Pondering for Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Daily Office readings for Tuesday of the Last Week of Epiphany: Year 1

AM Psalms  26and 28; PM Psalms 36and 39;   
Deuteronomy 6:16to25Hebrews 2:1to10John 1:19to28;

“It was declared at first through the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard him, while God added his testimony by signs and wonders and various miracles, and by gifts of the Holy Spirit, distributed according to his will. Now God did not subject the coming world, about which we are speaking, to angels. But someone has testified somewhere, ‘What are human beings that you are mindful of them, or mortals, that you care for them?”  (Hebrews 2: 3to 6)

This passage from the Letter to the Hebrews has very important words for us to ponder. “God added his testimony by signs and wonders and various miracles, and by gifts of the Holy Spirit,” It is by gifts of the Holy Spirit that changes everything. We cannot look with mortal eyes and draw our own little conclusions about matters of all things. The Gospel of John gives us a clue about being open to receiving revelation from God. “God is Spirit. And so, those who worship [God] must worship in spirit and in truth.” (John 4:24)

This Great Creator of the universe who made all things and all life took a special fancy to humanity.  I imagine God thinking, “Look at what a wonderful creature I caused to be, I will dwell with them and lead them.”  We, as humans, are so blessed that God thinks so much of us. From our Hebrews reading today we read, “But someone has testified somewhere, ‘What are human beings that you are mindful of them, or mortals, that you care for them?”  These words originated from Psalm 8, verse 5; it reads, “What is man, that you are mindful of him, or the son of man, that you visit him?”  And yes, God did indeed visit us in the person of our Lord Jesus.

Jesus, (God Incarnate), walked among us teaching us to listen to one another, learn from one another, love one another, and to live in harmony with one another. Maybe sometimes we are not following His example so well. But there is no plan B. I believe God is still creating us and it’s only a matter of time and we will have heaven among us. Thank You Lord 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 Monday, February 15, 2021

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

AM Psalm 25; PM Psalms 9 and 15;
Deuteronomy 6:10 to15Hebrews 1:1to14John 1:1to18

“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 and 2); and,

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God.  All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being.” (John 1: 1 to 3)

These two openings of our Hebrews and, Gospel of John readings, seem to be making the same point; God Incarnate brought all things and life itself into being and sustains it.  This Holy Presence of God on earth we Christians call Jesus.

All of the Abraham faiths will agree that God, Creator of all that is, has the ability to come to us as one of us. So the question is not about the ability of God to do such and act but whether God actually did.  We Christians believe that not only God can, but that God did. God came to us as one of us. This Jesus, that part of God through whom all things were made, proclaimed peace and the promise of eternal life to all who believed in God and that God did this wonderful deed.

This power of belief is our human connection with that heavenly place that will grasp us by our belief and swoop us away to that eternal heavenly place at our mortal death.  Why? Because God keeps God’s promises. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” (John 3:16)  It all makes so much divine sense.

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, February 14, 2021

Part 1 of 2

Daily Office Readings for Sunday of the Last Week of Epiphany: Year 1

AM Psalms 148, 149 and 150; PM Psalms 114 and 115;
Deuteronomy 6:1to9Hebrews 12:18to29John 12:24to32 

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone.  You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart.  Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise.” (Deuteronomy 6:4 to 7)

These words in the Hebrew are called the “Shema,” and are important in Jewish prayer regarding the loyalty we should have to God, the One God. I have these words inscribed on a paper and sealed in a tube that I purchased when I visited Jerusalem, Israel.  And they are to be placed on my front door.  I have not done this yet. I want it to be placed on the front door of the house that I think is going to be my last house. I’m not sure this house is it at this writing.

These words in a tube are of the utmost importance.  We are to love our unseen God and at the same time inform our children about God.  This means having “teaching time,” at home.  God is real and God loves us.  This is also the message of our Lord Jesus.

Part 2 of 2

Eucharistic Readings for the Last Week of Epiphany: Year B

2nd Kings 2:1to12Psalm 50:1to62nd Corinthians 4:3to6;   Mark 9:2to9

“Six days later Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them.” (Mark 9: 2 and 3)

Jesus invites Peter, James and John to see his inner light.  We, all true believers, have within us this little light.  I like singing the hymn, “This little light of mine.” It shares the potential all Christians have to be a beacon to the world. This is important as we approach the Season of Lent. Lent is a dark time of reflection.  Epiphany is a season of light that transitions into Lent, a season of darkness. Therefore we must light our internal lamps and keep them lit in order that they will guide us through weeks of reflection in this dark, and pandemic ridden, politically polarized, world.

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, February 13, 2021

Daily Office Readings for Saturday of the 5th Week of Epiphany: Year 1

AM Psalms 87 and 90; PM Psalm 136;
Isaiah 61:10 to 62:52nd Timothy 4:1to8Mark 10:46to52

“For the time is coming when people will not put up with sound doctrine, but having itching ears, they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own desires, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander away to myths.”  (2nd Timothy 4:3 and 4)

I think the time that Paul is telling Timothy about is here and has been here for some time.  It is somewhat ironic that congregations who want to know more will hire an educated person but only if such a person tells them what they want to hear.  Why bother educating ministers if we are not going to learn from them and be guided by their informed leadership?

I have met many people who already have their minds fixed about the Bible and about church.  Perhaps the most informative program in the Episcopal Church is Education for Ministry (EfM).  This program managed out of The School of the South at Sewanee, Tennessee. It is a four year program wherein the first year is the Hebrew Testament, the second year is the Christian Testament, the third year is Church History, and the fourth year is the development of one’s personal theology.  It is a comprehensive program that encourages and challenges believers, clergy and lay, to strengthen their faith.  EfM presents the truth and sound doctrine as Paul says.

When we want to learn something we must seek out instruction from someone who has the knowledge and skill that we desire.  We must trust such teachers and follow their guidance.  We must listen without itching ears.  If we knew everything about what is going to be taught, we shouldn’t be in the class. But as it is, we are students. We must listen and learn. And who knows? Perhaps one day you may be the teacher.

Today we also remember Absalom Jones Episcopal Priest (1818).  Jones was the first person of African descent to be ordained an Episcopal Priest. He was ordained by The Most Reverend William White who was the first Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church in America.

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, February 12, 2021

Daily office Readings for Friday of the 5th Week of Epiphany: Year 1

AM Psalm 88; PM Psalms 91 and 92;
Isaiah  61:1to 92nd Timothy 3:1to17Mark 10:32to45

“You must understand this, that in the last days distressing times will come. For people will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, inhuman, implacable, slanderers, profligates, brutes, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to the outward form of godliness but denying its power. Avoid them!” (2nd Timothy 3:1 to 5

Are we now in those distressing times  that Paul was telling Timothy about in his 2nd letter?  It sure sounds like it.  There are plenty of self-loving boasters everywhere. People have now spread their abusive, unholy and reckless ways even through social media and other forms of modern communications.

Some let this sad side of themselves be made manifest because of some feeling of anonymity. We forget that God, and the court of heaven, the saints who have gone before us are standing beside us always. Angels don’t come to us. With God’s permission, they reveal themselves to us.  Many times in scripture we read that “an angel appeared.”  The angel didn’t arrive, but rather, became visible. In our own last days we will see the court of heaven.

I have been with people during their last days of earthly life and caught them looking at something in the hospital room that I, nor anyone else could see; often the look on their face was one of amazement. Paul was perhaps talking about something on a universal scale that he thought was coming very soon during his day. But Paul himself is a witness that our Lord Jesus “appeared” to him while he was traveling to Damascus and this manifestation changed him forever.

My beloved of the Lord, we are never alone. We are being watched always. And judgment will come. Each of us should try to articulate at least a simple statement of belief to live by.  I have. I will share it now: “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 don’t think we are alone as we live out our lives. I don’t believe we are judged harshly for the thoughts that we may have from time to time.  However, we are judged by the words and acts that come from us because of such thoughts.  I use the DUST reminder to help me stay disciplined. DUST stands for Don’t Unnecessarily Share Thoughts. We might have unholy thoughts from time to time but we should strive to keep them quiet.  And maybe with prayer and practice we might get to a place where we won’t have such thoughts at all. Praise 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 Thursday, February 11, 2021

Daily Office Readings for Thursday of the 5th Week of Epiphany: Year 1

AM Psalm [83] or Psalms146 and 147; PM Psalms 85and 86;
Isaiah 60:1to172nd Timothy 2:14to26Mark 10:17to31

“Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, ‘You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” (Mark 10:21)

There are a couple of concerns here. First, the Greek New Testament lacks the article “the,” when it is written, “Give (the) money to the poor.”   This could be interpreted to mean to give “some” money to the poor.  Jesus and his followers were in constant need of provision.  Not accepting any money from this prospective benefactor would reasonably have been unthinkable. We should give for the provision of those in need, but if we give all we have we will be unable to help in the future. Moreover, we too then become “those in need.”

Secondly, Jesus extends the invitation, “Come, follow me,” to this rich man.  There were maybe only 7 others recorded in scripture who received this coveted invitation to “follow me:” Simon (Peter) and Andrew – Matthew 4:18 – 20; John and James – Matthew 4: 21 – 22; Matthew (Levi)  Matthew 9:9; Philip – John 1:43; and, maybe Nathaniel – John 1: 50 – 51, as we have Jesus addressing him as Nathaniel approached Jesus.  But the actual words of “follow me” also go to this rich man. I don’t think he had many possessions as scripture tells us. No, I think many possessions possessed him.  Just think, we could have had his name as a disciple and maybe even an apostle.

This reading is about money and the Christian use of it.  We, as Christians, are truly called to care for those in need as we are able to do so. We are also called to take care of ourselves so that we are able to continue life in a charitable way.  And, while we are counting our dollars, let us not let our dollars count us as one of its slaves. We cannot serve both money and God. Our lord Jesus is asking you to now, “Follow Him!”  What say yee?

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, February 10, 2021

Daily Office Readings for Wednesday of the 5th Week of Epiphany: Year 1

AM Psalm 119:97to120; PM Psalms 81 and 82;
Isaiah 59:15b to212nd Timothy 1:15to2:13Mark 10:1to16

“Share in suffering like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving in the army gets entangled in everyday affairs; the soldier’s aim is to please the enlisting officer. And in the case of an athlete, no one is crowned without competing according to the rules. It is the farmer who does the work who ought to have the first share of the crops. Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in all things.” (2nd Timothy 2: 3 to 7)

Paul uses three ancient examples in society from among many that still exist today to show that being dedicated to a venture or vocation means some degree of sacrifice. He uses the military (something I can resonate with), and sports participants (like the penalties at the Super Bowl), and farming (that love of growing things). All require endurance and dedication to the end.  There are more ventures and vocations that require this kind of dedication, and most especially, Christianity. I think this is the point that Paul was trying to make.

Maybe when we embark upon a vocation we should first consider the costs of discipleship. Every venture brings its own drawbacks and risks. This might be a good time to consider the “pros and cons” of what we are considering.  Whatever path of Christianity we follow, Paul says “the Lord will give you understanding in all things.” 

The military could bring about the end of one’s life on earth.  The athlete could play for many years and never reach the pinnacle of achievement for his or her chosen sport. Farmers could put in a lot of blood, sweat, tears and toil and then suffer a dry season with little or no rain, losing everything. Christianity, however, brings with it Eternal Life for all participants!  For me, nothing can beat that. And guess what?  There is room for all who join. If I never get to meet you here, I’ll see you there!

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, February 9, 2021

Daily Office Readings for Tuesday of the 5th Week of Epiphany: Year 1

AM Psalm 78:1to39; PM Psalm 78:40to72;
Isaiah 59:1to15a2 Timothy 1:1to14Mark 9:42to50

“Guard the good treasure entrusted to you, with the help of the Holy Spirit living in us.” (2nd Timothy 1:14)

Yes, the Holy Spirit is truly living in us. However, the Holy Spirit is like many of the TV stations we pay for, but never tune into.  There is so much valuable leadership, coaching and guidance within the Holy Spirit if we would just listen to, and heed it.  But no, too many of us would rather tune into the rhetoric of social media and the often les than honorable inclinations of the world.  How sad.

We truly have a hidden treasure entrusted in us. We are invited to be “children” of our Creator. And there is a piece of the Creator within each of us. With our piece of the Creator we can stop our fighting and bickering with each other and live in harmony with one another as God intends for us.

As we go forward let us find ways to calm one another down. As we are able, let us not take statements personally, (even when they are). It may be that it is the role of The Christian Church to turn the world into a more hospitable place, despite our sad history of violence. In this way our Church would go through a conversion as Paul himself did. Remember, he turned from one who persecuted the Church to one who grew the Church through evangelism outside of Israel.

We have that treasured Holy Spirit in ourselves. Being a calming presence is contagious. Try it. Try permitting silence to happen when in a group. Take notice of the nervousness people have when no one is speaking. Don’t be led to believe that you have to be the same. “Guard the good treasure entrusted to you, with the help of the Holy Spirit living in us.”

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, February 8, 2021

Daily Office Readings for Monday of the 5th Week of Epiphany: Year 1

AM Psalm 80; PM Psalm 77;
Isaiah 58:1to12Galatians 6:11to18Mark 9:30to41

“John said to him, ‘Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.’  But Jesus said, ‘Do not stop him.”  (Mark 9:38 and 39a)

No Christian community holds a patent on the Name of our Lord Jesus. There are perhaps more and different Christian fellowships than any other faith tradition.  It seems that as time moves on we tend to splinter more and more.  We add names to our denominational names like, “New,” “Reformed,” “Protestant,” “Catholic,”  “Seventh-Day,” and even Non-Denominational,” to mention a few. And while all have some good teachings, none may claim the absolute authority of our Lord Jesus.

Our Church history is replete with shameful acts. We have burned people at the stake, enslaved people, persecuted people, went to war against others (Christian and non-Christian alike). All of this we did in the Name of our Lord Jesus who would never do these kinds of things.  What were we thinking?

It continues to be my prayer that we study and pray our way into reversing the trend to fracture.  I pray that we may one day begin some sort of consolidation.  There is one faith, one Baptism, and One Lord, Jesus Christ. I am on the Episcopal path of the Jesus movement. But I am willing to be in a conversation about a merging path with another community who is also casting out demons in the Name of Jesus.  Jesus says that if we are doing good works in His name we are to be left alone. I never want to be so caught up in my “brand” that I lose sight of which way Jesus went.

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, February 7, 2021

Part 1 of 2

Daily Office Readings for Sunday of the 5th Sunday after the Epiphany: Year 1

AM Psalms 93 and 96; PM Psalm 34;
Isaiah 57:14to21Hebrews 12:1to6John 7:37to46

“As the scripture has said, “Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.” ’Now he said this about the Spirit, which believers in him were to receive; for as yet there was no Spirit, because Jesus was not yet glorified.”  (John 7:38 and 39)

You and I are living in the post-glorification of our Lord and therefore have received the Holy Spirit. Jesus has ascended into heaven and sent us the Holy Spirit which came to us 40 days after his ascension. We are the believers from whose hearts flow the rivers of living water.

Part 2 of 2

Eucharistic Readings for the 5th Sunday after the Epiphany: Year B

Isaiah 40:21to31Psalm 147:1to12 and 21c1st Corinthians 9:16-23: Mark 1:29to39;

“When they found him, they said to him, “Everyone is searching for you.” (Mark 1:37)

I so wish everyone was searching for our Lord Jesus.  Finding Jesus is not about going to a secret place. It is about being in a state of prayer. Finding Jesus is about being faithful in prayer and service.  Finding Jesus is about being of service to those who need it.

Jesus has just healed Peter’s mother-in-law. And then healed many others and cast out demons and made those demons be silent about who Jesus is.  From this point Jesus prays and proclaims that he must go on and continue in the ministry of proclaiming the Good News.

It seems that the proclamation of the Gospel is our Lord Jesus’ main effort.  Healing and casting out demons are by-products of his ministry. We of today might focus too much on the by-products of his ministry and not the very important work of his message of the Good News.

While we can’t always heal, and even less cast out demons, all of us who live into the Good News are able to proclaim that Good News to the communities in which we live. Our Lord Jesus has set us the example of what we are able to do, and should be doing. The Good News of the Gospel is that all people are loved by God and we are called to love one another as God Loves us. Also, there is eternal life; this life is not the end. This Good News is the most important of all.

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