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. 😦

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! πŸ˜›

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 3rd

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Psalm: 18:1-20
Old Testament: Deut 4:32-40
New Testament: 2 Corinthians 12:1-10

. Therefore, to keep* me from being too elated, a thorn was given to me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me, to keep me from being too elated.* Three times I appealed to the Lord about this, that it would leave me, but he said to me, β€˜My grace is sufficient for you, for power* is made perfect in weakness. (2 Cor 12:7-9)

So yesterday we were talking about weakness, and how it can sometimes be frightening to talk about them; especially in front of others.

Here in a moment of honesty, Paul admits that he is not perfect. That he has a thorn in his flesh that is causing him some spiritual anxiety.

There have been various speculations as to what this “thorn” my be. Some think it to be lust, while others believe that it may refer to some physical ailment that Paul suffered from.

I find it interesting that in his prayer-life, Paul does not get what he wants. The thorn is not removed, but rather God tells Paul “My grace is sufficient for you.”

This doesn’t necessarily mean that things will be peachy and trouble-free….It means that though thorns may persist in our lives, they are not the end all and the be all. They will be conquered through Grace, and God will give us the means to overcome them.

Here I don’t mean supernatural healing…..although that is not entirely off the table either :)….after all, for God all things are possible.

However, the Grace of God can bring us the means by which to deal with our problems, be it through therapy, medication, regular exercise etc. and will surround us with people–family, friends, and even random strangers–that will build us up and put things into a new perspective…to help to make the load lighter.

Whatever your thorn, I hope that the pain is not unbearable…..and that you find yourself surrounded by love, friendship, and trust.

At the very least….know that there is someone out in London, ON Canada praying for you during the Daily Office ;). Blessed be. +

Morning Prayer: Feb. 28th

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Psalms: 1, 2, 3
Old Testament: Deuteronomy 4:9-14
New Testament: 2 Cor 10:1-18

Know, then, that the Lord your God is not giving you this good land to occupy because of your righteousness; for you are a stubborn people. (Deut 9:6)

Speaking of my own experience, I used to think that the spiritual life was about being righteous so I could get stuff. Blessing, entry into heaven, fruitful relationships… all the things that make life worth living.

It makes sense right??? You get what you work for. Gotta work hard for the things that you want. You are responsible for your own actions.

But that’s not the Gospel message. The Gospel message is that the things we want are bestowed as gifts, that forgiveness is freely given, and that Jesus–not us–is responsible for the consequences of our action.

Here in Deuteronomy, the LORD makes it very clear that everything He does flows from His own nature, rather than any deeds we have done. The idea that Judaism is a religion of following rules vs. Christian Grace is simply not true.

God help us if we ever use the free gift us Grace to create an “us vs. them” mentality.+

Evening Prayer: Feb. 18th

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Psalm: 107:1-32
Gospel: Mark 12:28-34
Patristic Reading: An excerpt from a treatise on First John by St. Augustine

Some wandered in desert wastes ,
finding no way to an inhabited town;
hungry and thirsty,
their soul fainted within them.
Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
and he delivered them from their distress (Ps. 107:4-6)

Some sat in darkness and in gloom,
prisoners in misery and in irons
,
for they had rebelled against the words of God,
and spurned the counsel of the Most High.
Their hearts were bowed down with hard labour;
they fell down, with no one to help.
Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
and he saved them from their distress; (Ps. 107:10b-13)

Some were sick* through their sinful ways,
and because of their iniquities endured affliction;
They loathed any kind of food,
and they drew near to the gates of death.
Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
and he saved them from their distress; (Ps. 107:17-19)

If we read Psalm 107 too quickly we tend to miss some of the subtleties here. While the Psalm as a whole is directed to the congregation of Israel. We actually have God showing up and reaching out to three different groups of people: the lost, the captive, and the sick. Hmmm where have I seen this before?????????

The thing with this passage is that God shows up to His people in spite of our bad behaviour and our tendency to stray away from the Father. The Father shows up anyway…. but why???

For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39)

Let us take Luther’s mantra to heart….to believe the Word of God that tells of Jesus Christ our Saviour…..who came to make us whole through pure Grace and and to take comfort in the faith that all our sins are forgiven and that we have been made new. Alleluia!+

Evening Prayer: Feb. 10th

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Psalms: 85, 86
Gospel: Mark 10:17-31
Patristic Reading: Couldn’t find the excerpt online tonight 😦

Then who can be saved?’ Jesus looked at them and said, β€˜For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible.’ (Mark 10:26b-27)

I have just recently finished a book entitled The Reason for God: Belief in the Age of Skepticism by Timothy Keller (pictured above).

Keller–who is a Presbyterian minister in New York–tackles a whole bunch of different objections to the Christian faith which are posed by contemporary skeptics, atheists, and secular individuals. While this may sound incredibly dull and dry….he writes in a very engaging fashion. The book itself is divided into two halves.

The first part deals with objections to Christianity, whereas the second deals with Christian theology and its application to the modern world.

In the chapters dedicated to the concept of sin Keller makes a fascinating point. He argues that atheism, and over-zealous religious commitment are the two extremes on the same pole. Both involve a certain amount of pride….and the ultimate conviction that the individual can save him/herself by virtue of their own effort.

For the atheist, the assumption is that God does not exist, and therefore the individual strives to construct meaning around their lives by the roles they choose to inhabit….a parent, a spouse, a professional etc. The essence of this mind-set is that one becomes their own Saviour.

The problem is…..once these self-defining roles are removed nothing is left.

The over-religious person on the other hand is so committed to rule-following that they believe God owes them something. It is not by the Grace of God that they are saved…but by the greatness, and cumulative effect of their own moral efforts.

The problem with the over-religious folk is that they become self-conscious and self-absorbed. At the same time, they are haunted by a sense that they should be holier, do more good…..and look down on those who aren’t as committed as they are.

In both the case of the zealot and the atheist is that they are seeking to save themselves. Both schemas of salvation are me centered

Grace is the exact opposite of self-constructed reality. Grace is other-centered . There is a sense in which Grace and the invitation to the Kingdom of God is a free gift. In order to receive that gift however, we need to surrender everything to Christ. It is only in giving away our power to control our destiny, that we ultimately fulfill it.

The rich man in tonight’s gospel was crushed to hear that he would have to give up his possessions to enter the Kingdom. Part of his reality was built on the assumption that his wealth was a reflection of his piety…when he was asked to give up that reality for something new……he walked away.

I hope and pray that as we contemplate and heed our own call to follow Christ, God will make the impossible true, and allow us to drop the things that are holding us back from feeling the full power and warmth of His love for us. +

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