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˜€ +


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. +

Morning Prayer: Thurs. of Advent 1

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Psalm(s): 18:1-20
Old Testament: Isaiah 2:12-22
New Testament: 1 Thessalonians 3:1-13

This morning on my way to the Cathedral, I bumped into a friend whose Mom is facing terminal cancer. Despite the stress of family drama, the pressures of school, and the general busy-ness of life, my friend seemed in very good spirits, and relieved that the arduous task of filling out grad-school applications is now behind her πŸ˜€

Our conversation didn’t last long, as we were both stopping to refuel at the local Tim Hortons…but something struck me as I read the passage from 1 Thessalonians this morning:

Therefore when we could bear it no longer, we decided to be left alone in Athens; and we sent Timothy, our brother and co-worker for God in proclaiming the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you for the sake of your faith….Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus direct our way to you. And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we abound in love for you. (v. 3:1; 3:6)

Paul wanted to visit the Church in Thessolonica in order to build them up and encourage them in the midst of persecution and suffering….but he couldn’t.

Not everyone was a fan of the Message that Paul was spreading. As a result, Paul was usually forced to skip stops on his tour of the seven churches that he helped to found. If he didn’t change his route, there was a pretty good chance that he would be killed…not exactly a desired scenario if you want to stay alive to tell people the Good News about Christ.

Although he could not be there physically, Paul prays for the people of Thessolonica night and day. knowing with confidence that they remember [him] kindly, and long to see [him]

As I read this I was reminded of a quote from an episode of Modern Family, where Ed O’Neil’s character exclaims: “ 90% of being a dad is just showing up”….

I think there’s a lot of truth to that in friendships, in relationships, in prayer……almost in every aspect of life.

There is nothing–for right now at least–that I can physically do for my friend or her family as they face cancer together….but I can offer a ministry of presence and prayer.

Don’t get me wrong…..as someone who struggles with laziness daily, I know there is more to living the faith life than thinking positive thoughts, and offering prayers on another’s behalf. After all….faith without works is dead.

That said, I think there is a time and place for simply being there for a friend, a family member, and even a stranger.

Being present for someone doesn’t always mean being physically present. Sometimes just knowing that someone is remembering you and praying for you can be enough.+

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