Monday, December 21, 2009

Daily Office Reflection: St. Thomas

MP: Psalms 23, 121; Job: 42:1-6; 1 Peter 1:3-9
EP: Psalm 27; Isaiah 43:8-13; John 14:1-7

I think St. Thomas should be the patron saint for all Episcopalians, for he had faith, but he had questions too. Thomas had stalwart confidence and loyalty and friendship to Jesus and the other disciples, but he wanted to understand too. His faith was there, just sometimes stalled by his intellect and his desire to methodically work through an issue.

We see these characteristics in our EP reading from the Gospel of John today. Jesus is interrupted in his final discourse at the Last Supper by Thomas who wants to know the answer to an obvious question: so you're going ahead of us - how the heck are we going to find you? And of course Jesus patiently and lovingly answers Thomas by saying it is through him, by believing and following him, that our way can be made clear. Probably not the clear answer Thomas was hoping for, but it is the only one Jesus is going to provide.

We have Thomas as an example and as a warning. As an example of his deeply routed faith and as a warning that we cannot let our intellect block that faith. Our intellect can help deepen that faith, but there are mysteries and beliefs that rely more on faith than our brain. A nice reminder on this last Monday of the Advent Season.
jfd+

Copyright 2009, The Rev. John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Daily Office Reflection: Enter Into the Joy

Psalms 40, 54 * 51; Zechariah 7:8-8:8; Revelation 5:6-14; Matthew 25:14-30

These past few days Jesus has been talking about being ready, getting ourselves ready for the end times, the last days. He continues along that theme in today's Gospel selection with the parable of the three slaves given 5 talents, 2 talents and 1 talent and what they did with those gifts.

We all have different gifts, different things we have energy around, different levels of desire to "do" certain things while others we do our best to stay away from. There are times, naturally, where we just don't feel like "doing" those things we are called upon to do, those things that we have gifts and abilities to do. I do not think Jesus is talking about those particular times in all of our lives. I do think Jesus is talking about times when we purposefully ignore, and over the course of a longer period of time, do not live up to, or into, the life to which our gifts and abilities can lead us.

There is a joy in accomplishing a task, in completing a challenging assignment. There is also a joy in actually living into and actually doing that work we have abilities to do. All of these recent readings we have been having in our Gospel have been focused on being ready, being watchful, doing the work we are called to do before it is too late. Having these kinds of focused readings in Advent is a good reminder of what this season is all about: getting ready for what we celebrate a week from today. In a way, we celebrate the world ending a week from today, the coming of God into the world in a new way signals the end.... and the beginning.

In Eucharistic Prayer B there is a phrase toward the beginning of the prayer that starts "In these last days....." Jesus is reminding us with this parable of the talents that we are in these last days; that the celebration of the Word becoming flesh we are preparing for seven days from today marks an end to all things, and the beginning of new....all of which allows us to enter into the joy that is God's embrace. All we have to do is be our better selves.
jfd+

Copyright 2009, The Rev. John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Daily Office Reflection: A Thirsting Soul

Psalms 30, 32 * 42, 43; Haggai 2:1-9; Revelation 3:1-6; Matthew 24:1-14

For EP today we are gifted two of my favorite Psalms: 42 and 43. Both Psalms are set out below for ready review. Some have asked me why I like these so much for there is some graphic, and some find off-putting, language (see 42:11-13). I find the imagery in those words far outweighed by other verses (see 42:1-2,6-7, 43:3-6).

I find in these two Psalms (that many commentators believe, at one time, to have been one) to provide the scope of a person's faith journey: desire, want, despair, questioning, resolution/faith. These Psalms, in 21 verses, run the gamut from: a deep desire to know God, a wanting to be in relationship with God, to despair that God seems to be absent in life's challenges, a questioning of one's faith and belief, and ending where we can start, at a faith that God is with us.

These are great Psalms to carry with us, to think about, during any time of the year, but in particular during Advent, this season of waiting and expectation and wonder. I commend them to you.
jfd+

Psalm 42:
1 As the deer longs for the water-brooks *
so longs my soul for you, O God.

2 My soul is athirst for God, athirst for the living God; *
when shall I come to appear before the presence of God?

3 My tears have ben my food day and night, *
while all day long they say to me,
"Where now is your God?"

4 I pour out my soul when I think on these things; *
how I went with the multitude and led them into the house of God,

5 With the voice of praise and thanksgiving, *
among those who keep holy-day.

6 Why are you so full of heaviness, O my soul? *
and why are you so disquieted within me?

7 Put your trust in God; *
for I will yet give thanks to the One,
who is the help of my countenance and my God.

8 My soul is heavy within me; *
therefore I will remember you from the land of Jordan,
and from the peak of Mizar among the heights of Hermon.

9 One deep calls to another in the noise of your cataracts; *
all your rapids and floods have gone over me.

10 The Lord grants loving-kindness in the daytime; *
in the night season God's song is with me, a prayer to the God of my life.

11 I will say to the God of my strength,
"Why have you forgotten me? *
and why do I go so heavily while the enemy oppresses me?"

12 While my bones are being broken, *
my enemies mock me to my face;

13 All day long they mock me, *
and say to me, "Where now is your God?"

14 Why are you so full of heaviness, O my soul? *
and why are you so disquieted within me?

15 Put your trust in God; *
for I will yet give thanks to the One,
who is the help of my countenance and my God.

Psalm 43

1 Give judgment for me, O God,
and defend my cause against an ungodly people; *
deliver me from the deceitful and the wicked.

2 For you are the God of my strength;
why have you put me from you? *
and why do I go so heavily while the enemy oppresses me?

3 Send out your light and your truth, that they may lead me, *
and bring me to your holy hill
and to your dwelling.

4 That I may go to the altar of God,
to the God of my joy and gladness; *
and on the harp I will give thanks to God, my God.

5 Why are you so full of heaviness, O my soul? *
and why are you so disquieted within me?

6 Put your trust in God; *
for I will yet give thanks to the One,
who is the help of my countenance and my God.


Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Daily Office Reflection: Something Different

Psalms 26, 28 * 36, 39; Amos 7:10-17; Revelation 1:9-16; Matthew 22:34-46

Ceasing the placing of human characteristics on what God can and cannot do is one of the concepts Jesus does his best to get across to the Pharisees today. He confounds the Pharisees today by making them reconsider whose son the Messiah would be: David's or God's. In one of those Gospel conundrums, we have Matthew (and other) Gospel writers straining to prove Jesus' relationship/lineage to David and yet in the same Gospel, many chapters later, saying that relationship is really irrelevant.

Placing human limitations on what God can and cannot do, Jesus is saying in part, is part of the Pharisees problem. We need to try to think beyond those limitations, see the world, and our workings within it, from a different perspective. God's love knows no bounds. We do a disservice to ourselves and to the coming Incarnation we celebrate in 17 days if we do not try and do something different, if we don't try to open ourselves to understanding God's love for us, and involvement in our lives, as something bigger than we are. That is a good Advent idea to chew on today.
jfd+

Copyright 2009, The Rev. John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Daily Office Reflection: God's Things

Psalm 20, 21:1-7(8-14) * 110:1-5(6-7), 116, 117; Amos 5:18-27; Jude 17-25; Matthew 22:15-22


This seems so simple, and yet it is not. This seems so direct, and yet it is not: Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor's,and to God the things that are God's. Jesus says this to the Pharisees that are trying to entrap him in their plotting to have him killed by the Romans.

We are called by God to be of this world but not, to be part of and in this world, but not. Two seemingly diametrically opposed instructions to allow us to live into the kingdom. One of the things Jesus is saying today is that we must be in this world, operate within the parameters and frameworks of it, but not allow those parameters and frameworks to dictate or control what should be the center of our existence: God.

If we base at the center of our understanding of the world our belief in God's love for all, those "worldly" things, those rules and regulations that can get in the way of being centered in God, take their proper place. As we are called to be God's representatives here, as the Body of Christ in the world, well than we will not be able to fail if we keep ourselves centered in God's love. Will we be successful al the time, bring the secular world along to where it should be, not always. That does not mean we should either stop trying, or that we shouldn't find some way to still accommodate those issues of equality and justice for all in all of our actions.

Such a simple concept Jesus provides for us today, hard to effectuate, but always possible. A good thing to contemplate as we enter the second week of Advent.
jfd+

Copyright 2009, The Rev. John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Daily Office Reflection: SNCMSRP

Psalms 119:1-24 * 12, 13, 14; Amos 3:12-4:5; 2 Peter 3:1-10; Matthew 21:23-32

The chief priests and the elders of the people come to Jesus today while he is teaching. In yesterday's reading from the Gospel of Matthew Jesus had cleaned the temple of the money-changers and those who sold doves. These elders and priests ask Jesus just who does he think he is, from where does he claim the authority to do and say the things that he does and says. Jesus replies asking about John the Baptist's missionary work and they equivocate, proving to Jesus and those who listen that they are a bunch of stiff-necked-closed-minded-self-righteous prigs (SNCMSRPs, for those who like acronyms).

Jesus gives them a parable about two sons: one who says nope, and then changes his mind, and the other who says yup, but doesn't do what the father asked. This parable sums up one of the wonders of our yearly season of Advent. We are all given a chance to not be SNCMSRPs. We are all given an opportunity to prepare ourselves for this gift God gives us in the Incarnation. Being human, we can all have, from time to time, a bit of the SNCMSRP in us. Just like the first son, we can reject initially, but God's waiting embrace is always there for us when we decide to turn and walk into that embrace.

Advent is a wonderful time to get a massage to loosen those tightened neck muscles, open our mind to ideas and concepts that we might have initially rejected, and be gracious in listening to others and not be so self-focused. A good parable to think on this Advent.
jfd+

Copyright 2009, The Rev. John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Daily Office Reflection: St.Andrew

MP: Psalm 34; Isaiah 49:1-6; 1 Cor 4:1-16
EP: Psalm 96; Isaiah 55:1-5; John 1:35-42

We do not know all that much about St. Andrew. The most important thing we do know is that he was Simon's (named Peter by Jesus) brother. In John's Gospel, Andrew is one of two who first follow Jesus, and Andrew is the one who then brings Peter to Jesus.

Lesser Feasts and Fasts remarks today that Andrew did not seem to be part of the Jesus' inner circle, which consisted of Peter, James and John, although Andrew does appear in the Gospels more frequently than any others, besides the inner circle. Andrew's experience is so very typical of what happens in life: someone discovers something (or someone) and then introduces this to others, and others become more prominent.

And yet Andrew is not forgotten or cast aside. He is like the vast majority of us: those who open the way for others to exercise their gifts to the fullest extent. Not everyone can be a Peter. All of us can be like Andrew though, and open the door to those we know who need to become acquainted with Jesus. That is not a small thing.
jfd+

Copyright 2009, The Rev. John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.


Saturday, November 28, 2009

Daily Office Reflection: Advent Eve

Psalms 137:1-6(7-9), 144 * 104; Micah 7:11-20; 1 Peter 4:7-19; Matthew 20:29-34

We are at the end of the church calendar year today. We begin Advent tomorrow! A new church year in which we switch "years" in both the Sunday lectionary and Daily Office lectionary. We change colors for what we wear. We start the church year in this season of Advent, where we have readings that provide us with the tension between contemplating the coming of the Prince of Peace and the End Times, Jesus' coming again.

Some view Advent as a "mini-Lent", a mini-penitential season. Others view it as a time for quiet reflection and preparation on the gift God gives us on Christmas: the Incarnation. Whatever this beginning season is for us, we are given a clue of what we should be thinking about in today's Gospel selection from Matthew, where Jesus asks two blind men what they want him to do for them and they say, let our eyes be opened.

That small phrase is a good one to think on today, this last day of the Season after Pentecost, this Advent Eve. What have we closed our eyes to this past year? What should we open our eyes to this new year? What should we try and focus on this Advent? Let our eyes be opened.
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Copyright 2009, The Rev. John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Daily Office Reflection: Thanksgivings and Remembrances

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

Growing up, my family home was one where the extended family came for the holidays. Thanksgiving was for my mother's family and Christmas, my father's. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends would swarm to the house. The usual arrival time was 3:00 in the afternoon, with dinner being served around 5:00. But preparation started days before (shopping, cleaning, setting up, pulling out the good china and silver and crystal, finding the folding chairs, putting the leaves in the dining room table). Thanksgiving morning had bustling about beginning early, with getting the turkey ready, peeling the potatoes, cutting the turnips, preparing the appetizers, doing the final set up to make sure the hoards of people would have a welcome and fun time. In between the prep, there was watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade and all those balloons and floats, perhaps Laurel and Hardy's March of the Wooden Soldiers, and of course, football. Hard work, but a time to be thankful for and a remembrance of people, many of whom have long since gone to the embrace of God.

So many things to be thankful for today, so many people to remember and to be grateful for having in my life. A good day to also remember and pray for all those less fortunate, who do not have tables to share and food aplenty. A good day to remember God in our lives, loving us wherever we are, and whoever we may be.

Happy Thanksgiving.
jfd+

Copyright 2009, The Rev. John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Daily Office Reflection: The Importance of Kids

Psalms (120), 121, 122, 123 * 124, 125, 126 (127); Nahum 1:1-13; 1 Peter 1:13-25; Matthew 19:13-22

As a church we, often times, do not do a good job incorporating our children into the full life of our corporate bodies. Children of all ages are segregated away from the rest of us, told to act like adults (and not like children), frowned at when they do act like children. Those types of experiences chase parents away from church and can leave marks on the child that do not go away.

At the beginning of our Gospel reading from Mark today we hear about Jesus laying hands on little children and praying. The disciples speak sternly to those who brought the children to Jesus. Jesus said Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for t is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs.

Having children around us in all aspects of the life of the church is a vital reminder of this passage for us. By having kids among and around us, as full members of this Body of Christ we are all a part of, makes us complete, allows us to be who God created us to be, allows us a glimpse of the kingdom Jesus is announcing. It also provides a basis for those children to continue in the life and work of this Body in which they are an equal part.
jfd+

Copyright 2009, The Rev. John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Daily Office Reflection: Forgiving

Psalms 107:33-43, 108:1-6(7-13) * 33; Isaiah 65:17-25; Revelation 22:14-21; Matthew 18:21-35

I am often asked by friends, both "churched" and "non-churched", how these ancient documents we study and worship could possibly be relevant to today's world. And I many times will ask them to look at the pericope from Matthew we have today in response to their challenge.

Jesus is pointing out a flaw in our human nature: one having to do with gripes and retained sore-feelings over against forgiveness. We all get resentful, have our feelings hurt, are treated badly by someone or some group. Those feelings many times can become longstanding resentments where forgiveness finds it hard to put down any roots. These feelings and our human nature, are the same as those disciples, represented by Peter today. We haven't much changed from those folks who walked around with Jesus 2000 years ago.

As an example of that: I live in a large, multi-unit condo building and I was down in the laundry room early this morning (around 6 AM). I was there before anyone else in the building was awake or active enough to get their laundry down to the basement. I did not meet anyone when I went down initially or when I went to move the clothes from the washers to the dryers. When I got back down there to take the clothes out of the dryers (well before the time had expired on the machines) there was a woman there who had already put clothes in the other unused dryers and was impatiently waiting for me to come down (even though my machines had yet to finish their drying cycles). She was obviously in a very bad mood and completely unresponsive to my greeting or attempt at light conversation. That kind of rudeness just pisses me off and although I felt like giving her a lecture I chose to stay quiet, calmly (and perhaps a bit more slowly than necessary) getting my clothes out of the dryers, and left the laundry room. I was more annoyed than I should have been, and thought about today's Gospel reading on the elevator ride back upstairs.

By the time I reached my apartment door I had found a place to forgive her and forget the incident. Part of the elevator self-conversation I had was debating going back and giving this rude individual a piece of my mind weighed against holding a grudge and being snippy to her next time I ran into her in the complex, or praying for her and letting my base instincts be just that, base and to be recognized as that.

By these simple, every day, human interactions is how these holy Scriptures are still applicable today. They point us to a better world, a kingdom proclaimed and modeled for us in the life and teachings of Jesus.
jfd+

Copyright 2009, The Rev. John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Daily Office Reflection: Wrong Question

Psalms 105:1-22 * 105(23-45); Maccabees 4:1-25; Revelation 21:22-22:5; Matthew 18:1-9

The disciples get Jesus a bit riled up today! They ask him who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven, and Jesus, basically, says Hey folks, wrong question! Jesus points them to a rearranging of their attitudes and understanding of what life would be like and needs to be like in this kingdom Jesus is pronouncing.

Jesus brings a child forward and says, be humble like this child, change and be like this child. The humble are the greatest in the kingdom! And then Jesus warns about the dangers of inhibiting someone who is like this child, warns about allowing those non-humble moments (those stumbling blocks) controlling how we act in the world.

Humbleness is, for many, a hard change to accept in their outlook and understanding of the world. Jesus recognizes this when he says Occasions for stumbling are bound to come, and yet he says, if we do stumble, get up, watch were and how we are walking, change. Jesus knows we are human and fallible, but that doesn't lesson his love for us, nor does it lesson God's love for us. But that does not mean we shouldn't get up, watch were we are going, change, try again when we do stumble. We need to re-think the question, perhaps not even think about "greatness", but instead think about how we can change that question to how do we make the kingdom among us become more real, not only for us but for all those who have yet to find a way into this kingdom.
jfd+

Copyright 2009, The Rev. John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Daily Office Reflection: Doubt and Faith

Psalms 97, 99 (100) * 94 (95); Maccabees 3:25-41; Revelation 21:1-8; Matthew 17:14-21

Jesus comes down the mountain today with Peter, James and John, having been just transfigured before their eyes, and he is greeted by a man who tried to have his epileptic son healed by the disciples who had remained behind. But they failed at their attempt to heal the boy.

Were the disciples annoyed at being left behind by Jesus? Were they starting to panic about being left alone: what if Jesus doesn't come back? What are we to do? And, perhaps in that panic, in that doubt, their faith (which was still developing) waned and they were not able to heal the epileptic boy. Perhaps Jesus' annoyance was directed at these disciples he left at the base of the mountain to take care of those things while he was busy doing something else. Jesus says as much at the end of today's Gospel reading when he says, in response to a query as to why they couldn't heal the boy, Because of your little faith.

Doubt, perhaps, got in the way of those disciples' efforts at healing. Doubt got in the way of what they had seen first hand, what they knew they could do in Jesus' name. They forgot, let doubt get in the way, of the knowledge of how the world can be different because Jesus has entered our world. Doubt got in the way of their faith.

Doubt will always be with us. Balanced against that doubt is a sure and confident knowledge that God loves us, became human in Jesus, knows us better than we know ourselves and is here with us at all times. That knowledge can outweigh the doubt and tip the scales to the side of faith, if we allow that to happen. Which side of the scale are we going to allow to rule us today?
jfd+

Copyright 2009, The Rev. John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Daily Office Reflection: After Images

Psalms 89:1-18 * 89:19-52; Maccabees 3:1-24; Revelation 20:7-15; Matthew 17:1-13

We have Matthew's rendition of the Transfiguration in today's Gospel selection. Matthew does something interesting in how he describes how Jesus is transformed. Matthew says, after they climbed a high mountain (by themselves), Peter, James, John witnessed Jesus be transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white.

Imagine that: a face shining like the sun, clothes being dazzling white. The Greek word that Matthew uses (egastrapon) can be translated not only dazzling white, but "as if lightning bolts were emanating" from him. Think about what lightning does to our eyesight: we are blinded for a moment and all we see are shadows and after-images. Combine that with Jesus' face "shining like the sun" and we are provided with an image that is not only too bright, but also becomes indistinct and otherworldly: all else fades, leaving a marked place. And that after-image from that lightning has burned an image onto our mind's eye.

Perhaps that is the image Matthew is trying to leave with us today in his description The Transfiguration. The concept he is trying to burn into our mind's eye: the brilliance of Jesus' presence, making it the center of all that we see. The after-image from the lightning that stays with us, is other-worldly yet somehow a part of this world, is a way for us to carry Jesus with us through the day, to remember his real presence with us in all the ordinariness of our lives, making those moments extra-ordinary.
jfd+

Copyright 2009, The Rev. John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Daily Office Reflection: Why Does God....?

Psalms (83) or 23, 27 * 85, 86; Maccabees 1:1-28; Revelation 19:1-10; Matthew 16:1-12

It is still raining here in DC. We are on day three, with at least another predicted. We are stuck in a trough between different weather patterns colliding around us, or so the meteorologists say. A parishioner told me that they have plans afoot for the weekend where good weather would be optimal, and was worried about the bad weather changing their plans. He asked Why would God do this to me? Why would God let this happen?

These are common questions, regular refrains, many people ask when things do not go as planned, or when bad things happen: illness, death, relationships ending. These are also questions asked when elections turn out a certain way, usually when the tyranny of the majority oppresses a minority. Quite often the majority will point to Scripture as a basis for their decisions, for their vote that marginalizes a minority. And the minority will ask these questions.

We live in hope: hope that God answers our prayers, hope that God will give us the strength to make the Kingdom come, hope that our faith in Jesus' life, death and resurrection will center us to face those hard choices we all have to make and face those hard times. You see, God doesn't "do" these things to us, or "allow" these things to happen to us. Some are forces of nature at work and some are human ignorance, pride, ego at work. We see Jesus warning about the tyranny of the majority when he says Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducces! Jesus battles with them directly, but also goes around them. Some he gets through to, most he does not: but they do not stop him. Nor can they stop us. Jesus did not let them stop him, deter him from his path; nor can we let those same present day Pharisees and Sadducces deceiving the majority deter us, discourage us, give us an excuse to stop.

We live in hope. Jesus came for the minority, the oppressed. God did not put us here. God sent Jesus to lead us out. And out we will come. Our work is not over.
jfd+

Copyright 2009, The Rev. John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.


Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Daily Office Reflection: Four Fold Action

Psalms 119:97-120 * 81, 82; Nehemiah 7:73b-8:3,5-18; Revelation 18:21-24; Matthew 15:29-39

Having compassion for over 4000 people today, Jesus creates a feast for them from seven fish and two loaves of bread. As a precursor to that meal, the Gospel writer Matthew provides us with the four fold action of the Eucharist, the Great Thanksgiving, we celebrate every Sunday. We have Jesus taking the seven loaves and the fish, blessing (giving thanks), breaking them and giving them to those who were gathered. Take, bless, break and give are the four actions we take at every Holy Communion in which we participate. We will see this again at The Last Supper Jesus has with the disciples where he provides more language we use during the Eucharist: but today we have the ground work being laid for part of what we do when we participate in this holy meal.

Giving thanks for God's caring for us, for Jesus' care for those who come to him for aid, healing, rebirth. Something to carry with us throughout the day and to bring with us next time we come to the common table. Something to consider as our nation prepares for "Thanksgiving" later this month.
jfd+

Copyright 2009, The Rev. John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Daily Office Reflection: Keeping At It

Psalms 78:1-39 * 78:40-72; Nehemiah 9:26-38; Revelation 18:9-20; Matthew 15:21-28

Today we have Matthew's version of Jesus acquiescing to ministering to those outside of the chosen community to which he was initially sent. Not my favorite Jesus shows up today: one who is seemingly uncaring, unthoughtful and pretty rude. Today we have a major step by Jesus (and eventually his disciples) to reaching out to those outside of their comfort zone.

This Canaanite woman is persistent, as we have seen others be persistent, in asking Jesus for help. The disciples apparently are unsuccessful in shoo-ing her away and they complain to Jesus to do something about her peskiness. He is verbally unkind to her but she persists in asking for help for her beloved daughter. Her love for her tormented daughter drove her to continue to ask, beg, for Jesus' help.

There are a number of ways we can reflect on this Gospel. One is that God will always listen to our prayerful requests based in love. Another is that God's love for us is like-unto that Canaanite woman's love for her tormented daughter. God is persistently calling after us, coming toward us, offering that love to us. We can be very persistent in not recognizing that loving call, just as God is more persistent in offering it to us. Lucky for us God has more patience than we can imagine.
jfd+

Copyright 2009, The Rev. John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Daily Office Reflection: The Helping Hand

Psalms 75, 76 * 23, 27; Ezra 9:1-15; Revelation 17:1-14; Matthew 14:22-36

There is a lot going on in today's Gospel selection from Matthew: Jesus is praying alone after having fed 5000, Jesus walks along the water, has Peter do the same (at Peter's request), saves Peter as his faith waivers, calms the wind that had been torturing and hindering the disciples journey, and is heartily welcomed when they land at Gennesaret, with people bringing all the sick to him for healing. Not a small sound-bite this morning, but a huge data dump for us!

Jesus' calmness entices me today. In our previous three readings we have seen him: rejected by his home town; be saddened by the news of John the Baptist's death; and when he seeks rest he finds 5000 starving people seeking his guidance and help. Today Jesus has found some rest: rest on top of the mountain, alone, in prayer. And then he continues on his journey after that short respite and re-charging. He has received a caring hand from God. He offers that caring hand to the disciples and to Peter and then to all those folks who greet him in Gennesaret. Such a calming presence for us to try and emulate. Even more importantly is our remembering that the hand of welcome, of help, is out-stretched to each of us as well. That hand that pulled Peter out of his sinkng faithlessness is offered to each of us as well. All we have to do is reach out and grasp that helping hand offered by the centered and calm one.
jfd+

Copyright 2009, The Rev. John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Daily Office Reflection: Disappointed, Hurt and Still Working

Psalms 70,71 * 74; Ezra 7(3-10)11-26; Revelation 14:1-13; Matthew 14:1-12

In yesterday's Gospel reading Jesus was rejected by his home town, we heard they were "offended" by him. Today we hear about John the Baptist's murder at the hands of Herod and his family and when Jesus hears of it he needs to go away, so he gets in a boat to get some time alone. Tomorrow we will hear about Jesus getting off the boat and finding people having followed him and he feeds 5000 with five loaves of bread and two fish, even though he was looking for some time to grief and recharge.

There is an arc to this story that we can miss if we don't read all of it, placing it in context. Certainly there are lessons to be taken from each pericope, but many times it is helpful to understanding (I'd say all times actually) the daily thread by keeping in mind the larger arc, the larger path the story is on.

From these three snippets of Jesus' life we are in the midst of, we see Jesus continue his ministry in the face of: being dissed by his family, learning of the death of cousin and when he is looking for some down-time to recharge, he instead finds people clammering for help. Part of the even larger picture is Jesus continuing on his journey, doing the work he is doing, knowing the cross is at the end of his mortal journey, and then a gift, through his self-sacrifice, for all of us.

Working through times of disappointment, hurt and times when we may be looking for rest, is part of the example we are given today, and yesterday, and tomorrow, by Jesus. There is a continuation, an ongoing work we are all called to do in the face of opposition, hurt, and requests for help. This work is all part of effectuating the creation of the kingdom Jesus' life and work pronounces.
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Copyright 2009, The Rev. John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Daily Office Reflection: All In

Psalms 61, 62 * 68:1-20(21-23)24-36; Nehemiah 12:27-31a,42b-47; Revelation 11:1-19; Matthew 13:44-52

Jesus is explaining his parables of the Kingdom he is pronouncing with more parables. He tells of someone finding treasure hidden in a field and a merchant finding a pearl of great value, with both of them selling all they have to buy the field, the pearl. And the kingdom of heaven is like that.

Selling all we have to be part of this kingdom. Giving up all these things to obtain something that is far superior, sounds a bit scary. There is something here that can get overlooked: neither of these individuals is compelled to do what they do - they made a choice to do so, they wanted to do so. This kingdom is something they have been looking for, searching for, and when they find it, being a part of it is worth the massive change they undergo to obtain the fruit of their search. They want to do what they do to be a part of this kingdom. They are not compelled.

Like in poker, these two individuals put all their chips on the table gambling that the treasure hidden in the field and the pearl of great value is worth being all in. Jesus is saying today, being a part of this kingdom is our choice, and when we find it we want to be all in. All in. Nice.
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Copyright 2009, The Rev. John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Daily Office Reflection: In Us

Psalms 55 * 138, 139:1-17(18-23); Nehemiah 4:1-23; Revelation 7:(4-8)9-17; Matthew 13:31-35

We are given the mustard seed parable and the leavening yeast parable in today's Gospel. They are quite familiar to many and because of that, their radical message can be lost quite easily. Simply stated, the mustard seed, what is known as an incredibly tiny seed, grows into something quite impressive making a home for all different kinds of birds, and providing shade and rest for travelers. The smallest amount of yeast imbues an entire amount of flour changing its quality and makeup forever, allowing it to grow into something completely different.

These parables Jesus teaches us today are part of this ongoing dialogue Jesus is having about the kingdom he is announcing, a kingdom he is inviting and wants us to be a part of. That mustard tree is there for us to feed from, to take shelter under. The tiniest thing we do in the furtherance of the kingdom can blossom into something unplanned for and unknown. That small amount of yeast exists in all of us. It just need a bit of kneading, or mixing, to become an active part of us, be activated, imbue all of us to change into something completely different.

In five short verses today, Jesus provides us with an amazing amount of hope and solace with this knowledge that the love that God has for us is there for us, is in us: for all of us.
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Copyright 2009, The Rev. John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Daily Office Reflection: Entangled

Psalms 40, 54 * 51; Nehemiah 1:1-20; Revelation 6:12-7:4; Matthew 13:24-30

In my more unrealistic and simplistic moments I dream about a world were the nasty people learn the error of their ways and walk and act rightly, appropriately. Silly, I know, in particular when we think about what Jesus says in our Gospel selection today.

Just like Jesus says "you will always have the poor with you" so he indicates today that we will also always have, entangled with and within us, those he entitles "weeds." And Jesus says something interesting in regard to these weeds: we shouldn't remove them, but live with them. He says that these weeds will be taken care of in due time and that we should not uproot our own selves in order to get rid of the weeds, for they are entangled with us.

We have our assignment, our role, our duties to live in and assist in the creation of this kingdom Jesus is talking about, and we should live into those and not worry about the weeds. That is a tall order for they are enmeshed with us. This instruction by Jesus is one that requires, at least for me, daily reminding and work.
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Copyright 2009, The Rev. John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Daily Office Reflection: St. Simon and St. Jude

MP: Psalm 66; Isaiah 28:9-16; Ephesians 4:1-16
EP: Psalms 116, 117; Isaiah 4:2-6; John 14:15-31

This Ephesians passage is one of my favorites. If I had a top ten list, this would be in the top five. Such soaring language with wonderful metaphors and descriptors, providing such hope and guidance.
- bearing with one another in love
- there is one body, one Spirit
- each is given grace according to the measure of Christ's gift
- the gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ.
- speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body's growth in building itself up in love.

Read the whole selection for today. It's great stuff!
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Copyright 2009, The Rev. John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Daily Office Reflection: Everyone Is Different

Psalms 45 * 47, 48; Ezra 5:1-17; Revelation 4:1-11; Matthew 13:1-9

This passage from Matthew today has a depth and breadth to it that is mind blowing. In a half dozen verses Jesus sums up the world, how people operate within it. If we look at the seeds as human souls (and the sower being God), we find that some souls fall on paths, non-depth soil, among rocky ground, some on good soil. There is a seeming randomness to the falling of the seeds that brings sadness with it. There is joy as well, for the seeds that make it to good soil bring forth different kinds of product: "some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty." From that last, we can also see jealousy having a place to take root, which adds another layer of complexity to this reading. "Why does that shoot of grain get to have a hundredfold yield and I only have thirty?"

These stories of individualized gifts litter scripture, most meant to help us rejoice in not only other's gifts, but our own as well. The mystery of why some seeds of the sower land on pavement and are never given the opportunity to root, or the ones given a more difficult existence (or none at all) is harder to explain away. That is the sad part. Joy and sadness together, complexity and simplicity combined together..... life in all its glory and mystery.
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Copyright 2009, The Rev. John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Daily Office Reflection: A New Family

Psalms 41, 52 * 44; Zechariah 1:7-17; Revelation 1:4-20; Matthew 12:43-50

Can you imagine how Jesus' mother and brothers felt when they either heard him say, or heard about what he said about them? Jesus says today, when told his family is at the door, that they had been replaced by his disciples: those who do the will of God. Did they take it personally? Did they go away hurt? Did they take it as hyperbole meant to prove a point about what can happen in this Kingdom Jesus is proclaiming? Perhaps a bit of all of those and more?

As the Body of Christ in the world today, we are creating a new family: new sisters and brothers, mothers and fathers. Sometimes that means leaving people behind, sometimes it does not. The love Jesus has for his disciples and those that follow him (like us) is like unto the love a mother has for a child, a father has for a child, the love between siblings. We are a new family when we are part of this Body of Christ. There is a poignancy in this news that gives us so much to think about.
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Copyright 2009, The Rev. John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Daily Office Reflection:Greater than Jonah and Solomon

Psalms 30, 32 * 42, 43; Ezra 4:7,11-24; Philemon 1-25; Matthew 12:33-42

Yesterday Jesus heals the blind and mute demoniac and is accused by the Pharisees and Scribes of being able to do his feats of power because of his relationship with Beelzebul. This rightfully pisses Jesus off, and he says these folks have maligned the Spirit's work. And that pissed-offedness continues in today's readings where Jesus renders judgment on the Pharisees for their words and foul hearts.

He refuses to give them a requested sign, except for a description of his impending death and resurrection. Yesterday Jesus said "If it is by the Spirit of God that I cast our demons, then the kingdom of God has come to you." And today he (again) announces his coming fate but adds that something greater than was ever seen before is among them. That something greater is him and this kingdom that has come among us.

We are given a gift in this rather difficult Gospel reading this morning: a reminder of how our words can have such influence on others. This is a powerful responsibility, that to those who are members of this Body of Christ, we are charged with perpetuating this kingdom of God that has come among us. That our words can influence others in ways that we need to be always conscious. A gift yes, and a responsibility.
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Copyright 2009, The Rev. John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Daily Office Reflection: Hope

Psalms 37:1-18 * 37:19-42; Ezra 1:1-11; 1 Corinthians 16:1-9; Matthew 12:15-21

Yesterday Jesus made the Pharisees quite angry by his allowing the disciples to pick/eat grain on the Sabbath as well as healing the man in the synagogue of his crippled hand. Today we have Jesus leaving them behind to continue on his work of healing and spreading the good news. And we have Matthew's words that in Jesus' name we will have hope. Remembering this hope exists for all of us is so important. We are surrounded by such beauty and such tragedy, this hope needs to be our ground from which to exist in this world.

In DC there is an increase in teenagers murdering other teenagers. Some of these have been gang related, but many are anonymous, "drive-by", random and are senseless. They are indicative of a far deeper problem and sense of hopelessness: a hopelessness of those who are perpetrating these terrible crimes and a hopelessness in trying to figure out how to address all of these issues.

We need to balance that sense of hopelessness against this promise of hope that we have been given in Jesus. That promise is real and needs to be our center, our solid ground on which to stand, from which all else we do and believe comes. Not easy, but that hope is a lifeline in difficult times.
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Copyright 2009, The Rev. John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Daily Office Reflection: Yoking It

Psalms 26,28 * 36,39; Lamentations 1:1-5(6-9)10-12; 1 Corinthians 15:41-50; Matthew 11:25-30

We had a Blessing of a civil marriage recently. These two individuals had previously yoked each to the other in the eyes of the state and then they came to their spiritual home to be yoked to each other before God and their family and friends.

Yoked is not usually used when referring to marriage and blessings, but it actually is a great image - two people tied together, working together and yet being guided by a power that is often beyond our comprehension. A couple's love for each other, as expressed in our formalized service of blessing is a tangible way to articulate God's love for us as mirrored in that relationship being blessed.

These yokes that Jesus is referring to in today's Gospel reading are custom made for the creature to which they belong. Otherwise, they would chafe the animal and make the long term work for which they are being utilized impossible to complete. The same is true for each of us: God knows us and provides us with burdens and work that may seem impossible to bear, but with God's help, they never are.
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Copyright 2009, The Rev. John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Daily Office Reflection: Criticizers and Doubters

Psalms 25 * 9, 15; Jeremiah 44:1-14; 1 Corinthians 15:30-41; Matthew 11:1-24

Somedays you just have to tell it like it is with no holding back. There are times when tact is called for, and other times when bluntness is the name of the game.

We have a very blunt Jesus in today's Gospel reading. He is on a tear because the followers of John have brought John's predicament, as well as the manner he had been treated/mistreated, to the forefront of Jesus' mind. He knows how John has been treated and has witnessed first hand how he has been received by the towns and villages he has visited: those towns where he has healed and cured and taught. Not that Jesus' teachings have been subtle in the past, but he is going for the blunt (and rather threatening) tactic today.

In life, there will always be people who doubt us, who criticize us, many times for their own personal (and perhaps selfish) reasons. Part of living in community together, of being part of this Body of Christ to which we are all called, is to accept each other on a deeper level, to see beyond the petty and open our eyes to God's work in the world. Those words make it sound easy, but it is anything but easy. We are called to live differently, think differently, model for the world a different way of interacting. There is no wonder that it has been over 2000 years and we are still working on understanding this. The struggle is worth the effort.
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Copyright 2009, The Rev. John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Daily Office Reflection: No Offense

Psalms 16, 17 * 22; Jeremiah 38:14-28; 1 Corinthians 15:1-11; Matthew 11:1-6

Jesus has just finished teaching his 12 disciples and is off teaching in their cities and towns when John the Baptist sends some of his followers to ask Jesus "just who are you?" Jesus responds that John should be told what they see: that the deaf hear, the blind see, lepers are made clean, the poor are told about the good news. And then Jesus says something fascinating: And blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me.

How easy Jesus says it is to be blessed. In reality, how easy is it not to take offense? We get offended all time by people, by what they say, how they act, by what they do. Many of us have thin skins. And certainly when Jesus was out and about preaching and teaching, turning the world in which he lived upside down, he offended a lot of folks.

Perhaps remembering this fact is a good tidbit to take with us today, and remember when we are feeling put out, insulted, taking offense at someone or something, asking ourselves "Is this really necessary?" is a way to think about what Jesus was getting at today. Perhaps by not taking offense, not only will we be blessed, but we will be passing on a blessing to someone who needs it just as much as we do.
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Copyright 2009, The Rev. John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Daily Office Reflection: Fired Up

Psalms 18:1-20 * 18:21-50; Jeremiah 38:1-13; 1 Corinthians 14:26-33a,37-40; Matthew 10:34-42

We get a complex picture of Jesus this morning. At the start of our Gospel passage Jesus is talking to "the twelve" and we do not seem to hear from "The Prince of Peace." We hear a Jesus warning and predicting of swords and divisions in families and friends, of a fracturing of the world as we know it.

This torrent of change predicted by Jesus is juxtaposed against the ending verses where Jesus invokes a promise of reward: reward by God for not only acknowledging Jesus but also acting out in the smallest way in following Jesus' instructions about this Kingdom he is founding.

We are warned by Jesus that following him will call derision and division and change down into our lives, but that there is something greater on the other side of that turmoil. What awaits all of us is a God whose love for us is boundless and sure; one in whom we can count on this reward being there for us, providing us strength and courage to face those turmoils Jesus says are waiting for us. Face them we can. Endure them we can. Surmount them we can knowing this love is supporting us.
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Copyright 2009, The Rev. John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Daily Office Reflection: What About Bald People?

Psalms 119:1-24 * 12, 13, 14; Jeremiah 37:3-21; 1 Corinthians 14:13-25; Matthew 10:24-35

Jesus tells us to not be afraid, that God loves us so much that God knows the amount of hairs on our head! Well, speaking for someone who is follicaly challenged, this simile is not all that helpful to me.

Some mornings when I read MP, and perhaps the coffee hasn't kicked in just yet, I am not looking to be challenged in understanding the metaphors that run through Scripture, and I hope for a more literal, simple reading. I recognize that this is unrealistic and a bit juvenile, but sometimes I think we all want something nice'n easy. But God's Word as we have in Scripture is really not like that. There is a complexity and beauty and mystery that keeps us coming back to continue in the conversation.

But today's overall, over-arching message can be considered quite clear: God's love for us, each one of us, is right here for us to accept. Whether bald or with a full head of hair, fat or skinny, fit or flabby, whatever ethnicity, gender, sexuality, God's love for us, down to the smallest hair remaining on us, is known and loved. I suppose that is pretty simple and direct.....sigh.
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Copyright 2009, The Rev. John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Daily Office Reflection: Hospitality

Psalms 1, 2, 3 * 4, 7; Jeremiah 36:11-26; 1 Corinthians 13:(1-3),4-13; Matthew 10:5-15

Jesus sends his disciples out, to round up the lost sheep of Israel and to spread the the Good News of the kingdom he is proclaiming. He tells them to leave those homes and towns that do not welcome them and issues a dire warning about those unwelcoming towns: what happened to Sodom and Gomorrah will be like nothing in comparison to what will happen to them.

Hospitality was a very important part of the ancient world, in particular, the Jewish tradition called for hospitality to be generously given to travelers. So Jesus' mistreatment is all that much more shocking. Eventually Jesus extends the cultural traditions of hospitality he was reared in to include the whole world. All are invited into this kingdom he is proclaiming, but there is a requirement of hospitality, of welcoming the stranger.

Who is the stranger? To whom is it that we are called to be hospitable?
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Copyright 2009, The Rev. John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Daily Office Reflection: Go Away!

Psalms 106:1-18 * 106:19-48; 2 Kings 21:1-18; 1 Corinthians 10:14-11:1; Matthew 8:28-34

Jesus heals two "demoniacs" who are living in a grave yard today. They go to their town and tell everyone what Jesus has done for them. Jesus trails along behind them and the "whole town" comes out to meet Jesus and they "beg" him to leave, to go somewhere else.

Faced with the unexplainable, the town reacts in fear and asks that the source of that fear to go away. How often do we do this in our lives? In small ways and large, we hide from those things that make us afraid, that scare us. Think about what those townsfolk lost by asking Jesus to leave....healing possibilities, being in the presence of God taken human form, experiencing a love that knows no bounds.

Fear is a powerful motivator and can come from a deep place of needed self-protection. Yet we cannot let our fear of things unknown get in the way of: doing what we are called by God to do; nor living into creating that kingdom Jesus announces. We are not called to say Go Away! to Jesus' presence in our daily lives. As hard as it may be, as frightened as we may feel, the unusualness that is this kingdom of God is worth walking into, welcoming into our community, our lives, our homes.
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Copyright 2009, The Rev. John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Daily Office Reflection: Peevish

Psalms 107:33-43, 108:1-6(7-13) * 33; 2 Kings 19:21-36; 1 Corinthians 10:1-13; Matthew 8:18-27

I walked into the office on Thursday morning quite cranky. My beautiful and loving dog was being a bit of a brat, traffic patterns around DC were particularly awful and I was exhausted. The combination of all of these made for a cranky start, about which I was quite embarrassed about an hour later. I did apologize to our executive secretary to whom I was a bit snappy when I arrived on Thursday. His response was: it happens to everyone, don't worry about it, which was awfully nice of him.

There is a certain relief when I read today's Gospel selection as Jesus appears to be a bit peevish with everyone he comes across. He has just come down from the mountain where he had just delivered a boatload of teaching. He comes off the mountain, and (in yesterday's reading) he: heals the leper, heals the centurion's servant from a distance, heals Peter's mother-in-law of a fever and cures many other sick and casts out demon spirits. Jesus finishes all those things and looks up and still sees enormous crowds (the beginning of today's reading) and decides he needs to leave (to go to the other side). He gets cranky with a scribe, directs a disciple to leave his unburied father, and scolds his disciples for being afraid of a windstorm. We can tell Jesus is tired, exhausted perhaps. Yet through that exhaustion, he continues to respond, perhaps a bit snappy in tone, but still doing what he is called upon to do.

We are all human and get tired and can be a bit reactive at times. Recognizing our humanness and still doing what we are called upon to do, is modeled for us by Jesus today. A good reminder.
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Copyright 2009, The Rev. John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Daily Office Reflection: A Different Road

Psalms 101, 109:1-4(5-19)20-30 * 119:121-144; 2 Kings 18:9-25; 1 Corinthians 8:1-23; Matthew 7:13-21

Today Jesus talks about: a hard road, a narrow gate, grapes and thorns, figs and thistles. He says not to listen to folks who point us toward an easy road or a wide gate into this kingdom he is announcing. Today is a wake up call. One that tells us we need to always be re-thinking what we are doing, how we are doing it, what our goals are and how those things align with Jesus' instructions.

Jesus is pointing us to a different way of thinking, a new way of interacting with each other and with the world. And he is saying that it is not easy. He is saying, as he often does, that there is a cost, a price, to being a part of this kingdom. But the taste of the fruit is worth the prick of the thistle, the stab of the thorn. The sore back from bending through the narrow gate and the callused feet from trodding the hard road are worth it for what waits on the other side of the gate, what is at the end of the road. We are different people when we are followers of Jesus, when we are intentional members of a community of believers. We are reminded of this fact by Jesus today.
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Copyright 2009, The Rev. John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Daily Office Reflection: St. Michael & All Angels

MP: Psalms 8, 148; Job 38:1-7; Hebrews 1:1-14
EP: Psalms 34, 130 or 104; Daniel 12:1-5 or 2 Kings 6:8-17; Mark 13:21-27 or Revelation 5:1-14

What is there to write about angels? What is there is say about the one spoken of as the most powerful of all angels, Michael? Anytime I think of angels now the images from the movie Dogma come to mind. And although I like this movie, I think it has an undue influence on how I think about these mysterious beings.

Angels have taken a back seat in our culture, in our churches, even though many are named after them: we talk more about Saints more than we do angels. And our focus, as is appropriate, is centered on Jesus as opposed to these mysterious beings, angels.

In no uncertain terms I can say....that I don't know what I think about angels and the fierce St. Michael. My skepticism is great and deep. I do not discount the possibility (or probability) that the majesty and mystery that is God could have these beings surrounding us, this God who embodied Jesus and lived and loved among us. This God who can and does always surprise. Through the skepticism, staying open to God's loving surprises is something for which I continue to strive and something we are reminded of and called to by today's celebration.
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Copyright 2009, The Rev. John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Daily Office Reflection: Closet Cleaning

Psalms 89:1-18 * 89:19-52; 2 Kings 17:24-41; 1 Corinthians 7:25-31; Matthew 6:25-34

I spent a part of this weekend cleaning out my closets, re-organizing, making piles of things to donate and things to toss. I found some clothes that all I could say to myself was What was I thinking? I couldn't, in all good conscience, put some of this stuff in the donation pile. I mean, who, who would wear that?

I wonder if the folks who put together our lectionary for the Daily Office purposefully placed today's reading from Matthew at a turn of the seasons. Do not worry about what your wear, Jesus says. And as usual, I am brought up short. There is so much more to life than clothing, than eating at the fashionable restaurants, worrying about truly inconsequential things.

Jesus, as always, is pointing us in a different direction than our human desires tend to send us; toward the kingdom of God he is announcing, he is proclaiming. Jesus is saying we need to strive first for the kingdom of God, toward something where our priorities are different. Where it won't matter what we eat, drink or wear because those things are truly inconsequential. A place where we won't have to worry about tomorrow. Granted, Jesus admits that Today's trouble is enough for today, meaning not everything is going to be perfect, nothing ever is. But that has never been the focus of what Jesus has been saying, this idea of no worries or perfection.

Centering ourselves around the concepts Jesus continually stresses is the focus: love, community, forgiveness, love. Having a different focus that centers us in God's close presence in our lives allows for a letting go of the inconsequential, allows for a real closet cleaning.
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Copyright 2009, The Rev. John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Daily Office Reflection: Ohhh, Money

Psalms 87, 90 * 136; 2 Kings 11:1-20a; 1 Corinthians 7:10-24; Matthew 6:19-24

We have an oft heard Gospel reading today: one that makes many people roll their eyes. People roll their eyes not only because of the familiarity of these verses, but because of the seeming impossibility of Jesus' demands. And certainly these verses have been taken, not only literally, but to their extreme, making the eye roll all that much more easy.

What I think Jesus is talking about when he says You cannot serve God and wealth, is that money, wealth, has the power to overwhelm us. The desire to succeed, obtain material things, live in ways that are beyond our necessity, has a way of corrupting us, has a way of altering our priorities, skewing them and ultimately perverting them.

If we are focused on wealth, we are focused on ourselves. That selfishness narrows our focus away from that which Jesus is directing us: the building of the kingdom of God. That kingdom has at its root an unselfishness that is the polar opposite of what wealth represents. I do not believe Jesus is condemning all those who have wealth. I believe Jesus is asking, by saying what he does, what is our focus? What is our purpose in pursuing wealth? And what do we do with that wealth once we have attained it?

We have a slippery slope theory here. A slope, that we do not have to slide down, given the right focus, the right center for our existence.
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Copyright 2009, The Rev. John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Daily Office Reflection: Conflicting Readings

Psalms 88 * 91, 92; 2 Kings 9:17-37; 1 Corinthians 7:1-9; Matthew 6:7-15

Reading all three of today's readings brings some confusion with them. In 2 Kings we have the end of the Ahab - Jezebel saga begun weeks ago in 1 Kings. We have death and destruction to many. Jezebel dies today, rather gruesomely, having been thrown from her towering room to the stones of the palace, spattering her blood on the walls, the horses trampling her and the dogs eating her, leaving only the palms of her hands, her skull and her feet as witness to her life. Gruesome.

In 1 Corinthians, Paul continues in his exclusionary, unforgiving nature. His own prejudices, his own self-righteousness continues, when today, he deigns to give his followers the right to respond to their God-given passions. He does demand monogamy, which is not a bad thing at all, and probably the only redeeming part of today's passage.

Then we have Jesus teaching his disciples to pray. Jesus is quite clear - and we understand that clarity as we say The Lord's Prayer in all of our Daily Offices and at the end of all our Eucharistic Prayers. Jesus says to: praise God in heaven; ask for the Kingdom to come; acknowledge God's will in our lives; ask for our daily bread; ask for forgiveness from God for our debts/sins; acknowledge that we must forgive those who are our debtors/who have sinned against us; and ask God to keep us from evil and temptation. Jesus ends these instructions with a dire warning: For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

Forgiveness needs to be a center of our existence. This ties into Jesus' focus on love. Now, I do not profess a fondness for Jezebel and her treachery, nor do I espouse sexual impropriety that Paul rails against. But our Hebrew Testament and Epistle readings seem to be in sharp contrast and disagreement with Jesus' direction to be centered in forgiveness and I struggle with trying to reconcile them.

I am unsure if they are reconcilable, like so much in the Bible. Perhaps we are meant to wrestle with the inconsistencies and find a way through....Some fall on the side of Paul....I prefer listening to Jesus and fall in that direction. So much in our world, in our church, in our personal interactions with friends and families, would be better if more people listened to Jesus.
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Copyright 2009, The Rev. John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Daily Office Reflection: Love

Psalms 119:97-120 * 81, 82; 2 Kings 6:1-23; 1 Corinthians 5:9-6:8; Matthew 5:38-48

Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of God. Jesus is demanding a lot of us in these decrees he is setting forth these past few days. He seems to be setting the bar awfully high for us.

What strikes me this morning is this order that we are to love those who are enemies and pray for those who persecute us. What does it mean to love someone? What does it mean to love our enemies? Does it mean we have to like them? Agree with them?

If we read through our Outline of the Faith (commonly called the Catechism), we can find a rough definition of love, even though it is not defined anywhere specifically. We find that love surrounds most of the responses to the call and response of that Catechism. It is a way of being. A way of being in the world, interacting in the world, approaching everyday interactions. We hear in the Catechism about: a single loving God (p. 846, 862), the love of God (p. 846, 862), God is love (p. 849), we hold them in our love (p. 862), those whom we love (p. 862). There is no clear definition, it just is; it is just a way of being. A way of being like God: patient, understanding, appropriately chiding and cajoling and pushing, appreciating, praying for, hoping for, all of these encompass and help define what really is very difficult to define.

I get this idea of praying for those who persecute us - as that is something that is clear and requires a definitive act. I am not saying that I always like or succeed at this requirement, but I understand it a lot more clearly than this love thing. But I also know, quite clearly, when I don't like someone, when someone does something that offends me, or hurts me, or when I feel a hatred towards them. Perhaps that is the key to trying to define the undefinable. In those moments when my lesser self is raging on about some individual, perhaps that is when I need to take note, to pause, and look in the opposite direction. This is when I need to remember this directive from Jesus, Yet how do I find love for this person? I think it starts with prayer: prayer for understanding, prayer for healing, prayer for this other individual who has caused so much pain, an offering up to God, a turning over to God those things that I cannot change.

Centering in prayer allows that love that God has planted in all of us not only to take root, but to become the center of all that we do and all that we are and all that we can be. That is a good start to understanding the undefinable and ever-changing nature of love.
jfd+

Copyright 2009, The Rev. John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Daily Office Reflection: A Completely Different World

Psalms 78:1-39 * 78:40-72; 2 Kings 5:19-27; 1 Corinthians 5:1-8; Matthew 5:27-37

Jesus is setting forth a very different view of the world today - a different way of being in the world for those who would be his followers. We are not even supposed to look at someone with lust, with desire. No divorce, except because of unfaithfulness. Tomorrow we will hear Jesus tell us that we are not to not respond to our enemies, to not seek revenge. A very different world indeed.

Our readings begin pretty easily with the end of the tale of Naaman and Elisha and Elisha's servant Gehazi, who acts wrongly and is punished for that transgression. The readings take a difficult turn with the verses from 1 Corinthians where the sainted Paul instructs his followers to reject, to ignore, to push out of the community those who have sinned (in this case a man who is "living" with his father's wife). Having had this verse put into action against me by certain conservative members of my seminary class, I have a particular heartache over this passage. And then we have Jesus telling us to put aside those human desires that get in the way of our making the kingdom happen, of our being a part of that kingdom.

Jesus is telling us to move away from our lesser selves and toward our better selves. This is a daily challenge, even a moment by moment challenge for many of us. But all three of these passages should not be taken in a literal manner, but as metaphor, as a hoped for goal to which we all need to strive. Challenging, yes. Impossible, maybe. A goal, absolutely: with God's help.
jfd+

Copyright 2009, The Rev. John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.