Morning Prayer: Maundy Thursday

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Psalm: 102
Old Testament: Lamentations 2:10-18
New Testament: 1 Corinthians 10:14-17; 11:27-32

The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a sharing in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a sharing in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread. (1 Cor 10:16-17)

Maundy Thursday is always an interesting Feast Day for me, especially growing up a Roman Catholic background. In that particular tradition, the emphasis for today is placed on the institution of the Lord’s Supper…..celebrating the fact that Jesus took ordinary things, and transformed them so that we might never be without His presence.

But gathering around the table has a greater significance than being fed for our own benefit. In sharing the Body and Blood of our Lord with others, we are united in a spiritual bond that cannot be broken. A bond which makes us not only fellow human beings…..but brothers and sisters who find ourselves in relationship with one another.

I don’t know about you……but I DEFINITELY know some folks in Churchland that I don’t particularly enjoy. Personalities clash, differences of opinion arise, and in some cases, that schism can manifest itself in fighting, arguments, and seeing that person as “somebody else….someone I don’t have to interact with”

Holy Thursday challenges us to sit with others that we don’t enjoy or get along with. Don’t forget: Even Judas was able to share in this sacred meal. πŸ˜‰

As we enter into the Three Great Days heading towards the Resurrection, may we come to see ourselves in the stories of Scripture, and recognize that we are called to enter into God’s presence….. even when the images are gruesome and ones that we would rather ignore……It is only through suffering, service, and fellowship with sinners that the Paschal mystery can really happen. +

Evening Prayer: Maundy Thursday

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Psalms: 142, 143
Gospel: John 13:1-27
Patristic Reading: An excerpt from an Easter sermon of St. Melito of Sardis

When I first came to the Anglican Church I was a little baffled as to why it today was called “Maundy” Thursday. Maundy comes from the Latin word “mandatum” meaning “commandment”. And what is this new commandment????

[Jesus said to his disciples] “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Coming from a Roman Catholic background, this shift in emphasis was a new thing for me. In the RC tradition, Holy Thursday is used as a day to give thanks for the Last Supper and an opportunity to venerate the Holy Sacrament. There was no talk of commands.

Yet in the Anglican faith, much more emphasis is placed on the directive of our Lord to love, and of His great humiilty washing the disciples feet. Not only that..but the readings always include Jesus’ prayer that his disciples may always be one:

β€˜I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. Father, I desire that those also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am…. (John 17:20-24a)

No matter what lines divide us in denomination, doctrinal dispute, or personal greivances, we are called to love beyond all else. Not only that….we are strengthened through Jesus’ prayer to know that whatever divides us can never be as important proclaiming the Good News that Jesus Christ is Lord and that he has come to save us:

He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed (Isaiah 53:5)

As we enter into the Triddium this year may we always be mindful of the great price paid for our salvation, the Sacrament which feeds us in body, mind and soul, and of the fundamental message to all Christians that the aim of this life is not to be served, but to wash the feet of others. +

Morning Prayer: Maundy Thursday

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Psalm: 102
Old Testament: Jeremiah 20:7-11
New Testament: 1 Corinthians 10:14-17; 11:27-32

Ever wonder why we say the General Confession before receiving the bread and the wine of the Eucharist??? We get that idea from Paul’s warning to the Corinthians this morning:

Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be answerable for the body and blood of the Lord. Examine yourselves, and only then eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For all who eat and drink* without discerning the body,* eat and drink judgement against themselves. (1 Cor 10:27-29)

In confessing our sins to God, and by sharing the sign of peace with our brothers and sisters we are forgiven and reconciled. In those liturgical actions, any restraint from receiving Christ’s Body and Blood are shattered and broken.

Of course, it is not always necessary that the exact prayer of Confession be said…..but there is a real sense that one who approaches the altar should know what they are getting themselves into.

On the flip side, we must keep in mind that Jesus feasted with tax collectors and sinners…he never put any conditions on his hospitality. He simply welcomed them with loving arms. Asking that we–in turn–accept his love and free gift of grace. πŸ™‚

In receiving Christ’s very Self and making it a part of our own bodies, we cannot help but be changed. We cannot help but receive the gifts of the Spirit and be given perfect remission of our faults and failings. For Christ died once for all. No matter how heinous your sins, they are both forgiven and forgotten in the name of Jesus.

By using ordinary things, God takes the fruits of the earth and makes them into something extraordinary. We too are made extraordinary by that spiritual food and drink…refashioned into a new creation that brings life, healing, and wholeness to the world.

So….as we celebrate this most Holy Thursday:

Come all you who love God and want to love God more.
Come, you who have tried to follow Jesus, and you who have failed.
Come, you who have been here many times, and you who have never been before.
Come, because it is Christ who invites you here.

Thanks be to God!+

Evening Prayer: Feb. 3rd

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Psalm: 74
Gospel: Mark 8:27-9:1
Patristic Reading: An excerpt from St. Cyril of Jerusalem’s Instructions to the Cathecumenate

image courtesy of breadsite.org

Your foes have roared within your holy place;
they set up their emblems there.
At the upper entrance they hacked
the wooden trellis with axes.*
And then, with hatchets and hammers,
they smashed all its carved work.
They set your sanctuary on fire;
they desecrated the dwelling-place of your name,
bringing it to the ground.
They said to themselves, β€˜We will utterly subdue them’;
they burned all the meeting-places of God in the land. (Psalm 74:4-8)

One thing that strikes me in particular with this Psalm is that it is written during a time of darkness…..when all the sacred vessels and places in Judea have been pulled down, and the Jewish people have nothing tangible to hold on to.

As I sit here pondering…..I wonder what would happen to us if all our churches were burned and we left to our own devices….What would the reaction be???

Sadness and devastation for sure :(…but that being said…the Jewish identity managed to survive. They were able to distinguish themselves by strict observance of dietary laws and customs.

What would our distinguishing marks as Christians be??? I wonder…….. +

 

Morning Prayer: Thurs. of Advent 4 (Dec. 23rd)

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Psalm(s): 93, 96
Old Testament: Isaiah 33:17-22
New Testament: Revelation 22: 6-11, 18-20

I’m sick with a cold right now so no new posts will be going up until I feel better :(….Pax Christi everyone+

Evening Prayer: Thurs. of Advent 3

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Psalm: 33
Gospel: Matthew 3:1-12
Reading from the Church: an excerpt from The Dogmatic Constitution of Vatican II (scroll down to the second reading).

Christ theΒ  Architect


 

For the word of the Lord is upright,
and all his work is done in faithfulness.
He loves righteousness and justice;
the earth is full of the steadfast love of the Lord.

By the word of the Lord the heavens were made,
and all their host by the breath of his mouth.
He gathered the waters of the sea as in a bottle;
he put the deeps in storehouses. (Psalm 33:4-7)

There’s a lot of talk tonight about God’s word. What is God’s word? Is it the Bible? Is it the stirring of the Holy Spirit we hear in the silence of our hearts? Is it the Word made flesh in the person of Jesus? Or is it something else entirely?

I would like to suggest that it might be a combinaiton of all three :D. As inheritors of the Christian tradition some 2000 years after its beginning, we are reliant on the Word of Scripture to know God’s plan of salvation for us. That being said, I am not a huge fan of arguing for Biblical inerrancy or reading passages out of context to justify our own biases :P.

I think the Word of God dwells in us. In our hearts and minds as he promised through the prophet Ezekiel (Ezek. 36:24-26, 28b) and also reminds us that God’s living word is continually spoken and interpreted in the here and the now :D.

Ultimately though, our source for the Word must come from Jesus Himself. As the Word who became flesh for us…his life, death, and resurrection becomes the lens through which we must view all of Scripture.

Earlier this year, I struggled with reading a particularly violent passage in Exodus. It seemed that God was relentless in his punishment of sin and iniquity…leaving no room for forgiveness.

As the conversation thread unfolded on Facebook…..a fellow classmate and friend of mine (who is now rector of Trinity Parish in Lucan and St. James, Clandeboye) responded with the following comment:

This is the word of the LORD”, but it is merely a partial revelation of the complete Word. And for that reason, I don’t have problems with the response, ‘Thanks be to God’, because I am truly thankful that God reveals himself to us in multiple, surprising ways. This is much different from saying that God reveals his purposes in condoning the slaughter of thousands of people. But it keeps us engaged with scripture, even when all we can say is “how can this be?”

This constant act of questioning, discovering and interpreting the Bible through the WHOLE revelation of God rather than just snippets of the Lectionary was really thought-provoking for me and changed the whole way I approached reading the Bible….especially those parts I find difficult or downright incomprehensible.

Let us remember that God speaks to us in a variety of ways…..and that–especially during this season of Advent–that we remember to leave the doors of communication opened. Chances are we will be challenged, astonished, disturbed, and moved by what we hear. πŸ˜€ +

Morning Prayer: Thurs. of Advent 3

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Psalm: 50
Old Testament: Isaiah 9:18-10:4
New Testament: 2 Peter 2:10-16

Bold and willful, they are not afraid to slander the glorious ones, whereas angels, though greater in might and power, do not bring against them a slanderous judgment from the Lord. These people, however, are like irrational animals, mere creatures of instinct, born to be caught and killed. They slander what they do not understand, and when those creatures are destroyed, they also will be destroyed, suffering the penalty for doing wrong. They count it a pleasure to revel in the daytime. They are blots and blemishes, reveling in their dissipation while they feast with you. They have eyes full of adultery, insatiable for sin. They entice unsteady souls. They have hearts trained in greed. Accursed children! They have left the straight road and have gone astray, following the road of Balaam son of Bosor, who loved the wages of doing wrong, but was rebuked for his own transgression; a speechless donkey spoke with a human voice and restrained the prophet’s madness.

It’s not too often I include the entire lection in a post but this is just too good to pass up. πŸ˜€

I have to admit that when I read passages like this…..the Bible-geek in me rejoices.. There’s something about watching Peter and other apostles laying the smack-down on sin that is both entertaining and intriguing. The images are at once vivid and violent, while at the same time, very pointed in their focus and message to the reader.

But why is lust such a bad thing for the Biblical writers? What is it that makes this sin especially heinous and worthy of so much attention???

Part of the reason is its connection with notions of covenant in the Old Testament. Lusting or desiring after people, posessions, or false gods draws Israel away from YHWH. It draws them away from promises they have made….it leads them to leave the very Source which gives them life and success.

Lust is also one of the easiest sins to fall into (and I’m speaking from experience here :P). We live in a culture that teaches us to desire a new product every day. A society that takes its cue from Gordon Gekko that “greed is good.”

Lust is also prevalent in our relationships. Of course–for those of us who are single–sexual lust can often take the front seat in our lives. I know I’m certainly not immune from it :P…..one need only look at the Starbucks saga to realize the grief that lust can cause.

Lust is more insidious than that though…..and affects those in committed partnerships too.

There are plenty of times when we want our significant other to change. To give us more attention, or to show a greater interest in the things we enjoy. In extreme cases, we expect our loved ones to fundamentally change who they are. 😦

Advent is a time of self-examination and preparation. So what are some of the things you lust after? What is drawing you away from God and pushing you towards something else??? Does lust really do the body and soul good??? It seems the Bible provides us with a clear “no” to that question. +

Evening Prayer: Thurs. of Advent 2

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Psalm: 37:19-42
Gospel: Luke 22:1-13
Patristic Reading: Excerpt from a sermon on love by Peter Chrysologus

So here’s the thing…….I feel like I’m hijacking tonight’s post and taking away from the readings…..but the sermon from Peter Chrysologus hit a nerve….and I feel compelled to write about it…..Don’t worry it has a spiritual element to it ;)…hopefully those of you who read this blog (which I am entirely grateful for btw :D) will get something out of this reflection.

In his thoughts about love for God, Chrysologus writes:

the law of love is not concerned with what will be, what ought to be, what can be. Love does not reflect; it is unreasonable and knows no moderation. Love refuses to be consoled when its goal proves impossible, despises all hindrances to the attainment of its object. Love destroys the lover if he cannot obtain what he loves; love follows its own promptings, and does not think of right and wrong. Love inflames desire which impels it toward things that are forbidden.

I know he is talking about ecstatic love for the Divine here…..but I think this quote is reflective of all forms of love; not just the spiritual kind.

A few months back, I fell very hard for a barista at my local Starbucks. True….it was not “love” in the real sense–since real love is reciprocal– and I had only known her for about six months. But all the hallmarks of love described above were there.

I quite literally lost all common sense :S. Given my shyness and the power dynamic of her being behind the counter and me being the customer, I felt really intimidated to ask her out. It drove me crazy that I was consumed with this one issue…it was all I could think about.

She is/was significantly younger than myself and I knew the chances of her saying yes were slim-to-none….especially given our limited interaction.

When I finally did ask her out (in a very chicken-shit way I might add :P) it was at the wrong time. She went on vacation afterwards, leaving a very open-ended situation to sit for three weeks.

It was total /FAIL on my part, and those who are my closer friends or are on my Facebook list know some of the smaller details….and that it did not end well AT ALL. 😦

I know what you may be thinking….that it was puppy love. I suppose on some level it was. But for those who know me personally, you know that it takes a lot for me a) to be attracted to someone that heavily and b) it’s even rarer for me to act on those feelings.

When I decide that I like someone of the opposite-sex, it isn’t a full-on love at first sight kind of deal. It’s more I want to enter into a genuine relationship with them. One that is more of the more…ummmm…… intimate type rather than strictly friendship.

Problem is, I’m so enamoured and flustered by their good looks that I often babble like about nothing and come off looking like a totally neurotic and obsessive idiot. It’s just a bad combination all around :S.

Anyway suffice it to say, when this girl said “no” I was rather crushed; even though I knew logically that I had no right to expect anything different.

It’s still a little raw…but something very valuable came out of that whole experience for me…. I learned that I was loving the wrong thing, and looking for it in the wrong place….Let me see if I can explain this cogently.

I “loved” her not for who she was …but for who I wanted her to be. I wasn’t loving her as a person…as a child of God…but for the personal needs and wants that I hoped–perhaps–in time, she would fulfill.

More than that, her “rejection” (completely valid and justified btw) hurt me not only because my hope was vanquished, but because the situation has been a repeat pattern in my life. I have always wanted to be loved by another human being.

Don’t get me wrong….I know I am loved by God….but if I am honest with myself– truly honest sometimes that doesn’t feel like enough 😦

And that’s when I finally got down to the root of the problem. Sometimes I don’t feel loved by God. I say this not to throw a pity-party for myself…only to recognize a human reality.

We cannot feel fulfilled all the time. There will be times when we feel disappointed and empty. It is those times when we must truly ask ourselves: are we seeking to love God? or are we seeking merely to have our own needs met???

When we love God…the romantic/intimate aspects of a relationship aren’t the things that matter……

in fact, when God is priority #1 on our list, the other relationships in our lives have a good chance of improving and flourishing. Not all the time, but most times :D…

That’s when I realized the complexity of my situation. I wanted a barista to like me more than I wanted God himself to love me.

Once I realized that….things began to change. I began to realize that my priorities were screwed up. That I was seeking comfort and approval from the wrong source.

It is wonderful and life-giving to be desired and loved by another human being…..but without feeling that same love and desire from God….there is no way that any other relationship is going to develop, let alone be healthy.

With that in mind, I have tried to be more intentional about putting God first in my life…not simply out of piety, but out of a real sense that He needs to come first.

It’s only in working on the relationship with my Creator, Reedemer, and Sanctifier that I will understand what it means to truly love…and to hopefully….someday…..share that love with another person…. Here endeth the therapy session πŸ˜€ +

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Morning Prayer: Thurs. of Advent 2

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Psalm: 37:1-18
Old Testament: Isaiah 7:1-9
New Testament:2 Thessolonians 2:1-12

Michaelangelo’s depiction of Jeremiah the Prophet


How do you feel when you see bad people moving up in the world??? Do you get angry? Do you feel resentful? Do you feel let down by God???

These are all normal feelings to have. I know there have been times in my life where people that I don’t particularly like, or would consider immoral have attained positions of power and status.

Whenever that happens, I try and remember the words of today’s Psalm:

Do not fret because of the wicked;
do not be envious of wrongdoers,
for they will soon fade like the grass,
and wither like the green herb.

Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath.
Do not fretβ€”it leads only to evil.
For the wicked shall be cut off,
but those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land. (Psalm 38:1-2, 8-9)

Our relationship with God entails looking after our own personal backyards first. Growing in the faith means trusting in the LORD and walking in his ways to the best of our ability, not paying attention to the lack of righteousness from the guy across the street.

The funny thing about my feelings of pride and superiority is that are ultimately false. The truth is, no matter how many good things I do in this world, I am no better than the “unrighteous” dude across the street. We are both sinners and both in need of God’s grace through Christ.

But because I am human, I am also apt to hate and loathe; to be jealous and to prove that I am a better person than you.

Psalm 38 reminds us that the bestowing of wealth and community standing has nothing to do with us, and everything to do with God.

The LORD’s justice will prevail in the end. Although we may question him in the interim, we can only be truly responsible for working out our own salvation; building up our relationship with Jesus day by day. +

Evening Prayer-Thurs. of Advent 1

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Psalm: 18:21-50
Gospel: Luke 20:27-40
Patristic Reading: A Commentary on the Diatesseron by St. Ephrem

It’s very hard for me to shut off the academic part of my brain when I read Psalm 18; especially the latter half.

He trains my hands for war,
so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze.
You have given me the shield of your salvation,
and your right hand has supported me;
your help* has made me great.
You gave me a wide place for my steps under me,
and my feet did not slip.
I pursued my enemies and overtook them;
and did not turn back until they were consumed.
I struck them down, so that they were not able to rise;
they fell under my feet.
For you girded me with strength for the battle;
you made my assailants sink under me.
You made my enemies turn their backs to me,
and those who hated me I destroyed.
They cried for help, but there was no one to save them;
they cried to the Lord, but he did not answer them.
I beat them fine, like dust before the wind;
I cast them out like the mire of the streets. vv. 34-42

It’s pretty clear that this particular Scripture was written to praise the LORD…but more importantly, to ask for his presence in battle with the ancient kings of Israel.

We’re talking RISK style conquest here folks….. with a winner take all attitude……..

Domination was the goal…..With all the slaughtering and beseiging and bloodshed that goes along with it. :S

I have read and heard many interpretations on this Psalm that try and make it about being armed spiritually. The most popular approach is to employ the ” whole armour of God” image that Paul illustrates in Ephesians 6:10-20.

Needless to say, applying that kind of interpretation to the text seems a little fishy to me.

I’m not saying it’s totally useless, or that those interpetations don’t have any spiritual benefit. Heck, the Church Fathers turned the imagery of the Royal Psalms into vast metaphors that alluded specifically to Christ.

It seems to me that taking such an approach is akin to saying something like this:

“When Dickens critiqued English society in the Tale of Two Cities through the eyes of the Revolution, he was actually talking about the rampant over-consumption of the earth’s resources and the collapse of the ozone layer in the 21st century.”

Clearly, that just. doesn’t. work.

So what do we do with these Psalms that speak to a specific time and place? Part of the solution I think is to take them for what they are. To realize that, yes they do speak of military conquest but more importantly God is the one who is always in control.. As confident as the psalmist is in the king’s ability….his central point lies in the fact that no one can do anything without God:

The Lord lives! Blessed be my rock,
and exalted be the God of my salvation,
the God who gave me vengeance
and subdued peoples under me;
who delivered me from my enemies;
indeed, you exalted me above my adversaries;
you delivered me from the violent.

For this I will extol you, O Lord, among the nations,
and sing praises to your name.
Great triumphs he gives to his king,
and shows steadfast love to his anointed,
to David and his descendants for ever (vv. 46-50)

The emphasis is not on violence, but on the ultimate kingship of YHWH. We don’t have to sacrifice the meaning of the original text in order to make sense of this Scripture.

A key part to being Christian is realizing that we are not in total control of the situation….God is.

In the Lord’s Prayer we ask that God’s will be done, and kingdom come…..but how are we supposed to do that if we holding on to tightly to the reins???

I wonder what would happen if we loosened our grip just a little?!? If we just relinquished control. It could result in chaos, it could erupt in violence……but maybe……just maybe….. the Spirit would have room to do things more fantastic and life-giving than we could ever ask for or imagine. +

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