Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Daily Office Reflection: Who Really Sees?

Psalms: (120), 121, 122, 123 * 124, 125, 126, (127); Jeremiah 25:8-17; Romans 10:1-11; John 9:18-41

We have the continuing story of the healing of the man who had been blind from birth in the Gospel of John today. This story is clearly one where John is showing how Jesus has moved away from the Pharisees. This is also an extremely long rendition for any Gospel accounting of a miracle by Jesus. Yesterday we heard about the miracle itself and the Pharisees' response. Today we have the continuing disbelief of the Pharisees, the parents of the healed man are brought in and frightened and point the finger back at their son for an explanation, who eventually gets tossed out of the temple. He then meets Jesus again who identifies himself.

We all have met people who are absolutely certain that they are right about what they are saying. They do not listen, although they pretend that they do. Many of them are intent on winning, as they define that concept, without really understanding what they are refusing to consider. Jesus was facing people like that today. Jesus is telling us to live into mystery, to trust God to heal us from our darkness and inability to see. To let go and to trust in the unknown and we will see things we never have before.

As we get ready to walk into Holy Week, allowing ourselves to walk into the unknown is a good model to follow.

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

Monday, March 30, 2009

Daily Office Reflection: Unrecognized

Psalms: 31 * 35; Jeremiah  24:1-10; Romans 9:19-33; John 9:1-17

A friend of mine from seminary is being ordained a priest tonight at the church that she has been working for the last two years. She was not treated well by her diocese but she has hung in there, quietly working away at what she knows is her calling. Her diocese either did not recognize her gifts and talents or perhaps purposefully chose to delay her for untoward reasons. I lean toward the latter as the things that were said to her indicate clear signs of ageism against this individual who is in her mid-twenties. 

Jesus went unrecognized, ignored, castigated and treated poorly while he fulfilled his mission. In Jesus we find a model, one I think Amanda utilized waiting for the fulfillment of what she knew in her heart and soul is her calling. If we are not true to ourselves, if we get stuck in the rules and regulations, or worse, if we let our own prejudices get in the way, we cannot help create the kingdom Jesus is creating, we cannot recognize how to effectuate that kingdom. We always need to be examining what is driving/motivating us. 

For Those To Be Ordained:
Almighty God, the giver of all good gifts, in your divine providence you have appointed various orders in your Church Give your grace, we humbly pray, to all who are now called to any office and ministry for your people; and so fill them with the truth of your doctrine and clothe them with holiness of life, that they may faithfully serve before you, to the glory of your great Name and for the benefit of your holy Church; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen

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

Friday, March 27, 2009

Daily Office Reflection: Sacramental

Psalms 95, 102 * 107:1-12; Jeremiah 23:1-8; Romans 8:28-39; John 6:52-59

We are still pretty early in John's Gospel in our Daily Office reading, and unlike the three Synoptic Gospels, John gives us a clear and unambiguous early presentation of how Jesus and our Eucharistic table liturgy interact. This is well before the Last Supper that comes later in John's Gospel. 

I'm not talking about transubstantiation or what happens to the bread and the wine we utilize during Eucharist. These few verses of John's Gospel are not about cannibalism, as some critics of our liturgy claim. Those critics are the same as the Jews who disputed what Jesus was talking about when they asked How can this man give us his flesh to eat? In these verses we find the bedrock of our sacramental theology that grounds our Eucharistic liturgy and beliefs. By gathering around our common table and sharing one bread and one cup we are declaring ourselves as Christ's; we are declaring ourselves as a community supporting one another in all that we are and all that we can be. We are declaring ourselves as a sacramental people who love Jesus and want him to be the central foundation of our lives. 

Lent is a great time to explore these verses.

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

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Daily Office Reflection: The Annunciation

MP: Psalms 85, 87; Isaiah 52:7-12; Hebrews 2:5-20
EP: Psalms 110:1-5(6-7); Wisdom 9:1-12; John 1:9-14

This feast day always takes me unawares. Why that should be I don't know, as today we are nine months out from Christmas Day, so this is an appropriate place on the calendar to have this day to honor Mary. Perhaps it is because that only three months ago we celebrated Christmas. Perhaps it is because we are smack in the throes of Lent and we are given this feast to celebrate and honor the individual who sacrificed so much for my sake and for yours. 

We had an interesting discussion at Adult Ed this past Sunday. We were discussing a portion of the Creed and one of the individuals participating talked about one of his stumbling blocks in the Creed being the phrase "Virgin Mary". We had a fascinating discussion, and just being able to talk about doubts and concerns and questions is a wonderful gift we can give ourselves and others, for by discussing these things we keep them alive. We also open ourselves to God when we are thinking about and discussing these kind of topics, similar to how Mary opened herself to God's will.

Today's feast allows us to think about this great deed Mary did for us, this young single girl agreeing to change her life's course....for our sake. This is actually a wonderful thing to contemplate during this season of Lent.

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

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Daily Office Reflection: Appropriate Work

Psalms 97, 99, (100) * 94, (95); Jeremiah 17:19-27; Romans 7:13-25; John 6:15-27

What do we do if we feel trapped at work? What do we do if we are doing something as our means of supporting ourselves that violates our faith, our beliefs? What are we to do if we are asked (or more likely told/ordered) to do something that violates some basic principles we live by? In particular, what are we supposed to do in today's economic environment when so many people are losing or have lost their jobs? 

I'm not sure how much Jesus helps us with this conundrum today when he says...Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you

How are we to help provide food and shelter for those we love, who we help care for, if we cannot find a job that fits our beliefs? How do we do the same for ourselves? Do we have to live a bifurcated life: our spiritual/religious beliefs over here, our "work-life" on this side? I don't think this is an uncommon conundrum in our world. I know a number of individuals who try and walk this tight rope.

Where Jesus is pointing us is to a path that is off that tight rope. Jesus wants us to embody the principles he teaches in all that we are, and in all that we do, and in all that we can be. Is this easy? No, it is a lifetime's work. But if we find ourselves doing something that violates some deep part of our beliefs, by continuing to labor at that, we are killing a part of ourselves. Each of us needs to get ourselves out of that kind of situation....find some way to extricate ourselves and move to a type of job, a kind of industry, that will further the creation of the kingdom. Will those kind of jobs allow us to live a lavish lifestyle? Nope, probably not. But that lavishness is perishable. Jesus is asking us to consider what is important in life, really important, and to order our lives and our work accordingly.

Copyright 2009, John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved

Monday, March 23, 2009

Daily Office Reflection:Time Away

Psalms 89:1-18 *89:19-52; Jeremiah 16:10-21; Romans 7:1-12; John 6:1-15

We all we need time away at different points in our lives: times of rest, times of doing something different than the norm. Jesus models this for us throughout the Gospels, as he does today: going to pray, going someplace to be by himself, allowing himself to come back to himself and not be deceived into thinking he is something other than what God made him to be. 

I've been away for a few days, not so much resting, as doing things for family that are outside of my normal routines. Although tired, I am a bit re-focused in a way that would not have been possible had I not taken a break from my routine that has developed. Where I was visiting had no internet connectivity (believe it or not) and I chose not to write every morning, again a change to my routine. 

We all need to find that mountain space Jesus goes to today to refresh ourselves, refind ourselves, come back to our real selves. Particularly during the rigors of a Lenten discipline, this re-finding time is imperative.

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

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Daily Office Reflection: Heartfelt

Psalms 78:1-39 * 78:40-72; Jeremiah 7:21-34; Romans 4:13-25; John 7:37-52

"'Out of the believer's heart shall flow rivers of living water.'"

I have been thinking a lot recently about negativity and how infectious it can be. I have witnessed how easy it is for a very small number of people to infect a group 80% larger by being negative in tone and outlook. When people feel a sense of hopelessness, when they are stuck in a place of the past and not looking forward, negativity just oozes out of every pore of their being.

I was at a weekend meeting recently where I witnessed one individual who was new to the group, who obviously had an ax to grind, infect the rest of the group. The negativity that seeped from this individual changed the whole tone and tenor of the meetings, making them much more intense and edgy than they needed to be. I think people who are being infected by these kinds of individuals fall into a defensive posture when faced with this kind of onslaught. It is not an easy thing to keep hopeful when someone or some small group is living in the land opposite to hope and faith.

Jesus calls people to him today, providing hope and optimism about a bright future, a glorious new kingdom that is possible. He cites back to scripture about how out of a believer's heart rivers of living water will flow. Not just a river, or a stream, or a muddy puddle, but rivers, plural. There is an optimism and a beautiful hope for all of us to hold on to expressed in this imagery. We can contribute to those rivers of living water through our believing and hopeful hearts. We can't be "Douglas Downer" if we have believing and hopeful hearts. But because we are human, we can be infected by negativity and people hoping for a return to a past that never really existed: perhaps really only existing in their nostalgic memories. 

Having a heart filled with faith, believing our faith in a heartfelt way, brings us to a hopeful future and allows us to resist those who would try and stop the kingdom from developing around us. A tall, but not impossible, order to fulfill. Jesus is with us as we resist those who would try to infect us, stop us, put stumbling blocks in our way. Our rivers of living water can wash them out of the way, or perhaps (even better) sweep them up into the current and bring them along, and in the process, wipe their hearts clean of negativity, allowing their faithful hearts to contribute to the rivers creating the kingdom.

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

Monday, March 16, 2009

Daily Office Reflection: Do Not Judge By Appearances

Psalms 80 * 77, (79); Jeremiah 7:1-15; Romans 4:1-12; John 7:14-36

How we appear is so important in our culture. Those who "let it all hang out" are often ostracized, thought of as oddities and are almost always not taken seriously. Why do we have to conform to what our culture is telling us is "in" or is the current cool thing to do? Why can't we just be our authentic selves and be accepted for that? A bit naive I know, but relevant nonetheless.

Jesus certainly wasn't fashionable or "in" by the standards of the culture in which he lived....he may have been "cool" but in a very different and authentic way. Our challenge is to figure out a way to still be relevant to the world around us and yet still be our authentic Christian selves. Complicated, but not impossible.

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

Friday, March 13, 2009

Daily Office Reflection: The Love of God In You

Psalms 95* & 69:1-23(24-30)31-38 * 73; Jeremiah 5:1-9; Romans 2:25-3:18; John 5:30-47

Jesus says something unimaginably hard to hear today: But I know that you do not have the love of God in you. Wow. that is a really hard thing to hear. Granted, he is talking to Jewish leaders who do not particularly care for Jesus and his ministry, but still....sheeesh!

Jesus is castigating these leaders because they will give glory to human leaders, and human endeavors, but do not see nor understand how God is working differently in the world than they might understand. Jesus is not happy with their blinders which remain firmly in place. He is displeased with their mis-application of Scripture. And I think this is a warning to us. Who or what are we placing on a pedestal, giving glory to, above what is its due? On whom are we transposing the glory we should be throwing God's way as opposed to on something or someone that is so fallibly human? Where is God in our life?

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

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Daily Office Reflection: Hearing, Believing

Psalms 70, 71 * 74; Jeremiah 4:9-10,19-28; Romans 2:12-24; John 5:19-29

Very truly, I tell you, anyone who hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life....

There are times in life where I like to think the old adage As I believe so will it be, is true. Most times that is proven not to be the case though. As with most things in life, things are rarely straight forward and are much more complicated with lots of shades of gray. 

What does it mean to believe? What is eternal life? Some faith traditions set out iron clad  rules and regulations and belief structures: do this and you will have eternal life. Believe this and you will have eternal life. There are no shades of gray for these traditions. You are either in or you are out.

With the varied human conditions from which we all suffer and are gifted, I do not believe God ever intended one strict set grouping of rules and regulations could apply to everyone. The way to eternal life is more involved, more complicated than simply following strict rules. Jesus is asking us to hear him and follow his lead. Hear him when he says: Love God, Love your neighbor as yourselves. Everything else hangs from those branches of wisdom. Set rules may help some follow these commandments of Jesus, but a one size fits all approach is a recipe for disaster. A more nuanced approach to life and to hearing Jesus and believing is what Jesus is guiding us to today. Conforming our responses to people and situations with Jesus' words in the forefront of our mind will bring with it a multi-textured understanding of life and God's close and loving relationship to each and every one of us.

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

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Daily Office Reflection: Signs and Wonders

Psalms 61, 62 * 68:1-20(21-23), 24-36; Jeremiah 2:1-13; Romans 1:16-25; John 4:45-54

Have you ever wished for, prayed for a sign, for a miracle? Have you ever wanted Jesus to cure you, heal you? Cure a loved one, heal a loved one? When those desires, prayers, wishes remain unfulfilled, how do we deal with that outcome? It is so easy to become disappointed, to become angry and to turn away from our faith when this seems to happen to us.

Jesus returns to Galilee today and heals, from a distance, the young son of a royal official, who after that healing, believed. He must have had a hope to approach Jesus for the cure he wished to have happen to his son, but he didn't believe before it happened. This seems like an odd lesson for us who do believe, who do have faith, and so often our prayers, wishes and desires seem to go unanswered, are un-responded to. What are we to make of this?

Perhaps there is another way to look at this passage and these type of miracle stories. Jesus was showing the world he was walking in that he was different from the prophets who came before him: that he was God here on earth announcing a new world, a new kingdom, a new way of being. Jesus didn't announce that he was making us not-human, immortal. Jesus was telling us that our world view needs to be different, the way we interact with the world needs to be different, the lens through which we see and understand life needs to be different. Perhaps the signs and wonders we need to witness and be a part of are as different. Perhaps those things we wish for need to be different, for we are not immortal, nor will we ever be. 

If we look at what is at the base of Jesus' actions, of God's actions, we find love. If we focus on that love and the love that lives at the core of each of us, our world view will be changed, and those desires, wishes, prayers may change, or at least may be more realistic. This will not happen overnight for us and we need to be patient with ourselves as we turn our expectations and our desires and our wishes and our prayers on their heads.

Our life is a sign and a wonder from God. How we effectuate the kingdom's furtherance during our short stay here on earth is the quandary and yet still holds options for further and more marvelous signs and wonders for us to witness and participate in.

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

Monday, March 9, 2009

Daily Office Reflection: The Word

Psalms 56, 57, 58 * 64, 65; Jeremiah 1:11-19; Romans 1:1-15; John 4:27-42

And many more believed in him because of his word. After Jesus' encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well, and her exclamation to the town she lived in, the townspeople invited him to stay with them and we are given this italicized verse, many more believed in him because of his word. Notice, not words, but word.

Jesus was being authentically Jesus, not only with the Samaritan woman at the well, but with the entire town. His authenticity just oozed out of his every pore. I think that is why John uses word as opposed to words. For John began this Gospel with: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the word was God.....and the Word became flesh and lived among us.....

When we meet someone authentically themselves, we just know it, and we respond. This is what the Samaritans were doing, responding to the authenticity of God among them. How can we be more authentically ourselves?

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

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Daily Office Reflection: Light & Dark

Psalms 50 * (59), 60 or 19, 46; Deuteronomy 9:23-10:5; Hebrews 4:1-10; John 3:16-21

Storytellers have been utilizing images of darkness and light from the dawn of time. The simpler stories revolve around dark = bad and light = good. And certainly looking at the conversation John provides us between Jesus and Nicodemus we can see it that simply. Yet there is more here.

Great storytellers play with these images of darkness and light showing the varied shades of gray that impact all of our lives. John does this today and in yesterday's reading. Nicodemus comes to Jesus at night and Jesus talks about darkness and light, good and evil. The imagery of the light that saves the world, standing in darkness, talking about light and dark is a wonderful play on these metaphors. Nicodemus, who represents darkness, those who don't believe, comes at night to the light, and stays and learns and changes.

There is always darkness in our lives, darkness in ourselves. We simply have to walk into the light that is there for every single one of us.

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

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Daily Office Reflection: Where We Are Headed

Psalms 45 * 47, 48; Deuteronomy 9:4-12; Hebrews 3:1-11; John 2:13-22

The Gospel of John turns the story of Jesus on its head. We know from the git-go where it is headed and John makes no pretense about where Jesus is headed: the cross, the grave and three days later, resurrection. Jesus' anger at the temple being utilized as a shopping mall is an early and clear indication that the kingdom Jesus is leading us all to is far different from anything else that has been talked about before. This kingdom is something beyond what tradition would lead us to understand.

Tradition is an important part of who and what we are, of how and why we worship in the manner that we do. Today's reading reminds us to keep in mind that tradition has a place in what we do and who we are, but it cannot override everything else.

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

Monday, March 2, 2009

Daily Office Reflection: Snow, Mountain Dogs & Wine

Psalms 41, 52 * 44; Deuteronomy 8:11-20; Hebrews 2:11-18; John 2:1-12

I was walking my Bernese Mountain dog well before dawn this morning, in the snow and the driving wind, being fairly miserable (give me spring/summer/fall any day of the week over bone chilling wind and driving snow), whilst Allie was in her glory. She hasn't experienced snow very often, so this is a fairly uncommon occurrence for her. There must be something in her DNA, that is hard-wired into her, to know that this is her natural element: snow, cold. Watching her run and play almost (notice, almost) made the effort not to be miserable worth it. She was simply being a mountain dog, with her huge fur coat and large paws, and her natural speed and agility, she was simply in her element this morning.

Just as Jesus was pushed into his elemental nature this morning. His mom pushes him, but he performs his first miracle today, turning water into wine at the wedding feast. Wine is such an important part of our liturgies. Jesus takes wine at the Last Supper, saying to drink it in community in remembrance of him making him a central part of the community and a central part of us individually. Jesus was just being Jesus this morning.

How do we strip ourselves down so that we can be our natural selves, our true selves, not some construct made for public viewing? To be that creation God lovingly intended us to be? There's something interesting to ponder in Lent.

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