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…)

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Does Jesus live in you?

I found myself asking that question repeatedly during this past week.  How does Jesus presence show itself in my life?

That’s what it means to be a Christian, isn’t it?  That Jesus, somehow, takes life in our lives?

I use, in my personal prayer life, The Saint Helena Breviary.  A breviary is simply a book of offices, in this case Matins, Diurnum, Vespers and Compline (- in English that’s just Morning Prayer, Noon Day Prayer, Evening Prayer and End of Day Prayer).  The Order of St. Helena is named after the Emperor Constantine’s mother, Helena, who is supposed to have found a remnant of the cross Jesus died on during excavations she oversaw in Jerusalem.

She built a shrine with two principal buildings where the Church of the Holy Sepulcher now stands.  It consisted of a large basilica used for the Liturgy of the Word, and a circular church known as “The Resurrection” with its altar placed on the supposed site of Jesus’ tomb.  In the courtyard connecting these two buildings, to one side, you can see the Hill of Calvary.  The shrine was dedicated on September 14, 335.  Since then, September 14, yesterday, has been know as Holy Cross Day.

As you might imagine, Holy Cross Day is a big deal (more…)

So here’s what I intend, at this point, to preach on Sunday:

In a few minutes, after the sermon is over and the prayers of the people, we will get to the part of the service sometimes called the General Confession.  It’s intended for us, a a community, to confess our sins.  What have we, as a community, done that has hurt others and fallen short of what God would wish for us?  I suspect that seems an odd notion:  the idea that a community of people would confess their failures to God.  But, if you think about it, it’s probably no more odd that we have a book of “common” prayer which we use to pray together as a community.  Our general confession is part of our common prayer – the prayers we say together.

It’s assumed that we have a private prayer life, and that our own prayer life prepares us for our common prayer together.  Traditionally, in the Anglican Communion, that private prayer was often the Daily Office:  the daily work of reading scripture and praying that prepared us for Sunday morning.

In my experience, we in the Episcopal Church don’t do all that much with prayers of confession. (more…)

Part of me wishes there were simple, clearcut answers.

This morning, with my prayers, I read two things I believe are both true. And there is, to say the least, real tension between them.

I read an excerpt from Harry Emerson Fosdick’s The Meaning of Prayer that talks about helpful prayer only being possible because of the development of character. “[Our] iniquities have separated between [us] and [our] God.” I find myself thinking about Hauerwas when he talks about character: how we live in the ordinary course of our lives determines how we will react, without even thinking about it, when defining choices must be made. (more…)

So, a few nods to 9/11:

First, a sermon (video) by Dean Brian Baker of Trinity Cathedral in Sacramento that you can access here.

Next, a poem/prayer by Maya Angelou on Jim Richardson’s Fiat Lux which you can find here (as well as an earlier sermon, if you are interested, further down in the blog, by the Rev. Dr. Michael Suarez).

There is a sermon on the Sarcastic Lutheran site you can find here.

Finally, a prayer I wrote (but did not use) for the day:

A Prayer on the Tenth Anniversary of 9/11 (more…)

Actually wrote this a couple days ago, just posting today:

I’ve been using Forward Day by Day (www.forwardmovement.org) off and on for years as a supplemental daily meditation to the office.  And June 1, my neighbor (from a very different tradition) gave me a copy of Our Daily Bread (www.rbc.org) – a counterpart in use at her church.  I’ve been using both this month.  Today there was an interesting correspondence between them.  (This is a bit of a surprise, since Day by Day is a commentary based on the lessons in the Episcopal Daily Office Lectionary, and Daily Bread seems to seems (I may be missing something) to be a thematic commentary on a randomly chosen passage of scripture.)

Our Daily Bread uses the first verse of Psalm 57 as its scriptural base.  In theSt.Helena Psalter (which I use) the verse in question reads:

Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful,

for I have taken refuge in you; *

  in the shadow of your wings will I take refuge

  until this time of trouble has gone by.

In the meditation (by Dennis Fisher) what is quoted is “My soul thirsts for you … until these calamities have passed by.”  What he says is that if we have inflexible expectations of how God will work in our lives, we can run into trouble.  And he compares this to how the engineers who built the Trans-Alaska Pipeline used “Teflon sliders” to ease the shock of earthquakes on the pipeline.  In the 2002 earthquake, the ground shifted 18 feet to one side without damage to the pipeline.

He suggests that we move our focus from our problem to God, trusting God to get us through painful and confusing circumstances.

Forward Day by Day uses the tenth verse of Psalm 77 as its scriptural bases.  Again, in the St.Helena Psalter it reads:

And I said, “My grief is this: *

  the right hand of the Most High has lost its power.”

As it notes, this is a rather stunning verse.  Many of us sometimes feel this way.  Few of us are really willing to give voice to such a thought.  But, as the writer (unknown to me) notes, the psalmist not only voices the thought – voicing the thought is a turning point for the psalmist.  In the next verse, the psalmist commits to remembering the works of God (in the past).  And from there the psalmist the next nine verses talk about the power of God.

And the suggestion is that bringing our grief to God can be a comfort.  But the challenge that follows is to set aside grief and trust God’s power – no matter what the situation.

These are different approaches to dealing with troubles in our lives.  At least they are framed differently.  But it seems to me they supplement each other.  There is a kind of correspondence between them.

Another theme I’ve been running with recently, here and elsewhere, is finding our ministry and seeing our faith in the everyday here and now of our daily lives.  The “Almanac for the Soul” also had a quotation that made me think more on this (“Yes, World” by Mary Jean Irion):

Sometimes I wondered if
I had any faith. (more…)