Ascension Day

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While [Jesus] was going and they were gazing up towards heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. They said, β€˜Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up towards heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.’ (Acts 1:10-11)

The Feast of the Ascension has always struck me as a very mixed bag of emotions. I can just picture the bewildered disciples staring up into the sky…thinking to themselves: What the hell just happened???

Caught somewhere between the elation of spending time with their Risen Lord, and the sudden shock that they are once again “on their own”……this is a day of both celebration and apprehension.

You see..at this point in the story….the Holy Spirit hasn’t arrived yet. Pentecost is still a week away……and in many ways, the disciples are right back where they’ve started. A frightened minority, locked behind closed doors……And yet, something is different compared to the time when they hid themselves away on Good Friday.

Now….the followers of Jesus know something is different. They have touched the hands and feet of their Lord and know that he lives! Despite Christ’s sudden departure from their midst….they can’t simply ignore what they have experienced. They know they have something special…..but the question remains….what do we do with it????

Something holds them back. How exactly are we supposed to feel about this? On the one hand, we know that we have been blessed by Grace, forgiveness and love, and seen it with our own eyes….and yet…on the other hand, we find ourselves staring into nothing as it travels somewhere beyond our knowing.

At the risk of sounding too personal…I can relate to this bewilderment and confusion. given some of the life-events which have occurred in the last three weeks.

Between the call to priestly ordination, and the (mutual) break-up of a loving and life-giving relationship….I feel that I’m caught between two extremes…..Joy and celebration at the fact that a life-long dream is coming true…..while at the same time, sadness at having to let something go that has been equally precious to me.

I honestly don’t know what to do when these feelings come at me simultaneously……but I take comfort in knowing that even the Church recognizes and holds on to those feelings within it’s own traditions and feast-days. Ambiguity and a sense of being uncomfortable and confused is not something that I–or any of us–are alone in…it is a shared experience with our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Like the infant church…..scared and unsure…..we move ahead even though we are clueless of the direction…..and with the sure knowledge that somewhere along the way, the Holy Spirit will come to be our comfort, our guide, and the one who lights a fire under our ass ;)…(or in our hearts if you prefer the more traditional image) +

Morning Prayer: July 30th

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Psalms: 74, 75
Old Testament: 2 Sam 5:22-6:11
New Testament: Acts 17:16-34

For in him we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28)

When I was first received into the Anglican church back in 2002, I was given a card by some of the ladies whom I regularly worshipped with on Wed. morning. On the front was this quote from Acts and on the inside was their signatures and messages of encouragement.

Since then, it has become one of my favourite passages of Scripture….Why? For the simple reason that it reminds us that we cannot do the simplest of things….cannot even draw a breathe without the help of God.

Each day we wake up living, is a small miracle of its own. +

Evening Prayer: July 13th (Combo Post)

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Psalm: 38, 119:25-48
Old Testament: 1 Sam 20:1-23
New Testament: Acts 12:20-25
Gospel: Mark 2:13-22
Patristic Reading: An excerpt from a Treatise on the Mysteries by St. Ambrose

But it is for you, O Lord, that I wait;
it is you, O Lord my God, who will answer.
16 For I pray, β€˜Only do not let them rejoice over me,
those who boast against me when my foot slips.’ (Psalm 38:15)

Something in my brain tells me that I’ve probably done a post on this verse before….so if I am inadvertently repeating myself, I apologize…anyway it is definitely a sentiment that really rings true for me right now.

I totally confess that I do not do well with the whole waiting thing. I’d even go so far as to say that I am one of the most impatient people on the planet. This doesn’t mean that I can’t do the laid-back thing and let things develop…..a lot of the time that’s what I have to do in my job(s)….but that doesn’t mean I particularly enjoy the process itself. πŸ˜›

That discomfort has been heightened for me of late…since–in two weeks time–one of my bishops is coming to check out the ministry that I do here in London.

I honestly have no idea how it’s going to pan out….and part of me thinks that I will probably fall flat on my ass.

That being said, I have since started meeting with my Spiritual Director and he and I have discussed something very important over the last few weeks…. Letting the Third Person into the conversation

It’s not about me trying to convince the Bishop that I should be ordained, or to show him that I am doing good work….or even about trying to achieve results.

I have to work hard yes…..but more than that…..I have to leave room for God in there somewhere πŸ˜›

The point is not to put my trust in my own abilities…but in the knowledge that the Holy Spirit will show up when She is needed most. Not only to give me strength and ability….but to give light to the darkness…and to allow a bishop and a lay leader to meet as brothers in Christ…..not as superior and inferior….

Let’s just hope I can keep my sanity until the visit! πŸ˜› +

Evening Prayer: June 25th (Combo Post)

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Psalm: 107:33-42, 108, 33
Old Testament: 1 Samuel 9:15-10:1
New Testament: Acts 7:30-43
Gospel: Luke 22:39-51
Patristic Reading: An excerpt from Homilies on the Beatitudes by St. Gregory of Nyssa

It does not say that it is blessed to know something about the Lord God, but that it is blessed to have God within oneself. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

As someone who was interested in religion from a very young age, I can relate to St. Gregory of Nyssa’s words here. For a long time, I had a mental relationship with God…I wanted to know answers…..I wanted to understand why things were the way they are….Why there could be only one religion….I wanted certainty.

While I can’t speak for all Roman Catholics, my own experience was that God wasn’t someone who could be known. Mediated and explained by the clergy, sure..but in terms of personal relationship…..oh hell naw. πŸ˜›

So I sit here and wonder……how many of us have cerebral relationships with Christ??? I was lucky….I was able to find something new and fresh in the Anglican liturgy….but how many people grow up in their own traditions…bored to death by what they hear over and over. πŸ˜›

I guess that’s where we have to put our trust in the Holy One in Three. When we come to a faith that’s personal….it’s never anything that we do ourselves. It’s something that God builds up in us. It’s yet another time where we have to rely less on ourselves and our own strength than in the one who made us.

Tonight I pray that the Holy Spirit moves you to experience God 1:1 and to know that you are loved beyond any treasure. +

Evening Prayer: Eve of Trinity Sunday

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Psalm: 104
Old Testament: Sirach 42:15-25
New Testament: Ephesians 3:14-21

I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:19-20)

Man after reading words like that, St. Paul is a tough act to follow. :P.

Apologies for not posting this morning……I was even tempted to skip tonight……but ’tis a Feast day and I think a pretty important one to cover…At least when I neglected an Ascension Day, I had a relatively good excuse with the conference going on…but no such loophole exists for me tonight lol πŸ˜›

In the Western Church, Trinity Sunday is a moveable feast that always falls on the first Sunday of Pentecost. It celebrates the doctrine of the Most Holy Trinity. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

More specifically we celebrate the doctrines of uniqueness of the Three Persons, the One substance whereof they are made…..and a handful of other statements from the Ecumenical Councils of the Early Church

For those who came to the blog hoping for a succinct definition of the Trinity….I’m afraid to say that you will be disappointed. I try and not get bogged down with the specifics of God. I will put on record though the way that I understand the Trinity at this particular point and time.

For me, it’s helpful to think of the Three Persons in light of the role that they fulfill. Just as I–a lowly mortal–can be a student, a middle-class worker, a significant other, &c. without my “Matthew Arguin-ness” being diminished in any sense; I think that’s how it works with God.

In the first instance you have:

God the Father who is the primary mover and shaker. The one whose will is both emulated and enacted by the other two Persons. It is in God the Father we have our initial identity as created beings

Then we have:

God the Son Who finds his identity as God’s eternal Word…through which all things are made. In a great act of love, that Word became incarnate of the Virgin Mary…and it is through Jesus’ death and resurrection, humanity finds its new identity as a redeemed and new creation

And finally:

God the Spirit-who is our Advocate and Guide. Who allows our hearts and minds to be illuminated by God our Creator and his Eternal Word. It is in this communion with the Spirit that we embrace our identity not only as redeemed and new creatures…..but creatures who are a work in progress. Slowly moving towards Holiness and Love.

Each of these three cannot exist without the other, and they all proceed from one Source while having various characteristics and functions.

It is not only static doctrines we rejoice over tonight……but the dynamic way that God has chosen to reveal himself to the world. πŸ™‚ +

Evening Prayer: June 16th (Combo Post)

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Psalms: 84, 85, 86
Old Testament: 1 Samuel 2:27-36
New Testament: Acts 2:22-36
Gospel: Luke 20:41-21:4
Patristic Reading: An excerpt from a treatise on the Lord’s Prayer by St. Cyprian

I saw the Lord always before me,
for he is at my right hand so that I will not be shaken;
therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced;
moreover, my flesh will live in hope.
For you will not abandon my soul to Hades,
or let your Holy One experience corruption.
You have made known to me the ways of life;
you will make me full of gladness with your presence (Acts 2:25b-29)

So….heathen that I am…..I didn’t post anything last night or this morning. Rest assured much praying was being done on my part πŸ™‚

Last night, after a wonderful dinner…I was privileged to attend a service of Confirmation and reception.

At this particular liturgy, some 20 young people made commitments to Christ as adults, claiming their place as stewards of the Church universal, and also to be strengthened by the Holy Spirit for each of their individual ministries. :).

As an added blessing, a lovely young lady was received as a new member of the Anglican Church of Canada Congrats to all! πŸ™‚

In his homily for this service, our bishop gave what I thought was a great message……which doesn’t always happen with episcopal sermons lol ;).

In essence, Bob reminded those gathered in the Chapel that we come together as a community to remember Christ; and to celebrate the Trinity in our midst. Without that….we are nothing but a hollow, institutional shell.

That’s why I love reading the sermons from Acts like the one we have this evening. In his loose paraphrase of Psalm 16, we hear of Peter giving witness to the life, teaching, and effect of Jesus’ ministry on his own heart…and extending that invitation to all of Judea.

Notice that in both the original Psalm, and in Peter’s re-framing of it, a sense of celebration is retained. Our faith is not something that is meant to bring burden and strict moral obligations. Rather it is something that causes us to be glad of heart and rejoicing with all our might.

Does that mean we can discard those parts of Christianity that stretch us? What about those times when we feel crappy and not joyful at all? Can we ignore the commandments of Jesus if a particular commandment does not cause us to feel warm and gooey inside???

Call me crazy…..but I don’t think that’s what Peter is after here….Notice that Psalm 16 doesn’t say we will never fall into despair….or find ourselves with difficult moral choices to make. Rather it’s that God will lift us up out of the Pit….give us a Light to follow in the darkness.

Even when we have to be uncomfortable, and are called to do something which seems impossible, Christ will always be there to look us in the eye and give us strength and support.

Thanks be to God for such a wonderful gift. πŸ™‚ + ❀

Morning Prayer: June 13th

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Psalm: 80
Old Testament: 1 Samuel 1:1-20
New Testament: Acts 1:1-14

Lectionary FTW! Since I didn’t get a chance to talk about Ascension on the actual Feast Day…today presents a perfect chance πŸ™‚

The Ascension of Jesus–just like the Baptism of our Lord–caused some significant hesitation and open questioning by the Church. Why didn’t Jesus just stick around??? Couldn’t he just chill out here on Earth until the Final Judgement???? Why did he have to leave at all???

In the effort to understand salvation history, the Church Fathers concluded (based on John’s gospel) that Christ had to ascend in order to send down the Holy Spirit to his disciples.

It’s not that he had to ascend, but that he wanted to. *Holds up flame-shield against the heresy police* πŸ˜›

Just like the Baptism was accomplished in order to bless all water for our salvation, so the Ascension is what blesses us with the gifts of the Holy Spirit. It is not so much about Jesus leaving us behind, but his leaving in order to return to us…and for the King of Glory to reign in our hearts forever. +

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