Pondering for Friday, July 3, 2020

Daily Office Readings for Friday of Proper 8: Year 2

Psalm 140, 142; Psalm 141, 143:1-11(12); Num. 24:1-13; Rom. 8:12-17; Matt. 22:15-22

“Then he said to them, ‘Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.’”  (Matthew 22:21)

In trying to trick our Lord Jesus, the disciples of the Pharisees, along with the Herodians actually learn something about the real use of money and the reality of what belongs to God.

The real use of money is to purchase the necessities we need for living healthy lives.  Also money can be used for fun and comfort. However, as money is a nonperishable trade commodity that the whole community needs to make use of, it should never be hoarded to the deprivation of others.

The emperor can be seen as the government and money back to the emperor is the same as paying taxes.  The government, or the emperor, are the printers of the money (hopefully) as a means of enabling citizens the ability to get their needs and maintain their common good which includes paying wages for those who work for the government or the emperor.  Money is too often misused.

Our souls and hearts on the other hand, belong to the One who gave it to us, Almighty God.  While money is a human construct, our being is the design and creation of God. Loans of money can, and should, be paid in full.  What we owe God can never be paid.  But then, who we are, and how we are made, never really stops being the property of God.  And given the fact that we cannot pay God back for our being, we must inevitably return  “to God the things that are God’s.”

Let us hear what the Spirit is saying to and through the saints of God and then ponder anew what the Almighty can do.  John

Pondering for Thursday, July 2, 2020

Daily Office Readings for Thursday of Proper 8: Year 2

Psalm 134

1 Behold now, bless the Lord, all you servants of the Lord, *
you that stand by night in the house of the Lord.

2 Lift up your hands in the holy place and bless the Lord; *
the Lord who made heaven and earth bless you out of Zion.

Psalm 134 is one of the two shortest Psalms in the Bible.  The other is Psalm 117.  Both are uplifting.  Psalm 117 is all about Praising the Lord and 134 is about blessing the Lord and being blessed by the Lord, and we truly are.

These are not perhaps the most remembered Psalms but they indeed are short enough to be easily memorized.  Psalm 117 is two verses and Psalm 134 is also 2 but may be three depending on the Bible you use or the Book of Common Prayer.

My point is, they are so short there is no time for wretchedness or hate for an enemy.  In two or three verses there is only enough time for praising God and being blessed by God.

Many people have committed Psalm 23 (6 verses) to memory and maybe even Psalm 121 ( 8 verses and a personal favorite of mine).  I also like Psalm 8 (9 verses).  All of these three are around six to nine verses.  Psalms 117 and 134 are 2 verses  each and they will work as prayers. Let’s You and I pray them now, ok?

Psalm 117

Praise the Lord, all you nations; laud him, all you peoples.

For his loving-kindness toward us is great, and the faithfulness of the Lord endures for ever.   Hallelujah!

Psalm 134

Behold now, bless the Lord, all you servants of the Lord,
you that stand by night in the house of the Lord.

Lift up your hands in the holy place and bless the Lord;
the Lord who made heaven and earth bless you out of Zion.

Let us hear what the Spirit is saying to and through the saints of God and then ponder anew what the Almighty can do.  John

Pondering for Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Daily Office Readings for Wednesday of Proper 8: Year 2

Psalm 119:145-176; Psalm 128, 129, 130;  Num. 22:41-23:12; Rom. 7:13-25; Matt. 21:33-46

“Listen to another parable. There was a landowner who planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, dug a wine press in it, and built a watch-tower. Then he leased it to tenants and went to another country.” (Matthew 21: 3)

This starts a beautiful parable the quickly goes south.  It goes into evil people (the tenants) who beat up and kill the prophets and the Son of the owner of the vineyard. The preferential Christian understanding for many Christians is that God has sent His Son into the world, the vineyard, and he was crucified, and the vineyard was given to Christians. Not all Christians adhere to this idea.

But before all that, I want to focus on our human duty to care for this earth, this vineyard, regardless of a particular religion.  The Great Creator has caused to come into being this perfect life support system for all living creation.  And, call it what you will, creation or evolution, humanity came into being last.  I think we are the flagship of God’s work.  This earth is perfect for our wellbeing.  But there is more to it than that.

We have a responsibility to help maintain this precious life-support system we depend on. We have made telescopes and cameras and we have placed them in space such that we can look back and see this fragile earth, our island home, as God would see it. I truly believe that God enjoys looking at this earth and sees that it is (or was) very good. This earth is a unique blue ball giving life to countless forms of life.  This blue ball is the vineyard, and we humans are the tenants, given the responsibility to maintain it until the owner, either sends someone for a report, or returns personally.  So, how are we doing?

Let us hear what the Spirit is saying to and through the saints of God and then ponder anew what the Almighty can do.  John

Pondering for Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Daily Office Readings for Tuesday of Proper 8: Year 2

Psalm [120], 121, 122, 123;Psalm 124, 125, 126, [127] Num. 22:21-38; Rom. 7:1-12; Matt. 21:23-32

“What do you think? A man had two sons; he went to the first and said, “Son, go and work in the vineyard today.” He answered, “I will not”; but later he changed his mind and went.  The father went to the second and said the same; and he answered, “I go, sir”; but he did not go.  Which of the two did the will of his father?’ They said, ‘The first.’ Jesus said to them, ‘Truly I tell you, the tax-collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you.” (Matthew 21: 28 – 32)

Our Lord Jesus points out that those who made the wrong decision initially, but then turned their lives around and did the will of God were forgiven and accepted; while those who gave the pleasing lip response initially, did not change for the better. Over time, we tend to improve.

I must confess that I am a much better person now than I was even 10 or 20 years ago.  How do I know this?  I evaluate this by how I now see and listen to people; I evaluate it by the friends I cherish. And finally, I evaluate it by the fewer regrets I have for things done, and left undone.

The son who said no but did the will of the Father was, I believe, happier with himself in the end.  The son who said yes, but did not do the Father’s will, lived a double life of shame, shame for not pleasing the Father, and shame for lying about it in the first place.  The first son did not follow through with his emotional resentment of not wanting to do the work, but after deeper thought, did the work anyway.  The second son told the Father what he thought the father wanted to hear, either knowing he had no intention of doing the work; or, deciding later that he would not keep his word.

The words we produce with our mouths are important especially if they truly represent what we are thinking and believing.   But the words we produce with our actions are the most important because they validate what we say with our mouths.  Jesus has cornered the chief priests and elders in a situation wherein they would not say what they truly thought about John the Baptist. Rather, they conspired to say words pleasing to each other.  And unlike the tax-collectors and the prostitutes, the chief priests and elders would not change their ways.  How about us?  Do we always say what we really mean?  And if we err, will we repent and change?

Let us hear what the Spirit is saying to and through the saints of God and then ponder anew what the Almighty can do.  John

Pondering for Monday, June 29, 2020

Daily Office Readings for Monday of Proper 8: Year 2

Psalm 106:1-18; Psalm 106:19-48; Num. 22:1-21; Rom. 6:12-23 Matt. 21:12-22

“In the morning, when he returned to the city, he was hungry.  And seeing a fig tree by the side of the road, he went to it and found nothing at all on it but leaves. Then he said to it, ‘May no fruit ever come from you again!’ And the fig tree withered at once.” (Matthew 21:18 – 19)

A fig tree, born of creation, yet refuses to provide food for the One through whom it has its being.  We might argue that it was not the “proper” time for the fruit to come; therefore, not the tree’s fault.  But we don’t know the hidden relationship that the Creator had with this tree.

I have read where that as Jesus was on his way back to the Temple, which was also in full leaf, produced no fruit in terms of spiritually feeding the people entrusted to it.  The Temple was there for the Temple authorities only. There was a similarity between the fruitless tree and the fruitless temple.

How about you and me?  What is the spiritual fruit of our labors?  Are we found visiting the sick, or assisting those with no transportation to the store or medical appointments?  These are especially challenging questions during our COVID 19 pandemic.  But we must not use this pandemic as an excuse, or as a free pass, to not help our neighbors. By using the proper cleaning products, wearing masks, using a well cleansed back seat in our cars for our neighbors, and other safe practices, we can produce the spiritual fruit that our Lord Jesus is going to come looking for.

This pandemic should not become a self-serving excuse to not be gracious to others. Such graciousness is the fruit that feeds our Lord Jesus.  He is hungry, and He is coming!

Let us hear what the Spirit is saying to and through the saints of God and then ponder anew what the Almighty can do.  John

Pondering for Sunday, June 28, 2020

New Testament Eucharistic Readings for Sunday of Proper 8: Year A

Romans 6:12-23  Matthew 10:40-42

“Jesus said, “Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward; and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous; and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple– truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.”” (Matthew 10: 40 – 42)

If we go forth in the Name of our Lord Jesus, we present Jesus to all we encounter, if we get out of the way.  We are the gift wrapped package of Jesus.  Jesus then, is the package that contains God, like the Trojan Horse of the Greeks who secretly entered Troy.  So within each baptized Christian is hidden our Lord Jesus, and within Jesus is God Almighty. Delivering God to anyone is wonderful but especially to those who may not know God, is the most important thing any of us can do. And we don’t do it alone.  We let go and let God; we let God work through us.

Now, after this opening statement, comes the “reward” language, which I don’t care for.  The prophet’s reward, the righteous person’s reward, and even the compassionate person’s reward, seems to encourage us to do good in order to receive the appropriate (and expected) reward.  Let’s just be like Mary, and be God-bearers.  Mary partnered with, and co-created with God not for herself but for the salvation of the world.  Let her words resonate within ourselves, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” (Luke 1: 38)

Let us hear what the Spirit is saying to and through the saints of God and then ponder anew what the Almighty can do.  John

Pondering for Saturday, June 27, 2020

Daily Office Readings for Saturday of Proper 7: Year 2

Psalm 107:33-43, 108:1-6(7-13);Psalm 33; Num. 20:14-29; Rom. 6:1-11; Matt. 21:1-11

“But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. The death he died, he died to sin, once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.  So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 6: 8 – 11)

I have always believed, even before going to seminary, that the most serious service a clergy person could facilitate, second only to baptism, is the funeral or burial service.  Death is the ultimate transition of life. Not all will submit to baptism, but all of us will submit to death.

Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ walked among us to be the Gateway into eternal life with God. I believe also that every human being will be raised to judgment before our Creator.  How we have behaved during our dash-time (that time between birth and death) is important so far as it reflects what is in our hearts, but it is the actual content of our hearts that makes the difference. God looks upon the heart.  Do you have love in your heart?  Jesus instructs us to love others as he loves us.

We don’t have to worry about our conduct if we vow to always behave from the “love of other” perspective.  It would make no difference whether we were police, medical, military, clergy or corrections officer; doing our vocations from loving others as Christ loves us is pleasing to God and eases our transition through ultimate judgment.  Love for the other then makes us dead to sin. Sin is that which separates us from the will of God. This is why Paul says that we all must consider ourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

Let us hear what the Spirit is saying to and through the saints of God and then ponder anew what the Almighty can do.  John

Pondering for Friday, June 26, 2020

Daily Office Readings for Friday of Proper 7: Year 2

Psalm 102; Psalm 107:1-32; Num. 20:1-13; Rom. 5:12-21; Matt. 20:29-34

“Moved with compassion, Jesus touched their eyes. Immediately they regained their sight and followed him.” (Matthew 20: 34)

In this Matthew Gospel account two blind men “regain’ their sight.  Which means they once saw clearly but later lost their vision.  Somehow they lost sight of what was going on and where they were going; and now they wanted Jesus to put them back where they could see again.

The sight that our Lord Jesus restores is not so much our visual sight as it seems on the surface.  It is the seeing of our heart that really guides us on the good path. Our Lord Jesus looked through the eyes of his own Godly heart and he was “moved with compassion” and restored their sight.

Are we willing to ask for, and receive, this restored newness?  These blind men refused to be hushed by the surrounding crowd but instead demanded to be helped by our Lord Jesus.  When we have lost our vision, and our hope, some will try to keep us this way often for their own self serving purposes. We must dare to break out and seek the presence of Jesus in order to be put back on track.  He is already moved with compassion for us, we just need to insist on seeing him in order that we might see the Way.

Let us hear what the Spirit is saying to and through the saints of God and then ponder anew what the Almighty can do.  John

Pondering for Thursday, June 25, 2020

Daily Office Readings for Thursday of Proper 7: Year 2

Psalm 105:1-22; Psalm 105:23-45; Num. 17:1-11; Rom. 5:1-11; Matt. 20:17-28

“It will not be so among you; but whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave; just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20: 26 – 28)

Jesus has just heard the plea of John and James (his brother) along with their mother. It appears that she asks Jesus to let her sons be on his right and left side in his kingdom.  To this he explains, it is not his to give.  The other apostles find out and are angered by their request.  Jesus calls them together and explains the difference between this world and heaven.  On earth, we have a lordship of tyranny where we rule by threats and punitive measures.  In heaven, it is a kingdom of servanthood.

I’m guessing the problem I have with the language of Jesus, as it is translated and spoken in Matthew, is the part about “whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave.”  These words still show an initial goal of seeking the self-serving glory of being great, or, of being first.  Can we not live to serve and be happy with serving without looking forward to sitting on the right or left hand of our Lord and Savior in some kind of shared glory?  Let’s just be ok helping others to be ok. Ok?

Today we also remember James Weldon Johnson

James Weldon Johnson (June 17, 1871 – June 26, 1938) was an American author, politician, diplomat, critic, journalist, poet, anthologist, educator, lawyer, songwriter, and early civil rights activist. Johnson is remembered best for his writing, which includes novels, poems, and collections of folklore. He was also one of the first African-American professors at New York University. Later in life he was a professor of creative literature and writing at Fisk University. (http://www.satucket.com/lectionary/james_weldon_johnson.htm)

I am always interested in men and women who used more of themselves for the good of the world than most of us even know we have.  James Weldon Johnson worked to make this world a better place.  We still have a long way to go.  But if more of us would make use of our own God-given gifts, we, you and I, could bring about happiness and world peace more quickly.  I believe happiness and world peace is God’s plan for creation.  And, God is going to win no matter what.  But all of this could be expedited if we would follow the examples of people like Johnson and others who made use of all the blessings God has already given us.  Explore your gifts.  What gifts do you have that you haven’t used yet? Try.  You take one step and God will take two.

Let us hear what the Spirit is saying to and through the saints of God and then ponder anew what the Almighty can do.  John

Pondering for Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Eucharistic Readings for the Nativity of John the Baptist: June 24

Isaiah 40:1-11  Psalm 85 or 85:7-13  Acts 13:14b-26  Luke 1:57-80

 On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to name him after his father Zechariah, but his mother spoke up and said, “No! He is to be called John.”  They said to her, “There is no one among your relatives who has that name.” Then they made signs to his father, to find out what he would like to name the child.  He asked for a writing tablet, and to everyone’s astonishment he wrote, “His name is John.”  Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue set free, and he began to speak, praising God.  All the neighbors were filled with awe, and throughout the hill country of Judea people were talking about all these things.” (Luke 1:59 – 65)

Today we remember the birth of John the Baptist.

This is the custom of the day, on the eighth day circumcision was performed and the naming of the male child.  So at first, without any questions they were going to name John the Baptist, “Zechariah,” after his father. But Elizabeth spoke up and said “NO.”  He will be called John, she said.  They didn’t believe her because no male in her family had that name, and so, they dismissed her.  (Just a note: Peter and John did the same thing to Mary Magdalene at the Resurrection of Jesus. Too often men still don’t listen to women as we should)

Meanwhile, Zechariah was silenced by the angel Gabriel for doubting his authority (Luke 1: 18 – 20).  So therefore, when they wanted to ask him about the baby’s name, they had to hand him writing material for his response.  “And to everyone’s astonishment he wrote, “His name is John.” I want to point out here that Zechariah did not say “he will be called John,” but rather, his name IS John.  He was fore ordained by God.

John grew up in the wilderness, unpolluted by the false doctrine of the Temple authorities.  He was an empty vessel and therefore useful for God’s filling.   He spoke truth to power and is praised by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  We too are called to speak truth to power, no matter the costs.  We all need to empty ourselves as John the Baptist did in order to be made useful for God.

Today we remember the birth of John the Baptist. You have six months to Christmas Day!

Let us hear what the Spirit is saying to and through the saints of God and then ponder anew what the Almighty can do.  John