Evening Prayer: Even of All Hallows (Hallowe’en)

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Psalm: 34
Old Testament: Wisdom 3:1-9
New Testament: Revelation 19:1,4-10

Then I fell down at his feet to worship him, but he said to me, ‘You must not do that! I am a fellow-servant with you and your comrades who hold the testimony of Jesus. Worship God! For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.’ (Rev 19:10)

Growing up, I was definitely one of those Roman Catholic kids that didn’t understand the whole saint thing. To me, they were the people enshrined in the stain-glass……their stories often seemed unbelievable……their lives of virtue and inner peace entirely too convenient.

Even stranger to me was the whole idea of praying to the saints….asking them to talk to God on our behalf…..why wouldn’t I just pray to the Father or Jesus directly???

I’ll touch on the theology of intercession tomorrow…but for right now, I want to concentrate on what we hear from Revelation. In his vision, John is so overwhelmed that he feels moved to spontaneous worship.

Not knowing the proper outlet for that praise, he starts to bow down before the saint (holy one) that is unveiling the message of what the apostle sees.

Startled, the saint stops him….and–in my head at least–I can picture that exchange being very awkward for both parties. Wanting to dissuade any false illusions, the white-robed companion immediately directs the writer’s attention back to Jesus.

Contrary to the way the cult of the saints was taught to me in RC circles, the saints are not the object of worship. Rather, looking at their lives is SUPPOSED to lead us to Christ, and the virtues that he teaches in the Gospel……a point which is not always explicitly made.

Tonight, on the eve of All Saints, we are also made aware that the Church–the community of the faithful is an eternal reality. Made not only of the people living in the world today…..but of all who came before us, and those who will follow in the future.

The seemingly endless tales of Christian men and women are a call to be holy as God is holy….and in the next few days we celebrate the fact that progress in a faithful life is not only possible, but that it has the power to shape the world…..and shape it for the better. A transformation that began and was made possible by the One who clothes us in righteousness with His blood. Alleluia! +

Evening Prayer: Feast of St. Luke (Oct. 18th)-Combo Post

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Psalms: 103, 67, 96
Old Testament: Ezekiel 47:1-12, Isaiah 52:7-10
New Testament: Luke 1:1-4, Acts 1:1-8

As with each of the four gospel accounts in the Bible, Luke has its own distinct style and message when it comes to telling the story of Jesus of Nazareth. The 3rd Evangelist’s account is the book where we find some of the best known stories of the New Testament….like the parable of the Prodigal Son, the parable of the Good Samaritan and the Annunciation to the Virgin Mary by Gabriel.

Throughout the entire book….there is special emphasis placed on healing, forgiveness, reconciliation, and inclusion of women and Gentiles into the covenant.

As a result of these trends, the tradition of the Church holds that Luke was a physician…..and today is typically a day when we pray for all medical personnel.

So here’s my question to you…..In what ways are you being Christ-like? How are you reaching out to the poor, the lame, and those who are wounded?

Wounds can take many forms……some are physical, some are emotional, and others are spiritual. If you saw my post earlier today, I think it’s important to recognize that sometimes wounds hit the trifecta, and drain away our very will to live. 😦

We are human. That means that we won’t be able to cure everything….we have to know our finite limits in terms of skill-set and talent….but each of us has the capacity to touch the life of another…. To reflect the light of the Holy Spirit and to help someone’s darkness to be a little less intimidating and scary.

Even if we think ourselves to be an insignificant flicker, for someone else we may be the beacon of hope through which they see the loving face of God.

I pray that as we move forward from this online place of prayer and reflection, we emerge with a sense and conviction that our light and warmth are worth sharing…and that we can live more each and every day in the glorious Light that Jesus provides for us, and gifts us with at our baptism. Amen. Alleluia! +

Evening Prayer: Feast of St. Michael and All Angels (Michaelmas)

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Psalm: 34, 150
Old Testament:Daniel 12:1-3
New Testament: Mark 13:21-27

Hallelujah!
Praise God in his holy temple; *
praise him in the firmament of his power.
Praise him for his mighty acts; *
praise him for his excellent greatness. (Psalm 150:1-2)

In Biblical literature, angels typically have two roles. As I alluded to this morning, they bring God’s messages to humanity…but they also have a special role in that they praise YHWH continually.

The heavenly host reminds us that we too are called not only to love God and neighbour…..but to give thanks and praise for the blessing of creation. As human beings, we are made in the image of the Trinity and given the gift of life….We are indeed marvelously made and surrounded by beauty beyond all telling.

Tonight….I invite you to join your voice and heart to the song of angels so that from north to south, east to west, from heaven to earth, we may proclaim that the LORD is King and his dominion rules over all. +

Morning Prayer: Feast of St. Michael and All Angels (Michaelmas)

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Psalm: 8, 148
Old Testament: Job 38:1-7
New Testament: Hebrews 1:1-14

Are not all angels spirits in the divine service, sent to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation? (Hebrews 1:14)

OK I’m going to be straight up with you…..I’m not sure what to make of this whole angel business. For one thing, the angels depicted in the Bible aren’t the innocent little kids with wings, and halos and chubby faces…they’re described more like this:

Cherubim

Seraphim

Far from the cute and cuddly, non?

For another thing, the concept of angels smacks of mythology and superstition. Can I really believe that there is a celestial general named Michael who defeats the powers of evil and carries out God’s will on earth???

Here’s the rub. If I believe in a Creator God (which I do) I have to believe that he–being the maker of the known universe–is able to do anything he wishes. Just because I can’t physically see some creation doesn’t mean it has no existence. I’ve never observed an atom or a molecule in a microscope, and they are invisible to my eye….but I know they are real. It’s the same thing with angels.

Even if I don’t accept literally the descriptions given in the Bible…..there are still times when I must admit to having felt that I was being watched over, protected, and guided by God.

Did God produce this feeling from his own hand? Through the hand of an angelic power? Who knows. Does it make a difference???? I don’t think so.

The source is still the same…..everything flows from the loving hand of God……and maybe the point of angels is not so much that they are these terrifying other-worldly creatures….but that they are agents of God’s mercy and grace. They remind us not only of what we are called to be…. servants of the LORD…but of what we are to proclaim: a message of hope to those who are in despair.

Most of all, they are a reminder that we are not alone….we are not the sole creators of our destiny……that there are forces beyond our control smiling in benevolence and gently guiding us through danger as we follow the pattern of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ

Evening Prayer: Feast of St. Matthew the Evangelist (Sept. 21)-Combo Post

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Psalms: 119:41-64, 19, 112
Old Testament: Isaiah 8:11-20, Job 28:12-28
New Testament: Romans 10:1-15 Matthew 13:44-52

‘The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. (Matt 13:44)

For tonight’s reflection, I am totally going to steal from Bill Cliff who is the chaplain over at St. John the Evangelist @ Huron University College

While I was at the Common Ground conference back in June, I attended a workshop on teaching and preaching the parables. In the course of that discussion, Bill said that the stories of Jesus are meant to shock us….and not only that…but they speak to the character of God. They give us insight into the type of person that the Father is, and how he acts in the world.

Traditionally, the story of the hidden treasure is taken to mean that the disciple finds the saving news of the gospel, and follows it above all else. Yet…this seems to skip over one very important aspect…..the first sentence that our Lord speaks.

The simile which is set up at the beginning of tonight’s passage is not a disciple is like…Instead the emphasis is on God…Jesus says the kingdom of heaven is like….

This shift in focus means that our understanding has to change as well. The treasure in the field doesn’t refer to what we find and rejoice over….It’s about what God finds and rejoices over. 🙂

Like the parable of the lost sheep or prodigal son in Luke….the shocking message here is that God believes we are invaluable. He rejoices over each and every one of his creations. Saints, sinners, tax-collectors, gay, straight, rich and poor…..the Trinity constantly invites us and seeks us out to join in their dance of celebration and redemption.

The apostle Matthew–whom we celebrate today–was someone who was classified as a traitor to his people…a person who turned his back on his religion and people….a person whom YHWH would never even deign to look upon.

Yet this is the same man who encounters emmanu el….God with us….and receives an invitation to follow in the way that leads to life. May we have that courage which leads to a resounding “yes” and helps us to remember that we are all gifts from God. +

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! 😛

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. 😛

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. +

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

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Psalm: 45
Old Testament: Jeremiah 31:1-14
Gospel: John 19:23-27

When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, here is your son.’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother.’ And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home. (John 19:26-27)

You know what’s amazing??? I’ve spent more time and energy talking about Mary on this blog than in the whole 20 years I was Roman Catholic lol :P. Can you say irony???

Anyway…..tonight I want to talk about something that doesn’t get discussed in a whole lot of Anglican circles..and that’s the idea of intercession

In and of itself intercession describes the process of “intervening on behalf of another.” This process can pertain to many different activities, in a variety of different contexts. A lawyer may step in as a legal advocate for their client. A social worker serves on behalf of a child within a troubled home. A co-signer on a loan can act on behalf of the sponsored person to cover debts.

Although we might not use the word on a regular basis, interceding is an integral part of how any community functions. The Church–the community of the faithful–is no exception.

In our prayer life, we ask for God’s grace and mercy on behalf of people whom we don’t even know. We pray for parts of the world torn apart by war, famine, and disease….we pray for parts of the worldwide Church we will likely never visit….we pray for the poor of society whom we may or may not interact with regularly….but who intercedes for the Church????

The answer traditionally is the saints. The souls of the faithful departed who await the coming of Christ and the promise of God’s kingdom on Earth.

Mary–who is the first apostle to experience resurrection and the one who has a flesh and blood tie with the Son of God–is held up in Sacred Tradition as the primary intercessor for all Christian people; and indeed for the world.

As Jesus hangs upon the cross, he gave his mother Mary to the beloved disciple. In patristic writings, this was seen metaphorically as the Theotokos being given to the Church. In her we find someone who is dedicated, loving and faithful…..someone who is rooting for us even when we think we are horrible; an adoring parent whose care and tenderness for all the baptized will never fail.

Holy God,
Holy and Mighty
Holy Immortal One
have mercy upon us

At the prayers of the Most Holy Mother of God
O Saviour save us +

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! +

Evening Prayer: Eve of the Transfiguration of the Lord

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Psalm: 84
Old Testament: 1 Kings 19:1-12
New Testament: 2 Cor 3:1-9;18

The angel of the Lord came a second time, touched him, and said, ‘Get up and eat, otherwise the journey will be too much for you.’ He got up, and ate and drank; then he went in the strength of that food for forty days and forty nights to Horeb the mount of God. (1 Kings 19:7-8)

When most people read this passage from Kings, the focus is usually on the fact that God is present in the silence. That is all well and good…and an important excerpt for understanding God…but I find myself drawn to the angel’s words.

If you have been reading this blog for a while, you know that I place a big emphasis on santification and theosis in my writing and preaching.

But where do we get the strength to be transformed? Who gives us the insights to change our lives inside out and upside down? The angel reminds us tonight that all of these things come from God Himself.

Nothing we ever do comes strictly from our own efforts….but with the help and love of the One who made us so that:

All of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another (2 Cor 3:18a)

As we prepare to celebrate the Feast on which we see Christ as He truly is….I pray that God will remove the scales from our eyes…..to lift the veils of our own bias and ignorance…of our laziness and apathy….so that we can travel up the mountain to be see God’s glory in all creation; and make our way back down to bring that vision and life to those who are in darkness and lost in despair.

Praise to the Holy Trinity who gives us everything we need :). Amen, Alleluia! +

Evening Prayer: Feast of St. James (Combo Post)

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Psalm: 34, 33
Old Testament: Jeremiah 16:14-21; Jeremiah 26:1-15
Gospel(s): Mark 1:14-20; Matthew 10:16-32

     St. James Led to Martyrdom, c.1722-3 by Piazzetta, or Piazetta, Giambattista

[About the time Paul and Barnabas were sent out from Jerusalem] King Herod laid violent hands upon some who belonged to the church. He had James, the brother of John, killed with the sword. (Acts 12:1-2)

Today we remember the first of the 12 apostles to be martyred. Tonight’s post boils down to a simple point and a single question:

Contrary to our North American bubble and sensibilities, I’m here to tell you that martyrs still exist

Would you die for Jesus?

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