Pondering for Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Daily Office Readings for Wednesday of Proper 14: Year 2

Morning, Psalms 101, 109:1-4(5-19)20-30, Evening, Psalm 119:121-144;

Judges 13:15-24Acts 6:1-15John 4:1-26

I chose two readings for today to ponder about:

“And the twelve called together the whole community of the disciples and said, ‘It is not right that we should neglect the word of God in order to wait at tables.  (Acts 6:2)

And also, John: “God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”  (John 4: 24)

Today’s readings presented me with hard choices.  On the one hand I am disappointed about the self-righteous attitude of the apostles; on the other hand, I love the words of our Lord Jesus about who God is, the nature of God. 

I think the apostles wrongly decided that, “It is not right that we should neglect the word of God in order to wait at tables.” I beg to differ.  Servitude is the Word of God. After John and James were caught trying to get good positions in heaven, and the rest of the apostles became angry, Jesus explains the importance of servitude. He told them,  “It will not be so among you; but whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave; just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many,” (Matthew 20:26 – 28). Therefore, in my humble opinion, the apostles were wrong. Serving tables is following Christ, it is carrying out the word of God.

From the Gospel of John, Jesus explains to the woman at the well that God is not some old human looking man on a throne far away.  God is Spirit! God is Truth!  We must get rid of any notion that God is humanlike, save God Incarnate, Jesus himself.  God can, and should, be worshiped everywhere, and always. But my beloved of the Lord, don’t forget that, “God is spirit, and those who worship [God] must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4: 24)

As we worship God in Spirit and Truth let us not forget Ukraine. Ukraine is a nation of various faiths. But they too worship God in Spirit and Truth.  Let us keep them in our prayers.

As we listen to what the Spirit is saying to us, let us live to love, to serve, and to teach, while pondering anew what the Almighty can do. John

Pondering for Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Daily Office Readings for Tuesday of Proper 14: Year 2

Morning, Psalms  97 and 99; Evening, Psalm 94; 

Judges 13:1-15Acts 5:27-42John 3:22-36

“But a Pharisee in the council named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law, respected by all the people, stood up and ordered the men to be put outside for a short time.  Then he said to them, ‘Fellow-Israelites, consider carefully what you propose to do to these men.  For some time ago Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and a number of men, about four hundred, joined him; but he was killed, and all who followed him were dispersed and disappeared.  After him Judas the Galilean rose up at the time of the census and got people to follow him; he also perished, and all who followed him were scattered.  So in the present case, I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone; because if this plan or this undertaking is of human origin, it will fail;  but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them—in that case you may even be found fighting against God!”  (Acts 5:34 – 39)

This is very wise counsel from the Pharisee Gamaliel. He uses their history to show that there have been people who have come before but did not prove lasting.  When these former leaders rose up to change things, people followed as long as the leader was alive.  But when he died, they scattered. 

Our Lord Jesus said the same thing about “striking the shepherd and the sheep will scatter.”  But Jesus left good and faithful shepherds in his place.  And as Jesus rose from the dead, more and more followers came to follow him. It is still hard for me to wrap my head around having the apostles flogged before releasing them but that is what happened.  I think the flogging them is because of the jealousy of the High Priests.  They were about human designs, not Godly ones.

So while the other “want-to-be leaders” lost people when they died, our Lord Jesus gained more and more followers, and, is still gaining followers today.  Yes, Gamaliel, Jesus is from God, and no one will be able to overthrow us.  With daily Christian practices of prayer and where two or three come together, in person or virtually, we will always have someone who keeps the Christian fires going even if something happens to those who lead. We will prevail in this life, and certainly in the next.

Let us pray for the victory of Ukraine in this present life. May they have good and faithful shepherds even with the loss of a few.

As we listen to what the Spirit is saying to us, let us live to love, to serve, and to teach, while pondering anew what the Almighty can do. John

Pondering for Monday, August 8, 2022

Daily Office Readings for Monday of Proper 14: Year 2

Morning, Psalm 89: 1 – 18: Evening, Psalm 89: 19 – 52;

Judges 12:1-7Acts 5:12-26John 3:1-21

“Yet more than ever believers were added to the Lord, great numbers of both men and women, so that they even carried out the sick into the streets, and laid them on cots and mats, in order that Peter’s shadow might fall on some of them as he came by.  A great number of people would also gather from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing the sick and those tormented by unclean spirits, and they were all cured.” (Acts 5: 14 – 16)

This is a testament to the power of faith.  I am a Star Wars fan (fanatic).  In The Empire Strikes Back, Luke Skywalker’s spacecraft is submerged in a swamp.  Yoda, the Jedi Master, tries to have Luke raise it using the Force.  Luke fails and replies, “You want the impossible.” Yoda then uses the Force and lifts the craft out of the muck.  Luke tells Yoda “I didn’t believe it could be done.”  Yoda replies, “That is why you failed.”  Star Wars is fictional art but beautifully crafted and contains certain truths in terms of our human story and the real power of belief. 

The people, both men and women, who carried their sick into the streets and laid them on cots and mats in order that Peter’s shadow might pass over them were beyond asking Peter personally to see them and heal them.  They believed in the presence and healing power of one who was handpicked by our Lord Jesus and who was with him after he was raised from the dead by God. If he has a shadow then he exists. They needed nothing else.  They “believed” that the evidence of his presence, his shadow, would heal their loved ones and cast out unclean spirits, and they were vindicated.

Beloved of the Lord, all the medicine we will ever need is already in us.  Time after time when people were praising Jesus for their healing, Jesus would tell them, “Go, your faith has made you well.” Our faith still makes us well.  And like the men and women who took their loved ones to Peter’s shadow, it was not the faith of sick ones that brought the healings, rather, it was the faith of the believing family and friends that brought them near to Peter that brought about the cure.  And this happened whether Peter even knew about it or not.  Faith still moves mountains.  All we need to do is believe and we too will be made well, or caused to be made well, by those dear to us. If we don’t believe, we have failed already.

Let us believe in the life liberty and safety of Ukraine, our believing and our prayers will make it so.

As we listen to what the Spirit is saying to us, let us live to love, to serve, and to teach, while pondering anew what the Almighty can do. John

Pondering for Sunday, August 7, 2022

New Testament Eucharistic Readings for Sunday of Proper 14, 2022

Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16 and Luke 12:32-40

“You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.” (Luke 12:40)

Ok, here is the challenge.  When is it that we expect the coming of the Lord?  Being ready is not about preparing for the big day.  It is living everyday as if this day, is the day.

If Jesus comes to you today and ask you when was the last time you prayed what would your answer be?  Would it be “this morning?”  Would it be “last night?”  Would it be last Sunday in Church?”  Would it be the last Sunday that you attended a Sunday Service?”  And could it be, “Lord, I don’t know?”  No, what we really don’t know is when Jesus will come, and if He will ask such a question.

Bishop’s visits are announced.  We know the day and there is a certain amount of preparation to take place for that event.  But what if Bishop’s visits were unannounced?  “Oh My God. Look y’all, the Bishop is in the parking lot and coming to our Church today!  What are we going to do?”  In my days as Rector here I would have told you exactly what we were going to do.  We are going to have Church and the Bishop is going to lead and celebrate and I don’t have to worry about whether or not my sermon works or not because he is now going to preach.  Halleluiah!

This day and age we can read about events on social media almost as soon as it happens because phones are active in the pews.  But active phones in the pews won’t relate to you the presence of Jesus should Jesus decide to be at our Church on any given Sunday; you know, just to check things out, see whose regular and not just coming when they think he will be here.

Of course I can hear it now, “Man, if I knew Jesus was going to be at our parish I would have been there.”  Or, “Wow, if I knew Jesus was going to just pop up and ask me the last time I prayed, I would have been praying when he appeared.” Jesus knows that’s what we would say. But that’s not what Jesus is looking for.  Jesus is not looking for you getting ready; Jesus is looking for you being ready. Jesus is not looking for how you want to live your life; Jesus is looking for how you are living your life.

Today’s message is not about tomorrow. It is about now. It is about looking for Jesus now. It is about expecting Jesus in our life now.  The last thing you want to be texted to you from the pews if you are not in Church is, “Jesus came to our Church today and is promising all of us who are here today that we will be with him in paradise.  Sorry you weren’t here.  Love you, bye.” Let’s go the Church because it’s Sunday and that’s what we Christians do every Sunday. Halleluiah!

The people of Ukraine are suffering. Let us keep them in our prayers.

As we listen to what the Spirit is saying to us, let us live to love, to serve, and to teach, while pondering anew what the Almighty can do. John

Pondering for Saturday, August 6, 2022

Today is the Day of the Transfiguration: Eucharistic Readings for the Transfiguration

Exodus 34:29-35;  Psalm 99:   2 Peter 1:13-21;  Luke 9:28-36

“Jesus took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray.” (Luke 9:28)

As mentioned last Thursday, it was Peter, John and James who Jesus selected to be in his inner circle when serious holiness was to take place.  Twelve might be too big a number, especially given that one (Judas) betrayed him.  I know it makes a twelve-tribes kind of sense, but perhaps that’s just us trying to balance things in light of the Hebrew testament. In any case, it seems to be that where two or three of us are joined together in His Name, Jesus is with us. That’s still serious holiness for us today. Even as Jesus took two or three with him, we then met by two others.  It was always a manageable number.

Can you name two or three people with whom you feel especially close to Christ?  Please understand that they may not be relatives or work colleagues or even Church members. But at some level you feel especially safe in their presence.

And maybe you’ve never tried to pray with them, but perhaps you should. The mountain you climb is a spiritual one.  You ascend to an upper level where you behold our Lord Jesus in his God-like presence – a holy presence. 

When this happens, you too, along with those close to you, will want to hold on to this holy state of grace. You will want to mark it with some sort of landmark as Peter wanted to do so that you may find your way back to it.

It is one thing to experience it alone. However, when you share it with one or two others it validates your sanity, you are not crazy. It really happened! God in Christ Jesus is real!

Ponder about this during your Sabbath time today, and while you are at it, please pray for the safety of Ukraine.

As we listen to what the Spirit is saying to us, let us live to love, to serve, and to teach, while pondering anew what the Almighty can do. John

Pondering for Friday, August 5, 2022

Daily Office Readings for Friday of Proper 13: Year 2

Morning, Psalm 88: Evening, Psalms  91 and 92;  

Judges 9:1-16,19-21Acts 4:13-31John 2:2-12

“His mother said to the servants, ‘Do whatever he tells you.” (John 2: 5)

I confess, I am a Mary fan.  I even get the words for my blog from her lips.  Twice in the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) of the Bible, she says that she “ponders” in her heart, according to the Gospel of Luke. When the angel Gabriel informs her that God wants her to be the God-bearer of God Incarnate, she “Pondered” what kind of greeting this might be. Luke 1: 29.   And when the shepherds told her about what the angels told them regarding the baby she just gave birth to, she “treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart.” (Luke 2:19 NRSV)

Mary was a thinking person, a pondering person. Perhaps it was this pondering quality that impressed God and why God chose her to be the Mother of our Lord Jesus. Mary gave birth to her Lord who in turn gave her eternal salvation, and also to us today who believe.

We will learn as we read the Gospels that Jesus can multiply fishes and loaves.  Therefore, Mary never ran out of food during the thirty or so years that she shared a house with her Son.  All she had to do was ask, and it was done.  We can see then that when the wedding hosts ran out of wine, it was natural for Mary to let Jesus know about the situation with full expectation that he would respond.  This too is true for us today.  We must ask with full expectation that our Lord Jesus will respond, but the response requires our obedience.

While Jesus sort of rebuffs her requests, she has already turned away from him and looking intently into the eyes of the “servants”, into our eyes, and she says to us, “Do whatever he tells you.”  For me, this is the most powerful, albeit shortest, sermon in the Bible.  All we need to do is make our needs known and then do whatever he tells us.  From Mary, I learn that as Christians, we ponder, we pray and we obey.

“Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all their multitude. And on the seventh day God finished the work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all the work that he had done” (Genesis 2:1 and 2). So, for this evening and tomorrow day my friends, Shabbat Shalom. 

What is Shabbat? Intro to the Jewish Sabbath – YouTube

As we listen to what the Spirit is saying to us, let us live to love, to serve, and to teach, while pondering anew what the Almighty can do. John

Pondering for Thursday, August 4, 2022

Daily Office Readings for Thursday of Proper 13: Year 2

Morning, Psalm 145; Evening, Psalms 85 and 86

Judges 8:22-35Acts 4:1-12John 1:43-51

“Nathanael asked him, ‘Where did you come to know me?’ Jesus answered, ‘I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.’  Nathanael replied, ‘Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!’ (John 1: 48 – 49)

I would surely like to know what Nathanael was experiencing under the fig tree such that it made him realize that Jesus was truly the Son of God! We don’t get to know what was going on with Nathanael. I wonder if he was praying, or having a nervous breakdown, or some mystical experience wherein God gave him some kind of revelation. Nathanael follows Jesus as a result of his friend Philip coming to get him. 

Jesus calls 7 of the Apostles:  Simon and Andrew  (Matthew 4:18 – 20),   John and James – (Matthew 4: 21 – 22) Matthew himself (AKA Levi)  (Matthew 9:9), Philip (John 1:43),  Nathaniel, from above (John 1: 50 – 51). Then there is one who Jesus called but who rejected Jesus’ call: the Rich young man: (Mark 10:21 -22).  However, of all whom he called, Simon Peter, John and James seem to be the chosen three who went with him in the deepest sense of his ministry: the healing of Jairus’ daughter, the Transfiguration (which I will say more about on Saturday of this blog): and these three were also present at his passion prayer on the night he was arrested in which these three could not stay awake, (Matthew 26:36 -46).

For some of us, Jesus comes to get us. For many of us, a friend brings us to Jesus. But the lesson here is that our Lord Jesus already knows, “the trouble we’ve seen.”  Jesus meets us under our own vine and fig tree, for He truly is “Rabbi, or Teacher, the Son of God!”  Ponder about this.

Please keep Ukraine in your prayers.

As we listen to what the Spirit is saying to us, let us live to love, to serve, and to teach, while pondering anew what the Almighty can do. John

Pondering for Wednesday, August 3, 2022

Daily Office Readings for Wednesday of Proper 13: Year 2

Morning, Psalms 119:97-120; Evening, Psalms  81, and 82;

Judges 7:19-8:12Acts 3:12-26John 1:29-42

“And John testified, ‘I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him.  I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water said to me, “He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.”  And I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God.”  (John 1: 32 – 34)

We have to go to the Gospel of Matthew to witness the baptism of Jesus by John.  There was some back-and-forth about who should baptize who. But in the end, John baptized Jesus.  (Matthew 3: 13 – 17)

I love the Spirituality of the Gospel according John.  Perhaps the Spirit has descended on others before but it was temporary. However, on this man, Jesus, the Spirit remained.  John the Baptist is not about building his own reputation, he is about letting the world know that the Savior of the world has come near.  John speaks the truth as best he knows it.  He gives great detail explaining that the One who sent him to baptize with water, is the same One who informed him about how to identify the Messiah, the Anointed One, Jesus. He was told that the Spirit would descend on Him, and remain on Him.

We will learn that Jesus and John are cousins but apparently they did not know each other. Well, at least John did not know Jesus except for what God revealed to him.  It is quite possible however that Jesus knew in fact who John was.  We have no record of Jesus actually baptizing anyone.  Yet He baptizes with the Holy Spirit.  Perhaps his invitation to follow him, is indeed, the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

In the Service of Holy Baptism, the candidate is asked, “do you desire to be baptized?”  Those too young to answer for themselves are presented, and answered for, by their parents and/or sponsors individually.  New Christians are baptized in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  After which, they are sealed by the Holy Spirit and marked as Christ’s own FOREVER: The Spirit descends on us and remains, forever (BCP 303 – 308). Our baptism contains a covenant that regulates or Christian life. As the Baptized, we are servants of Jesus, the Jesus we see in all persons, baptized or not.  We are servants of the next person we face, in our homes, or on the street.  Regardless of who baptized us, we are baptized into the household of God through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Baptism is responsibility, Baptism is enough, and Baptism is Salvation. What does your Baptism mean to you?

Please pray daily for Ukraine. I believe in prayer. Our prayers are indeed working.

As we listen to what the Spirit is saying to us, let us live to love, to serve, and to teach, while pondering anew what the Almighty can do. John

Pondering for Tuesday, August 2, 2022

Daily Office Readings for Tuesday of Proper 13: Year 2

Morning, Psalm 78:1-39; Evening, Psalm  78:40-72 

Judges 7:1-18Acts 3:1-11John 1:19-28

“John answered them, ‘I baptize with water. Among you stands one whom you do not know.” (John 1:26)

John the Baptist explains that among them stands one whom they do not know.  I personally don’t think they even know John the Baptist; they have thought him to be the Messiah, Elijah and a prophet, all of whom John denies being. So they don’t even know John.  But John tells them that among them stands one whom they have not even noticed. And Jesus is right there, in their midst. I often ponder that when John uttered these words if he was making eye contact with our Lord Jesus as he said it.  I think if I were there and heard him say such words, I would follow his eyes to see if I could see who he was talking about.

One thing that this COVID 19 Pandemic has done is reduced us to social distancing to the point where, in our small groups, there would be no mysterious person among us.  We know everyone in our group.  No room for God Incarnate to ease up next to us.  I am convinced that from time to time in my life, mysterious strangers have come to my aid, even when I didn’t know I needed help. But this doesn’t mean that the Holy Spirit of Jesus couldn’t use those who are with us, no matter how small our group, even down to where two or three are joined together, He is with us.

We still need Jesus standing among us.  Regardless of how Jesus might appear in our midst, his presence is always a blessing.  Jesus promised us the Holy Spirit, the Advocate, to be with us, in our midst.  And I believe the Advocate is with us.  So John’s words are still true.  There is one among us whom we do not know.  Sometimes our Lord Jesus speaks through others because we need to hear His actual words.  Often, the speaker whom Jesus uses is unaware of what he or she is saying.  The message is for us, not them.  When this happens, we must learn to receive and accept the message as it comes, not from the person speaking, but from our Lord Jesus who uses who he chooses to ensure we are wholly, and holy, informed.  Yes, often there is One among us whom we do not know.  Jesus speaks to us, through us.

Making war against another is an evil, sinful act. Let us continually lift up Ukraine in our prayers. Let us hear the Spirit in our midst leading us to ways we can help end the pain felt in Ukraine.

As we listen to what the Spirit is saying to us, let us live to love, to serve, and to teach, while pondering anew what the Almighty can do. John

Pondering for Monday, August 1, 2022

Daily Office Readings for Monday of Proper 13: Year 2

Morning, Psalms 80; Evening, Psalm 77 ;

Judges 6:25-40Acts 2:37-47John 1:1-18

“That night the Lord said to him, ‘Take your father’s bull, the second bull seven years old, and pull down the altar of Baal that belongs to your father, and cut down the sacred pole that is beside it; and build an altar to the Lord your God on the top of the stronghold here, in proper order; then take the second bull, and offer it as a burnt-offering with the wood of the sacred pole that you shall cut down.’ So Gideon took ten of his servants, and did as the Lord had told him; but because he was too afraid of his family and the townspeople to do it by day, he did it by night. When the townspeople rose early in the morning, the altar of Baal was broken down, and the sacred pole beside it was cut down, and the second bull was offered on the altar that had been built.”  (Judges 6: 25 – 28)

While all of the Daily Office Readings are wonderful, my pondering gravitated towards the lesson I read in Judges.  Gideon has been called by God to let go, let go of the beliefs of his parents to ponder anew what the Almighty is doing.  This is not new.  Abram too was called from his father’s house to a place that God would show him, (Genesis 12:1).  So God calls us from darkness to light and to more light, and to further light.

I think this resonated with me so much because I too had to let go of old and false beliefs in order to behold the real truth about God.  My parents would have me believe in the human constructed system of racism even though they themselves were considered on the bottom rung of the racial divide.  It has taken time, but God has called me away from believing such nonsense.

What I have also pondered about the Gideon story is that there is often the requirement to give up something in order to obtain something. And it may not be an action that we are bold enough to do openly.  Gideon did his deed at night so as to avoid notice.  I chose to give up any so-called black expectations people may have had of me in order to be who I really am, who God made me to be.

Racial discrimination is today’s  altar of Baal and the un-sacred poles of some of our parents outdated superstitions.  We must remove them in order to make room for the real Truth: the Truth that is God. Stepping out of our expected behavior of darkness into the light of true belief territory is not easy, but it is very necessary.  And the truth will make us free.

I pray that the truth of the atrocities perpetrated against Ukraine come to light and are dealt with accordingly.

As we listen to what the Spirit is saying to us, let us live to love, to serve, and to teach, while pondering anew what the Almighty can do. John