Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Daily Office Reflection: Peter and Paul

MP: Psalm 66; Ezekiel 2:1-7; Acts 11:1-18
EP: Psalms 97, 138; Isaiah 49:1-6; Galatians 2:1-9

Peter and Paul, didn't seem to get along with each other too well. They came from very different backgrounds: Paul, from the urban, educated, elite, and Peter from a small, rural, fishing village. They both are painted in very human-ways in our Scriptures, showing all the foibles and mis-steps that all of us can relate to in some way. And Scripture itself gives us contradictory accounts of these two individuals. In our MP reading from Acts, we have Peter opening the doors of the new church, the newly minted Christian community, to Gentiles, non-Jews. But later in Acts and in a number of Paul's letters, Peter and Paul fight over this exact issue: who's in and who's not.

We will never be able to sort out these contradictions. Perhaps Peter, over the course of time in Jerusalem, changed his mind back to what it was before he had the vision he had in Joppa, once again exhibiting the pure humanness that was Peter. Or, perhaps, Paul exaggerated in his letters the level of discord he had with the disciples in Jerusalem, out of his own human jealousy of their station in the life of the new church/community.

Yet, celebrating these two seeming rivals together on one day allows us to embrace a truly Episcopal tradition: that even with our differences, we are still one, following the lead of the one to whom all our worship is directed. It can be so difficult to face people who dislike us for who we are, or for what we believe. Difficult, yes, but not impossible. And that difficulty is worth taking on, for the results prove the things that bind us as one are stronger than those things about which we disagree.

Copyright 2011, The Rev. John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.
Art: Crosses 6 through 11, 2006, jfd+

Monday, June 27, 2011

Daily Office Reflection: Fear's Power

Psalms 106:1-18; 106:19-48; 1 Sam 10:17-27; Acts 7:44-8:1a; Luke 22:52-62

We have examples of how fear can control us and situations in today's Gospel selection from Luke. Jesus has been arrested and challenges those people who have arrested him with force of arms. He says, truthfully, that he has been peacefully among them, teaching in the temple and yet they have chosen to come for him at night and armed. Luke does not provide their response to him. Where they embarrassed? Or where they so caught up in their own self-righteousness that they could not see the hypocrisy of their actions?

This is followed by the story of Peter, and his three denials of his knowing Jesus. Peter has so much humanity as he is portrayed in Scripture. He trails along after Jesus, following his capture. Peter tries to blend into the group hanging around outside of the place where Jesus is being held, where Jesus is in full view. Over the course of a few hours, Peter denies any association with Jesus, and after the last, Jesus "turned and looked at Peter."

Imagine the power of that knowing look. All of us have been in analogous positions in life, where we are doing something, almost automatically, based on fear. And then something happens that jars our conscience to full-naked awareness, and we feel terrible for the acts we have just committed. One of the things we are meant to consider from this account of fear-based betrayal, and the power of a mob to mask our individually rooted fear, is the basic truth that when we are afraid, our lesser selves can lead us to acts which we will regret later.

There are multiple challenges given to us in today's Gospel. One is for all of us to be cognizant of our ability to allow fear to direct our actions. Perhaps when we find ourselves in those types of situations, we should think of Jesus' eyes looking at Peter. That look isn't one of reproach, needn't be one that embarrasses us. Instead, those compassionate and knowing eyes can help us find that place of strength and courage to step forward in faith and hope, and allow our better selves to rule the day.

Copyright 2011, The Rev. John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.
Photo: SW Waterfront, 2011, jfd+

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Daily Office Reflection: Symbols

Psalms: 101, 109:1-4(5019)20-30 * 119:121-144; 1 Samuel 7:2-17; Acts 6:1-15; Luke 22:14-23

Our readings today are replete with signs and symbols. Signs and symbols of how we worship, how we represent God to ourselves and the world, how God's actions can be remembered in those signs and symbols.

In the Hebrew Testament reading from First Samuel the ark of the covenant has been restored to Israel (yesterday) and today the Philistines are defeated by the Israelis through God's intervention as seen through Samuel's sacrifice of a suckling lamb. In Acts, the church is growing, and people and duties are being overlooked, so a new Order is established (one we think of now as Deacons). Seven, including Stephen, are chosen to come before the apostles, who lay hands on them and pray that they be given the Holy Spirit to do God's work in the world. In Luke today, Jesus institutes the Bread and the Wine as symbols of his Body and Blood.

Symbols carry with them power and authority. The stole, the symbol of the priest's office, can carry such weight. The seal of the President of the United States is a symbol of that office's mighty power and authority and responsibility. A bishop's crozier is a symbol of that office. The Cross, the Altar, the laying on of hands are all symbols of something far greater than themselves.

Signs and symbols surround us in our lives, many carrying weight without our even knowing that we are giving that power over to them. I am wondering today about symbols and how our lives and beliefs can be structured around them. How often do we ask ourselves what those symbols really mean and whether or not we are giving the appropriate weight to what their purpose is really intended.

Copyright 2011, The Rev. John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.
Photo: Giving a Ring to Brett, 2009.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Daily Office Reflection: Alertness

Psalms 89:1-18 * 89:19-52; 1 Samuel 5:1-12; Acts 5:12-26; Luke 21:29-36

Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all things have taken place, Jesus says in today's reading from Luke. He has just scared the bejeessus out of the disciples telling them about the demise of Jerusalem and roaring seas and skies and signs in the sun, moon and stars. And then today, compares those awful tidings to the blooms on fig trees and other vegetation. He compares those awful tidings and warnings to the turning of a season. He then says that they will not pass away until they see those things.

I was privileged this past weekend to be the head teller (clergy) for the Diocese of Washington's election of a new bishop. Which means I got to oversee/supervise the voting process and the tallying of those votes. The signs were pretty clear, after the first ballot, who was the favored candidate, and the second ballot proved those signs true with an overwhelming victory for Bishop-elect Mariann Budde to become the Ninth Bishop of Washington. There are often times when there are clear "signs" in life as to where something or some event is trending; we just need to be alert, and paying attention to those signs so we can anticipate and plan accordingly.

Jesus says today that those disciples, if they are alert enough, will see the coming of the Son of Man and the dawning of the new kingdom. Many theologians disagree with that which I am about to wonder, but here goes. I wonder if we are in the kingdom, here and now. If we think about some passages of Scripture, this argument may bear up to the withering scrutiny of nay-sayers. Two of those passages about which I am thinking are:

I wonder if, in one of the Genesis creation stories, we are still in that last day of creation. In those creation passages, the first through the sixth days are clearly marked as having an end, the seventh does not. In the Letter to the Hebrews, we have the phrase (used in Eucharistic Prayer B) "In these last days...." And then we have Jesus saying to those disciples of his, that they will see the Kingdom's start, during their lifetimes. Perhaps we are still in the seventh day of creation. Perhaps we are in "these last days." Perhaps those disciples, and us, are seeing the start of the kingdom.

I wonder if God, having given us the free will that we as human beings all possess, is pushing us to always move toward the new, not stagnate in what is past. I wonder if we are being pushed by Scripture to always be evolving in, and creating by our actions, the kingdom here and now. Making that kingdom palpable among us and by us, through the inspiration of Jesus' life and ministry and the prodding of the Holy Spirit.

Perhaps Jesus not only opened the way to eternal life, but opened the kingdom, created the kingdom's potential, for us to continue it's development. Things to wonder about today.

Copyright 2011, The Rev. John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.
Photo: Supervising the Second Ballot, 2011.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Trinity Sunday

Preached at St. Anne’s, Damascus, MD 6/19/11 Matt 28:16-20

(A BCP will be needed to get a complete understanding of this sermon.)


n the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Happy Trinity Sunday to all of you. Yes, this is Trinity Sunday….that illusive and mysterious part of the Christian faith…a part of our faith that has historically caused great divisions to be made within large swaths of the church universal….a part of our faith that each of us struggles with (or ignores)…and yet is an integral part of how we worship, what we say when we worship, how blessings are bestowed. Many preachers groan at the prospect of having to preach on Trinity Sunday and because of that reticence chose to focus on something else. We are going to address this issue head on.

When people ask what we as Episcopalians believe, a common answer is “come and worship with us.” Our worship, what we pray, illustrates best our beliefs and our faith. How do we start our service? We start with the celebrant saying: “Blessed be God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit,” and the congregation responds, “And Blessed be God’s kingdom, now and forever.” We start most services with this opening acclamation (except in Lent and Easter-tide). So we start each service the this acclamation of the Trinity. We end each prayer with something along the lines of, “all this we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord, with whom you (God) and the Holy Spirit live and reign forever and ever.” Once again, the Trinity rears its head. The absolution for the Confession of Sin contains the Trinity. The Nicene Creed we way each Sunday contains three distinct parts: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Our Eucharistic Prayers weave together not only the long history of our faith, but also invokes God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit throughout them. And our Blessings at the end of the service contain the Trinity. This article of faith, this mystery that is the Trinity, infuses all that we do here. And by our verbalizing those Trinitarianisms, we are affirming their interconnectedness.

We are going to do an interactive exercise today. Please open your Prayer Books to page 846. We are in the (scary) Catechism section of our BCP. I commend this section to all of you for regular review, thought and prayer. We are going to be jumping through a few sections in the Catechism, so hold on to your hats, or at least take out your reading glasses. On the top of page 846 is the section “God the Father”. I will read the question (the “Q”) and all of us will read the Answer together……

Okay….now please turn to page 849 and we will review “God the Son.” Same gig as last time, me the question, all of us the answer……

And now flip to page 852 and “The Holy Spirit”…….

Now…..we have only one more question to answer. Please look back on page 852, the question just before “The Holy Spirit” section. The question is “What is the Trinity?” And the Answer is: “The Trinity is one God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.”

Alright then, our job is now complete….all our questions are answered….aren’t they?

What are we to make of all of this explanation of a concept that can truly be thought of as mysterious? How does this inter-connectivity of the Trinity fit into, inform and help us in our daily lives?

Our Gospel reading from Matthew today is the ending of that Gospel, with Jesus giving the great commission to the disciples telling them to make disciples of all nations and then Jesus invokes the Trinity saying go and baptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Jesus instructs these 11 remaining disciples to teach and then says to remember, I am with you always……

Jesus is promising us that he is with us always. Jesus is saying that he is connected to us. We may not think that the inter-connectivity of the Trinity has anything to do with us: but those three persons certainly are connected with us. Those three entities are somehow, mysteriously, one God. We all are created in God the Father’s image, even in all our wild diversity: we are intimately connected to God the Father because of that creative act. God the Son, the fully human and yet fully divine Son of God was sent to us, to not only prove God’s love for us, but to help us understand that God is connected and understands who and what we are: and Jesus promises that connectivity to us today. God the Holy Spirit is among us, to prod us, to guide us, comfort us and connect us one to the other, and to the Trinity. We saw the work of the Holy Spirit last week in those two separate accounts of the gifting of the Spirit – as of fire and as breath from Jesus.

Our connectivity to each other, in this intentional Christian community, living, worshipping in faith, is part of living out our connectivity to the Trinity, and the Trinity’s connectivity to us. And we are reminded of that Trinity’s connection to us, the love the Trinity has for us, in the promise Jesus makes to us today: I am with you always……

This isn’t cold comfort we are offered today. This is real and palpable and open to all of us. God’s actions in the Genesis account of creation drives home this point of interconnectivity. God created light and dark, and the waters and the sky and the land and vegetation, and the stars and the sun, and swarms of living creatures of all kinds, and humankind. By those acts of creation, whether we take them literally or metaphorically, God created them to be interconnected: food and life, air and water and life, light and darkness and rest and life.

We are all inter-connected in this community of faith. When one of us is in pain, we respond. When one is lonely, we visit. When one is hungry, we feed. We are all inter-connected by living in this intentional community and acting for the establishment of the Kingdom Jesus opens for all of us.

We can try to ignore what this Sunday means, trying to ignore the existence of the Trinity. But those actions belie the truth of the inter-connectivity of us all. By walking into the mystery of the Trinity, even if we do not understand this concept perfectly, (and who does?) we are still faithful by simply saying in prayer:

In the Name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen


Copyright 2011, The Rev. John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.

Photo: A Trinity of Hibiscus Flowers, 2011, jfd+

Monday, June 13, 2011

Daily Office Reflection: Cornerstones

Psalms 80 * 77, (79); 1 Samuel 1:1-20; Acts 1:1-14; Luke 20:9-19

All of us have at least one thing on which we rely in times of duress. Many have more than one: whether it is a principle, a particular tangible item, some person, a remembrance.....something that helps us stay rooted. I think of these as cornerstones of our lives, of ourselves, of how we define and understand life.

Jesus tells a parable that condemns the ruling religious class of his day: the vineyard owner leasing out the land, and the lessors not living up to their part of the lease; stoning and beating the rent collectors and then killing the son the vineyard owner sends to collect the rent. And Jesus says The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.

These cornerstones in our lives, the ones that help us through, can be, and probably are, personal and unusual....particular to us. One of the things we are reminded of today by Jesus is that we have him, always, as our chief cornerstone. That when those cornerstones that we have invented to help us, don't anymore, we can, and should always, turn to him and rely on the one cornerstone that is immoveable and ever-present and unfailing.

Copyright 2011, The Rev. John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.
Photo: Allie Running on the Flats, 2008, jfd+

Pentecost 2011

Preached @ St. Anne’s, Damascus, 6/12/11 - John 20:19-23


e are gifted two differing accounts of the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples today. The first, in our Acts reading, involves fire and wind and speech. The second, from the Gospel of John is the gentler scene of Jesus breathing on the disciples and saying to them “Receive the Holy Spirit.” Two different scenes, two different remembrances, each provide a glimpse of the activation of the third member of our Trinity, that wily Holy Spirit.

Having two different accounts might seem confusing, odd. But anything to do with God, any time we try to describe that which cannot be described….anything to do with God calls for the usage of imagination and artistry and flexibility. For, our writers today are attempting to articulate something that is indescribable. In Acts, the disciples were all together in one place, then a violent wind rushed onto them, and divided tongues, as of fire, settled over them. As of fire…. Right there, we have the author of Acts using imagination, asking us to do the same, to try to explain this event that happened to all of them…..and can and does happen to all of us.

As of fire, the author of Acts says. If we think about fire, there are many aspects that make this imagery complicated. For fire can warm us, as in a hearth or around a campfire. It provides illumination in a dark place. Fire can burn us, scar us, scare us, destroy possessions, can take life. These are very strong and disturbing images of the Holy Spirit. Fire also can cleanse. Think about those ravaging forest fires that are raging in Arizona. After those horrific fires are extinguished, a short while later, new growth, new green does appear from the devastation. .

Our liturgical color today is red, evoking this image of fire. We enter the time after Pentecost tomorrow, and our liturgical color changes to green. Fire (and red) symbolizes for us a big change, a dramatic altering of how we interact in the world. And many of us yearn for those gigantic moments in our lives and our memories, quite often, can recall those events very clearly. But most of life (hopefully) is stable and calm and filled with slow growth, as the color green evokes. Excitement is only part of the story today: it certainly kick starts the disciples ministry, and ours. But the job of our working to effectuate the kingdom’s development here and now, calls for slow and balanced and methodical work, prayer and sacrifice.

This leads to the imagery in our Gospel from John today. John provides a different understanding of the coming of the Holy Spirit. We heard these verses at the beginning of our Easter season. These verses were part of the Gospel reading for the Sunday right after Easter. What’s left out today is Thomas’ questioning of those disciples who first witnessed Jesus’ resurrection. The point of that Gospel reading was all about our coming to believe over the course of our lifetime….. A different focus then today. Today the focus is on Jesus breathing on the disciples and giving them the gift of the Holy Spirit.

The imagery of breath pervades through Scripture. Jesus breathed the Spirit onto his disciples, harkening back to one of the creation stories in Genesis and God breathing into the nostrils of Adam, giving life. This gift of life, like the gift of faith that God grants us, comes to each of us through our own journeys, living in intentional community, worshipping and sharing all of life’s moments: the treasured and the tragic…. These differing images in our Scripture readings today show us the complexity of life, the complexity of God: power, fire, wind, and yet also that still, small, quiet voice we so often hear and to which we often do not pay attention.

So we have a diversity of imagery to describe what happened to the disciples behind those locked doors…. All of us learn differently, think differently, so having this diversity of approaches is important. And this idea of diversity ties in wonderfully with our reading from First Corinthians were the diversity of gifts given by the Spirit are celebrated by Paul. Paul says, in part, To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. To one…wisdom…to another knowledge….to another faith…to another healing…to another miracles…to another prophesy… to another…discernment…to another…tongues….to another…interpretation.

We pray for the coming of the Holy Spirit. In those prayers today, we want to be energized by its fire, enlivened by God’s breath, filling us with desire to fulfill our responsibility to act for the common good. And that energy and enlivening are meant to sustain us in the long green season we are entering, were steady and continual growth and development, help us to accept the change that comes with growth. This Holy Spirit that is the indwelling of God within us, is meant to challenge and change us. And change is never easy, in anything we do in our lives. But that is part of what we are called to this Pentecost day: an open-hearted willingness to walk into the new and accept that which comes with grace and humor and thankfulness.

Jan Berry, the lyricist and writer, wrote a poem that is called “Exuberant Spirit of God” that sums up my prayer for all of us this Pentecost day. It goes like this:

Exuberant Spirit of God,

Bursting with the brightness of flame

Into the coldness of our lives

To warm us with a passion for justice and beauty,

We praise you.

Exuberant Spirit of God,

Sweeping us out of the dusty corners of our apathy

To breathe vitality into our struggles for change,

We praise you.

Exuberant Spirit of God,

Speaking words that leap over barriers of mistrust

to convey messages of truth and new understanding,

We praise you.

Exuberant Spirit of God,




Burn, breathe, speak in us;

Fill your world, and us, with Justice and with joy.



Copyright 2011, The Rev. John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.

Photo: First Blooms, 2011, jfd+

Friday, June 10, 2011

Daily Office Reflection: Only One Thing

Psalms 102 * 107:1-32; Ezekiel 34:17-32; Hebrews 8:1-13; Luke 10:38-42

Jesus is on his way toward Jerusalem. In yesterday's reading he had a discussion with a self-justifying lawyer, to whom he defined who are our neighbors. Today he is at Martha and Mary's house. Martha is slaving away getting the meal prepared and making sure everything else is going smoothly, bustling about, busy, busy, busy. And she sees her sister, Mary, sitting at the feet of Jesus, just listening to what he was saying.

Well, I've had enough of that from her! Martha says to herself. And saying to Jesus, Can't you do something about her? I'm killing myself here and she won't lift a finger!

Mary ignores her sister. And Jesus looks at Martha and says, Oh Martha. Don't you know where I am going and to what I am heading? I know you know who I am. Stop worrying about what we are going to eat, or if the place is clean. Come sit with me while you can.

Our Gospel reading is modeling for us today the concept of paying attention to, and doing, those important things in life, and letting go of the distractions we create for ourselves. Living in, helping to effectuate the creation of the kingdom, here and now.....the one that Jesus opens for us, is that to which we need to direct our attention and efforts......Perhaps it is as simple as being present, really present, to a loved one today, listening to them, being with them....Perhaps it is stopping to help someone we pass on the street who is obviously in need of assistance, and giving them a few moments of our time to help them on their way.....There are a myriad of things we can do today to help make Jesus' kingdom a reality.....provided we don't allow those things we create, those things we believe are important (and really aren't) to get in the way.

Copyright 2011, The Rev. John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.
Photo: Sunset, 2010, Courtesy of MH Jarvis.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Daily Office Reflection: Not About Us

Psalms 101, 109:1-4(5-19)20-30 * 119: 121-144; Ezekiel 11:14-25; Hebrews 7:1-17; Luke 10:17-24

The seventy have returned to Jesus from their missionary work. They are full of themselves! Proud and excited and a bit boastful at the work they have accomplished. Jesus tells them to be cautious about how they think about what they have just accomplished. These first missionaries were amazed at their own power to turn people from evil ways. Jesus says these fine folks should not be whooping-it-up about the power granted them from God, but instead to rejoice that your names are written in heaven. Jesus is asking for a shift of focus. To let God's work through them be known and seen, but they need to know that those great things are God's doing not their own. Their rejoicing should be focused on God and those gifts given.

Jesus recognizes the allure of ego and power that all of us have within. Jesus knows how easily that can corrupt that which he is trying to establish by the sending of those seventy on their missionary work. Jesus also knows that there are times when those to whom we reach out will not respond, and if we have the wrong focus, we can take those "failures" personally. The work Jesus sends those seventy (and us) out to do is not about us. Period.

But Jesus also rejoices today, thanking God for the workings of the Holy Spirit, and turning to the disciples, Jesus tells them that their eyes are blessed for seeing what so many have yearned to see: God's intimate involvement in the world.

There is a delicate balance that Jesus is asking his followers (us) to adopt in our understanding of our works done in his name. The accomplishments are not about us and our work in spreading the Good News. What we should rejoice in is knowing that our attempts are enough, whether successful or not. And that is enough.

Copyright 2011, The Rev. John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.
Photo: On the Mall, January, 2009.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Daily Office Reflection: Distracted

Psalms 89:1-18 * 89:19-52; Ezekiel 4:1-17; Hebrews 6:1-12; Luke 9:51-62

There are times in our Gospels where Jesus doesn't come off as nice, polite. He can seem gruff and rude, even to those who are his closest followers. We have just such an occasion today.

Jesus has set his face to go to Jerusalem. In the second verse to follow our opening verse we hear again his face was set toward Jerusalem. The Samaritans didn't great him or ask him to stay because it was so obvious that his attention was focused on their enemies. The disciples, James and John don't get it saying they will draw down fire from heaven to destroy them all, but Jesus said, in essence, Cut it out you silly men.

Jesus is a man with a mission right now and those with him see it. One says that he will follow him wherever he goes and Jesus basically sighs and using birds and nests foxes and holes, Jesus is exasperated with their lack of understanding. Jesus calls someone to follow him, but the person wants to bury my father, and another says he wants to follow but needs to say goodbye to his family. Jesus says to both of them, you don't understand what the kingdom of God is all about.

The Gospel of Luke, of all the Gospels, paints Jesus in the most human of terms. A number of commentators trace how Jesus' understanding of what he is about to face is developmental in nature. That his understanding of what he was to do grew as his ministry developed. What we have today is the turning point, not when he realized the finality of his ministry, but when he turned to face it square-on and move to the locale where it was to take place. And although his divine nature is clearly evident today, so too is his human side. He is a bit cranky with those who just don't get what he has now fully accepted and is moving toward completion.

What we have on display in today's Gospel reading is the divine and human, the perfect and imperfect. These accounts of a cranky Jesus can give solace to those of us who get cranky on occasion and then regret those snippy moments. At those moments our lesser selves are controlling our better nature. Those lesser selves shouldn't control us very often, but being human, being imperfect, they have in the past and will in the future. Knowing that we have a model of how to be perfect is helpful.

Copyright 2011, The Rev. John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.
Art: A Pollack Inspired Cross, 2008, jfd+

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Daily Office Reflection: Despite Ourselves

Psalms 87, 90 * 136; Ezekiel 3:4-17; Hebrews 5:7-14; Luke 9:37-50

Our Gospel reading is complicated today, jam packed with incidents and side commentary and vignettes. Our Gospel opens with Jesus, Peter, James and John coming down from the mountain on which Jesus has just been "transfigured." And upon their arrival: Jesus heals an individual with epilepsy; he scolds for lack of faith; there is astonishment by everyone; Jesus tells his disciples, yet again, that he will be betrayed; the disciples don't understand and are afraid to ask; the disciples, instead of asking, argue among themselves about who is the greatest; Jesus brings a little child into their midst and points saying, welcome a child like this and you are welcoming God into your lives, and proving that the least among you are the most important; and our selection ends with John telling Jesus they tried to stop an individual who was doing work in Jesus' name because that individual wasn't part of their group, and Jesus says, Don't do that, whoever isn't against us is one of us.

Where to start....besides taking a deep breath and saying, Oh my. Each different piece of this selection could be the basis for sermon fodder. What strikes me from this passage is that despite the internal arguments, despite the lack of faith, without any real perceptive understanding, despite the attempts to be exclusionary, God's efforts to bring the kingdom to light are still perceptible and are achieved.

In Holy Women, Holy Men today, we remember and honor Pope John XXIII. We learn in his brief bio provided, that he was bishop-missionary-to-troubled-places throughout his career. It wasn't until he was 72 that he was given a home base (Venice) from which to work. That only lasted five years as he was elected Pope at age 77. People thought (including most likely the electors) that he was going to be short-lived with little to no impact on the church. Within the first year of holding his office, he called for The Second Vatican Council, from which so much changed. Despite the human efforts to control, to hold-in-place, God worked a major retooling of how many churches worship and operate in the world.

In our own individual lives, our lack of faithfulness, our doubts and concerns and troubles, our inability to trust in prayer and God's hand in the world, cannot stop the movement of the Spirit, of God's work in the world. Despite our best efforts at times, when we may think we have won, God always has the last word.

Despite ourselves, God still loves us. Always has. Always will.

Copyright 2011, The Rev. John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.
Photo, SW Waterfront, 2008, jfd+

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Daily Office Reflection: Ascension Day '11

Psalms 8, 47 * 24, 96; Ezekiel 1:1-14,24-28b; Hebrews 2:5-18; Matthew 28:16-20

And remember, I am with you always.... These are Jesus' final words in the Gospel of Matthew. The vast majority of Biblical scholars do not attribute them to the original author, but a later editor/translator. But, be that as it may, these words are meant to be a reminder to us that Jesus' presence here on earth did not end upon his physical departure, which we mark today.

I find the choice of tense interesting and attractive today: I am with you...... I am. This isn't some future promise but is present and active. I am also has such strong Biblical connotations dating back to God's first interaction with Moses: I AM who I AM.....

Ascension Day is not taken very seriously in some corners of the Church. It should be. For God's active, real and loving presence is represented in this Holy Day. This day is like so much of life: a bittersweetness pervades the whole notion of this day. Jesus leaves earth, no longer to be seen with our eyes. And there can be a sadness, a melancholy that can set in over us. But these last words, I am with you always, are meant to strengthen us in times when we believe we are alone; remind us of the truth of God's promise embodied in Jesus' life and ministry; and propel us to action in creating the Kingdom Jesus opens for all of us.

A Blessed Ascension Day to all of us.

Copyright 2011, The Rev. John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.
Photo: Allie Charging, 2008, jfd+

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Daily Office Reflection: Life Is....

MP: Psalm 119:97-120; Baruch 3:24-37; James 5:13-18; Luke 12:22-31
EP: Psalm 68:1-20; 2Kings 2:1-15; Revelation 5:1-14

We are nearing the completion of the 50 days of Easter, as tomorrow marks the Ascension and the turning of the corner for the last few days of this season. Our MP readings are far different in nature and focus than our EP readings. This reflection, as I write it Wednesday morning, is going to focus on our MP reading from Luke.

Jesus is talking to those who follow him about our outlook on life, on what we should be focused on as important. These words are as true today as they were when they were first spoken and later set down in writing. Jesus knows us, knows our human nature and our propensity toward worry and our desire for fine things. We do not have to look far in life, whether our own closet and pantry, or those near and dear to us, to hear these truths: For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing.......And how can worrying add a single hour to your span of life?

Hard truths to hear, for I do like nice clothes. I can no longer afford the designer labels, but that doesn't mean I don't desire those wonderful shoes by xxx. And I do like good food, prepared well, and can (and do) find myself worrying about those things. But I don't think Jesus is saying we should ignore those desires, those wants, but to keep them in perspective. They should not control our lives, our expectations. They should not be the focus of what we do with our abundance, no matter how small or large that abundance may be by cultural standards.

Jesus is pointing us towards a different way of spinning through this world. He says: strive for God's kingdom first, and these things will be given to you as well. These things being, food, drink, clothing that we need to survive. The creation of the kingdom, living into that image of the kingdom, is to be our focus, and God will find us and provide for us. Find and provide by way of our learning and understanding the weight of importance associated with striving for the kingdom as compared to the desires and yearning for fine clothing and find food.

It is all about perspective as we enter the final days of the Easter Season.

Copyright 2011, The Rev. John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.
Photo: First Blooms, 2011, jfd+