December 21st: O Oriens (Morning Star)

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O Oriens,
splendor lucis aeternae, et sol justitiae:
veni, et illumina sedentes in tenebris, et umbra mortis.

O Morning Star,
splendour of light eternal and sun of righteousness:
Come and enlighten those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.

As I lit the Advent candles tonight……I realized that the brightest one…..the one that dispels the darkness completely, is not yet lit.

During the Advent season, we place so much emphasis on preparing, repenting, rejoicing, and expecting that we tend to forget about the big white candle in the middle.

When God burst through the barrier to become human like us, it was to give Light to those who are lost….not to those who already had lamps. Jesus himself said that he came to heal the sick in body, mind or soul….not to attend to those who already were healed.

Just because we are in the last week of this holy season, it doesn’t mean the wreath gets put away at Christmas….rather the four lights that mark our expectation help to point towards our centre…Jesus Christ….who makes us as white as snow and brings us out of darkness into the bright dawn of Day.

Lord Jesus, come soon! Come and be born in our hearts! +

Morning Prayer: Jan. 22nd

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Psalms: 30, 32
Old Testament: Isaiah 46:1-13
New Testament: Ephesians 6:10-24

I will instruct you and teach you the way you should go;
I will counsel you with my eye upon you.
9 Do not be like a horse or a mule, without understanding,
whose temper must be curbed with bit and bridle,
else it will not stay near you. (Psalm 32:8-9)

Psalm 32 is a penitential Psalm, asking forgiveness for sinning against God. In tandem with Psalm 51, it forms the basis for sacramental Confession.

Growing up Catholic, confession meant going and confessing to a priest 1:1, a practice that I very rarely engaged in. When I did (in high school) it usually served as a way to get out of class for 20 minutes, and chat with the priest for a bit.

Now that I’ve grown up a little (emphasis on “little”) I’ve come to understand the Sacrament of Confession differently.

Whether most Anglicans know it or not, it’s a sacrament we celebrate communally before the sharing of the Peace, and the celebration of the Eucharist.

Confession is not about giving the grocery list of sins to be washed away. Nor is it a way to make us feel bad about ourselves and diminish our sense of self-worth.

Acknowledging those times when we falter in following Christ is all about rededicating our life to following Him. It’s about having that bridle being removed and being given freedom once more.

God wants us to confess, not because he needs us to…..but because in confessing we become honest with ourselves. We become aware of the things in our life which are frustrating to us…..which are stretching us too far…..and which we feel bad for not being able to accomplish.

More than that though, the sacrament of Confession serves as a reminder that we do nothing alone…..that our transgressions are indeed forgotten, and our sin is put away. It reminds us that though there are things in which we fail….God lifts us up anyway out of sheer love. +

P.S. The Anglican Church also has a form of auricular confession, but I will touch more on that when Lent starts.

Morning Prayer: January 10th

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Psalms: 1, 2, 3
Old Testament: Isaiah 40:12-22
New Testament: Ephesians 1:1-14

Pretty much how I looked this morning getting up

I lie down and sleep;
I wake again, for the Lord sustains me.
I am not afraid of tens of thousands of people
who have set (Psalm 3:5-6)

I totally slept in this morning…..hence the later post time :P….

But as I read today’s Psalm portions I was struck by a thought……what gets us moving in the morning???? What motivates us to make it through the day?

For myself–who is currently unemployed and waiting on the Diocese–one of the reasons I get up is to pray and do this blog lol :P……Sounds cheesy I know…..but it gives me something constructive to do while in the “in-between” stages of ministry.

Another thing that keeps me going is involvement in my parish life at St. Jude’s…..While I am not directly involved in many of the committees, the rector and congregation have allowed me to sit it on meetings and learn from their process 🙂

Also….(and I need to catch up on this very soon..I like to visit Kensington Village retirement home and visit with the residents. :). Sadly, I have not gone since before the holidays and my inner procrastinator keeps putting it off :P.

In all of this though, God is guiding me. I seriously don’t know what’s going to be happening in the next couple months….but I have to travel in faith that things will work themselves out. 🙂 It’s not an easy task, but one that is slowly teaching me patience.

So I leave the question with you…….what keeps you going in the morning? What are you passionate about??? What is the ministry to which God has called you? +

Morning Prayer: Sat. of Epiphany 1

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Psalms 117, 118
Old Testament: Isaiah 59:15-21
New Testament: Revelation 2:8-17

He saw that there was no one, and was appalled that there was no one to intervene; so his own arm brought him victory, and his righteousness upheld him (Isaiah 59:16)

This is the LORD’s doing,
and it is marvelous in our eyes.
On this day the LORD has acted;
we will rejoice and be glad in it. (Psalm 118: 23-24

I am always struck by passages like these. It reminds me that all of God’s works….from creation, to prophecy, and even the Incarnation are done out of His own initiative. We human beings have done nothing to deserve salvation, or God’s presence in our lives……and yet here we stand…saying the Morning Office and giving thanks to the one who formed us from the dust.

Our LORD is a proactive and caring God…. the Holy One who acts out of love so that we may truly be His sons and daughters. It is God’s doing not ours….and thanks be to Him for it. +

Morning Prayer: 12th Day of Christmas

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Psalm(s): 2, 110
Old Testament: Joshua 1:1-9
New Testament: Hebrews 11:32-12:2

Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go (Joshua 1:9)

The command from YHWH to “be courageous” is repeated three times in today’s Old Testament reading.

Anyone who has studied ancient texts and scriptures knows that repetition is a key literary device. It provides a framework for the text, and serves as the central message or theme for the passage–and sometimes–the book as a whole.

The book of Joshua is all about being coraugeous. It is a scripture filled with battles, chaos and confusion. The Israelite people are faced with imposssible odds as they march to take posession of the land which God has promised them.

Having faith that God will prevail in our lives takes a lot of courage. I know for myself that there are many times when I doubt whether I will be ordained or not….whether my ODSP cheque will stretch far enough to cover bills and groceries.

It also takes a lot of strength and courage to deal with people and situations which overwhelm us. When there are tasks in front of us that just seem way too big to accomplish.

The Good News in all of this though…is that we are not alone in these endeavours. God continually promises Joshua (and us) that he is standing at our side….ready to defend us and lift us up. 🙂

Personally, I also take comfort not only in Divine support…but in the knowledge that I am not the only one who must make this leap of faith. Everyone who is on the path of faith is called to be strong and brave…..and we can suppport each other as we journey together….moving the mountains which stand in our way and taking hold of the promises that God has set before us. +

Morning Prayer: Feast of St. Stephen (transferred from Dec. 26th)

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Psalm: 28, 30
Old Testament: 2 Chronicles 24:17-22
New Testament: Acts 6:1-8

As I sit here pondering what to write…..I find myself always coming back to the question of why do people seek to kill those who speak truth?

This is true of both men we meet in the readings today. Zechariah tries to lead Israel back to YHWH and is stoned. Stephen testifies to the life and mission of Christ and is met with the same fate.

This trend can be seen with many great historical figures: Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr. and JFK just to name a few from the 20th century.

I think the primary response of assasination comes directly from fear .

Strong people with strong messages usually urge people to change ; they shake up the status quo and remind us that the current circumstances of our world are not and should not be static.

When a call for change happens, people are forced to re-evaluate things that they have held dear for a long time. Letting go of those old biases and behaviours removes some of the safety net that comes from knowing who you are and what your place is in the world.

So the question I am left thinking about is this….if we were faced with a modern-day prophet today, would we sit and listen? or would we pick up a stone? +

Evening Prayer: Feast of the Holy Innocents (Dec. 28th)

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Psalm: 19, 126
Old Testament: Isaiah 54:1-13
Gospel:Mark 10:13-16

There is no speech, nor are there words;
their voice is not heard;
yet their voice* goes out through all the earth
and their words to the end of the world. (Psalm 19:3-4)

I spent a lot of time with my 10 month old nephew yesterday during Christmas celebrations. Even though he doesn’t speak yet…he has the biggest smile I have ever seen….he also has dimples that just melt your heart 😀

Of course–as his uncle–I am biased….but if you spend enough time with kids you realize just how special they are. Even without words, they are an incredible witness to life, growth, and living life without fear 😀

Even when they develop speech, they are still incredibly straightforward in a way that–somehow–adults lose the knack for.

More often than not, kids will tell you exactly what they are thinking and feeling…and even if they don’t have the vocabulary to express it…they will certainly let it show in their actions.

In their own way, children offer their purest selves to their parents and to the world around them; simply because they know of no other way to be.

The next time you find yourself in the company of children…take some time to listen and just simply observe the way they play, imagine, and socialize….they certainly have a lot to teach us. 😉 +

Morning Prayer: Feast of the Holy Innocents (Dec 28th)

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Psalm(s): 2, 26
Old Testament: Isaiah 49:13-23
New Testament:Matthew 18:1-14

The feast of the Holy Innocents is by far one of the days which I find hardest to “celebrate” during the liturgical year.

This day commemorates the Holy Family’s flight to Egypt, while Herod slaughters all the first-born males in Judea in an effort to stamp out any challenge to his authority.

The account is only found in the Gospel of Matthew (2:16-18) and while its historical accuracy is questionable, it is certainly not an impossible event. We know from the historian Josephus that Herod (and other members of the Antipas family) were particularly viscious.

Despite my own discomfort when I think about innocent babies being harmed 😦 I think that it is precisely that sense of disgust which makes this an important rememberance in the life of the Church.

Whether we want to admit it or not, there are children around the world who suffer and die for no good reason. There are infants and toddlers who are physically and emotionally abused every day. :(……We must never let that fact simply become part of our peripheral vision.

Today we honour and remember all those who suffer and die in innocence and give thanks for their life and witness to us <3. +

Morning Prayer: Feast of St. John the Evangelist (December 27th)

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Psalm(s):18:1-20
Old Testament: Isaiah 12:1-6
New Testament: Rev 1:1-8

He reached down from on high, he took me;
he drew me out of mighty waters.
He delivered me from my strong enemy,
and from those who hated me;
for they were too mighty for me.
They confronted me in the day of my calamity;
but the Lord was my support.
He brought me out into a broad place;
he delivered me, because he delighted in me. (Psalm 18:16-19)

I don’t know why…but when I read this verse in light of today’s feast, I pictured Saint John being whisked away by an angel on Ephesus where he had his great Revelation.

The author of the authentic Johannine texts (the Gospel of John, the First Letter of John and the Revelation to John) definitely felt like he was being persecuted.

This persecution came in the form of expulsion from the synagouge, slaughter by the Roman government and a genuine belief that the powers of darkness were in control of the present age.

Yet through all the trials and tribulations, the apostle John–and those who were part of his community–held on to the fact that the Light of the World had come and the darkness could not overcome it.

There was an unwavering faith that Jesus had come into the world not to condemn it, but to save it…and a belief that through Jesus we were no longer considered strictly the servants of God….but as friends, sons, and daughters of the Most High.

When we go through difficult times in our lives, may we too try and hold on to that knowledge. God is our Father, and he loves us beyond all measure. 😀 +

Morning Prayer: 1st Sunday after Christmas

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Psalm(s): 93, 96
Old Testament:Isaiah 62:6-7, 10-12
New Testament: Hebrews 2:10-18

You who remind the Lord,
take no rest,
and give him no rest
until he establishes Jerusalem
and makes it renowned throughout the earth. (Isaiah 62: 6b-7)

As I read this verse, I was reminded of a sermon I once heard on nagging. My Hebrew Professor was preaching on the parable of the widow and the unjust judge and pointed out that nagging was more than just being annoying.

Nagging is a fine art that requires skill and always has a definite point; to get someone to change their behaviour.

I find it interesting that in Luke’s parable and in this morning’s verse from Isaiah, the congregation is urged to nag after God. It is an interesting image, and certainly runs counter-intuitively to how most of us think about worship.

After all, being Protestant inheritors of the Christian message, worship is supposed to be for the glory of God alone. The faithful person should not pray out of a desire to get something from God, but because it is meet and right so to do.

Yet if we look at the Bible as a whole…..there is a whole bunch of negotiation and heckling that always takes place. Abraham bargains with God over the fate of Sodom and Gomorrah, Moses constantly has to remind God of his covenant so that He refrains from smiting Israel….Jonah says that he will offer sacrifices in the Temple if God releases him from the belly of the great fish.

Bargaining is one of the realities of our relationship with the Divine. This can be difficult, since it skirts the line of putting God to the test…but one of the interesting things about the Bibile is that it always pictures our relationship with God as reciprocal .

YHWH is almost never depicted as a benevolent dictator, but rather as someone who enters into covenant with the faithful. He offers health, prosperity and life in exchange for the people living holy lives.

There is a constant theme of invitation throughout Scripture…..an invitation that we are free to either accept or reject. God may know the outcome already, but he never removes the element of choice from our lives.

I call heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live…. (Deut. 30:19)

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