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. 😉

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. 🙂

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 🙂

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: August 5th

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Psalm: 88
Old Testament: 2 Sam 12:1-14
New Testament:Acts 19:21-41

Picking up from yesterday, David seems to have literally gotten away with murder. In response, the prophet Nathan presents the king with a juridical parable.

In this story, the prophet presents a rich man who decides that he is going to steal the single beloved ewe of a poor man rather than use one of his own livestock.

David is OUTRAGED and declares:

‘As the Lord lives, the man who has done this deserves to die; he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity.’ (2 Sam 12:6)

He recognizes that such injustice cannot stand…and that the culprit deserves nothing less than death.

When Nathan makes the dramatic reveal that David himself is the perpetrator, the king is distraught…..he has pronounced judgement on himself! He recognizes that he deserves to die. Out of shame and guilt, he makes a heartfelt confession before God:

‘I have sinned against the Lord. (2 Sam 12:13)

As a prophet and arbiter of God’s justice, Nathan has every right to insist that David be stoned…or at the very least, step down from the throne…..but that’s not what he does. Instead he proclaims God’s forgiveness, and pronounces absolution:

’ Nathan said to David, ‘Now the Lord has put away your sin; you shall not die. (2 Sam 12:13b)

In an amazing act of Grace, mercy trumps justice. <3….

It is true that David cannot escape some of the natural consequences of his sins…..the child may not survive, and his kingdom will forever be divided and fragmented between his heirs…….but he is forgiven for both murder and adultery….two sins that ware considered especially heinous in the Old Testament.

In this incredible display, we see God's true character at work. YHWH has no reason to forgive the son of Jesse for his transgressions…. but he does. Not only that, but he keeps his promise to David that the Messiah…the Saviour of all creation…..will come from his ancestral line.

Sin is a pervasive force in our lives. It has the power to enslave us, trap us, and destroy our lives…but God's mercy is greater than all our sins combined.

His love can cover even our greatest of sins….and even though we may have to live with the consequences of our actions, we have a chance to live our lives anew…

We are assured that all sins are blotted away and we shall be made white as snow….if only we have the courage to ask for forgiveness…..and the courage to live out our lives to be a reflection of the love and mercy that was shown to us in our own lives.

St. David, king of Israel and example for all who truly repent…… pray for us. ❤ +

Morning Prayer: June 6th

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Psalm: 89:1-18
Old Testament: Ezekiel 4:1-17
New Testament: Hebrews 6:1-12

Author’s note: Originally, I had totally misheard the Old Testament reading at the Cathedral and thought Ezekiel ate/cooked with the human dung and built my reflection around that idea. The post stayed that way for the majority of the day. I have since changed it…..but to those whom I inadvertenly led astray…mea culpa! mea culpa! Will definitely make a more concerted editing effort in future posts. 🙂

‘See, I will let you have cow’s dung instead of human dung, on which you may prepare your bread.’ (Ezekiel 4:15)

But if [your faith] produces thorns and thistles, it is worthless and on the verge of being cursed; its end is to be burned over. (Hebrews 6:8)

Eeeew! We have some pretty dark images going on in today’s readings, non? :S Despite my own discomfort though, I think there is still something to be gleaned here.

I am particularly struck by Ezekiel’s command from God to literally eat shit. :P. It is shocking enough to our own sensibilities, but for a prophet, the thought of doing such a thing would be unbearable.

According to the Torah, if a Jewish person came into contact with biological waste (corpses, menstrual blood, feces, urine &c.) there was an automatic exclusion from the whole congregation. Normally, there would be a priestly ritual (lasting anywhere from 7-14 days) that would remove the contamination and allow the person to re-enter the people of God.

Of course, with Ezekiel writing during the Babylonian Exile…the Temple is gone and the Levitical priests have been banned from practicing their faith. To eat animal dung would be to enter a state of defilement that was impossible to recover from ritually.

For all his protesting, Ezekiel is told he must eat the feces in order to convey God’s message to the people. Like so many prophets who have come before him, this faithful Jew is called to say and do things that seem impossible.

There is also an interesting twist to the story.

In his mercy, YHWH has allowed Ezekiel to eat cow’s dung–rather than human dung…..for to eat a waste product of God’s most precious creation is too great an embarassment. Even in the midst of humiiation, there is mercy. 🙂

On a metaphorical level, there is also something comforting to know that even when we must eat shit…..God is with us…loving us…..upholding us…..even to the end of the age. +

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. 😛

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 😛

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. +

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