Ascension Day

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While [Jesus] was going and they were gazing up towards heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. They said, β€˜Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up towards heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.’ (Acts 1:10-11)

The Feast of the Ascension has always struck me as a very mixed bag of emotions. I can just picture the bewildered disciples staring up into the sky…thinking to themselves: What the hell just happened???

Caught somewhere between the elation of spending time with their Risen Lord, and the sudden shock that they are once again “on their own”……this is a day of both celebration and apprehension.

You see..at this point in the story….the Holy Spirit hasn’t arrived yet. Pentecost is still a week away……and in many ways, the disciples are right back where they’ve started. A frightened minority, locked behind closed doors……And yet, something is different compared to the time when they hid themselves away on Good Friday.

Now….the followers of Jesus know something is different. They have touched the hands and feet of their Lord and know that he lives! Despite Christ’s sudden departure from their midst….they can’t simply ignore what they have experienced. They know they have something special…..but the question remains….what do we do with it????

Something holds them back. How exactly are we supposed to feel about this? On the one hand, we know that we have been blessed by Grace, forgiveness and love, and seen it with our own eyes….and yet…on the other hand, we find ourselves staring into nothing as it travels somewhere beyond our knowing.

At the risk of sounding too personal…I can relate to this bewilderment and confusion. given some of the life-events which have occurred in the last three weeks.

Between the call to priestly ordination, and the (mutual) break-up of a loving and life-giving relationship….I feel that I’m caught between two extremes…..Joy and celebration at the fact that a life-long dream is coming true…..while at the same time, sadness at having to let something go that has been equally precious to me.

I honestly don’t know what to do when these feelings come at me simultaneously……but I take comfort in knowing that even the Church recognizes and holds on to those feelings within it’s own traditions and feast-days. Ambiguity and a sense of being uncomfortable and confused is not something that I–or any of us–are alone in…it is a shared experience with our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Like the infant church…..scared and unsure…..we move ahead even though we are clueless of the direction…..and with the sure knowledge that somewhere along the way, the Holy Spirit will come to be our comfort, our guide, and the one who lights a fire under our ass ;)…(or in our hearts if you prefer the more traditional image) +

Morning Prayer: Holy Saturday

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Psalm: 88
Old Testament:Lamentations 3:37-59
New Testament: Hebrews 4:1-16

Your wrath has swept over me;
your dread assaults destroy me.
They surround me like a flood all day long;
from all sides they close in on me.
You have caused friend and neighbour to shun me;
my companions are in darkness. (Psalm 88:16-18)

In many ways, this is the darkest time of the Church year. Our Saviour lies dead in a tomb….and like the Psalmist echos, there seems to be only darkness as a companion.

This particular psalm is interesting in that 88 is one of the very few Psalms that end in doom and gloom. There is no expression of deliverance, or of praising God’s goodness and power. Only a frank statement of fear and despair.

The disciples too were once at this point…..their teacher gone, their friends scattered……the 12 huddled away in mourning and grief.

But the difference is that now…..we know the end of the story…….we know that there is something more going on here. So what do we take away from this Holy Saturday???

For me, the most important thing is that by laying in a crypt….dead and motionlesss….God literally lays beside all of humanity. As a result of his Incarnation, death and burial……there is now no place where God is not.

Even in the dread silence of death….of the shock and horror of betrayal and defeat……Christ is here amongst us.

We know the glory that awaits us tonight…but for this moment in time……our souls wait in silence for God….. +

Morning Prayer: Maundy Thursday

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Psalm: 102
Old Testament: Lamentations 2:10-18
New Testament: 1 Corinthians 10:14-17; 11:27-32

The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a sharing in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a sharing in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread. (1 Cor 10:16-17)

Maundy Thursday is always an interesting Feast Day for me, especially growing up a Roman Catholic background. In that particular tradition, the emphasis for today is placed on the institution of the Lord’s Supper…..celebrating the fact that Jesus took ordinary things, and transformed them so that we might never be without His presence.

But gathering around the table has a greater significance than being fed for our own benefit. In sharing the Body and Blood of our Lord with others, we are united in a spiritual bond that cannot be broken. A bond which makes us not only fellow human beings…..but brothers and sisters who find ourselves in relationship with one another.

I don’t know about you……but I DEFINITELY know some folks in Churchland that I don’t particularly enjoy. Personalities clash, differences of opinion arise, and in some cases, that schism can manifest itself in fighting, arguments, and seeing that person as “somebody else….someone I don’t have to interact with”

Holy Thursday challenges us to sit with others that we don’t enjoy or get along with. Don’t forget: Even Judas was able to share in this sacred meal. πŸ˜‰

As we enter into the Three Great Days heading towards the Resurrection, may we come to see ourselves in the stories of Scripture, and recognize that we are called to enter into God’s presence….. even when the images are gruesome and ones that we would rather ignore……It is only through suffering, service, and fellowship with sinners that the Paschal mystery can really happen. +

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! +

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! πŸ˜›

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. πŸ˜›

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. +

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. +

Evening Prayer: July 13th (Combo Post)

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Psalm: 38, 119:25-48
Old Testament: 1 Sam 20:1-23
New Testament: Acts 12:20-25
Gospel: Mark 2:13-22
Patristic Reading: An excerpt from a Treatise on the Mysteries by St. Ambrose

But it is for you, O Lord, that I wait;
it is you, O Lord my God, who will answer.
16 For I pray, β€˜Only do not let them rejoice over me,
those who boast against me when my foot slips.’ (Psalm 38:15)

Something in my brain tells me that I’ve probably done a post on this verse before….so if I am inadvertently repeating myself, I apologize…anyway it is definitely a sentiment that really rings true for me right now.

I totally confess that I do not do well with the whole waiting thing. I’d even go so far as to say that I am one of the most impatient people on the planet. This doesn’t mean that I can’t do the laid-back thing and let things develop…..a lot of the time that’s what I have to do in my job(s)….but that doesn’t mean I particularly enjoy the process itself. πŸ˜›

That discomfort has been heightened for me of late…since–in two weeks time–one of my bishops is coming to check out the ministry that I do here in London.

I honestly have no idea how it’s going to pan out….and part of me thinks that I will probably fall flat on my ass.

That being said, I have since started meeting with my Spiritual Director and he and I have discussed something very important over the last few weeks…. Letting the Third Person into the conversation

It’s not about me trying to convince the Bishop that I should be ordained, or to show him that I am doing good work….or even about trying to achieve results.

I have to work hard yes…..but more than that…..I have to leave room for God in there somewhere πŸ˜›

The point is not to put my trust in my own abilities…but in the knowledge that the Holy Spirit will show up when She is needed most. Not only to give me strength and ability….but to give light to the darkness…and to allow a bishop and a lay leader to meet as brothers in Christ…..not as superior and inferior….

Let’s just hope I can keep my sanity until the visit! πŸ˜› +

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