Saturday, November 29, 2008

Daily Office Reflection: Ends

Psalms 137:1-6(7-9), 144 * 104; Zechariah 14:12-21; Philippians 2:1-11; Luke 19:41-48

Today is the last day of season after Pentecost. Today is also the last day of our Daily Office readings from Year Two. Tomorrow we begin Advent. In the Sunday lectionary we switch to "Year B" with a heavy emphasis on Mark. In the Daily Office lectionary we begin "Year One". Prayers, music, their are subtle shifts in emphasis tomorrow. But today, we are still "in" Pentecost: at the very last day of this season. We are at an end of sorts.

We hear about Jesus' sorrow as he enters Jerusalem in our Gospel reading today. Granted, Luke is writing after the destruction of Jerusalem and this passage is steeped in the foretelling of that loss. But this passage also dwells in this idea of being able to recognize something important before time runs out, before time ends. 

God's love for us goes unrecognized by so many people. We become blinded by and distracted with other events, other people, our own self-centeredness. Death-bed confessions, death-time realizations are so heartbreaking. They are because they are so unnecessary. We all make mistakes and missteps for reasons innumerable. Those errors do not have to get in our way. At the end, we can look back in joy at our lives when we have been steeped in and reveled in God's love for us, allowing that love to form and shape our lives.

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

Friday, November 28, 2008

Daily Office Reflection: Coming Full Circle

Psalms 140, 142 * 141, 143:1-12(13); Zechariah 14:1-11; Romans 15:7-13; Luke 19:28-40

A part of me thinks that we are given an odd choice of readings today, in particular our Gospel selection. For we have Jesus' triumphal entrance into Jerusalem, with rejoicing and praise and pomp and majesty, with of course, the underlying drumbeat of discontent from the pharisees. We are about to enter into the four weeks of Advent, the beginning of the journey, and we are being given the start of the end of the journey today.

But perhaps that is not odd. Perhaps we are coming around the circle to the starting point again. To get to that starting point we have to think about and journey through the end point. The two are inextricably linked and we shouldn't forget that point. God's love for us is as great at the beginning of the journey as it is at the end. We just have to be in and part of the circle to be on that journey and begin to understand the depth and grandeur of that love.

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

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Daily Office Reflection: Thanksgiving Day

MP: Psalm 147; Deuteronomy 26:1-11; John 6:26-35
EP: Psalm 145; Joel 2:21-27; 1Thessalonians 5:12-24

My contributions to today's feast are all done, in the fridge waiting to be delivered, some to be heated, some to be brought to room temperature, some to remain refrigerated. They all look delicious, and from my sampling during the prep time, they are.

The service leaflets are done, the music chosen, the alb freshly washed and pressed. We will have a few faithful people who will show up for our Thanksgiving Day service, it is not unlike the early morning service on Sunday. But numbers do not matter. The joy of praying, celebrating, giving thanksgiving to God together, knowing that our voices and prayers join millions of others floating in the ether, makes the celebration complete unto itself. 

There is so much to be thankful for this year. Suffice it to say: I am thankful to still be breathing and serving a community and a church that I love. 

Thanks be to God.

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

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Daily Office Reflection: Trying to See Who Jesus Was

Psalms 119:145-176 * 128, 129, 130; Zechariah 12:1-10; Ephesians 1:3-14; Luke 19:1-10

Here was this rich tax collector, considered a sinner by his community because of the manner in which he made money, who wanted to see Jesus. We are told he couldn't see Jesus because he was short in stature, so he had to climb a tree to watch Jesus pass him by. Jesus knows who Zacchaeus is, calls him out of the tree and invites himself, and perhaps  the hordes with him, to Zacchaeus' house. There is the usual grumbling about Jesus spending time with and going to the home of a sinner, which Zacchaeus hears and rebuts saying he has been honest in all his dealings but promises to give half his possessions away to the poor.

Something drew Zacchaeus to Jesus. I believe Zacchaeus already knew what he was supposed to do before he personally met Jesus, but nonetheless, up the tree he climbed in hopes of seeing this person to whom he was drawn. What tree do we need to climb in order to see what we should be doing?

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

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Daily Office Reflection: Close In

Psalms (120), 121,122, 123 * 124, 125, 126 (127); Zechariah 11:4-17; Corinthians 3:10-23; Luke 18:31-43

Many times in life when we are close in to something, or to someone, we cannot "see" what is going on, we cannot see the big picture. Similarly, when we are personally close to a person who is beautiful, handsome, etc, we can lose sight of that because we know the details of what is going on inside. 

They are near onto Jerusalem in today's Gospel reading and Jesus once again predicts his Passion, death and resurrection and no one gets one sees it. They pass a blind man who yells out to be saved, to be shown mercy and when asked what he wants the man says Let me see again. Jesus grants him his desire saying Receive your sight, your faith has saved you. And praise and thanksgiving sets off through the crowd. They all are too close in. They all have their own expectations of what is going to happen when their savior reaches Jerusalem. 

What are we so close to that we can't really see it? What do we need to take a step back from to see the bigger picture, to see God at work in our speck of the world? God is here. Are we to close in to see?

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

Monday, November 24, 2008

Daily Office Reflection: That Narrow Hole

Psalms 106:1-18 * 106:19-48; Zechariah 10:1-12; Galatians 6:1-10; Luke 18:15-30

I am just awful at threading a needle. I always fumble and fumble with that silly and wobbly thread trying to make it go through that teeny tiny hole. I tried those loop-hole threading devices that only seem to make the frustration worse. I have tried a larger needle, which makes the treading easier but the sewing doesn't work so well with those big-honking needles. I have recently stumbled upon a neat little device that  claims it will make threading the needle easy (it was a give-away gift from an online purchase I made at a craft store). The instruction booklet is three pages long. A bit complicated for so simple an act as threading a needle.......

I have often wondered if those devices and my inability to use them properly and the frustration resultant therefrom is analogous to the making the kingdom of God Jesus talks about today. Jesus tells us we have to receive the kingdom as a child would. That innocence and openness and ability to see directly at the simple inner beauty of a thing is part of what I think Jesus is talking about. Trying to find other ways of doing something is often unnecessary if we simply do the direct and obvious approach, not complicate it or over-examine it, or over-theorize it. Simply accept. Not so simple, I know. About as simple as threading a needle for an older person with fumbly fingers and weakening eyesight.

Stripping away the complications we make for ourselves is one of the things Jesus is talking about today which will allow the kingdom of God to become an integral part of our lives. Stripping away those complications and opening ourselves to this mystery. Simply accepting helps us thread our way through that narrow hole, which isn't so narrow once we un-complicate things.

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

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Daily Office Lectionary: Clive's Day

Psalms 107:33-43, 108:1-6(7-11) * 33; Malachi 3:13-4:6; James 5:13-20; Luke 18:9-14

I never think of him as Clive. I do not think most people now-a-days do. Clive Staples Lewis, whose "day" it is today in Lesser Feasts and Fasts 2006, is known by the world as C. S. Lewis. This great author and brilliant mind moved from being Anglican to atheist in his teens, to a long sojourn back to the church and Christ that ended just before he turned 30. And a career that would change lives, a career that would burn images and Christian stories into hearts, began.

Most people I know have moved through a desert time, away from faith, away from the mystery, at some point in their lives. Some make it back, many do not. Some of the folks who don't make it back are like the Pharisee in our Gospel account today: certain of themselves and in themselves. Many who do make it back are like the tax collector in today's Gospel: knowing their imperfections and turning toward God's love, who welcomes us anyway. When Clive was older and writing about his movement from atheism to Christ, he wrote I know very well when, but hardly how, the final step was taken..... That is true for so many people I talk with: they know they have changed, they know they are changed, they know they are now Christ's own forever, but they don't understand how it happened. There is a humbleness of self and spirit in that admission: a wonderful one. God is in that moment, and every moment. Searching for the how is not the important part of that statement...accepting the turning is.

Copyright 2008, John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved

Friday, November 21, 2008

Daily Office Reflection: Persistence

Psalms 102 * 107:1-32; Malachi 3:1-12; James 5:7-11; Luke 18:1-8

God's love for us holds no bounds. We are granted this love whether we think we deserve it or not. One of the only analogies I can make to this, which pales in comparison but I think sheds light on this mystery, is the love a dog showers on its owner. I can have just the crappiest day in the world, and be in a pretty awful mood, and yet when my dog sees me, whether it has been 5 minutes or 5 hours, she is just thrilled to see me. The love that pours out of her, the joy at being in my presence is all that she wants (besides going for walks and being fed treats). 

God's love for us is like unto that, but beyond it! Jesus talks about the unjust judge and the pestering widow today. The unjust judge responds just to keep her quiet, not out of love. Jesus says that of course God will answer our prayers. The thing is, I don't think we always recognize God's answers. If we persistently keep ourselves open to God's love, our perspective changes and we can see things in a different light, where we can feel and know God's love for us, down to the very root of our being. Isn't that something.

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

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Daily Office Reflection: "Look, here it is!"

Psalms 105:1-22 * 105:23-45; Malachi 2:1-16; James 4:13-5:6; Luke 17:20-37

It is a favorite of Hollywood movies as well as a favorite plot line for authors: people looking for what they think they need elsewhere, when all the time they had it right there with them. Folks can get easily distracted as well as not see things clearly when they have become familiar.

Jesus responds to a question about when the kingdom of God is coming and he replies: You cannot see its coming, people will try to misdirect you, but in reality "the kingdom of God is among you". He of course was referring to himself being amidst and among them. But what about us, here, now, some 2000 years later? Is that kingdom still among us? Certainly people have been misled by cults and self-centered folk....but that is not the kingdom of God. I think we create vignettes of the kingdom when we act as we should: when we are kind to those in need, when we visit and care for those who are sick, when we love and are open-hearted and open-minded and welcoming. There it is!

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

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Daily Office Reflection: Remembering What Is Important

Psalms 101, 109:1-4(5-19)20-30 * 119: 121-144; Malachi 1:1,6-14; James 3:13-4:12; Luke 17:11-19

Every time I look at CNN, or The New York Times, or The Washington Post, or some other media outlet, there is a story about employment lay-offs. 50,000+ from Citibank this week, small companies closing, stores can be mind-numbing. The National Cathedral announced a large lay-off of employees this morning and a shuddering of the beautiful and historic Cathedral College. Besides knowing that place very well, I also know a number of people who have been or are being laid off today.

Prior to being ordained I worked in NYC for many years and for different firms and corporations. I was laid off from a few jobs because of "down-sizing" so I understand the distress and pure terror that invades every part of one's life when they are going through something like this. Do I have enough money to pay my rent/mortgage? Can I make the car payment or the credit card payment? Can I afford Cobra or will I have to be uninsured until I can find employment? Will that new job give me insurance coverage? The blow to the ego and the demeaning nature of the job search process can just beat a person down.

One of the things that helped me as I struggled through times like this was to try and remember how fortunate I was to have health, family and friends who supported me, and most importantly God, who never left my side as I struggled to find employment. Prayer helps. If you are someone who is facing unemployment or are unemployed, pray. Reach out to those you know for support, care and love. Talk about it. If you know someone who is going through this, pray for them and be there for them....reach out to them in kindness and love. Responding in love aids in the creation of this kingdom we strive for. Remember what is important.

A Prayer for the Unemployed:
Heavenly God, we remember before you those who suffer want and anxiety from lack of work. Guide the people of this land so to use our public and private wealth that all may find suitable and fulfilling employment, and receive just payment for their labor, through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen


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

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Daily Office Reflection: Forgiveness and Thanklessness

Psalms 97, 99 (100) * 94 (95); Habakkuk 3:1-10(11-15)16-18; James 5:1-12; Luke 17:1-10

I like to thank someone when they do something special, or even when they just do a nice job at a normal assignment. I also like to be thanked when I do something special: it is just part of polite society. In a similar fashion, I try to forgive someone when it is called for in life. That one is harder to do and there are many times where I fail at it miserably. Jesus tells us to constantly forgive someone who turns to us and "repents". I wonder what he meant by that word, or if our translators got it wrong. For to repent means to change one's life, but the way Jesus talks about this individual he utilizes, the person keeps screwing up and then turning around and says "I repent" and we are told to forgive them each time. How is it a changed and transformed life if the person keeps screwing up? What a bother! Likewise Jesus seemingly tells us to expect no thanks for our work except to expect more work and that we are to accept our station in life and all that goes with that station without complaint or expectation. Again, what a bother!

Both of these seem to be difficult, if not impossible, orders from Jesus: this seemingly endless forgiveness and this seemingly endless thankless living. That is one way of looking at this reading from Luke. By looking at it only that way it is easy to see how people throw their hands up in the air and walk away from the Gospel in disgust and frustration. 

Jesus recognizes our humanness. He knows it personally, not only by being so closely associated with his disciples and followers, but because he was fully human too. He knows our innate penchant for being unforgiving, he knows our yearning to be thanked for the ordinary things we do. Jesus is telling us that the kingdom he is creating is different. Forgiveness is there for us. God's forgiveness of our foibles and sins is beyond our understanding, and we must model that. Jesus is saying that in this kingdom we won't need to be thanked because we will already know our work is appreciated: we will know it at such a deep level that those expectations will not be a part of us. 

Perhaps a bother now, but not when we make the kingdom present. A reordering or how we think about ourselves and others, an understanding of our humanness and our inter-connectivity is what we are pushed toward in our reading from Luke today. Not easy, but worth the bother.

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

Monday, November 17, 2008

Daily Office Reflection: Winding Down

Psalms 89:1-18 * 89:19-52; Habakkuk 2:1-4,9-20; James 2:14-26; Luke 16:19-31

In church-land we are winding down our calendar year. We have one more Sunday in the Season of Pentecost and then the new church year begins the following Sunday with the First Sunday of Advent. We do things a mite early in church-land. This coming Sunday will be the Feast of Christ the King, the last Sunday of Pentecost and the ending week of Year Two in the Daily Office Lectionary, and the end of Year A for the Sunday lectionary. We are winding down in both lectionaries, getting ready for a shift, a change.

Perhaps that is why the readings seem so harsh...the lessons so pointed. It is almost as if the lectionary is saying, okay, you've had all year (Year A on Sunday, Year Two in the Daily Office) to get it....NOW we're going to clobber you over the head to make sure the message gets through.  I certainly feel that way with the offering from Luke today, and from James and from Habakkuk. Change....change.....change the way we operate, the way we think, the way we interact with the world. Be awake, pay attention to those in need. get ready! Instead of a soft entrance into Advent it seems like a very hard push into Advent, the season of preparing. So we're winding down the church calendar, but the readings are certainly ratcheting it up.

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

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Daily Office Reflection: Little Things

Psalms 87, 90 * 136; Joel 3:-17; James 2:1-13; Luke 16:10-17(18)

Small successes can often lead to larger ones. Baby steps lead to learning how to walk properly. To learn how to swim, one needs to get in the water and learn how to tread water. All of these positive statements have a reverse side to them, such as: Whoever is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much, as Jesus tells us today. Little things can (and many times do) lead to big things. I think this is why my parents were always insistent about paying attention to little things: proper table manners at all times, politeness to elders, appropriate attire, learning how to save. Seemingly small things can shape a life. Small steps in the other direction can equally lead to shaping a life differently.

Little in life is irreversible, although there are somethings that can't be changed once they've begun. But little things lead to big things. Being aware of those little things can change a life.

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

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Daily Office Reflection: Sulking

Psalms (83) or 23, 27 * 85, 86; Joel 2:21-27; James 1:1-15; Luke 15:1-2,11-32

I have always been able to relate to the brother who remained at home, doing his duty as he saw it. Every time I read this parable of the son who was lost and is found, there is a kernel of anger that gets misdirected: to the father, to the returning brother, to Luke for telling this parable, to Jesus for siding with the "wrong" brother. What about me? I think. I have almost always been the one who does the right thing, performs the grunt tasks, makes sure things get done. I'm not the one who went out drinking and whoring around, wasting my money, making myself destitute because of the idiotic choices I have made. Self-righteousness can bubble up so naturally some times. 

I can relate to that stay-at-home brother going outside to sulk when the celebration is going on and then letting his father know he is insulted and hurt because of the joy felt for the raggedy-one who had all the fun. 

And right there is the rub, is the kernel of how I get the story wrong. Did that way-ward son really have fun in his drinking and whoring? Once he had finished using that money, and being used by it and the people around him, he was cast aside and he realized what he had lost. Not the money, but being treated like a human being, being loved as we are created to be loved and to love in return. And that love was always there for him to return to, just as it enveloped, at all times, the stay-at-home brother. 

There may be allure and excitement to the life the brother who left the homestead lived, but that luster disappears quickly and the emptiness of it becomes apparent, the danger of it is real. When I over-identify with the sulking brother, thinking about what I perhaps have missed, I try to think about the things I haven't missed by being the stick-with-it person. Resentment is an emotion that can bubble up, but it doesn't have to control our actions and decisions. Bringing a lost soul home is much more important.

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

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Daily Office Reflection: Blaming God

Psalms 78:1-39 * 78:40-72; Joel 1:1-15-2:2(3-11); Revelation 19:1-10; Luke 14:25-35

When bad things happen, a regular refrain that can be heard is "Why did God let this happen?" An acquaintance of mine, who has recently lost the majority of his lifetime's savings in the debacle on Wall Street, asked me that last week. "How could God have let this happen to me? What am I going to do now?"

We began reading the scary book of the prophet Joel yesterday. We finish the first chapter today and start on the second and I am struck by the language of loss, the language of pain and anguish, the language of sadness, the language that indicates that "the day of the Lord is coming....a day of darkness and gloom." I read these passages and I want to physically duck and hide as these kind of Biblical passages have been abused and misused for centuries by dooms day advocates.

Interestingly, this reading is paired with Jesus, on his walk to Jerusalem, turning to the crowd and telling them they must hate mother, father, sister, brother. They must give up possessions, pick up their cross and follow him. Follow him with nothing apparently, but themselves. 

I believe in the efficacy of prayer, of God in our lives in a palpable way. But God didn't cause or let happen the economic crisis that is sweeping the world. We did. Greed and avarice did. Have people been hurt by this crisis. Absolutely. And I think God can be found in how we respond to those people. I think God can be found in how we reorder our lives and re-find what is truly important. That is what Joel is talking about: a reordering or our priorities. And that is what Jesus is talking about too.

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

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Daily Office Reflection: On Being Humble

Psalms 75, 76 * 23, 27; Ecclesiasticus 51:1-12; Revelation 18:1-14; Luke 14:1-11

I think it is human nature to want to be recognized, to want to be known, to want to remembered. I think this is true for people whether they are extroverts or introverts. There are many different methods of achieving, and degrees of attaining, this status of recognition . Jesus recognizes this innate longing in us today when he talks about being humble and taking the lower place at a banquet table until someone asks us to move to a more prominent place.

This can be very unfair to those of us who are not extraverted, who are self-aware enough to know that we don't belong "up there", who are more gracious and kind and not so self-aggrandizing. For the people who are full of themselves can take-over a group, overwhelm a party or gathering of people. We all know people like this, or have been at places where one person is dominating a conversation, gathering as much of the attention as they can to themselves. It can be very annoying when we allow a cult of personality to dominate a social gathering. It can destroy a sense of community. 

Perhaps in these kind of situations it is important for us to look around the room and draw in those who are more introverted, shy or naturally humble and exalt them, gently but firmly pushing those who hog the spotlight aside. Humbleness is an important part of being self-aware. Some people need to be regularly reminded of this fact. It can be  a difficult life lesson to learn. Teach it we must.

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

Friday, November 7, 2008

Daily Office Reflection: An Acceptance

Psalms 69:1-23 (24-30), 31-38 * 73; Ecclesiasticus 50:1, 11-24; Revelation 17:1-18; Luke 13:31-35

Jesus has been on quite the roller-coaster ride lately, caused by his attention to and knowledge of what is going to happen to him when he reaches Jerusalem. He's angry, he's sad, he's stressed out and today we see a more prophetic Jesus. Today he alludes to not only his death and resurrection three days later but the destruction of Jerusalem. 

It seems that Jesus is taking a step today, a step towards acceptance of what he has to do. Jesus is not done yet, he still has a tremendous amount of work to do before he walks into that city. Jesus has taken a step today to wrapping his head around what is to come. He is accepting who and what he is today in a very public way. 

What is it in our lives that we need to accept? What are we turning a blind eye to that we shouldn't, that we need to accept, publicly?

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

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Daily Office Reflection: Through That Narrow Door

Psalms (70), 71 * 74; Ecclesiasticus 44:1-15; Revelation 16:12-21; Luke 13:18-30

Jesus tells us today that the Kingdom of God is like a mustard seed, and yeast mixed into flour, and that the door into that Kingdom of God is narrow, and that some who are mistreated and are last will be first, and some who are exalted and are first will be last. A very rich reading today.

Usually these readings boost my spirits, lift my hopes. That is not the case today. The joy I felt at the election of our new president has soured a great deal over the last 24 hours. A lot of the same people who voted for Barack Obama in CA and FL also voted to discriminate against a whole class of people: a group to which I belong. There is a sickening irony in this fact and it is tremendously wounding: to me and to many people I know. 

Perhaps we, the ones who are discriminated against and reviled by so many, who have been and continue to be the punching bags and repository of people's transplanted emotions, are the ones who need to find a way to lead people away from hate, away from bigotry and to the Incarnate One. We celebrate the life and work of William Temple today whose faith was based on his belief in the Incarnation: God among us in the person of Jesus. Perhaps those mustard seeds and portions of yeast he sowed for social justice in his time will grow anew in this fight we must somehow find the strength to lead.

Discouragement is a natural byproduct of losing. It takes effort to find hope in the bitterness. It takes effort to lift one's spirits. As impossible as that may feel right now, we have no choice but to try and move on toward and through that narrow door where we find and are embraced by the Incarnate One whose invitation is open to all.... All.

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

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Daily Office Reflection: Set Free From This Bondage

Psalms 72 * 119:3-96; Ecclesiasticus 43:23-33; Revelation 16:1-11; Luke 13:10-17

What an historic moment we are living in right now. After months of uncertainty and doubt and concern for many people, the American people, in droves, stepped forward yesterday and made a change. We elected, to our highest and most powerful political office, the first non-white person, the first individual who is bi-racial, the first person from African descent to hold that esteemed office. For me, there is such a feeling of relief.

Our Gospel reading for The Daily Office provides us with a crippled woman who had suffered her ailment for 18 years. Jesus heals her, the temple officials get pissed off because he does this on a Sunday and Jesus replies that he has treated her appropriately, no matter the day, and that he has set her free from this bondage that has enslaved her. Perhaps that is some of the relief I feel, that we have been set free from a bondage that has ruled this country. Not the bondage of Republicans over Democrats, but the bondage that is the shameful history of slavery that still haunts parts of this country. Many of the commentators on television last night were talking about a post-racial world, a post-racial attitude among people of non-African heritage. That it did not matter to them that their candidate did not have the same color skin. I hope and pray that this is true. 

Standing in line to vote yesterday, there was an enormous pride and hopefulness expressed by the non-white voters that is incredibly inspiring. Perhaps this bondage that has held us captive, this shame that has gotten in the way of our country truly moving forward has, although never to be forgotten, has been set free from us allowing, for the first time, this deep wound that has festered for hundreds of years to begin healing. May God allow this healing to happen quickly.

A Prayer for the (new) President of the United States:
O Lord our Governor, whose glory is in all the world: We commend this nation to thy merciful care, that, being guided by thy Providence, we may dwell secure in thy peace. Grant to the President of the United States, and to all in authority, wisdom and strength to know and to do thy will. Fill them with the love of truth and righteousness, and make them ever mindful of their calling to serve this people in thy fear; through Jesus Christ our Lord who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end. Amen.  (BCP, prayer 19)


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

Monday, November 3, 2008

Daily Office Reflection: Exasperated

Psalms 56, 57, (58) * 64, 65; Ecclesiasticus 38:24-34; Revelation 14:1-13; Luke 11:49-59

I hope Jesus felt better when he finally got it off his chest. He has been obviously frustrated with the Pharisees, with the crowds around him and now he is a bit put-off by his disciples, who still just do not understand....but how could they? Jesus might well have been speaking a foreign language for all the sense he was making to them, and that barrier must have been causing him frustration until he finally says it aloud: I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and what stress I am under until it is completed! He is referring to his torture and murder on a cross to which he is headed in Jerusalem. And there, he admitted it, he's stressed out about having to do this incomprehensible thing. And he is still speaking as if in a foreign tongue to them, talking about a baptism that he has to undergo....The disciples are probably thinking...but didn't John already baptize him in the Jordan River? And I'm sure Jesus just throws his hands in the air in exasperation and turns his ire on the crowd asking them the rhetorical questions: How can you not know by now who you are following? How can you still be listening to those Pharisees?

I love how Luke gives Jesus these human emotions as he is on his way to perform a divine undertaking. I find Luke to be the Gospel writer who best exhibits Jesus as fully human and fully divine. Jesus may get exasperated, he may get fed up, he may say difficult things, but he also says loving things. He also shares table with outcasts. He also washes these impossibly dense disciples' feet. Being exasperated with our fellow humans, due to their not getting it, is a natural reaction, which Jesus models for us today. That exasperation does not stop him from continuing on this scary path he is trodding. Nor should the exasperation we can feel at times stop us.

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

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Daily Office Reflection: All Saints' Day

MP: Psalms 111, 112: Esdras 2:42-47; Hebrews 11:32-12:2
EP: Psalms 148, 150; Wisdom 5:1-5,14-16; Revelation 21:1-4,2-22:5

All Saints' Day is an ancient holiday, which Lesser Feasts and Fasts tells us reaches back to at least 800 AD, if not before. LFF provides us with a nifty explanation of this Feast Day saying that the root of All Saints' Day resides in the desire of Christian people to express the intercommunion of the living and the dead in the Body of Christ by a commemoration of those who, having professed faith in the living Christ in the days past, had entered into the nearer presence of their Lord.... Wow... A lawyer had to have written that. But it does match closely the ideas expressed in our MP reading from Hebrews today: Therefore since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us....

We want to know and be comforted with the knowledge that those who have gone before us, who have run that race with perseverance, are not only with God, nearer to God than we are, but also surround us and provide us strength in times of weakness. It is not only us who want this reassurance, but for the past sixteen hundred years people have been yearning to have this comfort. 

I think it is part of our human nature to want to know these things, to know that there is something more than just here and now. Our belief in the Incarnate One helps us with that knowledge. This Feast Day also assists with this. Think on all those people who have been involved in your life who are now part of that great cloud of witnesses circling around us, holding us up. Remembering them in our prayers today brings them closer to us, because in remembering, they are made more real to us. We are not alone, ever. That isn't some cheap X-Files reference, but a fact of our faith. We are never alone.

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