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. ๐Ÿ˜‰

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. ๐Ÿ™‚

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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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: 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. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

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. ๐Ÿ™‚

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! ๐Ÿ™‚

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

Morning Prayer: April 11th

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Psalm: 31
Old Testament: Jeremiah 23:16-32
New Testament: Romans 9:19-33

Those who were not my people I will call โ€œmy peopleโ€,
and her who was not beloved I will call โ€œbelovedโ€. โ€™
โ€˜And in the very place where it was said to them, โ€œYou are not my peopleโ€,
there they shall be called children of the living God.โ€™ (Romans 9:25-26)

I want you to imagine for a second that you were made a promise as a child. A promise that you were special and under the watchful eye of God. Not only that, but you were convinced that if God were ever to show up in your midst, you would be the first to know.

Now imagine that you saw someone else receiving that promise. How would you feel? Jealous? Hurt? Confused?

I suspect that even in his post-conversion state, Paul was extremely uncomfortable with the idea that the Jewish people “missed the boat” when it came to accepting Jesus as the Messiah. In fact Romans 9-11 is an open reflection on what the fate of God’s chosen ones might be.

I sit here wondering if there are any parallels in Churchland….We too hold a promise of salvation and special status. Are we holding onto it too tightly?

In many Anglican churches, attendance is dropping off. More “evangelical” congregations are growing, while our parishes are struggling to pay the hydro bill.

But is our jealousy warranted? Is it even Christian?

The fact of the matter is that people outside of our building and church pews are still being led to Jesus in other denominations….they are still receiving Good News.

Granted, some of those messages might be distorted….but we also believe that the Holy Spirit is present in Christian communities everywhere. Perhaps our job is not necessarily to worry about what others are doing, but to concentrate on how we ourselves are living faithful lives…confident that we are united under one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all. +

Morning Prayer: March 29th

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Psalm: 78:1-39
Old Testament: Jeremiah 7:21-34
New Testament: Romans 4:13-21

He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was already* as good as dead (for he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarahโ€™s womb. No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, being fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. (Romans 4:19-21)

One of the key things for Romans (and indeed of Christian theology is answering the question of: How do Gentiles enter into covenant with YHWH???

Paul takes a very interesting approach…..rather than saying that all should be circumcized under the Law, Paul points out that Abraham himself–the very founder of Judaism–was not subject to any formal law.

Rather, the father of all nations had to hold onto a promise….

In making this connection, Paul flips conventional ideology on its head. Abraham no longer becomes the follower of God’s prescribed will….otherwise the promise of descendants might be construed as something which Abraham might be owed.

Since the walls of following statute broken down, so is the excuse that Gentiles are to be excluded. Now everyone is asked not to do God’s will to get in..but to believe in the promises he makes.

For anyone who has had to rely on someone else’s word knows that is an extremely uncomfortable position. What if they decide to bail on the last minute???? What if the person decides to only do 30% of what they had initially said???

Faith in God is not easy….because it is based on a promise of new life and salvation. So how do we know that God is going to live up to our expectations???

For one, we can look at the examples found in Scriptures……taking examples from their lives, prayers, and actions. Another way is to look at the world around us. To look at the beauty of nature, and of the people who make a difference in the world around us. Those Spirit-filled moments are but a foreshadow of the Kingdom of God which Christ inaugurated and has invited us to enter into. +

Morning Prayer: March 26th

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Psalms: 75, 76
Old Testament: Jeremiah 5:20-31
New Testament: Romans 3:19-31

For we hold that a person is justified by faith apart from works prescribed by the law. Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, since God is one; and he will justify the circumcised on the ground of faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith. Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law. (Romans 5:28-31)

Here we come to one of the pivotal passages of Romans. Not only does it have significance for the theology of Paul himself, but to a whole slew of Protestant interpretations.

One of the problems with traditional Protestant takes on this passage is that it holds up the decision to place one’s faith in Christ as the way to becoming righteous. If that happens, it is no longer the faith of Christ that makes a difference, but rather the individuals personal choice.

The danger here of course is that there can be a tendency to turn that choice into a “work”. Pray the sinner’s prayer, and you’re good to go. Get baptized and continue sinning…..it doesn’t matter if you ignore morality……you will be saved because you have faith in Jesus. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

Obviously, I don’t think that’s what Paul intends here, otherwise he would not have made a specific point about upholding the Law. He would have been aware that Jesus constantly called his disciples to holiness….saying that it was not the family of blood that made up his brothers and sisters…..but those who did the will of his Father.

Christ also said that he came to fulfill the Law and not to abolish it.

As has been explained in earlier verses, the purpose of the law is to expose Sin…..to uncover those times when we miss the mark and fall short of our full potential as the sons and daughters of God.

We can’t let go completely of the moral compass of the Law. It is what keeps us balanced and keeps us in check. The big difference is that we do not place our hope on the Law. Rather we place our trust in the hope and faith that God will forgive our clumsiness and our mistakes…..even those times when we screw up royally! ๐Ÿ˜›

Together as a faith community, we strive to follow the will of God and cling to Jesus as the one who will keep us safe and cover our sins for us. May we never grow lazy in our call to holiness, and remember that God will catch us when we fall. +

Morning Prayer: March 18th

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Psalms: 40, 54
Old Testament: Deut 10:12-22
New Testament: Hebrews 4:11-16

Circumcise, then, the foreskin of your heart, and do not be stubborn any longer. (Deut. 10:16)

Indeed, the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12)

So I’m posting now because I haven’t had access to a computer until now…..but anyways, on to the reflection ๐Ÿ™‚

It’s not too often that I include two Bible verses for contemplation in the same post…..but I think they are related; especially for us as Gentile inheritors of the Gospel.

In our first reading, the question God addresses is: “What does the LORD require?” While the Law is upheld as something which needs to be followed, there is something deeper being hinted at.

In telling the Israelites to circumcise the foreskin of the heart, God is looking for relationship

The individual acts of obedience to statue and ordinance are good……but they are meant to lead to something deeper. A faith lived out, not in the hope of being rewarded…….but lived out with a sense of gratitude and a genuine desire to be close to God.

But how do we…..so far removed from the LORD’s great signs and wonders in Egypt and Calvary, come to believe??? The answer is the Word of God….both in its written form and in the Word that comes to us in the silent movements of the Holy Spirit.

The Christian story has been passed on through the words of Scripture. As North American Christians, we have no other source material. On one level, as Gentile inheritors, we literally take it on the authority of others that the Gospel story is true…we have no choice….especially in light of the plethora of interpretations that came as part of the Protestant Reformation.

On the other hand, we have the Word of God in Scripture…..a text that we can go to for ourselves……to study and critique and question for ourselves…….a process that can crack open our hearts, and let the Light permeate our darkness. +

Evening Prayer: March 12th

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Psalms: 42, 43
Gospel: John 1:43-51
Patristic Reading: An excerpt from Against the Heresies by St. Irenaeus

โ€˜Can anything good come out of Nazareth? (John 1:46)

It is hard to say for certain what kind of man Nathaniel was. We only catch a short glimpse of him here in the Gospel of John. If I were to speculate though, I would say he was a pretty skeptical guy. At Phillip’s invite to “come and see”, he readily questions whether anything good can come from a backwater town.

Furthermore when Jesus identifies him as an Israelite in whom there is no deceit, Nathaniel asks how Jesus knows him. There seems to be a great deal of mistrust…

And then it what appears to be a rather odd turn of events, Nathaniel boldly declares that Jesus is the Son of God and King of Israel…..even though Christ simply stated that he saw him hanging out by the fig tree.

This might seem strange at first….but I think it makes a little more sense if we skip to the end of John’s gospel *spoiler alert* lol ๐Ÿ˜‰

Nathaniel’s confession sounds suspiciously like that of another apostle we know. Unlike the doubting believer who requires concrete evidence, Nathaniel’s faith is unprompted and spontaneous.

One of the central questions in the Fourth Gospel, and for us during Lent, is what kind of believer we are to be. Are we the type to recognize Jesus right away……or do we need more convincing???

If it is the latter, what proof would we need? If the former, how do we make sure we are recognizing Christ, and not some figment of our imagination and self-construction???

I am not saying that one type of discipleship is better or worse…..and if pressed, I would definitely consider myself more Thomas-esque….but the question still remains……how and where do we see Jesus today??? +

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