Thursday, September 30, 2010

Daily Office Reflection: Responding

Psalms 105:1-22 * 105:23-45; Hosea 5:8-6:6; Acts 21:27-36; Luke 6:1-11

At first glance today's Gospel selection makes it appear that Jesus is attacking the idea of sabbath rest. But that is not the case. We have two sabbath events in Luke today: the first is the disciples picking heads of grain, rubbing them together and eating them; the second is Jesus healing an individual with a withered hand in the synagogue.

Neither of these were emergency situations. The disciples probably could have waited a bit longer to eat. The individual with the withered hand had been like that for a long time and could probably have waited a day to be healed. But Jesus defends not only his actions in the synagogue but his disciples taking care of themselves.

One of the things Jesus is driving at in today's encounters on the sabbath is that when we bump into someone who requires our assistance, whenever that is, where ever that event happens, whether or not it is convenient to us or those around us, whether or not we break some human made rules..... we need to respond......we need to act appropriately and accordingly and immediately. I think Jesus is acknowledging a basic human predilection to not only procrastinate but also to forget. By responding immediately, and trying to help a person in need who crosses our path, at the moment they cross that path, is a way of creating the kingdom around us with immediacy.

Jesus is modeling a behavior for us today that is important to take to heart: responding, now, not at some point down the road.

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

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Daily Office Reflection: Balance

Psalms 97, 99, (100) * 94, (95); Hosea 4:1-10; Acts 21:1-24; Luke 5:12-26

Jesus is operating in overdrive right now. Yesterday he filled Simon Peter's fishing nets to the dangerous point of tipping the boat and called the first of his disciples. Today he heals the leper who was begging by the roadside, preaches and teaches to a teeming crowd and forgives the sins and heals the man whose friends lower the pallet on which he was lying through the open roof. There is one sentence in the middle of all this madness which helps clarify where Jesus gets some of the strength to do all these acts. That sentence says He would withdraw to deserted places to pray. Notice the plural - this is not a one time event in Jesus' life.

Jesus was fully human and yet fully divine. He needed to be able to recharge: to resurrect his strength. He did so by praying, by turning to God, and perhaps turning over to God, those things that weighted down his human soul. And I believe there is a critical model here for us to pay very close attention to, in order for us to face what we must in the building of the kingdom we are called to continue to build. Not only do we need to care for ourselves appropriately (eating right, exercising regularly, socializing appropriately) but we need to pray and when necessary turn those things over to God that are weighing down our souls.

Yesterday, in Holy Women, Holy Men, one of the people we remembered was Thomas Traherne, a recently discovered poet and spiritualist who was a contemporary of George Herbert and John Donne. Traherne was a priest who wrote about, and tried to convey this idea of Jesus' humanity and divinity. He used seemingly contradictory metaphors that are difficult to follow at times. HWHM tells us that what he was driving at was "in the Incarnation, God assumed our humanity and so our humanity is in fact, our blessed access to God."

I think that is a beautiful concept: that through our humanness, we have a direct line to God, because of the Incarnation. Having a Rule of Life, a time dedicated to prayer, to recharging, to balance, we have access to God and God has access to us. Something to think on this morning.

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

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Daily Office Reflection: Letting Go

Psalm 87, 90 * 136; Hosea 1:1-2:1; Acts 20:1-16; Luke 4:38-44

After Jesus heals Simon Peter's mother, and she gets up and starts serving her son and his guests, the townspeople flock to Jesus. They bring with them their sick and diseased for Jesus to heal, which he does by laying hands on each of them. Jesus then leaves the town to get some peace, but the crowds follow him and try to prevent him from leaving but Jesus insists that he must move on.

Those folks in Peter's mother's home town did not want to let go. So much of Jesus' ministry illustrates this point: the need to let go, to keep moving, to not get stuck living in the past, but to keep growing and learning and bringing this important news of God's work in the world to those who have yet to experience this mystery. By doing so, we continue to morph, to grow and change.

I am not suggesting this task illuminated by today's reading from Luke is easy or comfortable to practice. I paint as a hobby. The paintings that "work" in the end are ones where I have "let go" and not gotten stuck in strictly controlled techniques, methods and structures. Of course there are limitations, but the paintings that speak my voice, that other people actually hear, and the ones that last, are those where I have successfully let go of preconceptions of how I have to "do" (accomplish) the task of getting the vision in my head onto the canvas.

I wonder if that same concept can be applied to the work of "church-land" and the building of the kingdom that Jesus continues to move on accomplishing in today's reading. Something fun to think about today.

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

Friday, September 24, 2010

Daily Office Reflection: Something Different This Way Comes

Psalms 88 * 91, 92; Esther *;1-8,15-17 or Judith 13:1-20; Acts 19:21-41; Luke 4:31-37

Just before today's Gospel reading Jesus has been chased out of his hometown, actually nearly being thrown off a cliff. Today he is in Galilee preaching and he heals an individual who has a demon in him - ostensibly the only "thing" in that area that recognizes who and what he is: the "Holy One of God." Jesus hushes the demon up, but we are told very clearly that this man is going to shake the world by his presence.

The ending of our two Hebrew Testament selections indicate also, quite clearly, that God works in God's own ways in saving us. In both Esther and Judith, the Jewish people's saving redemption come from the work of individuals thought by that culture and time to be less than human: one an orphan who becomes a concubine to a non-Jewish king, and the other a widow who makes herself up to look the part of a prostitute. Both these souls save thousands through their actions and faith and belief.

Unexpected and unrecognized is how God, so often, works in this world. Scripture clearly tells us, highlighted today, that we need to think about where we aren't looking to find God's work, God's surprising encounters with our world.

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

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Daily Office Reflection: Our Own Devils

Psalms 119:97-12- * 81, 82; Esther 6:1-14 or Judith 10:1-23; Acts 19:1-10; Luke 4:1-13

Jesus has been baptized, heard God's voice of praise and has run into the desert, driven by the Holy Spirit, where today he is tested three times. Whether we believe in the existence of "the devil" or not, this scripture reading is an important one for us to take to heart.

We can be tempted every day: tempted to make decisions that run counter to what we know are our better interests. They can be as simple (and as complicated) as giving into the temptations: to purchase things we can't afford (aka "retail therapy); to have that extra drink that we rationalize "won't hurt us" but will; to eat that second helping we do not need; to cheat on our spouse. Our better angels know how to respond to those temptations from our lesser selves, but those lesser selves can very easily take over what we know we should be doing.

We are gifted with some wonderful readings right now that help illuminate this point. Whether we are reading Judith or Esther, both of these books tell us the tale of strong women, who worked within the structures with which they were confined, and yet found a way to listen to those better angels and do what was absolutely necessary. They had opportunities to go in another direction, but chose not to listen to their lesser selves, but do what they knew God was calling them toward.

We are all human, created that way by God. Which part of ourselves will we listen to today when we are given those inevitable choices that will come our way?

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

Monday, September 20, 2010

Daily Office Reflection: Off and Running in Luke

Psalms 80 * 77, (79); Esther 4:4-17 or Judith 7:1-7,19-32; Acts 18:1-11; Luke 1:1-4, 3:1-14

We are gifted with long readings today, in the Hebrew Testament choices, in Acts and the selection from Luke. Quite a lot to digest if we chose to read all of them. We leave the Gospel of John behind today and embark on a journey through Luke until we reach Advent (and the new church calendar year).

All of the Gospels have their highs and lows, their attractions and the opposite. If I was forced to pick a "favorite" Gospel, I bounce between picking Mark and Luke: Mark for the starkness of the language, and Luke for the majestic beauty of the arc of the story we are told. This morning, perhaps because I have just read a small portion of it, I would say Luke if forced to pick a favorite.

We begin this journey through Luke today with the preamble and then we jump to John the Baptist's appearance in the wilderness, where he is baptizing and teaching. Teaching us to be generous, to give away possessions we do not need to those who do need them, to provide food to those who are hungry, to not be greedy and to be satisfied with what we have. A teaching for the ages and a good reminder to us this morning.

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

Friday, September 17, 2010

Daily Office Reflection: Human Glory

Psalms 69: 1-23(24-30)31-38 * 71; Esther 1:1-4,10-19 or Judith 4:1-15; Acts 17:1-15; John 12:36b-45

The Gospel writer we call John gets a bit preachy today. Jesus is off away from the folks he just told that he was going to be killed We are told Jesus is actually hiding from them. And then the writer tells us Jesus is fulfilling Isaiah's prophesies and ends with But because of the Pharisees they (those who believed in Jesus) did not confess it, for fear that they would be put out of the synagogue, for they loved human glory more than the glory that comes from God.

Preachy, but not in a bad or obnoxious way: just truthful. Are we any different today? Jesus' radical message of inclusion, and readjustment of our priorities to serve others in need, of pushing back against the status quo, of not taking guff from those who would rather keep their own power, prestige and possessions is as fresh and needed today as it was when he first was leading the charge.

Realistically, can we change everyone to this unpopular focus of how we should lead our lives? No. Can we take small steps toward living into this new reality? Yes. Will it be easy? Absolutely not. Small steps are better than no steps and are worth taking.

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

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Daily Office Reflection: Falling Wheat

Psalms 72 * 119:73-96; Job 42:1-17; Acts 16:16-24; John 12:20-26

Some Greeks come to see Jesus today, and they don't seem to make it through the gauntlet of folks surrounding Jesus. They ask Philip, Philip asks Andrew, both of them approach Jesus and tell him there are people looking to speak with him. Jesus goes in a different direction, alluding clearly to his coming death. He says Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain, but if it dies, it bears much fruit.

How do we live into this metaphor Jesus utilizes today? How can we be like falling wheat and allow much fruit to grow around us? All of us can impact people we come into contact with in substantive ways. We can influence people by being honest, kind, helpful and vulnerable. These qualities can expose us to ridicule. They can make us targets to be taken advantage of by those who believe these qualities are weaknesses. They are anything but weak, they can change the world.

Perhaps we can allow those facades we guard ourselves with fall like a dying grain of wheat and allow people to really see us, know us. Imagine what fruit could be born all around us. Imagine how we can change and influence those who don't know about God's all embracing love, by introducing them to that love in this disarming manner.

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

Monday, September 13, 2010

Daily Office Reflection: Joy in the Face of Opposition

Psalms 56, 57, (58) * 64, 65; Job 40:1-24; Acts 15:36-16:5; John 11:55-12:8

We all know people who like to be spoilers. Folks who thrive on being that naysaying nudge. Those who want to go negative all the time, for whatever deep psychological reason from which they are acting. Perhaps (and hopefully) these folks we know are not of the depraved level of the Judas portrayed in John's Gospel today.

Jesus is visiting Mary, Martha and Lazarus after a time away from them. We can surmise that Jesus was not only good friends with these three, but loved them dearly. Mary certainly palpably shows her love by anointing his feet with costly perfume and Jesus rebukes the naysaying Judas who criticizes Mary's actions.

We are being given a model in today's reading from John of how to live joyfully and with full-on-love in the face of opposition. Jesus does not only face opposition at this joyful gathering with people he loves, but our Gospel begins today with the continued plotting of the Pharisees. These conspiracies and negativity do not stop Jesus from being the center of joy and love, while experiencing those emotions himself. When we face similar situations, it is important to remember who we are, what we believe, and know that there is deep joy found by our living into our faith. That joy allows us to remain in that state of bliss in the face of self-righteous, narrow minded, self-serving indignation. This brings a smile to my face this morning.

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

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Daily Office Reflection: The 11th of September

Psalms: 55 * 138, 139:1-17(18-23); Job 18:1-17; Acts 15:22-35; John 11:45-54

Nine years ago today I was living and working in New York City. It was a beautiful morning and it was primary day in New York's election cycle. I had gone to the local high school in Chelsea, on 18th Street, to vote early and then headed down to the office, arriving around 7:45. My office was two and a half blocks from the World Trade Center. My office faced Pine Street and I remember sitting at my desk, working on some document on the computer when I noticed out my window paper floating by, and I remember thinking, gee, what's that? It's too early for a ticker tape parade. Looking a little closer at what was floating by the window I noticed that the papers were either on fire or badly charred.

I got up, left my office and went into the area where my employees had their cubicles, where a half dozen windows looked down on the intersection of Pine and Broad/Nassau Streets. I looked up and could see dark billowing clouds of smoke coming from the direction of the WTC. I went back into my office and logged onto CNN to see what if anything was being reported. The news at that early hour held general news of the day, and a Breaking News banner at the top of the screen saying "Small plane believed to have crashed into the north building of WTC". I went back out to chat with my employees. Shortly thereafter we heard a loud roar and a huge crashing noise. The windows of our office which actually shook. Looking out those windows, in the sky over the buildings across from us, I could see a very large plume of smoke. And in the street below, enormous crowds of people were running down the middle of the street away from the sound of the crash.

Shortly after, building security came on the system wide PA and said the building was in lock down, that no one was going to be allowed out of the building as city officials did not deem it safe. We stayed, not getting any work done, everyone frantically checking the internet for information and calling family and friends to find out what was going on.

The smell of smoke permeated the ventilation system making many feel unwell. We learned that both buildings of the WTC had been struck by large aircraft. Approximately two hours later there was a rumble like an earthquake and a cloud enveloped our building, making it dark as night outside. (We were on the 10th floor of this building.) The windows rattled even more than earlier at the force of the cloud of debris. Later, what felt like hours but was only 45 minutes or so, that blackness outside the windows had turned to a grayish, whitish cloud, something akin to thick fog, but darker gray than normal fog. Then a second rumble happened, if possible a quake-like experience more terrible than the first, turning outside to night once again.

The panic and upset that permeated the office was palpable. We did not know at that time how the buildings had collapsed, although it was obvious that both had come down. We all thought that they had fallen over, not pancaked as they did. Cell phone and internet service had stopped working at the collapse of the first building, so we were cut off from any useful information. The landline phone service was intermittent. In the midst of trying to keep my staff calm, and appear as if things would be alright, my cell phone rang. How the signal got through is still a mystery, but it was my friend Rocco calling to see if I was: alive, unhurt, and to find out where I was. It was the first moment that I thought I was going to lose control of my emotions: hearing my friends voice of concern brought tears to my eyes and face.

Perhaps 45 minutes later another announcement was made by the building PA that the building was being evacuated, the elevators were shut off and we needed to "calmly" leave the building through the interior fire stairs.

Walking out of the building, through the rear entrance on Pine Street, was like walking into a surreal dreamscape. The ash floating in the air was thick, making it nearly impossible to see beyond one or two blocks. The ground was covered with a fine, gray powder that when you stepped into it, your feet were covered as well as your ankle. Most of us had taken a paper towel, moistened it and held that over our nose and mouth to try and protect us from what was in the air.

A small group from my office started walking north up Nassau Street towards the Brooklyn Bridge. As we crossed William Street I looked to the left and saw through the deep, gray ash, the silhouette of the remains of one of the towers. The eerie large pieces of facade with steel beams, all at odd and wrong angles, surrounded a deep blackness which in turn surrounded a fire the color of which I had never seen before. Inside of the black ring was a reddish-orange color and inside that was a white, that wasn't a white. And I thought, I don't believe in hell, but that certainly is it.

We continued up Nassau until it dead-ends at Broadway. The folks with whom I was walking turned right and went over the Brooklyn Bridge, while I continued straight on Broadway to head north to my home in Chelsea. A remarkable thing happened as I crossed Chambers Street, which is right behind City Hall. It was like I had walked through a curtain. Because of how the wind was blowing in from the west, all that smoke and debris in the air was being pushed east over Brooklyn. It was like someone had painted a picture with a sharp line of demarcation, or dropped a curtain: on the south side of Chambers Street there was a thick gray cloud, and on the north side on which I was now walking, the sky was back to the crystal clear blue it had been before those few individuals had caused such havoc, ruining so many people's lives and changing the course of our history so dramatically.

I walked west on Chambers and then north on Church, eventually making my way to Hudson Street and trekked north. My brown shoes and the lower part of my khaki colored pants were caked with gray dust. I can clearly see the hundreds, if not thousands, of people I passed as I headed north, all looking south: some crying, most in shock with their mouths hanging open. Some holding on to the people they were standing with, perhaps friends, perhaps lovers, perhaps a stranger. I couldn't look back. I just wanted to get home.

As I was walking my dog, Allie, this morning, on a very similar weather day as the one nine years ago, I started thinking about these memories I have just shared. I can remember so much more. I can smell, taste, hear, feel all of that so clearly, still, nine years later and I thought I would share some of the experiences of that day. There are many more moments, and I am sure I will be thinking about those today as well. What this has to do with our Daily Office readings, all I can say is.....not much. Any connection I could draw would be tenuous at best.

But I am also thinking about the question people often ask me: Why would God let this happen? I don't think God had anything to do with the occurrences of nine years ago. They are the actions of "not-God". A mindset of brutal oppression and arrogance and hubris that has plagued humanity since we started walking the earth.

The underlying causes of that terrible day nine years ago are far more complicated than I just summarized in two sentences, but that is not what I am interested in writing about today. I wanted to share some of my thoughts and remembrances and remind us that God made us human. We can chose to act with hubris and arrogance or we can listen to what Jesus says throughout his ministry and do our best to be his Body in the world today. There will always be evil among us. How we counteract that influence is a lifetime's work.

I remember in my thoughts and prayers today: all those thousands of lives brutally lost; the families and friends of those people; the injured; the workers who tirelessly tried to find survivors; those whose health has been substantively impacted by working at or near that site, which smoldered and smelled awful for months; and I pray for those thousands of people, who like me, have these memories of that day that will not fade.

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

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Daily Office Reflection: Patience

Psalms 119:49-72 * 49, (53); Job 29:1,30:1-2,16-31; Acts 14:19-28; John 11:1-16

We have the beginning of the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead in our Gospel reading from John. Lazarus' sisters send word to Jesus that he is ill and dying, pleading that he come back to Judea. Jesus gets the message and waits two days before starting the journey, continuing whatever he was doing across the Jordan.

All I can think about is Martha and Mary, afraid, panicked, sad. Sad about the loss of their brother. Sad about Jesus not coming when they called him. I think that is one of the points of the story. Martha and Mary want to control Jesus and Jesus is having nothing to do with it. He is the one who is in charge. He is the one who knows what he is doing. And none of us like that. We want what we want when we want it, the saying goes.

God does not operate on our timeline this story tells us. And there will be times that we feel abandoned and alone. In those moments that come to us all, we need to remember that although we may feel violated, alone, forgotten....we are not. God's love for us is too great. Our focus needs to be elsewhere at those times, a gerry-working of how we look at our world and experiences. We can be confident that God is with us, always this story tells us. Just not in ways that we might expect.

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

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Daily Office Reflection Secret Followers

Psalm 45 * 47, 48; Job 29:1-20; Acts 14:1-18; John 10:31-42

In our reading from John's Gospel today, we come to the end of a long "discussion" Jesus has been having with leaders in the synagogue. They had picked up stones to kill him with, but he forestalls those throws by trying to convince them that what he has been saying is true. We have Jesus proclaiming that he is in God and God is in him: the fully divine and the fully human in one package. The leaders try to arrest him but Jesus escapes.

Jesus goes across the Jordan to an area where he and John the Baptist were well known. And the Gospel writer tells us that people flocked to him and believed in him. These folks were away from the power center, from the influence of those who were holding onto their power and authority. These leaders were fearful of what Jesus was saying would undermine their authority should it win out.

This Gospel reading makes me wonder about openness and honesty and speaking truth to power. The people flocking to Jesus, away from the power center, is an example of a common occurrence in human history. We do things in secret and then are cowed by the bullying of those in authority, even when we know they are incorrect and we are right. Jesus is showing us that there is another way. Not an easy or simple road, nor one that lacks danger, but a truthful one. And one where the world would be so different from the one in which we reside if we were to follow that route.

The people following Jesus couldn't accomplish this. Throughout history this has been our challenge: do we do what is right in secret and publicly do that which is palatable to the world around us? Or do we stand and speak the truth, knowing people with stones are standing right across from us ready to throw them.

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

Sunday, September 5, 2010

15th Sunday after Pentecost: Discipleship

Pentecost 15 (Proper 18 C)

Preached @ St. Luke’s, DC on 9/5/10

Happy Labor Day Weekend! We are enmeshed not only in a change of season but we all experience a cultural change as well when Labor Day Weekend rolls around: school has started for many of our children and grandchildren, summer is over. In churches, the program year will kick off soon, for many, service times will be slightly altered…. after this last gasp of summer we all celebrate this weekend. Change is here, perhaps not so much in our weather but certainly in what we do in our lives. As a friend of mine says, breaks over, let’s get started.

That attitude, that shift in our focus, parallels quite nicely with our Gospel reading from Luke. And what a punch-in-the-stomach Gospel we get to explore! Jesus seems to be harsh this morning. Where’s that loving, Good News guy on whom we all want to focus?.... I like to paint as a hobby: mostly oils and acrylics, and on occasion water- colors. When painting with oils and acrylics, one of the first rules I learned was that to see light, you must have dark. So, when I am painting, at the beginning, the canvas looks dark and indistinct, and hard to understand and decipher the details. As I progress along in making the painting, the depth and shadows, and lightness get added on making the painting much more distinct. The same type of rule holds true for watercolor, except it is the reverse: the light comes first and then the dark is layered on top: there is still light and dark allowing for contrast.

Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem in today’s Gospel. On his way to Jerusalem and the Cross, and the vast crowds that are following along behind him do not understand what Jesus is about to face. And he turns to them and says some fairly hard things for us to hear. Hate mother and father, wife and children, brothers and sisters, hate life, carry the cross. Then he tells two stories about planning structures and warfare, and then concludes with telling us to give up all our possessions. That is all jaw-dropping harshness…if….if we take this literally.

In order to see light, we need dark. A tried and true teaching method, particularly in the culture in which Jesus was living and ministering, was to highlight an important principle by using sharp rhetorical contrasts. So, I do not believe Jesus intends us to take what he is saying literally. In particular when we look at the word “hate” Jesus uses in its original Greek (misein) we find something very interesting. The Greek word used is a more nuanced word than our translation as “hate” would indicate. This Greek word contains no emotion in its definition. The nuance to this word has to do with an attitude and action in regard to choices in life. This word contains no anger or hostility. What we are supposed to understand from the use of this particular Greek word we translate as “hate” is that if there is conflict, a choice between those things and persons we love and being a disciple of Christ, discipleship must come first. Jesus would never demand that we give up these deep and abiding feelings we have for those we love, but being a disciple, we may have no choice but to transcend them and chose God. Jesus is not going so far afield here. Think about the 10 Commandments: where does Honor your mother and father fall? Number 5. What are the four preceding? 1. I am the Lord your God, there shall be no other God’s but me. 2. You shall not worship an idol. 3. You shall not take the Lord’s name in vain. 4. You shall observe the Sabbath. And then we have honoring mother and father…..Jesus is focusing on those first four in what he says to those four crowds.

For there is nothing more important than discipleship, Jesus is saying. Jesus is saying that there is no love in our lives, no matter how precious, that compares to: 1) the love he demands of us; and 2) the love Jesus has for us. This same truism applies to the last line of our Gospel where Jesus says that any disciple must give up all possessions. What Jesus is saying is that possessions cannot control whether or not we are disciples of his. Those things we own pale in comparison to what it means to be a disciple of Jesus.

Jesus is declaring, quite clearly, that there is a cost to following him. And that is the purpose of the two stories he tells: one about planning for the building of a structure, and the second about planning for warfare. These two are metaphors having to do with the cost of being a part of the kingdom Jesus is proclaiming. Jesus is saying that to follow him is hard, that we must plan and understand what we are doing when we say I am a member of the Body of Christ.

This knowledge about clearly understanding what we are doing when we claim the mantle of Christian is not a concept that is foreign to us. Think about how a marriage service begins in our Church. At the very beginning of that holy sacrament the priest says marriage is not to be entered into unadvisedly or lightly, but reverently, deliberately and in accordance with the purposes for which it was instituted. The priest is saying to the couple and to those present that there is a cost to this service, to this union, to this blessing, and that everyone needs to be aware of that fact.

Jesus is saying with the strong rhetoric he is utilizing, that following him is hard. That being a disciple calls for us to do so with knowledge of the cost. We are called to have knowledge of the dangers, of the rewards, of the challenges and with full knowledge of where the journey is leading. Jesus is telling us that, as he has not started his journey without knowing the cost, neither should we. Jesus is saying that we must make a real commitment, not some part-time effort. Jesus is requiring everything we have if we are to be his followers and that nothing else takes precedence.

This discipleship Jesus is calling us to is personal and real and costly. There is nothing more important than discipleship and we must plan accordingly. As we change gears from summertime to program year, this Gospel is saying what we heard at the beginning of our service today in the Collect, that we are to focus our trust and love on God, resisting those things that take us away from God and the kingdom….. We are not alone in this endeavor: Jesus is right here with us. We also have each other, each of us being a part of this Body of Christ in the world today holding us up….We are holding each other up…. When we face those difficult choices between discipleship and self, we rely on prayer and just as importantly, on each other to chose discipleship. This discipleship, entered into reverently and deliberately will make us different: different in our personal relationships, different in our vocational choices, different from the world around us, marking us as Christ’s own…..forever.

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

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Daily Office Reflection: Gate Keepers

Psalms 30, 32 * 42, 43; Job 22:1-4,21-23:7; Acts 13:26-43; John:10:1-18

Today's reading from the Gospel of John gifts us with "Good Shepherd" sayings of Jesus:I am the gate...I am the good shepherd...whoever enters by me will be saved....there will be one flock, one shepherd....I lay down my life so that I may take it up again.....

Jesus is using a "figure of speech" approach today and we are told that his listeners just do not understand. And he keeps trying. Most of what Jesus says is not to be taken literally. As the author tells us today, he uses figures of speech, metaphors, parables, stories, to highlight underlying principles he is driving home to his audience. Dogmatic approaches do a dis-service to these words that have been held in reverence for thousands of years. Whoever enters, all who follow, Jesus says are welcome and are a part of his flock, not a select few who meet particular criteria established by individuals with egos larger than the Pharisees with whom Jesus is trying to converse.

In all our fragility, in all our weakness, in all our strength, our happiness, our sadness, in all our humanness, Jesus is inviting all of us to be part of this new thing. Exclusiveness is not a part of this invitation. That makes me smile this morning.

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

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Daily Office Reflection: Bondage to Self

Psalms 38 * 119:25-48; Job 12:1, 14:1-22; Acts 12:18-25; John 8:47-59

In Holy Women, Holy Men today, we remember and honor David Pendleton Oakerhater. I commend his short biography to you found in the HW,HM. I am struck by a phrase in the Collect to be used today: ....Liberate us...from bondage to self.... Bondage to self.

I think this is one of those concepts that Jesus was constantly talking about in his ministry. He wants us to have a different center of balance from which we pivot to interact with the world. Jesus is driving at this when he says to the people he is talking to today: Very truly, I tell you, whoever keeps my word will never see death. To which those folks listening scoffed at the seeming absurdity of that statement. They were focused on what they were sure was true. These folks did not want to think about the world in a different way. Jesus is pushing them to see God among them, with them, living life with them. Not some frozen idea residing somewhere in the cosmos. And to take that concept and to see life and our purpose here as something beyond self.

That's all I got this morning.

Copyright 2010, The Rev. John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.
Photo courtesy of Matthew Harlan Jarvis.