Friday, May 28, 2010

Daily Office Reflection: Tiny Gestures

Psalms 31 * 35; Proverbs 23>19-21,29-24:2; 1 Timothy 5:17-22(23-25); Matthew 13:31-35

We have the mustard seed parable and the yeast mixed with flour metaphor in today's Gospel selection from Matthew. The last few days in our Daily Office readings Jesus has been throwing out a whole bunch of these very short "parables" of "the kingdom is like...." sayings. These are so familiar to so many people that they are almost hard to hear, or decipher something new from, or remind us of something we perhaps have forgotten.

One of the points Jesus is driving home today is the truth that our smallest seeming action can have enormous consequences in the creation of the kingdom he is announcing. These actions can be corporate and public or private and personal. An example from my Rule of Life, is that in the last year I have incorporated various "free form" prayers while I say Morning Prayer. One is "Gracious and loving God, guide me to be an effective Episcopal priest today." Another is "Lord Jesus, and through you to our gracious and loving God, help me to be open to your next call and help that parish to be open to discerning me as their next rector." Rather simple prayers yet I find them centering and a "turning over to God" things that are out of my control. I find these (and other intercessory prayers) help me to focus and be more focused, and they do buttress me in doing the work I am, at present, called to do.

Simple, yes I know, but effective for me and I think are examples of that yeast and that mustard seed that can and does change form and substance and create and inspire new things.

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

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Daily Office Reflection: A New World

Psalms: 38* 119:25-48; 1 Timothy 3:1-16; Matthew 12:43-50

Jesus insults two groups of people today in our Gospel reading from Matthew. First we have Jesus concluding his back and forth with his hometown Pharisees by saying they are lost to the kingdom because of their actions and disbelief. And then he diss-es his mother and brothers who are standing outside of where he is teaching.

His family knew Jesus was different, and certainly his mother had first hand knowledge and experience at just how different he was. This must have been harsh to hear from a member of their family they probably thought had come to visit them. But Jesus has a different purpose. He is talking about a the founding of a changed community, a community where people unrelated by blood are treated as family, loved as family, honored as matter how different they may be from one another.

What we have today is Jesus laying the ground work for us, the Body of Christ in the world today. Jesus is saying (in part) that our intentionality in living in a church community needs to not only model the love of a daughter/son for her/his parents and siblings, but actually be that family unit. This is a radical concept that, over 2000 years later, we are still struggling to figure out. Figuring it out is, I think, part of our mission.

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

Monday, May 24, 2010

Daily Office Reflection: The Kingdom of God Has Come To You

Psalms: 25 * 9, 15; Proverbs 10:1-12; 1 Timothy 1:1-17; Matthew 12:11-32

Jesus is having a pointed discussion, yet again, with the Pharisees today. They claim his authority to heal comes from the leader of the demon world. Jesus says that the Pharisees own exorcists claim to be able to cast out demons, even though they have no authority as his, which was granted to Jesus by God. Jesus not only makes clear to the Pharisees who he is, and from whom he has been granted the gifts of healing he has been exercising, but also announces to the world that God's kingdom is among them and available to them.

How can and does this reading from Matthew be relevant to us in our 21st Century lives? Perhaps if we think about what drives us, what is important to us, we can make something out of this lesson. Where do we find our center of being in the world? Do we act out of an understanding of Jesus' teachings or from a more secular and culturally driven perspective?

Jesus calls each of us into this Kingdom he announces today, to assist in the furtherance of its manifestation. Jesus calls each and every one of us to be in the world, working within it, but not to be of this world, not to be a product driven by the changes and chances of culture. Jesus is asking us to be different, to stand apart. He knows how hard this will be for us, but shoves us in this direction nonetheless, for this kingdom of God is what he came to be human among us to announce, open and invite us to live.

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

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Daily Office Reflection: Faith and Wellness

MP: Psalms 107:33-43, 108:1-6(7-13); Ezekiel 36:22-27; Ephesians 6:10-24; Matthew 9:18-26
EP: Psalm 33; Exodus 19:3-8a,16-20; 1Peter 2:4-10

We are on the cusp of Pentecost today and a switch in our liturgical seasons. This week is a "red" week, next Sunday, for Trinity Sunday, we wear white one last time, and then we enter the long green season. The church calendar crams so much into this first half of the year: following Christmas we have the short Christmas season, then a few weeks of Epiphany, followed by 40 days of Lent, Holy Week, Easter, the 50 days of Easter, Pentecost, Trinity Sunday and then.... that long green season, the Season after Pentecost, where we must focus on faith as opposed to liturgical events to keep our interest tweaked.

And I think our Gospel for this morning's reading is a perfect vehicle to reflect on this point. An individual who was part of the group that opposed Jesus, his actions and teachings, falls in front of Jesus begging him to save his daughter. On the walk to the synagogue leader's home, we hear Matthew's version of the hemorrhagic woman's faith leading her to being healed by simply touching Jesus' cloak. Their faith brought wellness: a rebirth of sorts for all three of them, the daughter (as a by-product of the father's faith), the leader and the healed woman.

That hemorrhagic woman had been living with her condition for 12 years we are told, incurable, being cast-aside as unclean. The leader of the synagogue's beloved daughter was dead and he was lost. Faith brought them healing specific to their needs.

There are occasions in life when we have dramatic healings as exemplified in today's Gospel reading. I think more often in life we have little healings along the way, that may be dramatic for us but not so public as the two heard about today. I think this long green season we are on the cusp of entering is very much like that: normal life with personal growth, step by step. Inch by inch, as we plod through this green season, our faith deepens, we are changed, we are slowly healed and we grow: so slow at times that we don't even recognize it until we look back and see the difference. A holistic wellness provided by our ever deepening faith.

A Happy Pentecost.

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

Friday, May 21, 2010

Daily Office Reflection: Who We Associate With

Psalms 102 * 107:1-32; Jeremiah 31:27-34; Ephesians 5:1-20; Matthew 9:9-17

An old adage that floats around our culture is "be careful with whom you associate." And there is some truth to that adage for if we are not sure of ourselves, and strong in our convictions and beliefs, we can lose focus and direction. But if we are centered strongly in not only who we are, but what we believe (and who we follow) than that adage is an impediment to our assisting in the creation of the kingdom.

The reverse is likewise true: if we are so certain in our beliefs and set in our ways, we will miss God's voice coming to us from unimagined places.

Jesus calls the tax collector Matthew today, and then sits with other "tax collectors and sinners" and shares a meal. The Pharisees object, thinking those people are unfit to associate with people of Jesus' pedigree. But Jesus says "hold on now....I am strong enough in myself to not get lost being with these people." I can imagine Jesus saying, After all, they are just that, people, needing to see that there is another way to be, to exist in the world. They are created in God's image, and perhaps they don't fit our understanding of how the world is to work, but what is God saying to us, if anything, if w associate with them?

We are challenged by today's Gospel to ask ourselves: How centered and strong are we? Are we capable of being with those who might challenge us and our beliefs? Are we open to hear God's voice in those challenges?

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

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Daily Office Reflection: Frozen

Psalms 105:1-22 * 105:23-45; Zechariah 4:1-14; Ephesians 4:17-32; Matthew 9:1-8

Many things can "freeze us up," make us stay in place. Fear can do that to us. Self doubt can make roots grow down into the ground around us inhibiting our progress. Remembrance of things we have done and, perhaps, left undone can cause us to become immoveable.

I wonder if we can understand the miracle story in our Gospel reading today with that understanding of the paralytic individual Jesus heals. What if it wasn't a physical issue causing this person to be frozen but instead caused by the individual's own self doubt, fear and remembrance of transgressions left unresolved, unforgiven? What if the miracle we are presented with today is to remind us that no matter how great a sin we may be guilty of, there is forgiveness readily available to us. That forgiveness can serve to unfreeze us, allowing us to live into and be a part of this kingdom Jesus creates.

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

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Daily Office Reflection: When We Are Afraid

Psalms 101, 109:1-4(5-19)20-30 * 119:121-144; Isaiah 4:2-6; Ephesians 4:1-16; Matthew 8:28-34

In our Gospel from Matthew today, Jesus heals the two demoniacs who were living in a cemetery. These two are described as "fierce" making all afraid to go near the place. Jesus cures them sending the demons into a herd of swine, who run wildly over a cliff (or down a steep incline) and drown. The folks charged with minding and caring for those swine run into town, tell those present who come out and ask Jesus, actually beg Jesus to leave.

Here Jesus does a good thing (maybe not so much for the swine or their handlers), but certainly for the two individuals who were cast out from society because of their difference and illness. And perhaps the handlers and the townsfolk were pissed off at Jesus for hurting the livelihood of folks in their town. Or perhaps they were frightened at seeing those two healed individuals, who had been so fierce-some and now were "normal".

How do we react when we are afraid? When we are in the midst of something new and unexplained, how do we handle those times? It is much easier to be reactionary and fling away the new, clinging to the old and familiar. It is much harder to trust in the newness that is God's work in creation: to live into that newness with a sense of wonder and delight and joyful enthusiasm. Jesus did something new today: he gave new life to two individuals. How accepting would each of us be to meeting someone who no longer fits into the locked and defined box we have assigned to them? Could we accept their new life with us?

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

Monday, May 17, 2010

Daily Office Reflection: Seeing

Psalms 89:1-18 * 89:19-52; Joshua 1:1-9; Ephesians 3:1-13; Matthew 8:5-17

I think we have a peeved Jesus in today's Gospel reading. He reacts with appreciation to the centurion who sees him for the authority that he is, while he strongly condemns those for whom he thought he had come. This latter group refused to see him and recognize him for who he was. From their point of view I suppose Jesus was this young upstart, from a nobody family, even though he was "part" of their community. Those folks couldn't see past their own prejudices.

So often in life we need to have an outsider's eyes to see something new and fresh. Many times, we have to force ourselves to try and see something familiar as new, to see something that we have grown accustomed to as needing some repair.

This is one of the messages from today's Gospel reading - a reminder that we need to look and see, and ask what are we overlooking? What are we judging too quickly? What would a new set of eyes see that ours just skims over? Are we missing God' presence in our lives by not seeing?

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

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Daily Office Reflection: Choosing

Psalms: 87, 90 * 136; Numbers 11:16-17,24-29; Ephesians 2:11-22; Matthew 7:28-8:4

It is a beautiful morning here in DC. The sun is rising, the sky is that soft, light blue, there is a cool and light wind from the west blowing over the Potomac and the birds are singing mightily. Walking Allie along the waterfront I was thinking about the leper and Jesus' encounter and wondering about choice.

God gifted us free will. Many times in life we may feel like we do not have a choice, but we do. We may do something and use the "I didn't have a choice" excuse to try and cover for a bad choice. Making mistakes is human. Owning up to them is being adult. Blaming God for the predicaments we are in is a choice, but not a good one.

Jesus did choose to heal the leper today, after the leper chose to approach Jesus and ask for his merciful healing. Perhaps it was a choice made out of desperation by this leper. Perhaps it was a brave and daring choice for someone deemed "unclean" and "cast-out" to approach an individual of such apparent authority as Jesus and ask for help.

For what can we choose to ask God? What deep healing do we require that only that unexplainable love of God can touch, heal and make new? The choice is ours to make.

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

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Daily Office Reflection: Ascension Day

Psalms 8, 47 * 24, 96; Daniel 7:9-14; Hebrews 2:5-18; Matthew 28:16-20

So many people I know "draw the line" at Ascension Day.... well just before Ascension Day. They say they believe other parts of the Gospel story but not this particular piece of Jesus' story. This bodily ascension of our resurrected Jesus into heaven is just too outrageous for them to accept. When I run up against this kind of argument, I find myself being saddened, because by putting tight parameters around what we will or will not, or can and cannot believe, we are limiting God's presence in our lives. By doing this limiting, we are looking out a window, observing, but not participating.

Doubts are one thing, disbelief another. By falling into the latter we miss Jesus' final instructions to his disciples which we have in Matthew's last chapter today: Go and make disciples of all nations.....I am with you always......

Just as the whole of Jesus ascended into heaven, so all are invited into this kingdom he has opened for us. Perhaps that symbolism of Jesus' whole being ascending into heaven is a linchpin upon which we can understand the fullness of God's love for each one of us....a completeness to the invitation that all are welcome, all invited.

I think we are invited to take down those barriers we erect around ourselves this Ascension Day and allow the completeness that is God's love for us to envelope us.

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

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Daily Office Reflection: Phases

Psalms 78:1-39 * 78:40-72; Leviticus 26:1-20; 1 Timothy 2:1-6; Matthew 13:18-23

Today we have Jesus' explanation to his disciples of the parable of the sown seed. He gives four examples of how the word can be received by the people who hear it: 1) path - it is not understood and rejected out of hand; 2) rocky ground - misunderstands it by accepting it with joy and then when things get tough, rejects it; 3) thorns - the word is heard but the cares of the world get in the way of truly understanding it; and 4) good soil - the word is heard, understood and bears much fruit.

At first glance this seems like an un-hopeful parable. It has certainly been used through the centuries to cast aside whole swaths of people by categorizing them and giving up on them. But Jesus was not known for giving up. What if that initial reading of the parable is to narrow a reading of it? What if Jesus is talking about how people really are: that we develop our understanding over time, or at least most of us do. If we are honest with ourselves I think all of us believers have probably fallen into categories 1, 2 and 3 more often than 4. What if Jesus is saying there is a path, a journey, that there are phases of faith development and that upon reaching 4, we are ready to keep questioning but at the same time helping bring along those in earlier phases of spiritual growth and development. That is a much more hopeful understanding of Jesus' parable and one to be quite joyful about!

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

Monday, May 10, 2010

Daily Office Reflection: Eyes & Ears

Psalms: 80 * 77 (79); Leviticus 25:35-55; Colossians 1:9-14; Matthew 13:1-16

We are gifted part one of the parable of the sown seeds (we have to tune in tomorrow to get the "explanation" of the parable to the disciples). But even without that explanation by Jesus of what this parable means, we have a goodly amount of ideas to chew on.

Jesus says he speaks in parables because the folks he has come to save have closed their eyes and ears to him, and therefore will "never understand" the miracle standing before them. I find this a very sad thing to contemplate, that missed opportunity to know God-taken-human-form in an up close and personal way. Jesus says their "hearts have grown dull". How very condemning that statement is!

But I wonder how many of our hearts have grown dull? How many of us have built up walls around ourselves, sure of what is right, confident in what we are doing? I think the problem with that kind of confidence is that we can become self-delusional and then not really use our eyes and ears and really see and hear. I think that is the dire warning and the good news of today's part one lesson. Stay tuned!

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