Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Daily Office Reflection: The Light of Life

Psalms 119:97-120 * 81, 82; Jeremiah 8:18-9:6; Romans 5:1-11; John 8:12-20

I have often wondered who I would have been, had I been alive when Jesus was standing in the treasury telling the world that he was its light. Would I have listened to him and walked away? Would I have been one of the outraged legalists stuck in their understanding of the law handed down from God? Would I have been a fringe hanger-on, being attracted to the light emanating from this man, yet not understanding it? Would I have been a disciple, almost on "the inside"? Would I have been completely oblivious to this itinerant preacher, too absorbed in my own life woes and concerns to have even noticed him?

I don't know the answer, and depending on the particularities of my day, I can argue for each of those stated scenarios, and more. A number of acquaintances of mine have asked similar questions, wondering, thinking, dreaming about what it would have been like. I think our individual skepticism and doubts can cause all of us to land somewhere different, at different times, when we consider these options. Lent is a time for these kind of reflections, and doubts, and wonderings.

Underpinning those thoughts is the truth that we have already responded to this Light. We may not understand why, or act accordingly all the time, but as members of the Body of Christ, we have already stepped into this light of life and are leading the way to the building of the kingdom Jesus announces by his presence. It is okay to have questions and doubts, that is part of being human. Knowing that light is always available to us allows us to wind our way out of the darkness when we find ourselves there.

Copyright 2011, The Rev. John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.
Art: At the Gloaming, jfd+ 2011

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Daily Office Reflection: Living Water That Flows

Psalms 78:1-39 * 78:40-72; Jeremiah 7:21-34; Romans 4:19-25; John 7:37-51

The Jesus in John's Gospel is prone to dramatic actions, far more often than in the Synoptics. At the end of the great festival in Jerusalem, on "the great day" when there are throngs of folks around Jesus emits a cry: "Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, 'Out of the believer's heart shall flow rivers of living water.'" Jesus is not really flying under the radar here. And his cry, of course, obtains a strong and rabid response from the leaders of the synagogue. But our Gospel writer gives us Jesus' statement to set up, at the end of today's passage, an example of a heart beginning to overflow with living water: that is Nicodemus' beginning defense of Jesus.

Nicodemus had previously visited with Jesus, at night and in secret, and those tentacles of belief from that visit had started to entwine themselves on his heart. He knew that these bullies who were in charge needed someone to stand up to them, and at peril to his own position in that society, he does just that.

We are asked today to think about where we can direct our own rivers of living water that flow from our hearts. Where can we respond to injustice and oppression thereby changing the world and moving it toward that kingdom Jesus pronounces as "now here"? A large challenge for today, but not one that is impossible for us to respond, as that living water which flows from us does have a force all onto its own, like any flowing river. We just need to set the direction, like any watercraft, into that flowing stream.

Copyright 2011, The Rev. John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.
Photo: Cherry Blossoms on Hanes Point, overlooking the Washington Inlet, jfd+

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Lent 3A

Preached @ Christ Church, Capitol Hill, 3/27/11 John 4:5-42


n today’s Gospel from John, we are gifted, in its entirety, the well-known encounter of Jesus and the Samaritan Woman, at Jacob’s well. So often when we hear these stories that are so well-known by many of us, we can easily think: “well, what could possibly be fresh and new and interesting about this story of Jesus and this woman with many ex-husbands?” This is a challenge with most of our Scriptural readings that are familiar: the very nature of their familiarity makes them hard for us to hear anew. And all too often, that familiarity to the story allows us to slip into a literal understanding as opposed to a desire, a thirst, for something broader and more accurate.

To really hear this story we should first make sure that we understand this account of Jesus and the Samaritan woman in context. Jesus has just left the southern area around Jerusalem and is headed to the northern area, Galilee. To get to Galilee he had a choice of travelling directly north for three days through Samaria, or to travel east over the Jordan River and then north, and then back west over the Jordan again, which would have approximately doubled his 80 or so mile trek. The more extended trip taking the road east, north and than west was preferred by many because travelling through Samaria was considered travelling through enemy lands. The Samaritans and the Jews of Judea and Galilee had been at odds with each other for over 700 years, dating back to the capture of the northern tribe by the Assyrians and the intermarrying between the Assyrian conquerors and the northern Jews. Their offspring became known as the Samaritans. Later on the southern Hebrew kingdom was likewise conquered, but there was a fairly large group who refused to inter-marry with the Assyrians. (One of the enmities between these two groups was based in racial purity beliefs.) There is a long and rather sordid history of ugliness between the Samaritans and those who did not inter-marry with their conquerors through those 700 years preceding our story. Many took the longer trip around Samaria rather than encounter individuals they considered enemies, who they would have encountered if they had taken the shorter road directly north.

Think about Jesus’ ministry: he always seems to thirst to push, and change these boundaries we establish for ourselves: to reach beyond the expected and known and explore something new. Going directly through the heart of Samaritan territory is exactly where Jesus would be, if we think about the choices he had before him. Jesus wants to break the mold, break barriers down: he certainly does this with his encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well.

Throughout history, this story, up to the last 20 years or so, has been interpreted as one where Jesus is talking to a sinful woman. What if, modeling Jesus, we look at this story in a different way: in a manner that a number of more modern scholars have. As opposed to presuming this Samaritan woman was a sinner because of her multiple husbands, we look at what Jesus says and does: he, in no way, condemns her, or judges her in a negative manner in regard to her marital history. There is no indication of morality being questioned in the interchange between these two: individuals interpreting the text with a focus on morality transpose all those judgments onto the text. Perhaps, for example, this woman was stuck in some Leviritical marriage that enforced these circumstances upon her. Be that as it may be, Jesus is really not at all concerned with this part of her life, he instead is focused on something else for which she thirsts: understanding and clarity of how and where God “is” in this world (our temple in Gazrin or yours in Jerusalem, our mountain or your mountain? Where do we worship? This was another area of argument between the Samaritans and the Jews from Judea and Galilee going back hundreds of years.) By dwelling on the Samaritan woman’s supposed sinfulness, we miss what Jesus is really pointing us toward: the wideness of God’s presence, the all encompassing nature of God’s love for us.

What we see here is Jesus expressing his humanity and his desire to break barriers: racial and gender. What we see in Jesus proclaiming the time is now here, is Jesus proclaiming that God’s presence is real and all-encompassing: God is spirit Jesus says and is with us, right now. We are seeing the Gospel becoming universal in this story: God loving this world so very much that the love is amongst us in the person of Jesus….. and in spirit becoming action. Jesus is bringing the Gospel to an outsider and an enemy of those who presumed God’s love was more narrowly focused, and is showing that love as something not theoretical, but is showing that love to be active and real and present.

Perhaps, as more current theologians suggest, this Samaritan woman is John’s model for us of what a developing faith looks like and of what church growth looks like. This Gospel account by John gives us a very clear path of how the Gospel spreads, how this love of Christ we all share, can and does spread. It begins with an introduction to the faith, like Jesus meeting and interacting with the Samaritan woman. As part of that introduction, there is an intimate nearness, a touching of one’s soul that is very difficult to articulate, but we know when it happens to us and we know it when we see it in others. And the next step on this path of evangelism is sharing the discovery, as the Samaritan woman does with her whole town: with no embarrassment or any timidity….and the cycle continues with the townspeople…..and beyond, all the way down through time to us.

What a story for us to dwell in during Lent. As we take this communal journey to Holy Week, are we walking through enemy or foreign territory or taking the familiar long-way round? With those we meet on the way, perhaps supposed mortal enemies, or perhaps simply people we do not understand, are we boundary breaking and evangelizing? Are we pretending to not see that which is right in front of us that, if addressed, would absolutely help the creation of the kingdom Jesus announces…..and palpably show the existence of that universally present Spirit Jesus announces today?....Jesus is reaching out and giving opportunity for an outsider to become part of the fold. Are we doing the same?

Maya Angelou said: “Life is pure adventure and the sooner we realize that fact, the quicker we will be able to treat life as art: to bring all our energies to each encounter, to remain flexible enough to notice, and admit, when what we expected to happen, did not happen. We need to remember that we are created creative and can invent new scenarios frequently, as frequently as they are needed.” That living water the Gospel writer provides us with today, in comparison to the water from Jacob’s well, provides a different kind of life for us, one more in line with the energetic, creative and adventurous life Maya Angelou describes, with all it false starts and stops and starts again. That is the life we should be seeking on our walk this Lenten Season, and is one modeled for us today by this story we hear anew, of Jesus and the Samaritan Woman. Seek out the unknown…..Dismantle fear and prejudice….Let go of the illusion of security that familiarity can engender and embrace the adventure of following Jesus…..Seek out this week a creative evangelism were the love we show is active, real, present. The thirst we feel will be quenched in ways indescribable as we quench the thirst of those we meet on the way.


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

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Daily Office Reflection: Not Yet Fully Come

Psalms 75, 76 * 23, 27; Jeremiah 5:20-31; Romans 3:19-31; John 7:1-13

The Japanese Cherry Tree Blossoms are in full bloom today here in Washington, DC. They always make their appearance at the early part of spring. The other trees are just showing the slightest amount of new growth: seemingly fragile reds and greens and yellows are appearing, giving hope for full blown spring to be not far (although we are threatened with an inch of two of snow to hit us overnight).

These early bloomers, the beautiful and very fragile cherry blossoms are a sight to behold, provided we remember to be patient with all the visitors who want to experience the majestic beauty of these trees. These blossoms are a physical reminder that spring is here, but just not yet fully come. Just like Jesus' time in the Gospel today is here....but not just yet. We are in that teasing place, of almost, just not yet.

So much of our lives are spent waiting for that ripe time to arrive. Time can seem to slow down when we are waiting for: a job to materialize; the birth of a child; someone to die who has been in decline. And yet, in a crazy-making way, that time can seem to be so fleeting. Things don't just stop when we are waiting for the fullness of time to make something happen. Life continues to go on all around us: things still need to be done. And things are done, are accomplished, perhaps just not the things for which we are waiting.

Lent is that in-between time, when we are waiting, but we are also doing. Our lives continue while we await an event whose time has not yet fully come. What we do during that time can make far richer those fleeting moments when that for which we wait comes into fruition. The Cherry Blossoms will be gone in the blink of an eye and full spring will be here. They remind us that we are called to live in this moment, while preparing for that which is not yet ready. All of life is like that, and Jesus' life and ministry are examples of living in that tension filled place of waiting and at the same time doing.

Copyright 2011, The Rev. John F. Dwyer,. All Rights Reserved.
Art: Panel 5 of 5: Cherry Blossoms, jfd+ 2010

Friday, March 25, 2011

Daily Office Reflection: Nine Months

MP: Psalms 85, 87; Isaiah 52:7-12; Hebrews 2:5-10
EP: Psalms 110:1-5(6-7), 132; Wisdom 9:1-12; John 1:9-14

Better hurry.....only nine months of shopping days left until Christmas! Today we celebrate The Annunciation: Mary's acquiescence to being the bearer of the Christ child. I chose the word acquiescence on purpose, as Mary was not looking for this job. She didn't wave her arms up and down and shout Hey, God, impregnate me with your holy, incarnate one! No, no, Mary bowed her head and said yes, I will do this impossible seeming thing for the next nine months, risking everything. Mary's role in the life of the one she starts bearing today does not end nine months from her decision: she is with her son all the way to that hill on Calvary.

Mary's life unalterably changed with her acquiescence, and for that act, which is beyond bravery, we celebrate and honor that decision today, smack in the middle of Lent: when we are walking our own journey to that same hill. To what do we need to acquiesce in order to mimic Mary? How can we unalterably change the direction of our lives in these final weeks of Lent?

For Mary:
Forever young in our eyes,
forever earnest and true,
making decisions
that change the heart
and alter the world.

We yearn for that ability
to trust
and to love,
to put aside fear and
life as we know it.

On our walk
to that hill outside
your presence and faithfulness
are our guide.

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

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Daily Office Reflection: Passed From Death to Life

Psalms (70), 71 * 74; Jeremiah 4:9-10,19-28; Romans 2:12-24; John 5:19-29

Jesus used the phrase "the hour is coming, and is now here" when he was chatting with the Samaritan woman at the well (in last Saturday's D.O reading and this coming Sunday's reading too!), and we hear that phrase (and a portion of it) twice today. This is a phrase peculiar to John, although the Synoptic Gospels have a similar theme. Jesus is announcing the kingdom of God, by his very presence with the usage of this phrase.

John uses metaphor throughout this passage (and this Gospel). And the imagery within the verse "the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live" is replete with symbolism fit for reflection during this Season of Lent. How can we live into this Gospel today? How can we show that we have passed from death to life because of our faith, our belief in Jesus' presence in our lives? Can we bring others who "are dead" and help them pass "into life" with us? What would that look like in the humdrumedness of what is many of our days?

Jesus is pushing his disciples, and us, to recognize that the kingdom is all around us, waiting to be recognized, lived into.... and made real.... now. This kingdom, which is based in and filled by God's love for us, is something palpably available, tangibly Jesus is telling us that the time is now here for us to make real this different way of living and being in the world. We will stick out like sore thumbs on a manicured hand if we live into this kingdom....but that manicured hand cannot properly function without us sore thumbs to grasp and change our world.

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

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Daily Office Reflection: St. Joseph, 2011

MP: Psalm 132; Isaiah 63:7-16, Matthew 1:18-25
EP: Psalm 14; 2 Chronicles 6:12-17; Ephesians 3:14-21

We have the feast day of St. Joseph, Jesus' father, today. I have read, quite recently, people saying that Joseph should not be known as the father of Jesus because his "seed" did not participate in Jesus' creation. I think these folks are pretty jerky. For what better definition of "father" is an individual who: shelters, cares for, protects, rears, trains in a profession, instills an understanding of faithfulness in a child, youth and young adult? What better definition of parent can there be? There are many people whose "seed" helped create a human being, who do not deserve the title "father" or "mother". Those should be earned, because of an individual's efforts and motivation and caring love. Holy Women, Holy Men tells us that St. Joseph is the patron saint of working people, because he was a carpenter. Although valid, should he not also be the patron saint of all those individuals who adopt children and become their parents, even though the egg/sperm donors are someone else?

We hear so little about Joseph, except for his responding to God's instructions: to accept Mary and the baby, to protect them by taking them to Egypt. Yet Jesus was not only known as the carpenter's son, but as a carpenter himself. And like so much in Scripture, so much is left unstated, we are forced to extrapolate what we can from the meager representations of important individuals. This absence of detail causes mystery, but I do not believe that mysterious quality of Joseph (and so many other partially developed characters in scripture) is a bad thing, as so much of our belief is based on faith.

The prayer we have in Ephesians in the EP portion of today's readings sums up this necessary mysterious quality of how we live out our faith:

I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

May Joseph inspire us to be better people to those who we are gifted to have in our lives.


Copyright 2011, The Rev. John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.
Art: Wet Feet, jfd+ 2010 (unfinished)

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Daily Office Reflection: Condemnation or Salvation

Psalms 50 *(59), 60 or 19, 46; Deuteronomy 9:23-10:5; Hebrews 4:1-10; John 3:16-21

We are gifted a wonderful reading from John today. Jesus is still talking (in secret) to Nicodemus and says (in part) God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. He goes on to say that within the misdeeds of people resides their own punishment, while people who "do what is true" are naturally light-filled and that is their reward.... the good deed is its own reward......Our own actions, our own deeds make us of the light or of the dark.

We all make mistakes. We all can "walk in the darkness" at times. Jesus is not condemning us to that lack-of-light-filled-place forever. We all know those moments of darkness: in our thoughts, in our souls, in our hearts. We can palpably feel that seeming absence of God in our lives. It is only a seeming absence though. For many of us have had the joyful, and mostly fleeting, experience of having "come to the light"..... it is a different kind of palpable experience when that happens, were we know in our thoughts, souls and hearts that we are different now, and loved and part of something greater than ourselves.

The reality of our lives is that, most of the time, we are walking in between these two places, someplace where we can see the darkness just over there and the light on the opposite side of us, and we are in that tension-filled mid-place, yo-yo'ing back and forth. Lent is a time for us to reflect on this choice-filled space so many of us walk daily. Lent is a time to look at that darkness to one side, understand what lies within that space, and know that there is light and love and acceptance when we step in the opposite direction. Lent is good for the us time to reflect and understand this duality of place, with the knowledge that, as members of an intentional Christian community, we do not walk that in-between place alone, that others have gone before, are with us on that walk and will follow behind us. And most importantly, God's joyful embrace always awaits us: we just have to step toward it.

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

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Daily Office Reflection: Easy Sacrifice

Psalms 45 * 47, 48; Deuteronomy 9:4-12; Hebrews 3:1-11; John 2:1-22

In John's Gospel, as opposed to in the three Synoptics, Jesus displays his anger in the Temple at the very beginning of his public ministry. He enters that place in today's reading and we hear that "he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money changers" were all around doing business. He chases them all out, scaring the sheep and cattle with a whip he made of cords, and with harsh words chases the money changers and dove sellers out of the Temple...... Quite an entrance into Jerusalem society.

Jesus was so p-o'ed upon entering that main place of worship because the holiness was being robbed of the place because of the marketplace atmosphere created by those who were cheapening the concept of sacrifice involved in worshipping at the Temple. Sacrifice is something that is not supposed to be easy. To sacrifice something is supposed to tear at our very root of understanding and being. Remember the oft-heard scriptural verse: "rend your hearts and not your garments." These business people in the entrance chamber to the Temple were allowing people to make a show of their faith, without really living it, feeling it.

And this is why this reading is such a perfect one to have in our first week of Lent. Many of us "give something up" or "take something on" for Lent. We are challenged by this Gospel to ask ourselves if we are doing this for show? Are we tearing at our garments without touching our hearts? Is what we have taken on, or given up, really touching our deep, inner selves? Is this sacrifice "hard"?.....Why do we need this sacrificial piece as part of our Lenten journey?

Just as the Last Sunday of Epiphany always has a Transformation Gospel at its center (where Jesus transforms on the mountain in front of Peter, James and John, while having a conversation with Moses and Elijah), this Gospel account of Jesus cleansing the Temple is a reminder that we are called to be transformed in Lent, to feel something deep within ourselves and be changed. Not easy. Sacrifice is not supposed to be easy. But we are better people for that change which occurs when we really live into a hope-filled, and yet difficult, Lent.

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

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Daily Office Reflection: Hard to Believe

Psalms 30, 32 * 42, 43; Deut: 7:17-26; Titus 3:1-15; John 1:43-51

The images and news coming from Japan are jaw-dropping. The devastation caused by the largest earthquake in reported history, the resulting tsunami and the after-shocks cause all of us to recognize how fragile life is, how precious each moment should be treated. Those images are hard to believe: houses swept away like they were made of paper thin match-sticks; cars picked up and tossed by the power of an ocean moving inland, where it is not supposed to be; explosions at nuclear power plants and radiation leakage; people stranded, people displaced, people missing, people who have perished because of the movement of earth's subterranean plates, are things that are hard to believe.....but they are happening right now.

Jesus asks his newest follower in today's Gospel reading if his belief comes from a simple truth caused by Jesus' observation skills and then Jesus goes on to say that this is just the beginning, with unimaginable deeds and events to come. Those coming events, which we are preparing for in this Season of Lent, were hard to believe for those first witnesses and are hard to believe by Jesus' followers today. In particular when we are faced with such dramatic and awful realities like what is going on in Japan. Common questions born from these events are: Where is God in all of this? How could God allow (or cause) these events?

A few years back, when hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, Louisiana and large portions of Mississippi, I was watching the news coverage of the rescue efforts, much like I am currently watching the unfolding events in Japan. One of the TV news personalities was interviewing a woman from one of the coast towns of Texas, which were one of the projected targets for Katrina before it hit land. This woman identified herself as a Christian and said "Jesus answered my prayers and saved my town, my home." That statement just burned into my head making it unforgettable, and raised my ire and disgust. I thought then, and still think today, this is the type of sentiment that chases people away from Christ, away from church communities. Chase them away because what about all those people living just east of where that purported Christian's home and town were? Did God not answer their prayers? I personally know a lot of very good Christians in both Louisiana and Mississippi whose lives were torn apart because of that hurricane. How were they less worthy in Christ's eyes than the individual given air-time? Whenever someone asks, Why would God do this? How could God allow this to happen?, I think about that misguided individual in Texas. Although there exists a part of me that finds that kind of attitude hard to believe, I also know it exists more than I like to believe and causes more damage than can be easily stated.

That kind of ignorance is a mindset Jesus preached against throughout his life and ministry. God does not cause these kind of earth-events to happen: earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, tornadoes. Where we find God, and the living Christ in these events is in our response to them. One of those responses we can all participate in is prayer. This may be hard to believe, but pray for: those who have died, who mourn, who have lost everything and must start anew, who have been injured, who are on the scene doing what they can to alleviate the pain and suffering we are witnessing in these scenes on television. If you are able, contact Episcopal Relief and Development (ERD) to find out how you can monetarily assist our sisters and brothers in Japan (and elsewhere in the world). Our prayers, and whatever other kind of support we can provide, will make a difference to the ongoing recovery efforts and will make those hard to believe principles Jesus' ministry exemplified, more understandable and real to us and more palpable to the world at large.

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

Monday, March 7, 2011

Daily Office Reflection: Grace and Truth

Psalms 25 * 9, 15; Deuteronomy 6:10-15; Hebrews 1:1-14; John 1:1-18

We entered the shortest liturgical week of the church year yesterday, the Week of Last Epiphany. (Except of course when Christmas falls on a Monday or a Tuesday, than Advent 4 is is the shortest.) But, yearly, we have these three days, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday to perform our final preparations for Lent, which arrives on Wednesday. Part of that prep-time is Fat Tuesday, Mardi Gras and church dinners, with masks and decadent food to fatten ourselves for the lean times to come.

A priest friend of mine serving in Oklahoma posted on his roadside church sign: "Pancakes are for breakfast.....Come have Gumbo on Tuesday night instead!" I like that idea. He is having a gumbo contest - in which he refuses to be a judge, a rather smart move on his part. But this idea of a "last" celebration of the community before we dive into the rigors of Lent is an interesting tradition. The idea of "marking" events, "marking" liturgical calendar changes, and doing so in and with our intentional Christian communities, is a way of seeing this "grace and truth" John's Gospel talks about today.

We have "the Prologue" from John's Gospel today and the poetic imagery of the momentary "light" that comes into the world providing us with "grace upon grace.....grace and truth." Jesus' human life on earth was momentary when thought of in the whole panoply of human existence. That life was like that peculiar time at twilight where we are "at the gloaming" moment where there is a special light, and the world looks so different. Just like this grace and truth that Jesus brought to us, while alive, still sparks our imagination and fills our souls with hope and love and yearning. Enjoy these last two days of Epiphany. Let us bring with us this moment we have at the gloaming as we enter Lent. We can let that momentary and spectacular light guide us into reflecting upon the grace and truth of what Lent is all about.

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

Friday, March 4, 2011

Daily Office Reflection: Fruits

Psalms 16, 17 * 22; Deuteronomy 5:1-22; 2Cor 12:11-21: Matthew 7:13-21

At our first read of Matthew's Gospel today, Jesus seems to be painting a rather exclusionary view of the Kingdom. He talks about bad fruits and bad trees and false prophets, and few people being allowed in the narrow gate, that is at the end of a narrow and hard road. He says that not everyone who calls out his name will be allowed into this Kingdom. Cherry stuff this morning.

We don't have to look far in our lives to find examples of people who are false prophets, or who seem to be fruitful people, but the consequences of their lives and actions are nothing but ugliness. Not ugliness as in wart-on-the-nose ugly, but a lack of love and care for those living all around them. A selfishness, a self-centered focus, an uncaring nature in regard to the detritus left in their wake. And it is easy to fall into the trap that those societal norms surround us with on a daily basis (the "wide gate and the easy road" in Jesus' parlance).

Based on those societal norms (that existed in Jesus' time and still do today), the way Jesus is directing us to is "hard" with a "narrow gate". But it is not impossible, nor is it uncrowded: there are many of us who walk this path and lean on each other to make Jesus' Kingdom a reality. And it is not an exclusionary one: for although we do not hear Jesus say it today, this Kingdom is open to everyone. Open even to those whose fruit, at one time, may have been sour, or even "bad". With the right fertilizer, the right care, the right love, those "bad trees" can, very often, be made fruitful.

Hope should never be abandoned: although it is up to each of us to make that choice to walk the "hard" road and go through the narrow gate. With the right perspective though, that journey is not impossible, nor is it fruitless, but is joyous in a way that is nearly impossible to articulate, but can be seen and felt when we find those moments.

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

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Daily Office Reflection: Read It

Psalms 18:1-20 * 18:21-50; Deuteronomy 4:32-40; 2Cor 12:1-10; Matthew 7:1-12

If you have yet to read today's Gospel selection, go, do so now. These verses are rich with wisdom and direction and advice and love. There is the wisdom of remembering to look at and really understand ourselves before we "fix" others. There is direction in how we are to pray. There is advice in Jesus telling us to persevere. There is inexplicable love waiting for us. All we have to do is walk into that embrace. the verses.....and think on them.

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

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Daily Office Reflection: Where Our Treasure Resides

Psalms 5, 6 * 10, 11; Deuteronomy 4:15-24; 2Cor 11:1-21a; Matthew 6:16-23

Jesus is teaching about priorities and focus today. Should our focus be on gaining attention for ourselves and surrounding ourselves with wonderfully comforting consumer goods? Or should our priorities be centered around worshipping God, true self-evaluation and working toward the building of the Kingdom? Kind of rhetorical questions, I know, when stated in this fashion. But that is the gist of where Jesus is leading us with today's lesson.

We need to face the fact that we all like to have nice things, trendy things at times, comforting and comfortable things around us. If we really think about those "things" throughout our lives, most of those are transitory and Jesus is asking us to own up to that fact. We also need to face the fact that there are times in our lives when we want attention: look, look at me! Again, Jesus is saying we need to be aware of what we are doing, and why, and the effect those actions are having on not only ourselves but those around us.

Can we resist that impulse-buy today? Can we push the focus of attention away from ourselves and onto matters that are not transitory? Jesus is saying that by latching onto the principles he is espousing, our understanding of the world, and the treasures that last, will make our hearts a beacon of hope and love....will draw others to us.....and will not only change our understanding of the world but will assist in the building of God's kingdom all around us.

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