To everything there is a season…….

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Today, Canada along with the rest of the Commonwealth marked Remembrance Day.

On November 11, 1918 at 11:00am, the Treaty of Versailles was signed, bringing an end to the hostilities of World War I, and peace to mainland Europe and its allies. The Great War was nothing like anyone had ever seen…there were industrialized weapons, large-scale trench battles……and most devastating of all….mustard gas. 😦

Ever since that day of armistice, Nov. 11th has become a day in which we recognize those who have gone off to war, and–more especially–those who have given their lives in the service to our nation.

I think it’s important to stress two things today. First and foremost, today is not a day which is meant to glorify war. Instead, we are confronted with the harsh reality that in military conflict people die and not just a few….but hundreds, upon thousands, upon millions.

Any form of aggression, and even attempts to keep the peace are costly. We must never forget the great tragedy that had to befall so many families and communities in order that we might be kept safe from harm.

Secondly, Remembrance Day is no longer a passive observance for this country. Since Canada entered Afghanistan in 2002, 158 officers have perished….most of whom are younger than I am now……

When I was younger, Nov. 11th was somewhat distant…….a bunch of old men in uniforms that I was grateful to, but didn’t really understand. Now….things hit home a little closer. While I don’t live under the perceived threat of invasion like in WW2 England, it’s strange to think that fellow classmates who came up as reserves find themselves on tours of duty…going into the military is no longer seen as an easy way to get physical exercise and get your education covered.

For those currently serving in the Armed Forces, thank-you! You are doing something that I would never have the courage to do. +

To those who have passed, you are not forgotten. +

Evening Prayer: Wednesday in Holy Week

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Psalm: 74
Gospel: John 12:27-36
Patristic Reading:An excerpt from a treatise of St. Augustine

‘Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say—“Father, save me from this hour”? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.’ Then a voice came from heaven, ‘I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.’ (John 12:27-29)

Tonight, I had the absolute pleasure of attending Evening Prayer @ the Cathedral using the Holden setting composed by Marty Haugen. There were about a dozen of us altogether and the music was superb.

I also got to hear a wonderful sermon preached by the Deacon. In her homily, she used the illustration to hammer home the significance of the crucifixion.

A bridge operator working the night shift decided to take his son into work with him one evening while working the night shift. As the midnight train came through, he got a call to lower the bridge so it could pass. Without thinking, the operator lowered the bridge.

To his absolute horror, he heard a blood-curdling scream. His son had wandered off onto the tracks when he was not looking and was caught in the mechanism that lowered the bridge.

The Father had a choice. Knowing that the train did not have enough time to stop and save the boy, he could either let his son live and have the train crash into the river, or save his son with the consequence that hundreds of passengers would die.

Faced with this agonizing decision, the father did the only thing he could do. He pressed the button to lower the bridge and let the train pass. Sacrificing his only Son while the people on the train ate, drank, and slept peacefully en route to their destination.

Such was the pain for God when Christ was put on the Cross.

Christ knew the pain and he laid on the tracks anyway. With a troubled spirit and a fearful heart, he faced death head on. Not so that he could be saved. But that we would be saved and God glorified.

I wonder how many of us realize how high the price of our salvation really was. Thanks be to Christ our Lord who valued us beyond all telling. +

Evening Prayer: March 22nd

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Psalm: 68
Gospel: John 4:43-54
Patristic Reading: An excerpt from the Confessions of St. Augustine

For those of you who don’t know, the Evening Prayer service begins with this versicle and response:

V: O Lord, I call to you, come to me quickly
R: Hear my voice when I cry to you
V: Let my prayer be set forth in your sight as incense
R: and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice.

In tonight’s Patristic reading, Augustine examines the implications of this imagery for the Christian understanding of who Jesus is:

The evening sacrifice is then the passion of the Lord, the cross of the Lord, the oblation of the victim that brings salvation, the holocaust acceptable to God. In his resurrection he made this evening sacrifice a morning sacrifice. Prayer offered in holiness from a faithful heart rises like incense from a holy altar. Nothing is more fragrant than the fragrance of the Lord. May all who believe share in this fragrance.

Aside from the sheer aesthetic beauty of this metaphor, it stands as a perfect example of why I read the Church Fathers.

There is no way in a million years that I would make that kind of mental leap as an academic theologian….but that doesn’t mean that the comparison offered by Augustine is useless. The early centuries of Christian thought allow us to see the Bible in a completely different light. For the early Church, the Scriptures were always a whole unit, as the complete revelation of God to the world.

It stands in stark contrast to the logical and often streamlined approach of the historical-critical method. It points to a fundamental difference in mindset…..When you approach the Bible….what hat do you wear? Does it make a difference? I think it does.

When we read the lections in a context and attitude of prayer….does that also make a difference??? Let me know what you think by leaving a comment below + 🙂

Evening Prayer: Ash Wednesday (March 9th)

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Psalms: 102, 130
Gospel: Luke 18:9-14
Patristic Reading: An excerpt from a letter to the Corinthians by St. Clement

Le Penitente by Pietro Rotari

 

O Israel, hope in the Lord!
For with the Lord there is steadfast love,
and with him is great power to redeem.
It is he who will redeem Israel
from all its iniquities. (Psalm 130:7-8)

The whole point of observing fasting periods is not so much self-deprivation as it is about hope and re-orientation. As we journey towards the Cross, lost in the desert of sound, sight, smell, taste and touch…… we long for something that is real

That’s not to say that the five senses are bad…..after all, we are a Church that believes in the essential goodness of the body which has been redeemed through Christ.

At the same time, there is a temptation to become to reliant on the body…on instant gratification, and the raw rush of emotion.

Lent seeks to get past that….by subduing the flesh (or additionally, things which are causing us to be lazy, stressed, or spiteful) room is made to contemplate the Spirit….to let Christ take his throne in the hearts of each of us.

Take some time in these next weeks and months to listen to what the Spirit–our advocate and guide–is saying to the Church in and through us. After all, we are all members of the one body of the faithful.

May we all, in the name of the LORD observe a Holy Lent and wander hand-in-hand with our Saviour….trusting in his great mercy towards us. +

Evening Prayer: Last Sunday of Epiphany (Transfiguration Sunday)

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Psalms: 114, 115
Gospel: John 12:24-32
Patristic Reading: An excerpt from the Confessions of St. Augustine

Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. (John 12:24-25)

The whole idea of dying to ourselves is a scary idea; especially in a culture that puts so much emphasis on the individual self. Note though, that Jesus’ words here don’t advocate dying just for the sake of dying, but so that we can grow and gain true and abundant life.

It’s also somewhat appropriate that we are reading this *just* as we head in towards Lent; a time when traditionally we let something go or give something up.

The Lenten discipline is not so much about self-induced torture as it is recognizing something as an excess……as something which is potentially holding us back from our getting to know Christ fully.

For me this year it’s coffee…I rely way too much on stimulants to keep me going rather than a regular cycle of prayer, eating healthy, and exercise.

On the surface this may seem like a simple self-help technique…..but it’s really not. Christian living is one that is Incarnational; a lifestyle which celebrates body and soul being interconnected and whole. Something which I have not attended to in a very long time.

So what about you? What are you willing to give up this Lent???? What might help you to grow spiritually, emotionally, or physically this year and bring you closer into line with God??? +

Morning Prayer: Feb. 19th

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Psalms: 107:33-43, 108
Old Testament: Isaiah 66:1-6
New Testament: 1 Tim 6:6-21

I actually got up earlier to do Morning Prayer but didn’t really have time to sit down and write on anything until now 😛

Whoever slaughters an ox is like one who kills a human being;
whoever sacrifices a lamb, like one who breaks a dog’s neck;
whoever presents a grain-offering, like one who offers swine’s blood;*
whoever makes a memorial offering of frankincense, like one who blesses an idol.
These have chosen their own ways,
and in their abominations they take delight (Isaiah 66:3)

After nearly 5 months of reading Isaiah, we are finally reaching its conclusion. Here…God is speaking to people who think they have it right. Who genuinely believed that by offering sacrifice, and giving tithes to the Temple they were living faithfully to the Abrahamic Covenant.

Today’s reading challenges that assumption and that comfort. I sit here wondering whether what we offer is rooted in assuring our own salvation….or whether they come from a dep desire to thank God???

I suspect that–if we are honest with oursevles–the answer is probably a little from column A and a little from column B. Personally, I don’t think we ever start with trying to manipulate God…or to gain favours from him. Human beings may be shallow, but they aren’t that shallow.

Human beings are made to worship their Creator….it’s something we do naturally….some would say it’s even what we are made to do.

Since the Fall however, our worship has the potential to be twisted to meet our own needs. Our sinfulness can mislead us that worship is something which is made to make us feel warm and fuzzy……to feel safe.

While the Father never wants us to be afraid, the worship of the Church is meant to challenge us, to make us feel distinctly uncomfortable. As the bread of the Word is read, heard and broken open, and the homily is preached we are called to hear with the ears of our heart. We are then invited to a feast and Sacred meal to be sustained in body mind and spirit.

I pray that we–as a faith community–keep a close eye to those times when our worship is reshaped to meet our own needs and to put butts in the pews, rather than giving glory to the Holy One of Israel. +

Morning Prayer: 6th Sunday of Epiphany

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Psalms: 66-67
Old Testament: Isaiah 62:6-12
New Testament: 1 John 2:3-11

I will come into your house with burnt-offerings;
I will pay you my vows,
those that my lips uttered
and my mouth promised when I was in trouble.
I will offer to you burnt-offerings of fatlings,
with the smoke of the sacrifice of rams;
I will make an offering of bulls and goats. (Psalm 66: 13-15)

I want to tie a few things together today. I am posting this post-Eucharist and so I have the Gospel reading for today on my mind too. In his Sermon on the Mount (Matt chaps. 5-7) Jesus says that if we are at odds with a brother or sister we are to leave our sacrifice at the altar and reconcile to them first.

But how does this apply to the Church??? We have no temple…..we have no animal sacrifices….so what does this mean for Christians?

While we might not have animal sacrifice, there is what the Church calls the “sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving.” This can range anywhere from the Perpetual Sacrifice of medieval theology, to the worship and praise music of the Baptist and Pentecostal traditions.

We also have some sense that the Christian life itself is a sacrifice to others and ultimately to God; as is demonstrated by one of my favourite prayers from the BCP:

And here we offer and present unto thee, O Lord, ourselves, our souls and bodies, to be a reasonable, holy, and living sacrifice unto thee. And although we are unworthy, yet we beseech thee to accept this our bounden duty and service, not weighing our merits, but pardoning our offences; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with thee and the Holy Ghost, be all honour and glory, world without end. Amen. (pg 86)

Sacrifices take place in other forms too. The whole idea of financial offerings and tithing is not simply a way to support the congregation and the Church at large…but is a voluntary sacrifice of income out of thanks for our wealth (however great or meager it may be).

In offering our ministry and talents to the world, we often have to sacrifice time, energy, and relaxation time to build up the Kingdom around us.

So no……we don’t bring bulls and goats before God. But we do sacrifice ourselves in all sorts of different ways. To paraphrase a versicle from the RC Mass:

Versicle: Pray my brothers and sisters that this our sacrifice may be acceptable to God the Almighty Father
Response: May the LORD accept the sacrifice at your hands, for the praise and glory of His Name; for our good and the good of all his Church

Blessed be. + 🙂

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