Morning Prayer: Feast of the Dormition of the Blessed Virgin Mary (August 15th)

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Psalm: 113, 115
Old Testament: 1 Samuel 2:1-11
Gospel: John 2:1-12

I admit it…..I was in a funk last week….partly because I was surrounded by death :(. Responding to pastoral situations over the physical death of a loved one……. and the “little deaths” of addiction and depression took an unexpected toll on my own sense of well-being.

Seems kind of appropriate that as I stumble back to this blog, I am confronted with a Feast that deals with death.

Being of the ol’ school…I celebrate this Feast as the “Dormition” or the Falling Asleep of the Virgin Mary….This is in contrast to both my current practice as an Anglican and my roots as a good Catholic boy.

Having a Protestant heritage, the Anglican Church tends to shy away from elevating the Mother of God in any way, shape or form. So August 15th is simply referred to as the “Feast of St. Mary the Virgin” in the BAS calendar.

On the flip side, Catholics believe in the doctrine of the Assumption in which Mary is assumed bodily into heaven without tasting death.

As with so many things, I straddle the line between both traditions and embrace Eastern Orthodox teaching. In the tradition of Byzantium, the teaching was that Mary died a physical death but that her body was resurrected and assumed into Heaven some three days later.

Now you may be asking the question of why I split these theological hairs…and my answer is really quite simple. The Feast of the Dormition serves a dual purpose. On the one hand….it reminds us that we will all experience physical death, regardless of how holy we are. It is a day on which we–as Christians–acknowledge and accept that there will be a time when we are called to depart this life and await the next.

But the commemoration of the Church does not stop there….it goes a step further. In recognizing Mary’s assumption, she becomes the first of all Christian followers to experience bodily resurrection.

Death is revealed not to be the final victor…..but rather eternal life triumphing over the limits of sin and human nature.

Mary holds for us the hope that we too will be gathered into the great cloud of witnesses; to anticipate the day when the dead shall be raised, and no tear will be shed. To long for the day when the world will finally know what it means to live in the Kingdom of God..a place where justice, peace, and love overflow in abundance forever.

Through the Mother of God, we live in continual hope for the dawning of a new day. Alleluia! Alleluia! +

Evening Prayer: May 9th (Combo Post)

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Psalms: 25, 9, 15
Old Testament: Daniel 4:19-27
New Testament: 1 John 3:19-4:6
Gospel: Luke 4:14-30
Patristic Reading: An excerpt from a Commentary on 1 Peter by Bede

For the needy shall not always be forgotten,
nor the hope of the poor perish for ever. (Psalm 9:18)

β€˜The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.’ (Luke 4:18-19)

Today I want to concentrate on something that often gets relegated to the after-life when–really–it should be the exact opposite.

Constantly throughout the New Testament there is talk about the Kingdom of God. It is the subject of parables, prophecy and the ethical teachings of Jesus.

A time when the oppressed are given relief, when those who are in prison are set free and all physical infirmities are healed.

In their original context, Christ was not speaking about a future time…..but declares

“Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” (v. 20)

It is meant to be a present day reality. And yet, the time of God’s reign has long since been taught and preached as part of our heavenly reward after death.

Of course, this is partially true…..since we will inherit the Golden Jerusalem at the resurrection of the dead….but for some reason, Western theology confused the term Kingdom of Heaven with “the place we go when we die.”

While this might be convenient and heart-warming for most folks to accept…..it is not the reality of Christian teaching.

The kingdom of God is something that has already begun. It started with the Incarnation of Jesus into the world….and is continuing to transform our world today. πŸ™‚

In our Baptism, we are not the agents of this change…..God is πŸ˜€

*BUT* we are stewards and co-creators with our Creator….that is the ministry we were given from day one…(or day six, depending on which chapter in Genesis you’re paying attention to ;))

So the question we are left with is…….in what way are we called to proclaim the Good News and do our part to co-create that reality with our Father??? +

Evening Prayer: March 29th

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Psalm: 78:40-72
Gospel: John 7:37-52
Patristic Reading: An excerpt from a sermon of St. Peter Chrysologus

Peter Chrysologus offers us the follwing reflection tonight:

To make [prayer and fasting] acceptable, mercy must be added. Fasting bears no fruit unless it is watered by mercy. Fasting dries up when mercy dries up. Mercy is to fasting as rain is to earth. However much you may cultivate your heart, clear the soil of your nature, root out vices, sow virtues, if you do not release the springs of mercy, your fasting will bear no fruit.

It took me a while to grasp the whole mercy thing. Normally, I’m all for justice and restitution….I want to see the world as a fair place…….and yet we have a God whose fundamental message is one of forgiveness and grace…….of people getting exactly what they do not deserve; perfect pardon and peace.

Without getting into too many specifics or airing my laundry in the blogosphere…..I will say that a few years ago, there was a pretty significant rift in my family over an affair that was had. Virtually everyone close to me was affected by it in some way, and I was really angry at the perpetrator. πŸ˜›

I couldn’t understand how–despite this betrayal–the couple stayed together. At first, it seemed like they were ignoring the issue and pretending that it never happened.

As I learnt more however, I realized that the person who was cheated on, kept the relationship going because she thought it was in the best interests of the family. Ironically, my anger then switched from the perpetrator to the victim.

So much so that I told her that I would not forgive her. 😦 My mercy was far from exemplary on that day πŸ˜›

Luckily, we have since been reconciled…..but that was the first time I actually had to forgive someone for anything bigger than a white lie, or stealing some inconsequential property.

Mercy is a cool thing to talk about…a piece of theology that is lovely to speak about……but one of those doctrines that is incredibly difficult to live out in praxis. :S

One thing about mercy and forgiveness though, is that it has the potential to heal both the offender and the offended. It doesn’t mean that the scars disappear, or that the pain is nonexistent……but it does mean that the pain is not crippling…..and leads us to empathy for all of our sisters and brothers who have just as many broken relationships, and unresolved emotions as we do. +

Evening Prayer: Feb. 23rd (Combo post)

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Psalms: 119:145-176, 128, 129, 130
Old Testament: Ruth 2:1-13
New Testament: 2 Corinthians 1:23-2:17
Gospel: Matthew 5:21-26
Patristic reading: An excerpt from a letter about the martyrdom of St. Polycarp.

Since this is a combo post….I want to cover two things…..both of which I think are super important for understanding the Gospel message as a whole.

First off, I want to continue our journey with Ruth…..

Here in Chapter 2, Ruth is now settled in Judea with her mother-in-law Naomi…Ruth sets to work the wheat fields as a poor peasant. This imagery is not to suggest that she is working for wages….but rather that she is destitute and poor…having to hope that Boaz (the owner of the field) has heeded the words of the Torah not to reap the fields completely, but to leave some for the widow, the orphan and the resident alien.

The very fact that Ruth is able to find food speaks volumes about Boaz’s character, and his commitment that all should have access to food and drink…

This goodwill is augmented when Boaz extends the invitation for Ruth to gather wheat with his entourage rather than by herself. That way, she is able to feed herself and have access to water all day long; as well as to gather some food for Naomi.

I wonder what would happen if we were all so generous???

And the second thing I wanted to highlight tonight comes from the Gospel.

Ever wonder why we share/give the kiss of peace at Eucharist??? Sure it’s nice to shake the hands of friends, family and fellow parishoners……but it’s not just about being polite and cordial:

So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister* has something against you, 24leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister,* and then come and offer your gift. (Matt 5:23-24)

If anything, the peace is something which forces us to make contact with those people we would much rather avoid. The peace is not so much about maintaining the status quo as it is encouraging reconciliation between those who might not be getting along. This happens right before the Eucharist so that both parties can go to the table of the LORD in love and a clear conscience toward God and their neighbour.

May we all strive to be at peace with one another and to provide our brothers and sisters with food, water, and spiritual healing as the situation calls for :D. Amen +

Evening Prayer: Feb. 11th

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Psalms: 91, 92
Gospel: Mark 10:32-45
Patristic Reading: An excerpt from a sermon by St. Leo the Great

Did you really expect a picture of anything else??? Vive le Egypt!

The dullard cannot know,
the stupid cannot understand this:
though the wicked sprout like grass
and all evildoers flourish,
they are doomed to destruction for ever,
but you, O Lord, are on high for ever. (Psalm 92:6-8)

While I am loathe to meditate on Scripture in light of a revolution……I’m going to do it anyway :P. In case you haven’t heard, the Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak resigned today in the face of pressure from its citizens. This is an amazing accomplishment…and certainly an event that is a first for my generation.

The uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt and Jordan signify something much more powerful than political movement. It is a living example of truth and discontent speaking to power; of the proletariat and middle class alike joining forces to face dictatorship.

The idea of justice triumphing over corruption is all over the place in the Psalms. The revolution is nowhere near complete. It remains to be seen who will take up the leadership/gain the support of the military. It has the potential to be a disaster and a repeat of the past…but it also has the potential to be a move in the direction of true freedom.

What is most moving to me is that although 300 individuals have died in this movement (RIP <3), it has been a largely non-violent movement; standing in stark contrast both to Canadian/US military efforts, and the stereotypes which seem to surround the nations, republics, and kingdoms of the Middle East.

Let us unite our prayers that the spirit of peace and change remains with this movement, and that the voice of the Egyptian people continues to be heard. +

Morning Prayer: February 7th

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Psalm: 80
Old Testament: Isaiah 58:1-12
New Testament: Galatians 6:11-21

Turn again, O God of hosts;
look down from heaven, and see;
Tend this vine,
the stock that your right hand planted.* (Isaiah 58:1-12)

For some reason or other this image of God tending us as vines really stuck with me this morning. I like the metaphor for two reasons.

a) We are not the ones doing the tending and
b) We are told what our new health and vitality will lead to.

I freely admit that I am not very knowledgeable when it comes to gardening and plant life. But there’s something reassuring–for me at least–at the idea that God is reshaping me and taking the steps to promote my life and health.

Some of the pruning is bound to be uncomfortable but in the end it is for the best….look what kind of transformation is possible:

If you remove the yoke from among you,
the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil,
if you offer your food to the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the afflicted,
then your light shall rise in the darkness
and your gloom be like the noonday.
The Lord will guide you continually,
and satisfy your needs in parched places,
and make your bones strong;
and you shall be like a watered garden,
like a spring of water,
whose waters never fail. (Isaiah 58: 9-11)

The key thing here though is to remember that the striving for justice and the removal of yokes is not something we can do alone. It is only by the LORD’s strength and help that we will be guided to live more fully in the spirit. Today, let us unite our prayer with the Psalmist:

Restore us O God of hosts
let your face shine that we may be saved (Psalm 80:7)

+

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