Friday, April 27, 2012

Daily Office Reflection: Turning

Psalms: 105:1-22 * 105:23-45; Exodus 24:1-28; Colossians 2:8-23; Matthew 4:12-17  

We have the beginning of Jesus' public ministry in the Gospel of Matthew today. John the Baptist has already been preparing the way, has baptized Jesus, and Jesus has returned from his desert wanderings and self-exploration. John is arrested today and Jesus leaves Nazareth and sets his base of operations up in Capernaum, and he starts to preach, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near."

There are a number of definitions for the Greek word "Repent" that Jesus uses today. In our lexicon, it is a very loaded word: much abused by those holier-than-the-rest-of-us types. But, one of the most common meanings of that word in Jesus' time was "turn." A physical turning of the direction of one's life. Jesus is saying to any who would listen: Hey! Turn around and listen to me! I am opening the kingdom of heaven for you, right here and right now! Turn around! A very different kind of kingdom of heaven, for sure, than any might expect. But that understanding unfolds as Matthew's Gospel moves along.

Some of the things our Gospel reading is asking us to consider today is where in our lives do we need to turn? Where can we do a better job living into this kingdom of heaven Jesus opens for us? How do we help others "turn around" and be a part of this joyous love that showers on all of us?

Copyright 2012, The Rev. John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.
Photo: Alley on the PTown flats.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Daily Office Reflection: Orderliness

Psalms 25 * 9, 15; Exodus 18:13-27; 1 Peter 5:1-14; Matthew (1:1-17) 3:1-6

It is interesting that Luke begins his Gospel with a description of what is to come in his version of Jesus' life: an orderly account. While Matthew, who bases all that he writes on the "dis-order" of Mark, begins his account with a very structured laying out of the genealogy of Jesus' birth. This optional reading we are given today from the Gospel of Matthew sets out three distinct groupings of fourteen generations, from Abraham to Jesus. Many scholars have sat down with calendars and calculators to disprove Matthew's genealogy. I believe we miss one of the point's Matthew is trying to make. When we get stuck in the literalism of all of this, we lose the broader and more important nuances of the Gospel.

Notice the women Matthew mentions in the first grouping of fourteen: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Uriah. The stories about these women in the Hebrew Testament are fascinating accounts of women who were strong in very different ways from one another. And the last woman Matthew mentions is Mary: another individual whose strength and courage fleshes out what faithful living entails.

Matthew was taking dis-order and trying to put orderliness to Jesus' life, writing to a community for whom order and connection to the great Hebrew Testament past was vital. He is showing that within messiness (as in the lives of Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Uriah and Mary's stories) we can still find orderliness and wonder and God's saving hand guiding us to right action.

Look below the surface today, is one of the things our Gospel is pointing us toward. Appreciate the beauty of dis-order and even chaos, for God is in that too, creating a different kind of orderliness for us to live into and appreciate.

Copyright 2012, The Rev. John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.
Photo: VTS Campus, 2004.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Daily Office Reflection: Transcendent.. Imminent

Psalms 145 * 104; Exodus 13:17-14:4; 2 Cor 4:16-5:10; Mark 11:18-27

I took a break from writing on this blog during Holy Week and Easter Week. Not a break from reading/saying MP, just from the habit of writing frequently here. We have had strong and powerful readings over the past two weeks. This week we have been graced with Mark, Matthew and Luke's resurrection accounts. If you haven't read all of them in close proximity to one another, it is a rewarding and thought-provoking exercise. And today, we end Easter Week with the account of the Sadducees accosting Jesus about whether or not there is resurrection, trying to trap him in the story of the widow who marries seven brothers in succession.

These bureaucrats were very much stuck in only knowing God as we see God in the Exodus account we read today: as a pillar of cloud/fire off in the distance. They could only see and understand God as transcendent: at a distance away from them. Jesus responds to them saying have you not read in the book of Moses, in the story about the bush, how God said to him, 'I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob'? He is God not of the dead, but of the living: you are quite wrong. This is an imminent God, our Jesus. Not some far away cloud, but one who was with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob....the disciples and apostles....and is with us.

This can be a fear-inducing understanding of our God....God knows I thought/did that? There is little wonder that throughout history we set altars far away from us, and bound them with rails. Having that transcendent God, that distant God, is far safer and more comfortable for us to live with daily. But we are quite wrong, as Jesus says. God is imminent, is with us always. That love God has for us is so great, that even me, a human being with many faults, is loved, and comforted, and forgiven.

This Eastertide, we are invited to gather around the altar table, to be embraced in our common meal together by an imminent, loving and present God. Are we willing to walk into that embrace?

Copyright 2012, The Rev. John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.
Photo: Scott and Christopher's Blessing Ceremony, 2011.