Pondering for Thursday, July 29, 2021

Daily Office Readings for Thursday of Proper 12: Year 1

Morning, Psalm 71; Evening, Psalm 74;
2nd  Samuel 4:1 to 12Acts 16:25 to 40Mark 7:1 to 23:

“About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them:” (Acts 16: 25).

Before I get to the holy habits of Paul and Silas and their systematic worship of prayer and song, let me remind us about the habits of David. He regularly killed those whom he felt wronged him.  He had habits of “getting even.”  I find this most ungodly. David killed, or had people killed who thought they were doing what he wanted them to do.  I understand that it was a time of no communications technology and  commander’s intent was not always known.  Perhaps more effort could have been made to ensure his troops understood that he did not want everybody killed, but rather brought before him.  Don’t get me wrong. I honor the contributions of David, especially the Psalms he wrote. But every biblical hero we have, had flaws, except our Lord Jesus.

Paul and Silas, while haven been bound and whipped with rods, they sang songs to God and they prayed when they could. I hope two things for myself. First, I hope I have the steadfast dedication to love, worship an honor God, even if only half as much as Paul and Silas did. Second, I really hope and pray that I am never tested like they were.

Saul (later Paul), with the direction of the Risen Lord, was transformed from one who, like David of old, was moved from supporting having people killed to one who desired all to have hope for eternal life. As Paul and Silas sang and prayed, the prisoners around them listened and witnessed their inner strength. Hope was spread throughout the dark and dirty chamber of confinement. The men were transformed so much so that when the earthquake occurred and everyone’s chains were unfastened, they didn’t flee, as I think I would be inclined to do.  But no, they were drawn to the light that Paul and Silas were illuminating. The prisoners as well as the jailer realized and experienced a power greater than the limitations of human life with its mortal hurts and pains.  The jailer himself went from wanting to kill himself to having his whole household baptized.

Witnessing the power of our Lord Jesus is transformative. David was a man of writing Psalms and harp playing.  Paul too wrote letters, prayed and sang hymns, even as he had to remember Steven being stoned earlier when he assisted in such an act of sin; (Acts 8:1).  David and Paul, like ourselves, can be transformed. We too can experience conversion. It seems that the prescription for such healing has something to do with praying and singing hymns. It may take us a while, but it works. And when we sing and pray, it not only changes us, it improves the lives of those around us.

Let us live to love, rather than just live to live, listening to what the Spirit is saying to, and through the saints of God, while pondering anew what the Almighty can do. John

Pondering for Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Daily Office Readings for Wednesday of  Proper 12: Year 1

Morning, Psalm 72; Evening, Psalm 119:73 to 96;
2nd  Samuel 3:22 to 39Acts 16:16 to 24Mark 6:47 to 56

“Today I am powerless, even though anointed king; these men, the sons of Zeruiah, are too violent for me. The Lord pay back the one who does wickedly in accordance with his wickedness:” (2nd Samuel 3:39)

David is sad that Abner, whom he sent away in peace, has been killed out of revenge.  David articulates his limitations. He is the King of Israel, he doesn’t have to acknowledge his weakness, but he does. 

David has shown that he can be a man of violence when necessary. But he maintains that he is not an intentionally an evil man. I will reserve judgment about that. After all, he will, in the future, have one of his subordinate leaders killed in order that he might have his wife, but that’s later. Right now, he says something I want to ponder; and that is, “These men, the sons of Zeruiah, are too violent for me.”

I see or hear of mean and evil people on the news almost every day that are too violent for me.  And while I often reject Psalms, or parts of Psalms which contain words of vindictiveness, I do ponder about David’s words asking God to “Pay back the one who does wickedly in accordance with his wickedness;”  I guess it stands to reason that the author of the Psalms would utter these words of payback, or revenge.

The problem I have with revenge is that it produces what I call “consequential behavior.”  Consequential behavior is the behavior we do, or not do, based on what the community will do to us if discovered.  I would much rather people have a change of heart and behave in such a way as they themselves would want to be treated.  The old eye for an eye does not work.  It operates from a hate brought about because of the love we had for the one injured, mistreated or killed. However, I will agree with David that God can deal with people according to their deeds, that is, according with their wickedness.  I will admit that I believe some people are unfortunately bent on being bad.

I believe the preferred way to deal with all people is to appeal to their goodness. The goodness of some people is deeper inside them than others. It can be hard, but rewarding work to dig out the goodness in them.  True sorrow and the accompanying repentance is worth the effort required of counseling.  The search for the elusive goodness in some people may be too difficult for the novice counselor or family member. However, prayer to God from the love you have for them, also works.

Let us live to love, rather than just live to live, listening to what the Spirit is saying to, and through the saints of God, while pondering anew what the Almighty can do. John

Pondering for Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Daily Office Readings for Tuesday of Proper 12: Year 1

Morning, Psalms 61 and 62; Evening, Psalm 68;
2nd  Samuel 3:6 to 21Acts 16:6 to 15Mark 6:30 to 46:

“On the Sabbath day we went outside the gate by the river, where we supposed there was a place of prayer; and we sat down and spoke to the women who had gathered there:” (Acts 16:13).

Paul was in Philippi but apparently there was no synagogue. So Paul went outside the gate by the river.  I ponder about whether or not this was the normal custom that an Israelite, or Christian, or any traveling worshiper looking for his or her faith community might do if there was no designated place for prayer.

I feel like there is something nice about being outside in nature that provides a closeness to God. I especially connect with the Holy at the beach or in the mountains.  But I have also felt a closeness to God in open plains as well.  God is everywhere.  Buildings built especially for the purpose of drawing us into the spiritual sense sometimes fail.  We perhaps maybe just need to get outside more often and save buildings for rainy days.  Our Lord Jesus performed most of his healing and teaching outside.  Every part of this earth is sacred and holds a spiritual conduit to God.

Lydia is a person to ponder. While she obviously has a spacious home, large enough to house Paul and his companions, (more on that next), she herself was outside for worship. She was a business woman and a prominent member of her community. But it seems that going down by the water to pray is as ancient a human calling as is keeping a fire going.  It sometimes can’t be explained it just is.

Lastly, there is something else in this verse that I want to explore, or ponder about. When we read words like “When she and her household were baptized, she urged us, saying, ‘If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come and stay at my home.’ And she prevailed upon us:” (Acts 16: 15) 

 I ponder about who the, “us,” are that the writer is talking about?  We believe that the writer was Luke who wrote the Gospel account named after him as well as these “Acts of the Apostles.”  Perhaps Luke is a hidden tag-a-long on Paul’s journeys.  He records everything but does not mention himself. For me, this is another lesson in the humility of invisibility. I am learning that I don’t need to be the center of things and certainly should not bring attention to myself for some kind of human credit. The only credit we should care about is how God sees the love in our hearts.

Let us live to love, rather than just live to live, listening to what the Spirit is saying to, and through the saints of God, while pondering anew what the Almighty can do. John

Pondering for Monday, July 26, 2021

Daily Office Readings for Monday of Proper12: Year 1

Morning, Psalms 56 and 57, ; Evening, Psalms 64 and 65;
2nd  Samuel 2:1 to 11Acts 15:36 to 16:5Mark 6:14 to 29:

The disagreement became so sharp that they parted company; Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus. But Paul chose Silas and set out, the believers commending him to the grace of the Lord:” (Acts 15: 39 and 49).

Splitting in the Christian Church is as old as the Church is.  There is a little evidence of this at the Resurrection of our Lord when Thomas was not with the eleven and had to be told that they had seen the Risen Jesus. If we look closely we can see a little divisiveness in many places.

As our Church grew it split more and more. I have traced the thread that leads to the Episcopal Church of the United States.  The Church starts at the foot of the Cross. From there it moves to Rome. But for some who doubted the first leadership, that path never made it to Rome but rather went to Egypt, Asia, and other places. 

From the Church in Rome came the Western and Eastern Churches. From the Western Church came the Roman Catholic Church and from this Church came the Church of England. From the Church of England came the Episcopal Church of the United States of America.

Even our Episcopal Church has had a split as those of us who opposed the leadership of women; and also could not accept the full embrace of our brothers and sisters whose sexual orientation is not heterosexual, and felt that they could no longer worship with us.

Many of our splits are not well thought out.  While is sounds old fashioned to say “What would Jesus do?” there is truth in it.  Any step away that encourages us not to love another is not Christ-like. Women had leadership positions with Jesus and we have no language from Jesus regarding homosexual rejection.  I feel like, sadly, we look for reasons (any reason), to separate from the main body of Christ. 

My hope and prayer is that at some level, no matter how small, we began the process of coming back together. It may take another thousand years or more. But I would like to see a Christian body reject the notion of splitting because something didn’t go their way. I would like to see something like a Lutheran, Methodist, and/or Episcopal merger. Wow! This would reverse what Paul and Barnabas did 2000 years ago.  If we could let our love of Jesus hold us together regardless of our selfish desires for the path of the Church, we would indeed be more Christ-like.

Let us live to love, rather than just live to live, listening to what the Spirit is saying to, and through the saints of God, while pondering anew what the Almighty can do. John

Pondering for Sunday, July 25, 2021

Part 1 of 2

Daily office Readings for Sunday of Proper 12: Year 1

Morning, Psalm 24 and 29; Evening, Psalm 8 and 84;
2nd  Samuel 1:17 to 27Romans 12:9 to 21Matthew 25:31 to 46:

“Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me;” (Matthew 25: 40)

In Matthew, this is the separation of the sheep from the goats. It is a metaphor.  In this metaphor goats represent those of us who do not see ourselves as the family of Jesus. Sheep however, are identified as members of the family of Jesus.  This metaphor suggests that the real identification is one of a caring heart rather than an indifferent one. The good news is that we can be transformed from goat to sheep without harsh surgery or DNA injections.   We just have to have a change of heart. This we can do if we really want to.

Part 2 of 2

Eucharistic New Testament Readings for Sunday of Proper 12: Year B

Ephesians 3:14 to 21  and  John 6:1 to 21:

“When Jesus realized that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain by himself:” (John 6: 15)

Jesus will testify that he came to serve and not to be served.  He also does not want to continue the failed idea of having a king even though he was also fully God. The king paradigm had to be destroyed. It was wrong when they asked for Saul to be king, and it’s wrong today.  Jesus will have no part of it. Also, monarchies suggest that child heirs will be as good a ruler as were their parents. But history has shown different.  The best leaders are elected from the midst of the people, and for a limited time.  

God is our king. Also, God in Christ Jesus is our king. The Kingdom of God is not one of physical might but rather, of love, compassion and mercy. Love, compassion and mercy will transfer us to eternal life because they are the essence of eternal life.  Mighty physical power is temporal. It will decompose and return to the nothingness from whence it came.  But love, compassion and mercy are forever and without end.

Let us live to love, rather than just live to live, listening to what the Spirit is saying to, and through the saints of God, while pondering anew what the Almighty can do. John

Pondering for Saturday, July 24, 2021

Daily Office Readings for Saturday of Proper 11: Year 1

Morning, Psalm 55; Evening, Psalms 138, and 139:1 to 17;
2nd  Samuel 1:1 to 16Acts 15:22 to 35Mark 6:1 to 13:

“He left that place and came to his home town, and his disciples followed him.  On the Sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astounded. They said, ‘Where did this man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been given to him? What deeds of power are being done by his hands!  Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?’ And they took offence at him.” (Mark 6:1 to 3)

And sadly, this was on the Sabbath, like today for us.

This kind hometown response to the works of our Lord Jesus comes to us from the Gospel accounts frequently. This lesson reminds us that God can, and does, work through anyone. It is understood by we Christians today that this however was not just anyone, it was God Incarnate, our Lord Jesus in the flesh.

But we must also understand that God can bring us a message through the lips of anyone.  The person delivering you the message may not even be aware of the content of the message.  But it will hit home with you.  Just because you know a person, and the family they come from, or how poorly they did in school, does not mean that God can’t use them for your good and the good of your community.

When we refuse to listen to what God is bringing us because of who is bringing it, we are saying that God is not able to use such a person for good use.  I recall the little story of Jonah.  Jonah did not want to do anything to help Nineveh.  He did not like them. But God loved them. So, when Jonah finally gave in and, (I think), half heartedly delivered the message of repentance, the people of Nineveh listened and repented despite the message coming from someone that they knew didn’t care for them. We can never guess who God will use for our own good.

Because the people of Nazareth knew the returning Jesus, and his family who were still among them, they made the hasty decision that he can’t be all that special.  They didn’t consider what God might be doing.  Let us not fall in the same way. Let us keep an open heart and an open mind and be accepting and thankful for any good coming from anyone.  All good comes from God regardless of who delivers it.

Let us live to love, rather than just live to live, listening to what the Spirit is saying to, and through the saints of God, while pondering anew what the Almighty can do. John

Pondering for Friday, July 23, 2021

Daily office Reading for Friday of Proper 11: Year 1

Morning, Psalms 40 and 54; Evening, Psalm 51;
 1st Samuel 31:1 to 13Acts 15:12 to 21Mark 5:21 to 43:

“Now there was a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years. She had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse. She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, for she said, ‘If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well:” (Mark 5:25 to 28).

In this Gospel account our Lord Jesus is on his way to attend to the daughter of Jairus, the leader of the synagogue. While in route a woman of strong faith who has been suffering for a long time applied her faith to the healing goodness of Jesus and was healed even without him being aware. We can do the same. The healing goodness of Jesus is available to all of us. I have learned to call this incidental healing an unexpected opportunity. Most of us are busy. But let’s not be too busy to stop and help someone if we can.

 After healing the woman, Jesus makes his way to the home of Jairus where doubters are poisoning the minds of others with their unbelief. “But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the leader of the synagogue, ‘Do not fear, only believe:” (Mark 5: 36).  Belief was what worked for the woman who was hemorrhaging.  For extra faith-power Jesus took with him his own trusted believers. “He allowed no one to follow him except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James:” (Mark 5: 37).  I call these three his executive counsel.  These are the same three he takes with him on the Mount of Transfiguration and to other special occasions. With this added faith, he cures the little girl. Faith is the most powerful healing tool we have access to.  We just need to use it more.  Jesus even heals on the Sabbath.  And while this occasion was not on the Sabbath, he is known to do so.

Before I close I feel the need once again to remind us about the importance of the Sabbath.  We Christians rightly worship on the First Day of the Week (Sunday) in remembrance of the Resurrection. However, our Lord Jesus never removed the Seventh Day as the Sabbath, a gift from God for us to take seriously as a gift of rest. I will again share with you a YouTube down load about the Sabbath which features some words from Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel in his book The Sabbath, whom I learned of while mentoring EfM; What is Shabbat? Intro to the Jewish Sabbath – YouTube .  All you have to do is control click on the site and you are there. I am Christian forever but I remember our Hebrew roots and honor what I believe is God’s command to remember the Sabbath and keep it Holy. So, for this evening and tomorrow day my friends, Shabbat Shalom.

Let us live to love, rather than just live to live, listening to what the Spirit is saying to, and through the saints of God, while pondering anew what the Almighty can do. John

Pondering for Thursday, July 22, 2021

Daily Office Readings for Thursday of Proper 11: Year 1

Morning, Psalm 50; Evening, Psalms 8 and 84;
 1st Samuel 28:3 to 20Acts 15:1 to 11Mark 5:1 to 20:

“Moreover, the Lord will give Israel along with you into the hands of the Philistines; and tomorrow you and your sons shall be with me;”  (1st Samuel 28:19).

Samuel has died. But the spirit of Samuel has been brought to the presence of Saul by a medium.  This is a Hebrew (Old) Testament acknowledgement that there is at least some sort of spiritual existence after death.  Now, Saul has been told that he and his sons will join him (Samuel) in this form of life on the next day.

My beloved of the Lord, all of us will be raised before the great throne, believers and non believers alike.  The biggest concern we should have is “what happens next?” 

Because we will be raised to some new form of awareness does not mean that we will absolutely remain that way for all eternity.  There will be judgment. Saul is discovering this in the scripture. You and I are also learning this now.  We, each of us, have the living responsibility now to live our lives to the best of our moral ability. We do this best by making for ourselves a “Rule of life.”

My personal creed or rule of life is stated thus: “I Trust in the Creating Word through the Holy Spirit of the Incarnate Word, in whom we live and move and love and have our being, and to whom we must give an account.”  I had to work in the words, “must give and account” part. Everything in scripture leads me to believe that there will be a resurrection for each of us and there will be  judgment for us in our resurrection.  We should make it easy on ourselves now while still in this life.  The old saying still holds true, “Forewarned is forearmed.” 

Saul and his sons are joining Samuel in death with short notice.  But I’m here to tell you all, that this very night is not promised to us. We know not when our mortality is required of us. The time to start getting ready was yesterday, but today is not too late. We want our mortality to become our immortality. And through our Lord Jesus it can happen. We however must do our part with Christ.

I know it sounds corny, but the one way to begin a change in our lives is to strive to love others as best we can.  This was hard for Saul.  He was jealous of David and jealous of how much the people loved David. Only near the end of his life did he come to terms with his shortcomings. But I suppose that’s better than never.  Are you jealous of anyone?  Is there anything in your heart pushing love out?  It’s not too late to change. If we need anyone to come back from the dead as did Samuel, then we have our Lord Jesus who did it for our sake. Thank You Lord Jesus.

Let us live to love, rather than just live to live, listening to what the Spirit is saying to, and through the saints of God, while pondering anew what the Almighty can do. John

Pondering for Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Daily Office Readings for Wednesday of Proper 11: Year 1

Morning, Psalm 119:49 to 72; Evening, Psalm 49;
 1st Samuel 25:23 to 44Acts 14:19 to 28Mark 4:35 to 41:

“He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, ‘Peace! Be still!’ Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. He said to them, ‘Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” (Mark 4: 39 and 40)

As one who ponders, I ponder about what “rebuking” language our Lord Jesus might have used to still the wind and the sea. Did the writers of our Gospel put human, regional words in the divine mouth of God Incarnate so as to make it more palatable for us?  Remember that our Lord Jesus spoke in Aramaic.  This was translated into Greek as originally written in our New Testament, and then later the Greek into Latin, and the Latin into the tongues of various peoples across the known world.  How much was lost? How much was miss-translated? How much was added to make it more palatable?

Our Lord Jesus being fully God and fully human only has to wish it done, and it is done. Of all in creation, humanity is the only being that God attempts to reason with.  We are the only ones who God tries to appeal to, to reckon with. And for us, and for our sakes, our Lord Jesus does indeed use our words when speaking directly to us. I’m still curious about how God addresses creation outside of humanity.

God could have made us as subservient as the wind and the sea and all others in creation. But obedience then would not have been our choice so much as a God-given instinct. But we have autonomy and in our autonomy a little piece of God dwells in us.  God wants to see how that little piece of God in us makes us different from all else in creation, and hopefully, in a good and loving way.

That little piece of God in us is what we English speakers call faith. (I invite non English speakers to examine their own word for faith). Why then do we too often fear one another and other forms of existence in creation? We, all humanity, are connected through the divine Presence of God that dwells in us.  And nothing, within or outside of humanity, can separate us from the love of God. We are God’s own, in this world, and with faith, in the next world as well. This is why our frustrated Lord Jesus asks, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?”

Let us live to love, rather than just live to live, listening to what the Spirit is saying to, and through the saints of God, while pondering anew what the Almighty can do. John

Pondering for Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Daily Office Readings for Tuesday of Proper 11: Year 1

Morning,  Psalm 45; Evening,  Psalms 47 and 48;
 1st Samuel 25:1 to 22Acts 14:1 to 18Mark 4:21 to 34:

“And when an attempt was made by both Gentiles and Jews, with their rulers, to maltreat them and to stone them, the apostles learned of it and fled to Lystra and Derbe, cities of Lycaonia, and to the surrounding country; and there they continued proclaiming the good news:” (Acts 14:5 to 7).

Normally I am not one to be scared off when the going gets rough. But maybe, this is God’s way of getting the Word of God to more, and different places.  Sometimes we just have to move on. Perhaps it’s a way of “shaking the dust off your shoes as a testimony against them.”

There are several places in the Bible where God believing people have had to flee only to continue in the faith.   Moses, David, Elijah, Paul and others have had to relocate in order to perpetuate the word.

In more near modern times, The Amish of Europe were all but exterminated. But they fled to America and even then had to settle in Pennsylvania in order to continue in their faith. Sometimes we have to choose to run away in order to live and teach another day,

So it’s not a matter of being scared off.  It is more a matter of recognizing that the current people around you are not ready to receive the Good News. But God knows that there are people very near you who long for sustaining words. We just have to keep moving. We are not to give up, or give in.  We are to move on.

Such moving on is not always a physical location.  In our time of “E” relationships, moving on could just be a matter of deselecting one group and selecting another. In this blog I have reached people all over the globe who have selected me.  My words do not always fall on ears of welcome. But again, I’m not scared off, I just knock the dust off and keep sharing. Somewhere, someone is moved by the words that God is speaking through me.

I receive God’s words as words of love and inclusion. I also know when God holds me in silence because the words that come to me are not God’s but mine. It is perhaps more important today in our “E” community to discern what is from God and what is not, before one hits the send, or publish button. I strive to be one of the communicating saints of God and I invite all the selfless saints to be filled with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and join me in spreading the Word to all who are longing for it.  It is so much easier today to just move on if there is no love found in a few for what God is trying to do through you.

Let us live to love, rather than just live to live, listening to what the Spirit is saying to, and through the saints of God, while pondering anew what the Almighty can do. John