Pondering for Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Readings for Hildegard 1179

Psalm 104:25-34  Sirach 43:1-12 John 3:16-21

“I will sing to the Lord as long as I live; I will praise my God while I have my being.” (Psalm 104:34)

Today I will move from the Daily Office to remember Hildegard as she is chronicled in the Great Cloud of Witnesses.

“Hildegard of Bingen, born in 1098 in the lush Rhineland Valley, was a mystic, poet, composer, dramatist, doctor, and scientist. Her parents’ tenth child, she was tithed to the Church and raised by the anchoress Jutta in a cottage near the Benedictine monastery of Disibodenberg. (Great Cloud of Witnesses for September 17)

I feel drawn to people with multiple gifts, especially if they include mysticism and music.  Hildegard was also respected by Bernard of Clairvaux which as a Knight Templar myself I feel that I too should lean in and listen to her more closely. “In 1147, Bernard of Clairvaux recommended her first book of visions, Scivias, to Pope Eugenius III, leading to papal authentication at the Synod of Trier. Hildegard became famous, eagerly sought for counsel, a correspondent of kings and queens, abbots and abbesses, archbishops and popes.” (Great Cloud of Witnesses for September 17)  So why not smart people of today listen to her as well?

Hildegard crossed barriers that were meant to keep women out. “She carried out four preaching missions in northern Europe, unprecedented activity for a woman. She practiced medicine, focusing on women’s needs; published treatises on natural science and philosophy; and wrote a liturgical drama, The Play of the Virtues, in which personified virtues sing their parts and the devil, condemned to live without music, can only speak. For Hildegard, music was essential to worship. Her liturgical compositions, unusual in structure and tonality, were described by contemporaries as “chant of surpassing sweet melody” and “strange and unheard-of music.”” (Great Cloud of Witnesses for September 17)

I particularly share her feeling that music was/is essential to worship.  Not everybody wants to hear this but I believe music assists in guiding our souls to the Spirit of God.   I also marvel that in her pondering the devil must live in a world without music. If nothing else encourages us to appreciate music this should. “Hildegard lived in a world accustomed to male governance. Yet, within her convents, and to a surprising extent outside them, she exercised a commanding spiritual authority based on confidence in her visions and considerable political astuteness. When she died in 1179, at 81, she left a rich legacy which speaks eloquently across the ages. .” (Great Cloud of Witnesses for September 17)

Let us hear what the Spirit is saying to and through God’s people and ponder anew what the Almighty can do.  John+

Pondering for Monday, September 16, 2019

Daily Office Readings for Monday of Proper 19 Year 1

AM Psalm 56, 57, [58]; PM Psalm 64, 65 1 Kings 21:1-16; 1 Cor. 1:1-19; Matt. 4:1-11

Matt. 4:4. But he answered, ‘It is written, “One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” ’

Matt. 4:7. ‘Again it is written, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.” ’

Matt. 4:10.  Away with you, Satan! for it is written, “Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.” ’

Matt. 4:11. Then the devil left him, and suddenly angels came and waited on him.

(Matthew 4: 4, 7, 10 & 11)

Jesus was led into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.  After each temptation Jesus resorts to what “is written” to assist him in resisting the temptation.  Jesus depends on the word of God, trusting God rather than testing God and finally to worship and serve God only.  It is Jesus’ three legged stool.

How about us today?  We have Jesus himself as the Word of God. This is the Word through whom all creation came into being and this Word itself took on human likeness, our Lord, Jesus Christ.  We are to trust in God, Jesus says and in that confident trust there is no testing.  God is not to be tested but rather honored and obeyed; which brings us to the last point of worship and serving God only. We worship God in our common community of the Church. And, as we serve others in Jesus’ Name, we serve God and God only. Yes, in serving others we serve God.  Remember; “Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters.  Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it” (Hebrews 13:2).   These would be the same angels that came and waited on Jesus and like Gabriel (Luke 1: 19), they stand in the presence of God.

Let us hear what the Spirit is saying to and through God’s people and ponder anew what the Almighty can do.  John+

Pondering for Sunday, September 15, 2019

Eucharistic Readings for Sunday of Proper 19 Year C

Exodus 32:7-14 Psalm 51:1-11  1 Timothy 1:12-17  Luke 15:1-10

“Just so, I tell you, there is (and will be joy) over finding what was lost (from the Luke, chapter 15 reading for today).

I call Chapter 15 of Luke the “Lost  Chapter.”  I say this not because it is missing but because it is about the lost.  We have the lost sheep, then the lost coin and then it concludes with the lost son.

What is significant is that this chapter teaches us that sometimes we don’t appreciate and celebrate what we have while we have it.  But boy let it get lost!  Whether it’s a sheep, a coin, our glasses, our keys, our job, our money, or even a human relationship, what we have lost is felt deeply and we want it back. What is being celebrated in this Luke reading is the getting back to normal.  It is celebrating the experience of not having lost anything in the first place.  It is celebrating “the way it was.”  

So therefore, we should treasure all we have even if it’s very little.  We, in our prayers, should continually give God thanks for the benefits bestowed upon us and remember it is not ourselves that made manifest our possessions but God. The greatest riches we have are our relationships with others, family and friends.  We need to be thankful for these relationships and celebrate them all the time, not just when, and if, we get them back.  

From the perspective of the lost, it is about being re-membered.  It is about being found. Sometimes we must find ourselves.  Sometimes we have to be found by another.  Either way, being put back into community is absolutely a cause for celebration.

Let us hear what the Spirit is saying to and through God’s people and ponder anew what the Almighty can do.  John+

Pondering for Saturday, September 14, 2019

Daily Office Readings for Saturday of Proper 18 Year 1

AM Psalm 55; PM Psalm 138, 139:1-17(18-23) 1 Kings 18:41-19:8; Phil. 3:17-4:7; Matt. 3:13-17

“Then he lay down under the broom tree and fell asleep. Suddenly an angel touched him and said to him, ‘Get up and eat.’ He looked, and there at his head was a cake baked on hot stones, and a jar of water. He ate and drank, and lay down again.” (1 Kings 19: 5 – 6)

I find it interesting that food is used as an energy source prior to a journey rather than a reward after an ordeal.  The latter reminds me of the saying, “If you don’t work, you don’t eat.”  The implication is that you work first, and later eat.

Elijah also ordered Ahab to “go up and eat and drink.” (1 Kings 18:41)  Food is our energy source.  Perhaps the greatest contribution to our gaining weight, especially in America, is not so much what we eat or even how much we eat but when we eat.  We’ve been told that breakfast is the most important meal of the day.  Some cultures make the midday meal the largest meal of the day.  The weight gaining problem comes (I think) when we eat late and then have no physical journey after the meal like Elijah had. 

Paying close attention to this 1Kings reading for today we will see that he did eat something and take another nap.  But then was awakened again where we read, “He ate and drank, and lay down again. The angel of the Lord came a second time, touched him, and said, ‘Get up and eat, otherwise the journey will be too much for you.’ He got up, and ate and drank; then he went in the strength of that food for forty days and forty nights to Horeb the mount of God.” (1Kings 19:6 – 8)  While forty days might be a stretch the greater point for me is that he ate and then walked, walked to see God.

I don’t know that this passage is strictly teaching dietary lessons; probably not.  But I think I have that unique ability to glean little bits of insight that delve into seemingly unrelated but important areas.  Fitness is one of those areas I am interested in.  I love it when my faith ear hears good news about a possible connection to fitness.  All things are related in some way. We feed our bodies in order that we too might be able to journey to see God.

Let us hear what the Spirit is saying to and through God’s people and ponder anew what the Almighty can do.  John+

Pondering for Friday, September 13, 2019

Daily Office Readings for Friday of Proper 18 Year 1

AM Psalm 40, 54; PM Psalm 511 Kings 18:20-40; Phil. 3:1-16; Matt. 3:1-12

“But when he saw many Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, ‘You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit worthy of repentance. 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 3:7 – 9)

I don’t know where John the Baptist learned hospitality.  “You brood of vipers” is probably not the most welcoming invitation one could use to encourage folk to repent.  Of course he is talking to Pharisees and Sadducees, who are perhaps the greatest critics of what he is doing.  Luke’s Gospel gives a more detailed ‘back and forth’ between John and questioning participants.   (Luke 3: 10 – 14)

There are two points that need to be learned here.  First, he says “bear fruit worthy of repentance.” This means a change in life style in such a way that you would never repeat the misdeed or sin that caused the separation from God’s will in the first place. God wants us to love God and one another.  Any act of commission or omission should bother us so much that we wished we could roll back time and change the situation.  But we can’t.  We must then, make sure it never happens again. The fruit of this repentance is asking for forgiveness.  It is a bitter fruit but it is medicine for the soul.  The offended party may not forgive you. That is out of your control.  But their resistant attitude does not excuse you from seriously apologizing anyway.   

Second, no one has a free pass.  John cautions them to not use the Abraham lineage as an automatic pass to whatever they might do or not do. Abraham heritage is not one of biology but rather, of faith. Today we can extend that false biological heritage identity further.  Being white, or black, or any ethnicity does not give us any advantage in God’s eyes. God can raise people in the faith of Abraham from any human population. We are called to believe, live and love accordingly.

Let us hear what the Spirit is saying to and through God’s people and ponder anew what the Almighty can do.  John+

Pondering for Thursday, September 12, 2019

Daily Office Readings for Thursday of Proper 18

Daily Office Readings for Thursday of Proper 18 Year 1

AM Psalm 50; PM Psalm [59, 60] or8, 84 1 Kings 18:1-19; Phil. 2:12-30; Matt. 2:13-23

“Then Josephgot up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt.”  (Matthew 2:14)

I think Joseph should be the patron saint of fatherhood (that is if he is not already).  In all the Gospels Joseph gets no air time.  There are no words from Joseph to us, only the witness of his obedience to what God wants. 

Joseph is the earthly father of Jesus.  We know that he is not the biological father.  But that has nothing to do with his call to be the father or Jesus.  What does count is his trust in what God wants.  While his eyes are on his son, his ears are affixed to God’s lips.

I believe all fathers should take a page from Joseph’s play book. I have never seen a greater need for faithful fathers than today. I am a father of both biological and non-biological children. I love them all equally. We have never used the term “step” for children or father.  I am “dad.” 

What I have learned from Joseph is that a father’s voice is not nearly as important as his faithful adherence to what God wants. Joseph maintains his relationship with Mary, the mother of Jesus, knowing the baby is not his but that loving her is in accordance with God’s will.

Joseph, who is a carpenter by trade, picks up and moves his family to a distant land and then later brings them back when told to do so. I witness his obedience and learn something about being strong and silent.  I have learned that what a child sees me do is far more important that what I might say to a child. It is what a father does that counts. Fathers also should be seen praying and taking care of mom.  Thank you Joseph.

Let us hear what the Spirit is saying to and through God’s people and ponder anew what the Almighty can do.  John+

Pondering for Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Readings for Henry “Harry” Thacker Burleigh (December 2, 1866 – September 12, 1949)

Psalm 103:1-5, 20-22 Isaiah 42:10-12 Romans 15:5-11 Luke 1:39-45

“Sing to the Lord a new song, his praise from the end of the earth!” (Isaiah 42:10)

While I am tired of talking about the concept of race, Henry Burleigh is more about music, God’s help through others and praise to the Lord but with some racial components.

“Henry (Harry) Thacker Burleigh was an American singer, composer, and arranger who did more than anyone else up to his time to make available the riches of the American Negro spiritual to vast audiences.” (Great Cloud of Witnesses for 11 September)

Music is important to me. I like all kinds of music. I believe music to be one of the gifts that God surprises us with by who God places the gift of music in. It crosses all human barriers.  But sometimes the person who God puts this gift in can be a block to us receiving it. This is also when God will act through an advocate.

“The presence of a black man in the choir [at St. George’s Episcopal Church in New York City] initially caused dissension, but it died down when J. Pierpont Morgan, a member of the parish, took a clear stand on the matter. Even after gaining other employment and becoming a successful composer, Burleigh continued to sing in the choir at St. George’s for many years and became a beloved part of the congregation.”  (Great Cloud of Witnesses for 11 September)

The one thing we can count on is God surprising us, through us.  Who knew that God would come to us in the son of a Palestinian Jewish mother?  Who knew God would turn a Church hater like Saul into a Church lover like Paul?  Who knew a Civic leader like J. P. Morgan would turn the tide of intolerance in order that the gift of Henry Burleigh could be enjoyed by those who otherwise would miss out on what God was doing in our very midst?  

I have often confessed that I can’t see where God is in my life but I can look back and definitely see where God was in my life.  Full disclosure, each day now, I find myself not having to look so far into my past to see God at work.  Maybe God is deliberately letting me see what’s going on as it is happening, or just maybe, I am becoming more observant to what God is doing in the here and now.  I don’t know.  But let me say that God will always bring us unexpected happiness.  I am so blessed! And, you are too. Some counselors will tell us that we must make ourselves happy.  I say, from my own experiences, God can make us happy and God often does this through others, like Paul, or J. P. Morgan, or anybody. God works in surprising ways.  We just have to be who God made us to be and God will put people in our path that will help us. Thank You Jesus.

Let us ponder anew what the Almighty can do and hear what the Spirit is saying to and through God’s people.  John+