Pondering for Saturday, May 21, 2022

Daily Office Readings for Saturday of the 5th Week of Easter: Year 2

Mornings, Psalm 75 and 76; Evening, Psalms 23 and 27;

Leviticus 23:23 to 44; 2nd Thessalonians 3:1 to 18; Matthew 7:13 to 21:

“Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road is easythat leads to destruction, and there are many who take it.  For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it.”  (Matthew 7:13- 14)

I often remind my congregation that Christianity is not for the faint of heart.  It’s hard work, a narrow gate, if you will.  If you have ever been in line to get through a narrow door, or even in heavy traffic where one lane is closed and drivers must merge or “zipper” into a single lane, you have some idea about the need for patience.  Also, the road is difficult.  Christians must undergo some uncomfortable experiences and often stand with those who are overwhelmed.

Our Congregation as been downsized due to COVID 19.  Many Christians of “Mega” churches have also been downsized and don’t like it.  However in the beginning of the Jesus Movement, we assembled in the homes of believers (in secret).  We were small groups around a table. We may be back to that now.  Those who brought the Word, themselves worked jobs only to show that they were not trying to profit from the Gospel, rather, they were prophets of the Gospel.

In our 2nd Thessalonians reading for today we read, “For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us; we were not idle when we were with you,  and we did not eat anyone’s bread without paying for it; but with toil and labor we worked night and day, so that we might not burden any of you. This was not because we do not have that right, but in order to give you an example to imitate.  For even when we were with you, we gave you this command: Anyone unwilling to work should not eat.”  (2 Thessalonians 3: 7 – 10)

I am one of those clergy who believes that I should have a regular job as I study and prepare to preach the Gospel.  Not a lot of Clergy agree with me, and that’s fine.  In my way of understanding the clergy role. it should be the bishop whose sole focus should be his or her diocese. The argument will be raised, “Who wants to go to three years of seminary only to work as a part-time priest?”  Our  Gospel reading says, “For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” As I look back now I regret not having worked a secular vocation while in active ministry.

Our lives as believers comes down to believing, praying and following God’s lead even through the narrow gates, and over the hard roads, while supporting ourselves and others.  Standing with Ukraine is both a narrow gate and a hard road to traverse. They continue to need our prayers and support  while being attacked by the Russian military. We are called to stand with David even as he faces Goliath. Following our faith is not easy but it is where our Great Shepherd is leading us.

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

Pondering for Friday, May 20, 2022

Daily Office Readings for Friday of the 5th Week of Easter: Year 2

Morning, Psalm 106:1 to 18; Evening, Psalm 106:19 to 48;

Leviticus 23:1 to 222nd Thessalonians 2:1 to 17; Matthew 7:1 to 12:

“Ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you.” (Matthew 7:7)

I believe the most significant lessons of our lives come as a result of the questions we ask. We live in a wonderful time.   With our phones we literally have world libraries in our pockets.  We can ask anything in the world.  This does not come without a caution however.  The old saying is true, “garbage in; garbage out.”  Readers beware.  And again, advice from a friend of mine, “ask a question and, if necessary, question the answer.”

When it comes to Godly concerns, we can read the Bible but I don’t recommend it to be done in isolation.  There are also Bible Study classes that can be taken to help you. And with this I recommend such classes to open and close in prayer.  It is also necessary when asking such questions to go beyond the Bible, to the saints of old and the saints new.

Many of the saints who have gone before us have answers to our questions. But let’s place this passage where it belongs; our Lord Jesus is talking about judgment, specifically, not judging others. He uses examples of the speck in our neighbor’s eye and the log in ours.  And then he goes into how we treat our children whom we love as God loves us.  The point here is that we want what is best for those we love remembering that God loves us all. 

Sometimes we really don’t know what is best, given that we bring our own baggage (or log in our eye) into the situation.  So, we must ask God for what is best, knowing that God’s response may be uncomfortable at times.  From one of our saints who has gone before us we have a prayer in our Book of Common Prayer that I think addresses what we should ask for;

A Prayer attributed to St. Francis as printed in our 1979 Book of Common Prayer:

Lord, make us instruments of your peace. Where there is hatred, let us sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is discord, union; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy. Grant that we may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen. (BCP 833)

Please keep Ukraine and the people of Ukraine in your prayers. Prayer is working right now!

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

Pondering for Thursday, May 19, 2022

Daily Office Readings for Thursday of the 5th Week of Easter: Year 2

Morning, Psalm 71; Evening, Psalm 74;

Leviticus 19: 26 to 372nd Thessalonians 1:1 to 12; Matthew 6:25 to 34:

“And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?” (Matthew 6:27)

I am a champion worrier.  And I realize that the worrying itself (in most cases), does more harm to my wellbeing than the issue I am worrying about. I think worrying is somehow related to fear. They must be cousins if not parent and child, fear then, giving birth to worry.  I heard in a movie once that basically fear is a deep concern about some event that has not happened yet, and may not happen at all. And yet here we are, ready to give up or worse yet, do something regrettable because of it.

Our Lord Jesus makes the point that worrying really can’t help us, only hurt us.  Our Lord Jesus tells us regarding things we worry about that, “Your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.  But strive first for the kingdom of Godand hisrighteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6: 32 – 33)

I also ponder about the next verse and how God’s time might apply here.  Our Lord Jesus says, “So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today. (Matthew 6:34)  So tomorrow!  Is that this life or the next?  I fear, I worry still.

I worry about the fate of Ukraine. I keep them in prayer. I send money to different organizations that support them.  There is so much cleanup that needs to happen when the bombing stops for good.  I worry about whether or not the dispersed Ukrainians will return to their homeland.  Worrying is not like praying.  Worrying fixes nothing. Praying repairs all things through the Holy Creator and Sustainer.  So we must continue to pray for Ukraine and not worry (so much).  Jesus informs us that our Parent knows our needs – Ukraine’s needs – and will see to it that what is really needed is provided. Thank You Lord Jesus.

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

Pondering for Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Daily Office Readings for Wednesday of the 5th Week of Easter: Year 2

Morning, Psalm 72; Evening, Psalm 119:73 to 96;

Leviticus 19:1 to18; 1st Thessalonians 5:12 to 28; Matthew 6:19 to 24:

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  (Matthew 6:21)

I think of this verse, in reverse. I think that I first consider what my heart desires and then realize that my heart’s desire is my treasure. Treasure is often thought of as money. We can’t eat money. Money is our community currency that has a long shelf life – longer than wheat, or live stock, or anything we could use to trade with. Money, therefore, is a tool for trade and commerce, nothing more.

Knowing myself the way I do I think my heart’s desire is peace. I always cringe at the onset of any kind of hostility. I loathe domestic violence, bullying, and all hate initiated behavior.  Therefore peace is my treasure.

I think for me, strongly connected with peace is eternal life, which I believe is ultimate peace. I hope, pray and trust that joining Christ in paradise will be the eternal place of peace where there will be no more crying, forever. This then is my ultimate treasure. And it is first based on my heart’s desire.

Perhaps this is some insight into why I am so disturbed by the Russian aggression against Ukraine. This is hate fueled violence and bullying on an international scale.  It’s just as bad as in-home domestic violence. It is sinful and evil. It is in stark contrast to my passion for peace, my heart’s desire and ultimate treasure.  Thank You Lord Jesus, for you are the prince of peace who has sent your Holy Spirit to shepherd us into that peaceful and eternal paradise where you are, in order that we may be there also.

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

Pondering for Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Daily Office Readings for Tuesday of the 5th Week of Easter: Year 2

Morning, Psalms 61 and 62; Evening,  Psalm 68:

 Leviticus 16:20-34; 1st Thessalonians 5:1 to 11; Matthew 6:7 to 15:

 “For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who are drunk get drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, and put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation.  For God has destined us not for wrath but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Matthew 6:7 – 9)

I like thinking of myself mostly as a day creature.  I rise before the sun comes up and go to bed shortly after it sets.  However, as I take a distant look of our solar system through space cameras or art, I realize that during the day my place on the earth is facing inward toward the sun. But at night, my view is toward the universe, that vast expanse of interstellar space.  Hey, I’m “pondering” here ok.  Our night time view is one of taking in the stars and planets, the universe that God created. I have become familiar with the “Big Dipper” and “Orion’s Belt,” the occasional visitation of Venus and Mars and other planets and constellations as they make their journeys in their God-given paths

So for me, night is more than just a time for sleep, it is also a time of wonder. As a Christian, I agree with Bishop Kallistos Ware who says, “It is not the task of Christianity to provide easy answers to every question, but to make us progressively aware of a mystery. 

There is genuine goodness in people of all walks of life. But then evil comes. Evil cannot make itself known without good present. Evil must have good close at hand in order to establish itself.  Almost all of our Bible stories show us this. There is good Abel and evil Cain; there is good Moses and evil Pharaoh; there is good Esther and Mordecai and evil Haman; there is good Jeremiah and evil Zedekiah: and today we have good Ukraine and the evil of Russian troops killing civilians and targeting the good of  hospitals and apartment buildings for bombings. We pray daily for this to stop.

We do not see evil in the night sky, only the good rotations and movements throughout the year as they make their way on their God-given paths. God has destined them for such. And God has also destined us for the same goodness through our Lord Jesus.  “For God has destined us not for wrath but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Therefore, in pondering reflection, I think we are both day and night creatures.  And as the Holy Spirit says through Matthew, we are on our own God-given path to salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. Let us come together and stop evil from happening. We need to stop the evil some people do with guns and stop world violence and just be good as God has made us to be.

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

Pondering for Monday, May 16, 2022

Daily Office Readings for Monday of the 5th Week of Easter: Year 2

Morning, Psalms 56  and 57; Evening,  Psalms 64 and 65;

 Leviticus 16:1 to 19; 1st Thessalonians 4:13 to 18; Matthew 6:1 to 6 and 16 to 18:

“Have mercy on me, my God, have mercy on me, for in you I take refuge.  I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed.” (Psalm 57:1)

The Psalmist speaks of trust in God.  God is love. Trust in God is the only sure trust we can count on. All over the earth we have been hiding from the Coronavirus.  But it has still taken its toll. In the U.S. we have passed the one million death mark.  Many all over the world have died as a result of this pandemic.  However, at some point, with God’s help, we will survive this sickness.

At some point in our lives we must admit that we are God’s own.  We belong to God. God will do what God will do.  We go to God for protection and wellbeing. We are seeing that we can’t always trust politicians (either side of the isle), or the military, or any human construct when it comes to unimaginable challenges that we face. It is only in God’s mercy that can we trust completely. 

And when we come out on the other side of this (here or in heaven), we must give thanks and praise to God in word and song.  In this same Psalm we read, “My heart, O God, is steadfast, my heart is steadfast;  I will sing and make music. Awake, my soul! Awake, harp and lyre! I will awaken the dawn.” (Psalm 57:7 – 8).  We must learn to put as much effort in giving thanks after God has helped us as we put in the asking for help in the beginning.

So we must always trust in God and then praise God always. We are now trying to come out of our tight isolations all over the planet.  Stores are opening back up.  We are looking to see what our new normal will be like. But God is the same yesterday, today and forever.   God is here in this world and in the heavenly world after our temporal death.  Therefore, it is God in whom we must take refuge and in the shadow of God’s wings until the disaster has passed, or we have passed it.

It is in God that Ukraine must take refuge. While some have died, the faithful will not stay dead. And those who survive in this life will be a beacon of light for our whole planet – they, the faithful of Ukraine, will be a light shining in the darkness and will bring the rest of us into the light of faith. 

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

Ponderings for Sunday, May 15, 2022

Eucharistic Readings for Sunday of Week 5 of Easter: Year C

Acts 11:1-18 Psalm 148 Revelation 21:1-6 John 13:31-35

“I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.  By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35)

Jesus gives us a new commandment!  He commands us to love one another.  Why is this commandment new?  Has not the commandments always commanded us to love one another?  Actually, according to the Ten Commandments we are told, in list form, how to “treat” one another.  While this laundry list of commandments attempts to keep us in good relationship with one another, it inculcates what God really wants of us. And that is for us to love one another. 

This message comes to us as we hear of ten people killed in Buffalo, NY by a young gunman bent on what he believes is racial vengeance. This is very sad. His whole action is based on false teachings drilled into him by mentally sick people solely based on how we look different from one another.

Jesus has us to love each other as he has loved us, all of us.  As I have pointed out in earlier talks, this Command differs from the Synoptic Gospels in that it does not say “love your neighbor as yourself” (Hoping, of course, that you love yourself).  But rather, requires us to love our neighbor as Jesus loves us – and it must be remembered that Jesus loved us all the way to his death on the cross.  This is sacrificial love, unconditional love, agape love.

In the first expressions of love the word love is used as a verb, that is an action we are to do, that is to love one another.  Jesus ends with love as a noun.  That is, he says, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”  To have love makes love a thing we have, and, we most certainly do.  And it is in us to share with and relate to others with care and compassion.

And while our so-called race classifications based on looks, differentiate us in many ways, We humans are so good, unfortunately, at finding new ways to not love each other.  Take for example Russia’s  anger at Ukraine. Take for example Israel’s anger at Palestine. Why?  Is there not enough food in the world for all to be fed.  Speaking of which, our most vulnerable are going without formula.  I’m talking about our babies. All of these are signs of the lack of love that we are not using, love, one for another. I believe hatred is also a form of mental illness.  Let the shoe fit the foot it fits.

Our whole world needs prayer. We need to change the way we see others.  We already have love for one another, God has put it inside us, but we fail to act from our God-given love. So let us listen to what the Holy Spirit is saying to us and make that change.  It may not be easy, but it’s doable.

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

Pondering for Saturday, May 14, 2022

Daily Office Readings for Saturday of the 4th Week of Easter: Year 2

Morning, Psalm 55; Evening, Psalm 138, 139:1-17(18-23);

Exodus 40:18 to 38; 1st Thessalonians 4:1 to 12; Matthew 5:38 to 48:

Psalm 139 Verses 1 – 3

1. Lord, you have searched me out and known me; you know my sitting down and my rising up;
you discern my thoughts from afar.

2. You trace my journeys and my resting-places and are acquainted with all my ways.

3. Indeed, there is not a word on my lips, but you, O Lord, know it altogether.

These are only the first three verses of Psalm 139.  I look at this Psalm as a meditation.  Verses 1 through 17 remind us of how well God knows us. Verses 1 through 17 are also the ones most frequently treasured.  The remaining verses tend to deal with what the Psalmist wants to happen to the wicked. I try not to go there.

I ponder about how it feels to know that when I have a thought or a feeling, that God knows about it as soon as I do (maybe even before I do).  I am truly not alone, not even in my inmost thoughts. I like to think that sometimes God is not so passive in my thinking. That is, God also “prompts” my thinking in one direction or another.  It’s like God allows me to see a “burning bush.” I, like Moses, must then decide if I am going to go check it out. The words of scripture are like the burning bush, the pages burn in us, but they are never consumed.  And through them, the Holy Spirit speaks to us.

Here’s the thing, God is a participant with all of us.  The divine hints are already with us.  But it’s up to us to check them out.  God discerns your thoughts from afar and is acquainted with all your ways.  Indeed, there is not a word on your lips, but God, O Lord, knows it altogether. This does not mean that God approves of all your words or thoughts.  Think about this and allow yourself to follow God’s lead in your life, not your own idea about what you should do. Try not to go there.

My beloved in the Lord, please continue to pray with me for Ukraine. God, and God only, knows the thoughts, hopes and fears of the Ukrainian people. However, as we witness this burning bush let us not cast it off as some insignificant sideline event in the world, but rather, take notice of it and discern how God wants us to be a part of the plan for their victory over tyranny.   Let us hear what the Spirit is saying to us. “Lord, you have searched us out and known us; you know our sitting down and our rising up; you discern our thoughts from afar.”

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

Pondering for Friday, May 13, 2022

Daily Office Readings for Friday of the 4th Week of Easter: Year 2

Morning,  Psalms 40 and 54; Evening, Psalm 51;

Exodus 34:18 to 351st  Thessalonians 3:1 to 13; Matthew 5:27 to 37:

“How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy that we feel before our God because of you?”  (1st Thessalonians 3:9)

Paul is thanking God for the faith of the Church in Thessalonica.  Timothy brought him the good news of how they worshiped the Lord and kept the faith. I pray we do as well for those we know who keep the faith.

Today we remember Frances Perkins.  “President Roosevelt appointed her to a Cabinet post as Secretary of Labor, a position she would hold for twelve years. As Secretary of Labor, Perkins would have a major role in shaping the New Deal legislation signed into law by President Roosevelt, most notably the establishment of the Social Security program. During her years of public service, Frances Perkins depended upon her faith, her life of prayer, and the guidance of her church for the support she needed to assist the United States and its leadership to face the enormous problems of the time. During her time as Secretary of Labor, she would take time away from her duties on a monthly basis and make a retreat with the All Saints Sisters of the Poor in nearby Catonsville, Maryland. She spoke publicly of how the Incarnation informed her conviction that humans ought to work with God to create a just Christian social order,” (Great Cloud of Witnesses for May 13).

As we remember and thank God for the faith of those we love, and for Frances Perkins, let us also thank God for the strong faith of the people of Ukraine.  It is because of their faith and resilience that both Finland and Sweden are now seeking to join NATO. Praise God from whom all blessings flow.

Faith in God is the most powerful tool (or weapon) against tyranny that we have.  If Goodness stands firm, Goodness will succeed. The best form of goodness is having faith in our Good God.

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

Pondering for Thursday, May 12, 2022

Daily Office Readings for Thursday of the 4th Week of Easter: Year 2

Morning, Psalm 50;  Evening, Psalm  60;

Exodus 34:1 to 17; 1st Thessalonians 2:13 to 20; Matthew 5:21to 26:

“We also constantly give thanks to God for this, that when you received the word of God that you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word but as what it really is, God’s word, which is also at work in you believers.”  (1 Thessalonians 2:3)

We are the vessels of the Word of God! God speaks of love.  That means we, as we carry out the word of God, we present love in word and deed to all whom we encounter.  We are the cup of Christ.  This is the Baptism that brought us into the Christian faith. 

Please remember and fully accept that, “In the beginning was the Word.” The Word came to us for hearing and believing. Many times I have said that we are people of stories. God is in your story no matter who you are.  You are God’s own.  Therefore, God’s Self is in you.  I give thanks for you knowing and believing that you are continuing the Word of God by telling your own truths about how God has acted, and is acting, in your life.  Thank You Jesus.

Yes, we are human. But we are also God’s Word. This Word of God is at work in each of us whether we acknowledge it or not.  Just as our Lord Jesus is the Word of God, so too are we the Word of God being made in the Image of God and therefore brothers and sisters of Christ Jesus.

This relationship does not stop with us. The people of Ukraine are also our brothers and sisters in Christ. They are made up of both Christians and Jews who fully accept God, albeit on different paths. Let us also constantly give thanks to God for this, that when they received the Word of God, that they heard from their faith leaders, they accepted it not as a human word but as what it really is, God’s Word, which is also at work in them as believers. Their trust is in the same God Almighty that we also trust in and worship.  There is only one God Who loves Ukrainians, Russians, Americans, Africans, Europeans,  Asians, and every nation, people and language that walks this planet.  And for this we also should constantly give thanks to our One God for this.

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