Morning Prayer: Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross (Sept. 14th)

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Psalm: 66
Old Testament: Numbers 21:4-9
New Testament: John 3:11-17

So Moses made a serpent of bronze, and put it upon a pole; and whenever a serpent bit someone, that person would look at the serpent of bronze and live. (Numbers 21:9)

Does this symbol look familiar???? Yep. you guessed it…it’s the medical symbol…..the one you see on ambulances, prescription pads, medi-braclets and even on some EMS uniforms.

The serpent and pole is only one of a whole slew of religious symbols that our secular society has gradually (and conveniently) forgotten the origin of.

The story from Numbers also happens to be one of my favourite in the OT…..God is sick and tired of hearing the Israelites bitch and complain……so he decides to do what gods do best….smiting! πŸ˜›

But the story doesn’t end there. Unlike other stories in ancient culture–where a sacrifice is required to appease the deity–YHWH decides to listen to the prophet of his people, and to have compassion. He doesn’t even require a sin-offering of a young bull…..he just instructs Moses to make a simple statue which everyone may look at to be saved from death.

Aside from the obvious allusion to Jesus hanging on a pole/tree (which I will cover in this evening’s post)….I think we can take this story from the Hebrew Bible on its own merit.

The lesson for today’s reading has to do with keeping our focus. So long as we keep our eye on God and what he is doing in the world….as long as we don’t let our gaze become distracted by the crazy pace of this world, and the temptation to satisfy our selfish desires…..As long as the Holy Trinity is the centre of our lives….we will have eternal life.

Notice that the reading doesn’t say that the snakes stopped biting, or that there was no pain……only that those who were afflicted by the snake-bites had to look at the bronze pole and trust in the LORD’s saving power…which admittedly is a trust that I have been lacking in the past week. πŸ˜›

May we all on this Feast of the Holy Cross…..turn our eyes to the LORD to see his glory and to feel his love. +

Morning Prayer: Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord (August 6th)

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Psalm: 2, 24
Old Testament: Exodus 24:12-18
New Testament:2 Corinthians 4:1-6

For it is the God who said, β€˜Let light shine out of darkness’, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. (2 Cor 4:6)

The Transfiguration is a difficult feast to talk about. For one thing, it is not entirely clear why it is included in the Gospel accounts. Jesus’ clothes are made to shine dazzling white, with a repeat of the message coming at Christ’s baptism….that he is God’s chosen and that the people should listen to him.

So what’s the significance? Why does the Church care to remember this moment in history?

For myself, I think it’s important to remember that the encounter on Mount Tabor happens just before Christ’s entrance into the holy city to face His passion and death.

The message to listen to the Son of God on the way to Jerusalem is not only a call to listen to his teaching…..but to observe the Lamb of God taking up His cross and following the will of the Father.

If we want to see Christ as he truly is….we must be prepared to be mocked, ridiculed, and have our lives put in danger. Only then can our lives be truly united to the Son and then we too will arise victorious from the pain and strife of the grave.

Take up thy cross
and follow Christ
nor think ’till death to lay it down
For only those who bears the Cross
may hope to wear the glorious crown +

Evening Prayer: Feast of Saints Peter & Paul (June 29th)

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Psalm: 97, 138
Old Testament: Isaiah 49:1-6
New Testament: Galatians 2:1-8

National Cathedral of SS Peter & Paul (Washington, DC)

Y’know…….one of the things that comes to mind on this feast day is the fact that Peter and Paul did not really like each other. In the course of their ministiry, they had several spats……the most famous of which we read about tonight

What stikes me though…..is that even though there was tension…..that didn’t automatically mean there was division. Although there was disagreement, they never broke communion with one another.

Is part of my reflection blurred by putting a special glaze on the Apostolic era? Probably. πŸ˜›

Yet, at the same time, there can not be any denial that both of these men brought thousands to Christ. Despite their differences….they were able to say emphatically Jesus Christ is Lord!

I wonder what the Anglican Church can learn from their example today. With all of our squabbles…….are we sending the right message? In our pre-occupation with minutiae, are we remembering the message of the Cross and empty Tomb???

Tonight forces us to take a good hard look at ourselves……and to realize that Christian unity is not about unanimous opinion…..but rather in the single message that God has come to save all of us….and that no one is beyond the reach of Grace. +

Evening Prayer: June 21st

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Psalm: 97, 99, 94
Old Testament: 1 Samuel 6:1-16
New Testament: Acts 5:27-42
Gospel: Luke 21:37-22:13
Patristic Reading: N/A can’t find a copy online 😦

If this plan or this undertaking is of human origin, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow themβ€”in that case you may even be found fighting against God!’ (Acts 5:39)

This quote from the great rabbi Gamaliel (depicted above) is probably one of the soundest pieces of advice I have ever heard in Scripture :). Having said that I often wonder how often the institutional church takes it to heart. πŸ˜›

Many parishes of different denominations are doing all kinds of weird and whacky things in terms of liturgy, service music, mission and outreach projects…all in the hope of improving their community….or in many cases, help their community to grow.

Time after time, I have heard about congregations who ran programs that did not perform well…..or that produced less bums in the pews than had been hoped for. Of old historic buildings closing their doors. It’s all very sad. But at the same time….I wonder if we ever take the time to ask this question:

What is God doing here?

Are our efforts to improve spiritual community, or as a marketing gimmick? What if there is something in the congregation that needs to die? What if the ministries currently being pursued are not life-giving, and not of our Father???

I say this not to be trite……but to point out something very important.

If we truly consider ourselves an Easter people…..than we must recognize that God is ALWAYS active….even when we don’t like what he is doing. πŸ˜‰

If we truly place our hope in the resurrection, then the closed church doors will again be open…..even if it might be in a different location and a different circumstance.

If we truly believe that Christ is the new Adam and death has no dominion over Him….then we have no cause to weep…..only a cause to rejoice! πŸ™‚ What seems to be devastating now might just be part of a bigger plan. It might just be the cross we must bear so we can meet angels who bring us tidings of greatest joy!

Simply put….if anything the Church is doing is of God, it will have only one possible outcome. It will blossom and give life abundantly. Alleluia! Alleluia! πŸ™‚ +

Evening Prayer: Easter Monday

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Psalm: 66
Gospel: John 14:1-14
Patristic Reading: An excerpt from an Easter homily of St. Miletus of Sardis

Thomas said to him, β€˜Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?’ Jesus said to him, β€˜I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, you will know* my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him. (John 14:5-7)

In listening to the podcast over at Workingpreacher.org, the commentators made an excellent point. Unlike the synoptic tradition, John’s Christ is utterly confident. The Fourth Evangelist never sees the Cross as a tragedy, but rather as the ultimate moment of exaltation.

Christ’s death is by no means a humiliation, but rather the means by which he returns to the Father, and reclaims his place as the one who was with God from the very beginning.

More than that, he goes to prepare a place for his disciples.

I’ve spoken before about my own sense of discomfort when it comes to Christian exclusivity, but I think that the quote read in the wider context of John makes a lot more sense.

Coming to the Father through Jesus has less to do with one’s personal salvation status thanit does for seeing Christ as and for what he truly is.

If we believe that Jesus is indeed the Word who was with God and was God….there is no way that we could be led astray.

We can only be led to the foot of the cross, and the open door of the empty tomb….to the ever open arms of our Father in heaven who loves us beyond all measure.

That my friends is good news. Alleluia! +

Evening Prayer: Good Friday

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Psalms: 40, 52
Gospel: John 19:38-42
Patristic Reading: An excerpt from the Catecheses of St. John Chrysostom

Nicodemus, who had at first come to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, weighing about a hundred pounds. They took the body of Jesus and wrapped it with the spices in linen cloths, according to the burial custom of the Jews. (John 19:39-40)

Tonight, Nietzsche is right. God is dead. Christ’s corpse is lifeless. The flesh has already begun to deteriorate and the true horror of the Cross hits home. You see…..the real scandal is not that Christ suffered and died. All men do that.

The impossible thing is that God, the Word through whom all things came to exist has abruptly fallen silent.

We cannot yet see past the great stone. We have not yet been greeted by angels bearing Good News. Tonight, we too are overwhelmed by fear, anguish, and pain…….Despairing at the fate of our Lord.

Tonight Death has claimed its prize, and we like sheep are lost and have scattered. +

Evening Prayer: April 7th

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Psalm: 73
Gospel: John 6:41-51
Patristic Reading: An excerpt from a sermon by St. Leo the Great

No one, however weak, is denied a share in the victory of the cross. No one is beyond the help of the prayer of Christ. His prayer brought benefit to the multitude that raged against him. How much more does it bring to those who turn to him in repentance

I haven’t even come close to reflecting on it yet….but I am down to preach on Palm Sunday this year. As part of my prep., I plan to watch the Passion of the Christ.

Yes, it’s gory, yes it’s over the top…but there are also some profoundly human moments in the film. As I reflect on St. Leo’s words tonight, I am reminded of one of the fundamental questions that was raised for me while I was sitting in the theatre. Which of those cuts, scrapes, and wounds represent me???

I have always been perplexed, fascinated, and altogether horrified by the very fact that Christ came to suffer and die. On the one hand, it is a very provocative doctrine, and very easy to apply to friends, families, and enemies. Thinking about how salvation is bestowed on others is easier….it’s more abstract. But what about when it becomes personal???

It was in watching Mel Gibson’s movie that I realized the Crucifixion was more than an abstract event. It was real. Disciples were disillusioned and disappointed. Mary must witness the torture and death of her Son..something that no mother should have to go through 😦 and ordinary people are generally confused by what is going on.

Am I really worth all of that pain and disappointment???? What have I done to deserve any kind of consideration??? Why couldn’t he die without torture and without pain???? At least that would make it easier to accept.

But the astounding thing is, the miraculous thing is…..God says we are that important. Any mistakes you have made….Jesus tells you you are forgiven. All the times you have hurt others…..Jesus tells you that you are forgiven…..For all the times that you wish you could do things differently….Jesus tells you that you will inherit Paradise with him, and that he is with you until the end of the age. May you always rest in that Eternal presence. +

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