Pondering for Sunday, February 28, 2021

Part 1 of 2

Daily Office Readings for Sunday of the Second Week of Lent: Year 1

Morning Psalms 24 and 29; Evening Psalms  8, and 84;
Jeremiah 1:1to101 Corinthians 3:11 to 23Mark 3:31to 4:9

“See, today I appoint you over nations and over kingdoms, to pluck up and to pull down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.” (Jeremiah 1:10)

Jeremiah’s call from God is to continue in God’s plan to bring all nations, all people to God. Jeremiah is called even before he is born. I think many of us today are also called before we are born but fail to hear God’s call. We say we are only a child, or that we can’t, and cannot possibly do such important work. But God says to you, “Do not say you can’t anymore.”

Part 2 of 2

Eucharistic Readings for the Second Week of Lent: Year B

Genesis 17:1 to 7 and 15 to16; Psalm 22:22 to 30; Romans 4:13 to 25; Mark 8:31 to 38

“I will establish my covenant between me and you, and your offspring after you throughout their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you.” (Genesis 17:7)

So it seems that God has always had a plan to bring the whole world to God’s self. God starts with Abraham, making an everlasting covenant. Paul continues along this line in our Romans reading for today: “For the promise that he would inherit the world did not come to Abraham or to his descendants through the law but through the righteousness of faith.” (Romans 4:13)

We too often want a “made for movie,” way of life with personal benefit for ourselves. Peter even wanted a better outcome for Jesus. “But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan!  For you are setting your mind, not on divine things, but on human things.”  (Mark 8:33)

When Jesus turns away from Peter, he turns away from the Symbolic Church, just announced. He then calls for the attention of all his students (disciples). He tells us that we, the church, must not circumvent the divine plan of God. God’s Will, will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. This has been established from the time of Abraham. It is still God’s plan today. We too must work through our troubles with steadfast resolve. God is with us and will never abandon us. Praise 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 Saturday, February 27, 2021

Daily Office Readings for Saturday of the First Week of Lent: Year 1

Morning Psalm; 55; Evening Psalms; 138 and 139:1 to17;  
Deuteronomy 11:18 to 28Hebrews 5:1 to 10John 4:1 to 26 

“God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”  (John 4:24)

For me, this verse is the most profound in all Scripture, and that is, that God is Spirit, not male or female. God is not only beyond any human identifier, God is beyond anything we can begin to understand. Anselm, (Archbishop of Canterbury 1109), rightly proclaimed, “God is that than which nothing greater can be thought.” Anselm is so correct. I think we are so proud of God’s creation of us, that we began to think God was looking in a mirror in creating us. I don’t think so.

I believe the Spirit of God was patient enough to see how the God-Spirit host would evolve and then, in the fullness of time, God would come among us regardless of what we look like, or how many variations we are. It’s weird I know. And while none of us can capture the concept of God, as Anselm informs us, that also means none of us can be refuted. First and foremost, “God is Spirit, and those who worship [God] must worship in spirit and truth,” to the very best of our ability.

Today we also remember George Herbert, Priest 1633.

“Herbert, served faithfully as a parish priest, diligently visiting his parishioners and bringing them the sacraments when they were ill, and food and clothing when they were in want. He read Morning and Evening Prayer daily in the church, encouraging the congregation to join him when possible, and ringing the church bell before each service so that those who could not come might hear it and pause in their work to join their prayers with his. It is said even those tilling the soil would stop and attend o prayer.” (Great Cloud of Witnesses for February 27)

George Herbert is one of my Anglican heroes. I follow his pattern of Morning and Evening Prayer in our Book of Common Prayer, albeit at home. I do encourage others to do so as well.  I want people to know that I am praying for them and for their loved ones on a daily basis. Thomas Bray, Anselm, George Herbert and a few others are my spiritual guides and are the saints to whom I give ear for good spiritual counsel regularly. Who do you read regularly, beyond the Bible, for guidance and support?  Such people are the saints of God.

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, February 26, 2021

Daily Office Readings for Friday of the First Week of Lent: Year 1

Morning Psalms 9540, and 54; Evening Psalm 51
Deuteronomy 10:12 to 22Hebrews 4:11 to 16John 3:22 to 36 

“Indeed, the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And before him no creature is hidden, but all are naked and laid bare to the eyes of the one to whom we must render an account.” (Hebrews 4:12 and 13)

I can remember being counseled, while still a seminarian, about using language like “being naked before God’s scrutinizing gaze.”  I was told that such language might be very uncomfortable to some parishioners. Now I say, “Let the shoe fit.” 

The writer to the Hebrews is trying hard to let the reader know that God breaks us down to the intentions of our hearts.  What we end up saying or doing is one thing. What we intend to say or do makes all the difference.  God will get at what is in our hearts. And God, through God’s experience in the person of Christ Jesus, has fully experienced what it means to be one of us. “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15)

My beloved of the Lord, we are not able to fix our own hearts. God has made us dependent on God alone. So we can, and should, pray. When, not if, we feel we are spiraling down a negative or hateful path, we must stop and petition God to change us. I guess the big decision is, do we want to let go of deceitfulness and hate? If we find ourselves thinking or saying, “I wish I was different,” this then is the time to pray, “Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hid: Cleanse the thoughts of [my] heart by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that [I] may perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy Name; through Christ our Lord. Amen. (BCP 355; modified to first person)

This evening we enter into God’s Holy Rest. This is an ideal time to ponder about a Lenten change in our spiritual life. What kind of person do you wish you were? You can be taken from you are, to where you want to be, through God’s Holy Spirit.

My friends, for this evening, and all day tomorrow; Shabbat Shalom.

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, February 25, 2021

Daily Office Readings for Thursday of the First Week of Lent: Year 1

Morning: Psalm 50; Evening: Psalms [59 and  60] or 19 and 46:  
Deuteronomy 9:23 to 10:5Hebrews 4:1to 10John 3:16 to 21:

“So then, a Sabbath rest still remains for the people of God; for those who enter God’s rest also cease from their labors as God did from his.” (Hebrews 4: 9 and 10)

Today is Thursday, but the gift of God’s Sabbath begins tomorrow evening. This has not changed, and even our Lord Jesus observed it.  Worshiping on Sunday is fine and appropriate for Christians, but I don’t feel we are excused from resting from Friday evening to Saturday evening. Rest is not worship, it is rest.

Sometimes I think the human need to micro-manage one another required us to meet together in order to ensure no one was “working.’  However, the  worship team, (clergy and laity) are technically working. No, I feel we need to have time to ourselves, un-monitored, unsupervised, self regulated, and trusted to truly rest and ponder about God.

I am still working on this shift in my spiritual life.  I’m getting there.  I must remember that our Lord Jesus said on many occasions that it is okay to do the necessary things even on the Sabbath: things like comforting the sick, putting out fires, standing guard against bad people and so forth. We go against the idea of Sabbath rest when we spend time with household chores, organizing get-togethers, and running errands; even participating in public worship.  None of these are God’s idea of Rest. “For those who enter God’s rest also cease from their labors as God did from his.” 

The Sabbath should be a time of meditation and perhaps small informal gatherings of family or very close spiritual friends for prayer, light food and drink, and the sharing of blessings. It is not a time of detailed preparation.  It is a time of contemplative reflection, a time to do nothing. Every Sabbath is a gift of time from God. Let us not refuse, or reject such a loving present. I will again attach a You Tube video that I think will help Christians understand the meaning of the Sabbath. (What is Shabbat? Intro to the Jewish Sabbath – YouTube. This sharing is in no way an attempt to undermine our Christian traditions. But I don’t believe we are excused from obeying God’s instruction to observe the Sabbath Day, the seventh day, which is still understood to be Saturday.

Today we also remember Emily Malbone Morgan Prophetic Witness, 1937; ] and John Roberts (priest 1949).

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, February 24, 2021

Daily Office Readings for Wednesday of the First Week of Lent: Year 1

Morning Psalm 119:49 to 72; Evening Psalm 49;
Deuteronomy  9:13 to 21Hebrews 3:12 to 19John 2:23 to 3:15 

“So I took hold of the two tablets and flung them from my two hands, smashing them before your eyes.” (Deuteronomy 9:17)

Moses has again interceded for the wayward Israelites.  God planned to destroy them and then began again with Moses as their ancient Patriarch instead of Abraham.  But Moses declined and asked God to let him go to the people to bring them back to God.  However upon finding them creating an idol, a false God, Moses broke the stone tablets, symbolizing the Israelites braking covenant with God. Moses remained steadfast in his resolve to bring the Israelites back to God, not just to the promised land, but also their hearts to the ways of God. I think God really liked Moses advocating for the Israelites.

God knows what is in the heart of every person, just as our Lord Jesus does.  This is brought out in our Gospel reading for today.  “But Jesus on his part would not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people and needed no one to testify about anyone; for he himself knew what was in everyone.” (John 2: 24 and 25)  Remember,  Jesus already knew what was in Nathanael when Philip brought him to Jesus. When Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him, he said of him, “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!” (John 1:47).  Jesus also already knew what was in the heart of Judas, his betrayer.  We can fool each other, but we can’t fool God in Christ Jesus, ever.

We get lost and we break covenant and we seek after things we make with our own hand so much so that they somehow become idols, the focus of too much of our attention.  We must remember that God in Christ Jesus knows whereof we are made and what’s on our hearts and minds.  We should always pray for our Lord Jesus to cleanse the thoughts of our hearts in order that we might become a more faithfully focused people.

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, February 23, 2021

Daily Office Readings for Tuesday of the First Week in Lent: Year 1

AM Psalm 45; PM Psalms 47 and 48;
Deuteronomy 9:4 to 12Hebrews 3:1 to11John 2:13 to 22

“It is not because of your righteousness or the uprightness of your heart that you are going in to occupy their land; but because of the wickedness of those nations that the Lord your God is dispossessing them before you, in order to fulfill the promise that the Lord made on oath to your ancestors, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. (Deuteronomy 9:5)

Today’s readings give us food for “ponder.”  In Deuteronomy we learn that God was upset with the people occupying the land promised to the descendants of Abraham, perhaps before it was set aside for Abraham. The greater learning curve for us is to learn that God had a relationship with people other than Israel, but they failed to do what was righteous in the sight of God.

From the Prophet Amos we learn the same thing as we can read; “Are you not like the Ethiopians to me, O people of Israel? says the LORD.  Did I not bring Israel up from the land of Egypt, and the Philistines from Caphtor and the Arameans from Kir?” (Amos 9:7)  So it becomes clear that God tried to have leadership relationships with others but was only able to maintain this relationship with the descendants of Abraham; and through our Lord Jesus, with us Christians today.

So what happens to such untrusting people?  I think the Holy Spirit teaches us about what happens when we become stiff-necked in our own egos, and when we harden our hearts to truth and love. Today we read from the writer to the Hebrews, “Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says, ‘Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, as on the day of testing in the wilderness, where your ancestors put me to the test, though they had seen my works for forty years. Therefore I was angry with that generation, and I said, “They always go astray in their hearts, and they have not known my ways.” As in my anger I swore, “They will not enter my rest.” (Hebrews 3: 7 to 11)

To be denied access to an earthly land is one thing.  But to be denied entrance into the “Rest of God, that is the comfort of God” is life ending. God loves us, and even more so if we show that we are also loving in return; loving both to God, and to one another.  This is what Jesus’ ministry is really all about. We must learn to listen to the loving leadership-relationship of God in our lives and act accordingly.

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, February 22, 2021

Daily Office Readings for Monday of the 1st Week in Lent: Year 1

AM Psalms  41 and  52; PM Psalm 44;   
Deuteronomy 8:11 to 20Hebrews 2:11to18John 2:1to12:

“His mother said to the servants, ‘Do whatever he tells you.” (John 2:5)

Let’s be with Mary the mother of Jesus for all of his earthly life.  And, although she is never named in the Gospel of John, the writer of this Gospel is dependent on his readers to have read the Synoptic Gospels in order to fill in all the details.

While not wealthy by any means, Mary and Jesus probably did not go to bed hungry ever. As we know, our Lord Jesus has a knack for multiplying food. Mary puts forth her request at the wedding  and turns to face the servants of our Lord Jesus, (us). If you consider yourself to be a servant of our Lord Jesus, then she looks beyond, and through the pages of your Bible right into your eyes.  She says to them and to you, “Do whatever he tells you.

When she made this request, Jesus mumbled something about His time has not yet come; but Mary has already turned from him fully knowing that he will take care of the situation. She has perhaps never been denied by him.  As far as she is concerned, it is a done deal.

This is also a lesson to us.  We should make our needs known to our Lord Jesus and then proceed in life fully confident that Jesus will take care of the situation. Let us not forget the “do” part.  After all, she did say “Do,” whatever he tells you.  There is a participation part that we have to do.

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, February 21, 2021

Part 1 of 2

Daily Office Readings for the First Sunday in Lent: Year 1

AM Psalms 63:1 to 8 and 98; PM Psalm 103;
Deuteronomy 8:1 to 101st Corinthians 1:17 to 31Mark 2:18 to 22;

“And you shall remember the entire journey along which the Lord your God led you, for forty years through the desert, to afflict you, and to test you, and to make known the things that were turning in your soul, whether or not you would keep his commandments.  He afflicted you with need, and he gave you Manna as your food, which neither you nor your fathers knew, so as to reveal to you that it is not by bread alone that man lives, but by every word that goes forth from the mouth of God.” (Deuteronomy 8:2 and 3)

This Deuteronomy lesson teaches us at least two important things.  First, is that perhaps God really doesn’t know about our hearts and our faith and so we are tested, as was Abraham with his son Isaac. Second, every human walk of life has undergone some kind of crucible by other humans, be it slavery, internment, displacement, or oppression, or a combination of more than one of these.  We, the remnant of our ancestors, are stronger for having survived our ordeals. But the question is, have we held on to our ancestral fortitude?  God needs to know who we are now, and so do we.

Part 2 of 2

Eucharistic Readings for the First Sunday in Lent: Year B

Genesis 9: 8 to 17; Psalm 25: 1 to 9; 1st Peter 3:18 to 22; Mark 1:9 to 15

“And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness.” (Mark 9:11 and 12)

Jesus is told that he is God’s beloved Son and then driven into 40 days of suffering. And from this experience of being without all the material essentials for mortal life, he comes out of this to report “The Kingdom of heaven has come near, repent.”  It is from this point that our Lord Jesus starts inviting fishermen along the coast of Galilee to “Follow” him. It is the same invitation we have today. Our Lord suffered and survived, even the cross. And then he shared his faith and courage with us through baptism and Holy Eucharist in order that we too might keep the faith and be a part of God’s kingdom. We now have forty days of reflective Lent to discern God’s gift of  spiritual steadfastness.

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, February 20, 2021

Daily Office Readings for Saturday of the Last Week of Epiphany: Year 1

AM Psalms 30 and 32; PM Psalms 42 and 43;   
Deuteronomy 7:17 to 26Titus 3:1 to15John 1:43 to 51

5.  With the voice of praise and thanksgiving,
among those who keep holy-day.

6. Why are you so full of heaviness, O my soul?
And why are you so disquieted within me?

7. Put your trust in God; for I will yet give thanks to him,
who is the help of my countenance, and my God.

Psalm 42: 5 to 7

Two of the three verses above of Psalm 42 are also written in Psalm 43.  At some point they may have been one Psalm.  In any case today, Saturday, is Holy Day. In my private and personal spiritual life I have decided to follow our Lord Jesus in remembering the Sabbath and keeping it holy.  I still follow the Christian Worship day of Sunday Morning; the First Day of the Week, but the Sixth Day is set aside for rest, not worship as I am coming to understand the word “rest.”

As for as verses 6 and 7 above, I pray that God calms my disquieted soul.  And I do put my trust in God and give thanks to God who is my help and my countenance, my God for whom I am eternally thankful. I wouldn’t even exist if it were not for God. Thank You Lord Jesus.

Today we remember Frederick Douglass; Orator and Advocate for Truth and Justice,1895.

Born as a slave in February 1818, Frederick Douglass was separated from his mother at the age of eight and given by his new owner, Thomas Auld, to his brother and sister-in-law, Hugh and Sophia Auld. Sophia attempted to teach Frederick to read, along with her son, but her husband put a stop to this, claiming, “it would forever unfit him to be a slave.” … “At the age of 14, he had experienced a conversion to Christ in the African American Episcopal Church, and his recollection of that tradition’s spiritual music sustained him in his struggle for freedom: “Those songs still follow me, to deepen my hatred of slavery, and quicken my sympathies for my brethren in bonds.” An outstanding orator, Douglass was sent on speaking tours in the Northern States sponsored by the American Anti-Slavery Society.” (From Great Cloud of Witnesses for February 20)

Frederick Douglass too must have had a disquieted soul and depended on God to calm his soul.

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, February 19, 2021

Daily Office Readings for Friday of the Last Week of Epiphany: Year 1

AM Psalms 95 and 31; PM Psalm 35;
Deuteronomy 7:12 to16Titus 2:1 to 15John 1:35 to 42:This will be a triple ponder for today.

Ponder 1;

“You shall be the most blessed of peoples, with neither sterility nor barrenness among you or your livestock.” (Deuteronomy 7:14)

This reminds me that the God-spark (or our soul), is the only difference between us and all other life forms on earth. In the best of times we can reproduce but we can’t raise ourselves from mortal death. Only our Lord Jesus can do that. Thank You Lord Jesus.

Ponder 2:

“Wives must be submissive to their husbands” (Titus 2:5); (and),   “Tell slaves to be submissive to their masters” (Titus 2:9)

Of course, I take issue with both of these statements from Paul to Titus, or to us, from one of the “deuteron-Pauline letters.” God worked with wives in order to fulfill God’s plan for us; Rebecca’s manipulation of her sons to give Jacob the blessing over Esau ), (Genesis 27:5 to 29), is one; and Mary agreeing to “let it be with me as you have said” (Luke 1: 26 to 38), is another. Also, regarding slavery, through Moses God freed slaves, (Exodus). No, we too often draw the wrong conclusion, or deliberately misrepresent the inclusive love of God to shape the times in order to please a powerful, and often male dominant majority. But, I think it’s getting better.

Ponder 3:

“When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, ‘What are you looking for?’ They said to him, ‘Rabbi’ (which translated means Teacher), ‘where are you staying?” (John 1:38) and, “He first found his brother Simon and said to him, ‘We have found the Messiah’ (which is translated Anointed), and, “He brought Simon to Jesus, who looked at him and said, ‘You are Simon son of John. You are to be called Cephas’ (which is translated Peter).”  (John 1:42)

I have read that these oral stories were spoken and dictated to a person writing them down. I can imagine the teller of the story pausing intermittently to explain the translations as he goes. In this short reading from the Gospel of John we have three translations. The first two are about who Jesus is; “Anointed”  “Teacher.”  And then we have the authority of our Anointed Teacher who changes who we are. We go from Simon to Peter; and from fisherman to teacher, small “t”. Wow, I like it!

For this evening and tomorrow daytime my friends; Shabbat Shalom.                         

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