Pondering for Monday, November 16, 2020

Daily Office Readings for Monday of Proper 28: Year 2

AM Psalm 89:1to18; PM Psalm 89:19to52:
Habakkuk. 2:1to4,and 9-20James 2:14to26Luke 16:19to31

“He called out, “Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in agony in these flames,”  (Luke 16: 24).

There are so many stories to tell or talk about from the readings we have for today.  I will stick with this one from Luke.

It is written that what we have in us on earth, we will take to heaven with us.  Where we wind up in the afterlife is determined by the toxins found in us.   We should be careful. What we take with us could prevent us from entry into that side of the great chasm where Father Abraham resides.  The rich man in this parable never respected the dignity of Lazarus. This attitude of arrogance has become a toxin that stuck with him even in the afterlife.  We know this because even in the afterlife he does not address Lazarus himself or apologize for neglecting him in their previous life.  But rather, he addresses Father Abraham to “send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue.”  Earthly arrogance and disrespect does not work in the realm of God.

Greed, jealousy, hate, lust, gluttony and all other such self-serving desires inside us can separate us from the Love of God, even though Paul says differently regarding external environs that happen to us in the thirteenth chapter of  his letter to the Romans.  God will still love us but we won’t be able to be with God due to internal properties that we should have ridded ourselves of before we passed on to the afterlife. Paul speaks of environmental and external events that fall on us that he says can’t separate us from the love of God  (Romans 8: 35 to 39).  But we must hold this good news next to the words of our Lord Jesus who cautions us that “whatever we bind on earth will be bound in heaven.”  This is said twice in the Gospel of Matthew; chapter 16, verse 19; and chapter 18, verse 18.  This is surely a lesson the rich man could have used.  Continuing in the parable, the rich man tries to negotiate a path for his brothers so that they will not meet his fate.  Father Abraham reminds him that if his brothers just follow the lessons of the prophets they will be alright.  But the rich man insists that if Lazarus returns to them from the dead his brothers would believe.  But Father Abraham told him that if they wouldn’t follow the teachings of the prophets they wouldn’t believe even if Lazarus returned from the dead.  This of course is an allusion to Jesus himself rising from the dead and some of us still not believing.

You and I have our Lord Jesus and all of these lessons to assist us in correcting our lives before we enter the afterlife.  We have the same prophets in addition to the saints who have gone before 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 Sunday, November 15, 2020

Part 1 of 2

Daily Office Readings for Sunday of Proper 28: Year 2

AM Psalms 66 and 67; PM Psalms 19 and 46;
Habakkuk 1:1 to 2:1Philippians 3:13 to 4:1Matthews 23:13 to 24

“Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on towards the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13 and 14)

I agree with Paul with one slight consideration.  We might forget about what lies behind only insofar as we have learned its lesson.  I know you’ve heard it said, “if we forget the past, we’ll make the same bad decisions all over again.”  We must learn and grow.  Then, and only then, will we strain forward to what lies ahead, towards the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.

Part 2 of 2

New Testament Readings for Sunday of Proper 28: Year A

1 Thessalonians 5:1to11 and  Matthew 25:14to30

“But the one who had received the one talent went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.” (Matthew 25:18)

Imagine you were witnessing others being given more gifts and more responsibility and therefore, more trust than yourself.  It might have been different if you had not witnessed the gifts, responsibility and trust given to others, but alas, you did witness it.

There are a couple of ways to respond to such an experience.  One way is to not go along with such a disregard of your abilities, (albeit abilities you don’t really have). Jealousy of how others are perceived to be respected more will often make us resentful and revengeful.   Also, it will show that your overseer actually overestimated your loyalty, your faith, in his assessment of what you are capable of.

Another way is to be thankful that you have such a low bar to get over. Do what you can to the best of your abilities.  But know this, God knows more about what you are capable of than you do. What you observe may not be the whole story.  The others that were given more may have been you in previous years.  Always be thankful and do the best you can with what you are given.

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 14, 2020

Daily Office Readings for Saturday of Proper 27: Year 2

AM Psalms 87and 90; PM Psalm 136;
Joel 3:9to17James 2:1to13; Luke 16:10to17:

“So he said to them, ‘You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of others; but God knows your hearts; for what is prized by human beings is an abomination in the sight of God.” (Luke 16:15)

So why does it have to be this way?  Why is it that what is prized by God cannot also be prized by human beings as well?  And we know what that is right?  It is “to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God,” (Micah 6:8), and, “to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world” (James 1: 27). We have the Bible as a rule and guide for our behavior fully knowing that it contains all things necessary for our salvation.

All we have to do is read the Bible, learn and heed its lessons.  Perhaps I am being a little naïve. We first have to believe.  We have to believe what our parents have handed down to us.  I, myself, did not come from a “Churched” family.  And the Bible was not read as a part of our family life.  My father was an over-the-road truck driver.  He was away for much of my up-bringing. My mother was a business woman who operated restaurants for as long as I can remember.  They enrolled me in Catholic School in Nashville, Tennessee.  Both parents seemed interested in me having a belief in God, and in our Lord Jesus in particular, notwithstanding their lack of church attendance or Bible teachings.

Now, I have both the Church, (not Roman Catholic but Episcopalian), and the Holy Bible. Because I later joined the Church and attended regular services, I followed the guidance of my last priest and discerned a call to the priesthood.  So, I also have a seminary education.  I am blessed.

None of us are blessed for our own personal benefit.  When we are blessed, we are blessed to pass it on.  I sincerely pray that I have a loving heart.  Only God knows.  But where I am failing I pray God straightens me out.  God knows every human heart. But regardless of where your heart is, God can make it better.  You cannot, but God can. For God, all things are possible.  But you have to ask for a righteous heart in prayer.  Pray with me:

“Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hid: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy Name; through Christ our Lord. Amen.”  (BCP 355)

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 13, 2020

Daily Office Readings for Friday of Proper 27: Year 2

AM Psalm 88; PM Psalms 91and 92;
Joel 2:28to3:8James 1:16to27Luke 16:1to9

“You must understand this, my beloved: let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger; for your anger does not produce God’s righteousness.  Therefore rid yourselves of all sordidness and rank growth of wickedness, and welcome with meekness the implanted word that has the power to save your souls.” (James 1: 19 to 21)

I love reading the letter of James.  This James was the brother of our Lord Jesus and later Bishop of Jerusalem.  We don’t hear much about him in the Gospel accounts but here he is now sharing his insights and ponderings.  The above verses remind me of the words of the prophet Jeremiah as it pertains to the “implanted word.”  Jeremiah writes, “But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.”(Jeremiah 31:33) 

My beloved in the Lord, we, (you and I), already have this implanted word written our hearts. When Jeremiah says, “after those days,” he is speaking of the days after our Lord Jesus comes to be with us (this generation) and shows us just how to live by that same word implanted in us. All we have to do is welcome it with meekness as James says.  We must be quick to listen and slow to speak, in person or on social media.  And when we do speak, do so from inclusive love.  And this inclusive love brings with it a certain amount of discomfort.

The inclusive person professes to be receptive to all persons, even those who disagree. Therein is the discomfort. The exclusive person has no such tolerance. The exclusive person makes it clear that only likeminded people are welcome. That is not who Christ wants Christians to be. Jesus ate at the home of Pharisees and healed people of the household of a centurion. Jesus received those who were his own and reached out to those who were of a different perspective, like Nicodemus.

Jesus listened to the opinion of others rather than becoming angry and asks us to do the same according to his brother James.  Is this something you can do?  Are you able to really listen to a different point of view without becoming angry? I think we all want the righteousness of God but James informs us that anger does not produce God’s righteousness.  Take a pause before you hit the “send button” on your lips or on your keypad.  “Therefore rid yourselves of all sordidness and rank growth of wickedness, and welcome with meekness the implanted word that has the power to save your souls.”  The word that is already written on your heart.

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, November 12, 2020

Daily Office Readings for Thursday of Proper 27: Year 2

AM Psalm [83] or 23, 27; PM Psalm 85, 86;
Joel 2:21to27James 1:1to15Luke 15:1to2 and 11to32.

“If any of you is lacking in wisdom, ask God, who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and it will be given you.” (James 1:5)

These are powerful words of truth from James.  We are all lacking wisdom at some level.  We must realize this and then ask God for more wisdom. But let us have this basic and primary understanding, God will know the reason for our wanting more understanding.  And such desires should be in order that we might love God more and more; and love our neighbor more and more.  Desire for knowledge to only benefit ourselves and to our personal advantage among our neighbors, is frowned on by God.

Let us remember Solomon who asked God for wisdom, for understanding, not so much for himself, but so that he could be a better leader for God’s people. Solomon prayed to God, “Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, able to discern between good and evil; for who can govern this your great people?” (1Kings 3:9).  Solomon, living a thousand years before James, also knew that God is the source of the understanding of what is good. And God liked the reasons for which Solomon was asking for understanding.  It is written, “It pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked this. God said to him, “Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches, or for the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, I now do according to your word. Indeed I give you a wise and discerning mind” (1Kings 3: 10 to 12).

My primary method of prayer is meditation.  It is in meditation that I ponder things.  I do this by sitting quietly in a room alone.  I follow the guidance of Blaise Pascal who said, “All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” It is in such a way that I follow Solomon’s example and the advice of James.  I invite you who are reading this blog to do the same.  Just find some time to sit quietly and be open to God, God who so much wants to be with you and talk to you.  James says, “If any of you is lacking in wisdom, ask God, who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and it will be given you.”

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, November 11, 2020

Daily Office readings for Wednesday of Proper 27: Year 2

AM Psalm 119:97-120; PM Psalms  81and  82;
Joel 2:12to19Revelation 19:11to21Luke 15:1to10

“Yet even now, says the Lord, return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; rend your hearts and not your clothing. Return to the Lord, your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and relents from punishing. Who knows whether he will not turn and relent, and leave a blessing behind him, a grain-offering and a drink-offering for the Lord, your God?” (Joel 2: 12 to 14)

The real good news about God is that God is merciful, God will forgive us. Too often we will not forgive one another, but God will forgive each of us. God will forgive you.

This forgiveness comes from God’s deep, abiding and steadfast love for us.  It is a sacrificial love as expressed in our Lord Jesus going to the cross.  And nothing can separate us from that divine love. Paul said, “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  (Romans 8:38 and 39)

It has occurred to me then, that such a love makes it easier to forgive someone when offended. Forgiveness for children and family might come a little easier than forgiveness for friends, and certainly easier than for strangers and folks who are different from us.  And there’s the rub.  God, especially in Christ Jesus, is family. While not really denying his earthly mother and family he declares also that those who do the will of God are his family. (Matthew 12:50) He also blurs the line between family and neighbor in the parable of the Good Samaritan where a stranger, a Samaritan, cares for a wounded man left for dead by robbers (Luke 10:29 to 37).  And finally, as he was crucified, our Lord Jesus ask God our creator to forgive the act we were committing (Luke 23:34)

It is impossible to forgive if we don’t first love.  We are asked by God to first love God and then to love one another. There is a direct connection between love and forgiveness.  If you don’t want to forgive, you never wanted to love in the first place.  To not love is ungodly. To change we must “return to the Lord, our God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and relents from punishing.” I don’t know about you, but I could use some of that grain-offering and a drink-offering from the Lord, our God.

A personal note this Veteran’s Day: from one veteran to all who served, Thank you for your service.

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, November 10, 2020

Daily Office Readings for Tuesday of Proper 27:Year 2

AM Psalm 78:1to39; PM Psalm 78:40to72;
Joel 1:15-2:2(3-11)Revelation 19:1-10Luke 14:25-35

“To you, O Lord, I cry. For fire has devoured the pastures of the wilderness, and flames have burned all the trees of the field. Even the wild animals cry to you because the watercourses are dried up, and fire has devoured the pastures of the wilderness.” (Joel 1:19 and 20)

At the time that I am reading this Daily office I empathize with my brothers and sisters on our west coast.  Terrible fires are driving people out of their homes and some have lost their lives, both residents as first responders. It is a very sad situation.

However, I remember the opening partition, “To you, O Lord, I cry.”  It is bad enough that we have a global pandemic to deal with.  And now, on top of that, people in Arizona, California, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington States must also deal with finding shelter for people who are temporarily housed in close proximity with one another and yet, be thankful that their lives are spared.  I ask your prayers for, and responses to, those who are in desperate need.

Crying to the Lord is prayer and prayer works. I believe “God’s ears hears tears.”  God hears our prayers, and God will respond. And God responds in surprising ways.  However, we must remember that God comes to us, through us. And as revealed in the Joel reading, we must keep our non-human friends in thought, prayer and response as well. You may be God’s response to a squirrel or rabbit or even a wolf.  I believe we humans were brought into being to care for, and maintain this fragile earth, our island home.

Today we remember Leo the Great (10 November: Bishop of Rome 461)  I would say he was also a peace maker and protector.

On a personal note, I would like to say, Happy Birthday U. S. Marines.

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 9, 2020

Daily Office Readings for Monday of Proper 27: Year A

AM Psalm 80; PM Psalm 77, [79];
Joel 1:1to13Revelation  18:15to24Luke 14:12to24

“Hear this, O elders, give ear, all inhabitants of the land! Has such a thing happened in your days, or in the days of your ancestors? Tell your children of it, and let your children tell their children, and their children another generation. What the cutting locust left, the swarming locust has eaten. What the swarming locust left, the hopping locust has eaten, and what the hopping locust left, the destroying locust has eaten.” (Joel 1: 1 to 4)

In the Joel reading we hear of four different kinds of locusts.  There are cutting locusts, swarming locusts, hopping locusts and destroying locusts.  Therefore, no matter what kind of defense they plan, there comes a different kind of attack. It sounds similar to our current pandemic.

But Thanks be to God, we are never without hope.  We have had to endure many social limitations and when I read “Grain-offering and drink-offering are withheld from the house of your God”  (Joel 1:13), I remember that we, in the Church, are having to omit the chalice. We do however get the bread or grain-offering.

The ever restructuring locusts are not too different from our Corona Virus.  Some catch it, and I have heard, some re-catch it.  This is different.  In Joel we read, “For a nation has invaded my land, powerful and innumerable; its teeth are lions’ teeth, and it has the fangs of a lioness” (Joel 1:6).  However, we believers must remember that no virus or any “bug,” is more powerful than our God.  And as the hymn goes, “Our God Reigns.”

And while our current virus makes us separate, I believe it is in coming together in the right way that we will be enabled to eradicate this pandemic.  We need to come together in heeding the advice to wear face coverings, maintain social distancing and washing our hands often.  Perhaps, just perhaps, these words come from the Spirit of God down through the saints of God.  I want this pandemic to be over. And, I want to touch people again during the Peace.  And with my grain offering, I want my chalice back too. O Lord hear our prayer.

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 8, 2020

Part 1 of 2

Daily Office Readings for Sunday of Proper 27: Year 2

AM Psalm 93 and 96; PM Psalm 34;
Ecclesiasticus 51:13to221 Corinthians 14:1to12Matthews 20:1to16;

“And he said to them, “You also go into the vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.” So they went.” (Matthew 20:4)

These workers were the 9am hires.  They already missed the 6 O’clock call to work but even they would be paid “whatever is right.”  This seems to be the way the vineyard owner takes care of the men’s families.  He gave them dignity by letting then earn at least a portion of what they needed. Even those who join the work force much later, at 12 and at 3 and even at 5.  This land owner finds a way to not just give them what they need but invites them to be stakeholders in their own needs. The bottom line is, their families will get what they need, “whatever is right.”

Part 2 of 2

New Testament Eucharistic Readings for Sunday of Proper 27: Year A

1 Thessalonians 4:13to18  Matthew 25:1to13

“When the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them; but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. As the bridegroom was delayed, all of them became drowsy and slept.” (Matthew 25: 3 – 5)

There are a couple of things to ponder here in this Eucharistic reading from Matthew.  First, the foolish are called foolish because of their neglect in not having reserve oil for their lamps.  Likewise, the wise are called wise because they brought along a reserve supply of oil.  Secondly, the point that Matthew has Jesus to make in this parable is to stay awake.  But in the parable, they all became drowsy and slept.  This is not literally about sleep deprivation. It’s about discipleship.

Both Matthew parables for today deal with at least trying to help one’s self.  The workers hired at different times during the day were at the hiring stations.  They wanted to work.  The so-called wise bridesmaids thought ahead about what the requirements would be if they were really serious about not only being at the right place, but also about sustaining themselves if things drew out, and indeed, they did.  We too, of today, must take those first steps in not only doing what is right, but also thinking through the process and preparing for the “what-ifs” of life, and, “whatever is right.”

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 7, 2020

Daily Office Readings for Saturday of Proper 26: Year 2

AM Psalms 75 and 76; PM Psalms 23 and 27;
Ecclesiasticus 51:1to12Revelation 18:1to14Luke 14:1to11

“On one occasion when Jesus was going to the house of a leader of the Pharisees to eat a meal on the Sabbath, they were watching him closely. Just then, in front of him, there was a man who had dropsy. And Jesus asked the lawyers and Pharisees, ‘Is it lawful to cure people on the Sabbath, or not?’  But they were silent. So Jesus took him and healed him, and sent him away.  Then he said to them, ‘If one of you has a child or an ox that has fallen into a well, will you not immediately pull it out on a Sabbath day?’  And they could not reply to this.” (Luke 14: 1 to 6)

Jesus asks a question about how closely they follow their own laws.  This is God in Christ Jesus who sees “in secrete” and knows all that we do.  But what he is trying to show them is that the Sabbath is a gift from God to them for their own health of body, mind and spirit. The Sabbath is not some tool of wrath of God, by which God might condemn them just for the sake of enforcing a law.

Besides all this, who prepared the meal they were partaking of on the Sabbath?  No faith should have laws whereby only certain humans are to abide by.  This includes my own tradition.  Maybe one day we will let all persons desiring to partake of Holy Communion do so.  We are not there yet unfortunately.  I am not so sure that baptism was a requirement with our Lord Jesus to receive the Bread and Wine (Body and Blood), but it is for us.

No religious tradition is perfect. Sometimes it takes people from other traditions to show us our shortcomings.  “Is it lawful to cure people on the Sabbath, or not?”  Is it lawful to for the un-baptized to receive Communion or not? We all must follow our own paths.  I am on the Episcopal path of the Jesus movement as our Presiding Bishop says. And, I am thankful.  But I also see paths for improvement.  I think Jesus is saying that not all laws should be absolute save loving God and loving our neighbors. These two laws of love are absolute laws under which all other lower laws must yield. 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