Morning Prayer: Maundy Thursday

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Psalm: 102
Old Testament: Lamentations 2:10-18
New Testament: 1 Corinthians 10:14-17; 11:27-32

The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a sharing in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a sharing in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread. (1 Cor 10:16-17)

Maundy Thursday is always an interesting Feast Day for me, especially growing up a Roman Catholic background. In that particular tradition, the emphasis for today is placed on the institution of the Lord’s Supper…..celebrating the fact that Jesus took ordinary things, and transformed them so that we might never be without His presence.

But gathering around the table has a greater significance than being fed for our own benefit. In sharing the Body and Blood of our Lord with others, we are united in a spiritual bond that cannot be broken. A bond which makes us not only fellow human beings…..but brothers and sisters who find ourselves in relationship with one another.

I don’t know about you……but I DEFINITELY know some folks in Churchland that I don’t particularly enjoy. Personalities clash, differences of opinion arise, and in some cases, that schism can manifest itself in fighting, arguments, and seeing that person as “somebody else….someone I don’t have to interact with”

Holy Thursday challenges us to sit with others that we don’t enjoy or get along with. Don’t forget: Even Judas was able to share in this sacred meal. πŸ˜‰

As we enter into the Three Great Days heading towards the Resurrection, may we come to see ourselves in the stories of Scripture, and recognize that we are called to enter into God’s presence….. even when the images are gruesome and ones that we would rather ignore……It is only through suffering, service, and fellowship with sinners that the Paschal mystery can really happen. +

Evening Prayer: Maundy Thursday

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Psalms: 142, 143
Gospel: John 13:1-27
Patristic Reading: An excerpt from an Easter sermon of St. Melito of Sardis

When I first came to the Anglican Church I was a little baffled as to why it today was called “Maundy” Thursday. Maundy comes from the Latin word “mandatum” meaning “commandment”. And what is this new commandment????

[Jesus said to his disciples] “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Coming from a Roman Catholic background, this shift in emphasis was a new thing for me. In the RC tradition, Holy Thursday is used as a day to give thanks for the Last Supper and an opportunity to venerate the Holy Sacrament. There was no talk of commands.

Yet in the Anglican faith, much more emphasis is placed on the directive of our Lord to love, and of His great humiilty washing the disciples feet. Not only that..but the readings always include Jesus’ prayer that his disciples may always be one:

β€˜I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. Father, I desire that those also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am…. (John 17:20-24a)

No matter what lines divide us in denomination, doctrinal dispute, or personal greivances, we are called to love beyond all else. Not only that….we are strengthened through Jesus’ prayer to know that whatever divides us can never be as important proclaiming the Good News that Jesus Christ is Lord and that he has come to save us:

He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed (Isaiah 53:5)

As we enter into the Triddium this year may we always be mindful of the great price paid for our salvation, the Sacrament which feeds us in body, mind and soul, and of the fundamental message to all Christians that the aim of this life is not to be served, but to wash the feet of others. +

Morning Prayer: Maundy Thursday

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Psalm: 102
Old Testament: Jeremiah 20:7-11
New Testament: 1 Corinthians 10:14-17; 11:27-32

Ever wonder why we say the General Confession before receiving the bread and the wine of the Eucharist??? We get that idea from Paul’s warning to the Corinthians this morning:

Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be answerable for the body and blood of the Lord. Examine yourselves, and only then eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For all who eat and drink* without discerning the body,* eat and drink judgement against themselves. (1 Cor 10:27-29)

In confessing our sins to God, and by sharing the sign of peace with our brothers and sisters we are forgiven and reconciled. In those liturgical actions, any restraint from receiving Christ’s Body and Blood are shattered and broken.

Of course, it is not always necessary that the exact prayer of Confession be said…..but there is a real sense that one who approaches the altar should know what they are getting themselves into.

On the flip side, we must keep in mind that Jesus feasted with tax collectors and sinners…he never put any conditions on his hospitality. He simply welcomed them with loving arms. Asking that we–in turn–accept his love and free gift of grace. πŸ™‚

In receiving Christ’s very Self and making it a part of our own bodies, we cannot help but be changed. We cannot help but receive the gifts of the Spirit and be given perfect remission of our faults and failings. For Christ died once for all. No matter how heinous your sins, they are both forgiven and forgotten in the name of Jesus.

By using ordinary things, God takes the fruits of the earth and makes them into something extraordinary. We too are made extraordinary by that spiritual food and drink…refashioned into a new creation that brings life, healing, and wholeness to the world.

So….as we celebrate this most Holy Thursday:

Come all you who love God and want to love God more.
Come, you who have tried to follow Jesus, and you who have failed.
Come, you who have been here many times, and you who have never been before.
Come, because it is Christ who invites you here.

Thanks be to God!+

Evening Prayer: April 8th

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Psalms: 107:1-32
Gospel: <a href="John 6:52-59
Patristic Reading: An excerpt from an Easter letter of St. Athanasius

Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink (John 6:53-54)

This is the third straight day we have had readings about Jesus as the Bread of Life. I want to draw your attention to a nuance in the Greek that makes tonight’s passage especially striking.

The word translated as “eat” in this passage, is actually a much more specific verb in the Greek. In its proper context, the sentence reads more like this.

“Very truly, I tell you, unless you munch the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Those who munch on my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day….”

In fact, it was this text that caused so much confusion in the ancient world. Romans thought that Christians were cannibals! πŸ˜›

While Christian theology has many different understandings of what it means to eat the flesh and drink the blood of our Lord…this mystery has been worked out most thoroughly and intentionally in the Sacrament of the Eucharist.

I could never hope to cover Eucharistic theology in one blog post; entire volumes have been written on the subject! But the very fact that Jesus uses such an intense verb to describe Eternal life I think leads us to a few interesting conclusions.

One is that living the faith is an *earthy* and lived experience. It is something that requires we get our hands dirty…..and to quite literally take a bite out of life.

Related to this idea is that our Christian heritage is an Incarnational heritage. At the heart of the Church’s salvific identity, there is a fundamental conviction that God and earth are united. One cannot be separated from the other…and that we experience God in the everyday things of life.

As Anglicans, we have held on to this sacramental understanding. In which the bread and wine are an outward and visible sign of an inward and invisible Grace.

We come to the Lord’s table in the assurance and hope that even though the bread and the wine seem completely ordinary (and even tasteless if you use styrofoam wafers)…they are actually something completely transcendant. The Bread is the Flesh of Christ…… to make our flesh clean…..to remind us that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit.

Likewise, the Wine is the Blood of Christ…..to cleanse our souls…and to remind us that any inner turmoil we are experiencing will be calmed by the still, small voice of the Spirit.

As we go to receive the Sacrament Sunday by Sunday….God is making a statement. God declares that we are a forgiven people…..a new creation….beloved children. ❀

In response, we unite our voices in prayer and praise for the way in which God has saved all of Creation through his Son…..May we always feed on Him in our hearts by faith with thanksgiving. +

Morning Prayer: April 1st

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Psalm: 88
Old Testament: Jeremiah 11:1-8;14-20
New Testament: Romans 6:1-11

For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin (Romans 6:5-6)

Today I’m going a little off-script….at least according to he Western calendar. πŸ™‚ April 1st is a day when the Eastern Orthodox Church venerates one of my favourite saints; Mary of Egypt.

Mary was a prostitute who went around Egypt seducing men and living the life of luxury. Tradition tells us that she was not sold into the sex-trade, but rather chose to go into it because she enjoyed the power and control it gave her. At times, she even refused the money gained through her services, and gave in to lust purely for the pleasure of it.

One day, she sailed with a client to Jerusalem, and–as it was the Feast Day of the Holy Cross– she went to enter the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and found herself unable to enter by a mysterious force.

In that moment, Mary realized that she was denied access because of her sinful ways and became distraught. Gazing upon an icon of the Theotokos, she begged Holy Mary to allow her inside to repent and partake of the Sacrament; promising that if this happened, she would retreat to the desert in repentance and austere living.

Her prayer was granted, and after being fed with the Eucharist, she retreated to the caves of Egypt….not even worrying about food or extra clothes….she eventually took to wandering the desert naked…..living the life of a hermit.

After many years of solitude, she runs into Fr. Zosimas….who himself is a monk in Egypt. He is amazed by her story and asks if there is anything he can do for her.

She requests to have the Eucharist, which she had not shared in since leaving Jerusalem. Fr. Zosimas agrees and Mary is once again fed the Body and Blood of her Lord….miraculously walking over water to reach Him. πŸ™‚

After this exchange, she asks that Zosimas return again in one year on Maundy Thursday. He agrees, and–one year later– finds her dead body perfectly preserved in the place by the river where they had shared Holy Communion.

I love this story for several reasons. For one it has all the elements that make a saint’s story great. Intrigue, flashy sin, and brazen attitude. Mary of Egypt was very much a woman in control…..and who made no apologies for her action.

And then, the focus shifts to the gift of grace and mercy……of a sincere desire to repent….and the courage to run away from all worldly distraction.

What I find fascinating is that Mary of Egypt’s life was one of a recluse……She was not actively involved in reaching out to the poor, or spreading the Gospel to those on the streets……but rather making up for the mistakes of her past by living in holiness.

Hers is also a story that upholds the transformative power of the Eucharist without having it as a main focus of the story. It places the emphasis on the desire to change, and the way in which the Sacrament can strengthen us to take on the challenges of true conversion and a true turning to Christ.

May Mary of Egypt….our desert Mother pray for us..and serve as an example to us of what it means to truly repent, and to be made Holy even in spite of our sinful past. Amen, and thanks be to God for her witness to us. πŸ™‚ +

P.S. For those of you who wish to read the account itself, here is the link.. Enjoy!

Morning Prayer: Feb. 19th

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Psalms: 107:33-43, 108
Old Testament: Isaiah 66:1-6
New Testament: 1 Tim 6:6-21

I actually got up earlier to do Morning Prayer but didn’t really have time to sit down and write on anything until now πŸ˜›

Whoever slaughters an ox is like one who kills a human being;
whoever sacrifices a lamb, like one who breaks a dog’s neck;
whoever presents a grain-offering, like one who offers swine’s blood;*
whoever makes a memorial offering of frankincense, like one who blesses an idol.
These have chosen their own ways,
and in their abominations they take delight (Isaiah 66:3)

After nearly 5 months of reading Isaiah, we are finally reaching its conclusion. Here…God is speaking to people who think they have it right. Who genuinely believed that by offering sacrifice, and giving tithes to the Temple they were living faithfully to the Abrahamic Covenant.

Today’s reading challenges that assumption and that comfort. I sit here wondering whether what we offer is rooted in assuring our own salvation….or whether they come from a dep desire to thank God???

I suspect that–if we are honest with oursevles–the answer is probably a little from column A and a little from column B. Personally, I don’t think we ever start with trying to manipulate God…or to gain favours from him. Human beings may be shallow, but they aren’t that shallow.

Human beings are made to worship their Creator….it’s something we do naturally….some would say it’s even what we are made to do.

Since the Fall however, our worship has the potential to be twisted to meet our own needs. Our sinfulness can mislead us that worship is something which is made to make us feel warm and fuzzy……to feel safe.

While the Father never wants us to be afraid, the worship of the Church is meant to challenge us, to make us feel distinctly uncomfortable. As the bread of the Word is read, heard and broken open, and the homily is preached we are called to hear with the ears of our heart. We are then invited to a feast and Sacred meal to be sustained in body mind and spirit.

I pray that we–as a faith community–keep a close eye to those times when our worship is reshaped to meet our own needs and to put butts in the pews, rather than giving glory to the Holy One of Israel. +

Evening Prayer: Jan 10th

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Psalm: 147
Gospel: John 6:1-14
Patristic Reading: An excerpt from a letter of Pope Clement

He grants peace* within your borders;
he fills you with the finest of wheat. (Psalm 147:14)

This reminds me of a hymn from my Roman Catholic days:

The miracle of feeding the 5000 is only a foretaste of Jesus himself….of the Body and Blood which he gave for our redemption….and which we partake in at the Eucharist πŸ™‚

The Eucharist (whether you believe in transubstantiation, simple memorial or something in between) is meant to change us….to feed us in body, mind and spirit……and to lead us to share the love of Christ with others.

Alleluia! Alleluia! Tonight I give thanks for the LORD who gives bread and wine for the journey +

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