Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Daily Office Reflection: Strange and Wondrous Things

Psalms 97, 99 (100) * 94 (95); Hosea 4:1-10; Acts 21:1-14; Luke 5:12-26

As a child I never experienced going to a traveling circus or carnival where they had strange and exotic "marvels" of the world, for which you would have to pay money to see. The closest I have ever gotten to those kinds of shows as a child was by seeing them depicted in television shows. My parents would take me to Madison Square Garden in New York City to see Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Circus when it was in town. And certainly there were strange and wondrous things to witness there. But not the same as those carnivals.

In the recent past I went to a Cirque de'Soleil show in New York, and didn't see carnival-like marvels but great and, at times, strange things. These acts at Cirque and Ringling Bros shows were not the "freaks" that I would see depicted on television shows of what carnivals were like. As a child I was interested in trying to go to one of those....perhaps they had already become extinct by the time I was a child and simply had been glorified on television. 

As I have grown older I wonder how I would have reacted had I seen those "freaks": the tallest woman, the fattest man, the Siamese twins, dwarfs. All put on display because they were different from the mass of humanity. Would I have made fun of them? Would I have felt pity for them? Would I have been horrified? I know how I would feel now about their exploitation, but I am not sure how I would have reacted as a child. 

We have "freaks" of Jesus' time in today's Gospel: a leper, a paralytic, those with all kinds of diseases. In that time period these folk would have been ostracized and thought to have sinned causing them to have these afflictions. They would have been abnormal and considered freaks of their day and age. Jesus doesn't consider them freaks or abnormal: they are simply humans with human ailments and frailties. And he treats all of them with respect and cures all of them. What strange and wondrous things those people witnessed: all of these people were treated the same, like they were all made in God's image, not just a select few. What an interesting thought: that none of us are freaks, that all of us are made in God's image.

Copyright 2008, All Rights Reserved. John F. Dwyer

Monday, September 29, 2008

Daily Office Reflection: St. Michael & All Angels

MP: Psalms 8, 148; Job 38:1-7; Hebrews 1:1-14
EP: Psalms 34, 150 or 104; Daniel 12:1-3 or 2Kings 6:8-17; Mark 13:21-27 or Revelation 5:1-14

Lesser Feasts and Fasts tells us today that the word angel means messenger, even though over the course of centuries angels have become known as and have been depicted like otherworldly winged humans robed in white.I think angels are something else.  And messenger can mean many different things, take many different guises, both good and bad. 

In our MP lessons today we are reminded of two things: in Job we are reminded that although we like to put human characteristics upon God, it is meaningless to do so because God is God, who created the earth and all that is on it. Likewise trying to explain angels by placing those same human characteristics upon them is also as pointless. And in Hebrews we hear that great line (words used in one of our Eucharistic Prayers) in these last days. Here we are listening to elements of a theology of the kingdom, the kingdom being present here and now.

Interesting readings assigned to Michael and All Angels: to Michael and all messengers that we have from God. God hasn't stopped communicating with us, communing with us for we have the proof of that by the Incarnation. We all are created in God's image, all of us in our complexity and differences. The Incarnation brings God's love to us "home", to help us understand this beautiful fact: that God's love for us is personal and we are known. And although we don't have the corporeal Jesus with us, God has gifted us the Spirit to aid in guiding us. Part of that whole Spirit-thing is being cognizant to and on the look out for messengers in these last days.  For we are in the Kingdom now and we are called to strive for perfection, no matter how impossible that may be.

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

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Daily Office Reflection: Bringing It

Psalms 87, 90 * 136; Hosea 1:1-2:1; Acts 20:1-16; Luke 4:38-44

When we find someplace we like, it is hard to move on to something new, someplace new. Likewise, when people like us, they don't want to let go of us. There is a comfort in the familiar, there is a confidence and a consistency in the known quantity. 

Jesus faced some of that today. He cures Simon's mother-in-law and then "all those" who were sick in any way, shape, manner or form came to him and he cured them all. They liked this guy! They liked the weird things that he was saying and his odd world view, although they probably didn't really understand all of what he was saying and doing. They just knew that they needed to keep him around.

Jesus replies by saying I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other cities also, for I was sent for this purpose.  He was saying: I like you folks too! But I've gotta go so others can feel this way too! I think we are challenged by Jesus today. We are challenged to take a look around us and consider whether we are too comfortable: are we preaching to the same choir over and over again. Are we spreading the good news to those who haven't heard it yet? Are we opening the kingdom's borders to those who have been excluded? For that is what we have been sent to do.

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

Friday, September 26, 2008

Daily Office Reflection:Queen Esther & Judith

Psalms 88 * 91, 92; Esther 8:1-8,13-17 or Judith 13:1-20; Acts 19:21-41; Luke 4:31-37

Women were made in God's image, just like men. We know this from the beginning of the Bible: in Genesis we are told this. That point does not seem to have registered with the world very well. Misogynism throughout time has hidden that simple truth. So on the one hand we should not find it surprising that God works through two women in our concluding stories of Esther and Judith we have today. On the other hand, these stories are a reminder to us that God knows the world's misogynistic tendencies, and works through women to try and get the world to move beyond them.

Queen Esther saves the Jewish people living under the reign of King Ahasuerus and defeats her nemesis Haman at the conclusion of her story. Judith cuts off the head of the aggressor army, Holofernes, thereby saving her town from destruction. These stories are important to remember for there are many places in the world today where women are not "equal", are not considered made in the image of God. We don't have to look all that far away from our own country here to know that is true as well: the recent political campaigns have shown just how unequal and misogynistic American society continues to be. 

We learn slow, we humans. But we don't have to put up with inappropriate behavior on anyone's part. Our Hebrew Testament readings today show us the strength and power of women. We should never forget that women have been made in the image of God, that God works through women to bring light to the world. This can be challenging with the very masculine language we use in our common prayer. Yet, perhaps when we utilize those masculine  pronouns, we can can remember and know that providing God with only a masculine side is denying the fulness and complexity that is our creator. By remembering that, we will be taking a step into the unknown, allowing God to be the mystery that God is.

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

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Daily Office Reflection:The HS

Psalms (83) or 116, 117 *85, 86; Esther 7:1-10 or Judith 12:1-20; Acts 19:11-20; Luke 4:14-30

There have been a few times in my life when I have felt like I was filled with the Holy Spirit. Friends of mine refer to it as instinct, or a gut feeling. Perhaps, as some of them believe, it is just a matter of semantics, or perhaps it is an unwillingness on their part to admit to a spiritual aspect guiding their lives and their decisions. I have felt this presence of the HS when I said yes (to myself) to start a conversation about ordained ministry. I felt it again upon my first visit the what would be my seminary home for three years and I felt the presence and guidance of the HS upon my first call to serve as a priest. Have all those positive responses on my part to the HS' presence and guidance led to a happy-clappy experience? Has it all been peace and joy and good times? No. Life is not like that, but I have never regretted those decisions.

Jesus leaves the desert today, fresh from his encounter with his Adversary, and we are told that he is filled with the power of the Spirit. He has the gumption to go to his home town and is, as with most attempts to go home again, rebuffed. This Spirit that filled him gave him the strength to face his nay-sayers and give them the opportunity to become part of this new thing that was developing with him at its center. Jesus' journey was not an easy one: not all happy-clappy, joy-filled and peaceful. Life is not like that. 

Listening to the HS, being filled with the HS has more to do with being on the right path, doing the right thing, having the confidence to face what we must and do what is necessary, and accept the consequences of those decisions. Scary? Yes. Worth it? Absolutely.

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

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Daily Office Reflection: Hunger

Psalm 119:97-120 * 81, 82; Esther 6:1-14, or Judith 10:1-23; Acts 19:1-10; Luke 4:1-13

Jesus was in the desert for 40 days, at the end of which we are told by Luke he is famished. It is then his adversary challenges Jesus to put himself forward as greater than God. It was when Jesus was weak, hungry, probably longing for human companionship that his adversary came forward to try to alter the direction of Jesus' path. We are told at the end of today's lectionary selection that this adversary departed from him until an opportune time. Jesus defeated him that day, but that doesn't mean his adversary disappeared for all time. The same is true today, for us.

When we are at our weakest, when we are hurt or lonely, hungry or depressed, this is when our lesser selves can make decisions or we can take actions that we later regret. This occurs when we listen to our lesser selves, some base emotion or drive that diminishes the light that is our better selves. We are all human and we all make mistakes, but those mistakes don't have to define us, they don't have to make us into something lesser than we truly are. We shouldn't allow ourselves to wallow in our mistakes. Instead we need to recognize them for what they were, understand how we got to the place where we could make that mistake, and then put it aside, moving to and listening to our better selves. We will be a beacon of hope and love to ourselves and to others then. 

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

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Daily Office Reflection: Pleased

Psalms 78:1-39 * 78:40-72; Esther 5:1-14, or Judith 8:9-17, 9:1,7-10; Acts 18:12-28; Luke 5:15-22

Our senior warden likes to remind us that he is a pleaser: that he likes to please people. He tells us that being the middle child in his family he has always been the peacemaker and that has morphed into wanting to please people. Being a middle child myself, I can understand those sentiments and that drive.

As a child I loved when I did something correctly and my parents told me they were pleased. To some extent, that is still true today in both my personal and my professional life. Good job! Well done! I am pleased with what you have accomplished. Those are all words that strike a chord deep within me and provides me with some strength to continue on. I wonder what Jesus felt like when this disembodied voice from heaven spoke to him saying well done, I am pleased with you my son.  After all, Jesus was fully human as well as fully divine, he must have felt some pleasure deep within him. A clicking into place for him that he was doing the correct thing, that he was starting on the correct path: being the embodiment of God's love for the world. Wouldn't it be lovely if we all had that re-enforcement in our lives? We can and we do: we just don't always know it or recognize it.

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

Monday, September 22, 2008

Daily Office Reflection: Be Satisfied

Psalms 80 * 7 7(79); Esther 4:4-17; Judith 7:1-7,19-32; Acts 18:1-11; Luke (1:1-4) 3:1-14

We enter into the Gospel of Luke today, leaving John behind. We'll be moving through Luke now until the end of the Church Year, which seems far away, but Advent will be here in the blink of an eye. Life goes by in the blink of an eye.

We are given Luke's prelude and explanation of what is to come in his orderly and well researched account of Jesus' life, and then we jump right into John the Baptist, who is baptizing and preaching today. When asked what they should do, John tells the crowds: if you have two coins, give one to the individual in need, don't be greedy, take only what you need or is prescribed for you, don't extort money.....and be satisfied. Be satisfied with your wages Luke says John proclaims. What a beginning. What a summary of what is to come. Be satisfied.

I am always fascinated with how little we have changed since these and other ancient works were written. Our innate human nature stands challenged by these stories and instructions to move to a different world view. What we are being asked to do is no simple feat. To be satisfied, to be generous to others, to not be greedy but generous can be difficult values to make the center of our existence.

A 26 year old parishioner of mine is struggling with loss right now. His mother just committed suicide. The loss, the guilt, the pain, the "what ifs", the anger, the confusion that dominate a person's mind at a time like this is overwhelming. Why couldn't she have been satisfied? Mental illness is such a  seriously misunderstood and mis-treated disease. Beth is beyond human help now, but the wreckage caused by her actions remain, and will remain for a long time. 

Pray for the repose of her soul. Pray for the family she leaves behind that they may find a way to peace and forgiveness and that they may find a way to Luke's state of satisfaction.

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

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Daily Office Reflection: Judging

Psalms 75, 76 * 23, 27; Esther 2:5-8,15-23 or Judith 5:1-21; Acts 17:16-34; John 12:44-50

We do like to judge people. Whether they are hip enough, fit enough, orthodox enough, liberal enough, or any assortment of rules and regulations we can come up with to justify both judging and being exclusive. These kinds of associations allow us to feel special, better even, than those whom we are judging and by that judgment, excluding.

I do not judge anyone who hears my words and does not keep them, for I cam not to judge the world but to save the world.  Jesus leaves it up to God to judge. People come to an awakening in their own time, in their own way and some never make it, or seem not to by the standards we set. Perhaps that shouldn't be our focus at all and leave that to God. Perhaps we should be that radical and prophetic and inclusive and loving presence that Jesus models for us. Wouldn't that be something.

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

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Daily Office Reflection: Follow the Light, Be the Light

Psalms 70, 71 * 74; Job 28:1-18; Acts 16:25-40; John 12:17-36a

Yesterday we heard Jesus say to Andrew and Philip: Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Today Jesus continues talking with Andrew and Philip saying While you have the light, believe in the light, so that you may become children of the light.

Part of the conversation between these two statements has Jesus saying he will be lifted up so that the whole world will be drawn to him. The whole world will be drawn to him, not come to him, but drawn to him. I find this a majestic image. His light is not extinguished when he is lifted up, rather that light is magnified. And we, Jesus' followers have Jesus by our side and are children of the light. That beatific light can and does shine through us, although certainly not at the same magnitude that it does from Jesus. That light beckons others to come beside Jesus, become children of this light and in turn emanate light out to the world to bring others, more, in next to Jesus.

We can all feel dark at times where we don't feel much like a lantern of hope, a beacon of love: but even in those times, we are. We only have to remember that Jesus is beside us, is always with us, and those shields we have placed on that light that is within us will once again burst forth. We all can be beacons of light to those who need to find a way out of darkness.

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

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Daily Office Reflection: Nothing Can Hold Him Back

Psalms 61,62 * 68:1-20(21-23)24-36; Job 40:1, 41:1-11; Acts 16:6-15; John 12:9-19

You see, you can do nothing. Look, the world has gone after him!

Something in human nature makes some of us want to sabotage things. Some will do it aggressively and obviously, others will do it passively and not as obviously. The Pharisees have already been plotting to try and figure out a way to kill Jesus. We hear today that they have also decided that they must kill Lazarus as well, to try and wipe away all tangible vestiges of Jesus' miracles and life from this world. But then the crowd hears that Jesus is at Lazarus' house in Bethany and they flock to him. And then he makes his triumphal entry into Jerusalem, on the seat of a donkey's colt, with palm branches and exultations being sung at him, and the Pharisees throw their hands up in exasperation, saying, oh my! What are we going to do now! The whole world is following him

We know they try anyway and they do succeed in killing Jesus' human body. We also know that they were not successful in stamping out his work and that, indeed, for 2000 years the whole world has gone after him. In those moments that we all have, of doubt, of questions, of total lack of understanding, this phrase and the Pharisees defeat is an anchor on which to hold as we seek for that illumination which Jesus' love can give to each and every one of us.

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

Monday, September 15, 2008

Daily Office Reflection: Anointing

Psalms 56, 57, (58) * 64, 65; Job 40:1-24; Acts 15:36-16.5; John 11:55-12:8

A year ago today I was ordained a priest at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, by The Right Reverend Mark S. Sisk. The picture to the right is of my hands being anointed by Bishop Sisk with holy oil: a symbolic act of making my hands ready for blessing and healing.

In John's Gospel, Jesus is at Lazarus' house (yet again). This time Martha has prepared a feast for him, while Mary anoints his feet with a pound of costly perfume and wipes his perfumed feet with her hair. This anointing of Jesus' feet was a symbolic act presaging his death and entombment. Jesus was changed after this anointing, just as I'm sure Mary and all present were changed.

Anointing someone with healing oil is one of the things a priest does at a sick bed and at the bedside of someone who is dying. Anointing changes someone. There is some inward physical shift that makes us no longer the same: we can never go back to being a person who has not been anointed once the deed has been done to us. We can deny it, not talk about it, pretend it didn't happen, but deep within ourselves we know we are different. Much like being a Christian makes us different and with that difference comes a responsibility to live into and be models of the radical inclusivity that Jesus professed for us.

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

Friday, September 12, 2008

Daily Office Reflection: Come and See, Part Duex

Psalms 40, 54 * 51; Job 29:1,31:24-40; Acts 15:12-21; John 11:30-44

When I was fulfilling my CPE requirement during seminary, I visited a surgery patient who had some thoracic surgery. After a couple of minutes of conversation, him sitting in the high back chair in the room and me standing nearby, he took the bottom edge of his hospital gown (which was untied and open in the back) and lifted it up so I could see his surgical scar and he said: See what they have done to me?!? The scar was a large I shaped scar going from his chest to his groin. It was important to this gentleman that I actually see what had been done to him, to see the scar that was a cause of a feeling of deep personal violation. To see the physical manifestation of his fear.

Seeing, truly seeing, being truly present, is part of being with someone in their pain, in their joy and in the in-between times. In John' Gospel today we hear a phrase we heard in the first chapter: Come and See. Jesus said that to Andrew and another of the disciples when they asked him where he was staying. Come and see for yourselves Jesus says to them: come and open your eyes and be present to whom you are speaking. This phrase is often used as an invitation into a church community.

Jesus gets this phrase turned onto himself today. He is approaching the home of his friend Lazarus, who has been dead four days, and Martha and Mary's home. Mary approaches him on his walk, Jesus asks where Lazarus has been laid and Mary says Come and See. At this moment Jesus sees the great despair his friends are in and is disturbed. Although he has known about Lazarus' death from the moment of its occurrence, and how his raising Lazarus would be one of manifestations of his power here on earth, it wasn't until this moment that he personally understood the pain his friends have been in for the past four days.

To Come and See is not only an invitation to enter a church community, it is also an invitation to open ourselves to each other, to really be present to each other. Through that deep personal presence, we get to know God's presence here with us: in all our joy, and all our pain, and in all those in-between times.

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

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Daily Office Reflection: Sept. 11th

Psalms: 50 * (59) 60 or 93, 96; Job 29:1,31:1-23; Acts 15:1-11; John 11:17-29

I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?

Seven years ago today, right about now, I was in my office two blocks from the World Trade Center starting what I thought would be another busy, yet typical day. A few hours later, everything had changed. I can pull up tiny details of that day without much effort: things are still very sharp and very present for me. I can remember the sounds, the colors, the smells, the feel of those hours as if they were yesterday. The confusion, he way day turned to night when the first tower fell. The way the dust started to clear slightly when the second tower came down, both of which felt like an earthquake. I can also remember the gut-wrenching fright and the manner in which I acted to try and keep the folks in my office for whom I was responsible calm.

Cell phone and telephone service ended because of the fires and then the collapse, as most of the antennas where on the North Tower. After the second tower came down, somehow a signal got through on my cell phone: a friend calling to find out if I was okay. Hearing his voice made me start to cry. I quickly shut those tears off as I still had about 40 people in the office who were looking to me for answers and guidance and leadership. Rocco's call to me was a little bit of resurrection life for me: it brought me home.

So much has happened in seven years. But some memories never fade. Maybe they aren't supposed to. Life does go on though with the sure and confidence knowledge provided by the opening lines of our Prayer Book Burial Service we read in John's Gospel today. Words of comfort that are very much needed today.

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

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Daily Office Reflection: New Things

Psalms 45 * 47,48; Job 29:1-20; Acts 14:1-18; John 10:31-42

On Facebook, there is a bit of an uproar going on at the present time. Folks are up in arms about changes made to the front page and the application. There are new groups forming, chat rooms a tither, all lamenting the changes and the desire for it to "go back the way it was". I have to admit, the new structure is not as easy to navigate through, but I'm sure over time I will get used to it and be able to find the things that seemed to be easier to find in the "old" system. I am confident that these changes on Facebook weren't done malevolently, or to cause consternation, but to try and make the application better, more current and easier to make modifications to down the road.

But many of us don't like change. New rectors hear this all the time in church: don't change "that", don't move "this", "we never used to do it that way", "the former rector used to do it this way." In fact, the hullabalo about the changes on Facebook are nothing in comparison to trying to effectuate modifications in church-land. We as humans like consistency, even when it isn't working anymore. And that is one of the ironic things about church-land: we are called to be change-agents, but don't change "my" turf.

One of the over-riding messages we have been reading about in John's Gospel is change. A move from the old to the new that Jesus was trying to effectuate. Jesus after-all was the chief change-agent. Throughout Biblical history we see God trying to effectuate change and humans resisting it. We see it in Acts today with Barnabas and Paul being credited with being Zeus and Hermes: the people didn't want to hear about this "new" God, they wanted to stay with their old gods with whom they were familiar.

God is always bringing change to our world. God is always "doing something new" through agents that can be small, surprising. They are almost always resisted. Perhaps any change that is being screamed about should be examined closely by us to see if we can see God there. Perhaps we shouldn't expect that change will be willingly accepted or will make us feel comfortable. Perhaps God doesn't want us to be too comfortable. 

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

Monday, September 8, 2008

Daily Office Reflection: One

Psalms 41, 52 * 44; Job 32:1-10,19-33:1,19-28; Acts 13:44-52; John 10:19-30

Yesterday was "opening" Sunday at the parish that I serve. The crowds were back. The summer schedule is over, beach houses/shares are closed for the season, an ordinary time was really marked yesterday. A joyful celebration and festive coffee hour with friends being reacquainted and folks who have made the parish their home over the summer being somewhat overwhelmed by all these "new" people who have entered their worship space, to say nothing of the choir that has returned and now fills the space with their luscious voices leading us to renewed singing efforts.

Everything was just wonderful, and exhausting. And I wonder if Jesus was getting exhausted by the constant and annoying questions pushed at him when he was trying to worship God in the synagogue. He ends his response to them today with the simple yet awesome sentence: The Father and I are one. One.

Just as we, the parish at which I serve, and in truth all Christians the world over, are the Body of Christ in the world today, are One. Those new (summer) folk are one with the long time parishioners who have found their way back after a summer's weekend leisure time spent elsewhere. It is up to us to remember that, to act that out in whatever way we can. We are One, in all our complex differences, and shapes and sizes. We are One.

Copyright 2008, John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Daily Office Reflection: The Welcoming Shepherd

Psalms: 30, 32 * 42, 43; Job 22:1-4,21-23:7; Acts 13:26-43; John 10:1-18

If anyone has ever wondered why the bishops of The Episcopal Church carry with them a crozier as one of the symbols of their office, the reading from John's Gospel today should set to rest those wonderings. For the crozier is symbolic of a shepherd's staff with which the shepherd herded the flock of sheep. Herding, but also protecting.

He calls them all by name and leads them out  Jesus says today. He also says I have other sheep who do not belong to the fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. How can any church, and organization, any structural hierarchy claim exclusivity if people are following the call and voice of this welcoming Good Shepherd? How can there be such blindness?

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

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Daily Office Reflection: Missing the Big Things

(Thursday) Psalms 37:1-18 * 37:19-42; Job 16:16-22, 17:1,13-16; Acts 13:1-12; John 9:1-27
(Friday) Psalms 31 * 35; Job 19:1-7,14-27; Acts 13:13-25; John 9:18-42

The Gospel of John on Thursday and Friday are so closely tied together (at least for me) that I have conflated the reflection into one day. 

Jesus heals the "blind man from birth" today, of course, on the Sabbath which just pisses off the Jewish authorities who are stalking him, waiting for him to make "a mistake" so they can ding him on it. Aren't they annoying? Why can't they see what is going on? Why are they lost in the minutiae of their rules and regulations when something HUGE is going on right under their noses?

I walk away with two things from this long healing story in John's Gospel. One, that on one level, this could be about Jesus opening the eyes of all people who never really saw life before, never really appreciated the world before. This metaphorical aspect of this story goes to the root of the Gospel message: not seeing and then being able to see. How can we order our lives so that we actually do see?

And second, I wonder about rules and regulations and minutiae and how people can nit=pik at you till you are sick to death of them. Sure, I understand the importance of order and structure, I am not a complete anarchist after all. But when those become paramount in our lives, when they take over our lives, I think we lose something. We no longer are capable of seeing the big picture....the old adage comes to mind "losing the forest for the trees" or the other trite one "tripping over dollars to save pennies". They may be trite, but they hold a kernel of truth in them that this Gospel brings to the fore: are we missing Christ in our lives, Christ in the world around us by our focusing on things that are, truly, unimportant.

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

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Daily Office Reflection: Who Are You!

Psalms 38 * 119:25-48; Job 12:1, 14:1-22; Acts 12:18-25; John 8:47-59

All of us are asked all the time "Who are you?" and each of us probably have a number of different answers, depending on the situation: mother, father, husband, wife, partner, lover, brother, sister, aunt, uncle, doctor, lawyer, Indian chief, parishioner, choir member, priest. I wonder how many of us think to answer "Christian" or "Episcopalian" or whatever denomination it is we worship God through.

Jesus sends a clear message today about how we should identify ourselves. He clearly states who he is, which deeply offends the Jewish leaders with whom he has been debating in the synagogue. Jesus says Very truly I tell you, before Abraham was, I am." Jesus is referring to that great reading in Exodus, where God speaks to Moses from the burning bush where God provides a name to Moses saying "I AM" and "I AM WHO I AM". This would have been very clear to those individuals to whom Jesus was speaking and was probably shocking for them to hear. Jesus was clearly stating that he is God.

It takes a lot of guts today to identify ourselves as followers of Jesus. The rewards are worth the price.

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

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Daily Office Reflection: Fear of Change

Psalms 26, 28 * 36, 39; Job 12:1, 13:3-17,21-27; Acts 12:1-17; John 8:33-47

Jesus and "the Jews" are going at each other today with both barrels loaded in their battle of wits and reason. Jesus is saying so much that is new to them, so many new concepts that shake the very foundations on which they had built their understanding of the world. 

That kind of fundamental shift in thinking can bring fear to anyone who has ever experienced such a shift. For everything changes when this kind of shift happens. And chief among those changes is that we see and understand the world differently. We are the same and yet different, the world is the same and yet very different. And shaking up the powers-that-be as Jesus is doing in this dialogue that we have a snippet of today, is a very dangerous thing, for with that change, power shifts, and people who have power many times do not willingly give it up.

This is a dangerous road we walk when we follow Jesus' lead. Dangerous and provocative and life altering and world changing and difficult but with rewards that are untold and far different then any expectations dreamed of.  Unheard of and undreamed about because God is involved and God is full of surprises.

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

Monday, September 1, 2008

Daily Office Reflection: Freedom Through Truth

Psalms 25 * 9, 15; Job 12:1-6,13-25; Acts 11:19-30; John 8:21-32

Jesus says today If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free. Making us free....from what? Ourselves? The world? Unpleasant people? A job we do not care for? A relationship we don't know how to end?

I don't think those are the kinds of things Jesus is making us free from when he makes this statement....well not directly. 

So much of what we hear from Jesus gets down to the basic principle that we need to reorder our life perspective, see the world through a different set of lenses. When we can accomplish this near impossible task, we are promised to be set free from the bonds placed on us by those things we wish to be free from. Those things do not go away, they are still there and a part of our lives, but they are given appropriate weight and perspective. This different perspective will allow us to be more balanced in our approach to everything we do in life. That is a sweet freedom for which to strive.

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