Morning Prayer: Tuesday in Holy Week

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Psalms: 6, 12
Old Testament: Jeremiah 15:10-21
New Testament: Philippians 3:15-21

Woe is me, my mother, that you ever bore me, a man of strife and contention to the whole land! I have not lent, nor have I borrowed, yet all of them curse me. (Jeremiah 10:15)

As I read this quote, I was immediately reminded of another infamous person who uttered the line: “I wish I’d never been born.”

In the movie It’s a Wonderful Life George Bailey (played by Jimmy Stewart) is pushed to the brink after a series of unfortunate events leads him to believe that he is worth more dead than alive, and that the suffering he causes in the world around him is too extensive. As such, he sincerely wishes that he had never been born and that his problems disappear.

In response, God grants his wish and George is given the chance to see what the world would be like without him. All his friends and family have become hard and embittered. The affordable housing he built in Bailey Park has been replaced with the expensive condos and dissolute living in Pottersville. The brother he saved as a child is dead…and the people whom he has helped are now lost in the streets.

I suspect Jeremiah’s despair was akin to George’s. He doesn’t understand why God is picking on him. He doesn’t understand why he must bear the brunt of Israel’s disregard and be held in such contempt. Here is a prophet who is at the end of his rope.

However–just like George–this persecuted messenger of God feels isolated because he cannot see the whole picture. He doesn’t fully understand teh importance of his words and actions in the context of God’s salvific plan.

What Jeremiah doesn’t know is that:

And I [God] will make you to this people
a fortified wall of bronze;
they will fight against you,
but they shall not prevail over you,
for I am with you
to save you and deliver you,

says the Lord.
I will deliver you out of the hand of the wicked,
and redeem you from the grasp of the ruthless. (Jeremiah 15:20-21)

When God puts us in the world…or gives us a ministry…..he never fails to equip us. We may feel discouraged, persecuted and weak….but we are assured time and again that God is with us in our struggles.

As we go through this week…may we be reminded that our stumblings indeed have a direction and that our vision may not be able to see the wider view…..the view that brings us salvation, comfort and glory to God in the highest heaven. +

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 8th

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Psalm: 102
Old Testament: Jeremiah 23:1-8
New Testament: Romans 8:28-39

Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! says the Lord. Therefore, thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, concerning the shepherds who shepherd my people: It is you who have scattered my flock, and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them. So I will attend to you for your evil doings, says the Lord. (Jeremiah 23:1-2)

A little bit of personal indulgence here. I have to say–as someone who feels called to ordained ministry–this passage scares the crap out of me. 😦

I feel like I make mistakes all the time. I flub liturgy, give people bad advice….I have days where I don’t care about what I do and don’t have the patience to deal with human weakness.

Don’t get me wrong…..I believe that (through pure Grace) there are other points in which I have actually led liturgy in a way that allows people to see God, not me. I believe there are times when I have pointed people in the right direction. I believe that there have been times when I am there for people who are suffering…..but i always wonder…..is it enough????

I don’t mean this in terms of “works vs. grace” deal…..Rather a question of whether what I am doing is leading others to life or sending them over a cliff that leaves them confused and with God nowhere to be found. If I am totally honest with myself, as a potential leader in the Church, I feel responsible towards those I serve.

I suspect that this is true for all who feel called to ordained ministry…..or anyone who feels called to their particular vocation whether as a parent, a spouse, or career.

As a result of our nature as stewards and agents of creation, the world is affected by our actions. What happens if those effects are for the evil instead of the good? Does that mean we are screwed???

Yet……in all of these doubts, I find myself confronted with Paul’s words:

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)

Whatever my doubts and fears…..whatever your doubts and fears……whatever our doubts and fears as a community together….we are never totally lost….we are never irredeemable, we are never beyond the pale…..and God loves us just as we are. +

Morning Prayer: March 23rd

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Psalms: 72
Old Testament: Jeremiah 3:6-18
New Testament: Romans 1:28-2:11

Yet for all this, [Israel’s] sister Judah did not return to me with her whole heart, but only in pretense, says the Lord. (Jeremiah 3:10)

Out of all the Prophetic books, Jeremiah no doubt is one of the harshest in terms of message. The author makes no excuses for the behaviour of the people, but openly proclaims them as whores.

Of course, the reading ends up as a call to repentance, and with the assurance of God’s love for his people; but that’s not what I want to focus on today.

Instead, I want to acknowledge that the Bible is not all filled with positive messages. There is a ton of God’s wrath and vengence being poured out on nations, peoples and family. Sometimes these are coupled with a specific call to repent, while at other times, YHWH simply gets fed up with the people’s sin and decides to punish it.

Oftentimes, I find both myself and other theologians glossing over these ugly bits of Scripture; when in all honesty, I don’t think we can or should.

In light of the post-modern rise of human secularism, there has been a tendency among faith communities to emphasize the loving, compassionate, accepting nature of God….at least within liberal circles (which I tend to find a home in).

Don’t get me wrong….I am totally on board with the idea that God will forgive me and accept me as a prodigal son as many times as I repent…but the judgment oracles, and ensuing punishments remind us of something that is fundamental for us to know and learn: there are consequences for sin

While our eternal life is assured through faith in Christ, that doesn’t mean that we escape the aftermath of our wrong-doing. As a people of faith, we must be ready to accept changes to our relationships when sin causes hurt and dysfunction. We can of course seek forgiveness and reconciliation with those we have wronged….but it won’t always have the outcome we desire.

Sin is a very real force in our world, and one that we must be constantly aware of….heeding with humility the warning of St. Paul not to judge the actions of others. +

Morning Prayer: 2nd Sunday in Lent

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Psalms: 24, 29
Old Testament: Jeremiah 1:1-10
New Testament: 1 Corinthians 3:11-23

With it being so late in the afternoon…..I seriously considered skipping an MP post and just combining it with the evening portion. However, there is a lot going on in today’s Scripture passages, and I do want to take some time to concentrate on the section of Jeremiah we read for the Office today:

Now the word of the Lord came to me saying,
‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
and before you were born I consecrated you;
I appointed you a prophet to the nations.’
Then I said, ‘Ah, Lord God! Truly I do not know how to speak, for I am only a boy.’ 7But the Lord said to me,
‘Do not say, “I am only a boy”;
for you shall go to all to whom I send you,
and you shall speak whatever I command you.
8 Do not be afraid of them,
for I am with you to deliver you,
says the Lord.’
Then the Lord put out his hand and touched my mouth; and the Lord said to me,
‘Now I have put my words in your mouth.
See, today I appoint you over nations and over kingdoms,
to pluck up and to pull down,
to destroy and to overthrow,
to build and to plant.’ (Jeremiah 1:4-10)

Jeremiah’s call to be a prophet is so pertinent to our society today. Sadly, it has been co-opted by many pro-life groups as the rallying cry against abortion, rather than standing on its own as a recognition that God has a plan for each and every one of us.

As I look at the paragraph above, I am also chuckling at my own words lol :). I don’t consider myself pro-life, nor am I believer in Fate, or predestined plans lol :). Yet I do believe that life is sacred and that God directs our lives in a certain direction while at the same time, giving us the freedom to veer off in another directions.

Like all of the Biblical heralds of God’s message, Jeremiah proclaims that he is unfit to speak on behalf of the Father; a fair argument, non? After all, can a mortal really speak for the Maker of heaven and earth?

Yet God does not accept Jeremiah’s protest….instead he says that he should not call himself a boy….and that YHWH will provide the very words and thoughts that are needed to speak to the congregation of Israel. Simply put, God’s call cannot be put off with excuses 🙂

Of course, taking up the prophetic mantle is definitely a dangerous thing in our world. For one, we can’t always be sure that the call is authentic….there are no cherubs flying above our heads, no burning coals touching our lips…and yet we are called to speak the truth about the kingdom:

do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you at that time (Matt 10:19b)

We are baptized into Christ’s threefold ministry of priest, prophet, and king. We are not to speak our own words or our own thoughts…but rather to reflect on what God might be saying to us in the silence of our hearts. Through prayer, reflection, and conversation with other members of the faith….we might be able to discern the new and exciting ways in which the Father is directing the church to go out and make disciples of all nations.

What I [Jesus] say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops (Matt 10:27)

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