Thursday, December 19, 2013

Daily Office Reflection: Readiness

Out of Focus, #5, 2013, jfd+
Zechariah 4:1-14; Revelation 4:9-5:5; Matthew 25:1-13, Psalms: 50 * 59, 60

We are six days away from celebrating, yet again, the birth of Jesus (five days from all those Eve services...and gatherings and parties). And I'm a bit torn, thinking, How did that happen? So soon? Juxtaposed against thinking, Wow, finally....There is so much happening, going on, during this season, that time can seem fleeting. Yet, the commercial aspects of this season have rolled back to (in some cases) before the end of October and Halloween, making it seem interminable.

What we hear in Matthew today, about the ten bridesmaids, five being ready and five not ready, and Jesus' admonition to keep awake, might help with this feeling of being torn. We are getting to the end of Matthew's Gospel, and Jesus is getting his last words-in for his disciples to hear - Matthew is getting to the end of his storyline and wants to make sure his listeners get the point -

We are called as followers of Jesus, our God/Human/Spirit Trinity, to always be working toward the development of the kingdom Jesus opens for all of us, and to not get distracted by things that do not accomplish that purpose. Are we ready? Are we truly ready to start again five days from now with this celebration of God come amongst us?

Probably not. For this demand to always be ready is an impossibility for any of us to accomplish alone. But working together, remembering that we are not in this alone, can help move the ball down the field a smidge...can help make the world better and more kingdom-like, readying the playing field for those who follow us to continue those efforts.

Copyright 2013, The Rev. John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved for Words and Images

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Daily Office Reflection: One Will Be Taken......

At the Gloaming, 2011, jfd+
Zechariah 2:1-13; Revelation 3:14-22; Matthew 24:32-44, Psalms 45 * 47, 48

Jesus is talking to his disciples today about end-times - known as Matthew's Apocalyptic Discourse. One of the phrases we hear twice today is: one will be taken and one will be left. Two women grinding meal together and two men in the field - one will be taken and one will be very unsettling that thought and phrase.

Matthew deals in secrets, with unknown times and unknown agents. So there is some theological basis for Matthew's enigmatic phrase one will be taken and one will be left... But there is another possible translation of the word "taken." That Greek word can also be translated as (and is in other places in scripture) received. One will be received and one will be will be received and one will be left. 

Isn't that how so many of us have found our faith journeys to be like? We are received into the household of God, while others on our journey chose not become members. We are received by the Holy Spirit, by our opening ourselves to her presence in and around us...there is mystery here, mystery that can be seen as secrets but really are not - those mysteries are part of the gift of faith we receive when we open ourselves to God Incarnate - whom we celebrate, remember, and worship in eight days. 

How can we assist others to be received too?

Copyright 2013, The Rev. John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved to art and words.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Daily Office Reflection: Advent Cleaning

Central Park, 2013, jfd+
Haggai 1:1-15; Revelation 2:18-29; Matthew 23:27-39; Psalms 31 * 35

Jesus is continuing his rant about the scribes and Pharisees in our reading from Matthew, telling the crowds and his disciples how hypocritical those officials are as a group. He has just had-it-up-to-here with them.

This is a perfect reading for us to have in the mid-to-end point of Advent. Jesus is using his foes as an example for us. There are a number of questions that can be prompted by this reading.

  • What inner work do we still need to accomplish to live the kingdom life to which Jesus is directing us before we begin anew on Christmas Day?
  • What facades do we have up, masking our real selves?
  • Do our actions belie our words?
  • Are we so stuck in what was, that we cannot move into the newness that each day presents to us?
Jesus is telling us to clean house, our own internal house, of the detritus that is ruinous to our ability to cross that bridge into the future, and the kingdom he opens for all of us.

Copyright 2013, The Rev. John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved to images and words.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Daily Office Reflection: Perspective

Fiona & Lincoln, August 2013
Amos 8:1-14; Revelation 1:17-2:7; Matthew 23:1-12, Psalms 38 * 56, 57, 58

We are projected to not get above zero here in Minnesota, with wind chills well into the negative teens. The frigid weather can make many feel penned in, and longing for warmer climes.

I have often wondered if Jesus felt constrained by his human nature: his divine self trying to burst out of his pores with frustration at the hypocrisy he found at every turn. In today's reading from Matthew, Jesus is speaking to the crowds about following the law and rules set down by God, and not mimicking what the leaders are doing. A kind-of-third-person Do as I say, not as I do example. He is telling that crowd, and really us, to not get ahead of not let our ego rule us...but instead to be focused on serving others, no matter how exalted we may think we are in life. 

This reading from Matthew, in the middle of the second week of Advent, is reminding us that God took on our human nature, and set the example for how we are to act in life. A good and proper Advent-reflection-topic to take on today.

Copyright 2013, The Rev. John F. Dwyer. All Rights to images and words Reserved.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Daily Office Reflection: God's Power

Out of Focus #3, 2013, jfd+
Amos 7:1-9; Revelation 1:1-8; Matthew:22:23-33, Psalms 25 * 44. 45, 46

So much effort is placed in trying to understand God. And many, if not most, of those attempts (scholarly, theologically, spiritually, pragmatically, you name the effort) result in putting God in a box. A box of our making...There, right there...that is God. And we can pat ourselves on the back and say we get it now. Often, when we do that, soon thereafter, something happens that disproves or challenges that understanding and frustration can set in, allowing others (or perhaps ourselves) to simply walk away saying Nope, there is no God.

That is part of the reasoning behind Jesus' interaction with the Sadducees today and their absurd question about the woman and the seven brothers and whose wife she is in the resurrection. They were living in a static, rigid, understanding of God. Jesus says God doesn't operate in that way.

We can all like rules and order....Do this...act this way and all will be well...God will be pleased. Those are human constraints placed on something that is beyond our ability to constrain...I think this is one of the reasons we have been given the gift of Jesus - God in human form, fully human and somehow also fully divine. This Jesus, whose entry into the world we celebrate in 16 days. (16 days! Crap, I've gotta mail those packages!) For in that mystery of this gift of Jesus, we have wrapped up in human form this challenge of not putting God in a box...This is one of the things Jesus is sent to us to prove, for he is always challenging us to think outside of that box.

As we continue to wait and prepare and dig into what this mystery means to us this Advent Season, one of the inquiries we can make of ourselves is how much we are trying to put God into a rigid structure, as opposed to living into the wideness and beauty that is God's presence.

Copyright 2013. The Rev. John F. Dwyer. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Daily Office Reflection: "We Do Not Know"

Out of Focus, #4, 2013, jfd+
Amos 3.12-4.4; 2 Peter 3:1-10; Matthew 21.23-32; Psalms 119;1-24 * 19,21,21

Where is our heart when we are responding to a question? This seems to be the central focus of Jesus' interaction with the chief priests and the elders of the temple in our Gospel selection from Matthew. They ask him, basically, who the hell he thinks he is doing the things and saying the things that he does...and he responds with a question about John the Baptist's authority.

Jesus is pushing them to really evaluate what is going on right in front of them...And their motives are clear to him that they want the status quo and refuse to give a direct and honest answer by saying, "We do not know" when in fact they do. His retort to their lie is a question in the form of the story of the two sons: one saying Nope go pound sand old man, I won't do the work in the vineyard, and then the son changes his mind and goes and does as his father asks; and the other says, Sure Pop, glad to, and when his father goes away he doesn't do as he said he would. The chief priests and the elders answer Jesus' question about this story correctly, and then Jesus points out that they are the latter child, not the former, because of their refusal to accept what is right in front of them: him.

We are challenged by this Gospel reading: 

  • to put away the selfishness of preservation of the status quo; 
  • to be honest and forthright about our intentions; and
  • to live the kingdom-life - doing the work to which Jesus' life, teachings, and ministry instruct us to aspire.
We all can make mistakes, and have second thoughts, and be indecisive, like the first son in Jesus' example story. That is just part of our human nature...Well, second and third and fourth thoughts too...But if we break those indecisions down, and really follow our heart based in God's love, we may initially answer, I don't know, but we will end up where that first son did - doing that which is right and correct and kingdom-building.


Copyright 2013, The Rev. John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved to images and words.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Monday of the First Week of Advent

Amos 2:6-16, 2 Peter 1:1-11, Matthew 21:1-11, Psalms: MP - 1, 2, 3; EP - 4, 7.

I have taken over a year off from writing reflections on the Daily Office. I've decided that for the new calendar year, the church one, I am going to make an effort to re-start my daily office reflections. Not a daily thing. But 3 to 4 times a week is the planned effort. So here goes....

Advent Wreath 2013
We have Jesus' triumphant entry into Jerusalem in our Gospel reading for today. Perhaps a seemingly odd choice of scripture readings for this first Monday in the advent season. For we are at the very beginning of our new church year. And we are provided with a portion of Matthew from the near end of that Gospel.

There is a bit of book ending by the writer of this Gospel going on today. He begins this book providing a genealogy of Jesus, Joseph's visit by an angel of God telling him that Mary is to bear the son of God,
 and then the visit by the three wise individuals to the infant who 
they described as the new king of the Jews, and Joseph being gifted another angelic visitor telling him to flee Herod's wrath.  At the 
very beginning of this Gospel, Jesus is announced as the new king and at the end of this Gospel Jesus is treated as a king upon his entry into Jerusalem.

What are we to take away from this reading? Perhaps it is two things. First, it is the marvel at the beauty of the story we enter into at the beginning of this new church year. And secondly, it is to remind us of who and what this infant in a manger we wait upon is and what he becomes. Not a bad start to Advent.

Copyright, The Rev. John Dwyer. 2013, all rights reserved.