Saturday, July 31, 2010

Daily Office Reflection: I Am With You Always.....

Psalms 75, 76 * 23, 27; Judges 5:19-31; Acts 2:22-36; Matthew 28:11-20

We come to the end of Matthew's Gospel today where Jesus sends the disciples out to make more disciples of all nations, telling them to (and how to) baptize those new members and to always remember..... always remember I am with you always, to the end of the age.

In times of duress and difficulty and uncertainty, it is always challenging to remember these last words Matthew provides us. When we are alone with our grief, with our sadness, if there is no one with us to physically walk along side of us, that feeling of aloneness can be remarkably palpable. That sharp pang can dangerously become the center of our world. It does not have to be the center because something else truly is at the center, and that is God's presence.

That hurt, those sharp edges of despair won't completely disappear because of our realization of who is at the center of us, but those edges will become less pointy. Knowing that love is a part of us, knowing it takes the loneliness to a different place and makes us stronger and more able to take those next steps. Because those next steps are never done alone for we remember I am with you always......

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

Friday, July 30, 2010

Daily Office Reflection: Do Not Be Afraid

Psalms 69:1-23(24-30)31-38 * 73; Judges 5:1-18; Acts 2:1-21; Matthew 28:1-10

We hear twice, in ten verses, "Do not be afraid". First it is the earthquake producing, lightning-like angel of God who tells Mary Magdalene and the other Mary these four simple words. And then the resurrected Jesus says those same words to them as they run to tell the disciples what it is that they have witnessed....Do not be afraid.

Being afraid is part of being human: it is an instinctual response, one of self-preservation. There are things we should, with good cause, be afraid of in this world. Being cautious around things that make us afraid is not something about which we should be embarrassed. I don't think the lightning-clad angel, or Jesus, are talking about that with this four word phrase. I don't think we are supposed to throw all caution to the wind at all times. I believe we are being nudged in the direction of not letting fear get in the way of faith. We cannot allow being afraid to block us from being open to God's presence in our lives. Fear can shut us down, but we need to move beyond the blocking out reflex and, perhaps, allow the fear to be just one component of our journey, keeping us cautious but not shut down. Perhaps utilizing that fear as a heightened awareness allowing us to better perceive how God is immersed in our lives and always and lovingly with us is a way to turn that natural reflex into an asset that can make us better vessels for God's work in the world.

The fear can be there, so long as it doesn't block us from doing what we must.

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

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Daily Office Reflection: Friendship's Love

Psalms (70), 71 * 74; Judges 4:4-23; Acts 1:15-26; Matthew 27:55-66

In Holy Women, Holy Men (HWHM) today we remember Mary, Martha and Lazarus. A week ago it was Mary Magdalene's day. HWHM reminds us of the various Gospel accounts in Luke and John about the very deep-seated friendship and love that existed between those four people. Certainly there was an equal affection and dedication shown by Mary Magdalene to and reciprocated by Jesus.

When we are blessed with the gift of having friends in our lives with whom we have a deep connection, there is a special bond, a special love that is unlike any other. It is in both good times and uncertain and hard times that we come to really count on those folks who are bound to our heart in friendship's love. In our Gospel account today, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary sit adjacent to the tomb in which Jesus' wrapped body lays quiet. We don't know who this other Mary is, but I like to think it is Martha and Lazarus' sister. Friends-to-the-end, there to mourn, remember, still love, support one another. HWHM says: Mary, Martha and Lazuras' (I'm going to add Mary Magdalene too).....hospitality and kindness, and Jesus' enjoyment of their company, show us the beauty of human friendship and love at its best.

The beauty of human friendship and love at its best.... even onto the end....... a good thing to chew on today.

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

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Daly Office Reflection: Into the Whirlwind of Change

Psalm 72 * 119:73-96; Judges 3:12-30; Acts 1:1-14; Matthew 27:45-54

Our readings today feel like they are all over the place. We are at the beginning of the downward spiral that the Book of Judges takes us on. We are at the very beginning of the Book of Acts, with Jesus telling the Apostles to go back to Jerusalem and wait for the Holy Spirit to come upon them, and Jesus ascends. And in Matthew, we are close to the end of the Gospel, with Jesus dead on the cross, and the temple curtain ripping and earthquakes happening......Geez, all over the place. And to add to the confusion, in Holy Women and Holy Men we celebrate and remember Bach, Handel and Purcell.

I think we struggle to put order to chaos, to bring some structure to times of insecurity and uncertainty. These readings in today's Daily Office certainly are emblematic of that effort. There are times in life when all we can do is something little, do something that seems innocuous at the time, but do it well. Being able to find a place of centering in that whirlwind can be challenging, but it is not impossible. That centering moment might be only that, a moment, but we shouldn't discount the importance and the wondrousness of that moment. For God is in those moments, as well as in the crappy ones. It is just harder to recognize that fact at times.

Jesus stood in the middle of a whirlwind and was able to stay focused. A good model to strive for, even if we can only manage that calmness in the face of the whirlwind for a moment.

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

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Daily Office Reflection: Saint Mary Magdalene

MP: Psalm 116, Zephaniah 3:14-20, Mark 15:47-16:7
EP: Psalms 30, 149, Exodus 15:19-21, 2Cor 1:3-7

We know very little about Mary Magdalene. There is wide speculation about her, most of which has grown, unsupported, through the centuries. Nevertheless, I have always been attracted to those snippets of this person that the four Gospel writers provide for us. I think the Eastern Church got it right so very long ago when they gave Mary Magdalene equal status to that of an apostle. Her dedication, her love of Jesus, her faithfulness in "being there" in the good times and in the horrifying times not only inspire me but also make me pause. Jesus not only healed her but made her the first vessel of the Good News of the resurrection. A faithful and devoted love being repaid with love and compassion and joyful news.

Waiting patiently and yet being active and involved....quietly observing and yet acting where others would or could not are elements of Mary of Magdala that bring me strength and offer me guidance. The Collect for today is a beautiful one:

Almighty God, whose blessed Son restored Mary Magdalene to health of body and of mind, and called her to be a witness of his resurrection: Mercifully grant that by your grace we may be healed from all our infirmities, and know you in the power of his unending life; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


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

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Daily Office Reflection: Uncertainty

Psalms 45 * 47, 48; Joshua 8:1-22; Romans 14:1-12; Matthew 26:47-56

I have been struck with writer's block lately. I don't think this block is because I find our Daily office readings uninteresting, or un-provoking, as they are the exact opposite of those those two words. I am, simply put, in a transition period of my life in regard to employment and am on a personal roller coaster ride emotionally, and am trying to be circumspect in regard to allowing those emotions to seep into my writings here.

We are immersed in Joshua's story of the conquest of the promised land, today with the second try of conquering the town of Ai. The first failed because of betrayal by a few people, to which Joshua lay prone before the ark of the covenant begging forgiveness and guidance. In Matthew today, we have Judas' betrayal of Jesus. This act follows yesterday's account of Jesus praying to God for relief and than for strength to face whatever may come his way.

Centering ourselves in prayer in times of loss and betrayal, asking God's help to deal with raging emotions, is an important aspect of remaining faithful. Asking for help is another. I ask for prayers to give me strength to face what is coming and to be cognizant enough to discern an appropriate way forward.

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

Friday, July 16, 2010

Daily Office Reflection: Waiting

Psalms: 31 * 35; Joshua 4:19-5:1,10-15; Romans 12:9-21; Matthew 16:17-25

Waiting can be so very hard. Allowing ourselves to be present in what is going on around us and not exhaustively focus on what "may be" takes some effort for many of us. When something is about to happen, when a decision is being awaited, angst, sadness, anger, erratic attention all can plague us.

Joshua has successfully guided the people he is leading to cross the Jordan River in today's Hebrew Testament reading. They observe the holy day and wait. They are waiting for the time to strike their adversaries to continue in their conquest of the land God promised to their ancestors. Joshua is scouting and comes upon a soldier of God, a clear sign that their waiting is coming to an end.

Jesus has been waiting for the betrayal that he has known was coming, had predicted was coming. In our Gospel from Matthew today we have the beginning of the end story, the beginning of the Passion narrative. Matthew has described in the 25 preceding chapters Jesus' journey to this point: a waiting-of-a-kind until the time was right for his own conquest.

Being distracted is a natural part of our existence when we are waiting for something big to happen: a decision to be made that effects our life's journey or the results from a medical examination are two examples of angst producing waits. Notice that in both the Joshua account and in Matthew's Gospel, not only did those folks involved keep active during their waiting period, but they worshipped, celebrated and gave thanks to God, centering their existence around prayer. Prayer won't take away all those feelings that can come upon us in times of anxious waiting, but prayer can help us deal with those feelings appropriately. Those feelings help us know that we are alive.

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

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Daily Office Reflection: Surprises

Psalms 26, 28 * 36, 39; Joshua 2:15-24; Romans 11:13-24; Matthew 25:14-30

Yesterday we began the story of Joshua's conquest of Jericho, a story in which Rahab plays a major role. We are told (yesterday) that Rahab was a prostitute, and the story implies that she was a successful one as she owned a house which was part of the wall of the city. She hides the two spies Joshua sent from the king's men and then helps them escape, telling them where and how long to hide outside of the city. They in turn promise to protect Rahab and all her family when they return to conquer the land, provided she keeps their secret and that she ties a crimson rope to the window from which they escaped. The story continues in tomorrow's reading.

In our selection from Matthew today Jesus tells the story of the talents used wisely juxtaposed against the talent that was buried, and thus taken away. Jesus is demanding that his disciples, and through them all of us, be daring and adventurous, to use the gifts we are given and those that we earn, in ways that benefit the development of the kingdom.

There is a swash-buckling-ness to these two stories. They are surprising too. I think both indicate that God will always act in surprising ways, through unexpected people and that we are called not to be judgmental, but open to God's work in the world all around us. We can be surprised and delighted by the generosity of a person who society and our culture has rejected. We must be risk-takers to embolden and enliven this kingdom we are called upon to make palpably present to the world. Surprises are a good thing for us to keep our eyes attuned to, always wondering what God has in store for us next.

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

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Daily Office Reflection: Metaphorically Speaking

Psalms 18:1-20 * 18:21-50; Deuteronomy 3:18-28; Romans 9:19-33; Matthew 24:1-14

Jesus talks about the "end times" today. His discussion is spurred on by a question about his response to the disciples exclamations about the beauty of the temple buildings. Jesus foretells the fall of the temple and then his disciples ask him when this will happen, and off Jesus goes describing some pretty terrible events that will signal those "end times".

So many people read these verses with a literal lens, taking them out of context. They see an earthquake, or the start of a war, or famine, or religious persecution, and say Aha, we are at the end: Jesus is a'comin soon! So much damage has been done by these literal minded zealots. Such dangerous and deadly actions have been perpetrated throughout history. We don't have to look far back to find examples, nor is it hard to look around the world and find very recent examples of the things Jesus warns about as telling signs of the change coming.

What we are gifted with today from Matthew is the start of a long descriptive speech by Jesus. It continues in tomorrow's reading and into Saturday's, where we will find one of the metaphoric keys to understanding what Jesus is doing here. All ya'll have to wait until Saturday for my thoughts on that. In regard to today, one of the take aways from this Gospel reading is that Jesus is telling us that to be his disciple, to be his follower, will not be easy, will not make us the most popular kid in the class. And that is okay. Today's reading helps us remember, amidst "all the love stuff" (about which I write constantly!), that our journey can and will be difficult, and yet our reading clearly shows us we are not alone on that journey, nor is it a fruitless walk. There is good news in these rather difficult readings we are in the midst of right now.

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

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Daily Office Reflection: Keeping Sacred Things Sacred

Psalms 5, 6 *10, 11; Numbers 35:1-5,9-15,30-34; Romans 8:31-39; Matthew 23:13-26

Jesus just lambasts the scribes and Pharisees today: he just lights into them. He has been in an extended conversation with them throughout his ministry in Matthew's Gospel. But it appears that he has just "had it up to here" with them in today's selection.

Jesus begins his chastisement of these leaders of the community saying how dare they lock people out of the kingdom of heaven. How can they twist Scripture to exclude rather than welcome? How can they miss the importance of what is sacred and place that blessing of sacredness, and give importance to things that are not sacred in and of themselves? Jesus condemns them by saying they "have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith." These leaders have become so consumed with who can be "in" and who shouldn't be, that they have lost themselves in the minutiae.

Jesus is making clear, yet again, that all are welcome into this kingdom he was sent to proclaim. All of us.... I cannot emphasis those three little words enough....all of us are welcome. Such good news this morning.

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

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Daily Office Reflection: God of the Living

Psalms 137:1-6(7-9), 144 * 104; Numbers 24:12-23; Romans 8:18-25; Matthew 22:23-40

Jesus flummoxes the Sadducees today with his response to their question about the childless widow marrying seven brothers and whose wife she would be in the resurrection. The Pharisees than give their shot at besting him and are likewise unsuccessful.

I believe that Jesus' response to the Sadducees not only serves up a mortal blow to their arguments, but also undermine any attempt by people of faith to be literalists: or in current parlance, "original intenters". Jesus is saying with his response that God is alive and with us, that God is not frozen on the page of Scripture and the laws and rules that emanate from those sacred texts. God is speaking to us in Scripture, wanting us to question, to learn, to grow: to be in conversation with each other and with God. And I think Jesus proves that purpose with his response to the Pharisees that the greatest commandment is to love God and, like unto that, we are to love our neighbors as ourselves. This is not a frozen-in-time doctrine, but a living, breathing commandment to be actively engaged with the world, loving God, loving our neighbor.

God, Jesus is saying, is among us, with us, a part of our lives. God is not some distant figure to be feared and worshipped. But this loving God is the God of the living, and that statement and belief alone defeats any literalist, strict constructionist, narrow-minded attempts to box-in and define God in human terms. And that makes me smile this morning.

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