Pondering for Thursday, June 4, 2020

Daily Office Readings for Thursday of Proper 4: Year 2

Psalm 50; Psalm [59, 60]; or 8, 84 Eccles. 3:16-4:3; Gal. 3:1-14; Mat. 14:13-21

“Just as Abraham ‘believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness’, so, you see, those who believe are the descendants of Abraham.” (Galatians 3:6 – 7)

Above all identifiers of who I am, I consider myself first and foremost a believing descendant of Abraham.  Biologically, Abraham (son of Terah of Ur: Genesis 11: 26 – 32) was from what we now call Iraq.  I claim no genetic relationship to him in that way. My faith-based believing relationship is more important to me than being African American or any other descriptor of human identification.   What I claim is a spiritual and believing relationship to Abraham in the Holy Spirit of God.  We underestimate the power of faith and in particular the power of believing.

Believing is everything to me.  This doesn’t mean that I never drift off course.  I do sadly.  But even in my waywardness I believe.  It’s funny how different Bible verses over the years take on more importance as one grows stronger in the faith.  I am going through some sadness now regarding the Coronavirus and the racial unrest in America.  So what stands out for me now is John 14:1, “Do not let your hearts be troubled, believe in God, believe also in me.” These are comforting words.  Abraham too had stressful days but he always believed in God. Paul’s letter to the Galatians reminds us, the believing descendants of Abraham, of our important heritage.

Let us pray.   O God, whose wonderful deeds of old shine forth even to our own day, you once delivered by the power of your mighty arm your chosen people from slavery under Pharaoh, to be a sign for us of the salvation of all nations by the water of Baptism: Grant that all the peoples of the earth may be numbered among the offspring of Abraham, and rejoice in the inheritance of Israel; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (BCP p. 289)

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, June 3, 2020

Daily Office Readings for Wednesday of Proper 4: Year 2

Psalm 119:49-72; Psalm 49, [53] Eccles. 3:1-15; Matt. 14:1-12

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:

a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to throw away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.  (Ecclesiastes 3:1 – 8)

[Ok, so before I get into my scriptural pondering for today I need to share my thoughts about the death of George Floyd in Minnesota. That death at the hands of police has caused major protest across America and with it much violence and vandalism.  That latter part, violence and vandalism, is very shameful. 

This is particularly hard for me because I don’t believe in race.  I think it is a human construct and a way to label people and limit resources based on what people look like.  An anthropologist told me long ago that if you even use the term “race” you are a racist.  So there is me, and then there is all the rest of the mostly racist world.  Some of us are dark, some are light. Some are course, some are fine.  All are God’s and all are needed. That we separate ourselves based on how we look is also very shameful. I have a Baptismal Covenant that requires me to respect the dignity of EVERY human being.  And I will strive to do just that until I am taken into that Spirit (non racial) world from which no one returns. And that’s all I have to say about that.]

Now to Ecclesiastes:

Personally I don’t believe there is ever a time to hate.   I could probably deal with the rest of the verses. Having said that, I believe I could engage in war for a just cause and yet, not hate the people I am fighting.

I am in the process of writing a short book about our stations in life.  I have developed an acronym for it.  It is SPERC (sounds like “SPERK”) It stands for Study, Practice, Exercise, Rest and Chores.  At no time during the day can I be found not existing in one of these states of being.

As I am doing this writing I am in study.  Study also includes prayer and all pondering.  Practice includes those activities that I do with my hands like playing music, practicing golf and other activities in which skill can be developed.  Exercise is about my daily physical exercises that I believe most people don’t do.  I find that by doing regular exercises I maintain my ability to fulfill other parts of my SPERC program.  Rest includes all peaceful states of being and most especially sleep.  And lastly there are Chores.  Chores are those activities necessary to maintain personal and environmental upkeep like cooking, driving, cleaning the house, cutting the grass and all other necessary activities for healthy living.

I am retired now from being the Rector of St Paul’s in the Pines Episcopal Church.  But I have plenty to keep me busy.  Writing (Study) is one of those states of my SPERC being.  There is never a moment in my day that I am not in one part or another of my SPERC self.  The writer of Ecclesiastes is correct; there is a time for every matter under heaven.

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, June 2, 2020

Daily Office Readings for Tuesday of Proper 4: Year 2

Psalm 45; Psalm 47, 48; Eccles. 2:16-26; Gal. 1:18-2:10; Matt. 13:53-58

“And when James [the brother of Jesus (Gal 18:19)] and Cephas [Simon Peter] and John, who were acknowledged pillars, recognized the grace that had been given to me, they gave to Barnabas and me the right hand of fellowship, agreeing that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised.  They asked only one thing, that we remember the poor, which was actually what I was eager to do,” (Galatians 2: 9 – 10)

In my studies I have found that language changes as money comes into the world.  In the earliest days people who owned farm land were instructed by God to leave some for the needy and not to go back and take up the last of everything.  They weren’t poor, just needy.

However, with money, we now have “the poor.” With money we have the haves and the have-nots. With the haves and have-nots, we have scarcity.   Scarcity ranges over time: it can be coins of currency in antiquity to toilet paper today.  But no matter what the need, we are instructed, as was Paul, to remember the poor.  And with that remembrance also comes our response. This is an issue of real faith.

James reminds us that response is so important.  He writes, “But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith.” (James 2:18)  So remembering the poor really is about responding to their need.  It is the one thing that the early followers of our Lord Jesus ask of us still today.  Are we, like Paul, actually eager to do so?

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, June 1, 2020

Daily Office Readings for Monday of Proper 4: Year 2

Psalm 41, 52; Psalm 44; Eccles. 2:1-15; Gal. 1:1-17; Matt. 13:44-52

“Am I now seeking human approval, or God’s approval? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still pleasing people, I would not be a servant of Christ.”  (Galatians 1:10)

Is there a difference between human approval and God’s approval? For the most part we have no problem discerning what people want of us.  It’s a little bit different with God. People will come right out and tell you what they want or at least give strong hints.  Perhaps God too often gives strong hints.  One of my observances is that if something happens to me three times, or the same words while reading are put in front of me three times, it’s a hint from God. It then is a whole other matter if after I get the hint that I will follow where it leads.  It’s much easier with people. If it’s self-serving on their part or immoral it’s an obvious no. God and God’s hints are always about the enhancement of the community.  My way of validating that the hint is from God is that it will cost me time, money and be inconvenient and uncomfortable.   I could add that it might cause me some degree of human disapproval.

I must admit, I am often a people pleaser. I need to work harder at knowing that I am a servant of Christ.  Even better for me is to adopt the self-description that Gregory the Great used “Servant of the servants of God.” The same criterion could be used, that is to assist people who are clearly doing things that enhance life for the less fortunate.  In such a way I would be pleasing to the serving  people who are already pleasing our Lord Jesus.  It will be a win – win.

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, May 31, 2020

Eucharistic Readings for Day of Pentecost: Year A 2020

1 Corinthians 12:3b-13  Psalm 104:25-35, 37  Acts 2:1-21  John 20:19-23

“Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”  (Acts 2: 21)

I’ve been noticing the prophecies from the Hebrew Testament; Jeremiah, Isaiah, and now Joel. Peter speaks from Joel of the Hebrew Testament (That’s all he had in his day).  He says; “In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams.  Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy.”  Such days are upon us now.

We are suffering from the Coronavirus pandemic and on top of this we are suffering from out of control violence brought on by out of control violence. To this latter suffering there are, and have been, people among us whose words we should listen to.

Keisha Lance Bottoms is the 60th and current Mayor of Atlanta, Georgia. She was elected mayor in 2017.  She says to the trouble makers, “Go Home.” The mayor says we are better than this. 

 “Blaise Pascal was a French mathematician, physicist, inventor, writer and Catholic theologian. Pascal said, “All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” Each of us has a soul that is in conversation with God.  Too many of us would rather listen to the rhetoric of others who are also not listening to their souls and thus we have soulless reactions to whatever happens to us. We need God involved and we don’t know how to ask for it.

Our Presiding Bishop (The Most Reverend Michael Curry) says the most earnest prayer we can pray is: “Help.”  Our help is in the name of the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.

I have tried to teach you over these last 15 years that you don’t need a priest to be your contact with God. Perhaps you do as a Celebrant, but God, as revealed through the prophets of the Hebrew and Christian Testament, has already written love on your hearts. And God wants to talk with you. Once I have told you this, I have done my job as your preacher. Each of us needs to go to God for help; not as a mob, but as God’s loving child. This day we remember the coming of the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit is with us and speaks to us. We just need to call on the Lord for help.

Joel, through Peter, repeats, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

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, May 30, 2020

Daily Office Readings for Saturday after the 7th Sunday of Easter: Year 2

Psalm 107:33-43, 108:1-6(7-13) Ezek. 36:22-27; Eph. 6:10-24; Matt. 9:18-26

“ Pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication.  To that end keep alert and always persevere in supplication for all the saints.”  (Ephesians 6: 18)

Paul says to “pray in the Spirit.”  How do I do that?  Do I sit quietly and meditate on what I want God to do or know?  Do I ask the Spirit to pray through me?  That has been said by Paul, that it is not we who pray but the Spirit who prays through us.  I think both of these concepts are correct.

We have become accustomed of asking someone to pray at meals or for opening or closing a meeting and we have framed prayer as religious words heard at key points of events.  I think the scripture writers – our early Christian parents, prayed quietly. In fact, we may not have been able to tell when they were praying and when they were not.

Just as St. Francis said “go out and preach the Gospel and when necessary use words,” I say, pray always, and when necessary use words, words that others may actually hear.

Today, we also remember Joan of Arc; Mystic and Soldier, 1431

Jeanne d’Arc, or Joan of Arc, was born the daughter of peasant stock in France in 1412.  Called the “Maid of Orleans,” she was a religious child, and at a young age she began to experience spiritual visions, which she described as voices emerging from a powerful flash of light. She believed that Saint Michael and Saint Catherine, among other saints, called her to save France from the civil war between the Houses of Orleans and Burgundy. At first, her visions were looked upon skeptically, but she eventually convinced King Charles VII, the not yet consecrated King of France, of the genuineness of her visions. (Great Cloud of Witnesses for May 30)

 In her military campaigns she was captured, and was treated horribly, and sold to the English. “She was later sent back to France, appeared before the Bishop of Beauvais, and was tried at Rouen on charges of witchcraft and heresy. Her visions were declared “false and diabolical” and she was forced to recant. Later that year, however, she was tried and condemned as a relapsed heretic and burnt to death at Rouen. In 1456, following an appeal of her trial, Pope Callistus III declared her to have been falsely accused. She was canonized by Pope Benedict XV in 1920. Although her efforts were unsuccessful in ending civil war in France, she inspired later generations with her faith, her heroism, and her commitment to God and to her King. She is today one of the patron saints of France.”  (Great Cloud of Witnesses for May 30)

I thank you Joan, as both a military man and as a priest. Your courage and faith are to be emulated.

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, May 29, 2020

Daily Office Readings for Friday after the 7th Sunday of Easter: Year 2

 “No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, ‘Know the Lord’, for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.” (Jeremiah 31: 34)

At St. Paul’s in the Pines I have kept our chapel Bible open to Jeremiah 31: 31 to 34 for years now, open for all who come into the chapel to see this importat reading. I believe it is one of many pointings to the coming of our Lord Jesus found in the Hebrew Testament.

In this passage Jeremiah speaks for God and says, “I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.”  (Jeremiah 34:33)  I interpret this to mean that with the coming of Jesus all of us will realize our connection with God.  The love-law of God is written on our hearts and minds.  We may not use it, but it is there.

I tell my listeners that I am not their connection to God.  My job has always been to let them know that they have a “First-hand” connection to God themselves. My job is, and has always been, to let them know about this Jeremiah revealed connection. Also, I inform them that God desires an audience with them.  As a result of this preaching, one of my beloved parishioners brought a plaque to church that read, “We need to talk, God.”  I immediately posted it where it could be seen by all.

This Jeremiah reading and my time in Spiritual Guidance have taught me that every human being has the capacity to connect with God.  We only have to access it. In one of her writings the great mystic Evelyn Underhill said “mysticism [revelation of God] is not only reserved for a saintly few, but is available to all who seek to explore it” (more or less). As Jeremiah says, “for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord.”

So now I tell you. God wishes to talk with you.

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