Morning Prayer: April 15th

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Psalm: 22
Old Testament: Jeremiah 29:1, 4-13
New Testament: Romans 11:13-24

But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, a wild olive shoot, were grafted in their place to share the rich root* of the olive tree, do not vaunt yourselves over the branches. If you do vaunt yourselves, remember that it is not you that support the root, but the root that supports you (Romans 11:17-18)

In using the metaphor of an olive tree, Paul makes it very clear that the mission to the Gentiles is not something new….but as an extension of Israel’s divine call to be the people of God.

Through the growth of new branches, the Apostle hopes that the Jewish people will have the veil lifted from their eyes. In witnessing the Gentiles streaming to the Christian movement, they would see that Jesus was indeed the anointed one foretold in the prophets.

Interestingly, we have yet another discussion of roots in Jeremiah:

Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare (Jeremiah 29:5-7)

In Exile, the Jews found themselves on the outside looking in. As foreigners which had to lay down roots in a foreign land and hope to prosper……they were not always the strong tree.

So what does that say for us??? I think one of the messages is that–spiritually–we are called to lay down roots wherever we are. Just as the Son of Man has no place to rest his head, so are his disciples called to always be flexible, on the move and adaptable.

There is nothing wrong with laying down roots. That’s a natural human impulse. It allows us some level of comfort, and ability to spread the gospel without being anxious about how we will eat, and where we will find shelter. My hope is that our roots may be healthy ones…..nurtured by God’s Word and the Holy Spirit; so that if we have to move and make changes, the transplant will lead to ever more abundant growth. +

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Morning Prayer: April 12th

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Psalms: 121, 122, 123
Old Testament: Jeremiah 25:8-17
New Testament: Romans 10:1-13

‘The word is near you,
on your lips and in your heart’
(that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because* if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved (Romans 10:8-10)

Here Paul is quoting Deuteronomy 30:14. There is a constant theme running in the Old Testament that God not only wants an obedient people, but a people whose actions and words flow from love…….and a free choice to live out God’s will in their lives.

Prior to the Fall, that’s exactly what we were able to do. After the Fall, we fell victims to our own needs and wants. Our heart’s desire was no longer for God…..but for preserving ourselves.

In Christ….that disorder has been healed. In baptism, our heart has been washed, and we are given the ability to love the Light rather than darkness :). As we approach Holy week, we are given a new opportunity to walk with our Lord to the cross. To be reminded of our baptismal promises, and the saving power of Jesus’ death and rising to new life.

Let us move forward with open hearts so that the King of Glory might come in. +

Morning Prayer: April 11th

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Psalm: 31
Old Testament: Jeremiah 23:16-32
New Testament: Romans 9:19-33

Those who were not my people I will call “my people”,
and her who was not beloved I will call “beloved”. ’
‘And in the very place where it was said to them, “You are not my people”,
there they shall be called children of the living God.’ (Romans 9:25-26)

I want you to imagine for a second that you were made a promise as a child. A promise that you were special and under the watchful eye of God. Not only that, but you were convinced that if God were ever to show up in your midst, you would be the first to know.

Now imagine that you saw someone else receiving that promise. How would you feel? Jealous? Hurt? Confused?

I suspect that even in his post-conversion state, Paul was extremely uncomfortable with the idea that the Jewish people “missed the boat” when it came to accepting Jesus as the Messiah. In fact Romans 9-11 is an open reflection on what the fate of God’s chosen ones might be.

I sit here wondering if there are any parallels in Churchland….We too hold a promise of salvation and special status. Are we holding onto it too tightly?

In many Anglican churches, attendance is dropping off. More “evangelical” congregations are growing, while our parishes are struggling to pay the hydro bill.

But is our jealousy warranted? Is it even Christian?

The fact of the matter is that people outside of our building and church pews are still being led to Jesus in other denominations….they are still receiving Good News.

Granted, some of those messages might be distorted….but we also believe that the Holy Spirit is present in Christian communities everywhere. Perhaps our job is not necessarily to worry about what others are doing, but to concentrate on how we ourselves are living faithful lives…confident that we are united under one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all. +

Morning Prayer: April 8th

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Psalm: 102
Old Testament: Jeremiah 23:1-8
New Testament: Romans 8:28-39

Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! says the Lord. Therefore, thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, concerning the shepherds who shepherd my people: It is you who have scattered my flock, and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them. So I will attend to you for your evil doings, says the Lord. (Jeremiah 23:1-2)

A little bit of personal indulgence here. I have to say–as someone who feels called to ordained ministry–this passage scares the crap out of me. 😦

I feel like I make mistakes all the time. I flub liturgy, give people bad advice….I have days where I don’t care about what I do and don’t have the patience to deal with human weakness.

Don’t get me wrong…..I believe that (through pure Grace) there are other points in which I have actually led liturgy in a way that allows people to see God, not me. I believe there are times when I have pointed people in the right direction. I believe that there have been times when I am there for people who are suffering…..but i always wonder…..is it enough????

I don’t mean this in terms of “works vs. grace” deal…..Rather a question of whether what I am doing is leading others to life or sending them over a cliff that leaves them confused and with God nowhere to be found. If I am totally honest with myself, as a potential leader in the Church, I feel responsible towards those I serve.

I suspect that this is true for all who feel called to ordained ministry…..or anyone who feels called to their particular vocation whether as a parent, a spouse, or career.

As a result of our nature as stewards and agents of creation, the world is affected by our actions. What happens if those effects are for the evil instead of the good? Does that mean we are screwed???

Yet……in all of these doubts, I find myself confronted with Paul’s words:

For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39)

Whatever my doubts and fears…..whatever your doubts and fears……whatever our doubts and fears as a community together….we are never totally lost….we are never irredeemable, we are never beyond the pale…..and God loves us just as we are. +

Morning Prayer: April 7th

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Psalm: 69
Old Testament: Jeremiah 22:13-22
New Testament: Romans 8:12-27

For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ – if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him to receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ – if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him. (Romans 8:15-17)

One thing that’s often missed in interpreting this passage is that the term “Abba” is not simply a word which means father. It is a slang word and a term of endearment much like “Daddy” in English.

Paul’s reflection on adoption shows us that the process itself is not one which is strictly legal, but is one of affection and genuine desire both on our part, and on the part of the One who came to save us.

In Christ, God has begun a new covenant. A contract and promise that assures us that we are loved…and that everything God has is also ours for the asking. 🙂

Through faith in the Son, we are offered not only eternal life, but a protector, a Saviour, someone to wipe our tears, someone to correct us when we go wrong, and someone to encourage us building up our talents and pursue our many vocations in this life….leading us in the end to the Father who will give us his signet ring, put the best cloak on us and pull out all the stops in order to rejoice at the presence of his precious children. 🙂 +

Morning Prayer: April 2nd

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Psalms: 87, 90
Old Testament: Jeremiah 13:1-11
New Testament: Romans 6:12-23

The end is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23)

A large portion of Romans is dedicated to the question: “Now that we are saved, how do we act?” Paul wants to dissuade new Christians from continuing in sin and immoral behaviour, and–above all–he wants to avoid the idea that people can continue living lives of debauchery, while being given eternal life.

For Paul, the internal state of grace and thanksgiving was to be reflected in outward behaviour, and in the sanctification of the body.

In last night’s post, I talked about the idea of redemption……of being bought back from the devil. One of the implications of that outlook is that our bodies are now longer our own. We are, literally, the property of Christ.

This is a difficult concept in a culture which points so much emphasis on individual freedom…..but it can also give a picture of ourselves which provides hope. If God is indeed directing our bodies through the power of the Holy Spirit, why would we want to go astray??? If we are living into our baptismal covenant, there is reason to believe that God will change the world in and through us.

Slowly but surely, through faith and hard work, the Kingdom will be brought to fruition, and all of creation will rejoice in peace, unity, and concord. +

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. +

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