Pondering for Saturday, March 28, 2020

Daily Office Readings for Saturday after the 4th Sunday of Lent: Year 2

Psalm 107:33-43, PM Psalm 108:1-6(7-13); 33 Exod. 2:23-3:15; 1 Cor. 13:1-13; Mark 9:14-29

“He said to them, ‘This kind can come out only through prayer.” (Mark 9:29)

Not enough of Christian effort is applied in prayer today either. By this I mean the “sit-in-your-room-alone – prayer.” After the disciples of our Lord Jesus failed to cast out the evil spirit by whatever means they were using, Jesus himself interviewed the father of the boy about how long this has been happening.  Then Jesus told the evil presence not only to come out of the boy, but also to never enter him again. Our Lord Jesus later explains about needing to pray more. He says that “This kind can come out only through prayer.”  This is what we need today.

We are suffering as a planet from this Covid 19 and even some clergy, Christian clergy, are going along with secular instruction to establish and maintain physical (social) distancing. And that’s fine but perhaps during this time (alone) distancing, we can pray, pray without ceasing.  Perhaps this physical distancing is good advice for the physical self. How about our spiritual selves?  Sooner or later we will all stand before the One for whom nothing is impossible.  What response will we give for not coming to our Lord for help?  Our Presiding Bishop once said the most important prayer we can pray is “Help.”

Folks, we must believe. Our Lord Jesus took issue with the father who showed some doubt when he ask, “if you are able to do anything, have pity on us and help us.” (Mark 9: 22)  To this Jesus responds, “‘If you are able!—All things can be done for the one who believes” (Mark 9: 23) My brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus, we must never under estimate the power of our faith in God or the power of  prayer that it brings to bear on whatever troubles us. God loves us so much that God can’t refuse whatever we ask, but we must trust and ask. And we ask for the benefit of one another everywhere. We don’t ask just for our family, or our Church or our Country but for human kind all over the planet.  Our planet has an evil presence, Covid 19. And God needs to know about it. God wants us to ask for help.  Oh my people of prayer, Pray!

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, March 27, 2020

Part 1 of 2

Daily Office Readings for Friday after the 4th Sunday of Lent: Year 2

Psalm 95 [for the Invitatory] 102; PM Psalm 107:1-32  Exod. 2:1-22; 1 Cor. 12:27-13:3; Mark 9:2-13

“He said to his daughters, “Where is he? Why did you leave the man? Invite him to break bread.”  (Exodus 2: 20)

Moses has killed an Egyptian and has been exposed by an angry Hebrew man, maybe even the same Hebrew man whom he spared the beating.  He is on the run. Just as he got in trouble for saving a man from a beating, he later defends women from harassing shepherds.  Perhaps these are the traits that God saw from the Burning Bush and called Moses near to do more work.  Just pondering.  Moses is invited to “Break Bread” in the home of Ruel and later marries his daughter (Zipporah).  Some translations say he was invited to a meal.  I like the term “Break Bread.”  I miss our own breaking of the bread during this “physical distancing” because of Covid 19. I also like and admire the courage of Moses. He continues in his way of courage even though he is on the run because of it.  God notices and will make good use of it for the benefit of the enslaved Israelites. God notices your good traits also.

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Today, March 27, we remember Charles Henry Brent Bishop of the Philippines and of Western New York, 1929.  “Charles Henry Brent was born at New Castle, Ontario, Canada, on April 9, 1862, and was educated at Trinity College, University of Toronto. Ordained priest in 1887 in Canada, he came to the United States in his first call as an assistant at St. Paul’s Cathedral in Buffalo, New York. In 1888 he became associate rector at St. John the Evangelist in Boston, Massachusetts, with responsibility for St Augustine’s, an African American congregation. He was serving at St. Stephen’s, Boston, when, in 1901, he was elected by the House of Bishops as Missionary Bishop of the Philippines.” (Great Cloud of Witnesses for March27)  Not enough room here to cover his whole story, and there is much, much more.

“Brent was also a man of prayer. One of his prayers for the mission of the Church has been included in the Book of Common Prayer: “Lord Jesus Christ, you stretched out your arms of love on the hard wood of the cross that everyone might come within the reach of your saving embrace: So clothe us with your Spirit that we, reaching forth our hands in love, may bring those who do not know you to the knowledge and love of you; for the honor of your Name.” (Great Cloud of Witnesses for March27) You should Google him and read more.

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, March 26, 2020

Daily Office Readings for the Thursday after the Fourth Sunday in Lent: Year 2

Psalm 69:1-23(24-30)31-38; PM Psalm 73 Exod. 1:6-22; 1 Cor. 12:12-26; Mark 8:27-9:1

“He asked them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Peter answered him, ‘You are the Messiah.” (Mark 8:29)

Our Lord Jesus had already asked his followers “who do the people say that I am?”   And rumors abound.  There were all kinds of responses.  Then he let the dust settle and he asked those who followed him “who do YOU say that I am?” 

The same question applies to us today, we who profess to be followers of our Lord Jesus as Christians. We hear all the time who the general public says that Jesus is.  Some folk are so confused that they don’t keep the history our Lord Jesus in New Testament when they speak of our Lord Jesus. Some will have him anywhere from being with Adam and Eve in the garden to being aboard the Mayflower as it made port in the Americas. Some even say that he is a figment of our imagination.  Fine for them, but who do YOU say that our Lord Jesus is?  And please, say who he is in your deeds rather than your words, even as you struggle to love all people.  Say who he is in prayer and deed as you do not return evil for evil.  Say who he is as you bless those who curse you. For this is who our Lord Jesus is; He is the Messiah!

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, March 25, 2020

Part 1 of 2

Daily Office Readings for the Wednesday after the Fourth Sunday of Lent: Year 2

Psalm 101, 109:1-4(5-19)20-30;  Psalm 119:121-144 Gen. 50:15-26; 1 Cor. 12:1-11; Mark 8:11-26

“And the man* looked up and said, ‘I can see people, but they look like trees, walking.’ 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: 24 – 25)

This patient of our Lord Jesus reminds me of me.  He needs continual help.  Initially he has a vision of people who look like trees walking.  I think of walking driftwood.  That has also been me, “walking driftwood.”  Thank you Lord Jesus for your continual healing and not giving up on me, even when I have given up on myself.

Part 2 of 2

Daily Office Readings for The Annunciation:  

Psalm 85, 87 Isaiah 52:7-12; Hebrews 2:5-10   Psalm 110:1-5(6-7), 132
Wisdom 9:1-12; John 1:9-14

Today’s feast commemorates how God made known to a young Jewish woman that she was to be the mother of his Son.  “The Annunciation has been a major theme in Christian art, in both East and West, and innumerable sermons and poems have been composed about it. The term coined by Cyril of Alexandria for the Blessed Virgin, Theotokos (“the God-bearer”), was affirmed by the General Council of Ephesus in 431.”  (Lesser Feast and Fast p. 194)  I have an Icon of Mary holding the baby Jesus.  I treasure it not only because of Mary but also of Jesus giving her to me as my own mother.  I take this from the Gospel of John where hanging from the cross he places her in the home of my own heart.  My mother was a business woman who did quite well in her day in the restaurant business.  However the only meal I ever shared with her (just the two of us) was in Philadelphia when my dad was in the hospital.  My mother and I were not that intimate. So when I read where our Lord Jesus says, “ to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.” (John 19:27)  I know our Lord Jesus was not talking to me but I needed to hear him say to me as one of his disciples that I could take his beloved mother into the house of my heart.  Thank You Lord Jesus.  I also think that one of the two best sermons in all the New Testament comes from Mary, and that is for us, the servants of our Lord Jesus, to “do whatever he tells you.”  (John 2:5)  Nothing else needs to be said.

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, March 24, 2020

Part 1 of 2

Daily Office Readings for Tuesday after the Fourth Sunday of Lent: Year 2

Psalm 97, 99, [100]; PM Psalm 94, [95] Gen. 49:29-50:14; 1 Cor. 11:17-34; Mark 8:1-10

“For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, ‘This is my body that is foryou. Do this in remembrance of me.’” (1Corinthians 11:23 – 24)

In the Synoptic Gospels as well as here in 1st Corinthians, Paul reports that our Lord Jesus gives us the image that he wants us to remember him by, the bread and the cup. This is what I am missing by not being able to go to Church due to the Coronavirus. I never thought I, or anybody, would give up Holy Eucharist for Lent. I miss it as does all of my flock.  Receiving Holy Communion will be so special when we celebrate it again, I hope in the not too distant future.

Part 2 of 2

Today is the day we are suppose to remember Gregory the Illuminator, Bishop of Armenia 332.  But I am also reading from a book given to me long ago as a Seminary graduation gift; Readings from the “Daily Office From the Early Church.”  Today features a sermon from Leo the Great, Bishop of Rome 461.  This sermon is specifically about Lent and I thought meaningful for us today. In part he writes; “The faithful should therefore enter into themselves and make a true judgment of their attitudes of mind and heart.  If they find some store of loves’s fruit in their hearts, they must not doubt God’s presence within them. If they would increase their capacity to receive so great a guest, they should practice greater generosity in doing good, with persevering charity.  If God is love, charity should know no limit, for God cannot be confined.” (Page 153)

If we just leave a little room in our hearts for God to enter in, God, over time, will adjust the furniture in our hearts in order that we might be more accommodating to the needs of those in worse shape than ourselves. The words “charity” and “love” are interchangeable in many of our biblical translations. The best example is in St. Paul’s 1st Letter to the Corinthians, chapter 13, verse 13 where it is written:  “And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity (King James);  And, “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love” (NIV).  Love and charity mean the same thing.  Love is expressed through charitable acts. It doesn’t matter what faith denomination or tradition one holds, love is made manifest through charity.  As we have been forced to stand down with our Church services, our charitable giving, both to our church and to the needy is of the utmost importance. If you would let God increase your capacity to receive so great a guest as God, you would practice greater generosity in doing good, with persevering charity. As Leo the Great has shared, “if God is love, charity should know no limit, for God cannot be confined.”

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 Monday, March 23, 2020

Part 1 of 2

Daily Office Readings for Monday after the Fourth Sunday of Lent: Year 2

Psalm 89:1-18; Psalm 89:19-52 Gen. 49:1-28; 1 Cor. 10:14-11:1; Mark 7:24-37

“But she answered him, ‘Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.’” (Mark 7: 28)

And with this response from the Syrophoenician mother Our Lord Jesus yielded to her faith.  Some say that this event happened so that we could see God’s inclusive love for all people. Some have even said that this happened as Our Lord Jesus was still learning who he was and the nature of his mission with us.  I prefer the first.  As Jesus intentionally went to lands outside of Israel to heal and teach, it is doubtful that he would not care about this woman’s daughter.  Also, the Syrophoenician mother shows that anyone bringing their problem to our Lord Jesus, if their faith is genuine, they will not be turned away. Thank You Lord Jesus

Part 2 of 2

Daily Office Readings for James De Koven Priest and Teacher, 1879

Psalm 84:7-12  2 Timothy 2:10-15 Matthew 13:31-33

“He put before them another parable: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.’” (Matthew 13:31 – 32)

While De Koven’s Day was Yesterday, the 22nd of March, His day was missed because it was a Sunday.  Even with this, He died on the 19th of March but it was already set aside for St Joseph. Poor De Koven, always pushed around.  But I feel the need to lift him up today.

De Koven’s devotion to ritual has kept us as Episcopalians steadfast in our physical discipline of ritual worship.  This same devotion costs him two Episcopates but he kept his tradition anyway. God has blessed us with memory, reason and skill. These gifts are essential in crafting images and art that enable us to focus our attention on God, beyond the crafts and art itself.  Icons, paintings, stained glass, candles, vestments and so on, even our beloved Book of Common Prayer are all items that help us focus on our Creator. “Because of his [De Koven] advocacy of the “ritualist” cause, consents were not given to his consecration as Bishop of Wisconsin in 1874, and of Illinois in 1875” (Great Cloud of Witnesses for March 22). He was a wonderful liturgist and priest and he held on to his traditions no matter the personal costs. I am so thankful for people of principle.

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, March 22, 2020

Part 1 of 2

Daily Office Readings for the Fourth Sunday of Lent: Year 2

Psalm 66, 67; PM Psalm 19, 46 Gen. 48:8-22; Rom. 8:11-25; John 6:27-40

“If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you.” (Romans 8:11)

All of our Christian faith rides on these words. The Spirit of God, who raised our Lord Jesus back to life, will also raise our mortal bodies back to life.  Eternal life is what we should be living for.  Even as we are going through this hard time with the Covid 19 virus, it cannot win over God.  Paul says, “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God.” (Romans 8:18 – 19)  In this section Paul mentions us as “Children of God” (a term that I really like) three times. So like our Brother Jesus, we to will be raised as he was to eternal life.  Thank You Lord Jesus

Part 2 of 2

Eucharistic Readings for the Fourth Sunday in Lent: Year A

1 Samuel 16:1-13  Psalm 23  Ephesians 5:8-14  John 9:1-41

“But they kept asking him, “Then how were your eyes opened?” He answered, “The man called Jesus made mud, spread it on my eyes, and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ Then I went and washed and received my sight.” (John 9:10 – 11)

Each line above can be the basis of a homily. The man called Jesus, (through whom all things were made) made mud, put it on my eyes (used God’s earth to cure those made of God’s earth) and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash (Go and be baptized) and (he had a responsibility to co-create with God) you must obey me.  I washed and received my sight (I obeyed and was able to receive my sight – sight I never had. And because of our Lord Jesus we now see as we have never seen before. So, the Incarnate Word through whom all things were made, made medicine, applied it to the eyes, ordered the man to go and rinse with water as in baptism, requiring his participation in seeing the Truth, the real Truth.  Our Lord Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life. (John 14:6) Yes, there are many little homilies in this passage. But all of them the are very important lessons.  We too must believe, ask, accept, obey, participate and receive, and finally, see.  Thank You Lord Jesus.

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