Tuesday, September 04, 2007

04/09/07 Tues in the 15th week after Pentecost


Blessed are those for whom Easter is...
not a hunt, but a find;
not a greeting, but a proclamation;
not outward fashions, but inward grace;
not a day, but an eternity.


Lord of all power and might, the author and giver of all good things: Graft in our hearts the love of your Name; increase in us true religion; nourish us with all goodness; and bring forth in us the fruit of good works; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever. Amen.

Merciful God, you sent your beloved Son to preach peace to those who are far off and to those who are near: Raise up in this and every land witnesses who, after the example of your servant Paul Jones, will stand firm in proclaiming the Gospel of the Prince of Peace, our Savior Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Today's Scripture

AM Psalm 26, 28; PM Psalm 36, 39
1 Kings 8:65-9:9; James 2:14-26; Mark 14:66-72

From Forward Day by Day:

James 2:14-26. For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is also dead.

Church history is the story of competing doctrines. The reformers--following what they thought was the history of the early church--left us a regrettable legacy: a tendency to concentrate on doctrine--what we need to know about "salvation"--instead of just doing what Jesus told us to do.

Martin Luther called James's letter "an epistle of straw." I'm not much for philosophical debates, especially about the conflict between faith and good works. Yet I think even a philosopher understands the difference between being told to "be warm and filled," and actually being warmed and filled by
another's kindness.

Some of today's fastest-growing churches define faith as correct belief, and seem to care little about warming and filling the kind of folks with whom Jesus associated. They cherish a culture that would shock James. He doesn't quibble about whether what such groups have is faith; he just says that it's a dead faith if it doesn't keep its adherents growing into the image of the God they claim to worship. To the urgent question of belief, we need to ask: Faith in what? In whom? If it's in Jesus Christ, what are you doing about it?

Today we remember:

Paul Jones
Psalm 133
Malachi 2:17-3:5; John 8:31-32

Today in the Anglican Cycle of Prayer we pray for the Diocese of Soroti (Uganda)

Speaking to the Soul:

The method of war

Daily Reading for September 4 • Paul Jones, Bishop and Peace Advocate, 1941

In the first place, let me say that I, as a loyal citizen, am whole-heartedly for this country of ours in which all my hopes and ideals and interests are bound up. I believe most sincerely that German brutality and aggression must be stopped, and I am willing, if need be, to give my life and what I possess to bring that about. I want to see the extension of real democracy in the world, and am ready to help that cause to the utmost; and finally, I want to see a sound and lasting peace brought to the world as a close to the terrible convulsion in which the nations are involved.

But the question is that of method. It is not enough to say that the majority have decided on war as the only means of attaining those things and therefore we must all co-operate. I believe that it is not as easy as that, for the problem goes deeper.

If we are to reconcile men to God, to build up the brotherhood of the kingdom, preach love, forbearance and forgiveness, teach the ideals that are worth more than all else, rebuke evil, and stand for the good even unto death, then I do not see how it can be the duty of the church or its representatives to aid or encourage the way of war, which so obviously breaks down brotherhood, replaces love and forbearance by bitterness and wrath, sacrifices ideals to expediency, and takes the way of fear instead of that of faith. I believe that it is always the Church’s duty to hold up before men the way of the cross; the one way our Lord has given us for overcoming the world.

From a statement by Bishop Paul Jones to the House of Bishops, quoted in A Year With American Saints by G. Scott Cady and Christopher L. Webber. Copyright © 2006. Used by permission of Church Publishing Incorporated, New York, NY.
++++++++++ Reflections

Those who are able to shut themselves up within this little heaven of the soul, wherein dwells the Maker of heaven and earth, may be sure that they will come without fail to drink of the water of the fountain.
St Teresa of Jesus
Way 20.5

Reading from the Desert Christians

Abba Lot went to see Abba Joseph and said to him, 'Abba as far as I can I say my little office, I fast a little, I pray and meditate, I live in peace and as far as I can, I purify my thoughts. What else can I do?' then the old man stood up and stretched his hands towards heaven. His fingers became like ten lamps of fire and he said to him, 'If you will, you can become all flame.'

Daily Meditation (Henri Nouwen)

Healing Letters

When you write a very angry letter to a friend who has hurt you deeply, don't send it! Let the letter sit on your table for a few days and read it over a number of times. Then ask yourself: "Will this letter bring life to me and my friend? Will it bring healing, will it bring a blessing?" You don't have to ignore the fact that you are deeply hurt. You don't have to hide from your friend that you feel offended. But you can respond in a way that makes healing and forgiveness possible and opens the door for new life. Rewrite the letter if you think it does not bring life, and send it with a prayer for your friend.

The Merton Reflection for the Week of September 3, 2007

"[Reading Chuang Tzu, I wonder seriously if the wisest answer (on the human level, apart from the answer of faith) is not beyond both ethics and politics. It is a hidden answer; it defies analysis and cannot be embodied in a program. Ethics and politics, of course: but only in passing, only as a "night's lodging." There is a time for action, a time for "commitment," but never for total involvement in the intricacies of a movement. There is a time of innocence and kairos, when action makes a great deal of sense. But who can recognize such moments? Not he who is debauched by a series of programs. And when all action has become absurd, shall one continue to act simply because once, a long time ago, it made a great deal of sense? As if one were always getting somewhere? There is a time to listen, in the active life as everything else, and the better part of action is waiting, not knowing what is next, and not having a glib answer."

Thomas Merton. Conjectures of A Guilty Bystander. New York: Doubleday, 1966: 173.

Thought to Remember

"A postulant who has come to the end of his rope and wants to leave, but who has been dissuaded (not by me), stands in the novitiate library leafing through a book called Relax and Live. Sooner or later it comes to that."

Conjectures of A Guilty Bystander: 173

From the Principles of the Third Society of St. Francis:

Day Four - The Object, cont'd

When Saint Francis encouraged the formation of the Third Order he recognized that many are called to serve God in the spirit of Poverty, Chastity, and Obedience in everyday life (rather than in a literal acceptance of these principles as in the vows of the Brothers and Sisters of the First and Second Orders). The Rule of the Third Order is intended to enable the duties and conditions of daily living to be carried out in this spirit.

Upper Room Daily Reflection

Gateway to Our Hearts
September 4th, 2007
Tuesday’s Reflection

HOLY is imagination,
the gateway of Reality
into our hearts.

- Thomas Kelly
The Sanctuary of the Soul

From pages 32-33 of The Sanctuary of the Soul: Selected Writings of Thomas Kelly edited by Keith Beasley-Topliffe. Copyright © 1997 by Upper Room Books. All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.

Richard Rohr's Daily Reflection

"Love Unfolds in Solidarity"

We had a refugee in our community once, Fernando from El Salvador, and many of us heard his story. It's just unbelievable that any human being could endure the suffering and torture that he has experienced from his own government, which we support with U.S. funds.

There is a possibility that, down the line, he could be sent back home. Members of the community have said to me that if they felt the government was going to try to take him back to almost certain death, they know they would have to stand in solidarity with him, even against U.S. law. They said they would gather down in the worship space and stand around him: "If they are going to take him, they will have to take us, too!" They know the bond, understanding, friendship that they have with him. There would be no human alternative.

There is no big ideology in that. There is no leftist or rightist politics. It's finally just compassion and solidarity with friends and victims, and a willingness to pay the price for that friendship. Maybe we just need to build relationships beyond racial and class lines. Justice would soon follow.

from A Mans Approach to God

From John E. Rotelle, O.S.A., Tradition Day by Day: Readings from Church Writers. Augustinian Press. Villanova, PA, 1994.

No backward glances

Although only God has power to forgive sins and cancel transgressions, the Lord commands us also to forgive our repentant brothers and sisters every day. So if we who are evil know how to give good gifts, how much more generous must be the Father of mercies, the good Father of all consolation, who is full of compassion and mercy, and whose nature it is to be patient and await our conversion! Genuine conversion, however, means ceasing to sin without any backward glances.

God pardons what is past, then, but for the future we are each responsible for ourselves. By repenting we condemn our past misdeeds and beg forgiveness of the Father, the only one who can in his mercy undo what has been done, and wipe away our past sins with the dew of his Spirit. And so, if you are a thief and desire to be forgiven, steal no more. If you are a robber, return your gains with interest. If you have been a false witness, practice speaking the truth. If you are a perjurer, stop taking oaths. You must also curb all the other evil passions: anger, lust, grief, and fear. No doubt you will be unable all at once to root out passions habitually given way to, but this can be achieved by God's power, human prayers, the help of your brothers and sisters, sincere repentance, and constant practice.

Clement of Alexandria

Daily Readings From "My Utmost for His Highest", Oswald Chambers


"Thine they were, and Thou gavest them Me." John 17:6

The missionary is one in whom the Holy Ghost has wrought this realization - "Ye are not your own." To say, "I am not my own" is to have reached a great point in spiritual nobility. The true nature of the life in the actual whirl is the deliberate giving up of myself to another in sovereign preference, and that other is Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit expounds the nature of Jesus to me in order to make me one with my Lord, not that I might go off as a showroom exhibit. Our Lord never sent any of the disciples out on the ground of what He had done for them. It was not until after the Resurrection, when the disciples had perceived by the power of the Holy Spirit Whom He was, that Jesus said "Go."

"If any man come to me and hate not . . . , he cannot be My disciple," not, he cannot be good and upright, but, he cannot be one over whom Jesus writes the word "Mine." Any one of the relationships Our Lord mentions may be a competitive relationship. I may prefer to belong to my mother, or to my wife, or to myself; then, says Jesus, you cannot be My disciple. This does not mean I will not be saved, but it does mean that I cannot be "His."

Our Lord makes a disciple His own possession, He becomes responsible for him. "Ye shall be witnesses unto Me." The spirit that comes in is not that of doing anything for Jesus, but of being a perfect delight to Him. The secret of the missionary is - I am His, and He is carrying out His enterprises through me.

Be entirely His

G. K. Chesterton Day by Day


THERE is a notion adrift everywhere that imagination, especially mystical imagination, is dangerous to man's mental balance. Poets are commonly spoken of as psychologically unreliable; and generally there is a vague association between wreathing laurels in your hair and sticking straws in it. Facts and history utterly contradict this view. Most of the very great poets have been not only sane, but extremely business-like; and if Shakespeare ever really held horses, it was because he was much the safest man to hold them. Imagination does not breed insanity. Exactly what does breed insanity is reason. Poets do not go mad, but chess-players do. Mathematicians go mad, and cashiers, but creative artists very seldom.


Today's reading from the Rule of St. Benedict

Discussion Group on the Rule:


Having our loins girded, therefore,
with faith and the performance of good works (Eph. 6:14),
let us walk in His paths
by the guidance of the Gospel,
that we may deserve to see Him
who has called us to His kingdom (1 Thess. 2:12).

For if we wish to dwell in the tent of that kingdom,
we must run to it by good deeds
or we shall never reach it.

But let us ask the Lord, with the Prophet,
"Lord, who shall dwell in Your tent,
or who shall rest upon Your holy mountain" (Ps. 14:1)?

After this question,
let us listen to the Lord
as He answers and shows us the way to that tent, saying,
"The one Who walks without stain and practices justice;
who speaks truth from his heart;
who has not used his tongue for deceit;
who has done no evil to his neighbor;
who has given no place to slander against his neighbor."

This is the one who,
under any temptation from the malicious devil,
has brought him to naught (Ps. 14:4)
by casting him and his temptation from the sight of his heart;
and who has laid hold of his thoughts
while they were still young
and dashed them against Christ (Ps. 136:9).

It is they who,
fearing the Lord (Ps. 14:4),
do not pride themselves on their good observance;
convinced that the good which is in them
cannot come from themselves and must be from the Lord,
glorify the Lord's work in them (Ps. 14:4),
using the words of the Prophet,
"Not to us, O Lord, not to us,
but to Your name give the glory" (Ps. 113, 2nd part:1).
Thus also the Apostle Paul
attributed nothing of the success of his preaching to himself,
but said,
"By the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10).
And again he says,
"He who glories, let him glory in the Lord" (2 Cor. 10:17).


Two themes emerge very strongly here. In case the meaning of the earlier paragraphs has escaped us, Benedict repeats them. Justice, honesty and compassion are the marks of those who dwell with God in life, he insists. Then, he reminds us again that we are not able to achieve God's grace without God's help. If we do good for the poor, it is because God has given us the courage to do good. If we speak truth in the face of lies, it is because God has given us a taste for the truth. If we uphold the rights of women and men alike, it is because God has given us eyes to see the wonders of all creation. We are not a power unto ourselves.

The two ideas may seem innocent enough today but at the time at which Benedict wrote them they would both have had great social impact.

In the first place, physical asceticism had become the mark of the truly holy. The Fathers and Mothers of the Desert, the dominant form of religious life prior to the emergence of communal monasticism, had been known and revered for the frugality, discipline and asceticism of their lives. They lived in the desert as solitaries. They ate little. They prayed night and day. They deprived their bodies to enrich their souls. They struggled against the temptations of the flesh and fled the world. Theirs was a privatized version of religious development not unlike those theologies that still thrive on measuring personal penances and using religion as personal massage rather than on making the world look the way God would want it to look. Benedict, then, introduces very early in the Rule the notion of responsibility for the human community as the benchmark of those who "dwell in God's tent," know God on earth, live on a higher plane than the mass of humanity around them. The really holy, the ones who touch God, Benedict maintains, are those who live well with those around them. They are just, they are upright, they are kind. The ecology of humankind is safe with them.

In the second place, Benedict puts to rest the position of the wandering monk Pelagius who taught in the fifth century that human beings were inherently good and capable of achieving God's great presence on the strength of their own merits. Benedict wants "good deeds" but he does not want pride. We do what we do in life, even holy things, the Prologue teaches, not because we are so good but because God is so good and enables us to rise above the misery of ourselves. Even the spiritual life can become an arrogant trap if we do not realize that the spiritual life is not a game that is won by the development of spiritual skills. The spiritual life is simply the God-life already at work in us.

An obligation to human community and a dependence on God, then, become the cornerstones of Benedictine life.

Dynamis is a daily Bible meditation based upon the lectionary of the Holy Orthodox Church.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007
Hieromartyr Babylas of Antioch
Kellia: Joshua 8:14-29 Epistle: Galatians
2:21-3:7 Gospel: St. Mark 6:1-7

Humiliation and Humility: Joshua 8:14-29 LXX, especially vs. 18: "And
the Lord said to Joshua, Stretch forth thy hand with the spear that is
in thy hand toward the city, for I have delivered it into thy hands, and
the liers in wait shall rise up quickly out of their place." Usually it
is not a bright prospect to return to a problem, a place, or a
circumstance where one has tasted bitter defeat as Israel did at Ai.
Nevertheless, going back may result in spiritual gain if one is open to
learning from failure. The truth is that returning to a lost
opportunity may yield spiritual victory; but humility must be learned
along the way. St. Nikolai of Zica observes that "The first exercise
for a recruit in Christ's army is practice in obedience and humility."
Israel's first foray against Ai was a severe humiliation. The death of
thirty-six good fighting men and the flight of an able military force
before the enemy was the price God's People paid for arrogantly acting
apart from the commanding leadership of God. In going back to Ai, God
gave Israel an opportunity to grow beyond humiliation into true
humility. Every disciple of the Lord needs to realize that growth in
the virtue of humility means ridding oneself of its negative opposite of
pride. Thus does one acquire all of the God-pleasing virtues.

Humiliation and humility are not the same thing, although they are based
on the same semantic root - humus, earth. The defeat at Ai provides
examples of the difference. The thirty six who fell before the pagan
defenders of Ai became a painful humiliation for Israel, a bringing down
to the earth, for God's People. Up to that time the People had been
victorious. Recall Israel's joyous psalmody that sings of her earlier
victories, praising the Lord, for the "horse and rider...He hurled into
the sea" (Ex. 15:1) and thanking "Him that smote great kings" (Ps.
135:17). Immediately before Ai, Israel knew the miraculous collapse of
the walls of Jericho, the taking of that fortress, and the offering of
it as a holocaust. Then came defeat and humiliation.

Undoubtedly, one may trace back to pride as the sinful element, the
passion, that led to the People's defeat on the heels of the Jericho
victory. The clue that pride was their undoing can be seen in the
thoughtlessness of approaching an enemy without seeking the Lord's
will. Even the soul of Joshua the Prophet was puffed up by the tide of
victories. He sent spies to Ai without ever seeking the Lord's will and
wisdom (Josh. 7:2), and, worse, he deployed a contingent of three
thousand men on the opinion of his spies, who, after all, were mere
men. Humiliation followed swiftly, "the heart of the people was alarmed
and became as water" (Josh. 7:5).

That Joshua and Israel then humbled themselves is evident in their
response to the defeat at Ai. He and the elders of the People "fell on
the earth...before the Lord until evening...and they cast dust on their
heads" (Josh. 7:6) Earth, in this instance, served as a sign that God's
People owned the sin of pride in their hearts and had returned in
life-giving humility to the Lord.

Today's reading shows the strength of humility, for having sought,
received, and followed the Lord's plan, and having made good their
obedience in humility, they were able to execute a tactical ruse and
defeat their enemies (Josh. 8:14-25). Then, to encourage them to
continue growing in humility, the Lord gave them "all things which the
children of Israel took as spoil for themselves according to the command
of the Lord, as the Lord commanded Joshua" (vs. 8:27).

Hear St. John of the Ladder: "The beginning of the mortification of
both the soul's desire and of the bodily members is much hard
work....Only when [the disciple] sees himself doing his own will does
this blessed living corpse feel sorry and sick at heart...of using his
own judgment."

O Thou Who resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble, enable
us to humble ourselves under Thy mighty hand, to be clothed with
humility, casting all our care upon Thee.



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