Pondering for Monday, January 17, 2022

Daily Office Readings for Monday of the 2nd Week of Epiphany: Year 2

Morning, Psalm 25; Evening, Psalms 9 and 15

Genesis 8:6 to 22; Hebrews 4:14 to 5:6; John 2:23  to 3:15:

“He came to Jesus by night and said to him, ‘Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.” (John 3:2)

This is the way we all approach our Lord Jesus, in the darkness of ignorance.  Nicodemus was somewhat condescending in his talk with Jesus knowing that a person cannot re-enter the womb to be born again.  Jesus was explaining a rebirth using metaphor.  This only further explains the dark cloud of ignorance in which Nicodemus found himself.

One does not know how much they don’t know.  I am thankful for a seminary education. It is not that this religious education made me smart.  Rather, it informed me of just how much I had no clue about.  I think knowing how much you don’t know is the beginning of being smart. This is a good time to recall a quote from Kallistos Ware: “It is not the task of Christianity to provide easy answers to every question, but to make us progressively aware of a mystery.  God is not so much the object of our knowledge as the cause of our wonder.” (Kallistos Ware)

If Nicodemus believed that our Lord Jesus was a teacher who has come from God because no one can do what our Lord Jesus does apart from the presence of God, then, I say, behave that way Nicodemus!  Instead of challenging Jesus, follow him.  And that goes for us too.

Today is the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. advocate for civil rights for all people.

Dr King was passionate about his call for justice for all people.  It is reported that he once said that “If a man can’t find something he is willing to die for, he is not fit to live.”  Indeed he did die while raising the awareness of underpaid sanitation workers in Memphis, This fairness was something he believed in and was willing to die for, and indeed he did die for.

How about us?  What are we willing to die for?  So often the “what” is changed to “who.”  Many of us will proclaim who we are willing to die for, a spouse, a child, a parent or a friend.   But what about an idea; – a concept of freedom, equality and justice for all people?  As Episcopalians we proclaim in our Baptismal Covenant that we “Will strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being;” (BCP 305).  I think Dr King (not an Episcopalian), lived into what we profess. He did more than just lip service to an old, regularly recited covenant. He was fit to live because of his determination for freedom, liberty and justice for all people as valid reasons to die for. And that should go for us as well.

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, January 16, 2022

Eucharistic Readings for Sunday of the 2nd Week of Epiphany: Year C

Isaiah 62:1 to 5; Psalm 36:5 to 10; 1st Corinthians 12:1 to 11; John 2:1 to 11:

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

Mary has lived with her son, our Lord Jesus, for most of his earthly thirty years.  She has seen him replenish their food supply over and over again; and maybe even change some of their water into wine.  She has probably seen him do more with nothing than is ever written in the Bible.

So it is quite natural for Mary to go to her son when there is a shortage of anything.  Notice that Mary does not respond to Jesus’ mumbling about whether or not his time has come.  She turns to the servants that will obey Jesus – she turns to us.  She looks through the pages of John’s Gospel directly into our eyes and says, “Do whatever he tells you.”

This is perhaps the first sermon ever about how we Christians should respond to Jesus. John the Baptist proclaimed the coming of Jesus and that Jesus would baptize us with fire and the Holy Spirit.  Later even Paul tells us about how Christ Jesus is our Salvation.  But Mary tells us we must do as Jesus tells us.  She puts into action everything that Jesus will say to us in commands and parables, from the golden rule (Do onto others as you would have them do onto you), to the Good Samaritan and to give to Cesar that that is Cesar’s and to God that that is God’s.  If we are really serious about following Jesus when Jesus says “follow me,” then we first must listen to Mary who says to us “Do whatever he tells you.”

So for me, it is not so much about “What would Jesus do?” Our Lord Jesus can do many things that I will never be able to do. No, it is about what is my Lord Jesus telling me to do?  What is our Lord Jesus telling us, his followers, to do? Be Well.

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, January 15, 2022

Daily Office Readings for Saturday of the 1st Week of Epiphany: year 2

Morning, Psalms 20 and 21:1to 7; Evening, Psalms110:1to 5, and 116 and 117;
Genesis 6:9 to 22Hebrews 4:1 to 13John 2:13 to 22;

“So then, a Sabbath rest still remains for the people of God;’ (Hebrews 4:9).

Today, Saturday is our assigned Sabbath Rest, a gift from God. We should attend to it in a contemplative manner.

When I served in the Marines in Saudi Arabia, during the liberation of Kuwait, Desert Shield and Desert Storm, those of us who were Christian counted the weeks there by our Sundays. Two Sunday traditions took place where we were. First, the chaplain came to our maintenance compound to conduct a Church Service.  I remember that I led the Lord’s Prayer helping those who wanted to participate but didn’t know the words. Second, our mess hall (dining facility), prepared pancakes for breakfast!  This was a big deal.  During this non-liturgical breaking of the “pancake” bread we got to see others with whom we came over with but do not work with on a daily basis. We celebrated each week as time passed until we boarded planes for home.

I have matured theologically since that time, or at least I think I have. Now, after careful study of scripture, I believe the God-given day for all of us is Saturday, the seventh day of the week.  I still worship on Sundays but I think there is a difference between worship and rest. This rest we enter is not ours alone. It is God’s rest. And we are invited to be at rest with God. That day is today.

I will close this blog page for today with the closing words of our Hebrews writer for today for you to ponder: “For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not speak later about another day. 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. Let us therefore make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one may fall through such disobedience as theirs.   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: 8 to 13)

We should celebrate each Sabbath until we are taken to our eternal home.

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, January 14, 2022

Daily Office Readings for Friday of Week 1 of Epiphany: Year 2

Morning, Psalms 16, and 17; Evening,  Psalm 22;

Genesis 6:1 to 8; Hebrews 3:12 to 19John 2:1 to 12:

“The Lord saw that the wickedness of humankind was great in the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of their hearts was only evil continually.”  (Genesis 6:5)

Full disclosure, I am not a Bible literalist. But I do believe that within most of our Bible stories, and within some of the fake facts, are real truths. One such truth is that left unschooled by good parents and teachers of love, our moral compasses will point south. We must be vigilant about being good and teaching what is good, Nephilim notwithstanding.

This is a repeated Biblical lesson. From our Hebrews reading for today we get the same instruction: “Take care, brothers and sisters, that none of you may have an evil, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God.  But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today’, so that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. (Hebrews 3:12 and 13)

While the preacher to the Hebrews reminds us of Moses and our Genesis reading shows signs of hope with the coming of Noah, the Mother of our Lord Jesus preaches the perfect, albeit brief, sermon. She tells us, the servants of the Lord, to “do whatever he tells you,” (John 2:5). Our Lord Jesus is God’s final act of salvation, even beyond Noah and Moses. I believe God still loves creation and want to save it, and us with it.

“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, January 13, 2022

Daily Office Readings for Thursday of the 1st Week after the Epiphany: Year 2

Morning, Psalm 18:1 to 20; Evening, Psalm 18:21 to 50;

Genesis 4:17 to 26; Hebrews 3:1 to 11; John 1:43 to 51:

“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”  (Hebrews 3:7 – 9)

Today if you hear his voice, don’t harden your hearts.  I think it takes a minute to discern where the inside voice is coming from.  We can call it conscience, or in my case, pondering, or whatever.  The point from the Hebrews reading is that we need to at least acknowledge the voice and heed it.

I have found that listening deeply requires me to check my emotions.  I have to ask myself, how am I feeling?  Am I disturbed about something?  Am I nervous about something?  I must also ask myself if I am overjoyed about anything.  All of these moods or emotions could alter what the Spirit is saying to me.  Such clearing of the mind requires contemplation, meditation and often just sitting quietly alone.  I recall the words of Blaise Pascal: who said, “All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.”  I modified his words to read, “All of humanity’s problems stem from each person’s refusal to sit quietly in a room alone.

Aside from the gender references I want to acknowledge that it is not so much the inability to sit alone, but our flat out refusal to do so.  I think this is the hardness of heart that the Hebrew writer warns against.  Sometimes we can be so stubborn as to not allow ourselves to be open to pondering about what is right and loving to do. You should try it.  Sometimes we just need to shut everything off and be still. And yes, know that God is God.(Psalm 46:10)  A hardened heart is a blockage to the voice of the Holy Spirit. We all, from time to time, need to step away from the fear of change and the conviction that we are right, and be open to what the Spirit is saying to 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 Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Daily Office Readings for Wednesday of the 1st Week of Epiphany: Year 2

Morning, Psalm 119:1 to 24; Evening,  Psalms 12, 13 and 14;
Genesis 4:1 to 16Hebrews 2:11 to 18John 1: 35-42:

“Therefore he had to become like his brothers and sisters in every respect, so that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make a sacrifice of atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself was tested by what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested.” (Hebrews 2: 17 and 18)

This explanation from the letter to the Hebrews reinforces my belief that God gets to understand the human condition through His Incarnate self in the life and death of our Lord Jesus.

When God walks among us and suffers with us, God develops mercy for us. It is through and because of our Lord Jesus that we are redeemed of our sins and saved in eternal life.

Jesus says, “Here am I and the children whom God has given me,” (Hebrews 2:13). We are given to our Lord Jesus through our faith, that is, in believing in the Presence of Christ in our everyday lives.  Our belief in our Lord Jesus makes us, through Holy Communion, be of the same flesh and blood, and therefore, brothers and sisters of our Lord Jesus. “Since, therefore, the children share flesh and blood, he himself likewise shared the same things,” (Hebrews 2:14).

Thanks to our Lord Jesus all we have to do is believe to belong to the family of God.  Other faith traditions have different kinds of faith connections with God. For us, we have Christ crucified. This is why “he had to become like his brothers and sisters in every respect, so that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make a sacrifice of atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself was tested by what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested.” 

Every day we should live our lives in thanksgiving for God being one of us in order to experience what we are going through. 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 Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Daily Office Readings for Tuesday of the 1st Week after the Epiphany: Year 2

Morning, Psalms 5 and 6; Evening, Psalms 10 and 11;

Genesis 3:1 to 24; Hebrews 2:1 to 10; John 1:19 to 28

“John answered them, ‘I baptize with water. Among you stands one whom you do not know.”  (John 1: 26)

We don’t always know who is in our midst.  I wonder if John made eye contact with Jesus as he said the words “Among you stands one whom you do not know.”  John knew Jesus, it is said that they were cousins.

Knowing someone is more than just knowing who their relatives are, their parents, siblings and so forth. Knowing a person implies, at some level you know what they like and dislike, what they value and their preferences of foods, music, habits and hobbies.  In the case of our Lord Jesus, it also means you know He is God Incarnate.  No one around John knew that about our Lord Jesus except for Cousin John.

I have been around some of my friends for a very long time only to find out that when a certain topic came up and they surprised me with how they acted.  Then I realized that I didn’t really know them at all.  So when John says “Among you stands one whom you do not know,” he’s right. But let’s not confuse knowing a person with knowing “of” a person.  Sometimes it’s good to know something about a person in order to know how close you want to be with them.  The more similar attitudes you both have about various subjects the closer you become.  But even with this, I like to be close with people who differ with me in some areas.  I always want to hear an opposing view point. It keeps me honest. It may even cause me to shift in my pondering as I hear what the Spirit is saying to me through someone with a different perspective.  We don’t mature if we stay stagnated with people of the same mind. We must listen to what the Holy Spirit is saying to us, through 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 Monday, January 10, 2022

Daily Office Readings for Monday of the 1st Week of Epiphany: Year 2

Morning, Psalm 1, 2 and 3; Evening, Psalm 4 and 7;

Genesis 2:4 to 25; Hebrews 1:1 to 14; John 1:1 to 18

“Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son,whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds.” (Hebrews 1:1-2)

It is perhaps difficult if not impossible for us to wrap our minds around all matter and all life being created through the Being of God we now call our Lord Jesus.  This message is also reflected in John’s Gospel account which we have assigned for today as he writes, “All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being.” (John 1:3).

So God creates and maintains the universe through our Lord Jesus who walked among us to model for us how we should live in creation with God and one another. I believe we humans have three missions in life. First, we are to ever strive to develop and maintain our faithful connection with the Creator, “Our Father in Heaven.” Second, we are assigned as caretakers of the earth.  And lastly, we must recognize that we live in covenant relationship with one another for the purpose of being co-maintainers of the earth, God’s prized jewel in the universe.

The more I ponder about these things the more focused I am about our call to exist and do the work God has put before us. God has made this earth like a Grandfather clock and has put us here to rewind it ever so often. Yes, we may use it to mark the time, but we also must keep it running. This clock is not just for us humans.  The rhythms of its musical chimes are the living pulse of all on, and in, this blue round home we call earth.   If we don’t keep it going, it will shut down. 

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, January 9, 2022

Eucharistic Readings for the 1st Sunday after the Epiphany: Year C

Isaiah 43:1 to 7; Psalm 29; Acts 8:14 to 17; Luke 3:15 to 17 and 21 to 22

“Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” (Luke 3: 21 and 22)

There is so much to get to in today’s Gospel reading before we open verses 21 and 22 above.

There is the wonderment of what the people thought of John the Baptist, that he might be the Messiah. This is a two part concern.  First, the people were expecting the Messiah to come as had been told to them from the Holy Writings.   Second, if the Messiah is coming, then who is he? Could it be this rebel baptizer?

Then there is John’s confession that he is not the Messiah. John’s whole life purpose is to announce that the Messiah is indeed coming. This proclamation of John is now handed down to you and me. Christ is coming!

Within this reading of Luke there is the almost incidental baptism of our Lord Jesus, unlike Mathew where there is concern from John about his worthiness to baptize Jesus: (Matthew 3: 13 to 15).

Then finally we get to the Holy Spirit descending upon Jesus in bodily form like a dove. A voice proclaims that Jesus is the Son of God and that God is pleased with him. This proclamation happens again in the Bible and is remembered in our Church on the Last Sunday after the Epiphany and at the Transfiguration of our Lord Jesus on August 6th. Most of what we do in our Church is biblically based. However since biblical writings are in the language of the people, interpretation of what is being said can be determined at the family level. And I believe this is fine as long as families remember to pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit as they read the ancient words.

 Today is a prescribed day for Baptisms according to our Book of Common Prayer because today we remember that our Lord set the example for Christians to be Baptized as part of our Church tradition and as the only initiation into Christianity. Let us make no mistake, there is the Bible, there is Church Tradition in all its variations, and there is family prayer. I believe the latter is the most important, even in the absence of the first two. Remember what Jesus was doing when the Holy Spirit descended upon him: “Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon him.”

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, January 8, 2022

Daily Office Readings for January 8: Year 2

Morning, Psalm 117 and 118; Evening,  Psalm 112 and  113;
Exodus 17:1 to 7Colossians  1:15 to 23John 7:37 to 52:

“They replied, ‘Surely you are not also from Galilee, are you? Search and you will see that no prophet is to arise from Galilee.’ (John 7: 52)

The “they” in this exchange are the Pharisees. They are jumping on Nicodemus for asking, “Our law does not judge people without first giving them a hearing to find out what they are doing, does it?” The Pharisees did not know the whole story of our Lord Jesus. He in fact was born in Bethlehem. But I say even beyond his birth place, they should have taken in for consideration his compassion and deeds of power. Sometimes they, and we, have our minds so fixed on what we think God is doing that we don’t leave room for what God is really doing.

I visited Galilee in February of 2018. I loved Galilee more than Jerusalem and Judea.  Galilee is where our Lord Jesus began his ministry. Galilee is where our Lord Jesus called his disciples to follow him. Capernaum is the first place Jesus went of his own free will and accord. He was born in Bethlehem, taken to Egypt as a baby, and then taken to Nazareth where he was raised to adulthood. But of his own choice he went to Capernaum where he met fishermen.

The Pharisees want to accuse even the temple police of being deceived.  Nicodemus will be seen again at the end of this Gospel account bringing ointment for the dead body of Jesus. Nicodemus was a closet disciple. Many of us are as well. I pray that we come out of the closet of denial and stand boldly in the faith, the faith that proclaims Christ as Lord and God’s salvation plan for us all.

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