Today’s sermon, at least in draft.  I’m looking at excerpts from Psalm 37 (in verses 1-10):

 

I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to preach on today.  I looked at the second half of the gospel and it made me think.  Most of Jesus’ parables seem, to me, to have Jesus saying outrageous things – like abandoning 99 sheep to find one lost sheep – as though they were normal, rational actions.  And certainly my response to who would serve someone working for you all day first is that, of course, I would.  Yet I suspect (without actually knowing) that, in this case, Jesus’ story actually reflects the norms of his (very stratified) society.  I looked at the first half of today’s gospel and thought:  wasn’t it C. S. Lewis who quoted this passage?  Didn’t he say that, of course, non of us take this literally?  And then he wondered (in it’s aftermath) if World War II might have been averted if only we Christians had been more faithful in our prayers.

Prayer.

Prayers.

I’ve always meant to preach on the Psalter.  We know, on one level, that it’s poetry (or, since it was likely meant to be sung in some fashion, song).  And, as poetry, it’s my impression at least, most people don’t seem to take the psalter very seriously.  But the Psalter is known, in tradition, as the prayer book of the Bible.  And in monastic tradition, it is the backbone of the daily offices.  The psalms are recited together in community, slowly, again and again, day after day.  Monastics talk about being slowly ground down and formed by this recitation of the psalms. (more…)

There was a strand in yesterday’s office reading from Jeremiah that I hadn’t noticed before.  In it, starting at 15:27, Jeremiah says:

I took no pleasure in sitting with merrymakers; with your hand on me I sat alone,
choking with the indignation you filled me with.
Why is my pain ongoing,
my wound incurable, refusing to heal?
Why, you’re like  a spring that dries up when it’s needed most,
like waters that can’t be relied upon!

The commentary in The Jewish Study Bible suggests that Jeremiah has failed in his office of being a prophet. (more…)

I looked up the information for celebrating the office today with the St. Helena Breviary.  It was listed as a feria (a day without special observance).  But I wanted to remember those who have died over the years for our country — to celebrate Memorial Day.  It looked like I had two options for that.  I could celebrate this as a National Day (which it is).  Or I could celebrate it as an office for the Departed.  I choose the second option (recognizing that this might not fully fall within the intent) and ended up glad that I did.  The first reading for Matins was the “dry bones” reading, where the prophet (perhaps even literally) stands among the scattered, desiccated bones of an old battlefield.  Can these bones live?  It seemed somehow appropriate for veterans.  And although the focus of the office was new life in Christ, that didn’t seem inappropriate to me — even for those who died who were not Christian.  I do want to honor their beliefs.  But at the same time, I’m sure of God’s love for them, and God’s desire to bring them home.  So thank you, veterans, whatever your religious beliefs.  I trust that God has seen you home, and I wish you fulness of life.

In one of my books on the lives of saints, which I usually read in conjunction with the daily office, Mary Slessor was commemorated.  She was a woman born into a working class Presbyterian family in Aberdeen, Scotland in 1848.  In 1875 she went as a teacher to a mission in Calabar, Nigeria, where she served until her death in 1915.  What struck me was a couple of  phrases from Richard Symonds’ “Above Rubies” (about her life):  “Partly as a result of her lack of formal education, particularly in Presbyterian theology, Mary Slessor took a broad-minded view of local a beliefs and customs when she arrived in Calabar, and as a result acquired an unusual understanding of them.”  “Mary Slessor’s religion is quite as interesting as the work which it inspired.  Although she recollected that as a girl ‘hell fire’ had driven her into the kingdom, she found it a kingdom of love and tenderness and mercy, and never sought to bring anyone into it by shock.  ‘Fear is not worship,’ she said, ‘nor does it honor God.'” (more…)

I was reading, with Matins this morning, an excerpt from the treatise On the Six Days of Creation by Ambrose, Bishop of Milan.  In it, he is wondering where evil comes from.  He concludes “It is a pervasion of mind and spirit, swerving from the way of true virtue, which frequently overtakes the unwary.  … The enemy is within us. (more…)

A lot of the daily office readings from the Hebrew Scriptures for Lent are from Jeremiah.  He began his work as a prophet during the reign of the reforming king, Josiah, and in these Dueteronomic reforms, the cult was to be centered in the Jerusalem Temple and justice was to be done for the widows, the orphans and the oppressed.  At first Jeremiah supported these reforms.  But over time, it came to be about a kind of cultic legalism, a personal purity, and concerns for justice for those in need fell away. (more…)

I have a strong sense of Advent from a year ago.  It was a time of real renewal for me.  Part of that was from being able to participate in the Benedictine Weekend Retreat at the Bishop’s Ranch in Healdsburg (which I would love to be able to do regularly).  Part of that was beginning to get immersed in the monastic version of the St. Helena Breviary.  I haven’t been able to maintain that level of immersion, but I think that’s still really feeding my spiritual life.  Much of it was sheer grace – simply a gift.

On the other hand, I have very little sense of Christmas from a year ago. (more…)