Monday, November 30, 2009

Daily Office Reflection: St.Andrew

MP: Psalm 34; Isaiah 49:1-6; 1 Cor 4:1-16
EP: Psalm 96; Isaiah 55:1-5; John 1:35-42

We do not know all that much about St. Andrew. The most important thing we do know is that he was Simon's (named Peter by Jesus) brother. In John's Gospel, Andrew is one of two who first follow Jesus, and Andrew is the one who then brings Peter to Jesus.

Lesser Feasts and Fasts remarks today that Andrew did not seem to be part of the Jesus' inner circle, which consisted of Peter, James and John, although Andrew does appear in the Gospels more frequently than any others, besides the inner circle. Andrew's experience is so very typical of what happens in life: someone discovers something (or someone) and then introduces this to others, and others become more prominent.

And yet Andrew is not forgotten or cast aside. He is like the vast majority of us: those who open the way for others to exercise their gifts to the fullest extent. Not everyone can be a Peter. All of us can be like Andrew though, and open the door to those we know who need to become acquainted with Jesus. That is not a small thing.

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

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Daily Office Reflection: Advent Eve

Psalms 137:1-6(7-9), 144 * 104; Micah 7:11-20; 1 Peter 4:7-19; Matthew 20:29-34

We are at the end of the church calendar year today. We begin Advent tomorrow! A new church year in which we switch "years" in both the Sunday lectionary and Daily Office lectionary. We change colors for what we wear. We start the church year in this season of Advent, where we have readings that provide us with the tension between contemplating the coming of the Prince of Peace and the End Times, Jesus' coming again.

Some view Advent as a "mini-Lent", a mini-penitential season. Others view it as a time for quiet reflection and preparation on the gift God gives us on Christmas: the Incarnation. Whatever this beginning season is for us, we are given a clue of what we should be thinking about in today's Gospel selection from Matthew, where Jesus asks two blind men what they want him to do for them and they say, let our eyes be opened.

That small phrase is a good one to think on today, this last day of the Season after Pentecost, this Advent Eve. What have we closed our eyes to this past year? What should we open our eyes to this new year? What should we try and focus on this Advent? Let our eyes be opened.

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

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Daily Office Reflection: Thanksgivings and Remembrances

MP: Psalm 147; Deuteronomy 26:1-11; John 6:26-35
EP: Psalm 145; Joel 2:21-27; 1 Thessalonians 5:12-24

Growing up, my family home was one where the extended family came for the holidays. Thanksgiving was for my mother's family and Christmas, my father's. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends would swarm to the house. The usual arrival time was 3:00 in the afternoon, with dinner being served around 5:00. But preparation started days before (shopping, cleaning, setting up, pulling out the good china and silver and crystal, finding the folding chairs, putting the leaves in the dining room table). Thanksgiving morning had bustling about beginning early, with getting the turkey ready, peeling the potatoes, cutting the turnips, preparing the appetizers, doing the final set up to make sure the hoards of people would have a welcome and fun time. In between the prep, there was watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade and all those balloons and floats, perhaps Laurel and Hardy's March of the Wooden Soldiers, and of course, football. Hard work, but a time to be thankful for and a remembrance of people, many of whom have long since gone to the embrace of God.

So many things to be thankful for today, so many people to remember and to be grateful for having in my life. A good day to also remember and pray for all those less fortunate, who do not have tables to share and food aplenty. A good day to remember God in our lives, loving us wherever we are, and whoever we may be.

Happy Thanksgiving.

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

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Daily Office Reflection: The Importance of Kids

Psalms (120), 121, 122, 123 * 124, 125, 126 (127); Nahum 1:1-13; 1 Peter 1:13-25; Matthew 19:13-22

As a church we, often times, do not do a good job incorporating our children into the full life of our corporate bodies. Children of all ages are segregated away from the rest of us, told to act like adults (and not like children), frowned at when they do act like children. Those types of experiences chase parents away from church and can leave marks on the child that do not go away.

At the beginning of our Gospel reading from Mark today we hear about Jesus laying hands on little children and praying. The disciples speak sternly to those who brought the children to Jesus. Jesus said Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for t is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs.

Having children around us in all aspects of the life of the church is a vital reminder of this passage for us. By having kids among and around us, as full members of this Body of Christ we are all a part of, makes us complete, allows us to be who God created us to be, allows us a glimpse of the kingdom Jesus is announcing. It also provides a basis for those children to continue in the life and work of this Body in which they are an equal part.

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

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Daily Office Reflection: Forgiving

Psalms 107:33-43, 108:1-6(7-13) * 33; Isaiah 65:17-25; Revelation 22:14-21; Matthew 18:21-35

I am often asked by friends, both "churched" and "non-churched", how these ancient documents we study and worship could possibly be relevant to today's world. And I many times will ask them to look at the pericope from Matthew we have today in response to their challenge.

Jesus is pointing out a flaw in our human nature: one having to do with gripes and retained sore-feelings over against forgiveness. We all get resentful, have our feelings hurt, are treated badly by someone or some group. Those feelings many times can become longstanding resentments where forgiveness finds it hard to put down any roots. These feelings and our human nature, are the same as those disciples, represented by Peter today. We haven't much changed from those folks who walked around with Jesus 2000 years ago.

As an example of that: I live in a large, multi-unit condo building and I was down in the laundry room early this morning (around 6 AM). I was there before anyone else in the building was awake or active enough to get their laundry down to the basement. I did not meet anyone when I went down initially or when I went to move the clothes from the washers to the dryers. When I got back down there to take the clothes out of the dryers (well before the time had expired on the machines) there was a woman there who had already put clothes in the other unused dryers and was impatiently waiting for me to come down (even though my machines had yet to finish their drying cycles). She was obviously in a very bad mood and completely unresponsive to my greeting or attempt at light conversation. That kind of rudeness just pisses me off and although I felt like giving her a lecture I chose to stay quiet, calmly (and perhaps a bit more slowly than necessary) getting my clothes out of the dryers, and left the laundry room. I was more annoyed than I should have been, and thought about today's Gospel reading on the elevator ride back upstairs.

By the time I reached my apartment door I had found a place to forgive her and forget the incident. Part of the elevator self-conversation I had was debating going back and giving this rude individual a piece of my mind weighed against holding a grudge and being snippy to her next time I ran into her in the complex, or praying for her and letting my base instincts be just that, base and to be recognized as that.

By these simple, every day, human interactions is how these holy Scriptures are still applicable today. They point us to a better world, a kingdom proclaimed and modeled for us in the life and teachings of Jesus.

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

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Daily Office Reflection: Wrong Question

Psalms 105:1-22 * 105(23-45); Maccabees 4:1-25; Revelation 21:22-22:5; Matthew 18:1-9

The disciples get Jesus a bit riled up today! They ask him who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven, and Jesus, basically, says Hey folks, wrong question! Jesus points them to a rearranging of their attitudes and understanding of what life would be like and needs to be like in this kingdom Jesus is pronouncing.

Jesus brings a child forward and says, be humble like this child, change and be like this child. The humble are the greatest in the kingdom! And then Jesus warns about the dangers of inhibiting someone who is like this child, warns about allowing those non-humble moments (those stumbling blocks) controlling how we act in the world.

Humbleness is, for many, a hard change to accept in their outlook and understanding of the world. Jesus recognizes this when he says Occasions for stumbling are bound to come, and yet he says, if we do stumble, get up, watch were and how we are walking, change. Jesus knows we are human and fallible, but that doesn't lesson his love for us, nor does it lesson God's love for us. But that does not mean we shouldn't get up, watch were we are going, change, try again when we do stumble. We need to re-think the question, perhaps not even think about "greatness", but instead think about how we can change that question to how do we make the kingdom among us become more real, not only for us but for all those who have yet to find a way into this kingdom.

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

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Daily Office Reflection: Doubt and Faith

Psalms 97, 99 (100) * 94 (95); Maccabees 3:25-41; Revelation 21:1-8; Matthew 17:14-21

Jesus comes down the mountain today with Peter, James and John, having been just transfigured before their eyes, and he is greeted by a man who tried to have his epileptic son healed by the disciples who had remained behind. But they failed at their attempt to heal the boy.

Were the disciples annoyed at being left behind by Jesus? Were they starting to panic about being left alone: what if Jesus doesn't come back? What are we to do? And, perhaps in that panic, in that doubt, their faith (which was still developing) waned and they were not able to heal the epileptic boy. Perhaps Jesus' annoyance was directed at these disciples he left at the base of the mountain to take care of those things while he was busy doing something else. Jesus says as much at the end of today's Gospel reading when he says, in response to a query as to why they couldn't heal the boy, Because of your little faith.

Doubt, perhaps, got in the way of those disciples' efforts at healing. Doubt got in the way of what they had seen first hand, what they knew they could do in Jesus' name. They forgot, let doubt get in the way, of the knowledge of how the world can be different because Jesus has entered our world. Doubt got in the way of their faith.

Doubt will always be with us. Balanced against that doubt is a sure and confident knowledge that God loves us, became human in Jesus, knows us better than we know ourselves and is here with us at all times. That knowledge can outweigh the doubt and tip the scales to the side of faith, if we allow that to happen. Which side of the scale are we going to allow to rule us today?

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

Monday, November 16, 2009

Daily Office Reflection: After Images

Psalms 89:1-18 * 89:19-52; Maccabees 3:1-24; Revelation 20:7-15; Matthew 17:1-13

We have Matthew's rendition of the Transfiguration in today's Gospel selection. Matthew does something interesting in how he describes how Jesus is transformed. Matthew says, after they climbed a high mountain (by themselves), Peter, James, John witnessed Jesus be transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white.

Imagine that: a face shining like the sun, clothes being dazzling white. The Greek word that Matthew uses (egastrapon) can be translated not only dazzling white, but "as if lightning bolts were emanating" from him. Think about what lightning does to our eyesight: we are blinded for a moment and all we see are shadows and after-images. Combine that with Jesus' face "shining like the sun" and we are provided with an image that is not only too bright, but also becomes indistinct and otherworldly: all else fades, leaving a marked place. And that after-image from that lightning has burned an image onto our mind's eye.

Perhaps that is the image Matthew is trying to leave with us today in his description The Transfiguration. The concept he is trying to burn into our mind's eye: the brilliance of Jesus' presence, making it the center of all that we see. The after-image from the lightning that stays with us, is other-worldly yet somehow a part of this world, is a way for us to carry Jesus with us through the day, to remember his real presence with us in all the ordinariness of our lives, making those moments extra-ordinary.

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

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Daily Office Reflection: Why Does God....?

Psalms (83) or 23, 27 * 85, 86; Maccabees 1:1-28; Revelation 19:1-10; Matthew 16:1-12

It is still raining here in DC. We are on day three, with at least another predicted. We are stuck in a trough between different weather patterns colliding around us, or so the meteorologists say. A parishioner told me that they have plans afoot for the weekend where good weather would be optimal, and was worried about the bad weather changing their plans. He asked Why would God do this to me? Why would God let this happen?

These are common questions, regular refrains, many people ask when things do not go as planned, or when bad things happen: illness, death, relationships ending. These are also questions asked when elections turn out a certain way, usually when the tyranny of the majority oppresses a minority. Quite often the majority will point to Scripture as a basis for their decisions, for their vote that marginalizes a minority. And the minority will ask these questions.

We live in hope: hope that God answers our prayers, hope that God will give us the strength to make the Kingdom come, hope that our faith in Jesus' life, death and resurrection will center us to face those hard choices we all have to make and face those hard times. You see, God doesn't "do" these things to us, or "allow" these things to happen to us. Some are forces of nature at work and some are human ignorance, pride, ego at work. We see Jesus warning about the tyranny of the majority when he says Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducces! Jesus battles with them directly, but also goes around them. Some he gets through to, most he does not: but they do not stop him. Nor can they stop us. Jesus did not let them stop him, deter him from his path; nor can we let those same present day Pharisees and Sadducces deceiving the majority deter us, discourage us, give us an excuse to stop.

We live in hope. Jesus came for the minority, the oppressed. God did not put us here. God sent Jesus to lead us out. And out we will come. Our work is not over.

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

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Daily Office Reflection: Four Fold Action

Psalms 119:97-120 * 81, 82; Nehemiah 7:73b-8:3,5-18; Revelation 18:21-24; Matthew 15:29-39

Having compassion for over 4000 people today, Jesus creates a feast for them from seven fish and two loaves of bread. As a precursor to that meal, the Gospel writer Matthew provides us with the four fold action of the Eucharist, the Great Thanksgiving, we celebrate every Sunday. We have Jesus taking the seven loaves and the fish, blessing (giving thanks), breaking them and giving them to those who were gathered. Take, bless, break and give are the four actions we take at every Holy Communion in which we participate. We will see this again at The Last Supper Jesus has with the disciples where he provides more language we use during the Eucharist: but today we have the ground work being laid for part of what we do when we participate in this holy meal.

Giving thanks for God's caring for us, for Jesus' care for those who come to him for aid, healing, rebirth. Something to carry with us throughout the day and to bring with us next time we come to the common table. Something to consider as our nation prepares for "Thanksgiving" later this month.

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

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Daily Office Reflection: Keeping At It

Psalms 78:1-39 * 78:40-72; Nehemiah 9:26-38; Revelation 18:9-20; Matthew 15:21-28

Today we have Matthew's version of Jesus acquiescing to ministering to those outside of the chosen community to which he was initially sent. Not my favorite Jesus shows up today: one who is seemingly uncaring, unthoughtful and pretty rude. Today we have a major step by Jesus (and eventually his disciples) to reaching out to those outside of their comfort zone.

This Canaanite woman is persistent, as we have seen others be persistent, in asking Jesus for help. The disciples apparently are unsuccessful in shoo-ing her away and they complain to Jesus to do something about her peskiness. He is verbally unkind to her but she persists in asking for help for her beloved daughter. Her love for her tormented daughter drove her to continue to ask, beg, for Jesus' help.

There are a number of ways we can reflect on this Gospel. One is that God will always listen to our prayerful requests based in love. Another is that God's love for us is like-unto that Canaanite woman's love for her tormented daughter. God is persistently calling after us, coming toward us, offering that love to us. We can be very persistent in not recognizing that loving call, just as God is more persistent in offering it to us. Lucky for us God has more patience than we can imagine.

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

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Daily Office Reflection: The Helping Hand

Psalms 75, 76 * 23, 27; Ezra 9:1-15; Revelation 17:1-14; Matthew 14:22-36

There is a lot going on in today's Gospel selection from Matthew: Jesus is praying alone after having fed 5000, Jesus walks along the water, has Peter do the same (at Peter's request), saves Peter as his faith waivers, calms the wind that had been torturing and hindering the disciples journey, and is heartily welcomed when they land at Gennesaret, with people bringing all the sick to him for healing. Not a small sound-bite this morning, but a huge data dump for us!

Jesus' calmness entices me today. In our previous three readings we have seen him: rejected by his home town; be saddened by the news of John the Baptist's death; and when he seeks rest he finds 5000 starving people seeking his guidance and help. Today Jesus has found some rest: rest on top of the mountain, alone, in prayer. And then he continues on his journey after that short respite and re-charging. He has received a caring hand from God. He offers that caring hand to the disciples and to Peter and then to all those folks who greet him in Gennesaret. Such a calming presence for us to try and emulate. Even more importantly is our remembering that the hand of welcome, of help, is out-stretched to each of us as well. That hand that pulled Peter out of his sinkng faithlessness is offered to each of us as well. All we have to do is reach out and grasp that helping hand offered by the centered and calm one.

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

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Daily Office Reflection: Disappointed, Hurt and Still Working

Psalms 70,71 * 74; Ezra 7(3-10)11-26; Revelation 14:1-13; Matthew 14:1-12

In yesterday's Gospel reading Jesus was rejected by his home town, we heard they were "offended" by him. Today we hear about John the Baptist's murder at the hands of Herod and his family and when Jesus hears of it he needs to go away, so he gets in a boat to get some time alone. Tomorrow we will hear about Jesus getting off the boat and finding people having followed him and he feeds 5000 with five loaves of bread and two fish, even though he was looking for some time to grief and recharge.

There is an arc to this story that we can miss if we don't read all of it, placing it in context. Certainly there are lessons to be taken from each pericope, but many times it is helpful to understanding (I'd say all times actually) the daily thread by keeping in mind the larger arc, the larger path the story is on.

From these three snippets of Jesus' life we are in the midst of, we see Jesus continue his ministry in the face of: being dissed by his family, learning of the death of cousin and when he is looking for some down-time to recharge, he instead finds people clammering for help. Part of the even larger picture is Jesus continuing on his journey, doing the work he is doing, knowing the cross is at the end of his mortal journey, and then a gift, through his self-sacrifice, for all of us.

Working through times of disappointment, hurt and times when we may be looking for rest, is part of the example we are given today, and yesterday, and tomorrow, by Jesus. There is a continuation, an ongoing work we are all called to do in the face of opposition, hurt, and requests for help. This work is all part of effectuating the creation of the kingdom Jesus' life and work pronounces.

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

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Daily Office Reflection: All In

Psalms 61, 62 * 68:1-20(21-23)24-36; Nehemiah 12:27-31a,42b-47; Revelation 11:1-19; Matthew 13:44-52

Jesus is explaining his parables of the Kingdom he is pronouncing with more parables. He tells of someone finding treasure hidden in a field and a merchant finding a pearl of great value, with both of them selling all they have to buy the field, the pearl. And the kingdom of heaven is like that.

Selling all we have to be part of this kingdom. Giving up all these things to obtain something that is far superior, sounds a bit scary. There is something here that can get overlooked: neither of these individuals is compelled to do what they do - they made a choice to do so, they wanted to do so. This kingdom is something they have been looking for, searching for, and when they find it, being a part of it is worth the massive change they undergo to obtain the fruit of their search. They want to do what they do to be a part of this kingdom. They are not compelled.

Like in poker, these two individuals put all their chips on the table gambling that the treasure hidden in the field and the pearl of great value is worth being all in. Jesus is saying today, being a part of this kingdom is our choice, and when we find it we want to be all in. All in. Nice.

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