Pondering for Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Daily Office Readings for Tuesday of Week One of Advent: Year 1

Morning, Psalms 5 and 6; Evening, Psalms 10 and 11;
Isaiah 1:21 to 311st Thessalonians 2:1 to 12Luke 20:9 to 18

“For our appeal does not spring from deceit or impure motives or trickery, but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the message of the gospel, even so we speak, not to please mortals, but to please God who tests our hearts.” (1st Thessalonians 2: 3 and 4)

We come not from trickery or intentions of self-promotion.  We are doing the Lord’s work. We are going to be straight up and honest with ourselves and with you.  We are the Lords. You are the Lords. We need to work harder in finding ways to come to consensus on all concerns. As I understand consensus it is the chipping away at a proposition until its properties are at least something all can, at least, temporarily live with.  It’s not perfect yet, but tolerable.  Unlike voting where there must be winners and losers.

As Christians, what we are doing in spreading the love of the Gospel, is not about human goals, but rather, about God and about what God wants; what God wants from us and for us. God has made this earth as our only life-support system. God wants us to live together in harmony and maintain this planet for the benefit of all its inhabitants.  We are to be Adam and Eve in the Garden; and Noah and family on the Ark; and Jonah for Nineveh where God reminded Jonah, “And should I not be concerned about Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also many animals?” (Jonah 4:11) This may be the only book in the Bible where God has the last word, and that word is “animals.”

Paul’s message of the Gospel could very well be, “Do good onto others in the Name of the Lord, even to the neglect of self.”  Do not take credit for what God is doing through you.  We are working God’s purposes out for our community, not for our personal desires.  And that’s a good thing. God’s purpose for us is love and peace and harmony among all the people of the world, for the benefit of the world and all creatures, great and small.  And remember this, all said and done; it is the Lord’s work we are doing, and God wins, with or without our individual participation.  Let’s be willing and loving participants in God’s plan. God in Christ Jesus is coming to check on us!

Please keep up your thoughts and prayers and hopes for Ukraine and Iran. As we listen to what the Spirit is saying to us, let us live to love, to serve, and to teach others to love and serve, while pondering anew what the Almighty can do. John

Pondering for Monday, November 28, 2022

Daily Office Readings for Monday of Week One of Advent: Year 1

Morning, Psalms 1, 2, 3; Evening, Psalms 4 and 7;
Isaiah 1:10 to 201st  Thessalonians 1:1 to10Luke 20:1 to 8

“But if we say, “Of human origin”, all the people will stone us; for they are convinced that John was a prophet.”  (Luke 20: 6)

The recognized leaders of the faith, are not sticking to their own professed faith. If we believe in something, anything, we ought to hold on to it as the very core of our existence; at least until we learn better. They are missing such an opportunity.

I don’t know how, but we are able to hear the inmost thoughts of what was going on within the circle of chief priests, elders and scribes. These leaders are afraid of the very people whom they are in charge of leading. What an opportunity to model correct learning. If they think the people believe that John the Baptist is a prophet, then perhaps they too (chief priests, elders and scribes) ought to submit to the gifts of the Baptist. Sometimes, but not often, the common people are a better judge of who’s who than those educated to be such.

There are times that we should not be influenced by the mob.  However, we should conduct a little informal test as a way to see if God is acting in our midst.  Our Biblical history informs us that when God invites us to do the Lord’s work it often requires sacrifice, will costs us some of our money, our time, and will be out of our comfort zone. But just as much, it will be something that benefits the community without bringing praise or accolades to ourselves. Our God is all about the communion in which we live.  The chief priests, elders and scribes seem to be about themselves at the expense of the community that they are suppose to spiritually lead.

Each one of us should look around and see who in our midst seems to be doing the Lord’s good work for the benefit of our community. Who is teaching people to read, taking meals to those who are hungry, donating to those in need, and so forth?  They may not be the ordained or political office holders.  Like John the Baptist, they may be people who live on the fringes themselves.  But their ministry is of the Lord’s calling whether we want to admit it or not. Such are the saints of God.  Don’t you want to be one too?

Please keep up your thoughts and prayers and hopes for Ukraine and Iran.

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

Pondering for Sunday, November 27, 2022

Eucharistic Readings for the 1st Sunday of Advent: Year A

Isaiah 2:1-5; Psalm 122; Romans 13:11-14; Matthew 24:36-44

“But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father….. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.”  (Matthew 24: 36 and 44)

According to Douglas Hare writing for Interpretation; a Bible Commentary; on the Gospel of Matthew. “God is postponing the last judgment so that many more might have a chance to hear and accept the Gospel. This is a time for worldwide evangelism.”

To hear and accept the Gospel is reminiscent of the “come and believe” message that we have heard often.  It is the bread of coming and the drink of believing.  Very often in scripture the same coded message is reconfigured or repackaged with the same lesson. We get this message in Church, or we should.

Perhaps the best message we can both receive and give to others is to, “Try Church again.”  Bring a friend to Church. Be that friend who brings someone to Church and when you do, stay with them through the opening readings, prayers and hymns.  Stay with them through the liturgy of the Table (Communion). Stay with them at coffee hour.  And then invite them back.  This is the time for worldwide evangelism!

But wait, there’s more!  Now is the time to let people know that they should not be complacent in their good intentions.  We need to recognize that there is our God and that our God is good (All the time). God wants all humanity to be saved. God is not a scarce resource.  Heaven has the capacity to house all the people of the world and then some. “Red, Yellow, Black and White, we are precious in His sight.”  But people need to know it. And you need to tell them. Or, bring them to Church, and we’ll tell them together.

If God is postponing the last judgment as Hare suggests, we have this narrow door to walk through. Each of us should play our part in leading others through the narrow door.  We must stay vigilant however to keep our eye on the door.   Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day our Lord is coming.

Now is our chance to challenge our Lord Jesus!  Since we don’t know when our Lord Jesus is coming, we have to be ready all the time.  That means living our lives in constant reverence.  Our Lord Jesus says he is coming at an unexpected hour. The way to counter that is to make every hour “expected.”  So we must expect him all the time, every hour.  In this way we show him (our Lord Jesus) that we can be persistent. We can overcome his low expectation of us by expecting the unexpected. And then we can say, “I was expecting you Lord Jesus.”

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

Pondering for Saturday, November 26, 2022

Daily Office Readings for Saturday of Proper 29: Year 2

Morning, Psalm 137 and 144 ; Evening, Psalm 104;
Zechariah 14:12 to 21; Philippians 2:1 to11Luke 19:41 to 48;

“Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death—even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:5 to 8)

If our Lord Jesus, being God Incarnate, was able to humble himself to be a servant (same word as slave in the Greek), then we, “normal” humans, ought to be able to at least have no illusions about any pretentious greatness we might think we have.  And having no grandiose thoughts of self-righteousness, ought to practice all humility, all the time.

Humility is a funny thing.  If we ever boast about it, it’s gone. We Christians must practice working in the background, out of sight, but in the faith.  We should not bring attention to ourselves.  We do the Lord’s work quietly. Our Lord Jesus, with all the power of Almighty God, restrained himself and worked in servitude for the benefit of believers. He even allowed himself to be handled and killed by us people whom he loved.

Full disclosure, I have sometimes insisted on being recognized or remembered for my participation in something when I thought my friends overlooked my involvement. Later, after reflection, I was ashamed of my insistence to be remembered.  So I came up with the idea of the humility of invisibility.  I’m still a work in progress but now it pretty much doesn’t bother me to not be remembered.

Our Lord Jesus had a huge job in trying to appear less than he was, given that He was Everything!  For me, appearing less than I am is not such a hard job. I’m not that much to begin with.  But if we are to have the same mind in us that was in Christ Jesus we should strive to be the hidden help that people need.  And then, don’t remind or tell anybody. Your cool drink of water will be appreciated once their well runs dry.

Please keep up your thoughts and prayers and hopes for Ukraine and Iran.

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

Pondering for Friday, November 25, 2022

Daily Office Readings for Friday of Proper 29: Year 2

Morning, Psalms 140 and 142; Evening, Psalms 141 and 143:1-11(12);
Zechariah 14:1 to 11Romans 15:7 to 13Luke 19:28 to 40;

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15: 13)

I love this verse of Paul’s letter to the Church in Rome.  It is an optional dismissal for Evening Prayer on page 76 in the Book of Common Prayer.  I like it because it really explains the Christian hope.

We hope for what God can do for us, and while such a hope is not seen, it is understood that it will be better than we can ask or imagine.  Paul said in Chapter 8 of this letter to the Romans, “For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopesfor what is seen?” (Romans 8:15).  Moses did not know what God was going to do when the Israelites were positioned against the sea and the Egyptian military were coming down on them. They had unseen hope, or at least Moses did. 

Another biblical example of hope unseen comes from Second Kings where Elisha instructs Naaman to wash in a certain way and in a certain place. Elisha did not come to personally see Naaman but rather sent out his servant to tell him what to do.  Naaman was incensed. “ But Naaman became angry and went away, saying, “I thought that for me he would surely come out, and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, and would wave his hand over the spot, and cure the leprosy” (2nd Kings 5:11).  In the end Naaman did what he was told and was healed.  But the point I am trying to make is that we cannot have it in our head how, or what, God is going to do, or even who God is going to do it through.  Our hope must be wide open and unconditional.

Unseen hope is the only real hope.  We must trust God and just hope for God’s will for us to be done. And we must hope in patience. God is not pressured by time. Paul says, “But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” (Romans 8:25)

My brothers and sisters in Christ, we must never give up on hope. We can’t describe what the other side of hope looks like because we are not there yet. But we should literally hope for the best. And then, just leave it to God who always makes the best decision for us because God really does love us, and has loved us since our 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. 

What is Shabbat? Intro to the Jewish Sabbath – YouTube

Please keep up your thoughts and prayers and hopes for Ukraine, they need us.

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

Pondering for Thursday, November 24, 2022

Daily Office Readings for Thanksgiving Day

Morning, Psalm 147Deuteronomy 26:1-11John 6:26-35;

Evening, Psalm 145Joel 2:21-271 Thessalonians 5:12-24;

“You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, and praise the name of the Lord your God, who has dealt wondrously with you.” (Joel 2: 26)

Joel 2: 26 appears in our Daily Office Readings. Perhaps this happens because of the invitation to “eat in plenty and be satisfied” words.  However, the words that follow are even more important; “and praise the name of the Lord your God.”  I once had a bumper sticker which read, “Don’t criticize the farmer with your mouth full.”  The same holds true for God. If we are eating anything at all we should give thanks to God. 

I once was sharing lunch with a mother and her child.  The young man was accustomed to me saying the blessing before eating.  At one lunch we started with milk shakes.  The child waited before tasting his milk shake for me to bless it and was disappointed when I slurped some of my shake before saying the blessing.  When his mother informed me about this I was really taken aback. But I learned, and now blessings come before anything at all goes into my mouth.  I learned from that child to really praise the name of the Lord without fail; not just Thanksgiving Day, but every day, no matter how small the food item or other small gift might seem.  The young folks are watching us and I am thankful to God for speaking to me through them. A blessed milkshake is also plenty and satisfying, and taste better blessed.  Happy Thanksgiving!

Please keep up your thoughts and prayers and hopes for Ukraine and Iran.      

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

Pondering for Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Daily Office Readings for Wednesday of Proper 29: Year 2

Morning, Psalm 119:145-176; Evening, Psalms 128, 129, 130;
Zechariah  12:1to10Ephesians  1:3to14Luke 19:1to10

“He was trying to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was short in stature.” (Luke 19:3)

I am aware that Luke is speaking of a physical “short in statue.”  But many of us (tall or short) strive to see who Jesus really is.  But we are short in faith. Too many of us refuse to just believe.

Also, too often the direction of the crowd prevents us from seeing who Jesus is.  We tend to wrongly get on board with a crowd moving in an un-Jesus-like manner.  When ill-willed charismatic influencers take hold of the lead, we too easily tend to follow and go down roads that our Lord Jesus would never travel.

In this story, Jesus, without giving any clues that he was aware of Zacchaeus in the tree, stopped just below him and looked up and invited himself to supper with Zacchaeus.  ( I use this example as a way of inviting myself to a parishioner’s home for dinner.  No, just kidding.)  But Jesus was aware of Zacchaeus in the tree and met him “where he was.”

In just seeing Jesus, Zacchaeus repented and made right all the wrongs he had committed. Now Zacchaeus was a “Chief” Tax Collector.  Being a tax collector was bad enough, but a chief tax collector was even further removed from any welcome to the Temple and seen as a Roman sympathizer by the Israelites. 

But after hearing him explain his forgiveness and giving back to any he had wronged, Jesus proclaims that Zacchaeus too, “is a child to Abraham”, which pre-empts and supersedes the Temple and all it stands for.  Jesus has put Zacchaeus back in the household of God.  And, Jesus does not hold his wealth against him. Zacchaeus is still a chief tax collector, and is still rich, but now he is a believer in our Lord Jesus.

Sometimes we are too spiritually short to see Jesus.  We must climb into the pews of a church in order to see him.  If we do, He will self-invite himself into our homes and our hearts.  And when he does, we will be changed forever and made children to Abraham. Thank You Lord Jesus.

Please keep up your thoughts and prayers and hopes for Ukraine and Iran.

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

Pondering for Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Daily Office Readings for Tuesday of Proper 29: Year 2

Morning, Psalms [120], 121, 122 and 123; Evening, Psalms 124, 125, and 126;
Zechariah 11:4to171 Corinthians 3:10to23Luke 18:31to43

“I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord.” (Psalm 122:1)

This is what Christian faith is all about: that is, our final, and forever passage into the house of the Lord.  We long to hear the words, “Come beloved of the Lord, and enter into the joy of your Lord as expressed in the words of the twenty fifth chapter of Matthew, where servants worked to improve on the talents left to them by their master, save the one who only had one talent and buried it. Also in chapter twenty five of Matthew, the invitation extends to those who were placed on the right-hand side of the Lord because they cared for the hungry, the naked, the infirmed and those in prison.

As I have said before, I have been blessed to be present in hospital rooms when a parishioner or other patient was dying.  At some point, the person, who was unconscious, will open their eyes and stare at a space in the room where no one was sanding.  In most cases, an expression of joy or wonder is reflected on the dying person’s face.  It is at this point that I believe the gates of heaven opened in that hospital room, even though I could not see it, nor could anyone else in the room see it.  And at that point, the invitation is extended to the dying person to come into the house of the Lord.  Perhaps these are the very words that the dying says to him or her self, “I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord.”

I know that I would be glad to enter into the house of the Lord.  Many people, when asked how they are doing, will answer, “Well, I’m above ground and I’m still here.”  The implication is, that they are doing well and consider this earthly life as the best there is.  But I ponder what the afterlife is like.  Maybe being here in this life is not something to celebrate so much, but rather, it is the Christian work that we should be doing and celebrating. It is using the talents – gifts, that God has given us to the best of our abilities for the building up of the church, and showing the love that God wants to be in every heart, that we should be doing and celebrating. This is the time to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the infirmed, and imprisoned; thus preparing ourselves for that invitation into the house of the Lord.

Please keep up your thoughts and prayers and hopes for Ukraine and Iran.

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

Pondering for Monday, November 21, 2022

Daily Office Readings for Monday of Proper 29: Year 2

Morning, Psalm 106:1to18; Evening, Psalm 106:19to48:
Zechariah 10:1to12Galatians 6:1to10Luke 18:15to30:

“My friends, if anyone is detected in a transgression, you who have received the Spirit should restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness,” (Galatians 6:1).

Each and every one of us are in need of forgiveness.  And God, in God’s all knowing wisdom, has given each of us the Spirit to restore a neighbor who, having been found in transgression, the power to restore a brother or sister, back into the fold.

I need it, and you, reading this message, also need it. None of us are beyond needing restoration.  God made us this way on purpose. This is why our Lord Jesus taught us to pray, “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.”

Sometimes those who sin against us do not ask for forgiveness.  This can be for one of two reasons. First, maybe they are in a bad place and were intentional about what they have done to you. Second, perhaps they didn’t realize that they have actually sinned against you.  I’ve experienced both.  In these situations I like to use the word “pardon.”  I can pardon a person without them even knowing it. When I pardon someone I can move on with my life and not sit and simmer about an insult or injury. 

While I am not opposed to informing someone that they have offended me, (in case they didn’t know it), I do not believe in asking someone for an apology.  I feel that once they are made aware that I felt hurt by something they have said or done (or not done), it’s up to their conscience as to what follows. Sadly, I have even seen whole countries insist on an apology from another country for some sad misdeed perpetrated on it.  I think, be it a country or a person, once the sin or any kind of violence has been made known, the apology should be forth coming and in all sincerity.

Once a transgression has been detected, you and I have been given the Spirit that will restore us all to a spirit of love and gentleness with one another.  All we have to do is use it and be thankful.

Please keep up your thoughts and prayers and hopes for Ukraine and Iran.

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

Pondering for Sunday, November 20, 2022

Eucharistic Readings for Last Sunday of Pentecost Proper 29: Christ the King Sunday: Year C

Jeremiah 23:1-6;   Psalm 46;  Colossians 1:11-20;  Luke 23:33-43:

“There was also an inscription over him,“This is the King of the Jews.”  (Luke 23:38)

Wait, what? How did this come to be?  It started roughly a thousand years before the birth of Our Lord Jesus. This was during the time Israel wanted a king for themselves even though God had told them not to be like the other nations.

Here is how it started: “Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah, and said to him [Samuel], “You are old and your sons do not follow in your ways; appoint for us, then, a king to govern us, like other nations.” But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to govern us.” Samuel prayed to the Lord, and the Lord said to Samuel, “Listen to the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them.  Just as they have done to me,from the day I brought them up out of Egypt to this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so also they are doing to you. Now then, listen to their voice; only—you shall solemnly warn them, and show them the ways of the king who shall reign over them.” (1 Samuel 8:4 – 9)

From this we arrive at the end of the kings of Israel in John’s Gospel:

“Now it was the day of Preparation for the Passover; and it was about noon. He, Pontius Pilate, said to the Jews, “Here is your King!”  They cried out, “Away with him! Away with him! Crucify him!” Pilate asked them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but the emperor.”  (John 19: 14 – 15) How sad this statement must have been for God to hear.

Our Lord Jesus was crucified between two criminals. “One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” (Luke 23:39)  I am aware that this writing in Luke guides us into seeing this first crucified criminal as a harasser of our Lord Jesus.  But we don’t know this until we hear the second criminal rebuke him.  In defense of the first speaker, I remind us that he is the first to say, “save yourself, and us.”  It is the “and us” part that stands out for me. None of the other mockersbothered to ask Our Lord Jesus to save them as well, not the Israelites and especially not the soldiers.  Jesus is the One who forgives even those who harm him, not knowing what they are doing.  Sometimes we fit in that category.  So Jesus tells not only that man on the cross but us too, that, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” (Luke 23: 43)

Let us not be too quick to limit our understanding of scripture only by the way we are guided by the author. If we have the words, then let us ponder beyond the page.

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