Pondering for Thursday, September 19, 2019

Daily Office Readings for Thursday of Proper 19 Year 1

AM Psalm [70], 71; PM Psalm 74 1 Kings 22:29-45; 1 Cor. 2:14-3:15; Matt. 5:1-10

Matthew 5:1–12

When Jesus* saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:

‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

‘Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

‘Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

‘Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

‘Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.

‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

‘Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

‘Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely* on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

In conferring with Douglas R. A. Hare in “Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching: Matthew.”  Hare says about the word Blessed that “While such a nuance cannot be fully excluded in a Greek Gospel, it is important to remember that Jesus spoke in a Semitic context. The meaning he intended in the original beatitudes undoubtedly reflects the function of ashre in the Hebrew Scriptures, for example Ps. 1:1, where the happiness is less subjective that objective.”  Happiness, he contends, “derives from a right relationship with God…..For this reason it is probably better to retain “blessed” as the English rendering because of the word’s religious associations. (p. 35 – 36)

All that said, for me, the Beatitudes guide my life with the promise of hope. I hold out trying to be as compassionate and as prayerful as I can be hoping beyond hope that God will not forget me and that I will not forget God.

 Let us hear what the Spirit is saying to and through God’s people and ponder anew what the Almighty can do.  John+

Pondering for Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Today I will ponder from our Great Cloud of Witnesses and from James Kiefer as we look at the life of Dag Hjalmar Agne Carl Hammarskjöld (pronounced HAM-mar-shold)

My Selected Readings for Dag Hammarskjold

1 Chronicles 25:1,6–8; Psalm 47; Ephesians 2:17–22; Matthew 5:1–12

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” (Matthew 5:9)

“Dag Hjalmar Agne Carl Hammarskjöld was a Swedish diplomat, economist, and author, known particularly for the way in which his Christian faith informed his global peacemaking.” (Great Cloud of Witnesses for September 18) No doubt then that Hammarskjold should be called a child of God given that he worked hard to bring about peace around the globe.

Personally I prefer the Spanish translation of verse 9 of this chapter of Matthew. It reads, “Dichosos los que trabajan por la paz,porque Dios los llamará hijos suyos.” Roughly translated it says blessed are those who work for peace, they will be called children of God.”  It might be nitpicking but in the English if peace is not actually accomplished you can’t earn the title peacemaker.  However in the Spanish you “work” for peace.  No one knows for sure if their efforts will bring about the intended results, whether it’s planning a party or bringing about peace.  All we can do is work towards the goal.  I applaud Hammarskjöld’s efforts and his example of good leadership.

“Hammarskjöld was elected the second Secretary-General of the United Nations, serving from April 1953 until his death on September 18, 1961″ (Great Cloud of Witnesses for September 18)

From James Kiefer: “For years, he had kept a private journal, writing down his thoughts on the Lordship of Christ and its meaning for his life. After his death, the journal was published under the title Markings. Two extracts follow.

God does not die on the day when we cease to believe in a personal deity, but we die on the day when our lives cease to be illumined by the steady radiance, renewed daily, of a wonder, the source of which is beyond all reason.

He who has surrendered himself to it knows that the Way ends on The Cross–even when it is leading through the jubilation of Gennesaret or the triumphal entry into Jerusalem.”  (provided by James Kiefer)

“Hammarskjöld was killed pursuing peace in the Congo, when his plane mysteriously crashed on September 18, 1961. Many people— including President Truman—believed that the plane had been deliberately shot down. He was posthumously awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.” (Great Cloud of Witnesses for September 18)

Let us hear what the Spirit is saying to and through God’s people and ponder anew what the Almighty can do.  John+                                                                                                                     

Pondering for Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Readings for Hildegard 1179

Psalm 104:25-34  Sirach 43:1-12 John 3:16-21

“I will sing to the Lord as long as I live; I will praise my God while I have my being.” (Psalm 104:34)

Today I will move from the Daily Office to remember Hildegard as she is chronicled in the Great Cloud of Witnesses.

“Hildegard of Bingen, born in 1098 in the lush Rhineland Valley, was a mystic, poet, composer, dramatist, doctor, and scientist. Her parents’ tenth child, she was tithed to the Church and raised by the anchoress Jutta in a cottage near the Benedictine monastery of Disibodenberg. (Great Cloud of Witnesses for September 17)

I feel drawn to people with multiple gifts, especially if they include mysticism and music.  Hildegard was also respected by Bernard of Clairvaux which as a Knight Templar myself I feel that I too should lean in and listen to her more closely. “In 1147, Bernard of Clairvaux recommended her first book of visions, Scivias, to Pope Eugenius III, leading to papal authentication at the Synod of Trier. Hildegard became famous, eagerly sought for counsel, a correspondent of kings and queens, abbots and abbesses, archbishops and popes.” (Great Cloud of Witnesses for September 17)  So why not smart people of today listen to her as well?

Hildegard crossed barriers that were meant to keep women out. “She carried out four preaching missions in northern Europe, unprecedented activity for a woman. She practiced medicine, focusing on women’s needs; published treatises on natural science and philosophy; and wrote a liturgical drama, The Play of the Virtues, in which personified virtues sing their parts and the devil, condemned to live without music, can only speak. For Hildegard, music was essential to worship. Her liturgical compositions, unusual in structure and tonality, were described by contemporaries as “chant of surpassing sweet melody” and “strange and unheard-of music.”” (Great Cloud of Witnesses for September 17)

I particularly share her feeling that music was/is essential to worship.  Not everybody wants to hear this but I believe music assists in guiding our souls to the Spirit of God.   I also marvel that in her pondering the devil must live in a world without music. If nothing else encourages us to appreciate music this should. “Hildegard lived in a world accustomed to male governance. Yet, within her convents, and to a surprising extent outside them, she exercised a commanding spiritual authority based on confidence in her visions and considerable political astuteness. When she died in 1179, at 81, she left a rich legacy which speaks eloquently across the ages. .” (Great Cloud of Witnesses for September 17)

Let us hear what the Spirit is saying to and through God’s people and ponder anew what the Almighty can do.  John+

Pondering for Monday, September 16, 2019

Daily Office Readings for Monday of Proper 19 Year 1

AM Psalm 56, 57, [58]; PM Psalm 64, 65 1 Kings 21:1-16; 1 Cor. 1:1-19; Matt. 4:1-11

Matt. 4:4. But he answered, ‘It is written, “One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” ’

Matt. 4:7. ‘Again it is written, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.” ’

Matt. 4:10.  Away with you, Satan! for it is written, “Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.” ’

Matt. 4:11. Then the devil left him, and suddenly angels came and waited on him.

(Matthew 4: 4, 7, 10 & 11)

Jesus was led into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.  After each temptation Jesus resorts to what “is written” to assist him in resisting the temptation.  Jesus depends on the word of God, trusting God rather than testing God and finally to worship and serve God only.  It is Jesus’ three legged stool.

How about us today?  We have Jesus himself as the Word of God. This is the Word through whom all creation came into being and this Word itself took on human likeness, our Lord, Jesus Christ.  We are to trust in God, Jesus says and in that confident trust there is no testing.  God is not to be tested but rather honored and obeyed; which brings us to the last point of worship and serving God only. We worship God in our common community of the Church. And, as we serve others in Jesus’ Name, we serve God and God only. Yes, in serving others we serve God.  Remember; “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 13:2).   These would be the same angels that came and waited on Jesus and like Gabriel (Luke 1: 19), they stand in the presence of God.

Let us hear what the Spirit is saying to and through God’s people and ponder anew what the Almighty can do.  John+

Pondering for Sunday, September 15, 2019

Eucharistic Readings for Sunday of Proper 19 Year C

Exodus 32:7-14 Psalm 51:1-11  1 Timothy 1:12-17  Luke 15:1-10

“Just so, I tell you, there is (and will be joy) over finding what was lost (from the Luke, chapter 15 reading for today).

I call Chapter 15 of Luke the “Lost  Chapter.”  I say this not because it is missing but because it is about the lost.  We have the lost sheep, then the lost coin and then it concludes with the lost son.

What is significant is that this chapter teaches us that sometimes we don’t appreciate and celebrate what we have while we have it.  But boy let it get lost!  Whether it’s a sheep, a coin, our glasses, our keys, our job, our money, or even a human relationship, what we have lost is felt deeply and we want it back. What is being celebrated in this Luke reading is the getting back to normal.  It is celebrating the experience of not having lost anything in the first place.  It is celebrating “the way it was.”  

So therefore, we should treasure all we have even if it’s very little.  We, in our prayers, should continually give God thanks for the benefits bestowed upon us and remember it is not ourselves that made manifest our possessions but God. The greatest riches we have are our relationships with others, family and friends.  We need to be thankful for these relationships and celebrate them all the time, not just when, and if, we get them back.  

From the perspective of the lost, it is about being re-membered.  It is about being found. Sometimes we must find ourselves.  Sometimes we have to be found by another.  Either way, being put back into community is absolutely a cause for celebration.

Let us hear what the Spirit is saying to and through God’s people and ponder anew what the Almighty can do.  John+

Pondering for Saturday, September 14, 2019

Daily Office Readings for Saturday of Proper 18 Year 1

AM Psalm 55; PM Psalm 138, 139:1-17(18-23) 1 Kings 18:41-19:8; Phil. 3:17-4:7; Matt. 3:13-17

“Then he lay down under the broom tree and fell asleep. Suddenly an angel touched him and said to him, ‘Get up and eat.’ He looked, and there at his head was a cake baked on hot stones, and a jar of water. He ate and drank, and lay down again.” (1 Kings 19: 5 – 6)

I find it interesting that food is used as an energy source prior to a journey rather than a reward after an ordeal.  The latter reminds me of the saying, “If you don’t work, you don’t eat.”  The implication is that you work first, and later eat.

Elijah also ordered Ahab to “go up and eat and drink.” (1 Kings 18:41)  Food is our energy source.  Perhaps the greatest contribution to our gaining weight, especially in America, is not so much what we eat or even how much we eat but when we eat.  We’ve been told that breakfast is the most important meal of the day.  Some cultures make the midday meal the largest meal of the day.  The weight gaining problem comes (I think) when we eat late and then have no physical journey after the meal like Elijah had. 

Paying close attention to this 1Kings reading for today we will see that he did eat something and take another nap.  But then was awakened again where we read, “He ate and drank, and lay down again. The angel of the Lord came a second time, touched him, and said, ‘Get up and eat, otherwise the journey will be too much for you.’ He got up, and ate and drank; then he went in the strength of that food for forty days and forty nights to Horeb the mount of God.” (1Kings 19:6 – 8)  While forty days might be a stretch the greater point for me is that he ate and then walked, walked to see God.

I don’t know that this passage is strictly teaching dietary lessons; probably not.  But I think I have that unique ability to glean little bits of insight that delve into seemingly unrelated but important areas.  Fitness is one of those areas I am interested in.  I love it when my faith ear hears good news about a possible connection to fitness.  All things are related in some way. We feed our bodies in order that we too might be able to journey to see God.

Let us hear what the Spirit is saying to and through God’s people and ponder anew what the Almighty can do.  John+

Pondering for Friday, September 13, 2019

Daily Office Readings for Friday of Proper 18 Year 1

AM Psalm 40, 54; PM Psalm 511 Kings 18:20-40; Phil. 3:1-16; Matt. 3:1-12

“But when he saw many Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, ‘You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit worthy of repentance. Do not presume to say to yourselves, “We have Abraham as our ancestor”; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham.” (Matthew 3:7 – 9)

I don’t know where John the Baptist learned hospitality.  “You brood of vipers” is probably not the most welcoming invitation one could use to encourage folk to repent.  Of course he is talking to Pharisees and Sadducees, who are perhaps the greatest critics of what he is doing.  Luke’s Gospel gives a more detailed ‘back and forth’ between John and questioning participants.   (Luke 3: 10 – 14)

There are two points that need to be learned here.  First, he says “bear fruit worthy of repentance.” This means a change in life style in such a way that you would never repeat the misdeed or sin that caused the separation from God’s will in the first place. God wants us to love God and one another.  Any act of commission or omission should bother us so much that we wished we could roll back time and change the situation.  But we can’t.  We must then, make sure it never happens again. The fruit of this repentance is asking for forgiveness.  It is a bitter fruit but it is medicine for the soul.  The offended party may not forgive you. That is out of your control.  But their resistant attitude does not excuse you from seriously apologizing anyway.   

Second, no one has a free pass.  John cautions them to not use the Abraham lineage as an automatic pass to whatever they might do or not do. Abraham heritage is not one of biology but rather, of faith. Today we can extend that false biological heritage identity further.  Being white, or black, or any ethnicity does not give us any advantage in God’s eyes. God can raise people in the faith of Abraham from any human population. We are called to believe, live and love accordingly.

Let us hear what the Spirit is saying to and through God’s people and ponder anew what the Almighty can do.  John+