Friday, October 31, 2008

Daily Office Reflection: Kingdom Priorities

Psalms 40, 54 * 51; Ecclesiasticus 34:1-8,18-22; Revelation 13:1-10; Luke 12:13-31

We are in the midst of our yearly stewardship campaign at the church where I am an assistant. The troubled economic times are being reflected in the success of that drive. The unease and discomfort felt by so many because of these unsettled and loss-filled times is felt in church-land too. We try hard not to let it impact what we are called to do, but we are human and that is a very difficult thing to accomplish. It is natural to be concerned about budget, and possible cut-backs in services, mission and staff. If we have to cut, what is going to be cut?

Today's Gospel, I think, should be read during stewardship season every year. As difficult a task as it is, we are called to look at the bigger picture, we are called to see the path ahead and find a way to get there, no matter what. We are called to bring the kingdom to life, to strive for the kingdom, and we are promised that we will be taken care of. And when our wishes and desires aren't met, and those hard decisions need to be made, disillusionment is easy to grab ahold of, and say "See, I told you we couldn't do that." Perhaps that is where we lose the Gospel message. Perhaps our priorities, our collection of wealth and goods, our refusal to use that collected wealth, our self-absorption, is not the striving for the kingdom Jesus is proclaiming today. Perhaps what we are provided for at the end of the day is a realignment of our understanding of what it means to foster the kingdom's growth: hard decisions and hard feelings notwithstanding. Jesus never said this would be simple. Why do we think it should be?

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

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Daily Office Reflection: Surrounded

Psalm 50 * (59), 60 or 103; Ecclesiasticus 31:12-18, 25-32:2; Revelation 12:7-17; Luke 11:53-12:12

Our Gospel reading begins in a kind of spooky way today. Jesus is surrounded by hostility and plotting with people lying in wait to trap him, to spy on him. I think everyone has had times in their lives when they have felt like they were under-siege, watched, someone waiting to trip you up. This is not a pleasant feeling when it is happening. Perhaps it has happened at work, or in a social setting among people thought to be friends, or perhaps in a church setting. I think our instinct is to hunker down and to become defensive when these under-siege moments happen, when we are surrounded by hostility.

Jesus shows us a way around that hunkering down method. He assures us that even though we may be surrounded by nasties on all sides, we are surrounded, closer in, by something else. We are surrounded by God's love for us, for the Son of Man's love for us, by the Holy Spirit's presence right here with us. Jesus tells us today that we need not fear or be defensive in those kind of situations where we feel overwhelmed, for the Holy Spirit will teach us, at that very moment, what we should say, how we should act, how we should respond. That presence, that love can sustain us through the absolute worst of times and situations. 

This can be easy to forget, to ignore, but we shouldn't ever forget or ignore this surrounding presence and this surrounding love. They provide us with an armor that can sustain the worst of assaults. Will we still feel put-upon, put-out? Probably, yes. Will that be easier to put up with? Perhaps even ignore? Absolutely.

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

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Daily Office Reflection: St Simon and St. Jude

MP: Psalm 66; Isaiah 28:9-16; Ephesians 4:1-16
EP: Psalms 116, 117; Isaiah 4:1-6; John 14:15-31

We know so very little about St. Simon and St. Jude. The Gospels do not provide much information about them. Lesser Feasts and Fasts provides some non-historical accounts that have been past down through the ages. And yet, we still honor these unknown folk because we know that they, in some way, were with Jesus for the short period of time he was here among us in corporeal form. 

I wonder if we keep these legends alive, of people like Simon and Jude, because we all yearn, somewhere deep within ourselves, to know what it was like to be in that presence. We wonder what his voice was like. What did he look like? What would it have been like to see, with our own eyes, one of those miraculous healings he performed on a regular basis. Although we can see miraculous miracles happening around us, I think it is natural to wonder what it was like to be in that presence when it all started. Would we have understood the magnitude of what was going on? Would I have recognized God among us? I hope I would have, but I don't know for a fact that I actually would have. And so, perhaps, this is why we keep these mysterious unknown saints in our lectionary calendar, to help us imagine, know and remember that Christ was near unto them, just as he is near unto us today.

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

Monday, October 27, 2008

Daily Office Reflection: Announcing Ones' Self

Psalms 41, 52 * 44; Ecclesiasticus 19:4-17; Revelation 11:1-14; Luke 11:14-26

Jesus makes an incredibly clear and succinct statement today about who he is and what the gift is that he brings. This is an easy thing to miss amidst all of the other things he says in this response to being accused that his ability to cast out demons comes from Beelzebul. He talks about the devastation that comes from division within a house; and the source of power that exorcists use; and strong men being fought and conquered by stronger men; and how an unclean spirit that has been cast out cannot return to a clean and swept home alone, but will return with seven more and ruin that house. All rather difficult things to hear and decipher.

But buried in the middle of all that harangue directed at unbelievers is this phrase: But if it is by the finger of God that I cast our demons, then the kingdom of God has come to you.  Believe it, the kingdom of God is announced unequivocally today. God's finger is touching these people Jesus is healing. That was a hard thing for people to believe and understand when Jesus was walking this earth. It is just as hard, if not harder, today. 

Perhaps this is one of the reasons it is so hard for so many to announce to friends, work-mates, the world in general, that they are church-goers, that they are Christian. I think it is okay and normal to have questions and doubts and concerns and to have difficulty believing. But Jesus is asking us to do just that: believe it, God's finger is supporting Jesus, is bringing God's kingdom to us, here and now. That same finger can and does support us to continue Jesus' work. Will things be easy? Nope. Will things be immediately crystal clear? Nope. Will our lives be transformed if we follow Jesus? Yup, absolutely. In ways unimaginable. 

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

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Daily Office Reflection: Praying

Psalms 30, 32 * 42, 43; Ecclesiasticus 15:9-20; Revelation 10:1-11; Luke 11:1-11

The disciples ask to be taught to pray by Jesus, right after he has finished praying. They have seen him do this a number of times in their sojourn with him and have finally gotten up the nerve to ask, So just how do you do that thing you do

Jesus gives them what we have termed "The Lord's Prayer", or in more catholic circles "The Our Father". This is a fairly simple and straightforward teaching and manner of prayer. There are five steps: 1)Praise God's name; 2)Acknowledge God's will in the world and ask that God's kingdom come among us; 3)Give us food to sustain us; 4)Forgive our sins and trespasses as we are to forgive all those who sin/trespass against us; and 5)Save us from doom. Pretty simple and direct and at the same time pretty mysterious. 

Jesus goes on to say pray constantly, pray incessantly, keep asking, keep persistent for as  parents provides for their child, so too God will provide for us. I think if we live in a state of prayer, where we are constantly praying, God does respond, in surprising and sometimes un-noticed ways. By praying A LOT, our world view changes. We start to realize that all that we have, and all that we are, and all that we can and will be, are God's doing. By praying constantly we are in communication with God, we are in a conversation: perhaps sometimes seemingly a one-sided conversation, but in truth that is only a "seemingly thing". We declare ourselves as one of God's people by following these five simple prayer steps and our world-view changes: we realize that everything we have is God's, and that makes it easier to share with those who don't have, are not as fortunate, are in need of seeing God through our generosity.

Praying transforms lives: perhaps not immediately, but over time, over a lifetime, we are different people. We are God's people.

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

Friday, October 24, 2008

Daily Office Reflection: The Martha & Mary Conundrum

Psalms 31 * 35; Ecclesiasticus 11:2-20; Revelation 9:13-21; Luke 10:38-42

At various times in my life I have played the roles of both Martha and Mary. There have been occasions where I have been the busy one, making sure an event "happened", thereby missing "something" but gaining something else. There have been other occasions where I have not been the coordinator of the circus and have been able to "choose the better part, which will not be taken away", as Jesus says today.

I was involved with a parish in NYC that had a companion relationship with a parish in Ikegang, South Africa. We hosted 24 individuals from that very rural place, putting them up in parishioners homes, acting as tour guides, feeding them, worshipping with them, spending time with them. I was the lead coordinator for all those events (and for their trip in general), having spreadsheets galore, on the phone constantly, checking up on the hosts and the guests and the various planned activities. One of the events was a potluck dinner in the church school's cafeteria. Instead of having someone else run the particular event, I managed that one. Potlucks can either be spectacular successes or spectacular failures and I was determined to make sure this one would be successful, and it turned out that way, but not without a huge amount of effort and sweat on my part. One of the side effects of that effort was that I was not able to "participate" in the meal with the 100 or so guests (South Africans and fellow parishioners) that were there as a few parishioners and I were the Martha's of the evening.

And there lies the conundrum. Is it enough that I helped effectuate a lovely evening for others, even though the cost to me was "missing" those times of connection and introduction? Would the event have been as successful if we had only one bean casserole show up to feed the hordes that turned up? Jesus seems to indicate that we shouldn't miss those kind of opportunities in life....but who has to sacrifice, to play the role of Martha, in order to effectuate a pleasant evening for people: after all those things don't just happen. Or do they? Are my expectations and priorities screwed up in regard to these kind of events? Is there another way to judge what is a successful gathering? If all of us are the Mary role, how do we survive?

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

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Daily Office Reflection: Rationalization & Frustration

Psalms 37:1-18 * 37:19-42; Ecclesiasticus 10:1-18; Revelation 9:1-12; Luke 10:25-37

We are given a frustrating passage in Luke today, or at least I find it frustrating. This is one of those great stories Jesus tells about loving our neighbor and defining just who that neighbor is. It's a wide-open definition which is as it should be. There begins the frustration.

Where I get frustrated is this: I live in an urban setting where there are hundreds and hundreds and hundreds, if not thousands and thousands and thousands of homeless people. Many of these homeless people are not there because of their own doing, many of them ill, many of them mentally ill, many of them addicted to drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, many of them aggressive in their panhandling to help feed their addictions, all of them caught in a downward spiral that our society and culture and government help perpetuate. Most times that I see these lost souls I think: There but for the grace of God go I.

How do I, as an ordained person, respond to them? If I don't help each one I pass, or respond to each one that asks for money, am I the priest or the Levite who walked by the man beaten up in today's story? Do I give everything I have, and everything the church has, to help these folk? I'll end up in the street with them if that is the case. 

I know I would respond differently to someone who had been beaten up as the individual in our story, and assist in a different manner than I do to the crisis of homelessness we face in this country. Is that rationalization on my part? If I work and get the church to work in assisting homelessness through food and clothing drives, which in reality is a piece of scotch tape on a broken dam, isn't that rationalization that I am living the Gospel message? Where does Jesus want us to draw the line? 

I think every person has to draw that line somewhere and then keep challenging themselves about where they have put that line down. Perhaps that is why Jesus told this story in the first place: not setting down a hard and fast rule about how much of our time and talent and energy and income goes to this issue but allowing us to decide where that moveable line should be, always pushing ourselves to do more, but in reality never enough. Never being complacent, always challenging ourselves. Always knowing that it will never be enough. I don't think that is rationalization so much as reality. And that is frustrating.

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

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Daily Office Reflection: Inscribed in Heaven

Psalms 38; 119:25-48; Ecclesiasticus 7:4-14; Revelation 8:1-13; Luke 10:17-24

do not rejoice...that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.

A wonderful woman died yesterday after a very long battle with breast cancer. Alice was quirky and lovely and a character and a true individual. She was authentically Alice. She also loved our parish.

At the beginning of this third recurrence of her breast cancer, she tried to battle it while keeping her life as status quo as possible. That became an impossible choice to fulfill, so she moved in with a friend who lived across the river in Alexandria. That too became to difficult, so she chose to move to Ohio where she could live with and be cared for by her sister. That decision took her beyond our personal care, although she remained for these past few months on our parish intercession list. She died being cared for by her loving sister. Her name moves this week from those for whom we pray who are ill, to those who have died this week.

I find this a very sad thing when someone dies who I like, particularly when the individual dies far away from where where I am physically located. This authentic person, whose name had already been written in heaven, now resides in that true love and embrace of God that we are all headed toward.

Give rest, O Christ, to your servant Alice with your saints,
where sorrow and pain are no more,
neither sighing, but life everlasting.

Rest eternal grant to her, O Lord;
And let light perpetual shine upon her.

May her soul, and the souls of all the departed,
through the mercy of God, rest in peace.

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

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Daily Office Reflection: Sending in Pairs

Psalms 26, 28 * 36, 39; Ecclesiasticus 6:5-17; Revelation 7:9-17; Luke 10:1-16

Jesus has turned his face to Jerusalem and is purposefully heading to that city. He sends seventy "others" to go ahead of him to every town and village he plans on passing through and visiting. This is pretty wise based on his impatience to get to Jerusalem: why waste time in places where he will not be welcome? And he sends these seventy out in twos, without food, or extra clothing. 

I wonder how these relationships worked out. Did they become fast friends? Did they get on each other's nerves? Were they able to protect each other from and support each other in those times of doubts and wondering? I'm sure as in all of life, there were pairings that worked well together and others that were catastrophic. The wisdom writer in Ecclesiasticus reminds us of how careful we must be in choosing friends, in trusting people. I wonder if Jesus had these verses in mind when he sent these seventy out two by two. Whether the relationships worked out or not is not really the point though: they were sent ahead, I believe, to let Jesus know where he should spend his limited time and where he shouldn't as he marched himself to his fate in Jerusalem. 

We don't have that option in life usually: sending people ahead of us to permit an effective usage of our limited time here. We have to try to reach every person, touch every heart, love each individual we come across. This is achievable only by God's grace. We will on occasion actually reach this goal. Usually we will have to pick ourselves up and try again. Hopefully there will be some trusted person, a true friend, a true companion who can help us get back up and keep trying. If that person is not in our lives just yet, we know in our heart of hearts, that God is with us as we make these efforts to bring the kingdom's greatness to the world around us. That can be enough.

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

Monday, October 20, 2008

Daily Office Reflection: Facing Jerusalem

Psalms 25 * 9, 15; Ecclesiasticus 4:10-5.7; Revelation 7:1-8; Luke 9:51-62

We have a different Jesus today. In earlier readings in Luke we have a forgiving, cajoling, patient Jesus, but not today. Our passage begins with Jesus turning his face to Jerusalem, and with a steadfast resolve he is heading in that direction. He almost seems impatient to get there, being rather short with the disciples accompanying him: rebuking one, ignoring an offer of hospitality from outsiders, criticizing those who want to accompany him, telling those who want to take care of family business before joining him that they don't have their priorities straight.

It is almost as if a switch has turned on in Jesus' head; where he is going, what he has to endure and do, has become crystal clear to him and he is just not going to put up with anymore b.s. from those who are his followers. It is almost like he read our passage from Ecclesiasticus today: Watch for the opportune not be ashamed to be not refrain from speaking at the proper time...never speak against the not subject yourself to a fool....fight to the death for the not be reckless in your speech or sluggish and remiss in your deeds.... Jesus is making himself ready, if he isn't already, to "be taken up". 

When we know what we have to do, when we know what we are doing is not the right thing, today's passage is challenging us about our response to that self knowledge. Do we resolutely face Jerusalem, or do we pretend that we are not really facing that way?

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

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Daily Office Reflection: Humble

Psalms 20, 21:1-7(8-14); Ecclesiasticus 3:17-31; Acts 28:17-31; Luke 9:37-50

When I was in seminary a professor of homiletics told the class I was a participant in that the folks who put the lectionary together (both the Daily Office and the weekly Sunday lectionary) did not pay attention to matching the Hebrew Testament lessons to the New Testament lessons in theme or in content. She told us that she knew one of the original individuals who cobbled the lectionary together when they were putting together the "new" Prayer Book in 1979 and that is from where she got her information.

If that is true, than the Holy Spirit was clearly involved in the process, for, similar to yesterday's reading, we have a lovely "match" between our Ecclesiasticus reading and our lesson from Luke. Be humble we are told in our Hebrew Testament reading. Let that attitude, that affect and demeanor be our guiding principle. In Luke we have Jesus healing, pointing to children as a model of correct behavior and an instruction to allow all who heal in Jesus' name to do what they are called to do. Jesus does not point his finger to himself, he is not one for self-aggrandizement. He is a model of surety and courage and loving humbleness. 

Whatever is the truth about how the lectionary for today came into existence, whether by design, happenstance or the work of the Holy Spirit, we are gifted a beautiful reminder about how to carry ourselves, how to present ourselves to the world, how to "be" in our hearts.

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

Friday, October 17, 2008

Daily Office Reflection: Patience

Psalms 16, 17 * 22; Ecclesiasticus 1:1-10,18-27; Acts 28:1-16; Luke 9:28-36

....anger tips the scale to one's ruin. Those who are patient stay calm until the right moment, and then cheerfulness comes back to them.

There is such clear and simple wisdom in these lines of Ecclesiasticus. When combined with the account of Jesus' Transfiguration, these verses about patience take on a different tone and tenor. On the one hand it is easy to take these verses of wisdom and apply them to our every day lives and interactions with the world. On the other hand, they can take on a deep spiritual meaning when we apply them to our faith lives, to our life as Christians, to our ongoing relationship with God.

God is an easy target for our anger. God is an easy target for our impatience. Staying calm and faithful leads to flashes, to moments of clarity where we see God's hand at work in the world. That is a magnificent thing to behold, much like the Transfiguration must have been for Peter, James and John. Momentary flashes can be enough, have to be enough to get us through the rest we must face.

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

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Daily Office Reflection: Who Do YOU Say....

Psalms 18:1-20 * 18:21-50; Jonah 3.1-4.11; Acts 27:27-44; Luke 9:18-27

I feel kind of stuck in this idea of our need to be open to God. We see it in the end of the Jonah story today where Jonah's hissy-fit about God changing his mind about the destruction of Nineveh highlights that God's will is not necessarily ours. We also see this idea in the Luke account of Jesus asking his disciples who THEY say he is. It matters a great deal that we understand that Jesus is God and that God is God, but it also matters very much how we respond to that understanding.

God is God. We are not. God's love for us knows no bounds. Our ability to love is limited by our humanness, although we can improve our ability to love by opening ourselves to God's love for us. We become different people when we take that step.

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

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Daily Office Reflection: Responding

Psalms 5, 6 * 10, 11; Jonah 1:1-17a; Acts 26:24-27:8; Luke 8:40-56

We have interesting accounts of how we can respond to situations in our readings today. Our Hebrew Testament lesson begins the story of Jonah and his near-instinctual and terror-filled decision not to go to Nineveh. The story doesn't tell us how Jonah received "the word of the Lord" instructing him to go to Nineveh, we just know that he got it somehow and boarded a boat to allow him to flee to Tarshish instead. We end today's account with the raging sea calming after Jonah tells the crew to throw him overboard for he knows the tempestuous seas are his fault. In the sea he is subsequently swallowed by a large fish, which we are told was provided for him by the Lord.

In our Gospel reading from Luke we have the account of Jesus, Jairus and his dying/dead 12 year old daughter and the woman who had been suffering hemorrhages for 12 years. Jesus responds immediately to Jairus' plea to help him and his daughter, he just gets up and goes with him. The woman with the hemorrhages responds to Jesus by knowing that she just needs to touch the fringe of his clothes and she would be made well.

Complex and interesting and at the same time simple responses to God's calls to us are what we have today in these two readings. Responding out of fright is one way, out of sense of responsibility is another. Responding from a deep sense of faith and confidence in God's presence is yet another way. We don't know how things will turn out, no matter how much we plan and try to control the events we are thrown into daily. Jonah, by insisting on being tossed overboard, Jairus is coming to Jesus, the hemorrhagic woman in knowing she could be cured are responses based on a deep sense of faith. These are blind steps of faith with heroic consequences, unknown to be so at the time they were taken. Control and plans were let go. Trust took their place.

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

Monday, October 13, 2008

Daily Office Reflection: Demons

Psalms 1, 2, 3 * 4, 7; Micah 7:1-7; Acts 26:1-23; Luke 8:26-39

As a human being, like everybody else, I have different sides. Although I work hard at being a steady, consistent (some would say boring) presence, I do have a silly side, and an annoyed side, an irrational side, an amorous side, just to name a few. I know myself well enough to recognize (usually) where my emotions are coming from and in which way I am acting. There are times when I can be reactive and a more unpleasant side comes out for all the world to see. Contemplating these sides of me is how I can personally relate to today's Gospel passage. 

I know people who have psychological disturbances, who when not on their meds can closely resemble the naked man living among the tombs of the Genasenes. These individuals, in Gospel times, would have been termed as having demons within them as opposed to the medical condition we now understand their conditions to be. Certainly a large number of homeless people are psychologically damaged individuals, who through the fault of our society, do not receive the care they need to allow them to be more balanced and productive members of our society. Perhaps the man we hear about today could have been one of these types of individuals who Jesus healed. I have trouble, personally, relating to that. It is far too narrow an interpretation fro me. 

Perhaps the power of Jesus' love allows all of us to be more balanced, to be more rational in our approach to life, to those around us, to those whom we love. Perhaps the healing power of Jesus' love allows us to take control of our own different sides (the silly, the annoyed, the irrational, the amorous and all the others) and meld them into one constant, joyous and visible being, thereby assisting us in being a beacon of love and happiness for the world. I'm certainly not their yet, but I hope and pray that my demons, my lesser-self, can be better managed with the guidance and assistance of Jesus' love. 

Copyright 2o08, John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Daily Office Reflection: A New Family

Psalms 137:1-6(7-9); 144 * 104; Micah 5:1-4,10-15; Acts 25:13-27; Luke 8:16-25

Families can be fickle entities. A parishioner's biological family has taken his pictures off the wall where all the other family members pictures reside, and will have nothing to do with him, because he is gay. Another individual's family has disowned her because of the man she is choosing to marry. Biological families can be fickle.

Both of these individuals have made families of choice, of which their church community is a vital and central part. Not that church families and families of choice can't be fickle as well: after all they are all embodied by human beings and we are fickle by nature. But a new family, a family of choice, with whom holidays and important life-events can be celebrated, is a vital element to being whole individuals to those who have lost their biological families. Church based families of choice can be that lantern on the lampstand welcoming those who need to be warmed and embraced by the love that surrounds and emanates from that light. Fickle it may be: but everlasting it is.

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

Friday, October 10, 2008

Daily Office Reflection: Enduring Patience

Psalms 140, 142 * 141, 143:1-11(12); Hosea 3:9-4:5; Acts 24:24-25:12; Luke 8:1-15

In times of their duress, I have had people say to me, quite frequently, How could God have let this happen to me? or Why is God doing this to me? or Where is God in this? My answer is different for each person, depending on the exigent circumstances of the particular situation, but there is a strain of commonality that runs through my answers. One thing that all of my answers usually begins with is I don't know or I'm not sure.... followed by a discussion of my understanding of how God works in the world and how God does not work in the world.

Although I firmly believe in the efficacy of prayer, I believe as firmly that God takes our laundry lists of cares and desires and petitions that we set before the Almighty and responds in ways that we do not understand. Part of my understanding is based on "the long view". We are called to a lifetime's work, a lifetime's study, a lifetime's effort to effectuate the kingdom's presence among us here and now. Being human, we will only get glimpses of it,  smidgens of it throughout that time. Having the deep roots Jesus talks about today in this parable of the sower is something we all have to work at and incorporate into our lives. 

One more commonality of my response to the type of question I have posed to me frequently, about God doing something to someone or letting something happen to them or where God is in this difficult situation, is: look around you, look at the support you are receiving from those who love you. You will see God and glimpses of the kingdom right there.

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

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Daily Office Reflection: Being Real

Psalms 131, 132 (133) * 134, 135; Hosea 3:1-8; Acts 24:1-23; Luke 7:36-50

We have an unnamed sinful woman bathing Jesus' feet with ointment and hot tears today, while he sits at meal with Pharisees. Jesus is, of course, criticized for allowing a sinful woman to do this to him and Jesus responds by talking about forgiveness. Who is being more truthful in their approach to Jesus: the Pharisees in their invitation to Jesus to dine with them or this woman who is defined as sinful? Which of the two is more open, honest and real about who they are and what they have done?

I think one of the things this Gospel asks us to reflect about is: how are we perceived and how do we act in the world. Are we authentically ourselves? Do we wear our Christian faith on our sleeves for all to see by how we act and what we do? Or are we more like the pharisees? One will probably bring us easy friends and a shallow existence while the other will bring true friends, granted probably fewer in number, and a rich and full existence.

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

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Daily Office Reflection: Hope in the Future

Psalms 119:145-176 * 128, 129, 130; Micah 2:1-15; Acts 23:23-35; Luke 7:18-35

A parishioner died unexpectedly yesterday morning. He was a very private individual and had not shared with many people things going on in his life. And yet he was a very personable person who was very much liked and loved in the parish. We will miss him terribly as will his friend and partner of many years. 

Trying to find hope can be hard in situations like these. In the loss felt so deeply, where will we find joy? In our Gospel reading today Jesus tells us how John the Baptist was criticized and thought to "have a demon" because he was out in the wilderness baptizing, not drinking or eating like the rest of the world, but instead doing what he believed God would have him do. And Jesus is criticized and called a drunkard for hanging out with tax collectors and eating and drinking. Jesus tells us there is hope: hope in the future, for the people to come who will be part of the kingdom. We know Jesus opened this kingdom for us and that we are living into it each day. And we have a promise of better yet to come, here and now and after we die. 

We all are going to go the way of Gene someday: some of us sooner, some of us later. That shouldn't be something that we fear. Living our lives to the fullest of our potential, within whatever limitations we have, is enough. Loving those in our lives with the fullness of our being is also enough. Knowing that we are going someplace better is also enough.

Almighty God, our Father in heaven, before whom live all who die in the Lord: Receive our brother Gene into the courts of your heavenly dwelling place. Let his heart and soul now ring out in joy to you, O Lord, the living God, and the God of those who live. This we ask through Christ our Lord. Amen.  (BCP, page 466)

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

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Daily Office Reflection:Those on the Outside

Psalms (120), 121, 122, 123 * 124, 125, 126, (127); Micah 11-9; Acts 23:12-24; Luke 7:1-17

We have an interesting pairing in our Gospel reading from Luke today. The Roman Centurion who sends word to Jesus about his sick slave and widow of Nain's son. Neither the centurion or the widow, nor the slave or the dead son are given names by Luke. The centurion sends word to Jesus when he is on the way that Jesus' presence isn't needed, only his prayer and power which can come from a distance. While Jesus, for the widow of Nain, touches the bier upon which the young man has been lain. Interesting differences showcasing Jesus' healing power. 

A commonality between these two very different individuals, despite their vast differences of station and position in life, is that they were both "outsiders" to the Jewish tradition. The centurion because he was Roman, and not part of the Jewish elite and this widow, whose only son had died, making her, according to the customs at that time, homeless, an outsider. And yet Jesus recognizes their grief and offers assistance.

Who is the outsider in our world? Whom are we missing from our communities and our congregations? Who needs this loving touch that our communities might not feel comfortable embracing? Who needs to know Jesus' power of healing from a distance? Difficult questions. Important ones though.

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

Monday, October 6, 2008

Daily Office Reflection: Doing

Psalms 106:1-18 * 106:19-48; Hosea 14:1-9; Acts 22:30-23:11; Luke 6:39-49

There are times when Jesus seems so black and white, with no shades of gray. Only good trees bear good fruit, no bad tree can produce good fruit, making it seem that there are good people in the world and bad people, and nothing in between. These kinds of verses have been utilized by religious types for centuries to exclude people. Yet if we scratch under the service of the seeming black and white nature of these statements of Jesus we do find that shade of gray, in fact multiple shades of gray. For Jesus links the goodness found in our hearts to the things we do and say. 

Jesus also links these degrees of gray to how well we see: are we judging others without first understanding ourselves? Are we ignoring what we do and say and focus on others, simply because it is easier and makes us feel superior? We have all met people who we either don't like or seem to act out of a place of "badness". And yet we are surprised when those individuals do something "good". Is that log in our eye allowing us to miss that "goodness" in the person we have labeled as not belonging because of the speck in their eye? Is that all we see?

It all starts with us, with our doing work on ourselves to allow us to non-judgmentally look and understand the world and our fellow travelers. We are reminded by Jesus that he was sent to teach love, and that love of neighbor starts with love of self. How can we love ourselves or our neighbors if we don't understand ourselves first?

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