Pondering for Thursday, September 12, 2019

Daily Office Readings for Thursday of Proper 18

Daily Office Readings for Thursday of Proper 18 Year 1

AM Psalm 50; PM Psalm [59, 60] or8, 84 1 Kings 18:1-19; Phil. 2:12-30; Matt. 2:13-23

“Then Josephgot up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt.”  (Matthew 2:14)

I think Joseph should be the patron saint of fatherhood (that is if he is not already).  In all the Gospels Joseph gets no air time.  There are no words from Joseph to us, only the witness of his obedience to what God wants. 

Joseph is the earthly father of Jesus.  We know that he is not the biological father.  But that has nothing to do with his call to be the father or Jesus.  What does count is his trust in what God wants.  While his eyes are on his son, his ears are affixed to God’s lips.

I believe all fathers should take a page from Joseph’s play book. I have never seen a greater need for faithful fathers than today. I am a father of both biological and non-biological children. I love them all equally. We have never used the term “step” for children or father.  I am “dad.” 

What I have learned from Joseph is that a father’s voice is not nearly as important as his faithful adherence to what God wants. Joseph maintains his relationship with Mary, the mother of Jesus, knowing the baby is not his but that loving her is in accordance with God’s will.

Joseph, who is a carpenter by trade, picks up and moves his family to a distant land and then later brings them back when told to do so. I witness his obedience and learn something about being strong and silent.  I have learned that what a child sees me do is far more important that what I might say to a child. It is what a father does that counts. Fathers also should be seen praying and taking care of mom.  Thank you Joseph.

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

Pondering for Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Readings for Henry “Harry” Thacker Burleigh (December 2, 1866 – September 12, 1949)

Psalm 103:1-5, 20-22 Isaiah 42:10-12 Romans 15:5-11 Luke 1:39-45

“Sing to the Lord a new song, his praise from the end of the earth!” (Isaiah 42:10)

While I am tired of talking about the concept of race, Henry Burleigh is more about music, God’s help through others and praise to the Lord but with some racial components.

“Henry (Harry) Thacker Burleigh was an American singer, composer, and arranger who did more than anyone else up to his time to make available the riches of the American Negro spiritual to vast audiences.” (Great Cloud of Witnesses for 11 September)

Music is important to me. I like all kinds of music. I believe music to be one of the gifts that God surprises us with by who God places the gift of music in. It crosses all human barriers.  But sometimes the person who God puts this gift in can be a block to us receiving it. This is also when God will act through an advocate.

“The presence of a black man in the choir [at St. George’s Episcopal Church in New York City] initially caused dissension, but it died down when J. Pierpont Morgan, a member of the parish, took a clear stand on the matter. Even after gaining other employment and becoming a successful composer, Burleigh continued to sing in the choir at St. George’s for many years and became a beloved part of the congregation.”  (Great Cloud of Witnesses for 11 September)

The one thing we can count on is God surprising us, through us.  Who knew that God would come to us in the son of a Palestinian Jewish mother?  Who knew God would turn a Church hater like Saul into a Church lover like Paul?  Who knew a Civic leader like J. P. Morgan would turn the tide of intolerance in order that the gift of Henry Burleigh could be enjoyed by those who otherwise would miss out on what God was doing in our very midst?  

I have often confessed that I can’t see where God is in my life but I can look back and definitely see where God was in my life.  Full disclosure, each day now, I find myself not having to look so far into my past to see God at work.  Maybe God is deliberately letting me see what’s going on as it is happening, or just maybe, I am becoming more observant to what God is doing in the here and now.  I don’t know.  But let me say that God will always bring us unexpected happiness.  I am so blessed! And, you are too. Some counselors will tell us that we must make ourselves happy.  I say, from my own experiences, God can make us happy and God often does this through others, like Paul, or J. P. Morgan, or anybody. God works in surprising ways.  We just have to be who God made us to be and God will put people in our path that will help us. Thank You Jesus.

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

Pondering for Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Readings for Alexander Crummell

Psalm 19:7-11Sirach 39:6–11Mark 4:1-20

“Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain.” (Mark 4:7)

Today, September 10, we remember Alexander Crummell Priest, Missionary, and Educator

“Born March 3, 1819, in New York City, Alexander Crummell struggled against racism all his life. As a young man of color, he was driven out of an academy in New Hampshire, dismissed as a candidate for Holy Orders in New York, and rejected for admittance to General Seminary. Ordained in 1844 as a priest in the Diocese of Massachusetts, he left for England after being excluded from participating in diocesan convention.” (Great Cloud of Witnesses for September 10)

As I have said before, race is a conjured up method for the taking apart of humanity. Race is the thorny sin that Jesus spoke of that chokes us and takes away our ability to produce grains of compassion, respect, love and cross-cultural caring. We are all one species.  It’s always hard for the oppressed group to convince the power group of the wrong they are doing.  The power group will question the rationale for giving up power.  Without empathy it makes no sense. Unless you put yourself in the skin of the other, no matter what shade it is, you will not realize the hardship forced on them because of an outward physical trait that they did not choose.

Culture may have a more significant reason for distinguishing groups of people than what they look like.  One does not choose what they look like.  They do have a decision to stay with, or leave the cultural group that they inherited. To some extent citizens can even choose to switch nationalities. There are some celebrities who have moved their citizenship from American to France.  This is not a judgment on them only an example of the difference between choice and no-choice. Within the no-choice physical appearance of a person are the thorns of social racism that choke out any chance of the “outwardly different” person of living culturally or nationally to their full potential.

Crummell tried hard to make manifest the dignity of the Liberian people of Africa, but in the end it failed. “Crummell’s ministry spanned more than half a century and three continents. Everywhere, at all times, he labored to prepare black people and to build institutions that would serve them and provide scope for the exercises of their gifts in leadership and creativity. His faith in God, his perseverance in spite of repeated discouragement, his perception that the Church transcended the racism and limited vision of its leaders, and his unfailing belief in the goodness and greatness of black people are the legacy of this African American pioneer.” (Great Cloud of Witnesses for September 10)

All of us must work in the garden to clear the thorns of racism and thereby receive the gifts of all the grains.

Let us hear what the Spirit is saying to and through God’s people.  John+

Pondering for Monday, September 9, 2019

Daily Office Readings for Monday of Proper 18 Year 1

AM Psalm 41, 52; PM Psalm 441 Kings 13:1-10; Phil. 1:1-11; Mark 15:40-47

“I thank my God every time I remember you, constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you” (Philippians 1: 3 & 4)

There are many in my life I thank God for.  God has put people in my path that are very pleasing to me and many who go out of their way to help me.

I have family friends and friends who are like family. It’s nice when it works both ways. I have a brother with whom I don’t always agree but who is my lifelong friend. I have a recent friend who is closer to me than biological family members. Blood may be stronger than water but spirit is stronger than blood.

I have parish and Church friends with whom I have bonded with based on our common belief in Jesus.  This may be the relationship Paul was talking about to the Church in Philippi.  This is a very strong relationship because of our common belief in the love of God for all humanity and our resurrection in Christ Jesus.  And like Paul said, I too give thanks to God for my spiritual family that didn’t have to be, but now is. As a result of my church family I have made good friends with people outside of the Church but who are also dear to me.

The friends I have because of my Church relationship extend to a man who comes and instructs me in guitar playing. And this also includes my sponsors into Free Masonry which brought me many good friends who strive to make themselves better men. Yes, I do thank God for them in my prayers.

Also through the Church I have clergy friends. These are men and women who, like me, depend on God for guidance as we companion with church members for their spiritual welfare. It’s not easy. So to have a clergy forum where we can have dialogue about church leadership is priceless and truly something I am thankful to God for.

Yesterday as I preached on the cost of discipleship my words began to say that while we are not to actually hate our family (Luke 14: 25 – 26).  But in making Jesus first we are able to love family and friends even more. I told my listeners that as they put Jesus first and prayed for their family and friends they would find that they would have even greater love for them.  Again, Paul says, “I thank my God every time I remember you, constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you” This is so true.  Try it and see.

Ponder anew what the Almighty is doing.  John+

Pondering for Sunday September 8, 2019

Eucharistic Readings for Sunday of Proper 18 Year C

Jeremiah 18:1-11  Psalm 139:1-5, 12-17 Philemon 1-21  Luke 14:25-33

“Now large crowds were traveling with Jesus; and he turned and said to them, “Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple.”  (Luke 14: 25 – 26)

Hate?  This English word is way too strong for the way Jesus is intending to mean it and the way the people around him understood it. Hate, the way we understand it is to have a strong negative emotion towards someone even in the absence of care and concern and love for someone else.  We can hate one person and love another and the two persons have nothing to do with each other.  Jesus is using this term as mutually inclusive; he is saying you can’t be his disciple unless you have put everybody else aside or behind me. Jesus is saying he is in the relationship but that he must be the priority.

In our Wednesday Spanish class the language was much different than hate, a softer expression was used.  Jesus said (in translated Spanish) unless we are willing to postpone or put aside our parents, children, spouse, and siblings we cannot be his disciples.

Even the language that follows, from farming peasants to ruling kingdoms, from lowest to highest, the costs of discipleship must be dealt with.  We must ask ourselves, first, if we think we are even able to pay the price. And then second, if we are willing to pay the price.

Jesus is not asking us to choose between him and the devil; that would be too easy.  Jesus is asking us to choose him over parents, spouse, children and siblings.  These might seem like hard choices but the truth is that if we make Jesus the priority we are better able to love parents, spouse, children and siblings.  Through Jesus we can love them more deeply.

In this passage Jesus has shifted from talking to the twelve to the great multitude.  There is much enthusiasm and shallow delight in the walk towards Jerusalem. Jesus wants them to be well aware of what it means to keep his movement going.

Sometimes people who love this church don’t want us to tell perspective new members about the cost of discipleship; about the cost of maintaining a church.  They would rather postpone it until a more opportune time, or just drop it altogether.  Jesus said no. He wants to let them know right from the start the cost of the journey he is on to Jerusalem. He wants then to know that this is not a parade but rather a funeral procession. Now, who’s in?

The cost of discipleship is not about our possessions but about being happy in pleasing God and having eternal life.  We can’t afford not to be in.

Ponder anew what the Almighty is doing. John+

Pondering for Saturday September 7, 2019

Readings for Elie Naud (Ellias Neau), Huguenot Witness to the Faith, 7 Sept. 1722

Psalm 30  Daniel 6:10b-16, 19-23 James 1:2-4, 12a Matthew 15:21-28

“Hear, O Lord, and have mercy upon me; O Lord, be my helper.” (Psalm 30:11)

The Psalmist’s prayer is perhaps the same kind of prayer Daniel might have prayed in our Daniel reading for Elie Naud today as Daniel was thrown into the lion’s den.  Today we remember Elie Naud, an educator of the children of the down trodden. He was a man before his time.

“Elie Naud (also known as Elias Neau) was a French Huguenot (French Reformed) born in 1661. It was an era when French Roman Catholicism was increasingly dominant and the persecution of Protestants was becoming more violent. Naud fled France and landed in England, where he sojourned briefly before settling permanently in New York City.”  (Great Cloud of Witnesses for September 7)  So from the start Naud was familiar religious persecution. It is always curious to me how a Christian Church can persecute anybody in the Name of Jesus who would rather die than harm.

In New York City, Naud became a member of L’Eglise du Saint-Esprit, a French-speaking parish which eventually joined The Episcopal Church, and later of Trinity Church, Wall Street, where he served for fifteen years as a catechist among slaves and Native Americans, preparing them for baptism.

Naud’s educational efforts were not appreciated by people who blamed the slave riots on the education the slaves received. “Naud founded a school for the children of the poor and for the children of slaves. Upon the recommendation of the Rector of Trinity Church, the Bishop of London, acting for the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel (SPG), licensed Naud as a missioner “to slaves and ragged people in the New World.” Naud also worked to influence Parliament for the passage of British laws that would demand Christian instruction for the children of slaves and Native Americans and schools for their education. Only through these means, he believed, could an equal and free society be created. During the New York City slave riot of 1712, Naud remained faithful to his vision despite threats of death from those who believed education of slaves fueled such uprisings.”  (Great Cloud of Witnesses for September 7)

During this period we were still a colony of slave holders and thought it was right to do.  It is through the thoughtful prayers and insight of people like Elie Naud that the beginning of change was coming. Change always brings opposition.  I think the resistance to social change happens because people don’t think deeply about what life is like for those who are disadvantaged by institutional discrimination.  We all want an equal chance at success for ourselves and for our children.  No one wants to raise children as intentional second class citizens.  Naud did God’s work in very bigoted times.  I believe we are better now but there is still work to be done.

Let us hear what the Spirit is saying to and through God’s people.  John+

Pondering for Friday, September 6, 2019

Daily Office Readings for Friday of Proper 17 Year 1

AM Psalm 31; PM Psalm 351  Kings 11:26-43; James 4:13-5:6; Mark 15:22-32

“Yet you do not even know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” (James 4:14)

James spends a few words warning us against seeking wealth and living a life without being aware of what God might have planned for us.  He refers to us as a mist, a very temporary existence.

We, I think especially Christians; spend an inordinate amount of time remembering death.  I was amazed at how beautiful the Galilee area of Israel was when I visited there last year.  We went to Galilee first and then ended with three days in Jerusalem.  Of course much was made of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the place where Jesus was believed to be crucified and buried.

By contrast, to the north in Galilee, not much was made of the “mist” of Jesus that taught us how to pray, and where he fed the multitudes, and where he gave the Sermon on the Mount, and where he healed many, and where he turned water into wine and so on, and on.  All of us in the group were led to hold our reverence for the place where Jesus was tortured, and led to his death.

We do the same thing today.  We have the shrine of 9/11 in New York and special reverence for that date that will be here in 3 days, it will be a Monday this year.  Also, there are highway memorials all over our country marking places with flower covered crosses where a loved one was killed in an accident. I understand it but perhaps there should be some token of remembrance at the person’s worksite, or school, or home, or somewhere at his or her church.  Perhaps a picture placed where he or she liked to be while they were still with us in their mist state.

You and I are a mist right now.  How do you want to be remembered?  Jesus said that he wanted to be remembered when we consumed the bread and wine, his body and blood.  He said, “Do this in remembrance of me.”  This is recorded in all of the synoptic Gospels and 1Cor. 11:24 & 25.  The cross was a Roman death tool but we have taken it as a memorial of murder: something to ponder.

These are the emblems I use to remember Jesus.  The Smaller one on the left I wear with my everyday clothes.  The larger one on the right that is in color I wear with my clericals.  Both show the chalice and the bread. This is how Jesus asked us to remember him while he was still in the mist.

St James asks, “What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.”  Let us not only praise Jesus but let’s obey his wishes also.

Let us hear what the Spirit is saying to and through God’s people. John+