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. πŸ˜‰

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. πŸ™‚

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 πŸ™‚

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! +

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Will You Come (back) to Church the Vineyard with me on September 25th???

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Normally I don’t use this blog to post any of my sermon thoughts/material….but I guess my vanity wins out today :P. There have been a few things that occurred to me this week that I figured might be of some use to those who are reading this blog. πŸ™‚

This morning I was blessed with a chance to preach on the Parable of the Vineyard Workers. This is a story where we are given a glimpse into the type of person God is and what God is doing in the world.

Like all parables, the story is not to be taken literally, but as a metaphor for the kingdom of God; a narrative reflection of our longing for God’s peace and love and justice…and what that reality will look like when it finally reaches fruition at the end of the age.

In Jesus’ story of the Vineyard workers….each of the workers is valued and loved. It doesn’t matter who they are, or how long they have worked, they are all given an equal share of God’s abundant love and grace.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what this means in light of Back to Church Sunday which is being adapted from the UK for Huron, as well as several other Dioceses in Canada.

Are we preaching and teaching a message that invites all people to join us??? Are we creating an environment where they feel welcomed, loved, and that any work they do or walk of life they are from has value??? What kind of community are we welcoming them back to???

I am totally aware that of course, we can never measure up to the level of God’s generosity….and that we will indeed fall short.

There might even be some level of hostility and resentment that we–who have been faithful attendees at Sunday worship for decades–should be considered equal to those who are just entering the sanctuary for the first time….or finding their way back after a long journey away from home.

And yet….I think there is a tendency to forget that we too at one time were new members of the Church. Whether baptized as infant or as an adult…there were people who helped to build us up in spiritual strength and confidence. We all at one time or another are unsure of our call to discipleship….and hesitant to offer our gifts and talents to the wider community, for fear that we might be rejected.

But here’s the Good News: God says that he will not reject you…..he won’t bother taking into account the crappy things you have done in your life….he won’t reject our attempts to live morally in this world…..he won’t reject you even if there is anger, fear, or doubts that lingers in the back of your mind. All of that has been left at the foot of the Cross.

Regardless of what you have done….. you are worth it! You are made in the image and likeness of God…and God loves you so much that there is nothing he won’t do to reclaim you as his very own child…even if it costs him pain suffering and death.

You are beautiful, irreplaceable, and vital to the world around you….and no one can take that knowledge away from you. ❀

If you have been thinking about surrounding yourself in a community of the faithful…don't hesitate! :D….Come….not because I told you to….but because it is Christ who invites you here….All are welcome, all are accepted, and all are loved. πŸ˜€

If any have toiled from the first hour,
let them receive their reward.

If any have come after the third hour,
let them with gratitude join in the feast!

Those who arrived after the sixth hour,
let them not doubt; for they shall not be short-changed.

Those who have tarried until the ninth hour,
let them not hesitate; but let them come too.

And those who arrived only at the eleventh hour,
let them not be afraid by reason of their delay.

For the Lord is gracious and receives the last even as the first.
The Lord gives rest to those who come at the eleventh hour,
even as to those who toiled from the beginning.

To one and all the Lord gives generously.
The Lord accepts the offering of every work.
The Lord honours every deed and commends their intention.

Let us all enter into the joy of the Lord!

**Excerpt from the Paschal (Easter) Homily of St. John Chrysostom**

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:

β€˜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:

β€˜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, β€˜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. ❀ +

Morning Prayer: June 6th

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Psalm: 89:1-18
Old Testament: Ezekiel 4:1-17
New Testament: Hebrews 6:1-12

Author’s note: Originally, I had totally misheard the Old Testament reading at the Cathedral and thought Ezekiel ate/cooked with the human dung and built my reflection around that idea. The post stayed that way for the majority of the day. I have since changed it…..but to those whom I inadvertenly led astray…mea culpa! mea culpa! Will definitely make a more concerted editing effort in future posts. πŸ™‚

β€˜See, I will let you have cow’s dung instead of human dung, on which you may prepare your bread.’ (Ezekiel 4:15)

But if [your faith] produces thorns and thistles, it is worthless and on the verge of being cursed; its end is to be burned over. (Hebrews 6:8)

Eeeew! We have some pretty dark images going on in today’s readings, non? :S Despite my own discomfort though, I think there is still something to be gleaned here.

I am particularly struck by Ezekiel’s command from God to literally eat shit. :P. It is shocking enough to our own sensibilities, but for a prophet, the thought of doing such a thing would be unbearable.

According to the Torah, if a Jewish person came into contact with biological waste (corpses, menstrual blood, feces, urine &c.) there was an automatic exclusion from the whole congregation. Normally, there would be a priestly ritual (lasting anywhere from 7-14 days) that would remove the contamination and allow the person to re-enter the people of God.

Of course, with Ezekiel writing during the Babylonian Exile…the Temple is gone and the Levitical priests have been banned from practicing their faith. To eat animal dung would be to enter a state of defilement that was impossible to recover from ritually.

For all his protesting, Ezekiel is told he must eat the feces in order to convey God’s message to the people. Like so many prophets who have come before him, this faithful Jew is called to say and do things that seem impossible.

There is also an interesting twist to the story.

In his mercy, YHWH has allowed Ezekiel to eat cow’s dung–rather than human dung…..for to eat a waste product of God’s most precious creation is too great an embarassment. Even in the midst of humiiation, there is mercy. πŸ™‚

On a metaphorical level, there is also something comforting to know that even when we must eat shit…..God is with us…loving us…..upholding us…..even to the end of the age. +

Morning Prayer: Friday in Easter Week

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Psalm: 136
Old Testament: Daniel 12:1-4;13
New Testament: Acts 4:1-12

This Jesus is
β€œthe stone that was rejected by you, the builders;
it has become the cornerstone.”
There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved (Acts 4:11-12)

Well after a brief stint of computer problems, compounded by my own laziness, I am back on track with the blog :). I hope all of you have had a wonderful Easter season thus far filled with chocolate, friends, family, and liturgy that has moved you. πŸ™‚

In today’s reading from Acts, Peter gives this response to the question: from where do you get your authority?

The answer he gives harkens back to Psalm 118, which is a song which looks forward to the Messiah.

In using this as a proof-text, Peter is spreading the gospel, the new and radical message that a crucified and risen criminal was indeed the one Israel had been waiting for so long.

More than that, he insists that the miracles he and the other apostles are performing have nothing to do with them, and everything to do with the power of God.

I wonder how often we take credit for our own ministries and talents without giving credit to the source?!?

I don’t mean to say that it is wrong to have a sense of self-worth or accomplishment in what we do every day and the positive ways in which we touch the life of the world and those inside it……but at what point does the line get crossed between self-reliance and salvation, and being redeemed through God’s Grace alone?

It is a slippery line to be sure….and I hope that I continue to walk in the knowledge that I am nothing, but for God’s love that has been shown to me in Christ. +

Morning Prayer: April 4th

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Psalm: 89:1-19
Old Testament: Jeremiah 16:10-21
New Testament: Romans 7:1-12

What then should we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet, if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” But sin, seizing an opportunity in the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness (Romans 7:11-12)

As I read the excerpt from Romans, I am struck by the realism Paul displays here. He is very honest about the human propensity to twist morality in order to fit our own wants and needs.

The Law, and even the story of Grace through Jesus Christ is always open to human interpretation…there is no way to get around that. But it does beg the question of what “laws” of institution and doctrine have been warped to fit our own personal frameworks????

I should point out here that liberals are equally guilty of distorting the Gospel to fit their pedagogy. Where ultra-conservatives might argue that God is a righteous and zealous judge, ultra-libs will argue that God is ALL love and no judgement πŸ˜›

Both extremes blatantly ignore major themes of the Bible. On the one side, Pat Robertson has forgotten that God will not condemn innocents to death. On the other end of the spectrum, Rob Bell seems to completely ignore the judgments such as we have been reading in Jeremiah over the last two weeks.

My guess is that the answer lies somewhere in the middle……and I don’t pretend to put forth a solution in this blog entry. However, it is important to struglle with how we are faithful to the Scripture without over-emphasizing one aspect of it that will hijack the message of Jesus to repent, and to believe in the good news. The good news that Grace abounds far more than Sin could ever hope to. +

Morning Prayer: March 31st

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Psalms: 42, 43
Old Testament: Jeremiah 10:11-24
New Testament: Romans 5:12-21

For just as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. But law came in, with the result that the trespass multiplied; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, just as sin exercised dominion in death, so grace might also exercise dominion through justification leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 5:18-21)

I was sorely tempted to put up the icon of the resurrection this morning but I resisted the urge…..it is Lent after all ;)…..Another 25 days and then we can put up the really fun and beautiful art of new life. πŸ™‚

In this morning’s reading from Romans we have an important analogy made by Paul and proclaimed loudly by the Early Church. Christ not only gained atonement for our sins…..but he has begun something new; a new creation has been born.

I suppose that’s why I am frequently frustrated by salvation as taught by the “evangelical” denominations.

In their quest to save and baptize everyone, I sometimes wonder if enough catechesis is going on….whether people are getting a true grasp in what happens at Baptism.

Entering into the Christian faith not only means adhering to doctrines, and sharing those ideas with others; it means being made new.

I think that if we were to get back to the basics of Baptism, we might be able to get away from the idea that the sacrament is only about citizenship in the Kingdom. Maybe, just maybe……we might be able to reclaim our identity as a people who are not only saved by abundant Grace, but transformed by it. +

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