Ash Wednesday: Facing Our Mortality

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Morning Prayer: September 2nd

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Psalm: 31
Old Testament: 1 Kings 11:26-43
New Testament: James 4:13-5:6

Anyone, then, who knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, commits sin. (James 4:17)

While hearing this Scripture read at the Cathedral this morning I was immediately reminded of the 2nd Murder’s speech from Shakespeare’s Richard III:

Skip ahead to 6:35 ff. to hear the speech and subsequent dialogue

When debating whether to kill the Duke of Clarence and collect their fee from Richard, the assassin proclaims that he won’t meddle with conscience because it only leads to guilt, trouble and inability to do what we wish.

If only turning off that still small voice was so easy.  Our conscience is what helps us to determine the will of God and the road of sin.  Without it, there can be no living in holiness…nor is there anything  to keep us from living in chaos.

I would love to be able to be fun and fancy free…..and yet….I am entirely too human…and conscience indeed comes into play…especially if I do something bad.

The warning from James–although directed to the rich who squander wealth–speaks to us all.  As much as a guilty conscience can convict us, a clear conscience can enable us to live with joy and peace.

I pray that this day we find peace in our souls…..and if we are restless….that the Spirit will move us to repent and be healed by the Great Physician which heals all malady and makes hearts of cold stone into beating hearts of flesh with the power to love +

Evening Prayer: July 23rd

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Psalm: 138, 139
Gospel: Mark 6:1-13
Patristic Reading: An excerpt from the 2nd Letter to the Corinthians by St. John Chrysostom

[The disciples] went out and preached that people should repent. They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them (Mark 6:12-13)

I always find it interesting that the commissioning of the disciples is so simple. 🙂

Notice that Jesus doesn’t ask the 12 to go around asking people if they had accepted Christ as their own personal Lord and Saviour. In fact, that approach to evangelism is nowhere to be found.

Instead, the instructions are to travel light and to accept hospitality. The content of the disciples preaching was not on doctrine, but on a call to repentance and a conversion of the heart.

I wonder if churches today–for all their focus on social justice and communicating the love that God has for all creation– are as eager to preach this message of radical change as the early followers of Jesus.

You see….repentance is not a popular message…..we like absolution, Grace, and forgiveness….but repentance not so much.

I suspect that part of the reason for this is that when we confront all our sins and wrong-doing, we are faced with the reality that we are not living our lives the way we ought.

Although it might not seem like it….this attitude is extremely counter-cultural. We live in a world that emphasizes over and over that our short-comings are due to a lack of self-confidence, that we are all good moral beings, with no need for God and simply in need of embracing our own system of ethics.

Tomorrow morning, I have the joy of leading the Liturgy of the Word at our regular Eucharist. As part of that ministry, I have the privilege of inviting people to confess their sins……inviting them to confront the ugliness of their lives…..and to earnestly seek God’s guidance and assurance that even though we are not perfect, God will use us to reflect his glory and be living icons to the world.

The apostles call to repentance is not to make us feel bad about ourselves…but so that we can claim Grace and forgiveness as our own. A chance to make the abstract personal…and that the Perfect Physician will heal us completely in body, mind and spirit. +

Morning Prayer: Feast of the Nativity of St. Jean-Baptiste (June 24th)

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Psalm: 82, 98
Old Testament: Malachi 3:1-5
New Testament: John 3:22-30

So normally I use a piece of Scripture as the catalyst for my reflections here on this blog. Today, however, I was caught by the utter simplicity and directness of the Collect appointed for today:

Almighty God,
you called John the Baptist
to give witness to the coming of your Son
and to prepare his way.
Give your people the wisdom to see you
and the openness to hear your will,
that we too may witness to Christ’s coming
and to prepare his way.
Through your Son Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and forever. Amen.

Take a look at this prayer. It asks not only for correct vision to see God…..but the courage and strength to do His will. 🙂

In the Forerunner John the Baptist, all Christians have a clear example of what it means to give witness and to be a prophet. He was not a man who messed around. He called a spade a spade, and never made light of people’s deeds. May the whole Church…the whole Body of Christ rejoice in this day and pray that some of John’s character will rub off we who are called to preach the Gospel and speak truth to power. +

Morning Prayer: June 9th

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Psalm: 105:1-22
Old Testament: Ezekiel 18:1-4;19-32
New Testament: Hebrews 7:18-28

‘Why should not the son suffer for the iniquity of the father?’ When the son has done what is lawful and right, and has been careful to observe all my statutes, he shall surely live. The person who sins shall die. A child shall not suffer for the iniquity of a parent, nor a parent suffer for the iniquity of a child; the righteousness of the righteous shall be his own, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be his own. (Ezekiel 18:19-20)

It may not seem like it on first read….but this prophetic shift in Ezekiel is HUGE . When the law of YHWH was revealed at Sinai, it was made explicitly clear that sin is a generational burden.. Of course the opposite was true as well……righteousness also extended to children…but the idea was that everyone was responsible for the whole well-being of the community.

Now…God declares through Ezekiel that the old ways are gone. God has now decided that each individual is only responsible for him or herself.

In an amazing declaration, God declares that the wicked who repent will no longer have their sins remembered….that they will be washed clean indeed. Through the power of Grace and Love, there is no point where we are beyond redemption. Alleluia! Alleluia!

If you get a chance in the next little bit, why not gather with a priest and celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation? It gives us a chance to confess to God our sins…those times when we have missed the mark, and to gain encouragement from a fellow brother or sister in Christ to continue striving to live fully in the Lord.

More than that, we are given absolution. reminded that Jesus came to save us, and rejoices over one sinner who returns than 100 righteous ones. I for one, place hope in that promise. 🙂

Each day, we are given the chance to embrace our hearts of flesh…..and to remember that through Christ….all sins are forgiven, and we are loved beyond all telling.

My dear readers…..my brothers and sisters…go in peace and pray for me, a sinner + ❤

Morning Prayer: April 6th

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Psalms: 101, 109
Old Testament: Jeremiah 18:1-11
New Testament: Romans 8:1-11

Look, I am a potter shaping evil against you and devising a plan against you. Turn now, all of you from your evil way, and amend your ways and your doings (Jeremiah 18:11)

Translation???

This is most definitely a judgment oracle, but it also comes with a possible solution….to repent and turn from our ways.

One of the great things about the clay and potter analogy is that it recognizes how fragile our life really is. Our choices and life experiences mold and shape us into something that is either beautiful or warped….

I pray that as we move through these last days of Lent, we take care to examine our conscience and to ask God to help us correct the ways in which we are straying from him.

Instead of seeking to break the mold and do our own thing…..let us ask to be fashioned in the likeness of the Son of God, and to be living icons of Christ Jesus for the world. + 🙂

Evening Prayer: April 1st

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Psalms: 91, 92
Gospel: John 8:33-47
Patristic Reading: An excerpt from the Moral Reflections on Job by St. Gregory the Great

Very truly, I tell you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not have a permanent place in the household; the son has a place there for ever. So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed. (John 8:34-36)

Over the past few years, I have come to realize that our redemption in Jesus Christ is exactly that, a redeeming. In the true sense of the word, to redeem something is to buy it back…..to get full value out of something….to bring it out of one state of being into another. That is what Jesus is talking about here.

Jesus’ death and resurrection was not simply an act of substitution for sins….it was an active plan on the part of God to gain back the sons and daughters he had lost during the Fall, to pay full price for us, and to claim us as his own.

This is one of the reasons why in recent years, I have come to preach and teach the Christus Victor model of Atonement

In defeating the devil and “buying us” back with his Blood…..God made a profound statement to the world. Human beings no longer needed to be slaves to their own human nature…..but are now free to pursue the good, and to seek union with God.

More than that, God made it clear that there is nothing he will withold from us in order that we might come to love with our whole heart, and to live into our full potential; as stewards of Creation, as a community of faith, and as a people called to love without exception. A people whose transgressions and shortcomings have been utterly forgotten and put away :). +

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