Saturday, January 31, 2009

Daily Office Reflection: What Comes Out

Psalms 55 * 138, 139:1-17(18-23); Isaiah 51:1-8; Galatians 3:23-29; Mark 7:1-23

I am a fairly calm and even-tempered person...most times in life. That all changes, all bests are off, when I'm behind the wheel of a car. Although I have gotten better over the last few years, I am still pretty impatient with other people on the road. I don't "act out" in how I drive....rather I verbalize my frustrations, in particular when I am alone in the car. (Well, not completely alone as my dog Allie is normally in the back seat covering her ears.) I recognize that not only is this not the healthiest of tendencies, but that kind of behavior condemns me based on our Gospel reading today....for what comes out of my mouth is not very pleasant.

Mark provides for us Jesus' declaration that all foods are clean and then talks about how dangerous it is for us to speak rashly, to act differently than how and what we teach and preach. For those actions, that speech, shows some rot at our core, some defect in our heart. So I stand condemned today by Jesus' words and I will continue to work on my potty-mouth whilst driving. That behavior on my part does not make me feel better. It does not provide me with any satisfaction. I only find that my blood pressure goes up. This behavior is solely a bad habit that I need to continually try to curb. 

Sometimes these Daily Office readings can really bring me up today.

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

Friday, January 30, 2009

Daily Office Reflection: Close In

Psalms 40, 54 * 51; Isaiah 50:1-11; Galatians 3:15-22; Mark 6:47-56

A normal human reaction when we are faced with a great many things is to focus on individual issues, on the smaller things, trying to "get something done". Although an effective way to try and cope with something overwhelming, we many times can lose the big picture because we are to close in to see and understand.

We have just this kind of scenario in the Gospel of Mark today. The disciples, out on a boat in rough seas, after having just witnessed miracle upon miracle performed by the one they are following, still don't understand what is going on. While the folks in the towns and villages that they enter immediately recognize Jesus and bring all their sick into the town squares to have them healed. They may not have understood who Jesus was, but they recognized what he could do, something the disciples were still struggling with. 

Perhaps one of the things our Gospel selection today is asking us to consider is: what are we to close to that we cannot see the bigger picture, the bigger objectives? From what do we need to take a step back from in order to better get our bearings? Is God in the details? The bigger picture? Both?

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

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Daily Office Reflection: Self-Care

Psalms 50 * (59), 60 or 118; Isaiah 49:13-23; Galatians 3:1-14; Mark 6:10-46

When we are in any kind of leadership position, whether at work or at home, we are many times called upon to "be" a certain way, be available for those whom we are called to serve and lead, put things aside and focus on the issue that has come to our doorstep. Finding time to refresh ourselves, to recharge our batteries is a vital aspect of being a leader, and ironically this is one of the hardest things for people in leadership positions to learn to do.

We have a perfect example of this conundrum in our Gospel today. The disciples are back from the healing mission Jesus sent them out on: back, excited and probably exhausted. There is a hullabaloo going on around them and Jesus says Okay, let's get away from all this craziness around us. Let's go over to the other side of this lake where there isn't anybody around so we can decompress some and chat. So off they go to find a more quiet place to help them process what they have just been through, but the crowd sees where they are going and race around the lake to get there before them. Off the boat they get, ready for some down time, and the hullabaloo is all around them still. Imagine their reaction....imagine our reaction when we face a similar situation.

We are told Jesus had compassion on them when he saw the swarms of folk....He had to have given a deep interior sigh though.... A Oh gosh, okay, here we go. And he responded to them, as did his disciples. We are then provided with Mark's version of the feeding of the 5000 with five loaves of bread and two fish. After this, when all have been fed, comforted, healed, Jesus went up on the mountain to pray.

Jesus models a prayerful life for us which aids him in fulfilling his mission and ministry. Being able to say Enough is an important part of self-care....recognizing our limits of what we are able to do and when we can no longer be effective without some downtime, some prayer time, some time of refreshment and peace. As leaders, and all of us somewhere in our lives are leaders whether we want to admit this fact to ourselves or not, all of us need to be cognizant of this basic truth: that if we don't care for ourselves, we cannot lead and serve others.

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

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Daily Office Reflection: Words...Actions

Psalms 119:49-72; Isaiah 49:1-12; Galatians 2:1-21; Mark 6:13-29

Words have consequences. Actions have meanings. Actions have consequences too. Words without actions are many times meaningless. Actions speak louder than words...some times. These rather trite sentences are maxims heard throughout time.  Although trite and over-used, these phrases do hold some basic human truth within them. We can see all of them at play within today's Gospel reading from Mark.

We have Mark giving us the background story to John the baptizer's murder by Herod at the behest of a young girl with whom he had become besotted. Herod makes a public promise to give her anything she wants, even half his kingdom, and at her mother's urging, she demands John's head. Herod has set a trap for himself by his words and by his actions. They are intertwined in an interesting way. And they are juxtaposed against the actions of the 12 disciples out there in the world following Jesus' commands: healing and casting out demons and anointing the sick with oil.

We have today: rash words, wrongful actions done to protect an ego pitted against good works, right actions, loving words. Which do we follow?

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

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Daily Office Reflection: Disappointments Don't Stop Us!

Psalms 45 * 47, 48; Isaiah 48:12-21; Galatians 1:18-2:10; Mark 6:1-13

Since I was a child, when something is bothering me, or something happens that disturbs me, I tend to go quiet, to sink into myself. It takes a while for me to come back up for air and be able to talk about the issue(s) that sunk my spirits. I usually am able to function fairly well with my game-face on, but people who know me well can see that I am wearing my game-face. I keep doing the things I am called upon to do, perhaps just not as fully engaged as I normally am.

These thoughts came to mind as I was reading our selection from the Gospel of Mark today, where Jesus returns to his hometown and does not receive a tremendously warm welcome. The townsfolk look at him, point to his mother and his four brothers and his unnamed sisters and say Who the heck does he think he is? We know better!..... And Jesus was amazed by their reaction, their unbelief.

I can't help but wonder what Jesus really felt. Was he hurt? Was he angry? Did their reaction depress him? Right after this happens he sends the twelve out, two by two, to heal those in the surrounding villages. Was that sending a reaction to his hometown's betrayal? Jesus had to be, at the least, disappointed with the people with whom he grew up. Whatever that emotion was that he felt, Jesus did not let their inability to see who he had grown to be, stop him from doing what he was called to do. 

Disappointments are a part of life. Not a fun part, but still a part. We are given a model of how to react: keep on doing what we know we are called on to do, shaking the dust off our sandals of the ones who would stop us. Not easy, but a necessary thing to do if we are to be true to our calling.

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

Monday, January 26, 2009

Daily Office Reflection: Touching

Psalms 41, 52 * 44; Isaiah 48:1-11; Galatians 1:1-17; Mark 5:21-43

When I was growing up I loved to get my back scratched. My brothers and I would usually have betting competitions with the winner of the bet getting 5 minutes of nonstop back scratching....just heaven when I would win!

Touching is such an important part of living. Touching those we love. Hugging friends. Touching those with whom we are with to emphasize a point. Something tangible and palpable is nonverbally exchanged when that touch-thing happens.

When we have a healing service, the healing ministers touch, lay their hands on, the individual with whom they are praying. This is a very personal and powerful moment between the healing minister and the one seeking prayer, that a touch is absolutely a needed part of the service. This is much like what we have in today's Gospel selection, the healing (raising) of Jairus' daughter and the healing of the hemorrhagic woman.

Jairus asks Jesus to come lay his hands on his 12 year old daughter who lay dying. In route this woman who has been hemorrhaging for 12 years says to herself that If I but touch the fringe of his cloak I will be healed, which happens. When Jesus arrives at Jairus' house he is told that the daughter is already dead, but he ignores the crowd's scoffs, goes into the child and takes her hand, he touches her, and heals her.

Who in our life needs a light touch from us? Who needs to know that they are not alone and that this small human contact can provide such a healing? This is a powerful text providing a simple way for us to help others....and ourselves.

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

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Daily Office Reflection: Outside of Comfort Zones

Psalms 30, 32 * 42, 43; Isaiah 46:1-13; Ephesians 6:10-24; Mark 5:1-20

As human beings, many of us like to dwell in a place where we are comfortable. This can take many forms: home, friends, family, where we eat, what we eat, who we regularly hang-out with, what we do with our spare time, to name but just a few. These comfort zones are places where we can feel safe, confident, secure.

Our Gospel selection for today indicates that Jesus wants us out of our comfort zones. We have this long (for Mark) story of the demoniac from Gerasenes who had legions of unclean spirits in him. Jesus cures him by sending those unclean spirits into the nearby swine who take a flying leap off a cliff. The towns-folk ask Jesus to leave because of this miracle and as he is doing so, the man he cured asks to come with him. Jesus has become his comfort zone: being in proximity to this Holy One is something this cured individual wants to perpetuate. 

Jesus will have none of that though. He instructs the man to spread the knowledge of God's love to his friends and neighbors and he does so. Notice that Jesus doesn't send him out completely away from his comfort zone for he sends him to his friends as well as others. Being outside of our comfort zones is not an easy thing, yet taking those steps is a necessary endeavor to learn more about ourselves, our innate abilities and to show-off God's love for all of God's creation. We don't have to be out in that uncomfortable place alone, we don't have to be in that comfortless zone all the time or forever, we need to have refreshment and recharging time with friends within the comfort zone, but we have to step outside of that zone to help effectuate the Kingdom of God being created among us. In those comfortless zones, in those thin places in life, God can be more readily felt and experienced.

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

Friday, January 23, 2009

Daily Office Reflection: Fears Calmed

Psalms 31 *35; Isaiah 45:18-25; Ephesians 6:1-9; Mark 4:35-41

Jesus has just left a great crowd of people by the sea, after teaching them and his disciples. He has got to be exhausted at this point and asks his disciples to take him across the sea to the other side. They all clamber into boats and Jesus promptly falls asleep. A storm brews up almost swamping the boat. The disciples wake Jesus up saying How can you sleep at a time like this? Jesus awakes, calms the seas and wind and then asks those with him Why are you afraid? Have you no faith? And they are amazed at him.

What are we to think about based on this story? When the winds are buffeting our boat and the seas of our turmoil seem to be about to swamp us, what do we do? How do we act when we are beset with woes and fright, when our world seems to be about to fall apart? It seems to me that we are asked today, when in those fearful situations, to take a step back, remember to breath, center ourselves in prayer and Jesus' embrace, and then, with a calm, new outlook, face those raging storms with faith and the knowledge that no matter what happens, no matter how bad it might get, we are not alone and we are deeply loved. For we are. Breath, pray, seek calmness to face what's out there.

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

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Daily Office Reflection: More, More, More

Psalms 37:1-18 * 37:19-42; Isaiah 45:5-17; Ephesians 5:15-33; Mark 4:21-34

Some days it is hard to find the words to express my initial reactions to the Daily Office readings. There is a lack of clarity of thought, a more scattered impression. Unfortunately, today is one of those mornings. I know why there is this muddiness: I'm a bit cranked out because of a restless night. I also know when I'm cranky it is not a great time to try to be reflective. Busy-ness, distractions, a feeling that nothing is getting completed and a lack of responsiveness by some can all go into the mix of not feeling "on", but rather "off".

Our Gospel reading from Mark makes it clear that to those who have, more is given. Normally prayer and reflection helps untie the knot that is the state of crankheadedness, helps me let go, focus and move on with my day. Not working so far today. I will think about this Gospel during the day today and try to absorb, make a part of my being these profound words Jesus gives to his disciples: the measure you give will be the measure you get; to those who have, more will be given; the kingdom of God is like a mustard seed......From small, seemingly insignificant things, great and unexpected things can be produced: patient vigilance is called for to effectuate the kingdom of God. May our gracious and loving God grant me that state of being today.

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

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Daily Office Reflection: Crowds On a New Day

Psalms 38 * 119:25-48; Isaiah 44:24-45:7; Ephesians 5:1-14; Mark 4:1-20

I was down on the National Mall yesterday to be a part of something new...a new day. They are estimating the crowds on the Mall alone (not the parade route) to be between 1.8 million and 2.1 million. Being in the midst of that many people, I can attest that they might be underestimating. 

I do not handle those kinds of crowd situations all that well, but yesterday was different, the crowds were different. There was such great joy, expectation and satisfaction emanating from that mass of humanity that I did not witness any fractiousness. Even when we were moving along like lemmings, not sure where the crowd was pushing us, there was no sense of dismay. I did exhibit some of my NY crowd movement skills, leading my two friends through the crowds at a slightly quicker pace than those around us (a skill developed from many years of Manhattan living). 

Such a very large crowd gathered around...... That is how our Gospel reading begins today, Such a very large crowd gathered around. I am not putting the mantle of Messiah on our new President, but I am drawing an analogy to yesterday's event and the crowds that would assemble around Jesus. For those crowds 2000 years ago knew there was something new here, something different in what this man was saying, something they thirsted to hear, to experience firsthand. Those same words are true for President Obama: people are thirsting for a change, for a different course to be taken by our country. We all need to pray that this man can lead us to a way that can effectuate such a change in a meaningful and lasting way.

And this leads me to ask: What is it in our personal lives that we feel the need to change? Where are we asking to be led? How can we help lead people to the One who has loved us from the start of our individual lives? Why can't we accept that love and bring others to it as well?

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

Monday, January 19, 2009

Daily Office Reflection: MLK Jr Day

Psalms: 25 * 9, 15; Isaiah 44:6-8, 21-23; Ephesians 4:1-16; Mark 3:7-19a

Nationally we celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. today. In the church calendar this celebration falls on April 4th, the day he was murdered. This national holiday has a different tone and tenor about it this year. I sense a wide degree of joy and optimism and hope. Perhaps this is an inside the beltway phenomenon, but I hope that is incorrect. In this city, the Nation's Capital, there is degree of hospitality, of hopeful wonderment, a politeness that is not often experienced in the hustle and bustle that is this hub of politics. 

There are people who are not happy about President-Elect Obama's election, I know some of them. Nevertheless, I believe that even these people recognize the historic importance of this time in our nation's history. A man of mixed racial background, who identifies himself as black, is about to take on the mantle of the most powerful and visible job in the world. He brings with him the hopes and aspirations of millions of people. I believe all of us, whether we voted for this individual or not, want him to succeed, need him to help us find a way out of the morass we have become mired in: economically, socially and militarily.

We have a happy accident with the Gospel assigned for today. Mark provides the account of Jesus' naming of the 12 apostles right after a great multitude had followed Jesus from Galilee, as well as from Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea and from the region of Tyre and Sidon. We hear all of these names: Simon (Peter), James, John, Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James, Thaddaeus, Simon.....and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him. All of the Gospels do this, name Judas the betrayer from the very beginning. I have often wondered if all of us, no matter who we are, have a bit of Judas in us - a bit of the betrayer in us. I have often thought that part of what Judas represents is a depiction of our lesser selves, a selfishness that takes us away from the whole.

We all need to pray, no matter our political, moral or religious beliefs, for success: of the new Congress, the new administration officials, the new Vice President, the new President. Hope can be a challenging thing to sustain. When those hopeful dreams become less than what we had imagined them to be, or different from what we thought, our lesser selves can try and grab control of the stage. Our prayers of support for successful leadership will help control those Judas moments from overwhelming us. Those prayers will help us be patient and open to something different, to change. 

Change means just that: the unexpected, something new, something yet untried. Being in those uncharted waters can be frightening and can bring us to reaction as opposed to patience and openness, to our lesser selves as opposed to our better selves. Jesus was a change agent, not one to be easily categorized. Change does not mean stability, it means doing and being involved with something new, unknown. People resisted Jesus, the original change agent. People are still, 2000 years later, categorizing and freezing in time, this change agent, which is the true definition of oxymoronic. Change means things are going to be different: a scary place to be. There is no better time to pray then when we are in these uncharted waters.

Pray for our country, pray for our leaders, pray for soon-to-be President Obama and Vice President Biden, their families and friends. Pray to accept change and to keep the Judas at bay.

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

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Daily Office Reflection: Sabbath Days

Psalms 20, 21:1-7(8-14) * 110:1-5(7-7), 116,117; Isaiah 43:1-15; Ephesians 3:14-21; Mark 2:23-3:6

The sabbath was made for humankind; and not humankind for the sabbath. We hear Jesus say this today, on a Saturday at the end of the first week of Epiphany. I am struck with a memory from when I was a child. My parents had a regular refrain about their distress about stores and places of employment being open and operating on the sabbath, which for them was Sunday, not Saturday. They often talked about their childhood and early years and how those establishments did not operate on God's day. We still have vestiges of that mindset today, with liquor not being sold on Sundays, or after sundown on Saturdays. An enforced sabbath, so to speak.

But Jesus makes it plain: this day of rest is meant for us, not us for it. I think we lose a part of ourselves when we forget that. Even more so, I think we lose part of our ongoing relationship with God when we forget this teaching. Particularly in today's stressful economic climate, having a time, each week, to give to sabbath time can help reduce the stress levels that so pervade so much of our existence. We need to remember to breathe, breathe deeply the love God has for us, savor it like we do any good glass of wine. Taking some sabbath time in the week helps us to find the strength to face what we must, to do what needs to be done. Don't get caught up in rules and regulations, but remember that a sabbath time was made for us, not vice versa.

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

Friday, January 16, 2009

Daily Office Reflection: IWiJees

Psalm 16, 17 * 22; Isaiah 42:(1-9)10-17; Ephesians 3:1-13; Mark 2:13-22

I got back yesterday afternoon from a week's vacation. The place where I was staying had no internet connectivity. I would have had to go to coffee shops or public libraries to find access as I don't have one of those cell phone connection devices that some of my friends rave about, nor do I have a phone/blackberry which would have provided me such access....Yes I know, many have told me I am living in the dark ages. 

I went away knowing that the internet would not be as readily available and I decided that I would try not to constantly run to some place to check. I wanted to disengage from the usual routines and pressures and try and relax, rest, recharge my batteries. I succeeded in that vacation discipline, for I am rested, my batteries are recharged and I am relaxed as I can be. I only checked email/internet once, going to the public library ( there are 100s to read!). I didn't read many of them, looking and responding to emergency situations only. I learned something instructive in that vacation discipline: I am an addict.I suffered from IWiJees the entire time I was away. IWiJees = Internet Withdrawal Jitters. I wanted to check my email accounts, I wanted to know what was happening on FaceBook, I wanted to check the blogs of writers I enjoy reading, I wanted to check the news sites from which I find out what is going on in the world around me. And I got jittery not being able to have that instant gratification of opening my Bookmarked sites and scratching that itch. So much of life and "interaction" with others takes place through this ether, these virtual spaces we have created.

As with any human endeavor there are aspects of this interaction that are good and aspects that are not as healthy. Yet I cannot help but think that all this connectivity between people can be considered a new wine in fresh wineskins that Jesus talks about today. Perhaps I suffered IWiJees for a reason: I lost connection to and with people I love. There is, of course the other side of the coin, but that can be a reflection for another day. Today I want to think about, and rejoice in, the life-giving connectivity that exists in this ether-world, that can provide such loving new wine in a fresh wineskin. 

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

Thursday, January 8, 2009


I am off on vacation for a week, and will be back on Friday, January 16th. Have a great week!

Daily Office Reflection: Believing

Psalms 117, 118 * 112, 113; Isaiah 59:15-21; Revelation 2:8-17; John 4:46-54

On my first reading this morning of this account of the royal official from Capernaum whose young son lay dying, I furrowed my brow at the repeated use of the word believe. Jesus uses it once in his initial response to the man's request when he says, will not believe. We are then told that after Jesus tells him that his son will live that The man believed. On his long trek home he is met by his slaves who tell him of his son's recovery at the hour that Jesus said the son would live and we hear So he himself believed, along with his whole household

The first thing that troubled me was that we hear that the man believed and then we hear again that he believed. Which one was the time that he really believed? On my second reading, my guess is that the second time John says that the man believed was a reiteration of the prior belief and a lead in to his whole household becoming believers. (Not having access at the present time to the original Greek I can't check whether the tense used is different in the word believe in those two sentences, so I'm just talking here....) It is also possible that we can believe, and then not believe and then something happens and we believe once again. Perhaps this is what the Gospel writer we call John is getting at this morning.

Be that as it may, I wonder what it takes for us to believe.....believe in anything beyond what is tangible. Do we need signs and wonders? Do we need fancy words? Do we need proof? Or can we believe in something that is beyond our understanding by the use of our intellect and reason? Can we believe in Jesus without seeing his miracles firsthand? This is one of the things we are asked to do as members of the Body of Christ. Not an easy thing to do....The Episcopal Church never asks people to check their reason or intellect at the door, and that is a key characteristic in our Church's theology and ecclesiology. Nevertheless, there is a leap of faith that is necessary at times. Today's Gospel is asking us to examine that leap.

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

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Daily Office Reflection: Water and Wine

Psalms 103 * 114, 115; Isaiah 52:3-6; Revelation 2:1-7; John 2:1-11

This is a remarkable story: deeply nuanced, deeply moving. One of those nuances makes this vivid account of family dynamics at work a reason I really love this miracle story.  A mother, recognizing the abilities of her son obliquely guides him to announcing his presence and power in the world. A son, possibly annoyed at his parent for not being direct about a request, does what she wants him to do, although seemingly with a bit of crankiness involved. And in the Gospel of John, here is the beginning of Jesus' ministry: not an accidental ministry, but perhaps one pushed along by a parent who believes Jesus is ready.

Mary obviously knew her son very well and knew which buttons to push to get him to do something she wanted him to do. Who do we know who needs to be pushed some, perhaps out of a zone of safety? Where in our lives do we need to be pushed to achieve a potential for ourselves that we may not think we are ready for? We are amazing beings, able to accomplish unimaginable things...sometimes a little push is all we need.

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

Monday, January 5, 2009

Daily Office Reflection: Abiding in the Vine

MP: Psalms 2, 110:1-5(6-7); Joshua 1:1-9; Hebrews 11:32-12:2; John 15:1-16
EP: Psalms 29, 98; Isaiah 66:18-21; Romans 15:7-13

There have been times in my life, before I was ordained an Episcopal priest, that I wandered away from church and to some extent away from God. I can't blame it on youthful arrogance (although that did play a small part in the decision to wander into the desert of unbelief). And I can't sum up those reasons I choose to wander in one pithy sentence: there were an amalgam of reasons that led me to a number of years of absence from organized religion. I made it through that time relatively unscathed. I remember clearly there being an absence, a hole, in my life. I don't think I recognized it at the time, or could verbalize the emptiness at that time, but hindsight provides a different perspective.

The passage we have been given from John today is one of my favorites....I am the vine....Abide in me....Abide in my love....This is my commandment that you love one another as I have loved you.... Such amazingly powerful words and images and commands. One that gets overlooked because of the power of these words is...Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me.

I have come to understand that the hole I felt when I was wandering was that I was out there alone. I was separated from the Body of Christ. Sure I was successful professionally and my personal life was going along okay, but there was something missing, an important part of who I am as one of God's own....I was missing the community that is the Body of Christ..... As annoying as people can be at times, as challenging as living in community can be, putting up with the foibles of all that it means to be human, there is also something deeply affecting to the soul that is missing when we separate ourselves from the Body of Christ. When we are apart, we are not whole.

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

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Daily Office Reflection: The Good Shepherd

Psalms 68 * 136; Genesis 28:10-22; Hebrews 11:13-22; John 10:7-17

I have usually had a dog in my life, with those odd times being a few years after one has died. There hasn't been just one breed. I grew up with a Scottish Terrier named Lady Angus Pelham. Then there was a Lhasa Apso named Muffin. Following her I had two Cocker Spaniels whose names where Kurant and Citron. And now I am sharing space and life with a Bernese Mountain dog named Allie (Cat). She is the first large dog I've owned and is the first I haven't had since she was a puppy. I got her when she was a year and a half. She had been "returned" to the breeder after having been abused and abandoned by the people who had originally taken her. She is doing remarkably well given her early experience in life. 

I think caring for animals, whether dogs or cats or some other domesticated pet, provides a hint at what being a shepherd must be like. There is responsibility for the care of these creatures who can shower unbridled affection on their caretaker. They respond to your voice, in times of love and in times of correction. And they know so much more than we give them credit for. When you are responsible for a pet, they know you are not just a hired hand to care for them, but know that you are theirs and they are yours.

If we allow ourselves to be open to God's call, to walk into the embrace of the Good Shepherd, we will know a love and care that is beyond anything we can imagine giving to and providing for the ones we have chosen to provide for. The Good Shepherd knows us and will care for us. The hurt and pain we have had can be reshaped if we walk through those gates where the Good Shepherd stands watch, where that Good Shepherd knows each by name. It can be difficult to do this, but all we have to do is open our hearts to hear and respond to that call of the One that gives us life and knows our name.

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

Friday, January 2, 2009

Daily Office Reflection: True Bread

Psalms 34 * 33; Genesis 12:1-7; Hebrews 11:1-12; John 6:35-42,48-51

I am the bread of life Jesus says in our Gospel reading today. In fact he says one form or another of this throughout the passage. All we need to guide us, sustain us, can be found in him. One of the things our Eucharist, the personal intake of bread and wine, is meant to bring personally to us is this simple and direct constructed ordering of our life around this principle: I am the bread of life. All else pails in comparison. All else in life should revolve around this understanding of the central nature of Christ's involvement in our lives. All else should spring from it.

This is probably one of the hardest things we can do in life, to make this principle the central focus, the jumping off point, for our life. There are so many other ideas and distractions that take our attention away. It seems to me this is a lifetime's work: something to work at daily. The good news here is Jesus tells us.... that anyone who comes to me I will never drive away. There is such hope and confidence and love and patience in that one simple phrase.  We just need to walk into that loving embrace.

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

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Daily Office Reflection: Powerful Names

Psalms 103 * 148; Genesis 17:1-12a,15-16; Col 2:6-12; John 16:23b-30

Names can carry such power, weight and heft. We have seen that in our recent presidential election.... chants of Hill-a-ry! and O-ba-ma! and Barack. Modern culture has seen this with Madonna and Marilyn Monroe. Throughout history we have seen this: Churchill, Hitler, Napoleon, Charlemagne, to mention but a few. Names can carry with them important symbolism and power. Sometimes the person gets lost and the image and symbol are all that remain.

Today is the feast of The Holy Name. Lesser Feasts and Fasts tells us that in older times this was the feast of the circumcision, as it is the eighth day after the birth of Jesus...another powerful name. Names are important. We see that in our Genesis reading where God meets with Abram, when he was 99, and tells him that he is going to be the ancestor of a multitude of nations...and changes his name to Abraham. At the same time he changes Sarai's name to Sarah. God makes a covenant with Abraham and Sarah telling them that all generations must keep this covenant: that when all male children are 8 days old they shall circumcise the flesh of their foreskins. Moses continued this covenant, found in Leviticus 12.3. Thus the older version of today's feast day.

Mary is told the name to give her child, which is done: this name Jesus, which means Savior and Deliverer. On this New Year's Day, with parades and football games, keeping present in our minds and hearts this powerful name can help change our lives, our outlook on life, and keep us focused on what is really important. Other powerful names fade with time, this one does not.

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