Thursday, April 30, 2009

Daily Office Reflection: Reeling Them In

Psalms: 37:1-18 * 37:19-42; Daniel 5:13-30; 1John 5:13-20(21); Luke 5:1-11

Luke provides us with so much more detail than the other Gospel writers. Today we are at the lake of Gennesaret and Jesus' calling of Simon Peter, James and John. He does this calling after performing the miracle of hauling in huge quantities of fish after a day of fruitless fishing and after Peter's remarkable Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!

Jesus tells Peter and James and John not to be afraid and from now on you will be catching people. Jesus calls to him people who do not think they are worthy of the honor, who believe themselves to be sinful. Jesus teaches, performs miracles, preaches and recruits in today's passage. These are things all of us are called to do, no matter how unworthy we may believe we are, how sinful we may think we are. The love Jesus has for us, the understanding Jesus has for us being one of us, makes his invitation irresistible if we simply open ourselves to that gift. 

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

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Daily Office Reflection: In A Fog

Psalms 26, 28 * 36, 39; Daniel 4:28-57; 1 John 4:7-21; Luke 4:31-37

I hurt my neck somehow on Saturday evening and have been in a goodly amount of discomfort since then. Yesterday afternoon I took a muscle relaxer, an anti-inflammatory and a pain pill and quickly fell asleep. A couple of hours later I woke up and felt like I was not connected: as an aunt of mine used to say I was in a fog. I took my dog Allie for a walk, and although I was physically functioning, I was not mentally present: this was truly an odd feeling for me. 

As I was walking along a gentleman said something to me and Allie went over for a friendly hello. I looked up and saw an individual who was smiling at me and talking about the dog. I responded that yes she does love the water and then Allie and I kept on walking. About an hour later that man's face was still with me and I realized I knew him and that he knew me. He is a fellow priest in the diocese who is the rector of a parish in the southern peninsula of Maryland and who occasionally attends our Sunday evening Taize Eucharist. I feel just terrible that I didn't recognize him, that the chemically induced fog I was in made me so unresponsive.

I wonder if there is an analogy to the clearing of that chemically induced fogged mind to Jesus' multiple casting out of demons from people who were tormented by them, as we have in today's reading. I wonder if Jesus' actions in these types of healings was like lifting a fog not only from the individual cured but from the crowds around the healed individual. I wonder if these healings are similar to how a rising sun burns off the low lying fog that exists on golf courses some mornings. 

I know I did not like that feeling of being so disconnected and would rather (I think) suffer the pain than be so numb to the world. Jesus modeled for us a way of being connected to the world, a way of lifting the fog that can make us see the world clearly: see the work that we need to do.

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

Monday, April 27, 2009

Daily Office Reflection: Spirit and Truth

Psalms 25 * 9, 15; Daniel 4:19-27; 1John 3:19-4:6; Luke 4:14-30

Jesus comes out of the desert filled with the power of the Spirit and makes a name for himself immediately. He travels around and quickly goes back to his hometown where he preaches the truth and is questioned as to his authority. He responds with difficult truth that really pisses off his hometown and is chased to the edge of a cliff, but he eludes his pursuers.

The Spirit is a wonderful thing, but it can be a dangerous thing as well. When we are filled with the power of the Spirit, we know it. When we see someone else filled with the power of the Spirit we sometimes don't recognize it so readily: many times we find those people annoying. With the power of the Spirit, we can and do tell truth to power. This is an important aspect of the Spirit, for those hearing and for those delivering. There are ways of telling truth without getting ourselves killed in the process. But there is danger in working with the Spirit, and we need to recognize that.

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

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Daily Office Reflection: St. Mark the Evangelist

MP: Psalm 145; Ecclesiasicus 2:1-11; Acts 12:25-13:3
EP: Psalms 67, 96; Isaiah 62:6-12; 2Timothy 4:1-11

There are many traditions about St. Mark that have ben passed down through the ages. Lesser Feasts and Fasts tells us that Mark is believed to have been the son of a woman in who's house Jesus stayed. He is credited with being the Mark who started traveling with Paul but left for less than stellar reasons but later reconciled with Paul and became good friends with Peter. Mark is said to have been the first bishop in Alexandria and an early bishop of Asia Minor credited Mark as the writer of the Gospel given his name.

There is mystery here that is part of our faith. Just as importantly there is humanness here. Mark was not a key player in Jesus' story: tradition says he was a witness to it though. He was very human in his dealings with the cranky St. Paul, he made mistakes and found a way back from them to continue spreading the word about Jesus as best as he could. His was apparently a somewhat messy life and yet one that had great impact: not so much about him, himself, but about the one whom he dedicated his life, Jesus. That is a remarkable life worthy of remembrance this day.

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

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Daily Office Reflection: Doing What Is Right

Psalms 18:1-20 * 18:21-50; Daniel 2:31-49; 1John 2:18-29; Luke 3:1-14

We switch to the Gospel of Luke this morning and we are given the first (adult) appearance of John the Baptist being sent out to the wilderness after the word of God came to him. When the crowd asks John what they should do he says: Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none, whoever has food must do likewise. To the tax collectors he says: Collect no more than the amount prescribed for you. To the soldiers: Do not extort money from anyone by threats or false accusation and be satisfied with your wages.

John is focusing on greed and our base human predilection toward it. John is saying we need to fight that urge to be greedy and instead go the opposite direction of keeping what we truly need and to be generous with the rest, truly generous, to those who do not have what they need to survive: those who don't have food, those who don't have clothes. I find it interesting that we are not called to give up everything, but to do what is necessary, to be satisfied with what we earn. We are asked to do what is right today and everyday. 

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

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Daily Office Reflection: Christ' Body

Psalms 119:1-24 * 12, 13, 14; Daniel 2:17-30; 1John 2:12-17; John 17:20-26

Our Gospel reading, as convoluted as its writing is, shows us Jesus' plan, God's plan, for all of us. Jesus is setting up his church. We as members of that church, we are one with Christ. The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one..... 

We use the phrase "We are the Body of Christ in the world" quite often. This is one of the places in Scripture from whence that truth comes. When we talk about God's love for us, Jesus' love for us, our love for each other and for the world we are working to impact and change, when we work at effectuating that kingdom collectively and individually, we are that Body. When we look for and when we find Christ in the eyes of those whom we look at, interact with, we are that Body. When we pray, when we love, when we are affectionate, when we stand up to bullies, when we worship, when we lead new people to that ever-welcoming and loving embrace of Christ, we are that Body.

And being a part of the Body of Christ in the world today also means that we are never alone. Never.

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

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Daily Office Reflection: To Whom We Belong

Psalms 5, 6 * 10,11; Daniel 2:1-16; 1John 2:1-11; John 17:12-19

I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world.....They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world.

Right here is the rub that so many people who are Christian find themselves chafed by. For Jesus calls us to be different from the norms and culture that surrounds us, and this has never been an easy thing to accomplish as we are still of this world and in this world. We are not to separate ourselves from the world based on this passage. We are called to act differently in the world because of the gift Jesus gives us. By acting differently in the world, we will be "hated", looked upon differently, scorned, ignored, persecuted: from these things Jesus is asking God to protect us, to sanctify us.

It appears we are called to live a life that is not a "comfortable" life by society's standards. We need to make our own standards, our own markers of what is "comfortable" and what is right. This makes me unsettled, but perhaps Jesus is calling us to live in an unsettled state to ensure that we see things as he would and not as society would have us see them.

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

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Daily Office Reflection: Easter Week, Saturday

Psalms 145 * 104; Isaiah 25:1-9; Acts 4:1-21(22-31); John 16:16-33

John's writing can be so circular seeming, so repetitive. We hear numerous times today about seeing and not seeing Jesus, about his being with them for a while and then not, about asking anything of God through Jesus' name and it will be granted, about coming persecution and loss and grief that will be turned into joy. Such a great number of seemingly convoluted words today that, at times, make me want to throw my hands up in the air in frustration.

Perhaps that is part of the gift of John's Gospel. Life is complicated and full of frustrations, full of loss and persecution and grief, but also full of joy and happiness and goodness. And it is a struggle. And it is a balancing act. All this Jesus models for us and John writes for us as exhibited in today's Gospel selection. The joy of Easter having culminated after a long Lent and Holy Week journey are also examples of the struggle that John's Gospel can sometimes be for us. 

But we are given such wonderful assurance today that we are not alone, even though we don't see Jesus. We are promised that Very truly, I tell you, if you ask anything of God in my name God will give it to you. Jesus' name is a powerful and reliable friend for us that we are reminded today is gifted to us as we walk through this complicated world. 

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

Friday, April 17, 2009

Daily Office Reflection: Easter Week, Friday

Psalms 136 * 118; Daniel 12:1-4,13; Acts 4:1-12; John 16:1-15

There are times in life when things do not seem to be going right, where we can feel that the world is against us. Those negative thoughts and feelings can overwhelm us overshadowing the good that does exist all around us. I think those times of negativity are an example of those stumbling blocks Jesus talks about today. Jesus is trying to prevent us from stumbling over these things that get in the way of our doing the work we are called to do.

Will everything in life be perfect? Will we always do everything right? Will we get everything we want? Will everyone like us? Will everyone support us? Will we always be healthy? Will all our relationships be smooth sailing? The answer to all those is no. When things get off course,  we cannot dwell in the negative. We need to recognize that off-coursedness for what it is and not let it rule our lives. There is so much good we do and can do. 

As Jesus reminds us today, They will put you out of the synagogues. That putting out is not to stop us or rule our lives. We can do and do amazing things in the world with little more than our voice, our smile and our presence allowing the Holy Spirit to do the rest.

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

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Daily Office Reflection: Wednesday of Easter Week

Psalms 97, 99 * 115; Micah 7:7-15; Acts 3:1-10; John 15:1-11

abide in my love..... This is what Jesus instructs his disciples today while he is telling them that this abiding makes them fruitful vines in God's kingdom. This sounds like such an easy thing to do, when in fact it is enormously challenging. To open ourselves to this love, to abide in it, requires us to change the way we work in the world, the manner in which we operate. By operating in the world in this way, we set ourselves apart from the way society and popular culture pushes us to act. 

That tension, between society/culture and God's kingdom is the difficulty that rubs at all of us. Setting ourselves apart and yet still living in and operating in the world brings with it a daily tension we must live into. Taking the path of abiding in God's love, in Jesus' love, brings us a joy that is hard to articulate. We are promised that joy by Jesus today: I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.

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

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Daily Office Reflection: Tuesday of Easter Week

Psalms 103 * 111, 114; Isaiah 30:18-21; Acts 2:36-41(42-47); John 14:15-31

We are at the beginning of the great 50 days of Easter - sometimes referred to as Eastertide. In our Gospel reading from John today we are given Jesus' promise of the sending the the Advocate (the Paraclete) which we know as the Holy Spirit. And he ends with the sentence Rise, let us be on our way

Jesus talks about his corporeal self not being here: In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. On that day, you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. This is part of the difficulty of our faith, particularly in the world we live in that relies so much on what we can taste, see and smell. That empirical proof is, that tangible proof is not there for us because we were not alive 2000 years ago. 

But we do have this Spirit that leads us and guides us on the way if we allow ourselves to live into this life and keep ourselves open to God's voice in our lives. Living intentionally in a community of faith and being involved in that community is part of opening ourselves. It is part of our response to Jesus' command to Rise, let us be on the way.

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

Monday, April 13, 2009

Daily Office Reflection: Easter Monday!

Psalms 93, 98 * 66; Jonah 2:1-9; Acts 2:14,22-32; John 14:1-14


Jesus has done the impossible, and yet he has done it. He is risen. And yet, we are graced with a pre-Easter reading in our lectionary selection from John, with Thomas asking how will we ever know the way to follow if Jesus is going ahead of us. 

While so many of us are on our post-Easter Day services high, this is a grounding question for us. Yesterday was GLORIOUS at all three of our services. The joy and energy was palpable. Jesus' presence also palpable. But when those crowds fade, when we are back to ordinary time, ordinary life, how do we find that palpable presence Thomas asks about today?

One way is staying involved in community life, being involved in the nitty-gritty of living in an intentional community of faith. This helps sustain us in the world. Another is to pray regularly, if not daily. If we think about prayer as an ongoing conversation with God, that palpable presence is more easily discernible in our lives: in how we act and in what we do, for, as we Episcopalians like to say, we believe what we pray, we are what we pray.

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

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Daily Office Reflection: Holy Saturday

Psalm 95, 88 * 27; Job 19:21-27a; Hebrews 4:1-16(MP); Romans 8:1-11(EP)

The last day of Holy Week, the last day of Lent is finally here. This seems to have been a very long Lenten trek this year and my patience with the whole season is at an end. That impatience manifests itself in different ways. I am usually impatient with my dog when I am walking her during inclement weather. Weirdly, as I was walking my dog in the rain this morning I wasn't impatient with her incessant sniffing before finding the exact right spot to put her butt to pee or poop. I found myself enjoying the quiet, the sound of the rain falling through the newly budding branches of trees near the river. The sound of the rain on the water made me feel peaceful. Perhaps that is one of the things we are supposed to feel and think about today, this last day of Lent/Holy Week. Perhaps the impatience is natural....we want it to be Easter morning....we want to sing the "A" word and rejoice at Jesus' resurrection.

We are on the cusp of a new dawn and it is natural for our excitement to build. It is also natural to feel a calmness and sureness about what we celebrate tomorrow (or this evening at the Vigil services that will take place around the world).  A calmness and sureness that we are the recipients of a greater love than we can ever imagine being gifted: it is there for all of us. I can wait till then to say the "A" word. (Well, what the heck..... ALLELUIA!!! HE IS RISEN! HAPPY EASTER.) 

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

Friday, April 10, 2009

Daily Office Reflection: Good Friday

Psalm 95, 22 * 40:1-14(15-19), 54; Wisdom 1:16-2:1,12-22 or Genesis 22:1-14; Peter 1:10-20; John 13:36-38 (MP); John 19:38-42 (EP)

In the MP Gospel reading we are provided with Peter's weakness laid bare by Jesus. In EP we are provided with the story of Joseph of Arimethea and his loving care for this man who he did not understand but knew there was something special about. 

And we know the story in between these two vignettes. We still need to walk it today. We still need to open ourselves to this experience, to these events that take place in between. A friend of mine refers to this day, Good Friday, as the holiest day of the church year. I am not sure about that as I believe what occurs on Sunday morning should be given that title. But Sunday would not be possible without the day we need to walk through today.  This is not an easy day, but it is a walk that we must take.

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

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Daily Office Reflection: Maundy Thursday

Psalms 102 * 142, 143; Jeremiah 20:7-11; 1Cor 10:14-17,11:27-32; John 17:1-11(12-26)

I love Maundy Thursday, this first day of the Triduum Sacrum, the Sacred Three Days. I love the service that we will worship with tonight which will include washing of the feet, Holy Eucharist, reserving the Sacrament for tomorrow and Stripping of the Altar. And I love that we celebrate the Last Supper and the founding of our common table. 

It is such a privilege and an honor to lead worship and pray one of our Holy Communion prayers, creating the bread and the wine, the common food we all eat and drink in community. I love that as Episcopalians we are table-centric: that our common table and our common meal are central to who and what we are as the Body of Christ in the world. This sense of binding community which enwraps us all is a part of why tonight's service is so special for me. This helps with the "harder" parts of this Holy Week.

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

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Daily Office Reflection: Wednesday in Holy Week

Psalms 55 * 74; Jeremiah 17:5-10,14-17; Philippians 4:1-13; John 12:27-36

Sometimes our different lectionaries have weird convergences. This Gospel from John was our Sunday selection a week ago this past Sunday (a day that I preached in my parish). This Gospel was also the selection for the Eucharist on Tuesday in Holy Week (yesterday), again a service that I preached. And now we have this same selection today in our Daily Office lectionary. 

I have thought about the humanness of Jesus in this passage. I have thought about the divine nature that resides within Jesus because of this passage. I have thought about the denseness of those around Jesus, and my own denseness in not comprehending and not living into the life Jesus is calling us. I have thought about hiding - something particularly attractive this Holy Week right about now. 

What strikes me the most this morning is how strong Jesus is in these passages, how sure he is of what he has to do, no matter the personal cost to him. There is solace here for us as we struggle down this road of Holy Week.

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

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Daily Office Reflection: Tuesday in Holy Week

Psalms 6, 12 * 94; Jeremiah 15:10-21; Philippians 3:15-21; John 12:20-26

We take another step closer to the Triduum today, to Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and The Great Vigil of Easter all leading to Easter morn. And the Gospel of John provides us with Jesus giving a paradox: in order to have life we must lose it. Jesus is, as always, turning the world on its head and asking us to look at this new world in a different way. This is parallel to our Collect for today which tells us that Jesus turned a symbol of shame into a shining icon of glory: the Cross.

As we take another step along this week, if we walk with Jesus on the road to Golgotha and beyond, we will be looking at the world through new eyes, at a world turned upside down, and yet that world will not appear to be abnormal, but instead the way it is supposed to be.

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

Monday, April 6, 2009

Daily Office Reflection: Monday in Holy Week

Psalms 51:1-18(19-20) * 69:1-23; Jeremiah 12:1-16; Philippians 3:1-14; John 12:9-19

We are given John's version of Jesus' entry into Jerusalem in today's Daily Office reading. There are crowds and crowds of people and the Pharisees say the prescient Look, the world has gone after him. That statement doesn't stop them from moving their plot along to kill Jesus, which we know doesn't stop Jesus' work. And there is glory in this.

But our Collect for today exhibits a part of our faith that many of us try not to face: Almighty God, whose most dear Son went not up to joy but first he suffered pain, and entered not into glory before he was crucified.....Many of us want to enter Easter now and not take this walk this week we all must if we are to truly understand the gift we are given. 

All those crowds that chase after Jesus today, those folks who have left the Pharisees behind, disappear very soon and leave Jesus alone. Not only those crowds, but those closest to Jesus depart him and leave him alone. God, having taken human form, is alone, abandoned by these ferociously excited crowds and the ones who loved him and followed him from the start. Where is the glory in that?

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

Friday, April 3, 2009

Daily Office Reflection: I Am The Resurrection

Psalms 95, 22 * 141, 140:1-11(12); Jeremiah 29:1,4-13; Romans 11:11-14; John 11:1-27 or John 12:1-20

We had a funeral service last Sunday for a parishioner. She was 95 when she died and had lived in an "adult community" for the last 21 years, starting in the cottages, moving to an apartment and then into more and more of the hospital/critical care wing of the complex. I only knew Emily for the last two years of her life, as she slowly succumbed to the deterioration of her mind and body. It was a wonderful gift to hear about the "other" Emily who had lived a vital, active and loving life during the reception portion of her memorial service. 

We utilized The BCP Burial of the Dead, Rite II and began with the verses we hear in the first choice of Gospel selections we are given today: I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Jesus said these words to Martha upon his arrival having been summoned because Lazarus was dying. This is before Jesus raises Lazarus. To utilize these words during a funeral service, plucking them from a resurrection story, gives these words so much more of a palpable resonance. These words offer great comfort to those who mourn the loss of a loved one. These words set the tone for a funeral service: one of comfort and joy and thanksgiving.

As we walk into Palm Sunday and Holy Week, these words can and do help with all the questions that come up during this long week.

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

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Daily Office Reflection: The Father and I are One

Psalms 131, 132 (133) * 140, 142; Jeremiah 26:1-16; Romans 11:1-12; John 10:19-42

We finish with this long back and forth discussion between the Pharisees and Jesus about who he is, resulting from Jesus healing the man who was blind from birth. They claim he has a demon, Jesus summarizes the Good Shepherd metaphor and then clearly identifies himself when he says The Father and I are one. The Pharisees try to stone him, even though they recognize his deeds as "good", they believe he is a blasphemer. Jesus, of course, seems to effortlessly escape. 

They recognize his actions as good but are offended by what he has to say and thereby discount his works. There is no doubt that, at times, words can over shadow actions. But Jesus proves the Pharisees wrong about everything they believe. His triumph over the cross does that. The continuation of the kingdom building that we are all involved in proves them wrong, and continues to prove the modern day Pharisees wrong as well.

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

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Daily Office Reflection: I Am The Good Shepherd

Psalms 119:145-176 * 128, 129, 130; Jeremiah 25:30-38; Romans 10:14-21; John 10:1-18

We have this iconic reading today! The image of Jesus as the good shepherd imbues so much of our imagery and understanding of Jesus' ministry. This is a very complex passage: some will come, some will not; some will come, not all will stay; there are others outside of the community who can and will be a part of this new kingdom; there are those who want to destroy the kingdom and scatter the people Jesus calls, but if we stay with Jesus they will not succeed. Jesus is the center of it all, the leader, the one through whom all enter.

Simplicity and complexity in 18 verses. The wonders of the Gospel.

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