Pondering for Saturday July 20, 2019

Daily Office Readings for Saturday Proper 10 of Year 1

AM Psalm 30, 32; PM Psalm 42, 431 Samuel 22:1-23; Acts 13:26-43; Mark 3:19b-35 :

“David went from there to Mizpeh of Moab. He said to the king of Moab, ‘Please let my father and mother come to you, until I know what God will do for me.” (1 Samuel 22:3)

David is in trouble. Saul wants to kill him and is searching for him to do just that.  David is in a tight spot but remains faithful to God and what God will do for him.  David has been in trouble before and has always counted on God, even when he, David, is in the wrong.

God is faithful even when we are not.  When we have established a personal relationship with God we have every faith that God, our Old Friend, will not let us down.

Sometimes the problem is however, convincing the people we need in our lives that we are waiting on God and that God will come through for us.  David takes his parents to safety and begs the king of Moab to keep them until he is informed about what God is going to do.  Does not this require the king of Moab to have some faith and trust in God also? Maybe the king’s faith and trust was in David only.

This faith in the person who has faith, is something I am used to.  People come to me all the time to go to God for them.  I constantly tell them they don’t need me to do that for them, that God is just as open to them as God is to me.  I’m wasting my time.  They listen patiently (sometimes rolling their eyes or glancing at their watch) and then tell me what they want God to know. Bless them.

I served with a fellow Marine once who ran the unit substance abuse program.  I’ll call him Rob.  Rob told me that he worked with many people suffering from addiction that never knew God or had any church or religious experience or even knew how to pray.  The Higher Power identification was, and is, a good way to gather these suffering souls into a collective wherein they can depend on a Power greater than themselves.  But for some this didn’t work.  Rob told me he told them to believe in his (Rob’s) God.  He told them when they try to pray just say, “Dear Rob’s God, …”   This is not so distant from our ancient ancestors praying to The God of Abraham, The God of Isaac and The God Jacob.  When we are week, we lay our foot in the path and footsteps of those who have trod before us.

Perhaps the king of Moab just had faith in David alone.  This is faith in those who have faith.  This too is another reason to have faith.  We of faith witness it to those who have it not. This does not mean that we are perfect, far be it.  Faith does not mean that we do everything right but that we believe in the Creator and the One sent by the Creator. For it is written, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16) Those of us with faith show it to others by what we ask of them like David asking, “Please let my father and mother come to you, until I know what God will do for me.”

Let us hear what the Spirit is saying to (and through) the people of God. John+

Pondering for Friday July 19, 2019

Daily Office Readings for Friday Proper 10 of Year 1

AM Psalm 31; PM Psalm 351 Samuel 21:1-15, Acts 13:13-25; Mark 3:7-19a

“He went up the mountain and called to him those whom he wanted, and they came to him.  And he appointed twelve, whom he also named apostles, to be with him, and to be sent out to proclaim the message, and to have authority to cast out demons.”  (Mark 3:13 – 15)

There are a couple of things here to notice.

 First, Jesus called those whom he wanted and these were called his disciples.  From this gathering he called the twelve. These twelve are further the named “apostles.”  They are called apostles because they are “sent out” to proclaim the message of the kingdom of God, and to have authority to cast out demons or any kind of sickness.

Second, these twelve apostles are divided up into pairs. They go out partnered. Interestingly Jesus picks brothers (James and John; and Simon and Andrew) who already have a bonded relationship as a pattern of the love such paired persons should have for one another. I think this is a very important concept that may be over looked.

I have noticed how Jehovah Witnesses as well as Mormons who go out in pairs (this latter on their bicycles) to visit households.  And in a lighter observation, as a Star Wars enthusiast myself, I notice the Jedi tend travel in pairs as they go to negotiate with other governing authorities.  Although this latter is totally fiction, the idea, it can be argued, comes from established biblical patterns.

There are many such biblical patterns like, Adam and Eve; Moses and Aaron; Naomi and Ruth; Elijah and Elisha; the two on the road to Emmaus from the Gospel of Luke, and Paul and various others of the New Testament.  The pattern of these biblical stories shows how we can advance our call to be who God wants us to be by partnering with a prayer partner.

“Prayer Partner” is the term we use in our Cursillo Movement in the Diocese of East Carolina to designate how Team Members are yoked together for the purpose of praying for pilgrims and persons who are giving talks.  I like the term.  Maybe before we partner for the purpose of even marriage we should first become prayer partners.  There could be a strong argument that if we can’t pray together we can’t stay together.  There is a beautiful prayer in the Apocrypha of the Bible, in Tobit, where Tobias and Sarah are about to be married and make vows to each other.  In fact, it is the only place in our Holy Writings where we actually have wedding vows. (Tobit 8:4 – 8)

Prayer Partners don’t have to be married.  But they should have at least a similar understanding of who Jesus is in their lives.  The prayer part itself does not have to be something said out loud but understood to be sacred and binding for both. Something in a relationship should be bigger than both in the relationship. This relationship is spiritual not sexual but does not exclude sex as something negative.  It is wholly human and holy divine.

It is one thing to be a student or disciple where we are learning only.  It is something totally more advanced to be entrusted to be apostolic, “sent out” to proclaim the message.

Let us hear what the Spirit is saying to (and through) God’s people. John+

Pondering for Thursday July 18, 2019

Daily Office Readings for Thursday Proper 10 of Year 1

AM Psalm 37:1-18; PM Psalm 37:19-42 1 Samuel 20:24-42; Acts 13:1-12; Mark 2:23-3:6

“Then he said to them, ‘The Sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the Sabbath” (Mark 2: 27)

So God brought us into the world and then set up ways for us to live. Even from the Genesis story we learn that all was in place before we got here. (Genesis 1)  This earth is our life-support system.

But even so, there are requirements that have to be met in order for this earth to continue to support us. And there are worship tools in place to ensure we do not forget God who is making it all possible.  One such tool is the Sabbath, that is, down time, in order to regulate our lives so that we might fully be who we are called to be.

Beyond the Sabbath, we have recorded our history with God in our Holy Writings, the Bible.   The Bible is not to be worshiped itself but is used as a worship tool in order that we might remember God in a continual study of Who God is and our relationship with God.

We also have our Books of Common Prayer and Icons, and Prayer Beads, and Music and the list goes on and on.  Among the list of the Sabbath sacred are our worship spaces that we too often over emphasize. Jesus points this out in the same passage we have for today, “And he said to them, ‘Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need of food?  He entered the house of God, when Abiathar was high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and he gave some to his companions.” (Mark 2: 25 – 26)   Again, if we did not exist, our churches, synagogues, masques nor their products would have meaning.  God made us the priority.  We are the real sacred.

The building up and completion of our place to live, the earth, reaches its apex with our arrival. After our arrival, we have the Sabbath with which we are commanded to observe for the physical, mental and spiritual health of our bodies and souls.  But these things were put in place for our benefit, not us for the benefit of the Sabbath and other worship tools that have no meaning if we do not exist in the first place.

The Sabbath should not be taken likely however.  It is a Commandment of God for us to observe a Sabbath.  It is given to us for our wellbeing.

Praise God from whom all blessings flow.  John+

Pondering for Wednesday July 17, 2019

Readings for Bishop William White, Bishop of Pennsylvania and First Presiding Bishop of the Protestant Episcopal Church of the United States 17 July1836.

Psalm 84:7-12Jeremiah 1:4-10John 21:15-17

“No good thing will the Lord withhold from those who walk with integrity.” (Psalm 84:11)

I am stepping away from my usual walk through the Lectionary to pay special attention to the legacy of Bishop William White. “William White was born in Philadelphia, March 24, 1747, and was educated at the college of that city, graduating in 1765. In 1770, he went to England, was ordained deacon on December 23, and priest on April 25, 1772. On his return home, he became assistant minister of Christ and St. Peter’s, 1772–1779, and rector from that year until his death, July 17, 1836. He also served as chaplain of the Continental Congress from 1777 to 1789, and then of the United States Senate until 1800.” (Great Cloud of Witnesses July 17)

I hope you will share with me the courage and faith it must have taken in those days to literally follow defeated British ships back to England and ask the former enemy to consecrate priests as bishops.  White was not the first. Samuel Seabury went in 1784 but to his credit would not accept words that made the Colonies and the Office of Bishop subject to the King of England.  So he went to Scotland where he was consecrated Bishop.  Finally, in 1787, William White of Pennsylvania and Samuel Provost of New York were Consecrated Bishops.  The Colonies had long asked for a Bishop but it was never granted.  This new upstart Episcopal Church did not want to just start a new beginning.  This One Holy and Apostolic Church maintained the Laying on of hands from Jesus through the Apostles, through the Popes of Rome, through the Bishops of the Church of England.  And now war was not about to sever that ancient lineage. So it was most important to do what one had to do to maintain that connection. William White put fear aside.  “Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, says the Lord.” (Jeremiah 1:8)

At least one other point I would like to share about Bishop White is his ordaining Absalom Jones to the priesthood, Jones, a former slave and first African American Priest of the Episcopal Church.  While Jones was ordained to serve an African American parish, he was nonetheless officially ordained using the same words and Bishop (and hands) as any other priest of this Church (Black or White).  “No good thing will the Lord withhold from those who walk with integrity.” (Psalm 84:11)

Bishop White was the chief architect of the Constitution of the American Episcopal Church and the wise overseer of its life during the first generation of its history. He was the Presiding Bishop at its organizing General Convention in 1789 and again from 1795 until his death in Philadelphia, on July 17, 1836. (Great Cloud of Witnesses July 17)

You and I too must step out in courage and faith to do whatever is right to do knowing that no good thing will the Lord withhold from those who walk with integrity.

Ponder anew what the Almighty can do. John+

Pondering for Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Daily Office Readings for Tuesday Proper 10 of Year 1

AM Psalm 26, 28; PM Psalm 36, 39; 1 Samuel 19:1-18; Acts 12:1-17; Mark 2:1-12

Psalm 39: 1 – 5

1 I said, “I will keep watch upon my ways, *
so that I do not offend with my tongue.

2 I will put a muzzle on my mouth *
while the wicked are in my presence.”

3 So I held my tongue and said nothing; *
I refrained from rash words;
but my pain became unbearable.

4 My heart was hot within me;
while I pondered, the fire burst into flame; *
I spoke out with my tongue:

5 Lord, let me know my end and the number of my days, *
so that I may know how short my life is.

My Pondering

Perhaps enough cannot be said about monitoring and keeping control of our mouths.  James, of our New Testament, writes on this very problem. He says, “With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. (James 3:9 – 10)

Sadly, we have devolved into a people who give adoration to those who can better curse the other.  This is very sad but I as a person will do all in my power to not praise evil, retaliation, revenge, or any kind of one-ups-man-ship. Perhaps even sarcasm comes under this category. Sometimes funny isn’t funny at all.

As a child I was taught that if I couldn’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.  But from what I read of the Psalmist he couldn’t hold on. He “burst into flame and spoke out with his tongue.” I’m afraid I sometimes do the same also.  I ‘m not proud of it but it happens. Sometimes when we witness stupid stuff our “pain becomes unbearable” and we shoot from the hip with reckless lips. 

These misgivings and weaknesses are the sins that I ask forgiveness for every night in bed. It was St. Paul who said “That that I want to do, I don’t do, and that that I don’t want to do, I do.”  (Romans 7)  Dear Paul, I think I’m cut from the same cloth.

Praise God from whom all mercy flows.  Thank You Jesus.   John+

Pondering for Monday, July 15, 2019

Daily Office Readings for Monday of the 5th Week of Pentecost Proper 10 of Year 1

AM Psalm 25; PM Psalm 9, 15 1 Samuel 18:5-16,27b-30; Acts 11:19-30; Mark 1:29-45

“And the women sang to one another as they made merry, Saul has killed his thousands, and David his tens of thousands.’ Saul was very angry, for this saying displeased him. He said, ‘They have ascribed to David tens of thousands, and to me they have ascribed thousands; what more can he have but the kingdom?’ So Saul eyed David from that day on. The next day an evil spirit from God rushed upon Saul, and he raved within his house, while David was playing the lyre, as he did day by day. Saul had his spear in his hand; and Saul threw the spear, for he thought, ‘I will pin David to the wall.’ But David eluded him twice. Saul was afraid of David, because the Lord was with him but had departed from Saul. So Saul removed him from his presence, and made him a commander of a thousand” (1 Samuel 18:7 – 13)

I know I bit off a lot here but I feel I need to unpack this in my pondering. Primarily it is the issue of jealousy.  It shows its ugly head in several places in the Bible, Cane and Able in early Genesis, Eli and Samuel in 1st Samuel, and in the story of the Prodigal Son of chapter 15 of the Gospel of Luke.  While jealousy does not separate us from the love of God, it blinds us from realizing it.  The love of God is not a scarce resource; there is more than enough to go around. God always does and acts for what is best for the community.  If I am someone God can use, good.  If not, then I should be happy reaping the benefits of whoever God chooses to lead (or redeem in the case of the Prodigal).

I don’t believe God has an evil spirit.  This is where I take a stand against some of the writings of the Bible. The people who wrote scripture are people just like me and subject to misunderstanding just like me.

David seems to play the stringed instrument every day. “David was playing the lyre, as he did day by day. (v. 10) David was a shepherd and a poet and a musician.  While he had faults, including jealousy (thinking of Bathsheba and Uriah) he was a gentle soul whom God wanted to lead the Israelites. Saul seems to have kept his hands on a weapon – a spear and apparently threw it at David twice.  Saul put David in charge if troops and sent him out to battle, perhaps hoping he would be killed, a lesson not lost on David who would later send Uriah out to his death.

Jealousy robs us of our freedom to be who God wants us to be.  When we are concerned about what someone else has we make ourselves more and more without. We would do well to just let be what is and turn our attentions to whatever makes us better human beings.  While God will choose to lead who God will choose, the rest of us are not forgotten.  We are loved by God.

The same is true in society.  Some of us are chosen to be in certain positions by people who hopefully are doing what they think is best, if so, good. In any case, jealousy should not be the go-to feeling we develop because we were not chosen. We must focus on the doors that are open, not the ones that are closed and locked. We all have gifts from a loving God in whom there is nothing evil.

Let is hear what the Spirit is saying to (and through) God’s people. John+

Pondering for Sunday, July 14, 2019

Eucharistic Readings for Sunday, July 14, 2019 Year C Track I

Amos 7:7-17 Psalm 82 Colossians 1:1-14 Luke 10:25-37

“Then Amos answered Amaziah, “I am no prophet, nor a prophet’s son; but I am a herdsman, and a dresser of sycamore trees, and the Lord took me from following the flock, and the Lord said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to my people Israel.”  (Amos 7:14-15)

Amaziah thought he knew who Amos was.  He thought Amos was one who made his living as a Prophet, but he was wrong. I am a lot like Amaziah, a cynic. I always look for the “what’s in it for the person proposing the deal.”  Mechanics want to do diagnostics on your car that cost you but brings in money for them.  The same is true for the medical field. They want to run “procedures” for which they will be paid to do.  Financial advisors charge you to do your budget; personal trainers workout all day anyway and want you to pay for it.  Why don’t they all get jobs like everybody else? Yes, I’m a cynical mess.  Why can’t people have regular jobs and do their personal helping on the side.

Amos tells him that he was of the working class with no intention of being a preacher.  But God intervened into his life with a mission.  God has to find those of us who are not trying to be special to do the special work of salvation.

From the Gospel reading for today Jesus tells of the Samaritan who finds a wounded man left for dead on the side of the road.  The Samaritan is not necessarily a doctor but cared about human life. He tended to the man and made provisions for his continued care. (Luke 10)  The very people entrusted with the care of the people (the Priest and the Levite) pondered the negative consequences to themselves and avoided contact with the wounded man. They pondered the “what’s in it for me?” question.  See what’s wrong with being a cynic?

You know, the reality is that it doesn’t matter what your vocation is. Some of the most loving and caring people in the world are doctors, mechanics, and financial advisors.  I know all of mine by name and truly believe they have my best interest at heart.  I don’t have a personal trainer; I do that myself, “on the side.”   If your mind is set on being a productive citizen who cares about others, you are someone who can be used by God to influence those who have not seen the light that you are already walking in. And like Amos, you too may be called from your own work to do the saving work of God.  This also happened to Paul who was tent maker, but he never stopped being a tent maker. Peter, even after the Resurrection, said, “I’m going fishing.” (John 21:3)  This was his vocation from the beginning. So one could argue his teaching and preaching was in addition to his fishing, not instead of.  This is truly something to ponder.

Ponder anew what the Almighty can do.  John+