Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Daily Office Reflection: Wednesday of Holy Week, Yr. Two

Psalms 55 * 74; Lamentations 2:1-9; 2Corinthians 1:23-2:11; Mark 12:1-11

Through the parable Jesus preaches today, he presages his death, summing up the history of the prophets who had come before and been ignored. He is preparing the way, leaving seeds for his followers to plant to germinate into a flowering of understanding. And that understanding can be difficult to come by, but if we work at it, understanding can and does come.

Jesus quotes scripture today at the end of his parable, what we know of as a portion of Psalm 118, v 22-24:

The same stone which the builders rejected *
has become the chief cornerstone.
This is the Lord's doing, *
and it is marvelous in our eyes.
On this day the Lord has acted; *
we will rejoice and be glad in it.

At this mid-point of Holy Week, at this moment before we enter the "sacred three days", Jesus' parable asks us to consider what we are ignoring. Where in our lives have we put up blocks to God's persistent voice, calling us to something better? Today is a day to start taking those stones down, or perhaps climbing over that wall we have built and enter God's embrace, for we can and should rejoice in how God has acted for us.

Copyright 2010, The Rev. John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Daily Office Reflection: Tuesday of Holy Week, Yr Two

Psalms 6, 12 * 94; Lamentations 1:17-22; 2Corinthians 1:8-22; Mark 11:27-33

Jesus and his disciples go back to the temple, again, today. Perhaps Jesus was checking to make sure the money-changers and the folks who sold the small animals for sacrifice hadn't returned. We are told they were walking in the temple when, once again, Jesus is challenged by the religious officials. He refuses to answer their question because they won't acknowledge who John the Baptist was. Because of their lack of honesty, because of their inability to speak with authenticity, Jesus does not answer them.

This is not a tit-for-tat kind of exchange that we see children (and many adults) engage in. God expects us to be honest, to be authentic about our faith and our spirituality. Many times we don't know the answers, and that is okay, so long as we are up front about our inability to comprehend something. More often than not, we have more questions than we have answers, and that is okay too. For we are having a conversation with God when we are asking those questions. By asking and exploring we are digging deep into our spiritual selves. This is a life-time's dig that requires persistence and patience.

This is a wonderful Gospel reading for us this Tuesday of Holy Week. Where can we be more authentic to ourselves, to those around us and to God?

Copyright 2010, The Rev. John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Daily Office Reflection: Monday of Holy Week - Yr Two

Psalms 51:1-18(19-20) * 69:1-23; Lamentations 1:1-2,6-12; 2Corinthians 1:1-7; Mark 11:12-25

Jesus "cleanses the Temple" in today's reading from Mark, besides taking his anger at the Pharisees out on a poor fig tree. Mark's description of the cleaning out of the temple of those who would change money in order to purchase sacrifices is (as with everything in Mark) quick, with not many details, but the underlying anger is readily apparent.

Part of the sacrilege Jesus was so upset about by these money-changers and people who sold small animals for sacrifice was, I think, a cheapening of the ritual liturgy of sacrifice. These folks were taking the idea of sacrifice and making it easy. That is not what the word sacrifice means.... easy. Sacrifice means something dear has ben purchased from us, some part of us is taken up in that offering to God. I think, also, Jesus knew the sacrifice he was about to voluntarily make, and this cheap version offered by those going to the Temple, and that offended him at a very deep place, for the cost to him was his life.

This reading from Mark is a gift to us this Monday of Holy Week. It allows us to enter Holy Week thinking about sacrifice and whether or not we are partaking in the cheap version or the real (and costly) one.

Copyright 2010, The Rev. John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Daily Office Reflection: From the Maelstrom

Psalms 137:1-6(7-9), 144 * 42, 43; Exodus 10:21-11:8; 2Corinthians 4:13-18; Mark 10:46-52

Jesus blows through Jericho today. In a half a verse he came to Jericho and left, with a large crowd in tow. We don't know what happened in Jericho. Perhaps nothing, perhaps he just wandered through, or perhaps he did untold acts of mercy and kindness and miracles. But what we do know is that at leaving Jericho there was a great crowd traveling with him and there was a blind beggar on the side of the road. I have never understood why this blind beggar, Bartimaeus son of Timaeus, is so explicitly named, while so many others Jesus cures are not.

Be that as it may, in this crowd passing him by, Bartimaeus believes exists someone who can help him. He continually shouts Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!" even though he was hushed by those around him. Think of the tumult around Jesus and yet he hears a cry for mercy and stops and has the petitioner brought to him. Jesus reaches out from that cacophony of noise, from the middle of the maelstrom he is traveling in, and asks Bartimaeus what he wants. And then grants that request.

I have often wondered if I would have the presence of mind, the nerve, the understanding to know how to respond if Jesus asked me What do you want me to do for you? Nevertheless, I do draw strong solace from knowing that in the cacophony of a world in which we live, Jesus can still stop in the middle of the maelstrom and offer help to one who needs it.

Copyright 2010, The Rev. John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Daily Office Reflection: Metaphors

Psalms (120), 121, 122, 123 * 124, 124, 126, (127); Exodus 5:1-6:1; 1Corinthians 14:20-33a,39-40; Mark 9:42-50

Jesus throws a lot of metaphors at us today. I take them as metaphors and not as literal instruction because otherwise we would be a self-inflicted limbless, tongueless and blind congregation: for who has not done something that we have not regretted?

I get caught up in the metaphor Jesus uses about salt. Salt is not only a preservative, but is also a spice used to enhance flavors. Is Jesus talking about salt in one or the other of these two different qualities of the spice? Or is he doing a "both-and" approach.

I wonder if Jesus is instructing us to preserve those parts of us (with his inner-salt) that strengthen us and thereby allow us not to stumble ourselves. And yet also to use this inner salt to enhance those parts of us that will enable others to become part of Christ's body and not be caused to stumble. For we are not called to be a closed community of believers, but a community of believers that reaches out and welcomes in all. We are called to enable people to find a safe haven where they can search and find God, and know that they are found and loved by God.

Copyright 2010, The Rev. John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Daily Office Reflection: New Spring

Psalms 31 * 35; Exodus 4:10-20(21-26)27-31; 1Corinthians 14:1-19; Mark 9:30-41

I was sitting on my terrace reading MP this morning, looking at the Washington Inlet and Haines Point and noticing all the trees have budded over this past weekend. There is new birth on each of those millions of tiny branches: various reds and ochres and greens just sprouting from the tips of those branches. The Cherry Blossoms are about a week away.

What a gift we are all given to be in the last week of Lent, before we walk Holy Week together, and to have this New Spring once again budding and blooming all around us. Knowledge of and faith in God's abiding life for us is represented in this re-growth as many of us struggle through this Season of Lent. This New Spring, as we are ending this Season of Lent, we are reminded in tangible ways by the world around us of God's love for us, of God's presence all around us, and of God's presence with us, always.

Copyright 2010, The Rev. John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Daily Office Reflection: I Believe, Help My Unbelief!

Psalms: 107:33-43, 108:1-6(7-13) * 33; Exodus 2:23-3:15; 1Corinthians 13:1-13; Mark 9:14-29

I think this father's plea to Jesus in Mark's Gospel today to help his son can be considered iconic. I believe, help my unbelief! So many of us.....all of us at some point or other (if not daily) struggle with "belief". We have questions that challenge our faith. We receive questions, comments, odd looks from those who we associate with who do not worship, or who profess no belief in God. This father's instantaneous response to Jesus' statement All things can be done for the one who believes....the response of....I believe, help my unbelief..... is indicative of a deep desire for clarity, surety that what we profess, that what we pray is true.

This is one of the areas where I love being a member of The Episcopal Church.....for we are called to question. We approach our understanding of God, our exploration of Scripture through a process often referred to as "The Three Legged Stool" approach. Those three equal legs of the stool are: scripture, tradition and reason. We are called to question. We are called to live into faith through questions.

I firmly believe God can be found in that questioning....can be found in the questions. For when we question, when we reason, when we think about Scripture, we are in a conversation with God, which is what Bible Study should be all about. Much like Moses' conversation with God who appeared to him to the form of a burning bush in today's Exodus reading.

Start, continue, renew that conversation in these remaining weeks of Lent. Although a life long conversation, it is the best one we can have.

Copyright 201o, The Rev. John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Daily Office Reflection: St. Joseph

MP: Psalm 132; Isaiah 63:7-16; Matthew 1:18-25
EP: Psalm 34; 2Chronicles 6:12-17; Ephesians 3:14-21

We celebrate St. Joseph today. St. Joseph, the husband of Mary and the male-rearer and protector of Jesus. We know so little about this man who responded to the call, in a dream, to take care of Mary and name and raise with Mary the baby she was going to give birth to.

Lesser Feasts and Fasts says of Joseph: Known as Joseph the Carpenter, he is considered the patron saint of the working man, one who not only worked with his hands, but taught his trade to Jesus. The little that is told of him is a testimony to the trust in God which values simple everyday duties, and gives example of a loving husband and father.

Keeping Joseph as a model, really unknown, uncelebrated, but stalwart in his support and mission in life is something good to think about in Lent.

Copyright 2010, The Rev. John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Daily Office Reflection: Authenticity

Psalms 87, 90 * 136; Genesis 47:27-48:7; 1Corinthians 10:1-13; Mark 7:1-23

So much of what Jesus leads us toward, is pointing us toward is authenticity. Being and acting in certain ways, doing and living according to his teachings and not living by a rigid set of rules, finding loopholes to not live into those "rules" we find distasteful at the moment. Being honest and true.

Jesus hollers at the Pharisees for not being authentic, taking them to task for not caring for their parents appropriately, violating a commandment, and yet at the same time criticizing Jesus' disciples for not washing. A simple and direct example of inauthenticity and hypocrisy.

What Jesus directs us to is so simple and so very hard to accomplish. A good Lenten discipline to try and live into.

Copyright 2010, The Rev. John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Daily Office Reflection: Quiet Time Amongst The Crowds

Psalms: (83) or 42, 43 * 85, 86; Genesis 46:1-7,28-34; 1Corinthians 9:1-15; Mark 6:30-46

Jesus says to his disciples today, Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while. We are told by the narrator of the Gospel that Jesus said this because they had no leisure time or quiet time to eat because of all the comings and goings of people around them. And yet when they get to a deserted place, they find over 5000 people have thronged around them: and we have the miracle of the feeding of those throngs through the blessing of five loaves of bread and two fish.

There is always a need for balance in life - activity and time for refreshment/retreat. Sometimes those moments of refreshment can come to us in times of seeming craziness and activity. I wonder if after this miracle feeding, and the precursor of the Holy Eucharist we have today (the four fold Eucharistic action of taking, blessing, breaking and giving is done by Jesus today), I wonder if the disciples and Jesus felt that refreshment they were seeking when they first headed to what they thought was a deserted place.

Have you ever been involved with a complicated and stressful task, and in the midst of it or at its conclusion, felt a sense of contentment and release? Contentment and release at a job well done and completed. I think we can find that kind of quiet among the crowds in our Eucharistic celebrations: quiet prayer and joyful noise making in our singing. Does that happen every time for all of us: I don't experience that, but perhaps some do. But that experience of quiet among the crowds, a holy worshipful experience amongst the madness, has occurred for me and refreshment and peace and energy to go out and do what I am called to do emanates from those moments. And they are also treasured memories of a shared moment with others. They are a weird private - public spiritual moment that changes a person, subtly but permanently.

Don't be afraid of these moments - cherish them when they come.

Copyright 2010, The Rev. John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Daily Office Reflection: Enough!

Psalms 119:97-120 * 81, 82; Genesis 45:16-28; 1Corinthians 8:1-13; Mark 6:13-29

There are times in life when we just want to scream "Enough!" Enough already! I've had it, just... and then we can fill in the blank with whatever frustration, aggravation, thing that has made us impatient. There is always a balance we have to incorporate into those decisions when we follow through on the "Enough!" sentiment. There is usually, at least, a kernel of truth to our frustration, aggravation, impatience: a kernel of self telling us, yes this is the time to act, to move, to follow through.

We see this in Jacob listening to his sons tell them of their excitement about finding Joseph and of Joseph's invitation. Jacob moves from disbelief to excitement at the prospect of seeing once again the first son born from his beloved wife Rachel. Enough! Jacob cries. Enough talk and explaining. Enough. Let us act, move, go!

I often wonder if we are too patient at times, if we allow things to lie fallow for too long before acting. Lent is a time of thoughtful reflection and repentance for not only things we have done, but as our Confession so aptly puts, for these things we have left undone. I think Jacob's impatient shout of Enough! reminds us that there is a time to act and a time to get to those things we have not yet done. Perhaps Lent is a good time to start on those items.

Copyright 2010, The Rev. John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Daily Office Reflection: Relief

Psalms 78:1-39 * 78:40-72; Genesis 45:1-15; 1Corinthians 7:32-40; Mark 6:1-15

There are times in life when we just need to find some relief. We can build up issues in our head that need resolution; we can have life experiences that not only cause trauma to our psyche but are a wound that needs healing, from which we need relief.

I wonder if Jesus felt some relief when he was rejected by his hometown, in today's Gospel selection. I wonder if Jesus was concerned about going back to the place where he was raised too see all those folks he grew up in front of, for them to see him as the man he grew up to be, not some construct of the child they saw running around the carpenter shop. I wonder if Jesus, who was fully human (and also fully divine) carried with him angst as he approached and entered his hometown. And if he experienced relief, not at the rejection itself, but at "the secret" being out - the secret of who he actually was. There is a bittersweetness to that relief. We also see relief from Joseph in our reading from Genesis today: relief at revealing himself to his brothers: relief that the charade is over.

This is a good question to think about in Lent: what are we carrying around from which we need relief. We should not underestimate how healing tears can be, how enlivening being our true selves to others can be....even when the cost of such revelation is rejection. For there is relief and release in being who we truly are, as God made us. There is relief in knowing who supports us and where we will not find support. A good Lenten journey incorporates this authenticity of living.

Copyright 2010, The Rev. John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Daily Office Reflection: A Known Secret

Psalms 80 * 77 (79); Genesis 44: 18-34; 1Corinthians 7:25-31; Mark 5:21-43

There is an absurd element to our Gospel story about the healing of Jairus' 12 year old daughter. In the whole of Mark we hear a regular refrain of Jesus demanding that people keep quiet about the miracles he performs, and yet....and yet Jesus does all these miracles quite openly.

Jairus comes to Jesus with a large crowd gathered around him asking Jesus to come and save his daughter. Jesus goes and the crowd follows along. During that walk Jesus is touched by the woman who has been hemorrhaging for 12 years and cures her, and has a full blown discussion in the middle of those crowds about her miracle cure. They arrive at Jairus' home only to find weeping and lamenting over his daughter's death. The crowd sees this and knows Jairus' loss. Jesus shrinks the amount of people with whom he goes into the residence and then kicks everybody out of the room and cures the 12 year old girl.... And then tells everyone not to spread the news.

This is absurd. The crowds saw Jairus come begging for help. The crowds saw Jesus' reaction and interaction with the hemorrhagic woman. The crowds saw the weeping and lamenting of the people of Jairus' home over the 12 year old's death. The crowds saw Jesus go in to the girl. And the girl comes out, alive, with Jesus instructing that she be fed. To keep silence about these miracles and who performed them is an absurd element to the story.

There are numerous theological understandings and reasons explaining Mark's insistence on keeping quiet, "as the time has not yet come", as the phrase goes. And that is not an unreasonable theme to have during the Season of Lent....for we know where Jesus is headed... to Jerusalem...and the Passion....and Good Friday.... and Easter Sunday.... and Ascension Day.... and Pentecost. So the absurdity of this known secret highlighted by today's Gospel account is a good reminder that we need to live in the now, in this Season, before we can get to the next.

Perhaps it is like reading the last two chapters of a novel, first thing, and then reading the whole of the book. Those who do that like to be able to know what is coming, and perhaps better appreciate and understand how they get to the end..... How are we living in this moment in Lent, with that crazy, absurd and yet beautiful knowledge of where we are going to end up?

Copyright 2010, The Rev. John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Daily Office Reflection: Demons

Psalms 75, 76 * 23, 27; Genesis 43:16-34; 1Corinthians 7:10-24; ark 5:1-20

We all have different demons in us: some more obvious than others. Whether those demons are uncontrolled, or uncontrollable impulses or addictions, or emotional-behavioral traits that allow us to act-out in inappropriate and/or unhealthy ways, we all have demons in us that can use some attention.

Lent is a good time for us to have this Markan account of the man living in the tombs with "legion" inside of him. Those demons which wracked this man recognized Jesus for who and what he was. We should compare this tortured man and his legion of demons to the folks who witnessed the miracle and those who came to see the cured man. This latter group, who did not understand (or want to know) who Jesus really was, had their own kind of demon within them manifested in their refusal or inability to see the miracle of the Holy One in their presence. These demons may have been a manifestation of their fear of change and growth - perhaps they preferred to foster a false desire insisting that there is no need for change, or growth: manifesting a desire that things remain the same, perhaps out of fear of the unknown. No matter what we call that behavior, or how we rationalize it, demons are present in it.

In our Hebrew Testament reading, we are still in the long story of Joseph and his brothers. The brothers have their own demons, but so does Joseph. We are in the midst of that painful part of the story where Joseph is setting his brothers up: we can actually watch Joseph act out, letting his demons control him, and we are about (in the next week) to witness Joseph work his way through, around and get past, his demons.

As we are about to enter the third week of Lent, this is a good time to reflect on our own demons. What are we going to do about those?

Copyright 2010, The Rev. John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Daily Office Reflection: Just As We Are

Psalms 95, 69:1-23(24-30)31-38 * 73; Genesis 43:1-15; 1Corinthians 7:1-9; Mark 4:35-41

After Jesus had finished teaching by the seaside, after a long day, he asks to go across to the other side of the lake, and proceeds to fall asleep in the back of the boat. A storm arises, the folks with him panic, wake him, he calms the storm and rebukes those who were afraid and they are amazed at his ability to calm storms.

When Jesus asks to be taken to the other side, they took him....with a descriptor: just as he was. That little phrase has always stayed with me. Just as he was. I think this is a beautiful sentiment and descriptor rolled into one. It shows an acceptance of a person, without knowing everything about them. It shows a deep trust in the workings of God in the world. And I believe it is a model for our belief that not only has God created us, but made each of us a reflection of that perfection that is God. Sure, we are not perfect being merely a reflection. We can be warped and skewed and reversed at times, like all reflections and we always have room to learn new things, and grow and be better people. But those growing edges do not hinder God from loving us, just as we are. Just as we are.

Copyright 2010, The Rev. John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Daily Office Reflection: Mark in Over-drive

Psalms: (70), 71 * 74; Genesis 42:29-38; 1 Corinthians 6:12-20; Mark 4:21-34

Mark provides for us an overwhelming amount of Jesus' sayings today....almost too much to contemplate on this late winter morning, when I am wishing for spring and faced instead a cold wind walking the dog in the pre-dawn hours.

Mark says:
  • a lit lamp is not placed under something, that action thwarts the purpose of the lighting
  • nothing is hidden, all comes into the light
  • what we give, we get back
  • God's kingdom grows in unlikely and unthought of ways
  • God's plans and our actions must mature, come to full-growth, before the fruits can be harvested
  • God's kingdom, like a mustard seed, can and does grow from the smallest and most unlikely of sources
All I can do this morning is look at the entirety of these sayings, in these few verses, and marvel at the breadth of the imagery. Pick one or look at them all, there is plenty to think about today!

Copyright 2010, The Rev. John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Daily Office Reflection: Not for Everyone?

Psalms: 72 * 119:73-96; Genesis 4:18-28; 1Corinthians 5:9-6:8; Mark 4:1-20

Today's Gospel passage has been utilized by a number of people as justification for "keeping people out" of a church community. "Obviously, that seed came from rocky soil, or grew up amongst the thorns." "That person doesn't belong here.....look how that individual was raised!"

Those kind of exclusionary sentiments drawn from this Gospel passage (and others) is an inaccurate and misguided understanding of this parable Jesus tells. The parable is not about excluding, or being fatalistic about one's course in life. The parable instead should be read as one of hope. For Jesus isn't saying those seeds are thrown by God at birth, but any time we hear the word of God, anytime we open our hearts to these words that can save us, change us. This is the opportunity for us to be a true part of this kingdom Jesus' life and ministry proclaims.

We have these "Seasons" of the church year.....every year. We are given an opportunity, each year during THIS season of Lent to repent and to return. That doesn't sound like rejection to me, but a regular reminder that we are all human and not only deserving of another chance, but always offered another opportunity to grow into God's love for us....grow into our potential to be that Christ-bearer for another on the journey.

This is for everyone, this message of love and hope Jesus brings. This message is offered over and over again to us, not just one time. We all have times of being among the thorns, or in rocky soil. That does not relegate us away from God's kingdom for all time. We are always welcome.

Copyright 2010, The Rev. John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Daily Office Reflection: A Modified Family Dynamic

Psalms 61, 62 * 68:1-20(21-23)24-36; Genesis 42:1-17; 1Corinthians 5:1-8; Mark 3:19b-35

Jesus is causing a some problems in his home town, he is causing quite a stir. Crowds are all around him, some claim he has evil spirits within him and his family comes to "restrain him". Jesus is healing and preaching and teaching today and his home town and his family are in an uproar.

Surrounded by a crowd, Jesus is told that his mother and his brothers and sisters are outside and want to see him, and he seemingly insults his blood relatives by asking who is his mother and brothers. And then Jesus points at all of those sitting around him and identifies them as his his mother and brothers, as well as anyone who does the will of God.

Imagine his mother and brothers' reactions: they probably ran the gamut of possibilities, anger, sadness, amusement, insult. But we know that they did not spurn him, for we know at the end of Jesus' journey to Jerusalem, while he is dying on a cross, his mother is still there with him. I don't think Jesus spurns his family today, I think he widens the definition of family, widens and defines the understanding of what "community" is, and does, and what it should be like.

Families can be trying. Living in an intentional community of believers can be trying too. Those interpersonal dynamics need to be understood in the larger context of the kingdom Jesus proclaims with his life and ministry. Not an easy concept to remember when we are embroiled in the heat of the moment, but a necessary one.

Copyright 2010, The Rev. John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Daily Office Reflection: Back, Again

Psalms 56, 57 (58) * 64, 65; Genesis 41:46-57; 1Corinthians 4:8-20(21); Mark 3:7-19a

I took the month of February off from this blog. Although a large part of me missed this spiritual exercise tremendously, another part of me yearned to let the field go fallow for a period of time. The fallow-yearning part took precedence, but I am now back, with renewed spirit and a quieter head and heart.

We have been winding our way through the end of the Book of Genesis these past weeks and are deeply immersed in the story of Joseph. He lay fallow for quite a while in the jails of Pharaoh, but has emerged (yesterday and) today wiser and stronger. Perhaps that is a way to think about these weeks of Lent we have recently immersed ourselves in: a time to lie fallow - to let our spiritual soil rest.... and yet not rest. For a period of fallowness should have a quiet exterior while great and important internal (beneath the soil) work is ongoing. Discernment work is like this, and Lent is a blessed time in which to to dig deep.

Copyright 2010, The Rev. John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.