Saturday, October 31, 2009

Daily Office Reflection: In Us

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

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

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

In five short verses today, Jesus provides us with an amazing amount of hope and solace with this knowledge that the love that God has for us is there for us, is in us: for all of us.

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

Friday, October 30, 2009

Daily Office Reflection: Entangled

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Daily Office Reflection: St. Simon and St. Jude

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

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

Read the whole selection for today. It's great stuff!

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

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Daily Office Reflection: Everyone Is Different

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

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

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

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

Monday, October 26, 2009

Daily Office Reflection: A New Family

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

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

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

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

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Daily Office Reflection:Greater than Jonah and Solomon

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Daily Office Reflection: Hope

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Daily Office Reflection: Yoking It

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, October 19, 2009

Daily Office Reflection: Criticizers and Doubters

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, October 16, 2009

Daily Office Reflection: No Offense

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Daily Office Reflection: Fired Up

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Daily Office Reflection: What About Bald People?

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, October 12, 2009

Daily Office Reflection: Hospitality

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

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

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

Who is the stranger? To whom is it that we are called to be hospitable?

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

Monday, October 5, 2009

Daily Office Reflection: Go Away!

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Daily Office Reflection: Peevish

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

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

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

We are all human and get tired and can be a bit reactive at times. Recognizing our humanness and still doing what we are called upon to do, is modeled for us by Jesus today. A good reminder.

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