Saturday, February 25, 2012

Daily Office Reflection: On Behalf Of

Psalms 30, 32 * 42, 43: Ezekiel 39:21-29; Philippians 4:10-20; John 17:20-36

Jesus says in our Gospel reading from John today, I ask not only on behalf of these (his disciples), but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one. Just a terrific verse to have this day before the first Sunday in Lent. For what else are we, but those who struggle to have faith and belief because of "their word?"

Lent is a the perfect liturgical season in which to struggle, consciously and with intent, with putting words and prayer to our faith and belief. To try and put a re-examined framework around our understanding of the Passion for which we prepare. We do this every year, because with each passing year, we are different, we have changed. How do those changes in our life impact our belief and faith? How have they been tested? Strengthened? Challenged? Weakened? Where do we find an absence, a void, in our life?

Wherever we are in our own individual journey, Jesus is with us, in us, interceding on our behalf, because, like those disciples, we continue to struggle with our faith and belief. We do this individually and we do this corporately. Individually, with our efforts to pray and work toward making the kingdom a reality. Corporately, by praying and working within whatever community of believers we are graced to find ourselves a part, whether small or large in number.

We do not do this alone, the one whom we struggle to have faith and belief in, is with us, always.

Copyright 2012, The Rev. John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved
Art: Stations 5-8, jfd+, 2012

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Daily Office Reflection: So, Lent Has Started

Psalms 37:1-18 * 37:19-42; Habakkuk 3:1-10(11-15)16-18; Philippians 3:12-21; John 17:1-8

We had a number of Ash Wednesday services yesterday: that solemn and beautiful liturgy that begins the Season of Lent. Some people commented to me yesterday, similar to comments I have received over the years, that they don't feel particularly "sinful" and are a bit confused by the abject nature and tone of the service and the Lenten season.

Our Outline of the Faith in the BCP (a/k/a the Catechism) defines sin as: sin is the seeking of our own will instead of the will of God, thus distorting our relationship with God, with other people, and with all of creation. (BCP page 848). A somewhat helpful definition, but for those looking for concrete, solid walls within which to live their lives, perhaps not as direct as they might expect. I harken back to Jesus and the individual who thought by living thoroughly by the "law", eternal life was a given. Jesus asked more, to sell everything and give it to the poor and then follow him.

Part of sin is complacency. Thinking we have done enough, given enough. God wants all of our efforts directed to the building of this kingdom opened for everyone by Jesus. An impossible expectation, perhaps.... And that is why we need Lent. We need to remember that no matter how much we do, there is always more to do, always more required. Not because we are sinful, but because we are perfectible.

All of us are sinners. And God knows that and loves us anyway. That helps me breathe easier. I hope it does you too. A holy and blessed Lent.

Copyright 2012, The Rev. John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.
Art: Stations 1-4, jfd+, 2012

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Daily Office Reflection: Knowledge and Faith

Psalms 105:1-22 * 105:23-45; Genesis 32:3-21; 1 John 2:18-29; John 10:19-30

So many of us just want to know. We want and need proof. Without that concrete, solid evidence we just won't believe. This is how most of us are in life. This is how our society and culture operates. And this is not all that different from how we have always acted throughout the ages of time.

In John's Gospel today (and the past few days), Jesus has been in Jerusalem, facing off with the leaders of the temple-society. They have heard of the miracles he has been performing, have spoken with the individual whose eyesight has just been restored. They have spoken with Jesus many times, not really listening to him. Instead, they try to fit Jesus into their constructs of knowledge, into their belief system, based on facts and evidence as they perceive them.

John reports Jesus' words as, "I have told you, and you do not believe..." You do not believe is a repeated phrase in this portion of John's Gospel. Even though they have seen the results of Jesus' work, have spoken with him, the do not believe. How are we supposed to believe if we haven't had the same opportunity as those temple-leaders? Where does our faith come from, if we cannot have concrete knowledge and evidence of the existence of that which we believe?

Volumes of texts have been written on this subject of faith in that which we cannot, and do not, see. We can study (and really must study) these texts we believe to be sacred. And through that study, we can gain some modicum of knowledge. And yet, faith is something un-concrete: it is an ethereal thing, a feeling, a belief.

From those ethereal moments, when we know, without concrete proof, that we are on the right track, those are the moments on which we must hang our faith.... Our belief that God is with us in this world. From those moments, we can and build a life based on the goodness and love modeled for us by Jesus. The hard truth is, we build our lives on faith, and there are things that we can just not concretize.

Copyright 2012, The Rev. John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.
Art: Cross # , 2009, jfd+

Monday, February 13, 2012

Daily Office Reflection: Some People....

Psalms 89:1-18 * 89:19-52; Genesis 30:1-44; 1 John 1:1-10; John 9:1-17

Some folks, no matter what you do, are going to be obstinate and not "get it." Frustrating, absolutely. What are we to do about those folks?

Jesus deals with some of that in today's Gospel from John. He heals an individual, blind since birth, and because he did this unheard of miracle on the Sabbath, the strict constructionists, the literalists, claim he cannot be of God. Thick-headedness, myopia, narrow-mindedness surrounded Jesus, all of which still exist around us in various forms today. Do we stand in front of these folks and yell "fool!"? Do we simply ignore them, chastise them, belittle them? As good as that might make us feel at times, no, that is not the way either, although, Jesus does have a pretty sharp tongue for these folks at times. Should we model that sharpness?

But that isn't all that Jesus does: he continues on, he keeps at it. He stays true to his mission and journey: opening and creating the kingdom for all of us. Even those of us who, at times, are the thick-headed, myopic, narrow-minded literalists. We are given a model of continuing our efforts, continuing to invite those who don't yet want to be invited: again, sometimes who are us. That is the good is never too late to join up with Jesus.....We need to ask ourselves, What blinders do we need to take off today?

Copyright 2012, The Rev. John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.
Photo: Provincetown Harbor, 2006, jfd+

Friday, February 10, 2012

Daily Office Reflection: Making Room

Psalms 88 * 91, 92; Genesis 27:46-28:4,10-22; Romans 13:1-14; John 8:33-47

Jesus is in a knock down, drag-out verbal match with the hierarchy that controls the religious system. Strong words, insulting words and accusations, are bantered about. But before Jesus' words get intemperate (calling his foes spawn of the devil), he says that these folks are trying to kill him because there is no place in you for my word.

These individuals with whom Jesus is arguing had created a world rigid with rules and regulations and guidelines, micro-managing how people were to live their lives in a "holy" fashion. A by-product of that kind of approach to life is that those rigid constructs also control how we can understand the world and how we understand God. These tight constructs had left no room for God, as these rules defined God in very tight and particular parameters. Jesus, his life and ministry, are testament to taking our notion of God out of the box. Of making room in ourselves for ambiguity, and thoughtful imagination, and dreaming, and not-so-rigid-rules-and-regulations, and a space to breathe, and see the beauty of God's creation all around us.

Life can seem to be so much easier with tight constructs controlling how we live and interact in the world, and how we define God. "Seem" is the operable world, for those constructs, mostly, are false and human-made and can, and do, keep God out of our life. We are asked to consider today where in our life have we left no room for God.

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

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Daily Office Reflection: Stoned or Not Stoned

Psalms 78:1-39 * 78:40-72; Genesis 26:1-6,12-33; Hebrews 13:17-25; John 7:53-8:11

I have often wondered what Jesus was doodling on the ground when the Pharisees dragged that adulterer before him to be judged. Lots of folks have spoken with authority about the kind of thing he would have been writing...but if John wanted us to know what it was that he was doing down there in the dirt, well, he would have told us. Leaving it to our imaginings is part of the work we are called upon to do.

The Pharisees have been hard at work trying to trap Jesus. We can almost see them drooling with glee at their conniving today...We've got him! Let him try and save this adulterer! He does flummox them though. "Let the one among you who is free from sin be the first to cast a stone." Who are we to judge? In particular, when the resulting punishment is death?

Jesus is pointing us to forgiveness, reconciliation and the truth that God can and does love and forgive us when we "repent," meaning "turn." God even loves us when we are trying to figure out what this means. Who are we to judge when the penalty is so final? Every life is worth being given the opportunity to turn. Turn from what we have been doing to what we should be doing. Judging is so much easier than realizing all of us are fallen in some way and need to turn...turn to a more open, forgiving nature. What a different society we would live in should this crucial instruction be followed by Jesus.

Copyright 2012, The Rev. John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.
Photo: Baptismal Font @ St. Christopher's, 2012.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Daily Office Reflection: From Our Hearts

Psalms: 80 * 77 (79); Genesis 25:19-34; Hebrews 13:1-16; John 7:37-52

Jesus quotes scripture today in saying Out of the believer's heart shall flow rivers of living water. He is in the midst of his talking about his body and blood being the bread and wine of life, to which most people are recoiling and arguing with him and each other.

Jesus is onto something here...haven't we all experienced in some fashion the infectiousness that "good buzz" from people can produce? Positive enthusiasm can and does generate more enthusiasm. The opposite is as true, negativity is a buzz-kill. One of the things Jesus is driving at today is this idea of our permanently changing our hearts, our attitudes, our mindset. The joy that comes from our believing heart is truly infectious: people see it, feel it, and want to know how to get it. And when our heart is truly turned to God, those nay-sayers cannot turn it back.

Few of us ever reach that level of ecstatic belief. Most, if not all, of us are like Nicodemus, who makes his second appearance today. He had visited Jesus five chapters back, in the pitch of night, because there was something churning in his heart. That seed, planted and taking root, is stretching out its branches today when he is pushing back on those nay sayers that surround him. Nicodemus' heart is turning to God, to Jesus. That is what we are called upon to do, everyday: turn our hearts to God, and the infectious joy that can suffuse us cannot help but pour out of us to those we encounter.

This is a lifetime's effort, with twists and turns and bumps along the way. That journey we are all on is a gift we can share, we cannot help but share, as our heart overflows.

Copyright 2012, The Rev. John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.
Photo: St. Christopher's Episcopal Church, 2012, jfd+

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Daily Office Reflection: Time

Psalms 72 * 119:73-96; Genesis 22:1-18; Hebrews 11:23-31; John 6:52-59

Time is so changeable. At moments in life, time can seem to not exist at all, events flying by in the seeming blink of an eye. At other moments in life, the same amount of time that blew right past us seems to be an eternity for us to slog through. But when we get to the other side of that slog, and time becomes more "normal," the excruciating nature of what has just transpired can fade. And there are times when we seem to be in both places, the too quick passage of time, and simultaneously the feeling that we will never get to the other side.

So much of that impression of time, our experience of time, is amorphous and based on the things that are going on in our lives. Jesus is immersed in a conversation with those who are trying to figure him out, and he says in today's Gospel from John, But the one who eats this bread will live forever. Well, forever is a long time. What does this mean?

One of the things Jesus is getting at today is that by incorporating Jesus into our very being, by becoming, as much as we possibly can, to be like Jesus, we become the living Body of Christ in the world today. We become part of that centuries old line of souls doing our utmost to make the world morph and change and pay attention to those things to which Jesus directs us: caring for the poor, the sick, the incarcerated, the lost, the frightened, the mournful. And by doing those things, living life in that way, we become a part of something that lives forever.

A radically different way to think about time, its passage, and our own short time in which to live that way.

Copyright 2012, The Rev. John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.
Photo: Blessing Matt & Brett's Wedding, 2009.