Evening Prayer: June 21st

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Psalm: 97, 99, 94
Old Testament: 1 Samuel 6:1-16
New Testament: Acts 5:27-42
Gospel: Luke 21:37-22:13
Patristic Reading: N/A can’t find a copy online 😦

If this plan or this undertaking is of human origin, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow themβ€”in that case you may even be found fighting against God!’ (Acts 5:39)

This quote from the great rabbi Gamaliel (depicted above) is probably one of the soundest pieces of advice I have ever heard in Scripture :). Having said that I often wonder how often the institutional church takes it to heart. πŸ˜›

Many parishes of different denominations are doing all kinds of weird and whacky things in terms of liturgy, service music, mission and outreach projects…all in the hope of improving their community….or in many cases, help their community to grow.

Time after time, I have heard about congregations who ran programs that did not perform well…..or that produced less bums in the pews than had been hoped for. Of old historic buildings closing their doors. It’s all very sad. But at the same time….I wonder if we ever take the time to ask this question:

What is God doing here?

Are our efforts to improve spiritual community, or as a marketing gimmick? What if there is something in the congregation that needs to die? What if the ministries currently being pursued are not life-giving, and not of our Father???

I say this not to be trite……but to point out something very important.

If we truly consider ourselves an Easter people…..than we must recognize that God is ALWAYS active….even when we don’t like what he is doing. πŸ˜‰

If we truly place our hope in the resurrection, then the closed church doors will again be open…..even if it might be in a different location and a different circumstance.

If we truly believe that Christ is the new Adam and death has no dominion over Him….then we have no cause to weep…..only a cause to rejoice! πŸ™‚ What seems to be devastating now might just be part of a bigger plan. It might just be the cross we must bear so we can meet angels who bring us tidings of greatest joy!

Simply put….if anything the Church is doing is of God, it will have only one possible outcome. It will blossom and give life abundantly. Alleluia! Alleluia! πŸ™‚ +

Evening Prayer: Easter Monday

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Psalm: 66
Gospel: John 14:1-14
Patristic Reading: An excerpt from an Easter homily of St. Miletus of Sardis

Thomas said to him, β€˜Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?’ Jesus said to him, β€˜I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, you will know* my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him. (John 14:5-7)

In listening to the podcast over at Workingpreacher.org, the commentators made an excellent point. Unlike the synoptic tradition, John’s Christ is utterly confident. The Fourth Evangelist never sees the Cross as a tragedy, but rather as the ultimate moment of exaltation.

Christ’s death is by no means a humiliation, but rather the means by which he returns to the Father, and reclaims his place as the one who was with God from the very beginning.

More than that, he goes to prepare a place for his disciples.

I’ve spoken before about my own sense of discomfort when it comes to Christian exclusivity, but I think that the quote read in the wider context of John makes a lot more sense.

Coming to the Father through Jesus has less to do with one’s personal salvation status thanit does for seeing Christ as and for what he truly is.

If we believe that Jesus is indeed the Word who was with God and was God….there is no way that we could be led astray.

We can only be led to the foot of the cross, and the open door of the empty tomb….to the ever open arms of our Father in heaven who loves us beyond all measure.

That my friends is good news. Alleluia! +

Evening Prayer: Tuesday in Holy Week

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Psalm: 94
Gospel: John 12:20-36
Patristic Reading: An excerpt from On the Holy Spirit by St. Basil

Over the last few Sundays, the Church has been reading from the Gospel of John. In each of the readings–The Wedding at Cana, Jesus and Nicodemus, Jesus and the Samaritan woman, Jesus and the man born blind, and Jesus raising Lazurus–there is always mention of Jesus’ “time”.

Initially Christ is reluctant, telling his mother that the hour has not yet come. He warns Nicodemus that the time is coming when all people must be born from above. In speaking with the Samaritan woman, he states that the time is coming and is now here when all people will not worship God on mountains but rather in Spirit and in truth.

The final two miracles act as an unmistakable sign that the Kingdom of God and the reversal of the status quo has officially begun.

Now….some Greeks ask to see Jesus. At first glance, it doesn’t seem like Jesus grants their request. These are the words that come out of his mouth:

β€˜The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. (John 12:23-24)

Here our Lord makes a definitive statement…..the hour has come and somehow it involves death and bearing fruit. It may not seem like it at first, but this cryptic statement actually answers the Greeks request……..if they want to see Jesus…..see him as he truly is……they need to see him like this:

Only in seeing the Lord and Friend who dies can we really come to know God. There is abundant life yes…..but first we face the shadow of the Cross. +

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. +

Evening Prayer: April 8th

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Psalms: 107:1-32
Gospel: <a href="John 6:52-59
Patristic Reading: An excerpt from an Easter letter of St. Athanasius

Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink (John 6:53-54)

This is the third straight day we have had readings about Jesus as the Bread of Life. I want to draw your attention to a nuance in the Greek that makes tonight’s passage especially striking.

The word translated as “eat” in this passage, is actually a much more specific verb in the Greek. In its proper context, the sentence reads more like this.

“Very truly, I tell you, unless you munch the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Those who munch on my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day….”

In fact, it was this text that caused so much confusion in the ancient world. Romans thought that Christians were cannibals! πŸ˜›

While Christian theology has many different understandings of what it means to eat the flesh and drink the blood of our Lord…this mystery has been worked out most thoroughly and intentionally in the Sacrament of the Eucharist.

I could never hope to cover Eucharistic theology in one blog post; entire volumes have been written on the subject! But the very fact that Jesus uses such an intense verb to describe Eternal life I think leads us to a few interesting conclusions.

One is that living the faith is an *earthy* and lived experience. It is something that requires we get our hands dirty…..and to quite literally take a bite out of life.

Related to this idea is that our Christian heritage is an Incarnational heritage. At the heart of the Church’s salvific identity, there is a fundamental conviction that God and earth are united. One cannot be separated from the other…and that we experience God in the everyday things of life.

As Anglicans, we have held on to this sacramental understanding. In which the bread and wine are an outward and visible sign of an inward and invisible Grace.

We come to the Lord’s table in the assurance and hope that even though the bread and the wine seem completely ordinary (and even tasteless if you use styrofoam wafers)…they are actually something completely transcendant. The Bread is the Flesh of Christ…… to make our flesh clean…..to remind us that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit.

Likewise, the Wine is the Blood of Christ…..to cleanse our souls…and to remind us that any inner turmoil we are experiencing will be calmed by the still, small voice of the Spirit.

As we go to receive the Sacrament Sunday by Sunday….God is making a statement. God declares that we are a forgiven people…..a new creation….beloved children. ❀

In response, we unite our voices in prayer and praise for the way in which God has saved all of Creation through his Son…..May we always feed on Him in our hearts by faith with thanksgiving. +

Evening Prayer: April 6th

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Psalm: 119:121-144
Gospel: John 6:27-40
Patristic Reading: An excerpt from a letter of St. Maximus the Confessor

The bread of Life πŸ™‚ (C’mon I have to have some fun with this blog)


Everything that the Father gives me will come to me, and anyone who comes to me I will never drive away; 38for I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me. (John 6:37-38)

Part of me is lazy…..but the more substantial part of me wants you to just read the Patristic reflection offered by Maximus tonight (scroll down to reading II once you click on the link.) It is written beautifully and certainly puts the Gospel lection in perspective. Jesus came to reconcile us to God, and so that God’s glory could be revealed through his words and his actions.

As is typical for John, the Jewish people are totally clueless and cannot understand the message. The irony is intentional both as a plot device for the narrative and as a way to call attention to God’s mission to the world. A wake up call to recognize the open arms with which the Father waits for us….and the joy that awaits us after the hard work of Repentance. The bread of Life can only be given to those who can accept that Jesus is ready to forgive, no matter what and that we are called to do the same.+

Evening Prayer: April 5th

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Psalms: 94
Gospel: John 6:16-27
Patristic Reading: An excerpt from a sermon by St. Leo the Great

Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For it is on him that God the Father has set his seal (John 6:27)

Sometimes music and images from Youtube can say it so much better than I can :)….Enjoy!

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