Pondering for Thursday, October 7, 2021

Daily Office Readings for Thursday of Proper 22: Year 1

Morning, Psalms 131, 132, and133; Evening, Psalms 134 and 135;
2nd Kings 23:4 to 251st Corinthians 12:1 to 11Matthew 9:18 to 26:

“Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good;” (1st Corinthians 12:4 to 7).

I do believe we are all given much needed gifts when we are conceived. They are given to us by the Spirit of God the Creator. These gifts lay dormant until brought to life by our faith and the Holy Spirit. It truly is magic.  Our faith provides the path for the Holy Spirit to find our God given gifts.

We, of various communities, have a variety of needs.  Therefore, God has ensured that each of us has those gifted qualities needed in the community we are in, or the community to which we are called to be in.  God runs a balancing act within humanity for the good of humanity.

The needed formulas are planted in us before birth. As we are brought up in love and faith, we are brought to “full” life through the Holy Spirit.  As Paul says, it is the same Spirit that activates all of us to be what God has planted in us for the benefit of those whom we share life with, our community.  This is why it is so tragic when we lose anyone to untimely death. When a person dies, needed gifts are gone unused.  This is very sad. This is also why we should treasure every person in our community. We need them.  We need you.

Each one of us should spend time pondering about what our Godly gifts are and what our contribution is, to our community, or any community we might be called to.  This is called discernment.  We will, after discernment, discover what we are gifted for, and what our passion is, and what we are called to do. When we discover our gifted passion and perceive what our community’s needs are, we are well on our way. Where, and when, our passion, and a community’s need resolve for each other, God’s will is done on earth as it is in heaven.

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

Pondering for Wednesday, October 6, 2021

Daily Office Readings for Wednesday of Proper 22: Year 1

Morning, Psalm 119:145 to 176; Evening, Psalms 128, 129 and 130;
2nd Kings 22:14 to 23:31 Corinthians 11:23 to 34Matthew 9:9 to 17:

In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me:” (1st Corinthians 11:25).

My blog post of two days ago, (Monday, 4 October), was all about the importance of the Cup of Christ.  I mentioned the references from our Book of Common Prayer.  However the actual words for the consecration of bread and wine come from our 1st Corinthians reading for today. I now revisit my point about the wine and how we, as Christians, are to receive it in the Name of Christ.

In Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, Paul ensures that we understand the importance of the cup, not only in the Church assembled, but also whenever, and wherever, we partake of it. Paul says this is what was handed on to him from the apostles, apostles who walked with our Lord Jesus. So this is not so much about Paul himself, but rather Peter, John and James and others. It is what our Lord Jesus asked us to do as the way of remembering him.

It seems however, we are a death centered people who prefer the cross as the way we want to remember our Lord Jesus.  We also chose the fish, I guess because of the fisherman he told to follow him and that he would make them catchers of people. But our Lord himself asked to be remembered by the cup, and, individually, as often, as we drink it, in remembrance of him.

I know this is difficult for those of us who have problems with alcohol (and it was real wine). I personally believe our self-care should come first.  However, I think wine during the time of Jesus was a regular dinner affair. I am not promoting the drinking of wine. I am simply bringing to our attention what I have pondered regarding what our Lord Jesus asked of us.

With the frequency of meals, not only Communion at Church gatherings, but meals in our homes and refreshments at other social events, our Lord Jesus has worked in a way for us to raise his Name regularly. Who knows what impact such a witness might have in promoting the following of Jesus, and the catching of people?  Again, I think a, “Thank You Lord Jesus,” will do nicely.

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

Pondering for Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Daily Office Readings for Tuesday of Proper 22: Year 1

Morning, Psalms 120, 121, 122 and 123; Evening,  Psalms 124, 125, 126 and127;
2nd Kings 22:1 to 131st Corinthians 11:2 and17-22Matthew  9:1 to 8:

“Josiah was eight years old when he began to reign; he reigned for thirty-one years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Jedidah daughter of Adaiah of Bozkath. He did what was right in the sight of the Lord, and walked in all the way of his father David; he did not turn aside to the right or to the left: (2nd Kings 22:1 and 2).

Josiah had every reason and privilege to become a spoiled rotten brat, taking over the kingdom as a child, and yet he didn’t.

I especially like that when he was in the eighteenth year of his reign he let the Lord lead him into transparency with the people. He was open and forthright with the treasure of the kingdom. He trusted the blue collar of his day. He let them be in charge of what they were doing. He told them what to do without telling them how to do it. Concerning the money for the repair of the House of the Lord he said, “let it be given into the hand of the workers who have the oversight of the house of the Lord;” he said, “let them give it to the workers who are at the house of the Lord, repairing the house, that is, to the carpenters, to the builders, to the masons; and let them use it to buy timber and quarried stone to repair the house. But no account shall be asked from them for the money that is delivered into their hand, for they deal honestly:” (2nd Kings 22:5 to 7). This was total honesty and trust in the workers.

Josiah walked straight up the middle. He did not turn aside to the right or to the left. I have visited hospitals to check on parishioners where different colored lines were drawn on the ceiling, or on the floor. This was valuable. After my initial contact with the receptionist, he or she would tell me which color to follow in order to reach the ward and patient I was visiting. Perhaps God left such a line for Josiah to follow, and he drifted neither to the right, or to the left, but stayed on course.

His obedience to God led him to the Book of the Law. Josiah, after hearing the words read to him, stopped everything in order to get back on track, or, should I say, the right color path God laid out for him to follow.  How about you?  Every now and then, we need to stop, look up, look down, and look all around. I call this my looks of 180, (straight up and straight down); and my view of 360, (turning in a circle observing where I’ve been and what is to my right and left). From this action I proceed on, making sure that I am following the path God has laid out for me. I am John, son of Evelyn, I hope to do what is right in the sight of the Lord. What is your name? What is, or was, your mother’s name?  Do you hope to do what is right in the sight of the Lord?

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

Pondering for Monday, October 4, 2021

Daily Office Readings for Monday of Proper 22: Year 1

Morning, Psalm 106:1 to 18; Evening, Psalm 106:19 to 48:
2nd Kings 21:1 to 181 Corinthians 10:14 to11:1Matthew 8:28 to 34:

The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a sharing in the blood of Christ?” (1st Corinthians 10:16)

The words of the Consecration of the cup of wine at the Altar are very specific. The blessing ends with, “When ever you drink it, do this for the remembrance of me.”  This is said in the Book of Common Prayer for Eucharistic Prayer A, page 363; Prayer B, 368; Prayer C, 371; and Prayer D, 374.  Given this information, I make it a point to remember our Lord Jesus each and every time I pour any glass of red wine for myself or others.  Call me a fanatic if you will, it is what our Lord Jesus said for His followers to do, in remembrance of Him.

During Covid, our practice has been to have a designated recipient to receive the chalice of wine on behalf of the congregation.  Our Bishop has just given us permission for all of us to once again receive the wine for every individual desiring to do so with certain precautions. But then, it has from its inception, been a blessed taste.

This is symbolically putting the blood of our Lord Jesus into ourselves. If we think about it, we become brothers and sisters of God Incarnate. Wow!  With this weekly sip, shouldn’t we proceed from Church inoculated against evil thoughts and impatiently desiring to do good works? I think so.

We just have to put our faith in Christ Jesus. We must believe in the cup covenant that Jesus left with us. Jesus said the cup, but we chose the cross as a way to remember Him. The cross was a Roman death tool. The Cup is a forever life tool. This is not so hard to understand, and here is the thing, we don’t have to be in Church. For the bread we do have to be in Church  as it is the taking, blessing, breaking and giving of the bread; and it is the sharing of the cup also. But with the cup is added the words, “When ever you drink it, do this for the remembrance of me.”  For me, “whenever” also means “wherever.” 

We could be at home or out for an evening social. But when we hold a glass of wine, and we are Christian, we are asked by our Lord Jesus to, at that moment, to remember Him.  I remember the words of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel who said “it is the moment that adds significance to things (or experiences), not things that add significance to moments,” from his book, The Sabbath.   Therefore, the moment we are about to sip the first taste of wine, (the thing), we should remember our Lord Jesus, (the significant moment). I think a, “Thank You Lord Jesus,” will do nicely.

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

Pondering for Sunday, October 3, 2021

New Testament Eucharistic Readings for Proper 22: Year B

Hebrews 1:1-4; 2:5-12  and Mark 10:2-16

“Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

How do we know what (or who), God has joined together?  Marriage is such a touchy issue in the Church.  In the early Hebrew Testament men just took women to be their wives and didn’t necessarily stop at one. We have many stories where certain men had two wives for example Elkanah, “He had two wives. The name of the one was Hannah, and the name of the other, Peninnah. And Peninnah had children, but Hannah had no children:” (1st Samuel 1:1 and 2).  He was the father of Samuel the Prophet.  There are others also to include Moses himself. These persons did not divorce, but rather added to their marriage. It seems that with the New, or Christian Testament, the influence of the Greeks and Romans persuaded the Christian Jews and the Church to adhere to the one man and one woman marriage. Remember, I’m just pondering here.

There are more questions around marriage and divorce that must be resolved by our God given reason rather than the ambiguous and often contradictory writings of scripture. Remember, the sixteenth century priest Richard Hooker who said that we have the three legged stool of scripture, tradition and reason. In our Anglican and Episcopal Church, the three legs are equal in support of our faith. However reason, with prayer, must be applied when necessary.

 There are also questions of same sex marriages, there are questions of whether the Church should be doing what was considered a civil matter until about 800 years ago when the Church became aware of its possible control of the institution of marriage. Also, should Roman Catholic Priests be allowed to marry?  

Divorce then brings the subject back to being a civil matter again. Should couples stay in a toxic and unloving, often abusive marriage?  I think not but as far as I know, no Church has an “un-marriage” ceremony.

So, who is God joining together? Does sexuality, or race, or the Church, or Ordination limit who God joins together?

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

Pondering for Saturday, October 2, 2021

Daily Office Readings for Saturday of Proper 21: Year 1

 Morning, Psalm 107:33 to 43 and Psalm 108; Evening, Psalm 33;
2nd Kings 19:21 to 361st Corinthians 10:1 to 13Matthew 8:18 to 27:

“And they went and woke him up, saying, ‘Lord, save us! We are perishing!’ And he said to them, ‘Why are you afraid, you of little faith?’ Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a dead calm.  They were amazed, saying, ‘What sort of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him?”  (Matthew 8: 25 to 27).

I’d like to say that we are still saying, ‘Lord, save us! We are perishing!’  And the only way we can be saved is through our Lord Jesus Christ. Drowning seems to be a fear of the ancient Hebrew peoples.  We have the story of Noah and the Flood; we have the story of Moses and the parting of to sea; and many other water related near-death experiences that plague their minds.  So we are saved through the waters of baptism.  Jesus brings us back to our fears and then brings us through them to eternal life.

Jesus seems to infer that fear and faith occupy the same space in our hearts and minds. He asks, ‘Why are you afraid, you of little faith?’  I know that Abraham was afraid during his lifetime but he never stopped believing in God. Therefore, at some level, fear accompanies our faith. It’s not either/or, it’s both/and. We just have to decide which one we are going to let lead us.

Jesus, when asked, comes to us and reduces the cause of our fears, the storm itself.  Later, in this Gospel of Matthew, Peter will individually struggle with faith and fear while trying to walk on the water. When the disciples saw Jesus walking on the water, Jesus told them not to be afraid and that it was he, himself.   And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus.  But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.”  Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” (Matthew 14: 29 to 31)

It is ironic that the very thing we need to sustain life, we fear. That that cleanses us, can drown us. Faith and fear, which road will we take?   The same is true of our Lord Jesus with one big exception; there is nothing at all to fear about our Lord Jesus.

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

Pondering for Friday, October 1, 2021

Daily Office Readings for Friday of Proper 21: Year 1

Morning, Psalm 102; Evening, Psalm 107:1 to 32;
2nd Kings 19:1 to 201st  Corinthians 9:16 to 27Matthew 8:1 to 17:

“When Jesus heard him, he was amazed and said to those who followed him, ‘Truly I tell you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith.  I tell you, many will come from east and west and will eat with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, while the heirs of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’  And to the centurion Jesus said, ‘Go; let it be done for you according to your faith.’ And the servant was healed in that hour;” (Matthew 8:10 to 13).

It seems that our Lord Jesus was the first to bring the Good News to the Gentiles. Jesus is amazed at the faith of the centurion.  The centurion compares the power of Jesus who can order diseases and evil spirits to depart, to his own human power to order soldiers around.  He does this through his faith in Jesus.

In this Gospel reading Jesus heals a leper, the servant of the centurion, Peter’s mother-in-law and a host of others brought to him later that same day.  It makes no difference to Jesus whether the people are Jews or Gentiles, or men or women.  Our Lord Jesus only needs someone in the mix to have faith. It could be the person in need or someone petitioning on behalf of a person in need. Our Lord Jesus uses our faith to heal us and those we love, and later, to save us and, hopefully to turn around those we love so that they too might be saved and meet Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in all eternity.

As we approach the Sabbath tonight, ponder about the strength of your faith.  Do you put your whole trust in the healing power of Christ Jesus? Do you do this for yourself as well as for the healing of those you love?  Our Lord Jesus is still looking for our faith in order to heal us and save us.  Rest, this evening and tomorrow, in the sure and certain knowledge that God in Christ Jesus loves you regardless of your ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, political affiliation, nationality, or language, or even your faith tradition. God just loves us no matter what. Jesus explains that our connection and response to God is through our faith in God’s call on our lives.  I believe this call was made manifest in the person of Jesus of Nazareth.  Acknowledge God this Sabbath.

“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. 

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

What is Shabbat? Intro to the Jewish Sabbath – YouTube

Pondering for Thursday, September 30, 2021

Daily Office Readings for Thursday of Proper 21: Year 1

Morning, Psalm 105:1 to 22; Evening, Psalm 105:23 to 45;
2nd Kings 18:28 to 371st Corinthians 9:1 to 15Matthew 7:22 to 29:

On that day many will say to me, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many deeds of power in your name?” Then I will declare to them, “I never knew you; go away from me, you evildoers.” (Matthew 7:22 and 23)

Here our Lord Jesus makes it clear that God can, and will use any of us, with, or without us being aware of our fulfillment of God’s will.

We, especially clerics, can pass on the word of God and even do the miraculous actions that God wants done. But if in our hearts we are not totally genuine in our walk of faith, God will know. And of them (us) our Lord Jesus says, “I never knew YOU.”  Jesus is aware of the conversions we prompted, and the positive outcomes in the lives of people with whom we brought to Christ. But if while doing the Lord’s work we also participated in immoral acts known to be sinful, we remove ourselves from the circle of those whom Jesus knows.

This fellowship of Jesus extends beyond the clergy. As God can, and does, uses any of us to fulfill the dream of God, all of us have the personal responsibility to stay the righteous course in life. We personally have to walk our talk. We can’t just tell others to do the right thing, we too must do the right thing. Some commentaries recount that Jesus here quotes Psalm 6:8 in saying, “Go away from me, you evildoers.”  Therefore, what we profess and what we do may be drastically different. It is up to us individually to seek divine help in correcting our missteps.

If we truly are trying to master the art of love, it will be shown in our everyday ways of living. It won’t just be about what we say, or about how we give to charities, but how we live. We will not return evil for evil. We will not think of anyone as less valuable than ourselves. We will strive to love all people, and we will try especially hard to love those who often prove difficult to love. It is in this way that on that Day, “ The King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.  For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.”  (Matthew 25: 34 to 36)

Our lives are about love. We were brought into be through love in order that we might love.

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

Pondering for Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Daily Office Readings for Wednesday of Proper 21: Year 1

Morning, Psalms 101 and 109; Evening,  Psalm 119:121 to 144;
2nd Kings 18:9 to 251st Corinthians 8:1 to 13Matthew 7:13 to 21:

“Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road is easy that leads to destruction, and there are many who take it. For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it;” (Matthew 7:13 and 14).

As a child I used to go on trips with my dad during the summer. He worked for United Van Lines, the moving company.  I was blessed to see all of the continental United States while still a teenager.  Riding in the truck, and occasionally driving was fun. The packing and moving of furniture was not, it was hard work.

I can remember my dad, on several occasions, finding a truck stop somewhere and tearing down and repacking household goods tighter.  This was a twofold benefit. First, being packed tighter prevented breakage. And second, packing it tighter created more space and we were able to maybe pick up another small shipment going in the same direction.  I will tell you that the last thing I wanted to do was take some supposed downtime, and use it to unpack and repack household goods. It was a hard reality, but in the end, very rewarding; something I didn’t understand until later.

According to our Lord Jesus, our God is asking us to unpack and repack ourselves.  It is probably the last thing any of us want to do. It is hard work. Because it is a hard road to travel, it is the road less traveled because of its difficulty, and therefore it leads to a very narrow gate where the few who get to it may pass.

But if we stay on our path of the hard work, of repacking ourselves tighter and tighter, we will see amazing things and as we journey, God will give us more as we are creating more space and as we are traveling in the same direction, towards God. Not all will willingly put in the self work of repacking themselves. The easier way is to just let whatever environment you are in, shape you according to the political, racial, religious, or cultural persuasions you find yourself in.

Our Lord Jesus is inviting us to do the hard work of resisting that which does not get us through the narrow door. It is not easy. We tend to be satisfied with whatever others tell us or is easy. Such is the wide gate and the easy road that leads to destruction. We are equipped by God to do the hard work and like me, we may not understand it until later. Now, however, we just walk by faith.

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

Pondering for Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Daily Office Readings for Tuesday of Proper 21: Year 1

Morning, Psalms 97 and 99; Evening, Psalm 94;
2nd Chronicles 29:1 to 3 and chapter 30; 1st Corinthians 7:32 to 40Matthew 7:1 to 12:

‘In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets:” (Matthew 7:12).

This instruction from our Lord Jesus is the other side of a Jewish teaching which instructs us, “That which is hateful to you, do not do to another; that is the entire Torah, the rest is commentary. Now, go study.” (Shabbat 31a, 6)  This is the teaching of Rabbi Hillel when he was asked to explain the whole Torah while standing on one foot.

In both cases the language calls for us to empathize with others.  Both lessons call for us to identify with the ones whom we are talking to, or conducting business with. Jesus says to treat others like you want to be treated. This is known to us as the Golden Rule.  Hillel says, that in your own experience, if something is unpleasant to you, do not cause it to happen to anyone else. In both cases it is “other” related.

I often remember the word “Joy” as a guiding reminder of my day-to-day relationship with people. In this case J-O-Y stands for Jesus, Others, and Yourself.  In this way I am reminded to put Jesus first, then the other (whoever that might be), and then your, or myself.  I try, but I will confess that I don’t always remember the joy of JOY.

There is a caution about not letting the concern for the other be something that will be harmful or hurtful to them, to others, or to ourselves.  Every rule of life has to have certain exceptions or cautions that must be applied so that real joy will prevail.  Our Lord Jesus explains that the Golden Rule was the intent of the law and the teaching of the prophets for as long as we have had a relationship with God.

We must be careful in not assuming that because we lean a certain way in life, like perhaps enjoying social events and humor, we shouldn’t assume others do as well. So we can’t take this rule which says, “Do onto others as you would have them do onto you,” as a license to force what we like on others. I think we need to first understand the other and appreciate what he or she likes and then, if possible, help them with that.  Again, empathy, the learning of the other is so important. Understanding someone is learning to love them more deeply. Love is the real intent of the Golden Rule.

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