Pondering for Monday, December 9, 2019

Daily Office Readings for Monday of the Second Week of Advent Year 2

AM Psalm 25; PM Psalm 9, 15 Amos 7:1-9; Rev. 1:1-8; Matt. 22:23-33

“This is what he showed me: the Lord was standing beside a wall built with a plumb-line, with a plumb-line in his hand. And the Lord said to me, ‘Amos, what do you see?’ And I said, ‘A plumb-line.’ Then the Lord said, ‘See, I am setting a plumb-line in the midst of my people Israel;
I will never again pass them by.” (Amos 7:7 – 8)

This plumb-line that the lord is setting in the midst is us is the perfect upright angle with which we are to judge our own moral character.  A friend of mine once said to a congregation that it was hard for him to achieve something he has not seen.  But once he as seen someone do and be the better person, then, he too could aim for that knowing it was possible.

We don’t all have the same level of good judgment at the same time. But I believe the ability to make better and better decisions is an evolving skill.  I believe patience in understanding helps us to be better decision makers.  We must first want to do the right thing, The right thing has to be more important than “my” thing.  Getting even is not the right thing and against the Lord’s plumb-line it clearly shows us to be off kilter.  Also, we should not try to make ourselves look good by pointing out the faults of others.  It would be better to point out how you have challenges that you are aware of and are working on, than to point to the short comings of others.  

Our Lord Jesus is the perfect Plumb-line.  We can’t be Him but we can continue to work towards perfection. In trying to perfect our character we become that plumb-line for someone else to emulate. Remember however, we are not doing it to be copied (even though that would make the world a better place).  We are working towards that never ending road to perfection from which we will not regress or return. We will just keep comparing ourselves to that perfection, that plumb-line, that some may not know even exist.

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, December 8, 2019

Eucharistic Readings for Sunday of Week 2 of Advent Year A

Isaiah 11:1-10  Psalm 72:1-7, 18-19   Romans 15:4-13   Matthew 3:1-12

“Do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our ancestor’; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham.” (Matthew 3:9)

After sarcastically calling the Pharisees and Sadducees a brood of vipers, John the Baptist takes away any ancestral heritage they might claim as a saving grace and lets them know that God doesn’t care about the genetic makeup of people but rather their faith.  This is what was pleasing to God about Abraham.

Abraham believed.  Abraham trusted God.  God told Abraham that he was blessed and that he would be a blessing to All people.

According to Douglas Hare writing for Interpretation: a Bible Commentary for Preaching and Teaching; on Matthew, “This passage is scheduled by some lectionaries for the second Sunday of Advent,  In parts of the modern Church, Advent has become almost exclusively preparation of Christmas, that is, a time for pondering the meaning of the incarnation.”  (p. 19)

The Incarnation is God with us as one of us.  Our Lord Jesus knows what it is like to be human.  Therefore, God knows what it is like to be one of us as Joan Osborne’s song goes, “What if God was one of us, just a slob like one of us, just a stranger on a bus?”  This is the Incarnation.

God’s presence is not just about human so-called royal blood, not even the physical blood of Abraham. But very much like Abraham an unwavering faith that will not withhold anything from God, not even one’s only child. It is the spirit and faith of Abraham that God looks for in us as we truly are the spiritual offspring of Abraham through the connecting royal blood-cup of our Incarnate Lord Jesus Christ.  Therefore we are baptized into our faith and then forever partake of the cup of Christ where we taste and see that the Lord is good.

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, December 7, 2019

Daily Office Readings for the Saturday of Week 1 of Advent Year 2.

AM Psalm 20, 21:1-7(8-14); PM Psalm 110:1-5(6-7), 116, 117 Amos 5:18-27; Jude 17-25; Matt. 22:15-22

“It is these worldly people, devoid of the Spirit, who are causing divisions. But you, beloved, build yourselves up on your most holy faith; pray in the Holy Spirit.” (Jude: 19 – 20)

I always say that every human being has the Spirit of God in them, but many do not use it.  I think this is what Jude means when he talks about worldly people devoid of the Spirit. He goes on the say that such worldly people cause division among us. Laziness and blaming others for all the bad that happen to us is easy and infectious and makes us feel that we are not responsible for the way we are or what we say and do.

Jude continues, “But you, beloved, build yourselves up on your most holy faith.”  Having and relying on our faith is so important.  With our faith we strive to see our Lord Jesus in all people. The good secrete we have is that we can, and should, look for our Lord Jesus in people who do not profess Christianity as well as those that do. See if you can discover a Christ-like quality in a non church-goer or someone who is of a faith other than Christianity or even no professed faith at all.  If you do see a loving Jesus quality in the person you can always say to yourself, “That’s awfully Jesus of you.”  Just don’t say it out loud.  Remember it is you who is looking for our Lord Jesus in the other, not them.  I’m thinking they have him and don’t know it. So let part of your faith be the search for our Lord Jesus in others regardless of what they may or may not believe.

Finally, Jude says to “pray in the Holy Spirit.”  Remember that when you pray you are responding to God who is already praying, you are not initiating the prayer.  God has already done that.  All any of us has to do is just relax and let the Holy Spirit pray through us.  To quote a commercial, “Oh what a relief it is.”

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, December 6, 2019

Readings for St Nicholas Bishop of Myra, c. 342

Psalm 145:8-13 1 John 4:7-14 Mark 10:13-16

“People were bringing little children to him in order that he might touch them.”  (Mark 10:13)

I never knew that Santa Clause derived from an actual bishop.  I had heard the term “St. Nick” before but didn’t connect it to the religious life.  That was my childhood and early life. “Very little is known about the life of Nicholas, except that he suffered torture and imprisonment during the persecution under the Emperor Diocletian. It is possible that he was one of the bishops attending the First Ecumenical Council of Nicaea in 325. He was honored as a saint in Constantinople in the sixth century by the Emperor Justinian. His veneration became immensely popular in the West after the supposed removal of his body to Bari, Italy, in the late eleventh century. In England, almost 400 churches were dedicated to him.  Nicholas is famed as the traditional patron of seafarers and sailors, and, more especially, of children. As a bearer of gifts to children, his name was brought to America by the Dutch colonists in New York, from whom he is popularly known as Santa Claus.” (Great Cloud of Witnesses for December 6)

In our Gospel reading parents wanted their children to go to Jesus. They wanted the best for their children.  Christian parents today still bring their children to our Lord Jesus. We do this by bringing them to church but more importantly, we should be praying with them at home. When a child comes to church it should be from a home where they have already heard about our Lord Jesus.  We so often talk about Santa Claus from about Thanksgiving on before finally bringing the child to a store to meet Santa.  So why not talk about our Lord Jesus at least some time during each week before Sunday?

Personally, I like learning about Nicholas of Myra because as a Christian believing in the Resurrection I know that Nicholas has risen in our Lord Jesus Christ and lives today.  So I believe in Santa Claus because I believe in the Resurrections of the dead. Or, as James Kiefer puts it: “The story of St. Nicholas offers a possible way of dealing with the “Santa Claus” problem, to parents who do not want to lie to their children, even in fun, but do not want to say simply: “Bah, humbug! There is no such thing as Santa. Forget about him.”  by James Kiefer http://www.satucket.com/lectionary/Nicholas.htm 

So today is Santa Claus Day even while it is still Advent.  Merry (almost) Christmas.

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, December 5, 2019

Readings for Clement of Alexandria Priest, c. 210 December 5

Psalm 34:9-14 Colossians 1:11-20 John 6:57-63

“When many of his disciples heard it, they said, ‘This teaching is difficult; who can accept it”  (John 6:60)

Parishes call priests to lead them.  These are priests who have not only been called to ordained ministry but then sent to formalized training and education at a seminary so that they might better inform their congregations.  But it requires trust.  When the priest enters the parish parishioners must trust that the priest both understands scripture a little deeper and the priest’s heart is fixed on the will of God. Jesus ran into the same situation in the reading from John.  Clement of Alexandria too was also challenged.

“Clement was born in the middle of the second century. He was a cultured Greek philosopher who sought truth in many schools until he met Pantaneaus, founder of the Christian Catechetical School at Alexandria in Egypt. Clement succeeded Pantaneaus as head of that school in about 190, and was for many years an apologist for the Christian faith to both pagans and Christians. His learning and allegorical exegesis of the Bible helped to commend Christianity to the intellectual circles of Alexandria. His work prepared the way for his pupil Origen, the most eminent theologian of early Greek Christianity, and his liberal approach to secular knowledge laid the foundations of Christian humanism. During the persecution under the Emperor Severus in 202, he fled Alexandria. The exact time and place of his death are unknown.” (Great Cloud of Witnesses for December 5)

Many people have certain beliefs about what God wants.  Often, too often, they are (or have been) misinformed.  God wants all people of the world to have open hearts and minds to the good that God is doing, not just a few.

“Clement lived in the age of “Gnosticism,” a comprehensive term for many theories or ways of salvation current in the second and third centuries, all emphasizing “Gnosis” or “knowledge.” Salvation, for Gnostics, was to be had through a secret and rather esoteric knowledge accessible only to a few. It was salvation from the world, rather than salvation of the world. Clement asserted that there was a true Christian Gnosis, to be found in the Scriptures, available to all.”  (Great Cloud of Witnesses for December 5)

We should not try to become God.  Whatever plan God has for us “it will be done.”  When we create our own interpretation of what we think God wants we usurp God’s will and it leads to an idolatry that pushes us away from the will of God.  We must continue to call and then listen to priests who have been properly educated in the open and all inclusive love of God for all people.

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, December 4, 2019

Daily Office Readings for Wednesday of 1Advent Year 2

AM Psalm 119:1-24; PM Psalm 12, 13, 14  Amos 3:12-4:5; 2 Pet. 3:1-10; Matt. 21:23-32

“But do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like one day. The Lord is not slow about his promise, as some think of slowness, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance.  But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, and the elements will be dissolved with fire, and the earth and everything that is done on it will be disclosed.”  (2 Peter 3: 8 – 10)

Peter reminds us that the time we experience is nothing like that with God.  God knows no time.  God is the beginning and the end, the Alpha and the Omega.  Words like fast and slow have no value to God, God does things in God’s time (Kairos).  Peter also shares with us that God does not want any of us to perish.  We have a universal God.  A God who loves everybody, even the people we don’t like.  This is something we are going to have to get over. God loves people in the other skin color, in the other political party, in the other country and so on.  We have a universal loving God and we should be as well.

The last part of our 2 Peter passage for today is the hint of accountability.  Peter says “and the earth and everything that is done on it will be disclosed.”  My beloved, disclosed is not destroyed.  Disclosed means revealed!  I had a military leader once tell me that forewarned is forearmed.  This means that if we know something is going to happen we have time to make it right before that time comes.  How do you want your report read out loud in that heavenly court?  Think about that.  And remember that we are dealing with a God who knows no time.  God could bring us to accountability right now! Are you ready?  Forewarned is forearmed.

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, December 3, 2019

Daily Office Readings for Tuesday of Week 1 of Advent Year 2

AM Psalm 5, 6; PM Psalm 10, 11  Amos 3:1-11; 2 Pet. 1:12-21; Matt. 21:12-22

“First of all you must understand this, that no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, because no prophecy ever came by human will, but men and women moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.”  (2 Peter 1: 20 – 21)

This is one of the readings that I have read at our Education for Ministry (EfM) graduations.  We have a Holy Eucharist with our graduation.  We want the Holy Spirit to be present with us.  After four years of study, graduating students stand before the gathered community, some of whom are also graduates of EfM, and express what EfM has meant for them.  It is always a moving experience.

A big component of EfM are the Theological Reflections.  This is a time of deep pondering of what the Holy Spirit is really saying to us.  The message of the Holy Spirit can be in accordance with the words of scripture, or the words of scripture can be a catalyst for where the Spirit wants us to be. It is prophetic.  And “no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, because no prophecy ever came by human will, but men and women moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.” 

The Bible should be read within prayer.  One’s reading of the Bible should be in the context of believing God has made all things good and loves us more than we can imagine.  In this way we will see, even words of war and wrath, in a merciful way.  The prayer we pray will help us to see where God is in the readings. We should not pry into the Bible but rather pray into the Bible. If a person doesn’t pray into the Bible he or she shouldn’t even bother reading the Bible.  The prophetic message comes through the words in the Bible riding on the faith of the reader.

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+