Saturday, August 30, 2008

Daily Office Reflection: Hindering God's Light

Psalms 2, 21:1-7(8-14) * 110:1-5(6-7), 116, 117; Job 9:1, 10:1-9,16-22; Acts 11:1-18; John 8:12-20

Peter says in Acts today: who was I that could hinder God? He is responding to criticism that he had gone to see and eat with Gentiles. He tells those in his community who are critical of his actions about his dream where God showed him that all things that God creates are clean and not profane. All things.

This passage exhibits how the people around the disciples, and the disciples themselves, still did not get Jesus' message, after Jesus was no longer corporeally among them. They still wanted to make it a private club where they could select the members. We are still doing this 2000 years later. You got divorced, you have the wrong color skin, you act weird, you're gay or lesbian, well....You can't be part of our church. You can't be ordained or lead our church. 

So who are we to hinder God's work? Who are we to think we know the mind and purpose of God, of who is "in" and who is "out". That need for control, a very human desire, is not part of our call to serve Christ. As hard as it is, we are to welcome all, be joy-filled at everyone's presence and response to God's invitation to be one in the loving embrace that is God.

Copyright 2008, John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Daily Office Reflection: Protecting The Turf

Psalms 16, 17 * 22; Job 9:1-15,32-35; Acts 10:34-48; John 7:37-52

I had a boss once who was very protective of his "turf", of his job, his responsibilities. He seemed to live in a place of constant fear that it was all going to be taken away from him and he was going to be replaced by either one of the people who worked for him or by someone that his bosses would bring in "from the outside". 

This did not engender a tremendously friendly work environment, nor was it conducive to creating a team among the folks who worked for this gentleman. His insecurities ultimately led him into a fortress-like mentality for the department where creativity and ingenuity were squashed. Management finally figured out what was going on and this man's deepest fears came to fruition, because of his own doing.

There is a similar mentality exhibited by the Pharisees and other leaders to Jesus' actions at the last day of the festival of Booths that we hear about today. Even when one of their own, Nicodemus, asks a simple question about what they are doing, he gets squashed. Operating from a place of fear, having a siege mentality about new things, will almost always lead to self-destruction, self-caused implosion. We are not a stagnant species, but are vibrant and change and growth filled, with all of us able to fulfill our potential in ways surprising and joyful. bringing about the kingdom's existence among us in unimagined ways.

Copyright 2008, John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Daily Office Reflection: People From Home

Psalms 18:1-20 * 18:21-50; Job 8:1-10,20-22; Acts 10:17-33; John 7:14-36

When I was sent forth from my sponsoring parish, and on many occasions when I visited during my seminary years, parishioners would come up to me and excitedly exclaim how happy they were for me and ask when I was coming back. Some went so far to say, I can't wait for you to come back so that things can be like they were

The Diocese of New York has a rule, that is fairly common in TEC, which states that an individual raised from a particular parish cannot go back and serve that parish as priest, either as associate or rector. Certainly this, like many rules, is broken. Sometimes the cure at the sponsoring parish is a successful one, often times it is not. We hear people around Jesus say Yes we know where this man is from. It is so very hard to change impressions people have of others, particularly those they knew before some dramatic change occurred in their lives. And this image of people gets in the way of a priest being a priest.

Although where we come from helps form and shape us, that location and background is not all that we are or all that we will become. New York's rule is a good one as it understands human nature, both of the congregation and of the individual changed. 

People can and do change, and although the past informs, it does not have to control us.

Copyright 2008, John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Daily Office Reflection:Undercover and Being Known

Psalms 119:1-24 * 12, 13, 14; Job 6:1,7:1-21; Acts 10:1-16; John 7:1-13

Is it about us or about our works? Is it about you or about the works that you do?

Jesus' brothers are mentioned today and they say to him: for no one who wants to be widely known acts in secret If you do these things, show yourself to the world. Of course Jesus doesn't do what his brothers push him to do but instead goes in secret to be part of the great festival of Booths in Jerusalem. Their he hears lots of folks talking about him and getting it wrong, not understanding what his ministry is all about. That is not surprising as he hasn't finished what he needs to finish before he is truly known.

What is surprising is that we still do not really get it, even after 2000 years. Is it about us, or is it about the work?

Copyright 2008, John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Daily Office Reflection: Spirit Life

Psalms 5, 6 * 10, 11; Job 6:1-4,8-15,21; Acts 9:32-43; John 6:60-71

There are times we are inexplicably moved to "do" things. We can find ourselves all of a sudden doing something that is unusual for us, out of bounds, so to speak, from what we habitually find ourselves doing. Psychologists will work with an individual who is in a therapeutic relationship to drill down into that person's psyche to figure out what is driving that behavior, and this, many times, can bring an answer to the impulse or action being explored. There are other times when we cannot explain why we have done something.

Whichever is the case, I believe the Spirit is involved in those actions. Whether it is the Spirit leading those deep rooted desires from deep within ourselves to come out bringing us to action, or whether the Spirit surprises us with our ability to do something we thought to be unheard of and impossible for us to accomplish. The Spirit gives life Jesus says today. He tells us his words are spirit and life. This encounter with those following him comes right after he has told them it is necessary for them to eat his flesh and drink his blood, and he is questioned about how they are to understand this. My words are spirit and life and the Spirit gives life he responds.

It is a good thing to understand what drives us and from where, deep within us we might be driven to do the unexpected. It is equally as important to give credit to the Spirit working in our lives and in the world to help us move ever closer to God.

Copyright 2008, John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Daily Office Reflection: Literary Devices

Psalms 1, 2, 3 * 4, 7; Job 4:1, 5:1-11,17-21,26-27; Acts 9:19b-31; 6:52-59

Does the bread and wine we use for Eucharist truly become Jesus' body and blood? Does that bread get infused by the Holy Spirit making Jesus' presence real and tangible? Is Jesus using literary devices here (metaphors and similes) that make the religious acts symbolic? Should what we hear today be taken literally or figuratively? 

These are just some of the questions that arise when the Eucharist is discussed. This has been a raging debate for years uncounted with volumes written that can fill many a library. 

Our Eucharistic Prayers in the BCP take the Via Media, the middle road, as is expected. Both the transformation of the bread and wine and the symbolic nature of the actions can be found in the same prayers. But wherever we fall on this spectrum, being part of the common table, the shared meal, is vitally important. The root of what Jesus is planting here seems to be about taking Jesus into ourselves and being changed because of that taking in. Much like shadows can change an image that we are seeing, and as the sun moves along its course in our sky those shadows change, our understanding of what we are doing around the Eucharistic Table can change, but the thing that is throwing the shadow does not change. Jesus' love for us does not change nor does his message: that we will be transformed by the communal act we share around our common table.

Being a part of this kind of community is so vitally important for our souls and for our true selves to be nourished.

Copyright 2008, John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Daily Office Reflection: Birthdays and Life

Psalms 137:1-6(7-9), 144 * 104; Job 3:1-26; Acts 9:10-19a; John 6:41-51

As a child I always looked forward to birthdays. What wasn't there to look forward to? Presents, a party, being the center of attention for that special day where the gift of life is remembered to have started. I was very blessed to have a family that believed in making birthdays a special and celebratory moment. I do remember at those parties with family and friends all around, singing happy birthday while a candle laden cake was brought forth, being self-conscious and a bit embarrassed, while at the same time being thrilled that this was for me!

As I have grown older the importance and the "looking forward to" aspect of birthdays have waned some. I have friends who completely ignore their birthdays and won't tell you the date (or the year!). Perhaps it is fear of mortality or a denial of the passage of time or a combination of both. When I was turning 40 I remember feeling some mortality pangs. But I have come to terms with my growing older with a truthfulness and honesty about my mortality that is now part of my very being. 

I thank God each day for the gift of life. I also ask for help in navigating my way through life's thorny patches, knowing that I am not alone in that journey, and that if I should get snagged by one of those thorns, God will not only be there with me but will still love me, even in my imperfections.

As I celebrate the passing of another year today and the start of a bright and shiny new one, I thank God for all the blessings of my life and I pray that I may be a vessel for service to God's people.

Copyright 2008, John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Daily Office Reflection: Down Time

Psalms 119:145-176; Judges 18:16-31; Acts 8:14-25; John 6:1-15

We all need to find time, besides sleeping, in which to rest, to think, to settle things in our mind, to pray. Life is so very hectic and full, some of it our own doing, some of it not. Down time is so very important. For me it is the difference between a vacation where I am someplace where I have to go sightseeing as opposed to a vacation where I can simply relax. Both are of equal value, we choose the one that best suits our needs at the time we are making those plans. It is easy to forget that we need both of these kinds of vacation to thoroughly refresh us.

Jesus gives us the model of down time today. He performs a major miracle in front of thousands of people, who react as is to be expected: they want to make him king. He knows that is not his path and he escapes that reward, (or is it punishment?) He goes and he prays, he has some alone time with God.

I believe we can pray anywhere and anytime in life, all of these efforts being equally effective. There are times though when it is very important to have some quiet time in which to center ourselves and allow ourselves to be in the presence of the Holy without a lot of distraction fighting for our attention. This can be an enormously vulnerable time making many people uncomfortable. If we live into that uncomfortableness, we will find God will be there with us.

Copyright 2008, John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Daily Office Reflection: Proper Focus

Psalms (120), 121, 122, 123 * 124, 125, 126 (127); Judges 18:1-15; Acts 8:1-13; John 5:30-47

So much of human history and human life is spent idolizing other human beings. Many of these folks did great things at huge personal cost to themselves. Others of these idolized individuals did it for personal gain and self-aggrandizement. All of them have died (or will at some point) and new "gods" will be raised in their place.

It is so easy to point to others and say "look at how great they are. I could never do that." Perhaps we can't do exactly what these others do, but we all have gifts. Gifts to share with others who need them, not for our own benefit, but for the benefit of creating God's kingdom, here and now.  

Jesus reminds us of these things today with his condemnation of the scribes and pharisees for looking for salvation in the written word as opposed to finding salvation in Jesus. 

It is a great honor to be applauded for our talents and successes, but that glory given is often by humans and for humans. Jesus says today "I do not accept glory from human beings." He knows his glory comes from God alone, where ours does as well. Accolades and congratulations are all wonderful, yet temporal, things. We always need to be focused on the glory that comes from God and on those works of ours that perhaps go un-applauded, yet have lasting impact.

Copyright 2008, John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved. 

Monday, August 18, 2008

Daily Office Reflection:Being Dead No More

Psalms 106:1-1-18 * 106:19-48; Judges 17:1-13; Acts 7:44-8:1a; John 5:19-29

I consider myself a pretty faithful person. Faithful to friends, to family, to my employer, to the Church, and to God. Nevertheless, that faithfulness does not mean that I never have doubts, or that I don't get depressed at times. Not clinically depressed, but just "down" about life sometimes. There are times when I can just come out of this kind of funk quickly and there are other times where a malaise sets in from which I have to affirmatively struggle my way out. There is no set trick that can lift that cloud from me: sometimes it is simply reading, other times it is a good workout, other times it is painting or some other creative endeavor, and at times it is simply being able to talk to a friend about that feeling. When I was younger, it was easy to forget about prayer when I was down in the dumps. Not so much now, although prayer is not a panacea for all things, it is a helpful tool in the arsenal.

When I come out the other side of that malaise, besides feeling better, I always feel much more alive. I think this is analogous to Jesus saying today I tell you, the hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. For having Jesus as our Savior, having him in our lives, a part of our lives, walking with us on the journey through this life, makes us dead no more. When we are alive with Christ, we are alive to new possibilities and new ways to see and interact with the world. Not everything is perfect, life will never be that. But having Christ in our life, with us on the journey, makes those dark moments and times an easier burden to live through and find our way to the other side.

Copyright 2008, John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Daily Office Reflection: A Loving Cure

Psalms 107:33-43, 108:1-13 * 33; Judges 16:1-14; Acts: 7:30-43 John 5:1-18

This past week I made my monthly rounds to parishioners who are in nursing homes or hospitals, bringing them Holy Communion and visiting with them for while. A woman in an Episcopal nursing home is slowly failing. she is shrinking down to nothing, is rarely awake, cannot speak or feed herself. She is surrounded by hundreds of people in similar physical conditions. I also visited a gentleman who is in a lock-down ward of a public psychiatric institution. He was, obviously, on his meds and was somewhat lucid (at least for him), but his surroundings are such that I hope and pray he doesn't recognize too well were he is or the conditions under which he must survive.

As I read John's Gospel this morning and Jesus' healing of the man who had been sitting by the side of the healing pool for 38 years, these two individuals came to my mind. For Emily, I hope and pray for a peaceful end to her existence. It is not much of a life, being curled up in bed all day, not aware of your surroundings. I pray that Jesus will heal her by bringing her into his everlasting and loving embrace soon. For Judson, who is a danger to himself and to others, even when he is on his meds, I pray that Jesus can make his existence not overly difficult for him to bear and to heal him to the point where he can live in the world again. Until that time, I will continue to visit both of them for there is no one else who does.

Copyright 2008, John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Daily Office Reflection: St. Mary the Virgin Day

MP: Psalms 113, 115; 1Samuel 2:1-10; John 2:1-12
EP: Psalms 45 or 138, 149; Jeremiah 31:1-14, or Jeremiah 2:10-13; John 19:23-27 or Acts 1:6-14

If we look hard enough, we can find almost anything in the Bible. This exercise has been done for centuries, usually to justify some action, or as history might judge it, some misguided action. Whether it be persecution, or war, or genocide, the Bible can be a very dangerous instrumentality when bent to rationalize human conduct/misconduct. 

Today we celebrate Jesus' mother Mary. In "higher" Episcopal churches, this is a very important feast day. In those churches that have a different, perhaps a more protestant, sensibility this feast day is pretty much ignored.  In reading Morning Prayer today I was struck by a verse from the reading from First Samuel. We have Hannah's song of praise where she praises God and beautifully and graphically expresses how all things are from God. Near the end of today's selection she says for not by might does one prevail. This small phrase in the midst of some strong descriptors makes clear why this reading is part of Mary's feast day. This small phrase exemplifies Jesus' life, exemplifies his mother's life. This phrase underpins so much of what we read and see in the Gospels about how Jesus acts and how his mother acts. And how we should act. 

Although there is a lot of blood and guts stories in the Bible, this small phrase uttered by Hannah shows a different path and a different manner in which to view Scripture. God's love abounds in our lives and in the lives of those around us. A simple thing to forget in this harsh world.

Copyright 2008, John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Daily Office Reflection: Jonathan Myrick Daniels

Psalms 105:1-22 * 105:23-45; Judges 14:1-19; Acts 6:15-7:16; John 4:27-42

I met Ruby Sales a little over a year ago. She came to the church at which I work one Sunday morning, sitting in the back row. She introduced herself on the way in and her name was like a clarion bell. She is a very unassuming and quiet individual. She became a regular for a few months and then her life took her elsewhere.

We asked if she would do us the favor and preach for our congregation. Initially she said that she would think about it, but later refused. Although still active in civil rights she was looking for a worship space to worship and pray and didn't feel called to preach. Although slightly disappointed we understood and respected her requests.

I had often wondered before I met her, and have continued to wonder since, if she has ever gotten over that terrible day  of August 14, 1965 when a 12-gauge shotgun was fired at her 16 year old self, but hit 26 year old Jonathan Daniels, who had pushed her out of the way. Is it possible to ever completely get over that kind of trauma? We remember and commemorate Jonathan Myrick Daniels in Lesser Feasts and Fasts today. We should also remember Ruby Sales and the countless others whose lives were saved and continue to be affected by sacrifices made by them and on their behalf in the civil rights movement.

Copyright 2008, John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Daily Office Reflection: Knowing

Psalms 101, 109:5-30 * 119:121-144; Judges 13:15-24; Acts 6:1-15; John 4:1-26

Everyone has secrets. We all try to hide some things in our lives: things we're embarrassed about; times we would like to forget happened; ways in which we acted. Some will build elaborate lies to shield themselves from others knowing the truth about them. Most times, that does not work and those walls we build come crashing down at some point and the whole sordid truth comes out. Sometimes we are successful in hiding some facts from our fellow travelers.
Not so with God though. The Samaritan Woman learned that at the well in her conversation with Jesus. We should remember this as well: we cannot hide anything from God. Every nook and cranny of our being is known and loved by God. To think otherwise is to fool ourselves and to lessen our relationship with God.
Copyright 2008, John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Daily Office Reflection: Giving It Up

Psalms 97, 99 (100) * 94 (95); Judges 13:1-15; Acts 5:27-42; John 3:22-36

I think it is human nature to want to be remembered, to be the one remembered for doing something no one else can do. Few of us can acheive something on a universal-world shaking scale. All of us can and do acheive this on a smaller but just as important scale: with one person whom we love, or with a family member or parent, or a dear friend who knows us better than we know ourselves. We will be remembered, for the particular way we laugh, or pass a glance, or approach an issue or problem, or our deep and abiding love.
It is easy for our ego to get in the way of appreciating this truth: many of us want something bigger, or grander. Giving that up is probably the healthiest thing we can do. Look at John the Baptist today: people had been flocking to him, but alas, this other person has taken his place. The people close to John the Baptist ask him "doesn't this bother you"? And John says, basically, "No. I have done what I can do, as best as I can do. He is doing something different." Although John said he must fade and Jesus must shine, John is still remembered and will be remembered for his work and his love of God.
We all can be replaced...we all will be replaced at some point. None of us live forever. Making those personal and loving connections makes us as immortal as our mortal beings will allow us to be. And that is quite enough.
Copyright 2008, John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Daily Office Reflection: In God

Psalms 89:1-18 * 89:19-52; Judges 12:1-7; Acts 5:12-26; John 3:1-21

those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God. 

Light and dark are such vivid images in literature as well as in movie-making. The film Ordinary People comes to mind when I think of the effective use of of light and dark. This is one of the films I name when I am asked that very difficult question "What is your favorite film?" I have a few that I pick from but this is one that I name frequently. 

The light effects in this film change, subtle but in quite dramatic fashion as the film progresses. The lead character finally finds his way to truth and the light changes. This, I think, is what John is talking about when he gives Jesus these words to say to Nicodemus. John uses the metaphorical images of light and dark constantly: light for things in God and dark for things not of God.

We all know when we are doing things that are in God and when we are not. We know it deep in our gut and it is important to pay attention to our gut when those instincts are speaking to us. Today's passage from John reminds us to live in that place of light as we will find God with us there and we will find peace.

Copyright 2008, John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Daily Office Reflection: Cleaning House

Psalms 87, 90 * 136; Judges 9:22-25,50-57; Acts 4:32-5:11; John 2:13-25

Allie is in the middle of the twice yearly shedding of her under-coat. Just running my hand down her back, or scratching her flank, my hand comes away with fist full gobs of hair. Her coat is long so this isn't short hair, but long and fine. And there is a lot of it. I am not understating this fact. Brushing her twice a day produces a bag full of hair each time, which you might think alleviates her hair filling the apartment. Think again. This is truly a miraculous feat of nature, the amount of hair that is coming off this dog: awesome in volume and trying on my patience.

I like to keep my place clean and neat. I have a weekly cleaning regimen that assists in that deep need of mine to live in a clean and neat environment. This shedding is seriously impacting that schedule, proving yet again that flexibility and adaptability are important aspects of moving through this world. I know Allie will stop shedding soon and my routine will go back to normal, until she starts again in six months, but that knowledge is little comfort to my psyche as I see tumbleweeds of her hair moving through the apartment, finding homes of their own in every unreachable nook and cranny.

Jesus must have felt a similar ajeda in the stomach when he walked into the temple and saw all this disrespectful trading and commerce going on in God's house of prayer; all of which got in the way of God's people being able to worship God. He wanted to make God's house, his own house, clean and neat: clearing away the clutter to give people an easier chance to commune with the Almighty. For that is one of the things Jesus was doing today in chasing those merchants out of the temple: getting rid of the distractions that can get in the way of God's people being with God. That temple cleansing can be symbolic of each of our bodies and minds, reminding us to un-clutter, un-complicate our lives, helping us to find God in that neat and clean place.

Copyright 2008, John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Daily Office Reflection:Purified Wine

Psalms 88 * 91, 92; Judges 9:1-16,19-21; Acts 4:13-31; John 2:1-12

I love three day weekends, although I rarely get all three days off as I have to lead services on Sunday. But those languid days remain close in my mind and heart. If they weren't I would still notice their existence because attendance is always substantially down on three day weekends as so many people enjoy those extended weekends by going away: to the beach, the mountains, to visit friends and family.

Three is an important number: "lucky threes", three outs in baseball, a triple play, the Trinity, three days in the tomb.

John tips his hand, again, today. The first phrase in chapter 2 is "on the third day" signaling the importance of three days in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. John is like that, full of clear hints, sharp symbolism. Jesus' turning water into wine and the importance of wine is brought to the forefront in this early chapter of John as well. This is no ordinary story.

Copyright 2008, John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Daily Office Reflection: Following

Psalms (83), 145 * (85), 86; Judges 8:22-35; Acts 4:1-12; John 1:43-51

Yesterday Jesus invited two disciples to Come and See after they asked him where he was staying. (We didn't read this yesterday because we were celebrating the Feast of the Transfiguration.) Andrew, one of the disciples so invited went back to his brother, Simon Peter, who comes and meets Jesus. Today Jesus invites Philip to Follow me. Philip spreads the word and tries to bring Nathanael into the fold using Jesus' own phrase Come and See.

Such gracious invitations extended today to this forming band of Jesus followers. There is an underground excitement that can be felt and heard: something new is amongst us! Only, what they expected and how it turns out are two radically different ideas of what it means to follow and to lead. We are still learning these basic lessons but our first step in learning, in understanding this mysterious God in human form, is to accept that gracious invitation to Come and See. All our expectations are changed when we truly accept that invitation. We see a different world around us, we have a new appreciation for things we have taken for granted before. And we are different for following. And that difference makes it hard for others to understand, which in turn can make it hard for us to continue following and in our turn, inviting.

Perhaps that initial excitement we hear and see in today's invitations can be bottled up somehow to break open and infect us at those times of doubt and misunderstanding. The only way I know how to uncork that bottle is through prayer.

Copyright 2008, John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Daily Office Reflection: The Transfiguration

MP: Psalms 2, 24; Exodus 24:12-18; 1Corinthians 4:1-6
EP: Psalm 72; Daniel 7:9-10,13-14; John 12:27-36a

So many things in life transform from one thing to another. Plants do this, animals do this, and humans do this. Although the latter many times does not admit to being transformed as it involves change, and there seems to be an inborn gene in us humans to resist change or at least refuse to admit that it is happening all around us and to us. Most transformations are slow processes that take form and shape over time.

The Transfiguration we hear about today is something different from this slow metamorphosis/transformation. This Transfiguration is an absolute change from one thing to a completely different thing. Jesus did more than change today, he did more than transform. His was radical and immediate and far different than anything the three disciples with him had ever seen. 

This is one of those feasts where the imminent God is actually very present and close at hand. An awesome display of power and presence and possibility.

Copyright 2008, John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Daily Office Reflection: Answering

Psalms: 78(1-39) * 78(40-72); Judges 7:1-18; Acts 3:1-11; John 1:19-28

When I was a practicing attorney I often found myself preparing people to give depositions or testify at trial. We always would go over their knowledge of the facts important to the case in great detail. We would also practice their testimony, by my asking them questions, and their providing an answer. Invariably, I would say Answer the question asked, no more, no less. This proved to be a difficult thing to do for almost every witness I have ever encountered. People always want to explain what they mean, or provide more detail then was asked for: which for the attorney asking the questions is a dream because it provides more avenues to explore.

With this in mind, John the Baptist would have been a dream client for me. (In other ways he would have been a horror show, but in this one thing, he would have excelled.) Look at the answers he gives the priests and Levites who are sent to question him today: I am not the Messiah; I am not; No; I am the voice in the wilderness; make straight the path of the Lord. Short, concise answers. John the Baptist today answers the questions asked, no more, no less. He does not put on airs, or mislead people about his purpose or who is is. He is the preparer, the ground-breaker for the one who is to follow.

Life is very complicated and short, concise answers may not always be possible. This is something to keep in mind though: to remember who we are and why we are here and to live into that knowledge telling people simply and clearly our answer to the question, But who are you? Answering that is easier with the knowledge that we are not alone on the journey.

Copyright 2008. John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Daily Office Reflection: In The Beginning

Psalms: 80 * 77 (79); Judges 6:25-40; Acts 2:37-47; John 1:1-18

Our Daily Office lectionary provides us with a new beginning today. We begin a two month journey with the Gospel of John. This Gospel is unlike the other three, in form and in structure and in much of its content. These writings have been used over the course of history in very hurtful ways, so I always approach John with a different kind of fear and trepidation then I have for the Gospels of Mark, Matthew and Luke. 

In these opening 18 verses John pre-images so much of what is to come. Hours and hours can spent just on these verses, drawing lines to their correlation to later parts of the Gospel....These verses are truly a thumbnail sketch of much of what is to come, with the broad general themes of this Gospel laid out for us. What stands out for me today is the word light....and the image of light as a critical metaphor for this entire Gospel: and the life was the light of all people; The light shines in the darkness; testify to the light; he himself was not the light, but came to testify to the light; The true light. Light and darkness, things that still are clear metaphors for our world.

Copyright 2008, John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved. 

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Daily Office Reflection: Matthew Wraps It Up

Psalms 75,76 * 23,27; Judges 5:19-31; Acts 2:22-36; Matthew 28:11-20

Words carry such heavy weight to them: they can cause such great joy and great pain. Being careful in the choice of words utilized is essential to accurately expressing oneself. And it is so easy to use inappropriate words when we are angry or agitated or tired or just plain fed up. It is kind of like having a filter between the thoughts in your head and your vocal chords allowing a pause for thought before saying something.

We have Jesus as a model who was direct in the things he said and at the same time careful in the things he said, in the way he phrased those thoughts, in the stories he told, in the parables he created to illumine the kingdom of heaven he was proclaiming.

Injudicious reactivity will almost always prove harmful: to the one(s) to whom it is directed but just as injurious to the one who speaks it.

Copyright 2008, John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.