments mean nothing unless we are willing to take a leap of faith that the Gospel is true and that Jesus has indeed saved us and redeemed creation 🙂

I suspect something similar happened to Paul….After encountering Christ on the way to Damascus, he realized he could not make up for his persecution of the Church, and the killing of innocents…..he could only place his hope on the Cross and Resurrection of His Lord.

Today, we give thanks for St. Paul’s witness to us and praise God for the message of Grace he has revealed to us in Christ, his only Son. ❤ +

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