Evening Prayer: Feast of Saints Peter & Paul (June 29th)

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Psalm: 97, 138
Old Testament: Isaiah 49:1-6
New Testament: Galatians 2:1-8

National Cathedral of SS Peter & Paul (Washington, DC)

Y’know…….one of the things that comes to mind on this feast day is the fact that Peter and Paul did not really like each other. In the course of their ministiry, they had several spats……the most famous of which we read about tonight

What stikes me though…..is that even though there was tension…..that didn’t automatically mean there was division. Although there was disagreement, they never broke communion with one another.

Is part of my reflection blurred by putting a special glaze on the Apostolic era? Probably. 😛

Yet, at the same time, there can not be any denial that both of these men brought thousands to Christ. Despite their differences….they were able to say emphatically Jesus Christ is Lord!

I wonder what the Anglican Church can learn from their example today. With all of our squabbles…….are we sending the right message? In our pre-occupation with minutiae, are we remembering the message of the Cross and empty Tomb???

Tonight forces us to take a good hard look at ourselves……and to realize that Christian unity is not about unanimous opinion…..but rather in the single message that God has come to save all of us….and that no one is beyond the reach of Grace. +

Morning Prayer: Feast of Saints Peter & Paul (June 29th)

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Psalm: 66
Old Testament: Ezekiel 2:1-7
New Testament: Acts 11:1-18

Man…..there’s such good content in today’s readings that I found it really difficult to pick just one focal point. I highly suggest reading through the lections yourself this morning….maybe even leave a comment on this post as to what stuck out the most for you. 🙂

Speaking for myself, I was once again amazed by Peter’s retelling of his dream…..and his initial protest against God:

I also heard a voice saying to me, “Get up, Peter; kill and eat.” But I replied, “By no means, Lord; for nothing profane or unclean has ever entered my mouth.” (Acts 11:7-8)

In both the case of St. Peter and St. Paul…..they were called to do things that–initially–they thought were repugnant. Peter…a devout Jew was asked to eat unclean food and to open the doors of the Jesus community to those who were on the outside.

Saul too was a Jew…..but was asked to show compassion on those whom he labelled heretics…..a people he didn’t feel had the right to even exist. 😛

Both conversions required a metanoia……a change of heart…..a fundamental shift in the way they thought….and a call to a radical way of living.

I wonder how many of us resist the call to Grace???? I pray that on this feast day…..we take courage from the witness of the Church that God is good and can change even the most unlikely people into saints. +

(As a short theological aside, I should add that some theologians say that Grace is irresistible……I am not one of those thinkers ;))

Morning Prayer: March 29th

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Psalm: 78:1-39
Old Testament: Jeremiah 7:21-34
New Testament: Romans 4:13-21

He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was already* as good as dead (for he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, being fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. (Romans 4:19-21)

One of the key things for Romans (and indeed of Christian theology is answering the question of: How do Gentiles enter into covenant with YHWH???

Paul takes a very interesting approach…..rather than saying that all should be circumcized under the Law, Paul points out that Abraham himself–the very founder of Judaism–was not subject to any formal law.

Rather, the father of all nations had to hold onto a promise….

In making this connection, Paul flips conventional ideology on its head. Abraham no longer becomes the follower of God’s prescribed will….otherwise the promise of descendants might be construed as something which Abraham might be owed.

Since the walls of following statute broken down, so is the excuse that Gentiles are to be excluded. Now everyone is asked not to do God’s will to get in..but to believe in the promises he makes.

For anyone who has had to rely on someone else’s word knows that is an extremely uncomfortable position. What if they decide to bail on the last minute???? What if the person decides to only do 30% of what they had initially said???

Faith in God is not easy….because it is based on a promise of new life and salvation. So how do we know that God is going to live up to our expectations???

For one, we can look at the examples found in Scriptures……taking examples from their lives, prayers, and actions. Another way is to look at the world around us. To look at the beauty of nature, and of the people who make a difference in the world around us. Those Spirit-filled moments are but a foreshadow of the Kingdom of God which Christ inaugurated and has invited us to enter into. +

Morning Prayer: March 24th

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Psalm: 71
Old Testament: Jeremiah 4:9-10, 19-28
New Testament: Romans 2:12-24

In the introduction to his book, Perspectives Old and New on Paul: The “Lutheran” Paul and His Critics Stephen Westerholm has a hilarious episode of Martin Luther wandering into a book store and being astounded by what he finds. In a fictional dialogue with the author, the great Reformer from Eisleben is confused to find out that modern literature on Paul depict him as a devout Jew who never completely let go of his attachment to the Mosiac Law.

You see, in Luther’s commentary on Romans, there is a fundamental conviction that Paul turned his back on Judaism and embraced the new religion of Christ. Trading in a religion dedicated to following law and sin for the new faith that emphasized total depravity and the saving message of Grace.

In reality, the “Lutheran Paul” created a false dichotomy. In Luther’s defence, there are lots of conflicting messages abut the efficacy of the law in the letter to the Romans….but let’s concentrate on the idea that surfaces today:

For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but the doers of the law who will be justified. When Gentiles, who do not possess the law, do instinctively what the law requires, these, though not having the law, are a law to themselves. They show that what the law requires is written on their hearts, to which their own conscience also bears witness; and their conflicting thoughts will accuse or perhaps excuse them on the day when, according to my gospel, God, through Jesus Christ, will judge the secret thoughts of all….

But if you call yourself a Jew and rely on the law and boast of your relation to God….You that boast in the law, do you dishonour God by breaking the law? For, as it is written, ‘The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.’ (Romans 2:13-16;17;23-24)

As you can see from these texts, the law is important for Paul. It is a constant in the universe. A moral compass that directs both Jew and Gentile. For the Gentile, they know of the Law despite their ignorance because they strive to do the right thing. For Jews, the Law is important because they have both the moral compass of their heart, and the written specifics about how to go about living.

As a devout Jew now committed to preaching to Gentiles, Paul readily admits that there are Jews who fall short of the Law, and highlights the essential goodness of Gentiles. Yet again, we see role-reversal. The chosen people of God are depicted as apathetic to their call to holiness, while the outsider is seen as the one who is living up to the command to walk humbly with God. This irony is a constant theme in Biblical literature.

We will get some other conceptions of sin as we move through the letter to the Romans……but one of the questions to reflect on today in light of the Church might be: What do those outside our congregation’s walls, and absent from the pews have to teach us about how we are living our lives…..are we the ones who need to be put on the right path??? +

Evening Prayer: March 4th (Combo Post)

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Psalms: 16, 17, 22
Old Testament: Deut 5:1-12
New Testament: 2 Cor 12:11-21
Gospel: Matthew 7:13-21
Patrstic Reading: An excerpt from the Moral Reflections on Job by St. Gregory the Great

So today we have the Ten commandments coupled with this line from the Gospel:

‘Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord”, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only one who does the will of my Father in heaven. (Matt 7:21)

Eek! :S……It’s sometimes uncomfortable to think about, the connection between word and deed is important for us to think about; especially given the Protestant heritage of the Anglican Church.

As the Reformation evolved from Luther, a special emphasis was put on choosing Jesus Christ as your own personal Saviour. While the idea of a personal relationship and profession of faith is good in and of itself…..it can sometimes be twisted.

A classic example is the “sinner’s prayer” and altar calls in the more “Evangelical” traditions. While I don’t agree with every theological stance that he takes….one preacher who tackles this issue brilliantly is Paul Washer:

The key for the life of faith is that words and actions meet so that our faith is not proven to be dead.

It is easy to get sucked into the idea that all we need to do is believe. I know I’ve fallen in the trap before….and I think we all do at some point :P….Just because the Reformation put so much emphasis on the fact that we are totally depraved, doesn’t mean we should act that way. +

Morning Prayer: March 3rd

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Psalm: 18:1-20
Old Testament: Deut 4:32-40
New Testament: 2 Corinthians 12:1-10

. Therefore, to keep* me from being too elated, a thorn was given to me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me, to keep me from being too elated.* Three times I appealed to the Lord about this, that it would leave me, but he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power* is made perfect in weakness. (2 Cor 12:7-9)

So yesterday we were talking about weakness, and how it can sometimes be frightening to talk about them; especially in front of others.

Here in a moment of honesty, Paul admits that he is not perfect. That he has a thorn in his flesh that is causing him some spiritual anxiety.

There have been various speculations as to what this “thorn” my be. Some think it to be lust, while others believe that it may refer to some physical ailment that Paul suffered from.

I find it interesting that in his prayer-life, Paul does not get what he wants. The thorn is not removed, but rather God tells Paul “My grace is sufficient for you.”

This doesn’t necessarily mean that things will be peachy and trouble-free….It means that though thorns may persist in our lives, they are not the end all and the be all. They will be conquered through Grace, and God will give us the means to overcome them.

Here I don’t mean supernatural healing…..although that is not entirely off the table either :)….after all, for God all things are possible.

However, the Grace of God can bring us the means by which to deal with our problems, be it through therapy, medication, regular exercise etc. and will surround us with people–family, friends, and even random strangers–that will build us up and put things into a new perspective…to help to make the load lighter.

Whatever your thorn, I hope that the pain is not unbearable…..and that you find yourself surrounded by love, friendship, and trust.

At the very least….know that there is someone out in London, ON Canada praying for you during the Daily Office ;). Blessed be. +

Morning Prayer: March 2nd

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Psalm: 119:1-24
Old Testament: Deut 4:21-35
New Testament: 2 Corinthians 11:21b-33

Pissing contest anyone?!? ;)…….That certainly seems to be what’s happening here in Chapter 11:

. Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they descendants of Abraham? So am I. Are they ministers of Christ? I am talking like a madman—I am a better one: with far greater labours, far more imprisonments, with countless floggings, and often near death. Five times I have received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one (2 Cor 11:22-24)

and Paul’s list of sufferings keep going for another 5 verses lol :P.

There are other interpretations I am sure, but I’ve always thought that Paul (especially in the Corinthian correspondence) is very subtlely mocking the people that he thinks have misinterpreted and distorted the Gospel message. And who wouldn’t be a little glib in his position???

Here you have a man who (in his former life) following the Jewish law to the letter in an effort to be in right relationship with God…Suddenly, he finds his very character criticized by members of the Church who initially accepted and embraced him. Wouldn’t you feel a little bitter??? I know I would! 😛

Luckily for us, Paul’s smugness is tempered by his conversion experience. He understands himself to be a servant….the least of all the apostles….and that if he is to boast in anything, it is in the weakness he displays, and in Christ Jesus.

I wonder how many of us would feel comfortable making all our weaknesses public. As someone who has struggled with disability, doubt and depression….that is a scary scary prospect! :S

For me, being honest about my struggles in front of God and in front of others is one of the tough parts of being a Christian. But why is there this emphasis on weakness in the first place???

For one it reminds us that no one is better than anyone else. . Every single one of us has weaknesses, sins and parts of our character that we would much rather hide and make us vulnerable to pain……both as recipients, and as perpetrators :(. Remembering our own Fallen-ness is a reality check that keeps us grounded in recognizing that all are equal as sons and daughters in the eyes of God.

More importantly though, we are to boast in weakness because our Saviour himself was weak. It was only through submission, torture, pain, betrayal, fear and the Cross that humankind could be rescued from sin and death.

Although being upfront about our weaknesses and short-comings can be terrifying, it can also be liberating and lead to life. More than that, it is part of our call to discipleship. In being weak we emulate the one who came to redeem us and change us from glory to glory. +

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