Saturday, April 24, 2010

Daily Office Reflection: Response Time

Psalms 30, 32 * 42, 43; Exodus 25:1-22; Colossians 5:1-17; Matthew 4:18-25

Today we have Matthew's calling of Simon Peter and Andrew, and then James and John, followed by Matthew's description of Jesus' early ministry of healing and teaching. Matthew says that Peter and Andrew "immediately" followed Jesus upon his call to them. James and John "immediately" leave their father Zebedee to follow Jesus as well. And Matthew describes throngs of people flocking to Jesus' side from all over that area: from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea, and beyond.

There was this instantaneous response to Jesus, an immediacy of following, wanting to be near him, be a part of this movement, this phenomenon. The way Matthew describes this first calling and people's response to Jesus indicates that there was not a great deal of time for reflection and evaluation and rationalization: they just responded.

It is very true that we can make mistakes when we "jump" at something. It is also true, and different from those knee-jerk reactions, that when we know something is right, we just know it deep down within ourselves. So deep down that it is difficult if not impossible to articulate the "why" answer: it just "is". I think many of us have lost the ability to recognize that deep part of us telling us something is right, and just going for it, responding to it. There is risk in this kind of endeavor. Certainly Peter and Andrew, James and John's lives were risky after their response to Jesus. Yet, those lives, post-meeting-Jesus, were as they should have been and had impact and inspiration beyond their wildest imaginings.

Where is God calling each of us? How do we listen to that deep, instinctual place and know that it is right to respond without rationalization or articulation? How do we know when something is just right?

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

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Daily Office Reflection: Pain into Joy

Psalms 20, 21:1-7(8-14) * 110:1-5(6-7), 1116, 117; Exodus 17:1-16; 1Peter 4:7-19; John 16:16-33

Jesus is talking to his disciples today telling them pain is coming, but joy is not far behind. He says: Very truly I tell you, you will weep and mourn, but the world will rejoice; you will have pain, but your pain will turn into joy: And then he gives an analogy to a woman giving birth. Later on in today's reading Jesus says I have said these things to you so that in me you may have peace. In the world you face persecution. But take courage, I have conquered the world.

These words are important for me to hear this morning. I am one of the clergy people who will be leading a funeral service for a 31 year old man who died unexpectedly and quickly after being diagnosed with a vicious and virulent form of cancer recently. He leaves an equally young wife, his parents and in-laws to sort through their loss and grief.

The deep pain of losing someone who had been so vital and active makes these words of Jesus stand out for me today. Perhaps these words will not bring solace to this family's pain and loss right now, but in the near-term future when the pain is not so sharp and new, these words can help bring about healing. For Christ has gone ahead of us, just as Matthew has now gone ahead of us to join all those saints that have also gone before, and who surround us as a great cloud of witnesses, all gone into God's loving embrace.

The unquantifiable pain of this loss can only be softened by this fact: that we know that when we die, it is not over. Perhaps dying in Eastertide, at the rebirth of all things, can help those of us with grief in our lives to remember that tenet of our faith.

God of all, we pray for all those whom we love but see no longer. Grant to them eternal rest. Let light perpetual shine upon them. May the souls of al the departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen. (BCP p. 498)

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

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Daily Office Reflection: Rise, Let Us Be On Our Way

Psalms 5, 6 * 10, 11; Exodus 15:1-21; 1Peter 1:13-25; John 14:18-31

Jesus gives a confidence building speech to his disciples today. In typical John fashion, there are a lot of words, written in a very circular manner, that can be, if we don't take our time, confusing and/or overwhelming..... Jesus is in God and God is in Jesus and Jesus is in the disciples.....Jesus is going away but will be with the disciples.....They shouldn't be sad, but happy that he is going away to God....Those who love Jesus will follow his word, which aren't his words but Gods, and because they love Jesus and follow his word, God will love them and both Jesus and God will come to them.....The Spirit is coming to them, whom God will send because Jesus asked, and they will know that Jesus is with them when the Spirit comes because the Spirit will remind them of everything Jesus taught them and will teach them anew......(sigh.....breathe).....and then Jesus says "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you....." And then Jesus tells them not to be troubled as what he has given them is different than anything else the world can give....and that the ruler of this world may have power over his human body, that ruler has no real power over him..... (breathe again).

There is just a huge data-dump of thought and theology and prayer and love by Jesus. He knows his time with them is short and he is dropping the mother-load on them (and us) to digest over time. This information overload shows a loving and caring side of Jesus that can build confidence in us to face what each of us must, each and every day, knowing we do not walk alone, unloved, unknown.

One of the hardest things for many is to do the last thing Jesus orders his disciples to do today, for to "Rise, let us be on our way" indicates a change in the scene, a turning of the page, an ending to a part of life's experience. But to live this life Jesus models for us and commands us to dwell within, we all have to face that some chapters end, but that we still must always Rise and be on our way.

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

Monday, April 12, 2010

Daily Office Reflection: The Way, The Truth, The Light

Psalms 1, 2, 3 * 4, 7: Exodus 14:21-31; 1 Peter 1:1-12; John 14:(1-7)8-17

The disciples constantly struggled with believing in Jesus and believing in God, even when they were with him, witnessed the miracles he performed, heard first hand the things we only read and have read to us. Philip wants Jesus to "show us the Father, and we will be satisfied." That is a pretty gutsy request on Philip's part. This, after Jesus has just said those famous words about way and truth and light. It is like Philip is saying, "Okay, enough with the rhetoric, the metaphors, the nice words! Show me something concrete! Something, perhaps I can understand!" And Jesus, somewhat gently, chastises him, and points Philip, and us, to the fact that who and what Jesus is, and how God operates in the world, is far different than Philip, or we, commonly think.

God has done something new, Jesus is saying, and that is part of what makes this "belief thing" such a constant challenge, for his disciples.....and for so many of us.

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

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Daily Office Reflection: Saturday in Easter Week

Psalms 145 * 104; Exodus 13:17-14:4; 2Corinthians 4:16-5:10; Mark 12:18-27

We end Easter Week today with Jesus explaining about resurrection to unbelieving Sadducees, telling them they are quite wrong. You are quite wrong, Jesus says, something they probably didn't like to hear, or did not hear said to their face very often. Who among us likes to be brought up short in the manner Jesus does to the Sadducees today? I think this is a good reminder to us that we do not, nor will we ever, have all the answers.

Jesus begins his response to the Sadducees with the statement Is this not the reason you are wrong, that you know neither the scriptures nor the power of God? Jesus is upbraiding the Sadducees for trying to define God in their own narrow construct, and in the same way their narrow and literalistic manipulation of scripture takes them away from God's presence in those holy words. Jesus doesn't say we will be angels in the resurrection, but are like angels in heaven, trying to explain the unexplainable to those Sadducees. Jesus is saying, putting human limits on God's power makes them get it wrong.

A good reading to end Easter Week, for God's unlimited power, unimagined by the Sadducees, who shown true by Jesus' resurrection six days ago, where human-made limits and beliefs and understandings are shattered.

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

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Daily Office Reflection: Thursday in Easter Week

Psalms 146, 147 * 148, 149; Exodus 13:3-10; 1Corinthians 15:41-50; Matthew 28:16-20

We are given the "Great Commission" in Matthew's Gospel today. Jesus tells his disciples Go therefore and make disciples of all nations..... I think the inclusivity and openness of this command (and invitation) is lost on a number of individuals in our Church structure. This Great Commission goes hand-in-hand with part of our Baptismal Covenant (which so many of us renewed this past Saturday night at our Great Easter Vigil) where we are asked: Will you strive for justice and peace among all people and respect the dignity of every human being? And we reply I will, with God's help. This also dovetails with the ending of The Nicene Creed where we say We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church. When we say "catholic" we are not talking RC, we are saying "catholic" as in "all embracing," being open to and reaching out to everyone, not a select few who agree with us.

This is a work of a lifetime, as summed up in our Collect for today: Almighty and everlasting God, who in the Paschal mystery established the new covenant of reconciliation: Grant that all who have been reborn into the fellowship of Christ's Body may show forth in their lives what they profess by their faith; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. That middle part I have bolded jumps out at me today: this living into our faith and showing it in what we do, indicates an understanding that we are imperfect and have to continually work at this thing called Church. We can't walk away because we disagree, we can't sit idly by not actively questioning and expect to grow in our faith. And we cannot exclude someone because there is something about them we dislike or disagree with.

We are the Body of Christ in the world. A good reminder today of a hard challenge which is worth the effort.

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

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Daily Office Reflection: Wednesday in Easter Week

Psalms 97, 99 * 115; Exodus 12:40-51; 1Corinthians 15:(29)30-41; Matthew 28:1-16

We are blessed this week being given the Resurrection narratives of Mark, Matthew and Luke. Many look at these and marvel at the differences between the three. I prefer to, although acknowledging their differences, focus instead on their striking similarities.

If we think about how stories get passed down, person to person, from age to age, the accounts of the repeated story can differ quite dramatically, making it sometimes unrecognizable. When these accounts of Jesus' Resurrection (and his life and ministry) were written down well after his life, death, resurrection and ascension, there would have to have been differences in: how the story was told, the order of the narrative, different emphasis on various parts of Jesus' ministry.

Does it really matter who rolled back the stone to uncover Jesus' tomb? The women who loved Jesus came to that tomb and found it empty, and (depending on which Gospel we are reading) reacted differently, some immediately, some eventually, understanding the import of his Resurrection.

Jesus is arisen. Not much more is important.

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

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Daily Office Reflection: Tuesday of Easter Week

Psalms: 103 * 111, 114; Exodus 12:28-39; 1Corinthians 15:12-28; Mark 16:9-20

Yesterday we had the "first ending" to Mark's Gospel, and today we have the "second". Most people who study these things opine that "someone" (or some group of people) appended verses 9-20 to Mark's chapter 16. The short explanation is that Mark was writing to a particularly abused Christian community, and this appended ending was added when Mark's Gospel went into wider circulation.

The two are quite different - one leaving lots of questions and the second providing some answers and direction. I have always found this academic exercise, although interesting, rather superfluous to the life and teachings of Jesus. I find much greater learnings and support and guidance from studying that life and those teachings than any knowledge I gain by engaging in the academic struggle of which is the proper ending point of the Gospel of Mark.

Be that as it may, we have Jesus arisen. Thanks be to God.

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

Monday, April 5, 2010

Daily Office Reflection: Monday of Easter Week

Psalms 93, 98 * 66; Exodus 12:14-27; 1Corinthians 15:1-11; Mark 16:1-8

There is an exhaustion lying over me today. Not a bad one, but one emanating from long hours and good hard work and a "successful" Holy Week, Vigil and Easter Day services. 11 distinct services over the course of 7 days is a lot of planning, choreographing, organizing, cajoling and prayerfulness. Each service had its own tone, tenor, meaning and experience, and at times leading to a rich and complex feeling of sensory overload.

I am excited to be in Eastertide, moving toward Pentecost, some 50 days hence. I am also excited to revel in this "good" exhaustion of knowing I have served God as well as I can this past week and I look forward to these next 50 days of glorious celebration. For through all the work of the last week, knowing that we were walking the Passion walk, and remembering and worshiping our God who loves us beyond our comprehension, and to witness how deeply impact-ful this week can be to individuals who immerse themselves in the experience, all of these things make God's palpable presence and love so very real, and the work a wonderful labor of love.

A glorious Eastertide......

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

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Daily Office Reflection: Holy Saturday, Yr. Two

Psalms 95, 88 * 27; Lamentations 3:37-58; Hebrews 4:1-16(MP); Romans 8:1-11(EP)

Jesus is in the tomb this morning having suffered a terrible day yesterday. He is resting in his tomb today.

We are in that in-between time - that unsure time. How do we treat this Holy Saturday? Many of us (me included) will be very active today getting ready for the Vigil tonight and tomorrow's onslaught of services and receptions. I find it very challenging to appreciate and live into this Holy Saturday moment because of all the activity that I will immerse myself in shortly. And I am not sure if that activity is partly due to being uncomfortable in this in-between time of Lent and being able to shout that "A" word tonight and tomorrow. That uncomfortable knowledge that God went silent on this day.

Perhaps I will have to work on this Holy Saturday ritual some, in the future. For now, I have to take the few moments on my terrace, saying MP, with the birds chirping and the sun rising as my "rest", and as I scurry on to the busy-ness of the day I will try keep in my head the prayer for today - found on page 283 of the BCP:

O God, Creator of heaven and earth: Grant that, as the crucified body of your dear Son was laid in the tomb and rested on this holy Sabbath, so we may await with him the coming of the third day, and rise with him to newness of life; who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit one God, for ever and ever.
Copyright 2010, The Rev. John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Daily Office Reflection: Good Friday, Yr. Two

Psalms 95 & 22 * 40:1-14(15-19), 54; Lamentations 3:1-9,19-33; 1Peter 1:10-20; John 13:36-38(MP), John 19:38-42(EP)

In our MP Gospel reading we have Jesus letting Peter know that he (and the rest) will betray him in their own ways, while in our EP Gospel we have Jesus being buried in Joseph of Arimathea's own new tomb, a quiet follower of Jesus whose faith grew as Jesus' story unfolds in John's Gospel.

So, in these two readings we see part of the breadth of life experiences and some very true human traits portrayed in all there horror and glory. We have devoted friends and folllowers, who swear allegiance and then when the going gets really tough are no where to be found. And we have a person who was on the sidelines, watching, with lots of questions, a person who was part of the ruling religious class, being effected in ways by Jesus' ministry that he didn't understand, who in a tragic moment of sorrow acts in very loving and compassionate manner. All very human....all very true.

We remember and mourn that the human Jesus died today. And there is great sadness in that fact.

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

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Daily Office Reflection: Maundy Thursday, Yr. Two

Psalms: 102 * 142, 143; Lamentations 2:10-18; 2Corinthians 1-:14-17,11:27-32; Mark 14:12-25

Today is the "official" institution of Holy Eucharist in our Gospel reading. The four-fold action of the Eucharist (taking, blessing, breaking, giving) that Jesus has done at other times in the Gospel is solemnized at the Passover meal he shared with his disciples with his words: Take, this is my body, and This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. And then he tells them he will never drink the like of it again.

Just before this Jesus tells the disciples he is going to be betrayed by one of them. This betrayal is the reason for the picture choice this morning. Jesus is headed to that frightening day.

I find it hard to stay in this moment of Maundy Thursday, and find it even harder to stay in Good Friday.....I want to leap ahead to the Vigil and Easter Sunday morning. But I am going to struggle on, trying to live into this rich liturgical day. Come help me do this by attending a Maundy Thursday service and wash someone's feet or witness the stripping of the altar.

Live into this day with me. Every time we do this, it changes us.

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