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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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