Pondering for Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Daily Office Readings for Wednesday of Proper 28 Year 1

AM Psalm 101, 109:1-4(5-19)20-30; PM Psalm 119:121-144
1 Macc. 3:42-60; Rev. 21:9-21; Matt. 17:22-27

“However, so that we do not give offence to them, go to the lake and cast a hook; take the first fish that comes up; and when you open its mouth, you will find a coin; take that and give it to them for you and me.’” (Matthew 17:27)

Peter is questioned in Capernaum about the Temple tax for the Temple in Jerusalem of Judea. After having visited the Holy Land and seen firsthand the geographical layout of Israel, I can see why the Temple has to tax the people to the north in Galilee.  Jerusalem has no real natural resources.  It is a big dry mountain whereas the area around Galilee to the north is very fertile.  Money then is used to buy products, especially food products that probably originated in Galilee in the first place.

Jesus has the fisherman Peter to go and catch a fish from Lake Galilee which was his livelihood in the first place and have that fish pay for the human requirement.  Jesus also had Paul depend on his former skill as a tentmaker to pay for his material needs. (Acts 18:3)  Should we look then to our community skills as a fall-back way to take care of ourselves while carrying out the message of the Gospel?

While in seminary I told my spiritual advisor that I wanted to be a working priest, that is, a priest with a secular job while also leading a parish.  He said that if he was looking for a priest for his church he would not even consider me.  It idea was that they would want a priest whose total focus was on the people of the parish and nothing else. As I look back, I wish I had stuck to my inclination.  Many Christian traditions have ministers who also hold down work outside their congregations.  Why not us too?

I will from this point on be an Episcopal priest.  I will not always be a rector (in charge of a parish). So, in the end, having a community vocation was not such a bad idea. All of us should have a way that we provide some useful service in our communities. We can, and should, be living examples of the love of Jesus as we work alongside others.  Maybe I need to go find my fish.

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, November 19, 2019

Daily Office Readings for Tuesday of Proper 28 Year 1

AM Psalm 97, 99, [100]; PM Psalm 94, [95] 1 Macc. 3:25-41; Rev. 21:1-8; Matt. 17:14-21

Psalm 100 Jubilate Deo
1 Be joyful in the Lord, all you lands; *
serve the Lord with gladness
and come before his presence with a song.

2 Know this: The Lord himself is God; *
he himself has made us, and we are his;
we are his people and the sheep of his pasture.

3 Enter his gates with thanksgiving;
go into his courts with praise; *
give thanks to him and call upon his Name.

4 For the Lord is good;
his mercy is everlasting; *
and his faithfulness endures from age to age.

Psalm 100 is very short, only four verses.  But it says everything. 

We should be joyful. But this only happens if we acknowledge God first and then our brothers and sisters after God.  If we start out considering other people before we see them through God’s eyes we sink into jealousy and other evils.  Go to everyone through God. You will be much happier.

God brought every human being into being.  It truly is more important to remember whose we are rather than who we are.

Being thankful is the least we can do or be.  All of us should have an attitude of gratitude as far as God is concerned.  Where there is a mix of sadness in our lives, there are sad people in the mix.

And lastly, here is where we (you and I), are created in God’s Image. We have both mercy and faith within us. Ironically, we also need mercy and faith from each other.  This too is the God part.  We have faith and we give mercy.  And we receive mercy and we grow and maintain our faith. I will tell you that I know people who aren’t sure of their faith but are some to the most merciful people on the planet. This mercy that they show others, especially those who are different, really demonstrates their unrealized faith. They just need to trust and hang in there.

Psalm 100 is short but contains all things necessary for salvation.

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, November 18, 2019

Daily Office Readings Monday of Proper28 Year 1

AM Psalm 89:1-18; PM Psalm 89:19-52 1 Macc. 3:1-24; Rev. 20:7-15; Matt. 17:1-13

“And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Also another book was opened, the book of life. And the dead were judged according to their works, as recorded in the books.” (Revelation 20:12)

This is a revelation from the Risen Christ to John an apostle of Christ.  This revelation as told by John perhaps gives us some insight about what it might be like to transition from this life to the next.  It is interesting that the dead were judged according to their works and not their beliefs.  But I guess it is some measure of accomplishment just to make it to that heavenly court to be judged at all. 

Two books were opened. One book may be the history of our lives, things done and things left undone. The letters “D” and “K” make a big difference here.  They were judged according to their works not their words.  They were judged according to their deeds done not what they “said” they did or wanted to do or even believed. We’re back to action speaking louder than words again.  As far as beliefs go, perhaps beliefs or non beliefs are exchanged for certain knowledge once we are standing in front of the Truth. 

What we believe about God is good if that is what it takes to make us live a godly life.  For some of us however, there is a universal moral principle that shapes our behavior towards others and a sense of decency that supervises our actions which still adds up to good deeds to be judged by.

 The other book is the Book of Life that our names are printed in and hopefully not blotted out.    “If you conquer, you will be clothed like them in white robes, and I will not blot your name out of the book of life; I will confess your name before my Father and before his angels. Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches.”(Revelation 3:5 – 6) Therefore, The Book of Life, may be a register that as our names are printed (and if not blotted out), in which case we’ve made it! Congratulations and Thank You 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+

Pondering for Sunday, November 17, 2019

Eucharistic Readings for Sunday of Proper 28 Year C Tract 2

Malachi 4:1-2a, Psalm 98,  2 Thessalonians 3:6-13,  Luke 21:5-19

“They asked him, “Teacher, when will this be, and what will be the sign that this is about to take place?”  (Luke 21:7)

This is an apocalyptic (or revelation) sharing about things to come that Jesus is telling them. It is also seen in Mark chapter 13 and Matthew chapter 24. The End Times (Eschaton) is coming.  The time is in Kairos, God’s time, not Chronos, our calendar time.

Sometimes it is not so much about what Jesus says, but what we ask in the first place, that really says what’s important to us. In the case of the End of all things (Eschotology), the question is, when, not if.  There is some sense that if it is not soon, weeks, months or even a few years, we have time to make things right, being the procrastinators that we are. But I think we miss the point.

The real point is not waiting to start, but to start now.  I can remember when I was asked to do something that required physical movement; I would jokingly say that I have already started moving in ways that couldn’t be observed by the human eye.  I would say that my feet have already started shifting in my shoes in preparation for standing.  I was trying to assure the person that I was starting to do the task even though I could not be seen moving; funny me.

The truth is that any step to improve our spiritual lives, no matter how small, is a step toward being prepared for the End Times of which, we have no idea of when.  All we have to do is believe it is coming and then act accordingly. When the End Time comes, acceptance is not so much a matter of what you “have done,” or “did not do,” but rather, where your heart is at that time. 

We must start now, right now, even with tiny, almost indiscernible steps, that inch us ever closer to being saved. And no matter how impossible it seems we must never give up; because while it is impossible for us, nothing is impossible for God. We just have to keep on keeping on.  Jesus says that, “It is by our endurance that we will gain our souls.”

We should never ask Jesus “when.”  We just need to start right now making ourselves better every day.  We do a little bit at a time.  It’s not setting a goal.  It’s just adding more and more righteousness as we go.  When the eschaton (the end of all things as we know it) comes, a new Promised Land comes as well. This is where (and when) not a hair of our heads will be lost. This takes perseverance. And it takes prayer.  So as the profit Malachi says, “But for you who revere my name the sun of righteousness shall rise, with healing in its wings.” (Malachi 4:2) I can’t help it.  Let me play with these words. “But for you who revere my name the Son of Righteousness shall rise, with healing in His hands.”  Forgive me Malachi, it’s the Christian in me.  

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 Saturday, November 16, 2019

Readings for Margaret Queen of Scotland, 1093

AM Psalm 87, 90; PM Psalm 136 1 Macc. 2:1-28; Rev. 20:1-6; Matt. 16:21-28

“But he turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling-block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.” (Matthew 16: 23)

This is a pretty popular verse from the Bible.  People often use it when they feel temptation is leading them down the wrong path.  I have found that Satan is often not so obvious.  Sometimes concern for self is Satan made manifest as was Peter’s concern about Jesus. But sometimes it is made manifest in not doing the good works that we are able to do because of the influence we have. Margaret, Queen of Scotland, carried such power and used it for the benefit of church and people.  Taken from Great Cloud of Witnesses for November 16, is the following:

“Shakespeare made familiar the names of Macbeth and Macduff, Duncan, and Malcolm; but it is not always remembered that Malcolm married an English princess, Margaret, about 1070. With considerable zeal, Margaret sought to change what she considered to be old-fashioned and careless practices among the Scottish clergy. She insisted that the observance of Lent, for example, was to begin on Ash Wednesday, rather than on the following Monday, and that the Mass should be celebrated according to the accepted Roman rite of the Church, and not in barbarous form and language. The Lord’s Day was to be a day when, she said, “we apply ourselves only to prayers.” She argued vigorously, though not always with success, against the exaggerated sense of unworthiness that made many of the pious Scots unwilling to receive Communion regularly.

Margaret’s energies were not limited to reformation of formal Church practices. She encouraged the founding of schools, hospitals, and orphanages, and used her influence with King Malcolm to help her improve the quality of life among the isolated Scottish clans. Together, Margaret and her husband rebuilt the monastery of Iona and founded Dunfermline Abbey, under the direction of Benedictine monks.”  (Great Cloud of Witnesses for November 16)

I find the link between the buildup of the Church and the establishment of schools, hospitals and orphanages fascinating.  Margaret is not the only saint that has done this kind of work.  There must be something about such people that enables them to put the Satan’s in their lives aside so that they are able to do good works. Today there are many hospitals named after denominations such as Methodist Hospital, Baptist Hospital and Presbyterian Hospital and the like.  As well, there are orphanages and schools that are also supported and maintained by churches. This is the kind of work we can do when we put Satan behind us.  Most of the schools that I have attended and completed were Christian affiliated schools.  Thank You 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+

Pondering for Friday, November 15, 2019

Readings for Friday of Proper 27 Year 1

AM Psalm 88; PM Psalm 91, 92 1 Macc. 1:41-63; Rev. 19:11-16; Matt. 16:13-20

“He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’”  (Matthew 16:15)

So who do I say Jesus is?  Verbally, I say Jesus is my Savior.  I say he is the Son of God.  I say he is the Messiah. I say he is God Incarnate. I say he is my salvation. And, I say he is the Way, the Truth and the Life. But can I say he is my teacher?

In all but the last of the ways above that I proclaim who Jesus is, it is about the nature of Jesus that pretty much excludes me except for his relationship “around” me.  Being my teacher however, requires me to learn something new and godly and behave or act in a different way, a better way.  Saying Jesus is my teacher is not done with words, it is done through how my life is lived. As St Francis is reported to have said, go and preach the Gospel and when necessary, use words. This suggests making the Gospel manifest through works of kindness and compassion.  Well, following the instructions of Rabbi (Teacher) Jesus also means behaving in the ways he is teaching me.

I say who Jesus is every time I help someone in need, every time I feed the homeless, every time I stop and listen to someone tell me their sad predicament (even if I can’t help resolve it). All of these, and more, are what we are called to do in following the instructions of Rabbi Jesus. It’s not so much what we say, it’s what we do. Action truly does speak louder than words. We just don’t let action be our main voice. Or as Mark Twain said, “Action speaks louder than words but not nearly as often.”  We need to speak with our actions more often. So, who do you say that Jesus is, and how do you say it, and how often?

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, November 14, 2019

Readings for Bishop Samuel Seabury, First Bishop to the Americas.

Psalm 133 Acts 20:28-32 Matthew 9:35-38

“Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”  (Matthew 9:37 – 38)

Even though we had many parishes in the American British Colonies, we were never assigned a Bishop. And even our candidates for ordination to the priesthood had to take the ship across the Atlantic to be ordained a priest.  “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.”  With the Revolutionary War, it would seem hopeless to get a Bishop, at least from England. It took courage or real faith to follow defeated war ships back across the Atlantic to ask for a priest to be consecrated a bishop.  But that is what Samuel Seabury did even though he was loyal to the British in the beginning; he honored the Independence of the new United States and would not submit to language that subjugated the Church under the British king.

“Samuel Seabury, the first Bishop of The Episcopal Church, was born in Groton, Connecticut, November 30, 1729. After ordination in England in 1753, he was assigned, as a missionary of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, to Christ Church, New Brunswick, New Jersey. In 1757, he became rector of Grace Church, Jamaica, Long Island, and in 1766, rector of St. Peter’s, Westchester County. During the American Revolution, he remained loyal to the British crown and served as a chaplain in the British army.”  (Great Cloud of Witnesses for November 14)

So while Seabury was loyal to the British he felt compelled to more deeply honor his new formed country and church.  We don’t always get what we want but when decisions are made by those we respect and trust we must come to ourselves and support those decisions. Scotland too had bishops who were consecrated from that same apostolic succession from the Church of Rome as did England but their language of consecration did not require homage to a king. So to Scotland he went.

“In Aberdeen, 14 November 1784, Samuel Seabury was consecrated to the Episcopate by the Bishop and the Bishop Coadjutor of Aberdeen and the Bishop of Ross and Caithness. He thus became part of the unbroken chain of bishops that links the Church today with the Church of the Apostles.”  (James Kiefer)

“Seabury kept his promise, made in a concordat with the Scottish bishops, to persuade the American Church to adopt the Scottish form for the celebration of the Holy Eucharist…… he participated in the first consecration of a bishop on American soil, that of John Claggett of Maryland. Seabury died on February 25, 1796, and is buried beneath St. James’ Church, New London.”  (Great Cloud of Witnesses for November 14)

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+