A Prayer of Confession…….

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I have recently finished a book on prayer that put a special emphasis on monasticism and making room for silence in order to hear God’s call.

In light of that material I have decided to forego the regular pace of this blog tonight….. and spend some time reading and listening rather than the usual talking and commenting on the Scriptures.

However, I don’t want to leave my readers hanging in terms of content for reflection…So I share with you a prayer of Confession that we used for Back to Church Sunday.

As someone who struggles daily against laziness and sloth I think I’m going to integrate it into my spiritual practice and definitely think it is worth sharing with others :).

Eternal God,
you asked for our hands, that we might use them for your purpose;
but we gave them for a moment, then withdrew them…
for the work was hard.

You asked for our mouths to speak out against injustice;
But we gave you whispers….
That we might not be accused.

You asked for our eyes to see the pain of poverty;
But we closed them….
For we did not want to see.

You asked for our lives, that you might work through us;
But we gave you a small part….
That we might not get too involved.

Lord… forgive our calculated efforts to serve you only when it is convenient to do so
When we serve you only in those places where it is safe to do so
And only ministering to those who make it easy to do so.

Forgive us,
Renew us,
And send us out as your instruments
That we may take seriously the meaning of our new life in you. Amen.

Lord Jesus Christ
Son of the Living God
Have mercy on us sinners.
At the prayers of the most Holy Mother of God
O Saviour, save us! +

Morning Prayer: August 5th

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Psalm: 88
Old Testament: 2 Sam 12:1-14
New Testament:Acts 19:21-41

Picking up from yesterday, David seems to have literally gotten away with murder. In response, the prophet Nathan presents the king with a juridical parable.

In this story, the prophet presents a rich man who decides that he is going to steal the single beloved ewe of a poor man rather than use one of his own livestock.

David is OUTRAGED and declares:

‘As the Lord lives, the man who has done this deserves to die; he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity.’ (2 Sam 12:6)

He recognizes that such injustice cannot stand…and that the culprit deserves nothing less than death.

When Nathan makes the dramatic reveal that David himself is the perpetrator, the king is distraught…..he has pronounced judgement on himself! He recognizes that he deserves to die. Out of shame and guilt, he makes a heartfelt confession before God:

‘I have sinned against the Lord. (2 Sam 12:13)

As a prophet and arbiter of God’s justice, Nathan has every right to insist that David be stoned…or at the very least, step down from the throne…..but that’s not what he does. Instead he proclaims God’s forgiveness, and pronounces absolution:

’ Nathan said to David, ‘Now the Lord has put away your sin; you shall not die. (2 Sam 12:13b)

In an amazing act of Grace, mercy trumps justice. <3….

It is true that David cannot escape some of the natural consequences of his sins…..the child may not survive, and his kingdom will forever be divided and fragmented between his heirs…….but he is forgiven for both murder and adultery….two sins that ware considered especially heinous in the Old Testament.

In this incredible display, we see God's true character at work. YHWH has no reason to forgive the son of Jesse for his transgressions…. but he does. Not only that, but he keeps his promise to David that the Messiah…the Saviour of all creation…..will come from his ancestral line.

Sin is a pervasive force in our lives. It has the power to enslave us, trap us, and destroy our lives…but God's mercy is greater than all our sins combined.

His love can cover even our greatest of sins….and even though we may have to live with the consequences of our actions, we have a chance to live our lives anew…

We are assured that all sins are blotted away and we shall be made white as snow….if only we have the courage to ask for forgiveness…..and the courage to live out our lives to be a reflection of the love and mercy that was shown to us in our own lives.

St. David, king of Israel and example for all who truly repent…… pray for us. ❤ +

Evening Prayer: July 23rd

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Psalm: 138, 139
Gospel: Mark 6:1-13
Patristic Reading: An excerpt from the 2nd Letter to the Corinthians by St. John Chrysostom

[The disciples] went out and preached that people should repent. They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them (Mark 6:12-13)

I always find it interesting that the commissioning of the disciples is so simple. 🙂

Notice that Jesus doesn’t ask the 12 to go around asking people if they had accepted Christ as their own personal Lord and Saviour. In fact, that approach to evangelism is nowhere to be found.

Instead, the instructions are to travel light and to accept hospitality. The content of the disciples preaching was not on doctrine, but on a call to repentance and a conversion of the heart.

I wonder if churches today–for all their focus on social justice and communicating the love that God has for all creation– are as eager to preach this message of radical change as the early followers of Jesus.

You see….repentance is not a popular message…..we like absolution, Grace, and forgiveness….but repentance not so much.

I suspect that part of the reason for this is that when we confront all our sins and wrong-doing, we are faced with the reality that we are not living our lives the way we ought.

Although it might not seem like it….this attitude is extremely counter-cultural. We live in a world that emphasizes over and over that our short-comings are due to a lack of self-confidence, that we are all good moral beings, with no need for God and simply in need of embracing our own system of ethics.

Tomorrow morning, I have the joy of leading the Liturgy of the Word at our regular Eucharist. As part of that ministry, I have the privilege of inviting people to confess their sins……inviting them to confront the ugliness of their lives…..and to earnestly seek God’s guidance and assurance that even though we are not perfect, God will use us to reflect his glory and be living icons to the world.

The apostles call to repentance is not to make us feel bad about ourselves…but so that we can claim Grace and forgiveness as our own. A chance to make the abstract personal…and that the Perfect Physician will heal us completely in body, mind and spirit. +

Morning Prayer: June 9th

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Psalm: 105:1-22
Old Testament: Ezekiel 18:1-4;19-32
New Testament: Hebrews 7:18-28

‘Why should not the son suffer for the iniquity of the father?’ When the son has done what is lawful and right, and has been careful to observe all my statutes, he shall surely live. The person who sins shall die. A child shall not suffer for the iniquity of a parent, nor a parent suffer for the iniquity of a child; the righteousness of the righteous shall be his own, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be his own. (Ezekiel 18:19-20)

It may not seem like it on first read….but this prophetic shift in Ezekiel is HUGE . When the law of YHWH was revealed at Sinai, it was made explicitly clear that sin is a generational burden.. Of course the opposite was true as well……righteousness also extended to children…but the idea was that everyone was responsible for the whole well-being of the community.

Now…God declares through Ezekiel that the old ways are gone. God has now decided that each individual is only responsible for him or herself.

In an amazing declaration, God declares that the wicked who repent will no longer have their sins remembered….that they will be washed clean indeed. Through the power of Grace and Love, there is no point where we are beyond redemption. Alleluia! Alleluia!

If you get a chance in the next little bit, why not gather with a priest and celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation? It gives us a chance to confess to God our sins…those times when we have missed the mark, and to gain encouragement from a fellow brother or sister in Christ to continue striving to live fully in the Lord.

More than that, we are given absolution. reminded that Jesus came to save us, and rejoices over one sinner who returns than 100 righteous ones. I for one, place hope in that promise. 🙂

Each day, we are given the chance to embrace our hearts of flesh…..and to remember that through Christ….all sins are forgiven, and we are loved beyond all telling.

My dear readers…..my brothers and sisters…go in peace and pray for me, a sinner + ❤

Evening Prayer: March 15th

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Psalm: 37:19-42
Gospel: Luke 5:1-12
Patristic Reading: An excerpt from Against the Heresies by St. Iranaeus

…When Simon Peter saw [that the nets were full to bursting] , he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, ‘Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!’ (Mark 5:8)

Imagine that you have been up since the wee hours of the morning trying to catch fish. And there is absolutely nothin’ doing.

Keep in mind this is not the fishing we think of in Southern Ontario…..with sunshine, a beer and time to relax. These are men who must fish every day. They must get enough product to market to gain their livelihood. No fish means you don’t eat that week :(.

Dog tired, chilled by the open winds on the sea…and totally despondent…you have a strange looking dude come and ask you for passage so that he can escape the growing crowds.

Not caring very much, Simon agrees. A minute later he finds himself with literally boatloads of fish. The source of his worry is INSTANTLY taken away.

Wouldn’t that scare the crap out of you??? It’s no small wonder that Simon wants to distance himself from this person who has massive amounts of power. Powerful enough to punish him for any wrongdoing…..just as he was powerful enough to reward Simon for the sanctuary of the boat.

Jesus’ actions and words are interesting here. He doesn’t shy away from the sinner. Rather he invites him into a new ministry….to be a fisher of people. He doesn’t punish Simon’s wrong-doing but instead invites him into relationship.

Our Lord is a God who is concerned with sin yes….but we are also told that he will rejoice more over 1 sinner who repents than 1000 who enter the presence of God with a clear conscience.

More than that, Christ wants to transform us and invite us into relationship with him.

In doing so, Jesus makes it clear that the road is not easy……but he does promise that at the end we are given grace and abundance beyond our wildest dreams; fed in body, mind, and Spirit. Thanks be to God who welcomes sinners and does not shy away from those who are scared. Christus Victor! Alleluia! +

Morning Prayer: May 12th

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Psalm Psalm 37:1-18
Old Testament: Daniel 5:13-30
New Testament: 1 John 5:13-20

Florence Nightingale, whose witness the ACC remembers today

We know that those who are born of God do not sin, but the one who was born of God protects them, and the evil one does not touch them. We know that we are God’s children, and that the whole world lies under the power of the evil one. And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.

I don’t know about you…..but it seems to me that this HAS to be one of the most dangerous passages in Scripture. Is it really true that Christians do not sin? Can’t that be used as an excuse for any and all kinds of behaviour???

In order to get the full context of what is being said in this passage…..we need to back up a little to chapter 3:

Little children, let no one deceive you. Everyone who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous. Everyone who commits sin is a child of the devil; for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The Son of God was revealed for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil. Those who have been born of God do not sin, because God’s seed abides in them; they cannot sin, because they have been born of God (3:8-9)

Much like the “faith without works” passage from James…..the outward actions and moral behaviour of a Christian serve as an outward sign of the sanctification that has already happened internally. A reflection of true repentance and of a genuine desire to love God with our whole being.

This is not to say that we will be completely free of missing the mark. For a letter which tries to uphold a call to a pure Christian life…1st John is well aware that we sometimes will fail and fall. He urges the congregation to discern between mortal sin and venial sin….to show compassion, understanding…..and to forgive one another as Christ has forgiven them.

None of us are perfect. We there are plenty of times when we hurt the world, and the people around us. We need to remember that we must forgive the debts of others as we will be forgiven ours…..and to place our hope in the promise that:

If anyone sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and he is the propitiation for our sins. (1 John 2:1-2)

+

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. +

Evening Prayer: March 29th

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Psalm: 78:40-72
Gospel: John 7:37-52
Patristic Reading: An excerpt from a sermon of St. Peter Chrysologus

Peter Chrysologus offers us the follwing reflection tonight:

To make [prayer and fasting] acceptable, mercy must be added. Fasting bears no fruit unless it is watered by mercy. Fasting dries up when mercy dries up. Mercy is to fasting as rain is to earth. However much you may cultivate your heart, clear the soil of your nature, root out vices, sow virtues, if you do not release the springs of mercy, your fasting will bear no fruit.

It took me a while to grasp the whole mercy thing. Normally, I’m all for justice and restitution….I want to see the world as a fair place…….and yet we have a God whose fundamental message is one of forgiveness and grace…….of people getting exactly what they do not deserve; perfect pardon and peace.

Without getting into too many specifics or airing my laundry in the blogosphere…..I will say that a few years ago, there was a pretty significant rift in my family over an affair that was had. Virtually everyone close to me was affected by it in some way, and I was really angry at the perpetrator. 😛

I couldn’t understand how–despite this betrayal–the couple stayed together. At first, it seemed like they were ignoring the issue and pretending that it never happened.

As I learnt more however, I realized that the person who was cheated on, kept the relationship going because she thought it was in the best interests of the family. Ironically, my anger then switched from the perpetrator to the victim.

So much so that I told her that I would not forgive her. 😦 My mercy was far from exemplary on that day 😛

Luckily, we have since been reconciled…..but that was the first time I actually had to forgive someone for anything bigger than a white lie, or stealing some inconsequential property.

Mercy is a cool thing to talk about…a piece of theology that is lovely to speak about……but one of those doctrines that is incredibly difficult to live out in praxis. :S

One thing about mercy and forgiveness though, is that it has the potential to heal both the offender and the offended. It doesn’t mean that the scars disappear, or that the pain is nonexistent……but it does mean that the pain is not crippling…..and leads us to empathy for all of our sisters and brothers who have just as many broken relationships, and unresolved emotions as we do. +

Morning Prayer: Feb. 5th

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Psalms: 75, 76
Old Testament: Isaiah 57:3-13
New Testament: Galatians 5:25-6:10


Today the Canadian Church remembers the 26 Martyrs of Japan

One thing that strikes me this morning is the fact that the readings for today pay special attention to our own sinfulness. In reflecting on our own wrongdoing, the Prophet asks from where we get our smug sense of moral superiority:

But as for you, come here,
you children of a sorceress,
you offspring of an adulterer and a whore.*
Whom are you mocking?
Against whom do you open your mouth wide
and stick out your tongue?
Are you not children of transgression,
the offspring of deceit—
you that burn with lust among the oaks,
under every green tree;
you that slaughter your children in the valleys,
under the clefts of the rocks? (Isaiah 58: 3-5)

Similarly Paul (in writing to the church in Galatia recognizes that there are members of the faithful who will sin and their need forgiveness:

My friends,* if anyone is detected in a transgression, you who have received the Spirit should restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness. Take care that you yourselves are not tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfil* the law of Christ… (Galatians 6:1)

One of the common arguments used by those who reject or question Christianity is how Jesus’ followers could be so immoral…or how the corporate Church could commit horrible acts of violence while still considering itself holy.

The thing is, that–properly understood–the Church does not consider itself perfect…..nor does it expect (or even argue for) perfect followers.

As Fallen creatures, we are a people who are both transformed and redeemed. But to quote Paul:

For now we see in a mirror, dimly,* but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love. (1 Cor 13:12-15)

Our transformation then is not yet complete. There are things that are yet to be…..areas in which are character is made to grow and be glorified through resurrection.

As it stands right now though, the Church and its members will make mistakes…..there are times when we fall short of our baptismal covenant.

The difficulty though is that sometimes, the Church forgets that fact…….and the idea of repentance (a change of heart with a spirit of true contrition) has become somewhat of an alien doctrine.

What I hope and pray for is that the Church will recognize those places where wounds exist….and to take the time to repent. Equally so, I pray that those who critique Christianity will recognize that the Christian community has never claimed to be perfect, and we should not be dismissed strictly on our shortcomings. +

Evening Prayer: 6th Day of Christmas

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Psalm(s): 23, 27
Gospel: John 7:53-8:11
Patristic Reading: An excerpt from Refutations of All the Heresies by St. Hippolytus

Tonight’s gospel is very easy to talk about in the abstract….it’s easy for us to say…”yes of course….no one should throw stones…..silly scribes and Pharisees”….

But when sin and offence happens to us….I wonder how forgiving we would actually be???

Especially with adultery…..cheating hurts and it hurts deep . While I have not been the primary person cheated on….I have seen the effects that cheating can have on important and loving relationships.

What tonight’s reading does is lift up a mirror to sin. It is very easy to externalize it..and to punish it…..because then it doesn’t apply to us .

Jesus encourages us to take a step back from hate, anger, and hurt and helps us to realize that we too can be the cause of hurt to the world.

The call to Christian life is a recognition that although we are the cause of hurt in the world…we can also be the source for healing and reconcilliation..which according to Paul is the primary ministry for all Christians.

This commitment does not minimize the hurt caused by the wrongs done to us, or the wrong we do to others….but it is a step in the other direction. To turn injury into pardon, hate into love, and alienation into acceptance. +

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