Pondering for Thursday, November 26, 2020

Daily Office Readings for Thursday of Proper 29: Year 2

AM Psalms 131, 132, [133]; PM Psalms 134, 135;
Zechariah 13:1 to 9Ephesians 1:15 to 23Luke 19:11 to 27

“I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers.” (Ephesians 1: 16)

Of these readings for a normal Thursday I thought how fitting for the thankfulness of this verse.  Today is Thanksgiving Day.  These words express being thankful, specifically for people in our lives.  This is a good point.  The thanks still goes to God, but it is being thankful for people God has brought to us or put in our path.  Sometimes we don’t see the blessing right away.  But they are in our lives for a reason. Many people come to me and asks to be remembered in my prayers.  And I do pray for them. I ponder about any irritation I might experience from some people but still I hold them in my prayers.  Sometimes my prayers come in the form of a question to God.  I ask God, “What grace are you sending me through this person?”  I am shown. And when shown, I give thanks to God.

Daily Office Readings for Thanksgiving Day

AM Psalm 147Deuteronomy 26:1 to 11John 6:26 to 35;
PM: Psalm 145Joel 2:21 to 271 Thessalonians 5:12 to 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: 21 to 27 appears in both, our Daily Office Readings, and the Eucharistic Readings for Thanksgiving Day. 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 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 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 going 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 might seem.  The young folks are watching us and I am thankful for God speaking to me through them. A blessed milkshake is also plenty and satisfying.  Happy Thanksgiving!

Let us hear what the Spirit is saying to, and through, the saints of God, and then ponder anew what the Almighty can do. John

Pondering for Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Daily Office Readings for Wednesday of Proper 29: Year 2

AM Psalm 119:145-176; PM 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 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 him.  ( 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. 

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.

Today we also remember James Otis Sargent Huntington, (1935); he was priest and monk.

Let us hear what the Spirit is saying to, and through, the saints of God, and then ponder anew what the Almighty can do. John

Pondering for Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Daily Office Readings for Tuesday of Proper 29: Year 2

AM Psalms [120], 121, 122, 123; PM Psalms 124, 125, 126, [127];
Zechariah 11:4to171 Corinthians 3:10to23Luke 18:31to43

“I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord.” (Psalm 122:1)

This is what Christian faith is all about: that is, our final, and forever passage into the house of the Lord.  We long to hear the words, “Come beloved of the Lord, and enter into the joy of your Lord as expressed in the words of the twenty fifth chapter of Matthew, where servants worked to improve on the talents left to them by their master, save the one who only had one talent and buried it. Also in chapter twenty five of Matthew, the invitation extends to those who were placed on the right-hand side of the Lord because they cared for the hungry, the naked, the infirmed and those in prison.

As I have said before, I have been blessed to be present in hospital rooms when a parishioner or other patient was dying.  At some point, the person, who was unconscious, will open their eyes and stare at a space in the room where no one was sanding.  In most cases, an expression of joy or wonder is reflected on the dying person’s face.  It is at this point that I believe the gates of heaven opened in that hospital room, even though I could not see it, nor could anyone else in the room see it.  And at that point, the invitation is extended to dying person to come into the house of the Lord.  Perhaps these are the very words that the dying says to him or her self, “I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord.”

I know that I would be glad to enter into the house of the Lord.  Many people, when asked how they are doing, will answer, “Well, I’m above ground and I’m still here.”  The implication is, that they are doing well and consider this earthly life as the best there is.  But I ponder what the afterlife is like.  Maybe being here in this life is not something to celebrate so much, but rather, it is the Christian work that we should be doing. It is using the talents – gifts, that God has given us to the best of our abilities for the building up of the church, and teaching the love that God wants to be in every heart. This is the time to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the infirmed and imprisoned; thus preparing ourselves for that invitation into the house of the Lord.

Let us hear what the Spirit is saying to, and through, the saints of God, and then ponder anew what the Almighty can do. John

Pondering for Monday, November 23, 2020

Daily Office Readings for Monday of Proper 29: Year 2

AM Psalm 106:1to18; PM Psalm 106:19to48:
Zechariah 10:1to12Galatians 6:1to10Luke 18:15to30

“My friends, if anyone is detected in a transgression, you who have received the Spirit should restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness.” (Galatians 6:1)

Each and every one of us are in need of forgiveness.  And God, in God’s all knowing wisdom, has given each of us the Spirit to restore a neighbor who, having been found in transgression, the power to restore a brother or sister, back into the fold.

I need it, you, reading this message, also need it. None of us are beyond needing restoration.  God made us this way on purpose. This is why our Lord Jesus taught us to pray, “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.”

Sometimes those who sin against us do not ask for forgiveness.  This can be for one of two reasons. First, maybe they are in a bad place and were intentional about what they have done to you. Second, perhaps they didn’t realize that they have actually sinned against you.  I’ve experienced both.  In these situations I like to use the word “pardon.”  I can pardon a person without them even knowing it. When I pardon someone I can move on with my life and not sit and simmer about an insult or injury. 

While I am not opposed to informing someone that they have offended me, (in case they didn’t know it), I do not believe in asking someone for an apology.  I feel that once they are made aware that I felt hurt by something that they have said or done, (or not done), it’s up to their conscience as to what follows. Sadly, I have even seen whole countries insist on an apology from another country for some sad misdeed perpetrated on it.  I think, be it a country or a person, once the sin or any kind of violence has been made known, the apology should be forth coming and in all sincerity.

Once a transgression has been detected, you and I have been given the Spirit that will restore us all to a spirit of love and gentleness with one another.  All we have to do is use it and be thankful.

Let us hear what the Spirit is saying to, and through, the saints of God, and then ponder anew what the Almighty can do. John

Pondering for Sunday, November 22, 2020

Part 1 of 2

Daily Office Readings for Sunday of Proper 29: Year 2

AM Psalm 118; PM Psalm 145:
Zechariah 9:9to161 Peter 3:13to 22Matthew 21:1to13:

“Tell the daughter of Zion, Look, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”  (Matthew 21:5)

I could not help but to use this verse given that today is Christ the King Sunday.  Jesus borrows these words from Zechariah 9:9, which is also part of our reading for today. Matthew has Jesus bring these words back to our memory in true Matthew form as the evangelist wants to show that our Lord Jesus is the fulfillment of the Law, the Prophets and the scriptures.  Indeed, my beloved of the Lord, our King, is coming.

Part 2 of 2

New Testament Readings for Christ the King Sunday: Year A

Ephesians 1:15-23;  Matthew 25:31-46:

“Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matthew 25:34)

Again, the “king” language is used.  So, I use it too.  We, Americans fought a war to rid ourselves of being under a king.  Therefore, we probably have negative feelings about being under a king, even today.  But I would call our attention to the kind of kingdom God is calling us to.

 It is a kingdom prepared for us from the foundation of the world. It is a kingdom of rest and peace.  It is a kingdom of “no more tears.”  Right now we live in a world of both sheep and goats; of wheat and chaff. But at the Resurrection, there will be a great separation.  Those who have self-identified as sheep by a life of self-denial, (not just for the sake of self-denial, but), in order to serve others, will be placed on the right side of God Almighty, which is where our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ resides.  It will be a wonderful place with a never ending table of nourishment and comfort. Let those who have ears listen, learn; love and live.

Let us hear what the Spirit is saying to, and through, the saints of God, and then ponder anew what the Almighty can do. John

Pondering for Saturday, November 21, 2020

Daily Office Readings for Saturday of Proper 28: Year 2

AM Psalm 107:33to43 and 108; PM Psalm 33;
Malachi 3:13to4:6James 5:13to20Luke 18:9to14

 “But the tax-collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” (Luke 18:13)

I had to mail something to Raleigh yesterday that was very important to me. So I went to a local post office to make sure if was correct.  Raleigh being the capital of North Carolina and all, I wanted to make sure my U.S. mail was properly sent by a method of tracking.

So I approached the postal clerks with all humility.  And when I heard the next customer called to the next available clerk, I went to the clerk in that same humility.  I actually said, “I need mercy and patience to help me properly mail this package.” The clerk smiled and told me what I needed to do, and after I misprinted the “to” and “from” spaces, she just smiled again and helped me straighten it out.  I could not have moved on in any sense of accomplishment had it not been for the wonderful and compassionate postal worker.

I know that many people approach sales reps and clerks with arrogance and a sense of superiority. They like saying who they are and what they have accomplished, sort of like the Pharisee in our Luke reading for today; but not me.  I knew that if I was going to get anywhere close to what I wanted, it was going to be at the mercy of the postal clerk whom I stood in front of.

So too it is with eternal salvation.  We must ask God to be merciful to us, a sinner. And pray God saves us so that we may return to our homes justified. Justification, in my postal experience, was made manifest in going back to my home with routing numbers and a tracking code on the web.

Arrogance and self promotion has no place in God’s Kingdom.  We must follow the tax collector’s lead in doing the will of God.

Let us hear what the Spirit is saying to, and through, the saints of God, and then ponder anew what the Almighty can do. John

Pondering for Friday, November 20, 2020

Daily Office Readings for Friday of Proper 28: Year 2

AM Psalm 102; PM Psalm 107:1to32;
Malachi  3:1to12James 5:7to12Luke 18:1to8

“Above all, my beloved, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your ‘Yes’ be yes and your ‘No’ be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation.” (James 5: 12)

This advice sounds good but rarely do I see it practiced. This is especially true when I witness someone on television being asked a simple “yes or no” question.  I find that after they are done responding I still can’t figure out whether their response was yes, or no.

James is repeating the same advice given in Matthew where Matthew says, “All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one”  (Matthew 5:37). I think the real challenge is deciding where we are inside ourselves.  And we should remember that whether we are a “yes” or a “no,” we are only yes, or no, temporarily. We may change the next minute or the next year.  And even this yes to no; or no to yes, shift, doesn’t mean that we are wishy-washy, but rather, as we are more informed, our perspective changes.

I have great admiration for people who can respond with a yes or a no and then explain the why’s. Sometimes they explain only when asked.  Sometime they immediately fill in the why’s so as to explain their position.  But at least they are clear about where they stand at the moment. I think we first have to deal with where we are about any subject deep within ourselves.  And, it’s okay to be unsure. And it’s okay to say, I don’t know. 

To practice the yes or no quick response we might want to start with ourselves.  We can start out by simply asking ourselves easy questions like, “shall I get out of bed now? or, “do I want cereal for breakfast?” Then we can graduate to the more difficult questions like “do I support capital punishment or abortion?”  We might change over time. And that’s alright.  But let us take a stand about where we are right now as for as yes, or no, is concerned, and do it without fear of feeling weak.    

Let us hear what the Spirit is saying to, and through, the saints of God, and then ponder anew what the Almighty can do. John

Pondering for Thursday, November 19, 2020

Daily Office Readings for Thursday of Proper 28: Year 2

AM Psalm 105:1to22; PM Psalm 105:23to45;
Malachi  2:1to16James 4:13to5:6Luke 17:20to37

Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a town and spend a year there, doing business and making money.’ Yet you do not even know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wishes, we will live and do this or that.’ As it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil.” (James 4:13 to 16)

None of us know what tomorrow will bring.  The best we can do is to live the best life we can for this day. By the best life I mean, to the benefit of our community, not to the enhancement of one’s self.  We should never say to ourselves that “I will go and do this or that,” without praying that such an act will be done only if it is the Lord’s will.  Remember the prayer, “Your kingdom come, your will be done.”

Writing this blog has changed my life and the prospect of being a traveler.  I now don’t ever want to be in a place that doesn’t have a good Wi-Fi connection.  I need to be able to get my next day’s blog out, if it is the Lord’s will to do so. So I am content to stay here in Raeford, North Carolina, studying the Word, learning more and more about the World Wide Church that I love, and writing the Good News to all who will read it.

How about you?  What is it that the Lord has blessed you to do?  I have read somewhere that where your passion, and your community’s needs meet, is where God wants you to be, and what God wants you to do.  Your passion, if it is a noble vocation, is your ministry.  Pursue it.  We are truly only here for a little while.  But while we are here, we have the Lord’s work to do.

Let us hear what the Spirit is saying to, and through, the saints of God, and then ponder anew what the Almighty can do. John

Pondering for Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Daily Office Readings for Wednesday of Proper 28: Year 2

AM Psalms 101 and 109; PM Psalm 119:121to144;
Malachi 1:1,6 to14James 3:13to4:12Luke 17:11to19

“For where there is envy and selfish ambition, there will also be disorder and wickedness of every kind.  But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy.” (James 3: 16 and 17)

Envy, or in its most sinister form, jealousy, always brings about bad relations among people.  If we are different in any outward way, it is only magnified in a negative way by envy or jealousy.  It will occur among people of the same ethnicity as well.  But when there are differences of any kind, the differences take on, as James says, disorder and wickedness of every kind.

But James assures us that in the end, or as we like to say today, “at the end of the day,” It will all be better if we prayerfully regain our moral composure. But this only happens if we learn from wisdom.  He teaches us that wisdom is pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy. 

Although James confronts Paul in the faith versus works arena, he sounds like Paul’s 1st Corinthians letter when he defines wisdom as Paul defines love: that is, pure, peaceable, gentle, willing to yield and so forth.  Paul says of love that “love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.   Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.” (1st Corinthians 13: 4 to 8)

Maybe there is a strong correlation between love and wisdom.  Perhaps the path to wisdom is love, or the other way, the path to love is wisdom.  What do you think?

Today we remember Hilda, Abbess of Whitby, 680

“Hilda’s career falls into two equal parts,” says the Venerable Bede, “for she spent thirty-three years nobly in secular habit, while she dedicated an equal number of years still more nobly to the Lord, in the monastic life.” Hilda, born in 614, was the grandniece of King Edwin. She was instructed by Paulinus (one of the companions of Augustine of Canterbury) in the doctrines of Christianity in preparation for her baptism at the age of thirteen.” Hilda was sought out by kings and other public men for advice and counsel. Those living under her rule devoted so much time to the study of Scripture and to works of righteousness that many were found qualified for ordination.” (Great Cloud of Witnesses for November 18)

Let us hear what the Spirit is saying to, and through, the saints of God, and then ponder anew what the Almighty can do. John

Pondering for Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Daily Office Readings for Tuesday of Proper 28: Year 2

AM Psalms 97, 99, [100]; PM Psalm 94, [95];
Habakkuk 3:1to18James 3:1to12Luke 17:1to10

1Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers and sisters, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. For all of us make many mistakes. Anyone who makes no mistakes in speaking is perfect, able to keep the whole body in check with a bridle. If we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we guide their whole bodies.” (James 3:1 to 3)

James’ words suggest that we, at some level, practice what we are taught. Teachers then are probably the most important service providers in any community.  Over the years I have taught many classes and counseled many people with various concerns.  I pray that my words to them are what I also practice, but more than that, helps them to live better, more faithful lives. 

James is not original in using the metaphor of a bridle as an example of holding the attention of those we are trying to teach. This example appears in the Psalms. “Do not be like a horse or a mule, without understanding, whose temper must be curbed with bit and bridle, else it will not stay near you (Psalm 32: 9);  or in Psalm 39 “Do not be like a horse or a mule, without understanding, whose temper must be curbed with bit and bridle, else it will not stay near you” (Psalm 39:9).

Our very first teachers are our parents.  Even teachers depend on parents to have taught the children the local language and behaviors.  On the very first day in school the child must understand simple instruction such as “sit here,” or “come here,” or “what is your name?”  From there the teacher takes hold of the bit and bridle, the reins if you will, and guides us into more productive citizenry.  

Another very important person in the teaching, and in particular the behavior of a community, is the pastor.  The pastor teacher is a special gift given to some in each community by God as a guide to righteous living.  “And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers” (Ephesians 4:11).  The pastor teacher gift is a combined vocation implanted in some of us for the purpose of comforting and guiding the people of God in righteous living.  And as James says, such people will be judged with greater strictness.

All parents are pastor teachers.  Parents are called by God to comfort and guide their children in ways that promote harmony in the family, in their church, in their community, and in the world. Perhaps bit and bridle is better than leaving them idle.

Let us hear what the Spirit is saying to, and through, the saints of God, and then ponder anew what the Almighty can do. John