Pondering for Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Daily Office Readings for Wednesday of the 3rd Week of Easter: Year 1

Morning, Psalm 38; Evening, Psalm 119:25 to 48
Daniel 5:1 to 121st John 5:1 to 12Luke 4:38 to 44:

“As the sun was setting, all those who had any who were sick with various kinds of diseases brought them to him; and he laid his hands on each of them and cured them.”  (Luke 4:40)

Just before the above passage, Jesus cured the mother-in-law of Peter. This healing is probably what prompted others to bring their sick to Jesus. Our Lord Jesus was a prolific healer, still is.  Maybe we should call him “Doctor J.” I’m just kidding with my ponderings.

Healing our bodies was a secondary duty that Jesus performed.  He proclaims that his primary responsibility is to spread the word about the Good News. We read, “But he said to them, ‘I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other cities also; for I was sent for this purpose.” (Luke 4:43) 

Jesus was both sent, and he sends. All who profess themselves to be Christians are sent by our Lord Jesus to spread the word about the kingdom of God. I don’t believe that spreading the word about the kingdom of God means indoctrinating others to be Christians also. But rather, it means spreading the word about this temporal existence and informing people about the eternal life possible through a life dedicated to God by loving God and loving all others. After hearing about the Good News people must decide for themselves the path that best fits them.

While Doctor J. was a healer, He is even more a Prophet in the sense that he is a seer. Perhaps it was easier for Jesus to speak of the kingdom of God given that he was in the kingdom of God before he came to be among us. It is always easier to talk about what we know than what we believe.  But, believing is where we must start.

I know medical doctors who are also very faithful Christians.  They pray, and they heal, in that order.  Luke, the author of the Gospel account from which we are reading today was also a physician. Maybe Luke’s vocation made him more aware of Jesus as a physician also.  Either way, Luke puts bodily healing in its proper place behind faith healing. We must hear about the Good News regarding the kingdom of God and strive to get there regardless of our bodily condition.

 Like Peter’s mother, once we are healed we should serve. The Christian call is a call to serve, (Luke 4:39).  Serving others is the evidence of our love for others. Today we remember Anselm, monk, archbishop and theologian (April 21, 1109).  He considered himself a servant of the servants of God.  He was a great example for us to emulate.

Let us live to love, more than we just love to live, listening to what the Spirit is saying to, and through, the saints of God, while pondering anew what the Almighty can do. John

Pondering for Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Daily Office Readings for Tuesday of the 3rd Week of Easter: Year 1

Morning, Psalms 26 and 28; Evening, Psalms 36 and 39;
Daniel 4:28 to 371st John 4:7 to 21Luke 4:31 to 37:

“Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit.”  (1st John 4:11 to 13)

Notice that the writer doesn’t say that since God loved us so much we ought to love God. But rather, he says that since God loves us so much, that we ought to love each other as well.  The writer is saying that God sees value in each of us even if we can’t see it in each other. He says that if we love one another that God lives in us. Wow! This moves me to at least see in every human being a place reserved for God, whether the other person realizes it or not.

A couple of years ago, before the pandemic, our parish hosted a Vacation Bible School.  We were blessed to have about 15 children attend. One little boy stands out for me.  He was very talkative and had an extraordinary vocabulary.  In one of the stories we told them there was a search for God. Finally, the teacher announced that she found God. They all wanted to see God.  The teacher handed them little mirrors.  Upon seeing himself in the mirror, the little boy said, “This is impossible!”   We truly are vessels of love. “No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us.”  We have the potential for being small portions of God’s love.  In this way we make heaven right here on earth.  Thank You Lord Jesus for your example of love.

Also, according to the writer of 1st John, there is a place in God where we are present.  I hope our presence in God does not corrupt God.  We, all humanity, need a continuously loving God.  We mortals are not always loving; to one another, or to God.  It would be sad to poison the pure love of God. Truthfully however, I don’t think we can.  God would not give us that kind of power.  But if we are loving, God will take us in and let us dwell within God, forever. Therefore, our work here on earth, and in this life, is to learn to be as loving as we can possibly be.

 Let us live to love, more than we just love to live, listening to what the Spirit is saying to, and through, the saints of God, while pondering anew what the Almighty can do. John

Pondering for Monday, April 19, 2021

Daily Office Readings for Monday of the 3rd Week of Easter: Year 1

Morning, Psalm 25; Evening, Psalms 9 and 15
Daniel 4:19 to 271st John 3:19 to 4:6Luke 4:14 to 30

“There were also many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.’  When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage.” (Luke 4:27 and 28)

Our Lord Jesus recalls how those who were supposed to believe doubted and those who were thought to be excluded, but believed, were saved.  Upon hearing this truth, they were filled with rage.”

Often when we hear the painful truth about ourselves, we are filled with rage.  Perhaps it is because we are in denial or fearful that this prophet Jesus, will expose us for who we really are and who he really is.  In any case, our Lord Jesus is who he is. We, on the other hand, can change.

The people of his hometown in Nazareth in Galilee decided to get rid of him.  Unfortunately, leaving Jesus out of their lives is the path some want-to-be Christians today choose to take when the Christian life becomes too difficult.

If we don’t like who we are, we should change. Change is possible through our Lord Jesus. It happens a little bit at a time.  It happens through Christian writings, through Church attendance, and through social engagements with persons who are also struggling to live the tough Christian life.

In our Luke reading for today, they wanted to destroy our Lord Jesus. “But he passed through the midst of them and went on his way,” (Luke 4:30). Just as Jesus will leave us be if we so choose, he will gladly re-enter our lives should we invite him.

I believe wanting to be a better people is the first step. After desire, comes determination. And even before the readings, the Church, and the company we keep, comes our prayers. Our Episcopal Collect for Purity is what I have found to fit best.  We pray,  “Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hid: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy Name; through Christ our Lord.  Amen.”  (BCP 355)

Let us live to love, more than we just love to live, listening to what the Spirit is saying to, and through, the saints of God, while pondering anew what the Almighty can do. John

Pondering for Sunday, April 18, 2021

Part 1 of 2

Daily Office Readings for Sunday of the 3rd Week of Easter: Year 1

Morning, Psalms 148, 149, 150; Evening, Psalms 114 and 115
Daniel 4:1 to 181st Peter 4:7 to 11John 21:15 to 25 

Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received.” (1st Peter 4:10)

God gifts each of us with what we all need. We are to share for the good of all. This is communal living and it is God’s design for our lives together. We believe our God lives in a Communal Trinitarian Relationship. God is Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier. As we are created in God’s Image, we too must live in communal relationship. We need and must have, and should love, one another. This togetherness has been the message of the Bible from time immemorial.  We can’t be at peace in total isolation. We need as much to share our gifts as we need to receive from others.

Part 2 of 2

Eucharistic Readings for the 3rd Sunday of Easter: Year B

Acts 3:12-19  Psalm 4  1 John 3:1-7   Luke 24:36b-48

“Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures.” (Luke 24:45) 

It is the Resurrected Jesus who opens our minds to understand the scriptures. This is the Jesus whom we have with us today.  Jesus came to them as they were assembled, spreading His peace among them and communing with them. This happens today as we come to Church and are assembled.

Such Divine Presence happens whenever 2 or 3 are gathered in His Name.  However, there are some protocols that must be remembered.  When we come together, we must offer our gathering to God and invite the Lord to be among us. In the gatherings that I am currently a part of; that is Education for Ministry, the Brotherhood of St Andrew, Women’s Bible Study, and even the Lodge practices that I frequent, all open with prayer. We are all aware of the need to have God be among us.

It is when God is with us, Emanuel, that our minds are opened. Such an invitation should not be limited to formal assemblies only.  Families too, should establish and maintain the invitation to God to be present, not just at meals, but even in family talks. In this way, our minds are opened.

Let us live to love, more than we just love to live, listening to what the Spirit is saying to, and through, the saints of God, while pondering anew what the Almighty can do. John

Pondering for Saturday, April 17, 2021

Daily Office Readings for Saturday of the 2nd Week of Easter: Year 1

Morning,  Psalms 20 and 21:1 to 7; Evening, Psalm 110:1 to 5, and 116 to 117;
Daniel 3:19 to 301st John 3:11 to 18Luke 4:1 to 13

“All who hate a brother or sister are murderers, and you know that murderers do not have eternal life abiding in them.” (1st John 3:15)

I do believe that hate is bad and one should learn to not let one’s self be reduced to hate.  It was Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. who said, after a racial encounter with a Southern U. S. policeman, that he has seen firsthand what hate can do to a person. And he vowed to never let hate do this to him. I personally don’t believe that because we have hate in us that we are murderers, particularly if we haven’t acted on such hate. We can overcome hate and we do it with love.

In 1st John 3:15, there is also the idea that eternal life is already abiding in at least some of us. For me, this is something wonderful to ponder.  This means that some of us have learned to live the code of eternal life while still walking around in this mortal body.  I want that.  Having eternal life abiding in me now will make the transition to that next life so much more doable.

Also, having eternal life abiding in us now, more fully brings us to God’s will, being done “on earth as in heaven.”  Eternal life abiding in us now is a way to narrow the separation between heaven and earth. It is the coming of the Lord back to us in ways we didn’t expect. It is the gradual, but steady move of humanity to more fully embrace the concept of love for all people. It sounds impossible. And, for people it probably is. But remember, for God, nothing is impossible.

God may infuse the abiding love of eternal life in us a few people at a time until we have “herd immunity” against hate.  For us we think in terms of how much time this will take. God doesn’t seem to be concerned with time as God has no beginning and no end. But God has made provision for those of us who already have eternal life abiding in us.  Are you one of those who have decided to not let hate rule you?  Are you one of those who have decided to let love rule?  Are you one of those who has eternal life abiding in you.  If so, you are ahead of your time.

Let us live to love, more than we just love to live, listening to what the Spirit is saying to, and through, the saints of God, while pondering anew what the Almighty can do. John

Pondering for Friday, April 16, 2021

Daily Office Readings for Friday of the 2nd Week of Easter: Year 1

Morning, Psalms 16 and 17; Evening, Psalms 134 and 135
Daniel 3:1 to 181st John 3:1 to 10Luke 3:15 to 22:

“There are certain Jews whom you have appointed over the affairs of the province of Babylon: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. These pay no heed to you, O king. They do not serve your gods and they do not worship the golden statue that you have set up.” (Daniel 3:12)

It is so sad when we glare at other human beings with contempt.  It is especially sad when this glaring is done at the time when we have agreed to spend such time worshiping deity.

So, “Certain Chaldeans” went to King Nebuchadnezzar to complain about “Certain Jews.”  My pondering question is, how would these Certain Chaldeans even know about the Certain Jews, if in fact they were observing the order of Nebuchadnezzar themselves?  I agree with the Jews of Daniel’s day. They, and we of today, should eat healthy and worship the Lord our God, not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.  But most of all, we must not take our eyes off of God to look at others.  When we do, we tend to look upon them with contempt and not see them as God sees them.

There are examples of this glare of contempt in the New Testament as well. Often we can read where people will take their eyes off of Jesus to look at Mary or a sibling, or a friend, and Jesus has to set them right. We must look at all others through, not around, God. When we view people through the lens of God we look upon them with love as God does.  I know that sometimes we don’t want to love them.  That too is something we need to take to God. How is it that God can love these people whom we, you and I, can clearly see as unrighteous? 

The Chaldeans did not want to love the Jews. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego loved the Lord their God, through whom they even learned to love the Chaldeans, bur not their statue made with hands.  We have a God who is real – a God who loves all people and through whom we too are able to love all, if we choose. We should perhaps ponder whether or not we want to love all people.  And then, take that decision to God for correction, to be set right, or assistance, or even affirmation.

For this evening and tomorrow day my friends; Shabbat Shalom

Let us live to love, more than we just love to live, listening to what the Spirit is saying to, and through, the saints of God, while pondering anew what the Almighty can do. John

Pondering for Thursday, April 15, 2021

Daily Office Readings for Thursday of the 2nd Week of Easter: Year 1

Morning, Psalm 18:1 to 20; Evening, Psalm 18:21 to 50; 
Daniel 2:31 to 491st John 2:18 to 29Luke 3:1 to 14;

“In the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was ruler of Galilee, and his brother Philip ruler of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias ruler of Abilene, during the high-priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness.” (Luke 3: 1 and 2)

This opening into chapter 3 of Luke is a lesson onto itself.  It opens with humans in high human positions. We have the Emperor of Rome; we have the Roman governor of Judea; we have the ruler of Galilee and neighboring areas.  We also have the clergy in charge of their respective religious duties.  These self-filled men are so full of their importance that there is no room for God.

So, the word of God finds space to dwell in one who has emptied himself. “The word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness.”  John lived out on the fringes, living off the land.  He had no ego issues about who he was. He had room for the word of God to dwell.

This is a valuable lesson for me.  I must remember that it is possible for me to fill my cup so full that God has to pass by me because there is no room in my inn.  Yes, this lesson is important for all who want to have the peace of God in their hearts.  It may require us to evaluate the junk that fills our space. We might have to do some house-cleaning. If we don’t, we risk being like Tiberius, Pontius Pilate, Herod, Philip, Annas and Caiaphas. They were so full of themselves that the word of God had to “Passover” them.  But where John was able to sit quietly and ponder in nature, the word of God settled, was planted, and bloomed.

The beginning of cleaning house is the quiet time we give ourselves.  I again share the quote from Blaise Pascal, “All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.”  John the Baptist made plenty of time to welcome the Presence of God.  This quiet time is not something we get in Church. A little of it may be acquired by small group silent retreats.  But by far the best way to be open to the Word of God is silent prayer, spiritual reading and just pondering the presence of the Holy.   God will visit you. Just empty yourself and be open to receive.

Let us live to love, more than we just love to live, listening to what the Spirit is saying to, and through, the saints of God, while pondering anew what the Almighty can do. John

Pondering for Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Daily Office Readings for Wednesday of the 2nd Week of Easter: Year 1

Morning,  Psalm  119:1 to 24; ; Evening, Psalms 12, 13 and 14; 
Daniel 2:17 to 30; 1st John 2:12 to 17; John 17:20 to 26
 

“And the world and its desire are passing away, but those who do the will of God live forever.” (1st John 17:17)

Over and over in this 1st John reading for today, John repeatedly says that, “I am writing to you”, or, “I write to you,” as a way of leaving us with the beginning of faith. From John we learn that faith has its value in its ability to help us overcome the toxicity of our hearts and its vanishing desires, or rather, its desires for vanishing things. Such desires are the by-products of creation.  God never meant for us to focus our craving and desire on created things, but rather, on the Creator.

It is good and pleasing to enjoy creation and one another. We are brought into this world to do the will of God and this often means caring for creation and one another.  Caring for creation and one another is the will of God and are therefore eternal vocations.

Even as creation passes away, or “evolves,” we, the caregivers of it, also evolve. Our devoted lives to the will of God does not end, it just changes.  Believing this, causes us to live our lives in support of God’s plan for continued life – life that God brought into existence for God’s pleasure, and ours as well. Such believing is faith. Faith is a word hard to find in the writings of John, in his Gospel accounts, or his letters. Faith is a noun. Believing is a verb. John wants active ministry. Active ministry does not pass away.  It continues for all eternity.

Once we learn to live our lives in faith, supporting God by caring for all of God’s creation, which includes all people, and loving to do this work, we have set ourselves up for eternal life in the presence of God.  This desire to appreciate the gift of life that God has brought into being makes itself manifest in love – love of God and thanksgiving to God. We didn’t have to be. But we do exist, thanks to God. And as human beings, we have the unique invitation to live on in the service of God by doing the will of God. Our goal should be to love. It is the love of God that brought us into being. And we are created in the Image of God. This Image is not the physical, anthropomorphic image, but the spiritual loving Image. We are love embodied.

John writes to us that we might believe. I write to you that you might believe.  How will your life change once you shift from love of the created, to love of the Creator?  Doing the will of God will enable you to live forever in love and happiness.

 Let us live to love, more than we just love to live, listening to what the Spirit is saying to, and through, the saints of God, while pondering anew what the Almighty can do. John

Pondering for Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Daily Office Readings for Tuesday of the 2nd Week of Easter: Year 1

Morning, Psalms 5 and 6; Evening, Psalms 10 and 11;
Daniel 2:1 to 161st John 2:1 to 11John 17:12 to 19:

“My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and he is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.” (1st John 2:1 and 2)

I need to read and hear these words from Saint John often.  I truly am a little child in the faith.  However, I fall into sin just like all others. Not long ago I preached on Dietrich Bonheoffer, Pastor and activist. Bonheoffer was shown to have conspired to have Hitler killed. He wrote “The Cost of Discipleship.”  Sin is a very confusing thing. Only God knows the mind and heart of a person.

While I will admit that I have not conspired to kill anyone, I have had thoughts, and actions that are contrary to what most accept as Christian behavior.  And, in my own defense, not all Christians are on the same page.  I am on the Episcopal path of the Jesus movement where same-sex marriage by consenting, loving adults is supported by our faith community. As an Episcopal Priest I have conducted a same sex marriage.  I think it was one of the best weddings that I have ever done.  And, in no way am I saying this is a sin. However, in some Christian traditions it may be. What is real sin is determined by God, not humanity.

My sins are between me, my confessor, and my God. Your sins are between you and whomever you trust and God.  But we can take great comfort in knowing that our Lord Jesus is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours only, but for the sins of the whole world. This comfort is not a license to sin, but rather, a call to repentance and reconciliation.  Our Lord Jesus gives us the opportunity to live more fully into an open and loving relationship with God and with all the world.

Let us live to love, more than we just love to live, listening to what the Spirit is saying to, and through, the saints of God, while pondering anew what the Almighty can do. John

Pondering for Monday, April 12, 2021

Daily Office Readings for Monday of the 2nd Week of Easter: Year 1:

Morning, Psalms 1, 2 and 3; Evening, Psalms 4 and 7
Daniel 1:1 to 211st John 1:1 to 10John 17:1 to 11

“I lie down and go to sleep; I wake again, because the Lord sustains me.” (Psalm 3:5)

I often find the words of the Psalms a way to expand beyond the locked in narratives of the Bible.  This phrase in Psalm 3 for example, captures my nightly reflection of the day just past.  What was I thankful for?  How was I challenged?  What would I change going forward? 

I am also, like the Psalmist, so thankful that God sustains me day in and day out. I pray that my thoughts, words and actions are pleasing to God. These blogs are begun at night, the night before they are to be published for the next day. My thoughts first go into my personal journal. From the journal I decide what I want to share with the world.  I read and reflect on all the readings for the next day and pray in the Spirit. It is in such prayer that thoughts come to me. These I ponder and print.

I encourage everyone who listens to me (or reads me), to have some time of reflection.  I find that a review of the day just past, is the best time to do this.  Also, spiritual reading motivates the goodness within us as our soul strives to get closer to God. Such a practice really does wake us the next day in thanksgiving to God.

For me, it is so wonderful to review the thoughts and prayers from last night and then share them with you. It is my hope that these words of mine will enhance the life of all who may read this blog. Just as I have been changed in good ways by reading the work of the saints who have gone before me, so too maybe my words may help others to be a better, and more loving people.  

Let us live to love, more than we just love to live, listening to what the Spirit is saying to, and through, the saints of God, while pondering anew what the Almighty can do. John