Pondering for Saturday, February 4, 2023

Daily Office Readings for Saturday of the 4th Week of Epiphany: Year 1

Morning, Psalms 75and 76; Evening, Psalms 23and 27;
Isaiah 57:3to13Galatians 5:25to 6:10Mark 9:14to29

“If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit.  Let us not become conceited, competing against one another, envying one another.” (Galatians 5:25 and 26)

We need to ponder about the Spirit of God and live our lives accordingly. We are all infused with the Spirit of our Creator. This Spirit that is in each of us also recognizes that same Spirit in every person we see.  We may not act in the spirit of truth with our fellow brothers and sisters, but the holiness of God connects well ahead of us. Too often we want to compete against another rather than work with the other.

I like sports games in which we compete against the lay- of- the- land, and not directly against one another, (football being the exception but I’m still a work in progress and the Super Bowl is here soon!).  I’m talking about sports like bowling, horseshoes and golf because in these sports we compare our scores at the finish rather than trying to dominate the other face to face, often requiring physical contact. We probably would have gotten the same score in these lay- of- the- land sports even if the other had not been present.

I think our attitudes about sports have caused us to look at every facet of our lives in terms of whose team are we. This paradigm is taught to us in school sports, not intentionally I don’t believe, but taught non-the less.  Too often we want to “win,” no matter what. I think Paul got it right. We must live by the Spirit and in so living, be guided by that same Spirit. Everything in life is not about competing or beating the other. As we are with people, listening and compassion should be the priority of our being together, not whose team they are.  We are all God’s team. Let us ponder this, this Sabbath Day.

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

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 Friday, February 3, 2023

Daily Office Readings for Friday of the 4th Week of Epiphany: Year 1

 Morning, Psalm 69:1to25 and 31 to38; Evening,  Psalm 73;
Isaiah 56:1to8Galatians 5:16to24Mark 9:2to13

“Happy is the mortal who does this, the one who holds it fast, who keeps the Sabbath, not profaning it, and refrains from doing any evil.” (Isaiah 56:2)

I share with you today a heavy dose of our Isaiah reading for today.  It is all about the inclusiveness of God and the invitation to all people to enjoy a Sabbath time now as a preparation for that eternal Sabbath yet to come eternal in the heavens.

I don’t believe this is about making all people Jewish, at least as we (of this day and time), have come to understand what it means to be Jewish.  But I will say this for myself; I would rather be Jewish and have eternal life than be outside that gathering and cease to exist. From Ruth to the Magi of Matthew’s Gospel, many have put their own ethnicity aside to see what God is doing in the midst of the descendents of Abraham. Me too. 

These are the words written in the name of the Prophet Isaiah and are often used by our Lord Jesus as he performed many of his signs and wonders for those outside Israel.  Isaiah says, “And the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord, to minister to him, to love the name of the Lord, and to be his servants, all who keep the Sabbath, and do not profane it, and hold fast my covenant— these I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt-offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.   Thus says the Lord God, who gathers the outcasts of Israel, I will gather others to them besides those already gathered.(Isaiah 56: 6 to 8) My brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus, this is as inclusive as it gets. We are all one in Christ Jesus.

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

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

Pondering for Thursday, February 2, 2023

Daily Office Readings for Thursday of the 4th Week of Epiphany: Year 1

Morning,  Psalm 71; Evening, Psalm 74;
Isaiah 55:1to13Galatians 5:1to15Mark 8:27to9:1

“For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything; the only thing that counts is faith working through love.” (Galatians 5:6)

The whole issue of circumcision, or the elimination of it, breaks the gender barrier. With this requirement of the Law removed, women can now be recognized as full Apostles and Disciples of Christ Jesus.  Who knows, maybe a woman will one day be the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church in a place called the United States of America!  (Katharine Jefferts Schori: Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church from November 4, 2006 to November 1, 2015) Thank you Lord Jesus and St. Paul.

Paul goes on to say that the only thing that counts is faith working through love. This sounds like our current Presiding Bishop, the Most Reverend Michael Curry. Curry constantly preaches the importance of love.  This was observed on the world stage during the Royal Wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle on “the redemptive power of love.”  Maybe Paul was ahead of his time and was the prototype Episcopalian?  Just kidding. I don’t know whether it is faith working through love as Paul suggests; or perhaps love working  through faith, as we love God and then love our neighbor.  I’m still pondering on this one.  We need both.  One of these trying to work without the other is useless. I find that faith expressed and made manifest through acts of love, best shows our allegiance to God. I do believe we learn about love through family before our family teaches us about God. But then, who’s to say how much the Spirit is already at work in our souls before we ever get the first human word about God? Maybe the Spirit prepares a space in our souls for when the word comes?  I’m still pondering on this; join me in this adventure.

Today is the Day we remember the Annunciation of our Lord Jesus at the Temple.

The birth of our Lord Jesus was, and is, also life changing and picks up from the Temple in Jerusalem at his Annunciation, the Purification for the price of two doves. They were poor. From the Gospel of Luke we read: “When they had finished everything required by the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him,” (Luke 2:39 and 40). Mary and Joseph had made their trip to the Temple in Jerusalem for the Presentation of their child as was the requirement of the Law of Moses, the fulfillment of the Law. There they met Simeon and Anna, the full representation of the Law (Simeon), and the prophets (Anna). And, then they went back to Galilee for God was now doing something new and changing humanity forever!

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

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, February 1, 2023

Daily Office Readings for Wednesday of the 4th Week of Epiphany: Year 1

Morning, Psalm 72; Evening, Psalm 119:73to96;
Isaiah 54:1to10Galatians 4:21to31Mark 8:11to26

“Then Jesus laid his hands on his eyes again; and he looked intently and his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly.” (Mark 8:25 NRSV)

English is a tricky language if not carefully handled. In verse 25 of Mark 8 in the NRSV there could be some uncertainty about the pronoun “he” when “he” looked intently. Did the man receiving his sight look intently, or was it Jesus looking intently (at the man)? This is the step by step process of gaining sight, (and insight).

As we study scripture we need more than one translation. We need to compare the different writings of who is doing or saying something. It is important. I referred to other translations on this passage and found clarity. In the King James Version I found, “After that he put his hands again upon his eyes, and made him look up: and he was restored, and saw every man clearly.” (Mark 8:25 King James Version)  In addition to making him look up, the him, in italics, makes it clear that Jesus is the one doing the looking intently.  Spanish and Greek versions also make it obvious that it was Jesus who was looking intently.

Jesus does not always heal in one setting.  Sometimes it is a two or more shot fix like some of our vaccinations today for the COVID virus.  For us to see life more clearly we have to do the step by step method of clarity.  Have more than one translation of the Bible.  Compare and contrast any questionable understanding you might struggle with. Our Lord Jesus will look intently upon you and you will have understanding.

And like the man whose sight was restored, once you can see clearly, don’t go back into the darkness, stay in the light.

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

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, January 31, 2023

Daily office Readings for Tuesday of the 4th Week of Epiphany: Year 1

Morning, Psalms 61 and 62; Evening, Psalm 68:1-20;
Isaiah 52:1to12Galatians 4:12to20Mark 8:1to10

“How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the messenger who announces peace, who brings good news, who announces salvation, who says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns.” (Isaiah 52:7)

Aware that most mid-eastern cultures have disdain for the feet, and many still do today, to say the feet are beautiful, is a huge jump in gratitude for what the feet bring to the weary heart. And it’s not only the feet, but also even shoes as they come off the feet. There was a video where one such mid-eastern man threw his sandal at President Bush (43) during his presentation in their country.  The alert President saw it coming and ducked. Though the sandal would not have caused great physical harm, it was the fact that it was removed from the foot that made it vile.

Therefore, when we read “how beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the messenger…”, we know the message is more than just important, it is life changing!  Through my Christian lens, I recall the foot washing performed by Jesus in the Gospel of John chapter 13. In my mind, Jesus made their feet beautiful for the journey of announcing the Good News. 

How beautiful are your feet today?  Carry the Good News to someone today. Your work will be life-changing for that person. You should carry the Good News in word and deed, but most especially in deed.  Do what is good and right so to do, always.

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

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 Monday, January 30, 2023

Daily Office Readings for Monday of the 4th Week of Epiphany: Year 1

Morning,  Psalms 56 and 57; Evening, Psalms 64 and 65;
Isaiah 51:17to 23Galatians 4:1to11Mark 7:24to37:

“But she answered him, ‘Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.’ Then he said to her, ‘For saying that, you may go—the demon has left your daughter.’ So she went home, found the child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.” (Mark 7:28 to 30)

The mother was not an Israelite. Once again our Lord Jesus made it clear that the blessings and grace of God are inclusive of all people.  They are for all people regardless of biology, language, nationality, political party, orientation or gender.

For the mother’s part, she had to step down from any notion of not being Jewish to believing that God in this Jesus person could, and would, help her if she believed strong enough.

So the same is true for us today. Although  Judaism is a faith that may be predominately made up of a certain ethnicity, it is still a faith. This faith that originated with Father Abraham, went down to Egypt, and back again to the Promised Land, now called the Holy Land by many people of Judeo-Christian Faith. But it is still a faith, not a race. None of humanity is a race as far as I am concerned. And I know that I am pretty much alone with this understanding. I’m okay with this.

We humans still have demons. Labels of race are demonic.  All of us are the dogs under the table. We await our food in faith. Thank You Lord Jesus.

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

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 Sunday, January 29, 2023

Eucharistic Readings for the 4th Sunday of Epiphany: Year A

Micah 6:1-8; Psalm 15; 1 Corinthians 1:18-31; Matthew 5:1-12

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” (Matthew 5: 9)

While I have talked about the Peacemakers before, I really ponder about what it takes to be one who seeks peace among all people.  We probably need more ears than voices.  We need people who will listen to what we and others have to say rather than to voice “or force” solutions to situations we really don’t fully understand.

We have just suffered the murder of a man (Tyre Nichols) in Memphis, Tennessee by Memphis police officers.  These Memphis police persons were not peace keepers in the biblical sense. And were certainly not acting as children of God. Can they be forgiven?  Of course.  I have to say that because all things are possible with God. I ponder if these officers ever read our reading for today where Micah says we are to “do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8). The greater question is, how do we prevent this kind of loss from reoccurring?

If some of you will recall, I took a break from my blog last February due to the loss of two of my grandsons from two different daughters living in Memphis, Tennessee. For me it raises the question of “what’s not happening in Memphis?”  Is there anyone teaching peace and compassion there? Where are the preachers and fathers from whom good police persons are to come?  I have learned from my bible studies that one of the first words uttered upon receiving someone or entering someone’s home is, “Do you come in peace?:” and, “Peace be to this house and all who dwell therein,” respectively.  Peace, as understood to be civility, should always be the first conditions sought.

If we have peace, we will hear the other and gain some understanding of their situation.  Following Matthew’s Be-attitudes, being the peacekeepers are preceded by mercy and pureness of heart. If the Memphis police persons were taught by pastors and parents to be merciful with loving hearts perhaps they would have sought peace first, and thus truly be children of God.

This lesson applies to all of us everywhere.  We must seek peace with mercy always, and in every encounter where we engage with people.

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

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, January 28, 2023

Daily Office Readings for Saturday of the 3rd Week of Epiphany: Year 1

Morning, Psalm 55; Evening, Psalms 138 and 139:1 to 17;
Isaiah 51:1 to 8Galatians 3:23to29Mark 7:1to23

“Listen to me, you that pursue righteousness, you that seek the Lord. Look to the rock from which you were hewn, and to the quarry from which you were dug. Look to Abraham your father and to Sarah who bore you; for he was but one when I called him, but I blessed him and made him many.” (Isaiah 51:1 and 2)

Perhaps this is what John the Baptist meant when he said God can raise children to Abraham from stones” (Matthew 3:9).  In my own pursuit of righteousness I am a continuous work in progress.  I am being hewn from a rough cut stone to one that, I pray, will fit well in God’s structure.

Today I am enjoying the Sabbath. Even in writing this blog I contemplate the wonderful mysteries of God. I like thinking about the relationship that Abraham had, or has, with God. I like thinking about the relationship the writers of Isaiah have with God. I ponder my own connection with God in Christ Jesus. I am thankful for how far I have come but also looking forward to where I want to go.  How far I want to go probably has no end except to be with God.  I ponder what that might be like.

I invite you to join me in the pursuit of righteousness.  Join me in seeking the Lord.  We do this by our God-given faith.  We believe and we behave in accordance with our faith.  Let us relax today and read articles and literature that strengthens our faith.  Let us listen to hymns and maybe have conversation with like minded believers, not as an act of work, but as a pleasant assurance.

Also,  today we remember St. Thomas Aquinas, Priest and Theologian 1274

“Thomas understood God’s disclosure of his Name, in Exodus 3:14, “I Am Who I Am,” to mean that God is Being, the Ultimate Reality from which everything else derives its being. The difference between God and the world is that God’s essence is to exist, whereas all other beings derive their being from him by the act of creation.” (Great Cloud of Witnesses for January 28)

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

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 Friday, January 27, 2023

Daily Office Readings for Friday of the 3rd Week of Epiphany: Year 1

Morning, Psalms 40 and  54; Evening, Psalm 51;
Isaiah 50:1-11Galatians. 3:15to 22Mark 6:47to56

“The Lord God has given me the tongue of a teacher, that I may know how to sustain the weary with a word.  Morning by morning he wakens— wakens my ear to listen as those who are taught.”  (Isaiah 50:4)

I truly feel that the pastor-teacher gift is one that God has given to me.  However, I know that to teach one has to first know and do.  People who have taught me actually lived what they taught. I too have lived many of life’s experiences, the good and the bad.

As I do my Daily Office, my morning prayers, I get a sense of Isaiah’s words where he says, “Morning by morning he wakens— wakens my ear to listen as those who are taught.” As I hear God I ponder what really speaks to me and then I share it as in teaching with this blog.

This daily practice is life changing. I have learned to respect the Sabbath now and look forward to my Sabbath reflective time.  This blog itself is another of many modifications in my life where God has, and is, acting in my life. I exercise daily, I have re-enrolled in piano class again and much more. I share all this as I use my life as a teaching tool and an example of how God is always with us, coaching us to be in union with God for the benefit of our communities.

Having the tongue of a teacher is fine but must be lived as well. If you are weary, I pray my words and the sharing of my life is sustaining for you. Even as I get older, God keeps me active. We should remember where we have been, but always look ahead to where we are going. Just as I teach, I also submit to being taught. We all need each other and God who wakens our ear to listen as those who are taught.

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

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

Pondering for Thursday, January 26, 2023

Daily Office Readings for Thursday of the 3rd Week of Epiphany: Year 1

Morning, Psalm 50; Evening, Psalm 118;
Isaiah 49:13to23Galatians 3:1to14Mark 6:30to46

“Just as Abraham ‘believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness’, so, you see, those who believe are the descendants of Abraham.” (Galatians 3:6 and 7)

So Abraham is our spiritual ancestor.  And, as I have said in many blogs, our ancestry is not genetically based. Abraham is our spiritual ancestor. We have heard it said that blood is thicker than water. But I say that spirit is thicker than even blood. While blood flows through veins and arteries, the Spirit of God “absorbs” us. We become immersed in the spirit.

God told Abram (before God re-named him Abraham), “I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing;” (Genesis 12:2).  This blessing is one of belief.  Abraham is blessed and is a blessing to a multitude of nations.

 As we believe in God, we behave differently. All people of faith are children to Abraham.  Just as I shared yesterday about what John the Baptist told the Pharisees, “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).  So too, we, you and I, are those stones.  We are not of a certain blood type, save the blood of our Lord Jesus shared in His cup. We are the family of faith through believing. I will again close with one of my favorite prayers found on page 289 of the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Let us Pray:

“O God, whose wonderful deeds of old shine forth even to our own day, you once delivered by the power of your mighty arm your chosen people from slavery under Pharaoh, to be a sign for us of the salvation of all nations by the water of Baptism: Grant that all the peoples of the earth may be numbered among the offspring of Abraham, and rejoice in the inheritance of Israel; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”

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

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