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, β€˜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. 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

β€˜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. πŸ™‚

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. +

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, β€˜Woman, here is your son.’ Then he said to the disciple, β€˜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! +

Morning Prayer: July 30th

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Psalms: 74, 75
Old Testament: 2 Sam 5:22-6:11
New Testament: Acts 17:16-34

For in him we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28)

When I was first received into the Anglican church back in 2002, I was given a card by some of the ladies whom I regularly worshipped with on Wed. morning. On the front was this quote from Acts and on the inside was their signatures and messages of encouragement.

Since then, it has become one of my favourite passages of Scripture….Why? For the simple reason that it reminds us that we cannot do the simplest of things….cannot even draw a breathe without the help of God.

Each day we wake up living, is a small miracle of its own. +

Morning Prayer: July 15th

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Psalm: 31
Old Testament: 1 Sam 21
New Testament: Acts 13:13-25

So the priest gave him the holy bread; for there was no bread there except the bread of the Presence, which is removed from before the Lord to be replaced by hot bread on the day it is taken away. (1 Sam 21:6)

Ever notice how the Old Testament is filled with people doing things that they aren’t supposed to do? Adam and Eve eat of the forbidden Tree…Cain kills his brother out of jealousy…Abraham deceives Pharaoh which leads to disease and famine for the king’s household….Jacob steals the birthright of his twin…and now we have a priest giving the Bread of the Presence to someone outside the Levitical family.

And yet….what do we find as God’s response to these events. God allows Adam to live, Cain is protected, Abraham is given a son, and Jacob becomes the namesake and patriarch of a nation.

God takes the things that we might perceive as unholy and transforms them into something…..not only good…..but great. πŸ™‚ Definitely gives us food for thought when we get stuck in liturgical ruts….or feel that certain individuals should be restricted from the Lord’s Table because of their “bad” behaviour, non? +

Morning Prayer: June 27th

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Psalm: 106:1-18
Old Testament: 1 Samuel 10:17-27
New Testament: Acts 7:44-8:1a

Praise the Lord!
O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
for his steadfast love endures for ever.
Who can utter the mighty doings of the Lord,
or declare all his praise? (Ps. 106:1-2)

As I was thinking about what to post this morning……I am literally at a loss for words. As some of you may have noticed, my blog posts have been sporadic at best…but that’s not because of anything bad…..quite the opposite actually. πŸ™‚

For the first time in a very long while……things have been falling into place…and I have no idea why. Half of my brain expects the bubble to burst any second……but for right now…..right this minute….life is good. πŸ™‚

On a knee-jerk reaction……I could say that it’s the result of a new relationship I am exploring…..but as a whole, that piece (although wonderful :D) is far too new to be the root cause.

It’s more than that. My “jobs” such as they are….are taking off…..I find myself in faith communities that both stretch my abilities and embrace me as a whole person :P.

Granted, the roles in ministry I have right now still cause worry…but worry in a different way. I don’t worry about whether I can bring the Gospel message…..

Instead, I find myself worrying about what is the best way to do it??? What is the way that will most effectively speak to those I serve???

Anxiety is present…..but it’s anxiety mixed with excitement….it’s very hard to describe…..

Today I am reminded…..God is good <3….and we need to praise him in the happy times, along with those times we feel like Jonah in the belly of despair. πŸ™‚ +

Evening Prayer: June 21st

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Psalm: 97, 99, 94
Old Testament: 1 Samuel 6:1-16
New Testament: Acts 5:27-42
Gospel: Luke 21:37-22:13
Patristic Reading: N/A can’t find a copy online 😦

If this plan or this undertaking is of human origin, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow themβ€”in that case you may even be found fighting against God!’ (Acts 5:39)

This quote from the great rabbi Gamaliel (depicted above) is probably one of the soundest pieces of advice I have ever heard in Scripture :). Having said that I often wonder how often the institutional church takes it to heart. πŸ˜›

Many parishes of different denominations are doing all kinds of weird and whacky things in terms of liturgy, service music, mission and outreach projects…all in the hope of improving their community….or in many cases, help their community to grow.

Time after time, I have heard about congregations who ran programs that did not perform well…..or that produced less bums in the pews than had been hoped for. Of old historic buildings closing their doors. It’s all very sad. But at the same time….I wonder if we ever take the time to ask this question:

What is God doing here?

Are our efforts to improve spiritual community, or as a marketing gimmick? What if there is something in the congregation that needs to die? What if the ministries currently being pursued are not life-giving, and not of our Father???

I say this not to be trite……but to point out something very important.

If we truly consider ourselves an Easter people…..than we must recognize that God is ALWAYS active….even when we don’t like what he is doing. πŸ˜‰

If we truly place our hope in the resurrection, then the closed church doors will again be open…..even if it might be in a different location and a different circumstance.

If we truly believe that Christ is the new Adam and death has no dominion over Him….then we have no cause to weep…..only a cause to rejoice! πŸ™‚ What seems to be devastating now might just be part of a bigger plan. It might just be the cross we must bear so we can meet angels who bring us tidings of greatest joy!

Simply put….if anything the Church is doing is of God, it will have only one possible outcome. It will blossom and give life abundantly. Alleluia! Alleluia! πŸ™‚ +

Evening Prayer: June 17th (Combo Post)

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Psalms: 88, 91, 92
Old Testament: 1 Samuel 3:1-21
New Testament: Acts 2:37-47
Gospel: Luke 21:5-19
Patristic Reading: An excerpt from a treatise on the Lord’s Prayer by St. Cyprian

Now the boy Samuel was ministering to the Lord under Eli. The word of the Lord was rare in those days; visions were not widespread. (1 Sam 3:1)

Since it’s still fresh in my mind from the conference, I find myself drawn again to the story of Eli and Samuel.

This post is less a reflection and more an open discussion for the readers…..My query is this: Are we living in a time when the Word of the Lord is rare????

Having gone through seminary (and living the last four years in the Churchland bubble), I tend to always take the perspective that God is revealing Himself to the world on a regular basis….but I’m curious as to what others think.

Is it possible we are living in a time when visions are limited and revelations few????

I would love to hear your own thoughts and reflections on this question :). Leave a comment below and maybe we can figure out together what kind of age we are living in right now. πŸ™‚

Pax Christi +

Evening Prayer: June 9th

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Psalm: 105:23-45
Gospel: Luke 10:25-37
Patristic Reading: An excerpt from A Commentary on John’s Gospel by St. Cyril of Alexandria

Whenever the Lectionary asks us to reflect on the Good Samaritan…..I always find it difficult to comprehend the radical nature of this parable. As a Canadian who finds himself in a post-Charter context and surrounded by a fairly liberal circle of family and friends…..the issue of race or ethnicity has never been a source of conflict in my life…at least not overtly.

That’s not to say that racism is gone, or the biases that surround different nationalities don’t exist…but it’s something that I don’t personally understand.

A couple of years ago, I heard a sermon by one of the youth at St. Christopher’s in a way that touched me and blew my mind all at the same time :P.

I wish I still had access to the MP3 so I could share it; but essentially, she challenged my assumption of who the Good Samaritan is.

Normally when we think of this story, we think of someone who is in need of being rescued….someone on the margins of society we are called to help be a voice for.

Or perhaps–on the metaphorical level–we picture the God as the one picking us up…. binding our wounds, our emotional hurts and our sins with healing and love.

But what if….in this age of atheism, consumerism, and moral apathy….the robber suffering on the road…..half beaten to death….what if that person was God???

What if….instead of God saving us, we needed to save God???

I leave you tonight with that question. Feel free to leave some thoughts in the comments section below.

As always, I continue to pray with and for you as we joyfully anticipate the Feast of Pentecost. +

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