Pondering for Saturday, October 16, 2021

Daily Office Readings for Saturday of Proper 23: Year 1

Morning, Psalms 20 and 21:1 to 7; Evening, Psalms 110:1 to 5, 116 and 117;
2nd Kings 25:8 to 12 and 22 to 261st Corinthians 15:12 to 29Matthew 11:7 to 15:

“If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.” (1st Corinthians 15:19)

Indeed, it is for life after death that I am hoping in Christ. Except for books and movies, I have no experience or evidence of life before I was born. It is like I was dead before I was alive. It was Mark Twain who said, “I do not fear death. I had been dead for billions and billions of years before I was born, and had not suffered the slightest inconvenience from it.”

While I don’t think I fear death, I am very curious about it.  What is it like to not have to breathe, or eat, or any of the human functions we have depended on for all of our mortal lives?  Or, will some of these creature customs continue in the afterlife?  I don’t know.

What I do know is that whatever level of existence God will let me have, I want it.  This is why I am a Christian. As Paul says, being a Christian is not about this life, it is about our resurrection in Christ Jesus. This is our hope. This is why we pray in the Name of our Lord Jesus. This is why we believe the way we do.

Personally, I don’t believe that God has set a date for us to die (as many Christians do), but I do believe that God, in Christ Jesus, is always waiting for us when we do.  While death is untimely, death is not ungodly. God is present in this world and the next.

There are many human beliefs about our relationship with God. Christianity is just one and there are many versions of it.  As our Presiding Bishop says, “We are on the Episcopal path of the Jesus movement.”  And, Paul again, “If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.” To this I will add, that our Lord Jesus did teach us how to live in love of neighbor while we walk this earth. And so, I will leave what happens to me after my death in His most capable and loving hands. Thank You Lord Jesus.

As we listen to what the Spirit is saying to us, let us live to love, to serve, and to teach, while pondering anew what the Almighty can do. John

Pondering for Friday, October 15, 2021

Daily Office Readings for Friday of Proper 23: Year 1

Morning, Psalms 16 and 17; Evening, Psalm 22;
Jeremiah 38:14 to 281st Corinthians 15:1 to 11Matthew 11:1 to 6:

“But by the grace of God I am who I am, and his grace towards me has not been in vain.” (1st Corinthians 15:10)

When, and if, we ever come to the realization that we did not bring ourselves to where we are, and we seem to be doing okay, we realize that the Grace of God has guarded us along the way. I can look back on many occasions where things could have gone very differently, and in a bad way. But it didn’t. I am thankful for being “carried” past conflict and then allowed to try again.

I just heard on a Western that I like to watch where the star says, “I don’t judge a man by where he’s been, but rather, by where he’s going.”  I have found that there are two kinds of people who were mistreated as children or young adults.  Some want to mistreat others because they were mistreated.  Others, because they were mistreated, not only won’t do it to others, but they also will not allow it to be done by anybody else if they can prevent it.  Where we have been and what we have experienced will have an impact on us now. We can do evil or we can do good. The decision we make about this determines our character and shows the caliber of our moral compass.

If we read good books, including The Good Book, especially the New Testament, and watch good movies, especially the old Westerns where the good guys always won, and if we surrounded ourselves with people of integrity, we will still need the Grace of God Almighty to make us people of righteousness.

We need to be people of meditative prayer in order to open a way for the Grace of God to enter into our souls and guide our hearts.  If we were abused as a child, or bullied as an adolescent, or wrongly convicted of a crime for which we served time in prison; none of these evil experiences have to make us an evil person. With God’s Grace we overcome our tragic histories and make promising futures with God’s help.  Nothing is impossible for God, the Creator and Sustainer of all life. And, when graced by God, we cannot let this divine intervention be in vain. Ponder this during our Sabbath time.

“Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all their multitude. And on the seventh day God finished the work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all the work that he had done” (Genesis 2:1 and 2). So, for this evening and tomorrow day my friends, Shabbat Shalom.  

As we listen to what the Spirit is saying to us, let us live to love, to serve, and to teach, while pondering anew what the Almighty can do. John

What is Shabbat? Intro to the Jewish Sabbath – YouTube

Pondering for Thursday, October 14, 2021

Daily Office Readings for Thursday of Proper 23: Year 1

Morning, Psalm 18:1 to 20; Evening, Psalm 18:21 to 50;
Jeremiah 38:1 to 131st Corinthians14:26 to 33 and 37 to 40Matthew 10:34 to 42:

“What should be done then, my friends?  When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up.” (1st Corinthians 14: 26)

As a preacher I have been the one with a lesson and an interpretation of scripture that I have hoped will lead to a revelation. And, I pray that what I share builds up the Church. Now, I feel called to also bring a hymn. I have been studying music for some time now. I want to perform music now, but not at the expense of letting go of lessons with interpretation and the hope of revelation received from those who hear my words, or, at least the words that our Lord gives me.

As a preacher I see myself as an instrument of God who creates a space in the soul of the people sitting in the pews. Often I have had persons come to me and say “you were talking to me, or, about me.”  From my homily or sermon, they set a new course for themselves. There was nothing for me to add to what they heard. After all, the words were not mine, they were God’s.  If a revelation is made to someone else sitting nearby, let the first person be silent;” (1st Corinthians 14:30). That is to say, let me be silent.

For me, being an instrument of God goes further than preaching. I play music. I play hymns. I am learning to preach in different languages, for example, the piano, the guitar and the trombone. Maybe God can also translate my musical message into a revelation for building up the Church.

I also plan to re-start my Spanish practice and to have conversations in Spanish with those near me who too often go unseen. Shame on us, me in particular. However, I also appeal to you.  Stretch yourself and see what gifts God has planted in you that you have not tapped. I, nor any one person, can do all that needs to be done. We must help each other. The Holy Spirit of God speaks to all of us. “What should be done then, my friends?  When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up.”

As we listen to what the Spirit is saying to us, let us live to love, to serve, and to teach, while pondering anew what the Almighty can do. John

Pondering for Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Daily Office Readings for Wednesday of Proper 23: Year 1

Morning, Psalm 119:1 to 24; Evening, Psalms 12, 13 and 14;
Jeremiah 37:3 to 211st Corinthians 14:13 to 25Matthew 10:24-33

“Tongues, then, are a sign not for believers but for unbelievers, while prophecy is not for unbelievers but for believers.” (1st Corinthians 14:22)

This sounds complicated. Let me see if I can simplify it.  Tongues, (or languages), are a sign for unbelievers and prophetic messages are for believers. There, much simpler.

For a classic example of unbelievers learning faith through a foreign tongue made discernible, let us recall Acts 2 where it says; “Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven.  And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language.  And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans?  And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language?  Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia,  Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome,  both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.”  And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” (Acts 2:5 to 12)

As this Acts account is recorded about Peter, and our 1st Corinthians reading is from Paul, the two, although opposed on some issues, do declare the same thing about how language converts the unbeliever. Paul continues, “If, therefore, the whole church comes together and all speak in tongues, and outsiders or unbelievers enter, will they not say that you are out of your mind? But if all prophesy, an unbeliever or outsider who enters is reproved by all and called to account by all.” (1st Corinthians 14: 23 and 24). The prophesying of the faithful will welcome the unbeliever into the hospitality of our love. This is what we, who believe, do. We do not reject those who do not share our faith, but rather, through our faith we show God in our midst.  

It is then that the shallowness of the unbeliever’s heart will be revealed. “After the secrets of the unbeliever’s heart are disclosed, that person will bow down before God and worship him, declaring, ‘God is really among you.” (1st Corinthians 14:25).

As we listen to what the Spirit is saying to us, let us live to love, to serve, and to teach, while pondering anew what the Almighty can do. John

Pondering for Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Daily Office Readings for Tuesday of Proper 23: Year 1

Morning, Psalms 5 and 6; Evening, Psalms 10 and 11;
Jeremiah 36:27 to 37:21st Corinthians 14:1 to 12Matthew 10:16 to 2:

“It is the same way with lifeless instruments that produce sound, such as the flute or the harp. If they do not give distinct notes, how will anyone know what is being played?  And if the bugle gives an indistinct sound, who will get ready for battle?  So with yourselves; if in a tongue you utter speech that is not intelligible, how will anyone know what is being said? For you will be speaking into the air.  There are doubtless many different kinds of sounds in the world, and nothing is without sound.  If then I do not know the meaning of a sound, I will be a foreigner to the speaker and the speaker a foreigner to me.  So with yourselves; since you are eager for spiritual gifts, strive to excel in them for building up the church.” (1st Corinthians 14:7 to 12)

The “it” that Paul speaks of is the speaking of tongues nobody understands.  He likens them to musical instruments that no one plays, or plays out of tune.  They are lifeless and bring nothing to the ear of the listener or they make indiscernible noise.

I practice music on piano, guitar, a marching valve trombone and a traditional slide trombone. Few things make me happier than playing a hymn or song correctly and enjoying the fact that, “I” did that. It also is recognizable by others, and especially children.

I am convinced that our children will only have faith passed on to them if we sing to them. We must sing songs like, Jesus loves me this I know,” and “Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world.”  In this way they will have hope in the love of our Lord Jesus. In this way they will have hope and faith and maybe have a desire to learn how to make musical instruments come alive in order to put melody to what we have taught them.

Unfortunately the arts are the first courses of instructions to go when budgets are being cut. I argue that if we shatter their dreams, hopes and faith, math and history are meaningless. Our souls are meant to sing.

I am aware that Paul was only using musical instruments as a metaphor for indiscernible speech. I think however the same can be said of musical sounds itself. If we teach our children to sing simple melodies perhaps they have a desire to learn how to actually play the melodies.  After all, it was ourselves, parents and relatives who taught them to even speak our language in the first place. If we think so much about a baby saying, “Ma ma, or Da da; how much more should we think about our babies, after some development, singing “Jesus loves me.”  It brings me to tears of joy.

As we listen to what the Spirit is saying to us, let us live to love, to serve, and to teach, while pondering anew what the Almighty can do. John

Pondering for Monday, October 11, 2021

Daily Office Readings for Monday of proper 23: Year 1

Morning, Psalms 1, 2 and 3; Evening,  Psalms 4 and 7;
Jeremiah 36:11 to 261 Corinthians 13:1 to 13Matthew 10:5 to 15:

“Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth.” (1st Corinthians 13: 4 to 6)

In Paul’s 1st Corinthians letter, verses 1 through 13 are perhaps some of the most remembered passages of the New Testament.  He begins by explaining how hollow and empty we are without love. And then he describes exactly what love is.  I also like recalling the ending of his words.  He says of faith, hope and love, love is the greatest of them all; (1st Corinthians 13:13).

Paul says love is patient, kind, not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. He says love does not insist on its own way or is irritable or resentful. It does not celebrate wrongdoing but celebrates doing what is right and truthful. Personally, I fail with some of these. I do get irritable; I have found myself boasting from time to time, and perhaps some other short comings. I am still striving to overcome these deficiencies.

I agree with Paul’s definitions of love.  So I also agree that I fall short of it. But I am still a work in progress.  I think my strong suits are patience, not being rude and not insisting on my own way.  I have work to do in order that I may live more fully into what love is. I have heard it said that once it is identified or spoken of, we can then aim for it. Thank you Paul.

I think the real challenge is just wanting to love more.  Making love our priority makes us more godly because God is love. In full disclosure, I think sometimes even God gets a little irritated with us.  Maybe we are more godly than we think. And, since I believe that God wins, every time; I must also consider that God insists in God’s own Way.  I am happy about our God of love being this way.

As we are drawn more and more back to God, we are drawn to Love. I feel the best way to live our lives is to rid ourselves of all strife, jealousy, envy, malice and hatred. Perhaps making 1st Corinthians 13: 1 to 13, a daily recitation, will help us get there.  Maybe these words will plant seeds of love within us and bloom. It’s worth a try.

As we listen to what the Spirit is saying to us, let us live to love, to serve, and to teach, while pondering anew what the Almighty can do. John

Pondering for Sunday, October 10, 2021

Part 1 of 2

Daily Office Readings for Sunday of Proper 23: Year 1

Morning, Psalms 146, and 147; Evening, Psalms 111, 112, and 113;
Jeremiah 36:1 to 10Acts 14:8 to 18Luke 7:36 to 50:

“And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” (Luke 7:50)

Luke 7:36 to 50 is a powerful lesson. I ask all of you to read it.  It is too long to put in this blog page, especially on Sunday when I normally try to reflect on the Daily Office and the Eucharistic readings. The Luke lesson is about forgiveness and the love of our Lord Jesus. It is about faith in our Lord Jesus. And the message that Jesus says to all is that, “our faith will save us.” Thank You God in Jesus our Savior. Amen.

Part 2 of 2

New Testament Eucharistic Readings for Sunday of Proper 23: Year B

Hebrews 4:12 to 16 and Mark 10:17 to 31:

“And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” (Mark 10:21)

I like Mark’s translation of this passage. It says, “give to the poor.” Not, give it or the money to the poor as in Matthew 19:21, and Luke 18:22.  Mark is closest to the New Testament Greek as it does not use the article “the.”  It makes a big difference.  To give the money to the poor implies all the money. To give to the poor leaves room to keep some for the journey of the mission of Jesus. Jesus depended on the contributions of donors to assist him and his followers as they carried out the Good News.  However there is one thing of note.

In all the Gospel accounts, Jesus invites the young rich man to “follow me.”  We could have had his name had he followed.  Then we would not be hung up on twelve.  In any case, we discover that it was not that he had many possessions; but rather, many possessions had him.

I pray that what we own, does not own us.

As we listen to what the Spirit is saying to us, let us live to love, to serve, and to teach, while pondering anew what the Almighty can do. John

Pondering for Saturday, October 9, 2021

Daily Office Readings for Saturday of Proper 22: Year 1

Morning, Psalm 137:1-6, and Psalm 144; Evening, Psalm 104;
Jeremiah 35:1 to 191st Corinthians 12:27 to 13:3Matthew 9:35 to 10:4:

“Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers; then deeds of power, then gifts of healing, forms of assistance, forms of leadership, various kinds of tongues.” (1st Corinthians 12:27 and 28)

Paul is not only talking to the Church in Corinth. He is talking to all who profess to be Christian.  He says “We” are the body of Christ as the Christian Church. He goes on to say that some,  not all, are appointed bishops, or prophets or pastors and teachers.  We all bring to the Church certain God-given and needed gifts.

Some of us in the Church are doctors and teachers as well as trash collectors and grocery store clerks and all walks of community life. All are needed in order that a community might be sustained.

Some of us in the Church are pastors and teachers.  This is a huge responsibility. It is the call of pastors and teachers to fortify the people in the pews to take the love of the Gospel out into the community.  In our Matthew Gospel reading for today, Jesus is doing just that.  He is sending out the twelve.

I was told long ago, that Church service begins at the dismissal. It is when the people in the pews are dismissed at the end of the service that they began the faithful work of carrying the Gospel of Christ out into the community, in deed and word, but I pray, mostly in deed.  I think it was St Francis of Assisi who said in so many words, “go and preach the Gospel and when necessary, use words.” I like that.  We should walk it before we talk it.

In our 1st Corinthians reading for today we also hear Paul speak of leadership and language. I believe God will from time to time call any one of us to leadership. It does not matter about their physical appearance. They could be heavy of thin, or any shade of skin. They could be male, female, heterosexual, homosexual or non-sexual. God will call who God will call and then gift them with what is needed to help communities in need.  I am reminded of another Church saying I heard long ago.  God doesn’t call the qualified, God qualifies the called. Yes, this even includes giving them the words needed to get God’s point across and for righteous teaching with love.

As we listen to what the Spirit is saying to us, let us live to love, to serve, and to teach, while pondering anew what the Almighty can do. John

Pondering for Friday, October 8, 2021

Daily Office Readings for Friday of Proper 22: Year 1

Morning, Psalms 140 and 142; Evening, Psalms 141 and 143:1to11;
2nd Kings 23:36 to 24:171st Corinthians 12:12 to 26Matthew 9:27 to 34:

“As Jesus went on from there, two blind men followed him, crying loudly, ‘Have mercy on us, Son of David!’ When he entered the house, the blind men came to him; and Jesus said to them, ‘Do you believe that I am able to do this?’ They said to him, ‘Yes, Lord.’ Then he touched their eyes and said, ‘According to your faith let it be done to you.’ And their eyes were opened. Then Jesus sternly ordered them, ‘See that no one knows of this:” (Matthew 927 to 30)

Can you imagine being blind?  Can you imagine being blind and trying to follow someone?  And can you imagine the blind leading the blind?  Nevertheless, they did and were rewarded for their tenacity. But pay close attention to what happened. 

Jesus asked them if they “believed” he (Jesus), was able to do this?  They said yes. They had faith in Jesus.  Jesus then touched their eyes and restored their sight while saying that in accordance with their faith, their sight is restored. 

Here again our Lord Jesus works with what we have inside of us for our own benefit. With little or no faith, we cannot be healed or cured, unless of course the faith in the Lord, and the desire for our health comes from someone who loves us and pleads with Jesus on our behalf.  Our Lord Jesus will take what is good in us and drive out of us what is bad. Jesus connects what we believe with what we need. Thank You Lord Jesus.

 I too am still stumbling along following my Lord Jesus and continually asking for more and more sight.  Join me, won’t you?   Thank You Lord Jesus. Thank you for love; thank you for rest; and thank you for more sight into what our lives are all about. I pray that our faith in your ability will increase in us, in order that you may touch us in ways that improve our ability to see the love of God, and help us to love our brothers and sisters, and all creation. 

“Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all their multitude. And on the seventh day God finished the work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all the work that he had done” (Genesis 2:1 and 2). So, for this evening and tomorrow day my friends, Shabbat Shalom. 

As we listen to what the Spirit is saying to us, let us live to love, to serve, and to teach, while pondering anew what the Almighty can do. John

What is Shabbat? Intro to the Jewish Sabbath – YouTube

Pondering for Thursday, October 7, 2021

Daily Office Readings for Thursday of Proper 22: Year 1

Morning, Psalms 131, 132, and133; Evening, Psalms 134 and 135;
2nd Kings 23:4 to 251st Corinthians 12:1 to 11Matthew 9:18 to 26:

“Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good;” (1st Corinthians 12:4 to 7).

I do believe we are all given much needed gifts when we are conceived. They are given to us by the Spirit of God the Creator. These gifts lay dormant until brought to life by our faith and the Holy Spirit. It truly is magic.  Our faith provides the path for the Holy Spirit to find our God given gifts.

We, of various communities, have a variety of needs.  Therefore, God has ensured that each of us has those gifted qualities needed in the community we are in, or the community to which we are called to be in.  God runs a balancing act within humanity for the good of humanity.

The needed formulas are planted in us before birth. As we are brought up in love and faith, we are brought to “full” life through the Holy Spirit.  As Paul says, it is the same Spirit that activates all of us to be what God has planted in us for the benefit of those whom we share life with, our community.  This is why it is so tragic when we lose anyone to untimely death. When a person dies, needed gifts are gone unused.  This is very sad. This is also why we should treasure every person in our community. We need them.  We need you.

Each one of us should spend time pondering about what our Godly gifts are and what our contribution is, to our community, or any community we might be called to.  This is called discernment.  We will, after discernment, discover what we are gifted for, and what our passion is, and what we are called to do. When we discover our gifted passion and perceive what our community’s needs are, we are well on our way. Where, and when, our passion, and a community’s need resolve for each other, God’s will is done on earth as it is in heaven.

As we listen to what the Spirit is saying to us, let us live to love, to serve, and to teach, while pondering anew what the Almighty can do. John