Pondering for Friday, December 2, 2022

Daily office Readings for Friday, of the First Week of Advent: Year 1

Morning, Psalms 16 and 17; Evening, Psalm 22;
Isaiah 3:8 to 151st Thessalonians 4:1 to 12Luke 20:41 to 21:4

“Now concerning love of the brothers and sisters, you do not need to have anyone write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another; and indeed you do love all the brothers and sisters throughout Macedonia. But we urge you, beloved,  to do so more and more, to aspire to live quietly, to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we directed you, so that you may behave properly towards outsiders and be dependent on no one.” (1st Thessalonians 4: 9 to 12)

Finally, after Paul is done with ranting about what he perceives as sexual misconduct, he gets to what I believe God really wants us to understand; and that is, that we should contribute to the community in which we live with the work of our hands.

Not all of our vocations permit us to work from home. There is always the need for people who must leave home and perform duties that can’t be done at home.  Builders, drivers, store clerks and so forth, must go out into the community and work with their hands in order to hold our community together.  Paul was a tent maker.  He is recorded as plying his trade with a fellow tent maker in order to not be a burden to his host.  (Acts 18: 1 to 3)

Church is the living example of the benefit of our working with our hands.  The church needs people who are both able and willing, to setup the Altar, play music, cut the grass, fix the broken furniture or structural repairs to the building, prepare food and by all means, make coffee.  Yes, we need workers who perform the ministries of working with their hands. 

Many of us consider ourselves fortunate to be able to work from home.  This type of work normally consists of computer skills that primarily get business done around informational types of work.  Computer work cannot get the ditch dug, or drive supplies to the needed area, or build a house.  No, we must go out and work with our hands as God has directed us through the words of Paul. 

Please keep up your thoughts and prayers and hopes for Ukraine, Iran and China.

 “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, and to serve, and to teach others to love and serve, while pondering anew what the Almighty can do. John

Pondering for Thursday, December 1, 2022

Daily Office Readings for Thursday of Week One of Advent 2020: Year 1

Morning, Psalm 18:1-20; Evening, Psalm 18:21-50;
Isaiah 2:12 to 221st  Thessalonians 3:1 to 13Luke 20:27 to 40

“Indeed they cannot die anymore, because they are like angels and are children of God, being children of the resurrection.” (Luke 20:36)

Jesus explains to the Sadducees that marriage is a human construct, not a heavenly one.  I would add that except for Tobit 8: 4 to 8, which is only found in the Apocrypha (if your Bible has one), you will not find marriage vows at all, even though there are several places where men “took” women for wives, in many cases, several women as wives. 

Jesus assures the Sadducees (and us), that there is certainly a resurrection.  We will all be raised before the Host of heaven, the good and the not so good.  Then judgment comes!  A military leader once told me that to be forewarned, is to be forearmed. I get it.  This means straighten out now before it’s too late.

Jesus uses scripture to show the reality of eternal life as he talks about the exchange between God and Moses at the burning bush. “And the fact that the dead are raised Moses himself showed, in the story about the bush, where he speaks of the Lord as the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. Now he is God not of the dead, but of the living; for to him all of them are alive” (Luke 20:37 and 38).  And this will be us as well; we will be alive in God.  This is not something to try to explain but rather, to prepare for.

Folks, there will be a resurrection for each one of us, and also, for each one of us, there will be judgment. I will again share my personal creed and invite you to create your own statement of belief regardless of your faith tradition. Put it in writing and then revisit it from time to time and see if you are living by it.  Here is my personal creed or statement of belief: (I use “trust” instead of “believe” as I have learned that trust is closer to the original meaning).

“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.”  You may use my creed as your own if it is true for you as well.

Please keep up your thoughts and prayers for Ukraine, Iran and China.        

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

Pondering for Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Daily Office Readings for Wednesday of the First Week of Advent: Year 1

Morning, Psalm 119:1-24; Evening, Psalms 12, 13 and 14;
Isaiah 2:1 to 111st Thessalonians 2:13 to 20Luke 20:19 to 26:

“For we wanted to come to you—certainly I, Paul, wanted to again and again—but Satan blocked our way.  For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you?  Yes, you are our glory and joy!”  (1st Thessalonians 2:18 to 20)

Full disclosure, I don’t always agree with Paul. But there are times like his conviction that nothing separates us from the love of God as articulated in Romans 8: 38 and 39; and his definition of love in his First Letter to the Corinthians (1st Cor. 13:1 to 13) that I am fully on board with. And now this, about seeing the coming of our Lord Jesus in the face of believers.

There is a hymn that goes, “Have you seen Jesus my Lord, he’s here in plain view. Take a look, open your eyes, he’ll show life to you.”  The implication, of course, is that we can see our Lord Jesus in the face of one another.

The further implication is that you and I are Jesus to others.  We give others a chance to see Jesus today by the way we live among others.  We do this by not returning evil for evil.  We do this by not adding fuel to the fires of hate or jealousy.  We do this by reaching out and hugging the “untouchables.”

When someone turns the other cheek when assaulted by racial or gender insults rather than engaging in a back and forth volley of hateful words, they are showing their Jesus within them. Unfortunately, this kind of response is considered cowardly today rather than godly. It’s okay to be disappointed with bad behavior and, at the same time, not retaliate in kind.  We must remember that we are being watched by others.  Let us model for them a peaceful way of avoiding ugly behavior.  In doing so, we too may become their glory and joy. They too may also become disgusted with bad behavior.

All believers have the opportunity to bring our Lord Jesus into full view today.  Maybe the way Jesus responds to insults is not popular today, but responding in loving ways is eternal because love never dies.  The way we prepare ourselves for life eternal is to practice being Jesus now, in this life. You should try this Jesus suit on, I think it fits you.

Please keep up your thoughts and prayers for Ukraine, Iran and China.

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

Pondering for Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Daily Office Readings for Tuesday of Week One of Advent: Year 1

Morning, Psalms 5 and 6; Evening, Psalms 10 and 11;
Isaiah 1:21 to 311st Thessalonians 2:1 to 12Luke 20:9 to 18

“For our appeal does not spring from deceit or impure motives or trickery, but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the message of the gospel, even so we speak, not to please mortals, but to please God who tests our hearts.” (1st Thessalonians 2: 3 and 4)

We come not from trickery or intentions of self-promotion.  We are doing the Lord’s work. We are going to be straight up and honest with ourselves and with you.  We are the Lords. You are the Lords. We need to work harder in finding ways to come to consensus on all concerns. As I understand consensus it is the chipping away at a proposition until its properties are at least something all can, at least, temporarily live with.  It’s not perfect yet, but tolerable.  Unlike voting where there must be winners and losers.

As Christians, what we are doing in spreading the love of the Gospel, is not about human goals, but rather, about God and about what God wants; what God wants from us and for us. God has made this earth as our only life-support system. God wants us to live together in harmony and maintain this planet for the benefit of all its inhabitants.  We are to be Adam and Eve in the Garden; and Noah and family on the Ark; and Jonah for Nineveh where God reminded Jonah, “And should I not be concerned about Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also many animals?” (Jonah 4:11) This may be the only book in the Bible where God has the last word, and that word is “animals.”

Paul’s message of the Gospel could very well be, “Do good onto others in the Name of the Lord, even to the neglect of self.”  Do not take credit for what God is doing through you.  We are working God’s purposes out for our community, not for our personal desires.  And that’s a good thing. God’s purpose for us is love and peace and harmony among all the people of the world, for the benefit of the world and all creatures, great and small.  And remember this, all said and done; it is the Lord’s work we are doing, and God wins, with or without our individual participation.  Let’s be willing and loving participants in God’s plan. God in Christ Jesus is coming to check on us!

Please keep up your thoughts and prayers and hopes for Ukraine and Iran. As we listen to what the Spirit is saying to us, let us live to love, to serve, and to teach others to love and serve, while pondering anew what the Almighty can do. John

Pondering for Monday, November 28, 2022

Daily Office Readings for Monday of Week One of Advent: Year 1

Morning, Psalms 1, 2, 3; Evening, Psalms 4 and 7;
Isaiah 1:10 to 201st  Thessalonians 1:1 to10Luke 20:1 to 8

“But if we say, “Of human origin”, all the people will stone us; for they are convinced that John was a prophet.”  (Luke 20: 6)

The recognized leaders of the faith, are not sticking to their own professed faith. If we believe in something, anything, we ought to hold on to it as the very core of our existence; at least until we learn better. They are missing such an opportunity.

I don’t know how, but we are able to hear the inmost thoughts of what was going on within the circle of chief priests, elders and scribes. These leaders are afraid of the very people whom they are in charge of leading. What an opportunity to model correct learning. If they think the people believe that John the Baptist is a prophet, then perhaps they too (chief priests, elders and scribes) ought to submit to the gifts of the Baptist. Sometimes, but not often, the common people are a better judge of who’s who than those educated to be such.

There are times that we should not be influenced by the mob.  However, we should conduct a little informal test as a way to see if God is acting in our midst.  Our Biblical history informs us that when God invites us to do the Lord’s work it often requires sacrifice, will costs us some of our money, our time, and will be out of our comfort zone. But just as much, it will be something that benefits the community without bringing praise or accolades to ourselves. Our God is all about the communion in which we live.  The chief priests, elders and scribes seem to be about themselves at the expense of the community that they are suppose to spiritually lead.

Each one of us should look around and see who in our midst seems to be doing the Lord’s good work for the benefit of our community. Who is teaching people to read, taking meals to those who are hungry, donating to those in need, and so forth?  They may not be the ordained or political office holders.  Like John the Baptist, they may be people who live on the fringes themselves.  But their ministry is of the Lord’s calling whether we want to admit it or not. Such are the saints of God.  Don’t you want to be one too?

Please keep up your thoughts and prayers and hopes for Ukraine and Iran.

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

Pondering for Sunday, November 27, 2022

Eucharistic Readings for the 1st Sunday of Advent: Year A

Isaiah 2:1-5; Psalm 122; Romans 13:11-14; Matthew 24:36-44

“But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father….. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.”  (Matthew 24: 36 and 44)

According to Douglas Hare writing for Interpretation; a Bible Commentary; on the Gospel of Matthew. “God is postponing the last judgment so that many more might have a chance to hear and accept the Gospel. This is a time for worldwide evangelism.”

To hear and accept the Gospel is reminiscent of the “come and believe” message that we have heard often.  It is the bread of coming and the drink of believing.  Very often in scripture the same coded message is reconfigured or repackaged with the same lesson. We get this message in Church, or we should.

Perhaps the best message we can both receive and give to others is to, “Try Church again.”  Bring a friend to Church. Be that friend who brings someone to Church and when you do, stay with them through the opening readings, prayers and hymns.  Stay with them through the liturgy of the Table (Communion). Stay with them at coffee hour.  And then invite them back.  This is the time for worldwide evangelism!

But wait, there’s more!  Now is the time to let people know that they should not be complacent in their good intentions.  We need to recognize that there is our God and that our God is good (All the time). God wants all humanity to be saved. God is not a scarce resource.  Heaven has the capacity to house all the people of the world and then some. “Red, Yellow, Black and White, we are precious in His sight.”  But people need to know it. And you need to tell them. Or, bring them to Church, and we’ll tell them together.

If God is postponing the last judgment as Hare suggests, we have this narrow door to walk through. Each of us should play our part in leading others through the narrow door.  We must stay vigilant however to keep our eye on the door.   Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day our Lord is coming.

Now is our chance to challenge our Lord Jesus!  Since we don’t know when our Lord Jesus is coming, we have to be ready all the time.  That means living our lives in constant reverence.  Our Lord Jesus says he is coming at an unexpected hour. The way to counter that is to make every hour “expected.”  So we must expect him all the time, every hour.  In this way we show him (our Lord Jesus) that we can be persistent. We can overcome his low expectation of us by expecting the unexpected. And then we can say, “I was expecting you Lord Jesus.”

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

Pondering for Saturday, November 26, 2022

Daily Office Readings for Saturday of Proper 29: Year 2

Morning, Psalm 137 and 144 ; Evening, Psalm 104;
Zechariah 14:12 to 21; Philippians 2:1 to11Luke 19:41 to 48;

“Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death—even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:5 to 8)

If our Lord Jesus, being God Incarnate, was able to humble himself to be a servant (same word as slave in the Greek), then we, “normal” humans, ought to be able to at least have no illusions about any pretentious greatness we might think we have.  And having no grandiose thoughts of self-righteousness, ought to practice all humility, all the time.

Humility is a funny thing.  If we ever boast about it, it’s gone. We Christians must practice working in the background, out of sight, but in the faith.  We should not bring attention to ourselves.  We do the Lord’s work quietly. Our Lord Jesus, with all the power of Almighty God, restrained himself and worked in servitude for the benefit of believers. He even allowed himself to be handled and killed by us people whom he loved.

Full disclosure, I have sometimes insisted on being recognized or remembered for my participation in something when I thought my friends overlooked my involvement. Later, after reflection, I was ashamed of my insistence to be remembered.  So I came up with the idea of the humility of invisibility.  I’m still a work in progress but now it pretty much doesn’t bother me to not be remembered.

Our Lord Jesus had a huge job in trying to appear less than he was, given that He was Everything!  For me, appearing less than I am is not such a hard job. I’m not that much to begin with.  But if we are to have the same mind in us that was in Christ Jesus we should strive to be the hidden help that people need.  And then, don’t remind or tell anybody. Your cool drink of water will be appreciated once their well runs dry.

Please keep up your thoughts and prayers and hopes for Ukraine and Iran.

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

Pondering for Friday, November 25, 2022

Daily Office Readings for Friday of Proper 29: Year 2

Morning, Psalms 140 and 142; Evening, Psalms 141 and 143:1-11(12);
Zechariah 14:1 to 11Romans 15:7 to 13Luke 19:28 to 40;

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15: 13)

I love this verse of Paul’s letter to the Church in Rome.  It is an optional dismissal for Evening Prayer on page 76 in the Book of Common Prayer.  I like it because it really explains the Christian hope.

We hope for what God can do for us, and while such a hope is not seen, it is understood that it will be better than we can ask or imagine.  Paul said in Chapter 8 of this letter to the Romans, “For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopesfor what is seen?” (Romans 8:15).  Moses did not know what God was going to do when the Israelites were positioned against the sea and the Egyptian military were coming down on them. They had unseen hope, or at least Moses did. 

Another biblical example of hope unseen comes from Second Kings where Elisha instructs Naaman to wash in a certain way and in a certain place. Elisha did not come to personally see Naaman but rather sent out his servant to tell him what to do.  Naaman was incensed. “ But Naaman became angry and went away, saying, “I thought that for me he would surely come out, and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, and would wave his hand over the spot, and cure the leprosy” (2nd Kings 5:11).  In the end Naaman did what he was told and was healed.  But the point I am trying to make is that we cannot have it in our head how, or what, God is going to do, or even who God is going to do it through.  Our hope must be wide open and unconditional.

Unseen hope is the only real hope.  We must trust God and just hope for God’s will for us to be done. And we must hope in patience. God is not pressured by time. Paul says, “But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” (Romans 8:25)

My brothers and sisters in Christ, we must never give up on hope. We can’t describe what the other side of hope looks like because we are not there yet. But we should literally hope for the best. And then, just leave it to God who always makes the best decision for us because God really does love us, and has loved us since our creation.

“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

Please keep up your thoughts and prayers and hopes for Ukraine, they need us.

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

Pondering for Thursday, November 24, 2022

Daily Office Readings for Thanksgiving Day

Morning, Psalm 147Deuteronomy 26:1-11John 6:26-35;

Evening, Psalm 145Joel 2:21-271 Thessalonians 5:12-24;

“You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, and praise the name of the Lord your God, who has dealt wondrously with you.” (Joel 2: 26)

Joel 2: 26 appears in our Daily Office Readings. Perhaps this happens because of the invitation to “eat in plenty and be satisfied” words.  However, the words that follow are even more important; “and praise the name of the Lord your God.”  I once had a bumper sticker which read, “Don’t criticize the farmer with your mouth full.”  The same holds true for God. If we are eating anything at all we should give thanks to God. 

I once was sharing lunch with a mother and her child.  The young man was accustomed to me saying the blessing before eating.  At one lunch we started with milk shakes.  The child waited before tasting his milk shake for me to bless it and was disappointed when I slurped some of my shake before saying the blessing.  When his mother informed me about this I was really taken aback. But I learned, and now blessings come before anything at all goes into my mouth.  I learned from that child to really praise the name of the Lord without fail; not just Thanksgiving Day, but every day, no matter how small the food item or other small gift might seem.  The young folks are watching us and I am thankful to God for speaking to me through them. A blessed milkshake is also plenty and satisfying, and taste better blessed.  Happy Thanksgiving!

Please keep up your thoughts and prayers and hopes for Ukraine and Iran.      

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

Pondering for Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Daily Office Readings for Wednesday of Proper 29: Year 2

Morning, Psalm 119:145-176; Evening, Psalms 128, 129, 130;
Zechariah  12:1to10Ephesians  1:3to14Luke 19:1to10

“He was trying to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was short in stature.” (Luke 19:3)

I am aware that Luke is speaking of a physical “short in statue.”  But many of us (tall or short) strive to see who Jesus really is.  But we are short in faith. Too many of us refuse to just believe.

Also, too often the direction of the crowd prevents us from seeing who Jesus is.  We tend to wrongly get on board with a crowd moving in an un-Jesus-like manner.  When ill-willed charismatic influencers take hold of the lead, we too easily tend to follow and go down roads that our Lord Jesus would never travel.

In this story, Jesus, without giving any clues that he was aware of Zacchaeus in the tree, stopped just below him and looked up and invited himself to supper with Zacchaeus.  ( I use this example as a way of inviting myself to a parishioner’s home for dinner.  No, just kidding.)  But Jesus was aware of Zacchaeus in the tree and met him “where he was.”

In just seeing Jesus, Zacchaeus repented and made right all the wrongs he had committed. Now Zacchaeus was a “Chief” Tax Collector.  Being a tax collector was bad enough, but a chief tax collector was even further removed from any welcome to the Temple and seen as a Roman sympathizer by the Israelites. 

But after hearing him explain his forgiveness and giving back to any he had wronged, Jesus proclaims that Zacchaeus too, “is a child to Abraham”, which pre-empts and supersedes the Temple and all it stands for.  Jesus has put Zacchaeus back in the household of God.  And, Jesus does not hold his wealth against him. Zacchaeus is still a chief tax collector, and is still rich, but now he is a believer in our Lord Jesus.

Sometimes we are too spiritually short to see Jesus.  We must climb into the pews of a church in order to see him.  If we do, He will self-invite himself into our homes and our hearts.  And when he does, we will be changed forever and made children to Abraham. Thank You Lord Jesus.

Please keep up your thoughts and prayers and hopes for Ukraine and Iran.

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