Pondering for Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Daily Office Readings for Tuesday of Proper 26 Year 1

AM Psalm 61, 62; PM Psalm 68:1-20(21-23)24-36 Neh. 12:27-31a,42b-47; Rev. 11:1-19; Matt. 13:44-52

Matthew 13: 44 – 46

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.

 ‘Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.”

These verses are all about prioritizing what we value. I have found that what I value has changed over time.  I value fancy cars and lots of money much less than I used to (if at all).  In fact, I really don’t care what kind of car I have now as long as it’s dependable.  As far as money is concerned, I just want to be reasonably comfortable, food, shelter, something to wear and my laptop, ha, ha.

Lifelong learning is the most important thing to me now, and yes, I would probably sell all I have in order to pay for a doctoral program at Virginia Theological Seminary or Duke University. Such an education would be my treasure or fine pearl.  I am a mentor for Education of Ministry (EfM) operated out of the School of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee.  I tell my participants all the time that our class is not about them, it is about me, I love this stuff.  I say it jokingly, (But it’s kind of true too)

I just want to ponder more and more. Pondering is the way I pray.  For what would you sell “all you have” to buy?  It says a lot about who you are.

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, November 4, 2019

Daily Office Readings for Monday of Proper 26 Year 1

AM Psalm 56, 57, [58]; PM Psalm 64, 65 Neh. 6:1-19; Rev. 10:1-11; Matt. 13:36-43

Psalm 57:7, 8, 9

My heart is firmly fixed, O God, my heart is fixed;
I will sing and make melody.

Wake up, my spirit;
awake, lute and harp;
I myself will waken the dawn.

 I will confess you among the peoples, O Lord;
I will sing praise to you among the nations.

I played guitar with my friend David last night. He is a patient teacher.  We go over and over musical chords until I get it.  It really makes me happy when I can keep up with him.  It makes me even happier when I can play Christian music as part of my own personal worship and prayer life.

For the most part I am not a fan of the Psalms, but some of them strike a chord with me, pun intended. I care less for words that want God to punish my enemies and I care more for words that reflect my heart being fixed on the love of God. But I am evolving, I am still a work in progress even though I have felt this way for a long time now.

Singing hymns often has us standing side by side as we embrace the melody.  Whether we are in pews or just standing and singing, we find ourselves shoulder to shoulder harmonizing for God.  It is the same when playing instruments; we tend to be side by side as we read the music.  This is the position of prayer also.  We don’t pray “to” each other, we pray “with” each other.  This is the way to raise children, playing and praying with them, side by side.  One of the most precious sights I have ever seen was one of our parish pianist and her very young daughter sitting at a piano and playing during the service. Their hearts were firmly fixed O Lord, their hearts are fixed.  And we sang and made melody.

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, November 3, 2019

Eucharistic Readings for Sunday of Proper 26, Year C Track 2

Isaiah 1:10-18  Psalm 32:1-82 Thessalonians 1:1-4, 11-12 Luke 19:1-10

“Then Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham.  For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.” (Luke 19: 9 – 10)

I always see Danny De Vito as Zacchaeus; a little man but open to change. Funny how a man climbs a tree to see a man who will end his life on a tree.  This is something to ponder later. 

Something else to ponder is that Zacchaeus is called a “chief” tax collector.  This shows how he is considered even further removed from the House of Israel and from the Temple. He is perhaps the most repugnant among the excluded of the Hebrew people. But Jesus hears his change of heart and proclaims him also “a son of Abraham.”  Jesus by passes all the Temple bureaucracy and puts Zacchaeus back into the Promise of God.

My barber gave me a sycamore sapling a few years ago.  It’s growing but not yet large enough or strong enough to climb.  I hope that when Jesus comes my way the tree with be ready.  I am.

Jesus declares that he came to earth for just that reason. He came for people like me.  But like Zacchaeus, I too must get myself into a place where I can see who Jesus is and then allow him to come and visit with me.  I must make right the wrongs I’ve done and promise to do all I can to fix or mend what I’ve broken.  I too want to be placed back into the fold of Abraham.

How about you?  Climbed any sycamore trees lately?  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 Saturday, November 2, 2019

Readings for the Commemoration of the faithful departed (All Souls Day) 2019

Psalm 130 Wisdom 3:1-9 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 John 5:24-27 

“Very truly, I tell you, anyone who hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life, and does not come under judgments, but has passed from death to life.” (John 5; 24)

If nothing else, Jesus is the Great Teacher of Him who sent Him.  The Gospel of John uses the word “believe” a verb, rather than “faith” a noun, the word found in the Synoptic Gospels, Matthew, Mark ad Luke.  John wants action.  We must do something. We must believe.

This very day I am to do a funeral where in the Gospel of John Jesus asks Martha, at the site of the tomb of her dead brother Lazarus, if she believes him.  Believing is the key to eternal life. Remember John 3:16? “ 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.”  This is a consistent message from the Gospel of John.

Those of our loved ones and relatives who believed, even though they die, they live again.  Today we remember those who have gone before. We remember those who lived long lives and those whose lives were cut short either by accident, sickness or violence.

Personally, I am glad that our church has set aside a day of remembrance for all our loved ones.  I find it appalling to remember our loved ones who were murdered on a day picked by bad people to do evil like 9/11 or even random murders.  We can mark the day and revisit the sadness but let’s lift up our family and friends in the Church on this day that our Church has set aside for just such an occasion.  We will remember them today as we give thanks to Jesus for them and look forward to our joining them one day in that heavenly abode where Jesus will call each of us by name out of the shadow of darkness and into eternal light. Thank You 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, November 1, 2019

Eucharistic Readings for All Saint’s Day 2019                                                             

Ecclesiasticus 44:1-14; Psalm 149Revelation 7:2–4,9–17Matthew 5:1-12

“Blessed are”

These are the words we have as the Gospel of Matthew presents the Beatitudes in Chapter 5.  There are 9 “Blessed Are”s.  

Today is All Saints Day.  Today we remember those who are lifted up from our midst and honored for their devotion and service to others in Jesus’ Name.  We have those who are famous like St Francis and Joan of Arc. And we have those not so famous on the world stage like people in our own life where only a few of us knew of their good and honorable deeds.  This latter category of saints is normally recognized on November 2nd as we commemorate the lives of the faithful departed or All Souls Day. I am doing a combined service this Sunday to remember all Saints, famous and personal.

Something to notice from the famous saints are the challenges they were required to endure on their unintended climb to sainthood. The Beatitudes mentioned in Matthew speak to this.  Each and every “Blessed Are” shows a challenge or some level of suffering before eternal joy comes.  The Saints also underwent challenges. Certainly St Francis and Joan of Arc did as did all those we hold in high esteem.

As we look at those whom we want to recognize as saints we must ask ourselves if they too faced challenges and faced them with steadfast Christian courage.  In our later years we have Mother Teresa and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and others.  I don’t think we have to depend on any one church to determine for us who is a saint and who is not.  St Paul typically referred to all worshiping communities as saints of that city.  It is an inclusive term of endearment meant for those recognized as tenacious people of faith, no matter what. And so, let us recall the words (by Lesbia Scott) of the hymn “I Sing a Song of the Saints of God” as found in our 1982 Hymnal where the words of the last verse are:

“They lived not only in ages past, there are hundreds of thousands still, the world is bright with the joyous saints who loved to do Jesus’ will.  You can meet them in school, or in lanes, or at sea, in church, or in trains, or in shops, or at tea, for the saints of God are just folk like me and I mean to be one too.”

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, October 31, 2019

Daily Office Readings for Thursday of Proper 25 Year 1

AM Psalm 50; PM Psalm [59, 60] or 103 Neh. 1-1:11; Rev. 5:11-6:11; Matt. 13:18-23

“Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, singing, ‘To the one seated on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!’ (Revelation  5:13)

Perhaps The Revelation to John from Jesus is the most avoided book in our New Testament.  I think some just don’t understand it and that’s not to suggest that I do, at least not all of it.  But then who can truly say he or she understands all of any book of the Bible?  There were even attempts to keep it out of the Christian cannon by Martin Luther.  But here we have it in all its sometimes spooky detail.  How appropriate for Halloween.  Hardly anybody today knows about All Saints Day which brought about All Hallow’s Eve in the first place.

I think the thing to take away from the Book of Revelation is the notification that we will be praising God with song in Heaven.  Everybody sings in heaven!  Once we get past the slaughter of beasts and the various proclamations, we sing.

Maybe the best use of our time in this life is to prepare to give voice in song to the glory of God in the next life.  I think there is a hint of this message in the first verse of Hymn “Praise to the Lord” 1982 Hymnal : “Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of creation; O my soul, praise him, for he is thy health and salvation; join the great throng, psaltery, organ, and song, sounding in glad adoration.” 

Yes, let us join the great throng singing ‘To the one seated on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!’

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

Pondering for Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Readings for John Wycliffe Priest and Prophetic Witness, 1384

 Sirach 43:26-33   Psalm 33:4-11 Hebrews 4:12-16 Mark 4:13-20

“And these are the ones sown on the good soil: they hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirty and sixty and a hundredfold.” (Mark 4:20)

This is a different Gospel from yesterday but the same words about the good soil.  It just so happens that this is the Gospel reading for John Wycliffe.  And, for the record he did clear his mind for the purpose of receiving divine enlightenment as we all can to make us good soil.   “Born in Yorkshire, England, around 1330, Wycliffe was educated at Oxford. Although he served as a parish priest, he spent most of his vocation teaching theology and philosophy at Oxford and was celebrated for his academic achievements. (Great Cloud of Witnesses for October 30)

I think I too share much of Wycliffe’s theological and church ideas. “A number of Wycliffe’s radical ideas got worked out in the centuries that followed, as the movement toward reformation gained momentum. Wycliffe believed that believers could have a direct, unmediated relationship with God, not requiring the intervention of the Church or its priesthood.  (Great Cloud of Witnesses for October 30) I preach this all the time. I tell my parishioners that when I tell them that God wants to talk with them, my job is done.  They can go direct.

Like Holy Water, water that has been blessed, it contains the essence of the Holy Spirit. So it is also with the Sacraments in Consubstantiation. “The tables turned dramatically when Wycliffe questioned the Eucharistic doctrine of transubstantiation. He believed that the underlying philosophy was problematic and that the popular piety flowing from it led inevitably to superstitious behaviors. He was condemned for his Eucharistic views in 1381. Although Wycliffe had nothing to do with inciting the Peasants’ Revolt of the same year, he was an easy target for blame.  He retired, left Oxford, and died three years later in Leicestershire. (Great Cloud of Witnesses for October 30)  I also like the Trinitarian presence of the burning bush, (Exodus 3) it was bush, it was fire and it was voice. It never stopped being any of the 3 but were all present. This is another example of Consubstantiation, God’s Way of being with us regardless of the so called laws of physics.

“Later reformers John Hus (July 6) and Martin Luther (February 18) acknowledged their debt to Wycliffe.” (Great Cloud of Witnesses for October 30)

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