Morning Prayer: June 23rd

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Psalm: 105:1-22
Old Testament: 1 Sam 8:1-22
New Testament: Acts 6:15-7:15

‘Listen to the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them. Just as they have done to me, from the day I brought them up out of Egypt to this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so also they are doing to you (1 Sam 8:7b-8)

Disaster. In many ways here we have the beginning of the end for Israel. Despite Samuel’s warning that a king will cause the people to become vassals and slaves, they are insistent in getting their own way.

Initially, Saul is picked…which leads to civil war. Then David is chosen…….which goes well for a while, but eventually crumbles. While David’s son Solomon shows early signs of promise, he becomes corrupt and turns Israel away from YHWH and straight into the arms of Baal.

But what do we do with this story in 2011??? Other than saying “HAHAHA! silly Israelites”???

One place to start is to look at the deeper context. Israel is not just asking for a leader…..they are asking for a leader other than YHWH and his chosen prophets.

Their request for new leadership is not so much a “reasonable request” by poor nomads who are surrounded by monarchies…..it is an echo of their complaining in the desert..

Instead of complaining about miserable manna, they are now complaining about the way God chooses to govern them.

“What kind of God would give us a measly judge??? Don’t we deserve a king???? What has YHWH done for us lately anyhoo???”

Call me crazy…but I don’t think that sentiment is completely foreign to our own time. Even in my own experience, I question the way God works all the time….and a lot of time, I wish things could be different.

What causes those kinds of emotions, though? I think that more often than not, it stems from the fact that we forget God is our King. That he is the one in charge of our lives.

We forget the promises of Christ that we–like the birds of the air and the lilies of the field–will be provided for, loved, and protected. We want to be masters of our own destiny.

As we pray each day, let us remember that our God is indeed a great God and king above all others. O come let us worship +

Morning Prayer: April 15th

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Psalm: 22
Old Testament: Jeremiah 29:1, 4-13
New Testament: Romans 11:13-24

But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, a wild olive shoot, were grafted in their place to share the rich root* of the olive tree, do not vaunt yourselves over the branches. If you do vaunt yourselves, remember that it is not you that support the root, but the root that supports you (Romans 11:17-18)

In using the metaphor of an olive tree, Paul makes it very clear that the mission to the Gentiles is not something new….but as an extension of Israel’s divine call to be the people of God.

Through the growth of new branches, the Apostle hopes that the Jewish people will have the veil lifted from their eyes. In witnessing the Gentiles streaming to the Christian movement, they would see that Jesus was indeed the anointed one foretold in the prophets.

Interestingly, we have yet another discussion of roots in Jeremiah:

Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare (Jeremiah 29:5-7)

In Exile, the Jews found themselves on the outside looking in. As foreigners which had to lay down roots in a foreign land and hope to prosper……they were not always the strong tree.

So what does that say for us??? I think one of the messages is that–spiritually–we are called to lay down roots wherever we are. Just as the Son of Man has no place to rest his head, so are his disciples called to always be flexible, on the move and adaptable.

There is nothing wrong with laying down roots. That’s a natural human impulse. It allows us some level of comfort, and ability to spread the gospel without being anxious about how we will eat, and where we will find shelter. My hope is that our roots may be healthy ones…..nurtured by God’s Word and the Holy Spirit; so that if we have to move and make changes, the transplant will lead to ever more abundant growth. +

Morning Prayer: April 13th

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Psalm: 119:145-176
Old Testament: Jeremiah 25:30-38
New Testament: Romans 10:14-21

Again I ask, did Israel not understand? First Moses says,
‘I will make you jealous of those who are not a nation;
with a foolish nation I will make you angry.’
Then Isaiah is so bold as to say,
‘I have been found by those who did not seek me;
I have shown myself to those who did not ask for me.’ (Isaiah 10:19-20)

In a strange narrative twist, Paul starts to re-imagine the story of Israel. Instead of painting Israel’s disobedience as a willful act of sin, the Apostle believes that Israel’s rejection of Jesus was predestined. Their rejection opened the door for God to reveal his salvation to someone other than the Jewish people.

By this, the Apostle believes that Israel has not been abandoned, but rather they will be led to Christ by the faith of others. In seeing that Gentiles are embracing YHWH, the chosen people would realize their errors and embrace Jesus as the Saviour of the world.

I think this points to something deeper than just God’s choice affiliation. It’s that God takes the unlikely and makes it an instrument to change the world and a way to reveal his glory. Taking those who are perceived as unworthy and unclean and stating unequivocally that they are special and loved, and are just as redeemable as the Jews.

I wonder what would happen if we were to recognize that the outsiders in Churchland….the disabled, the LGBT community, the denominations that are diametrically opposed to our own. While I’m not sure that “love wins” in the same way that Rob Bell does….I am fairly confident that God likes to turn things on their head, and surprise us by the movement of the Holy Spirit. +

Morning Prayer: April 11th

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Psalm: 31
Old Testament: Jeremiah 23:16-32
New Testament: Romans 9:19-33

Those who were not my people I will call “my people”,
and her who was not beloved I will call “beloved”. ’
‘And in the very place where it was said to them, “You are not my people”,
there they shall be called children of the living God.’ (Romans 9:25-26)

I want you to imagine for a second that you were made a promise as a child. A promise that you were special and under the watchful eye of God. Not only that, but you were convinced that if God were ever to show up in your midst, you would be the first to know.

Now imagine that you saw someone else receiving that promise. How would you feel? Jealous? Hurt? Confused?

I suspect that even in his post-conversion state, Paul was extremely uncomfortable with the idea that the Jewish people “missed the boat” when it came to accepting Jesus as the Messiah. In fact Romans 9-11 is an open reflection on what the fate of God’s chosen ones might be.

I sit here wondering if there are any parallels in Churchland….We too hold a promise of salvation and special status. Are we holding onto it too tightly?

In many Anglican churches, attendance is dropping off. More “evangelical” congregations are growing, while our parishes are struggling to pay the hydro bill.

But is our jealousy warranted? Is it even Christian?

The fact of the matter is that people outside of our building and church pews are still being led to Jesus in other denominations….they are still receiving Good News.

Granted, some of those messages might be distorted….but we also believe that the Holy Spirit is present in Christian communities everywhere. Perhaps our job is not necessarily to worry about what others are doing, but to concentrate on how we ourselves are living faithful lives…confident that we are united under one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all. +

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