Pondering for Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Daily Office Readings for Tuesday, June 18, 2019: Proper 6

AM Psalm 78:1-39; PM Psalm 78:40-72 1 Samuel 1:21-2:11; Acts 1:15-26; Luke 20:19-26

“He said to them, ‘Then give to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”  (Luke 20:25)

From this attempted trickery by the scribes and the chief priests comes a holy response from Jesus. He informs then (and us) to acknowledge money as an economic tool to be used for the material maintenance of our bodies, homes and some creature comforts. So, Jesus encourages the circulation of money as is best for the sustainment of the family and community. There is enough on this planet for everyone to be satisfied.

In the same way, Jesus is saying that money, or the human faces represented on it, or the government that makes it, or the money itself, is not to be an object of worship.  We worship God who gave us love, and hearts, and family and friends. So give back into society what society uses to maintain itself, money. But we give to God our souls, our hearts, our minds and even our family and friends.  This really brings home the meaning “All Things Come of Thee O Lord, And of Thine Own Have We Given Thee.”

Indeed we need, and should have a place to lay our heads for sleep, and a place to shower and a place to pray.  Money pays for our home privacy.  The Christian Church started out in homes. The people in whose homes they were, paid for their stay with the emperor’s coin.  So their places of prayer were paid for by the emperor’s image. I find this ironically delightful.

Today, our taxes go to pay for the welfare of public workers like teachers, firemen, police officers, post office employees, government office holders and also to feed and care for the needy.  This latter group was, and still is, the original calling of the Church.  The church is in the world to worship God and take care of the needy, the widows, orphans, the sick, and even those who say there is no God.  We are the Church.  We do not discriminate. It does take money to do this work. So we find faithful and clever ways to give to the emperor. We give to the emperor by spending it through the stores, and shops and markets and schools that help those in need. I find it very interesting that God came to us in the person of Jesus right at the point that we begin to make roads, have an exchange language (Latin) and make an exchange currency. Very interesting. Seems that God’s plan was to set things up so we could pass the Gospel on.

We give to non-government organizations as well.  We try to choose those that more directly help the poor. But it is still the emperor’s money (government made currency) that we do it with. In our parish we have a couple of AA type meetings, and we host a summer lunch feeding program for needy school children. We collect non perishable food items for a back-pack ministry for the public school closest to us. Our Women’s Bible Study raises and sends money to the Heffier project.  We have received several thank you notes from them. We participate in the local Operation In As Much chapter.  We give food items to our city urban ministry. We are not a large parish by any definition. But we realize what we have is from God and we are thankful.

We try to give back to God our hearts and souls and thanks. And we continually pray for God to guide us in every increasing and loving ways that will fulfill God’s plan of passing on the Gospel.

Let us ponder anew what the Almighty can do.  John+

Pondering for Monday June 17, 2019

Daily Office Readings for Monday: Proper 6 of Year 1

AM Psalm 80; PM Psalm 77, [79] 1 Samuel 1:1-20; Acts 1:1-14; Luke 20:9-19

“While he was going and they were gazing up towards heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. They said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up towards heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.’”  (Acts 1: 10 – 11)

I loved the television series “Touched by an Angel.  I believe in angels and that they are always all around us. They can make themselves visible and heard when they need to be seen and heard. I think that often angels are visibly with us without us knowing who, or what they are.  In Hebrews we are told to “Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters.  Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.” (Hebrews 13:1-2)

Angels do intercede when necessary to see what kind of people we are. In Tobit, of the Apocrypha, we have this revelation.  “When you did not hesitate to rise and leave your dinner in order to go and lay out the dead, your good deed was not hidden from me, but I was with you. So now God sent me to heal you and your daughter-in-law Sarah.  I am Raphael, one of the seven holy angels who present the prayers of the saints and enter into the presence of the glory of the Holy One.” (Tobit 12: 13 – 15)

Sometimes they appear frightful and must calm us by saying “fear not.” And only then give us instruction. But they have the option to change their attitude when necessary to minister justice.  For example in Luke where Zechariah questioned the integrity of Gabriel, “The angel said to him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news.   And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their appointed time.” (Luke 1:19-20)

In the situation we have today, it seems the men of Galilee just looked around and there were two men among them, supposedly people they did not know.  But they needed to get God’s plan moving. These Galileans might have stayed staring at the sky and pondered off in the wrong direction.  It was time to take action for the sake of what God wants for the world. So the angels said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up towards heaven?” They needed to get moving.

So I think these God appointees work as conductors of the work to see to it that we stay on track.  How would believing that you are in the presence of angels all the time change the way you live your life? Better start changing then, because they are real and they are among us.

Ponder anew what the Almighty is doing.  John+

Pondering for Sunday June 16, 2019

Eucharistic Readings for Trinity Sunday: Year C

Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31 Psalm 8 Romans 5:1-5 John 16:12-15

“God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:5)

As I have shared before, these words are the words we use every Tuesday at our Women’s Bible Study.  So they really resonate with the ladies and me.  We open with Noon Day Prayers on page 103 of the Book of Common Prayer.  We close the opening with a final prayer petitioning God, praying, “Heavenly Father, send your Holy Spirit into our hearts, to direct and rule us according to your will, to comfort us in all our afflictions, to defend us from all error, and to lead us into all truth; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.” And then we go into our Bible Study.   At this writing we are starting Matthew in two weeks.  It has been a long and educational process.  We started with Genesis in 2006!  We have marched through every page of Scripture (including the Apocrypha) and have learned much.  We continue to learn. It is not how fast we learn but how thorough we learn.

God’s love is in us. Many biblical writings report this; Jeremiah 31:31-34 to what we have in Romans 5:5 today.  God has already done this wonderful thing to bring us closer to God. We just have to rely on it. As the writings say, we have God’s love through the Holy Spirit. As we learned last week (Pentecost Sunday) the Holy Spirit of God has come among us. This Holy Spirit works through the gathered community, the Church. This is why we must come together, yes, in an “organized” religion.  Jesus did not say go and do your own thing, but rather, “follow me.”

We are a creedal people.  My own personal creed is Trinitarian.  While I still adhere to our Nicene Creed I needed to fashion words that more closely articulated my personal theology. And, here it is, “I Trust in the Creating Word through the Holy Spirit of the Incarnate Word, in whom we live and move and love and have our being, and to whom we must give an account.”

I try to be intentional about worshiping God in spirit and truth. This was foretold by Jesus when he said, “Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.” (John 4:23) This remembrance of Trinity Sunday informs us that God meets us where we are.  We may need an All Powerful God to move the waters so that we can get to safety.  We may need a companion God while on the road to Emmaus to break bread with us. Or, we may need the Great Spirit God to visit us in our dreams or in the voice of another to guide us on our way.  In all of these cases we are “on the move” with One aspect of the Divine.

This concept is fully captured in the Collect for Trinity Sunday: “Almighty and everlasting God, you have given to us your servants grace, by the confession of a true faith, to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity, and in the power of your divine Majesty to worship the Unity: Keep us steadfast in this faith and worship, and bring us at last to see you in your one and eternal glory, O Father; who with the Son and the Holy Spirit live and reign, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”

Here is a little note about Father’s Day.  Joseph, husband to Mary, Mother of Jesus, is the best example of fatherhood I think there is.  We do not have one word from his mouth in all the Gospels, yet, we witness his steadfast obedience to God.  He keeps Mary who is pregnant but not by him.  He follows God’s instructions to take the family to Egypt and then to bring the family back to Israel again.  He is a carpenter by vocation who provides for his family and is obedient to God.  As he is a quiet man, I imagine him to be one-who-ponders also.  Maybe he is responsible for Mary using the “Ponder” word in the first place. Who knows. But Joseph was a great dad.

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

Pondering for Saturday, June 15, 2019

Daily Office Readings for June 15, 2019, Proper 5: Year 1

AM Psalm 75, 76; PM Psalm 23, 27 Ecclus. 46:1-10; 2 Cor. 13:1-14; Luke 20:1-8

“Did the baptism of John come from heaven, or was it of human origin?’ (Luke 20:4)

So the chief priests and the scribes came with the elders and asked Jesus about the source of his power.  But as usual, Jesus turned the tables on them with his own question.  Jesus asked about the source of John the Baptist’s baptism.  We get to hear their private discussion regarding how they would answer Jesus. Thank you Luke.

Even though the regular people considered John a prophet from God, the more so-called educated Temple authorities did not regard him as such.  Their fear of what would happen to them shows their true colors.  They would rather lie and say they don’t know than to admit that perhaps, maybe, God is acting in John.  Jesus understands their refusal as evidence of the cowards they are and then responds like-wise.  They will not confess to him the truth that was right in front of them, then neither will he divulge the truth about himself, at least not to them.

Some events that take place today still have no logical explanation. There is a reason such phenomenon are called miracles.  God still works through us in miraculous ways. Short of, “this is the will of God,” there are no explanations.  We must learn to be comfortable with mystery.   

Today we remember Evelyn Underhill

One of the readings for Evelyn comes from the Gospel of John and reads thus, “But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:23-24)

My journaling, from which this blog comes, is all about my contemplative self.  I actively sit in quiet inviting God to enter my mind and move me in ways pleasing to God.  Evelyn Underhill is one of my major heroes. Here is some insight from her sharing:

“Evelyn Underhill’s most valuable contribution to spiritual literature must surely be her conviction that the mystical life is not only open to a saintly few, but to anyone who cares to nurture it and weave it into everyday experience, and also (at the time, a startling idea) that modern psychological theories and discoveries, far from hindering or negating spirituality, can actually enhance and transform it.” (Great Cloud of Witnesses for June 15)

So we don’t have to be monks, or priests, to enter into the mystic life.  It is available to all of us who dare to be still and know that God is God. God says through the Psalmist, “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10)

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

Pondering for Friday, June 14, 2019

Daily Office Readings for June 14, 2019 Year 1

AM Psalm 69:1-23(24-30)31-38; PM Psalm 73 Ecclus. 45:6-16; 2 Cor. 12:11-21; Luke 19:41-48

“Every day he was teaching in the temple. The chief priests, the scribes, and the leaders of the people kept looking for a way to kill him; but they did not find anything they could do, for all the people were spellbound by what they heard.” (Luke 19:47 – 48)

If ever we find ourselves wanting people who are different than ourselves or, who worship in a different way, to die, we should examine ourselves.  The regular people found Jesus fascinating (spellbound) while the rulers found him to be the competition.

We do not compete for the love of God.  God’s love is not a limited resource.  There is no need to feel like we have to “win- over” people so that they will worship God the way we do.  Sometimes, if we listen to God speak in our hearts, we will hear the truth.  Then when we hear it from the lips of others it will resonate with us in ways that demonstrate that it is from God, not just the people we heard it from.

The vindictive and vicious actions we hear from the chief priests, the scribes, and the leaders of the people are what happens when we feel we have a monopoly on God.

We Christians, along with other monotheistic faiths have a bloody trail of sin when it comes to making people worship “our” way.  I heard a very good expression the other night; the speaker was giving a presentation about faith and what we too often expect of others and their faith.  He said,( and I’m paraphrasing here) “it’s either our way or Yahweh!”  I’m going for Yahweh.  I can remember participating in the Liberation of Kuwait in January of 1991.  I was in Saudi Arabia.  We saw on the TV that someone told then President Bush (41) that he hoped God was on our side.  The President responded, “I hope we are on God’s side.” That stuck with me as the way it should be. This is not my way or your way but Yahweh.

We are here at the pleasure of God.  And God is doing a lot for us, all of us. This is the message that Jesus was giving to the people saying things like “love everybody”, and “the Sabbath is made for us, not us for the Sabbath,” and so on.  These are the kind of words that had the people spellbound.  All this is aside from his healing and casting out demons (the Sabbath or not).  

Human religious authorities would lose some of their prestige and power if people knew that they could relate straight to God without them.  Oh, they (we) still need to be in community. Jesus was not trying to end the need for us to come together.  The prophets of scripture calls us together but we must understand, “So we have the prophetic message more fully confirmed. You will do well to be attentive to this as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. First of all you must understand this, that no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, because no prophecy ever came by human will, but men and women moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.” (2nd Peter 1:19-21 NRSV)

So according to St Peter, it is not ourselves who know the will of God but God alone speaking through the Holy Spirit.  Any religion that tries to dictate how people worship instead of surrendering to the loving will of God, worships itself and not God. If a religion thinks they know what God wants in every circumstance, that religion is misguided.  St James says, “If any think they are religious, and do not bridle their tongues but deceive their hearts, their religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” (James 1:26-27)

So looking for a way to kill anyone is unreligious and wrong, but more especially if it’s Jesus they are trying to kill.  But as I have said, the history of our own church is marred with hate events for other Christians who differed from us. We are all God’s through a loving Jesus. We are called to love others, be they Christian, or not.  We need to let love rule. It’s the only Way, It’s Yahweh.

Hear what the Spirit is saying to God’s people. John+

Pondering for Thursday, June 13, 2019

Daily Office Readings for Thursday, June 13, 2019 Proper 5

AM Psalm [70], 71; PM Psalm 74 Ecclus. 44:19-45:5; 2 Cor. 12:1-10; Luke 19:28-40

“Therefore the Lord assured him with an oath that the nations would be blessed through his offspring; that he would make him as numerous as the dust of the earth, and exalt his offspring like the stars, and give them an inheritance from sea to sea and from the Euphrates to the ends of the earth.” (Sirach 44.21)

I have, for a long time now been fascinated with the God – Abraham relationship.  Abram called to leave Ur and go to where God leads him.  Abraham left what is now Iraq.  And from there became the origin of what is now the Hebrew People and more than that, through Jesus, he became the Father of the Hebrew – Christian world. This is a heritage we do not talk about enough.

God told Abram that God will bless him and that Abram or Abraham, will be a blessing.  This truly is the gift that keeps on giving. This blessing makes itself manifests in the way we listen to God and respond to God’s call. Abram/Abraham responded to God also as he was sitting by his tent when he was visited by God. (Gen. 18:1-2)  Abraham was open to God’s call on his life all the time, not just when, and if, it was convenient.

This is more than a story about biology or ethnicity. This is about who God could use.  From this story in Sirach or Ecclesiasticus, we get the summary of the spiritual lineage of Abraham.  There was an emptiness in the bosom of Abraham where God found a place dwell.  God wants more Abrahams.  That’s where we come in.

It really makes no difference where we come from.  It matters not who our parents were.  If we sit at the door of our tent with patience God will come visiting.  Sometimes I think we over indulge ourselves with mind numbing sounds and activities so as to keep God at bay. We stay distracted so that God can’t enter in.  But that’s not who we are brought forth to be.  We are children to Abraham.

As I write this journal entry I am at peace this morning.  I don’t know what lies in store for me as this day moves on.  I do pray that God “Leads me and guides me.”  God picked a person who had the unique characteristic of maintaining a soul-space where God was able to dwell.  From there God continues to this very day to work wonders within Abraham’s offspring like the stars, and give them an inheritance from sea to sea and from the Euphrates to the ends of the earth.”

“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 289)

Let us ponder anew what the Almighty can do. John+

Pondering for Wednesday June 12, 2019

Daily Office Readings for Wednesday, June 12, 2019 Proper 5

AM Psalm 72; PM Psalm 119:73-96 Deut. 31:30-32:14; 2 Cor. 11:21b-33; Luke 19:11-27

 “He summoned ten of his slaves, and gave them ten pounds, and said to them, “Do business with these until I come back.”  (Luke 19:13)

Luke’s version of giving money to people who were left in charge differs greatly from other Gospel sources of the same kind.  It also seems somewhat disjointed because there are still seven slaves unaccounted for.  Never – the –less, the point of being responsible for whatever gifts we are given is still the main teaching point.

Our job here on earth is to bear fruit.  We are to make known the presence of the heavenly kingdom all around us.  Part of the point is to be patient.  Fruit does not grow in a day.  It takes time to develop.  What we bring about may not be 10 fold or even 5 fold.  But whatever it brings, if it bears any fruit in the way of people being reconciled to God, then God is well pleased.

 Therefore, we should be compassionate with people and take care of the needy and give voice to those who have no voice.  It seems that if we use our gifts wisely we will be re-gifted again.  But if we do not, even what we have, we will lose. The message here is an old one: Do the good you can with the good you have. Amen.

Today, June 12, we also remember Enmegahbowh,  Priest and Missionary 1902

Enmegahbowh (“The One who Stands Before his People”) is the first recognized Native American priest in The Episcopal Church. (Great Cloud of Witnesses: June 12)

“Unwelcome for a time among some Ojibway groups because he warned the community at Fort Ripley about the 1862 uprising, Enmegahbowh was consistent as a man of peace, inspiring the Waubanaquot (Chief White Cloud) mission, which obtained a lasting peace between the Ojibway and the Dakota peoples.”  (Great Cloud of Witnesses: June 12) 

Enmegahbowh was led by his faith to intercede in preventing deaths among European Americans and Native Americans alike. He was not appreciated by his fellow tribesmen because of his egalitarian approach.  But Enmegahbowh was more concerned with how God would see him.  He perhaps recalled from Luke’s Gospel where it says, “Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man.  Rejoice on that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven; for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets.” (Luke 6: 22-23)

And so, he put little things like skin color, language, and who was here first, aside.  He realized that God is everybody’s color, spoke all languages and is present everywhere.

“The Rev. John Johnson Enmegahbowh was born in Canada and died at White Earth on the 12th of June, 1902, at the age of 95 years.”  (Great Cloud of Witnesses: June 12)  Thank You Jesus.

Ponder anew what the Almighty can do. John+