Morning Prayer: Holy Saturday

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Psalm: 88
Old Testament:Lamentations 3:37-59
New Testament: Hebrews 4:1-16

Your wrath has swept over me;
your dread assaults destroy me.
They surround me like a flood all day long;
from all sides they close in on me.
You have caused friend and neighbour to shun me;
my companions are in darkness. (Psalm 88:16-18)

In many ways, this is the darkest time of the Church year. Our Saviour lies dead in a tomb….and like the Psalmist echos, there seems to be only darkness as a companion.

This particular psalm is interesting in that 88 is one of the very few Psalms that end in doom and gloom. There is no expression of deliverance, or of praising God’s goodness and power. Only a frank statement of fear and despair.

The disciples too were once at this point…..their teacher gone, their friends scattered……the 12 huddled away in mourning and grief.

But the difference is that now…..we know the end of the story…….we know that there is something more going on here. So what do we take away from this Holy Saturday???

For me, the most important thing is that by laying in a crypt….dead and motionlesss….God literally lays beside all of humanity. As a result of his Incarnation, death and burial……there is now no place where God is not.

Even in the dread silence of death….of the shock and horror of betrayal and defeat……Christ is here amongst us.

We know the glory that awaits us tonight…but for this moment in time……our souls wait in silence for God….. +

To everything there is a season…….

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Today, Canada along with the rest of the Commonwealth marked Remembrance Day.

On November 11, 1918 at 11:00am, the Treaty of Versailles was signed, bringing an end to the hostilities of World War I, and peace to mainland Europe and its allies. The Great War was nothing like anyone had ever seen…there were industrialized weapons, large-scale trench battles……and most devastating of all….mustard gas. 😦

Ever since that day of armistice, Nov. 11th has become a day in which we recognize those who have gone off to war, and–more especially–those who have given their lives in the service to our nation.

I think it’s important to stress two things today. First and foremost, today is not a day which is meant to glorify war. Instead, we are confronted with the harsh reality that in military conflict people die and not just a few….but hundreds, upon thousands, upon millions.

Any form of aggression, and even attempts to keep the peace are costly. We must never forget the great tragedy that had to befall so many families and communities in order that we might be kept safe from harm.

Secondly, Remembrance Day is no longer a passive observance for this country. Since Canada entered Afghanistan in 2002, 158 officers have perished….most of whom are younger than I am now……

When I was younger, Nov. 11th was somewhat distant…….a bunch of old men in uniforms that I was grateful to, but didn’t really understand. Now….things hit home a little closer. While I don’t live under the perceived threat of invasion like in WW2 England, it’s strange to think that fellow classmates who came up as reserves find themselves on tours of duty…going into the military is no longer seen as an easy way to get physical exercise and get your education covered.

For those currently serving in the Armed Forces, thank-you! You are doing something that I would never have the courage to do. +

To those who have passed, you are not forgotten. +

Morning Prayer: Feast of the Dormition of the Blessed Virgin Mary (August 15th)

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Psalm: 113, 115
Old Testament: 1 Samuel 2:1-11
Gospel: John 2:1-12

I admit it…..I was in a funk last week….partly because I was surrounded by death :(. Responding to pastoral situations over the physical death of a loved one……. and the “little deaths” of addiction and depression took an unexpected toll on my own sense of well-being.

Seems kind of appropriate that as I stumble back to this blog, I am confronted with a Feast that deals with death.

Being of the ol’ school…I celebrate this Feast as the “Dormition” or the Falling Asleep of the Virgin Mary….This is in contrast to both my current practice as an Anglican and my roots as a good Catholic boy.

Having a Protestant heritage, the Anglican Church tends to shy away from elevating the Mother of God in any way, shape or form. So August 15th is simply referred to as the “Feast of St. Mary the Virgin” in the BAS calendar.

On the flip side, Catholics believe in the doctrine of the Assumption in which Mary is assumed bodily into heaven without tasting death.

As with so many things, I straddle the line between both traditions and embrace Eastern Orthodox teaching. In the tradition of Byzantium, the teaching was that Mary died a physical death but that her body was resurrected and assumed into Heaven some three days later.

Now you may be asking the question of why I split these theological hairs…and my answer is really quite simple. The Feast of the Dormition serves a dual purpose. On the one hand….it reminds us that we will all experience physical death, regardless of how holy we are. It is a day on which we–as Christians–acknowledge and accept that there will be a time when we are called to depart this life and await the next.

But the commemoration of the Church does not stop there….it goes a step further. In recognizing Mary’s assumption, she becomes the first of all Christian followers to experience bodily resurrection.

Death is revealed not to be the final victor…..but rather eternal life triumphing over the limits of sin and human nature.

Mary holds for us the hope that we too will be gathered into the great cloud of witnesses; to anticipate the day when the dead shall be raised, and no tear will be shed. To long for the day when the world will finally know what it means to live in the Kingdom of God..a place where justice, peace, and love overflow in abundance forever.

Through the Mother of God, we live in continual hope for the dawning of a new day. Alleluia! Alleluia! +

Morning Prayer: July 23rd

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Psalm: 55
Old Testament: 2 Samuel 1:1-16
New Testament: Acts 15:22-35

After the death of Saul, when David had returned from defeating the Amalekites, David remained two days in Ziklag….Then David took hold of his clothes and tore them; and all the men who were with him did the same. They mourned and wept, and fasted until evening for Saul and for his son Jonathan, and for the army of the Lord and for the house of Israel, because they had fallen by the sword. (2 Sam 1:1;11-12)

I know it’s wrong to read New Testament values into Old Testament writings (I can almost see Gord Hamilton’s head exploding now)….but as I was going through this reading with milady…all I could think about was the idea of loving your enemy.

Despite having a good start to their relationship…..by the end, Saul and David were rivals aspiring to a single throne. Only one could win….and worst of all, someone (Jonathan) was caught right smack dab in the middle.

If I were in David’s position, I don’t know that I would be weeping, and fasting and tearing my shirt. On the contrary, I think my instinct would be to celebrate…..and possibly dance on Saul’s grave 😛

Even in a harsh world of royal politics, David mourns the loss of life…..any life……and that is something truly amazing indeed. +

Evening Prayer: Saturday in Easter (Combo Post)

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Psalms: 145, 104
Old Testament: Isaiah 25:1-9
New Testament: Acts 4:13-21
Gospel: John 16:16-33
Patristic Reading: An excerpt from the Jerusalem Catecheses

He will swallow up death for ever.
Then the Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces,
and the disgrace of his people he will take away from all the earth,
for the Lord has spoken.
It will be said on that day,
Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, so that he might save us.
This is the Lord for whom we have waited;
let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation. (Isaiah 25:8-9)

During the season of Easter, we are reminded that death itself….the last enemy…..the cause of all our tears….the thing that invades like darkness has been utterly destroyed.

I sit here prepped to give a sermon about doubting Thomas at the 9:00am service tomorrow at Cronyn, and I can’t help but think that Thomas was right to be skeptical.

The whole idea that death no longer has the final word seems like a fools’ hope; an imaginary tale to assuage our guilt for sins past. Thomas had seen the torture on Good Friday and knew its horror. A whole week had passed and still he had no proof of what was real. All he had was the testimony of friends.

How many times have we heard church gossip and known to take it with a grain of salt?

One of the things which I think is missed most often is how disappointed and disillusioned the disciples would have felt after the death of their Master.

This was a man they have pinned their hopes on…..believed in his promises; only to see the government crush him without mercy. 😦

It would take a lot for me to move past that grief…..and I have a feeling it was the same for Thomas.

And yet, the focus shifts once his hands slide through the wounds in Christ’s hands, feet and side….In joy and praise, he declares “ My Lord and My God “. The doubter recognizes before all others that this indeed is the Word made Flesh who was with God when the world was created.

Thomas’ doubt is what ultimately led him to faith. 🙂

His example leaves room for us not to have (or expect to have) all the answers. At the same time, we can unite our voices with his in the faith and hope that the resurrection is indeed real, and that all the chains which constrained us have now been broken! 🙂

Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and upon those in the tombs bestowing life +

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. +

Morning Prayer: Good Friday

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Psalm: 22
Old Testament: Wisdom 1:16 – 2:1, 12-22
New Testament: 1 Peter 1:10-20

You know that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your ancestors, not with perishable things like silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without defect or blemish. He was destined before the foundation of the world, but was revealed at the end of the ages for your sake. (1 Peter 1:18-19)

How deep the Father’s love for us,
How vast beyond all measure
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure

How great the pain of searing loss,
The Father turns His face away
As wounds which mar the chosen One,
Bring many sons to glory

Behold the Man upon a cross,
My sin upon His shoulders
Ashamed I hear my mocking voice,
Call out among the scoffers

It was my sin that helf Him there
Until it was accomplished
His dying breath has brought me life
I know that it is finished

I will not boast in anything
No gifts, no power, no wisdom
But I will boast in Jesus Christ
His death and resurrection

Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer
But this I know with all my heart
His wounds have paid my ransom. +

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