Monday, January 30, 2012

Daily Office Reflection: The Last Day

Psalms 56, 57 (58) * 64, 65; Genesis 19:1-17(18-23)24-29; Hebrews 11:1-12; John 6:27-40

....all that see the Son, and believe in him, may have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day. Jesus says this at the end of the Gospel reading from John today. Over the course of history the phrase "the last day" has caused substantive conversation and dispute. Are all those millions of souls who have gone before us waiting on this last day to "come back?" Have they not been allowed into heaven and eternal rest just yet because that last day has yet to come? Has the last day already come, at the end of the Triduum we approach during Holy Week? Are we in the last day now?

We talk about not reading Scripture literally, but, instead, based on "the three legged stool" of the written word (Scripture), how it has been understood through time (Tradition), and how we understand it now (Reason): all three, Scripture, Tradition and Reason, weighted equally. If this phrase "the last day" (when all are to be raised up), is not to be understood literally, than what does it mean?

Just before this phrase, Jesus is teaching the crowds about what belief is, what true life can and should be like. Jesus tells the crowd that he is the bread of life come down from heaven, given by God to teach us how to live. The crowds have asked Jesus for a sign similar to the one Moses performed when bread (manna) was given to their ancestors in the desert. Jesus corrects them saying not Moses, but God provided the sign, and that bread, although nourishing, did not change how the world operates. To follow and accept and be like him does change the world, Jesus says.

What if "the last day" is a metaphor. A metaphor of how we are truly to live our lives, not for ourselves, but for those Jesus reached out to: the poor, sick, lame, forgotten, cast aside? Perhaps we are in a continuous last day doing the work Jesus modeled for us.

Copyright 2012, The Rev. John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.
Art: Panel 3 of Four Fold Action: Broken. 2008. jfd+

Friday, January 27, 2012

Daily Office Reflection: Burning & Shining Lamps

Psalms 50 * 59, 60 or 118; Genesis 16:15-17:14; Hebrews 10:1-10; John 5:30-47

"He was a burning and shining lamp, and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light." This is part of a description Jesus gives of John's work that preceded him. Jesus goes on to chastise them for not recognizing that the light emanating from John the Baptist was ignited from elsewhere, and that elsewhere is standing and working right in their midst, un-acknowledged, un-appreciated. We do that all the time, focusing on the human and not on the origin.

This is not an uncommon, or new phenomenon, this practice of finding a hero, a savior, putting them up on a pedestal, forgetting that they are human too, and lauding and magnifying their works as those that can fix all our problems. And then, at some point, these humans act like humans, and fail - or burn out - and disappoint. We do this over and over and over again.

This is one of the main points the Gospel writer we call John is trying to drive home by giving Jesus these words today. Recognizing the individual abilities of people is absolutely appropriate and the right thing to do. Forgetting that these laudable and talented folk are human too, with all the frailties and foibles existing within that all of us have, is an habitual tendency we need to fight against. Focusing those hopes, dreams, love, admiration and wonder at Jesus, the one standing among us, who is with us always, is the appropriate direction of those emotions and desires.

John is asking us to think on today, Who have we made a god-head in our lives, setting ourselves up for future disappointment? Can we short-cut that disappointment and instead re-direct that energy and attention on Jesus?

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

Monday, January 23, 2012

Daily Office Reflection: From a Distance

Psalms 41, 52 * 44; Genesis 14:(1-7)8-24; Hebrews 8:1-13; John 4:43-54

Jesus heals the son of a "royal official from Capernaum" in today's reading from John. Jesus is up in Cana of Galilee when this official approaches him in great distress about his ill child. Jesus says the child is healed and the official believes and starts home. What we can miss in this story is the distance between the actors in this account. Carpernaum and Cana were approximately a three day trip apart, making the official's faith, and this feat of healing, all that much more remarkable.

So many people can feel alone in life, whether they are surrounded by people or truly alone. Having and making close connections with people, although vital and important for our health, can also be difficult. When we feel like there is no one in the world who understands us, or is near to us to help us through a particularly challenging time in our life, we must always remember the nearness of God to each and every one of us. That love God has for us, represented in the account of Jesus and the royal official, is a comfort to us in difficult times. But more than a comfort, it is a palpable reality that can make the most difficult-seeming times in our lives, bearable.

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

Monday, January 16, 2012

Daily Office Reflection: Nicodemus is Introduced

Psalms 25 * 9, 15; Genesis 8:6-22; Hebrews 4:14-5:16; John 2:23-3:15

We are introduced to Nicodemus in our Gospel reading from John. This Gospel has great creative genius within its verses. This scene with Jesus and Nicodemus is a precursor of what is to come. So much of these early passages in John is setting the stage for later events. Nicodemus returns to Jesus a number of times in the story that follows.

We hear just before Nicodemus comes by night that Jesus "knew what was in everyone." Then Nicodemus appears, this leader of the Jews, this member of the group that so opposes Jesus' ministry (the Pharisees), and he starts a dialogue with Jesus. A conversation that will be continued throughout the Gospel of John, concluding with one of Nicodemus' fellow Pharisees coming and burying Jesus in his own tomb. Jesus knew Nicodemus, what he was able to become and who he could influence.

There are moments in all of our lives when we just know something is right, that we are on the right track. And we keep plugging away at this "thing," not really understanding why, just knowing it is right. Much like Nicodemus snuck in to speak with Jesus, at first, and then he continues to explore what this kernel of questioning is that is blooming inside of him. By having the reading we have today, we are called to think on, explore, discern, pay attention to those nudges we experience in life, directing us to do something we never thought we could or should explore.

Where is God leading us? What new avenues can we walk down that will completely change our lives? They may not be "safe" and "familiar." Certainly, Nicodemus' life was radically changed, and in so doing, he also changed and modeled for the world a different way of being and acting in the world. Where is (are) our Nicodemus moment(s)? Are we paying attention so that we can experience those?

Copyright 2012, The Rev. John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.
Photo: Calling on the Holy Spirit to Descend, 2007.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Daily Office Reflection: Being Direct

Psalms 20, 21:1-7(8-14) * 110-5(6-7), 116, 117; Genesis 6:9-12; Hebrews 4:1-13; John 2:13-22

Jesus chases people from the forecourt of the Temple in John's Gospel today. Overturning tables, tossing money on the floor, yelling at people selling doves to get out, all paint a different picture of the Jesus we are accustomed to hearing and reading about in Scripture.

The custom and practice in temple worship was for an offering to be made, to honor God. A whole system developed around that custom that involved having to change the secular currency into currency acceptable for use in the temple, and that coinage used to purchase animals that could be sacrificed (or symbolically sacrificed) on the altar in the hidden sanctuary. The system that developed not only enriched those who did the trading and selling, but made the whole theological idea behind the "sacrifice" those efforts were to be reminiscent of, easier for those partaking in the rituals.

One of the things that so angered Jesus was the "making easier" part of this system. By its very name, "sacrifice" is not supposed to be easy, or made easier. The concept, the reason for the act, the remembrance of the past sacrifices being made easier, was offensive to the very root of Jesus' being, because it cheapened the meaning of the ritual, undercutting it's purpose for existence.

Where are we cutting corners in our spiritual lives? Where we are short-changing our selves in the experience the rituals and practices we follow are leading us? What are we trying to make easy, and in so doing, cheapening the experience, and the meaning behind those efforts?

Copyright 2012, The Rev. John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.
Photo: Magnolia blossom, National Cathedral, 2006, jfd+

Friday, January 13, 2012

Daily Office Reflection: Mary and Jesus

Psalms 16, 17 * 22; Genesis 6:1-8; Hebrews 3:12-19; John 2:1-12

Jesus has a lot of Marys in his life. Today, in our Gospel reading from John, we have his mom strongly suggesting to him what he should do about this wine situation at the wedding they are attending. Like many children, he gives an "ahh, mom, cut it out. Can't you see I'm busy having a good time here?" But she knows him so very well, that she tells the steward to pay attention to him because he can fix this wine fiasco. And he does.

She knows him so very well. Who do we have in our lives that knows us like Mary knows her son? Who can we brush off, and yet that seed, that kernel of "yeah, I should do this thing" stays with us, urging us to do what is asked, which is often the right thing for us to do (much to our distress).

God knows each of us like this. God knows us, so very well, and urges us to do those right things. That small, sane voice that nudges us when we are heading down a path that might not be the best for us, is like Mary nudging Jesus to do the right thing. To pay attention to the larger picture of what is going on around us, and not be so worried about having a good time at that present moment.....Where are we being urged by our sane, small voice to turn water into wine, and help change the world?

Copyright 2012, The Rev. John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved
Photo: P-Town Flats at Sunrise, 2008, jfd+

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Daily Office Reflection: Telling

Psalms 18:1-20 * 18:21-50; Genesis 4:17-26; Hebrews 3:1-11; John 1:41-51

Jesus finds Philip, who goes and finds Nathaniel, giving an invitation to come and see Jesus. Nathaniel mouths off to Philip and then Jesus proves Nathaniel wrong and predicts the arrival of the kingdom.

Who do we need to invite, today, to come and see? Who do we need, today, to point in a different direction because of the surety of their misperceptions? Who, today, needs to see the world in a different light, through a different lenses, have misconceptions challenged?

Don't all of us need this kind of reminder, this kind of challenge on a regular basis? Inviting someone else to come and see the goodness that is God is vital. Reminding ourselves, often, that we need to do the same, and take off blinders we have placed firmly on ourselves, in order to see and understand our world in new ways is just as important.

Copyright 2012, The Rev. John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.