Wednesday, September 05, 2007

05/09/07 Wed in the 14th 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.

Today's Scripture

AM Psalm 38; PM Psalm 119:25-48
1 Kings 9:24-10:13; James 3:1-12; Mark 15:1-11

From Forward Day by Day:

James 3:1-12 The tongue is a fire...a world of iniquity...a restless evil, full of deadly poison.

I sometimes wonder if the churchfolk who seem obsessed with sexual behavior are reading the same Bible I am. If I said that someone was "living in sin," I know what parts of the body you'd think I was talking about. Yet if it were James or other New Testament authors talking, they would probably be referring to the tongue.

For every reference in the New Testament to sins involving sex, there must be ten concerning speech. Why? Because while sex is certainly one form of communication, speech is a more potent one in the daily life of a congregation. Words have power. God creates the world and keeps in touch with it, after all,
by his Word; and words are how we keep in touch with each other. But the word that can create can also destroy--a reputation, an institution, a life. Words
tell us who and how we are and whether we belong; words bind the community together-or tear it apart. Sexual misconduct is bad--and easy to recognize as bad. The sniping, backbiting, spite, and deceit that go on in some communities are often hard to see, let alone root out. Yet their effect is more corrosive over the long term. How did our priorities get so mixed up?

Today in the Anglican Cycle of Prayer we pray for the Diocese of South Carolina (United States)

Speaking to the Soul:

The weapon of prayer

Daily Reading for September 5

Prayer is, I believe the best test of the whole matter. If it is right and our honest duty to fight the war [World War I] to a finish, then we should use the Church’s great weapon of prayer to that end; but the most ardent Christian supporter of the war, though he may use general terms, revolts against praying that our every bullet may find its mark, or that our embargoes may bring starvation to every German home. We know that those things would bring the war to a speedy, triumphant close, but the Church cannot pray that way. And a purpose that you cannot pray for is a poor one for Christians to be engaged in.

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

We have now, by God’s help, like good gardeners, to make these plants grow and to water them carefully so that they may produce flowers which shall send forth great fragrance to give refreshment to this Lord of ours.
St Teresa of Jesus
Life 11.6

Reading from the Desert Christians

(Abba James) said, 'Just as a lamp lights up a dark room, so the fear of God when it penetrates the heart of a man illuminates him, teaching him all the virtues and commandments of God.'

He also said, 'We do not need words only, for, at the present time, there are many words among men, but we need works, for this is what is required, not words which do not bear fruit.'

Daily Meditation (Henri Nouwen)

Mastering Evil with Good

The apostle Paul writes to the Romans: "Bless your persecutors; never curse them, bless them. ... Never pay back evil with evil. ... Never try to get revenge. ... If your enemy is hungry, give him something to eat; if thirsty, something to drink. ... Do not be mastered by evil, but master evil with good" (Romans 12:14-21). These words cut to the heart of the spiritual life. They make it clear what it means to choose life, not death, to choose blessings not curses. But what is asked of us here goes against the grain of our human nature. We will only be able to act according to Paul's words by knowing with our whole beings that what we are asked to do for others is what God has done for us.

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

Day Five - The First Aim of the Order

To make our Lord known and loved everywhere.

The Order is founded on the conviction that Jesus Christ is the perfect revelation of God; that true life has been made available to us through his Incarnation and Ministry, by his Cross and Resurrection, and by the sending of his Holy Spirit. The Order believes that it is the commission of the church to make the gospel known to all, and therefore accepts the duty of bringing others to know Christ, and of praying and working for the coming of the of the Kingdom of God.

Upper Room Daily Reflection

Do Something
September 5th, 2007
Wednesday’s Reflection

YOU CAN DO SOMETHING. You can get on a path of wisdom and walk it. … “Build your house on a rock,” as Jesus urges us. … You may ask what good all that will do in the face of a task as massive as repairing creation? … I cannot offer an answer that proves the human venture on this planet will be successful in the long run. Neither did Jesus. But he encouraged his disciples not to lose heart, to trust that God’s desire for the world will triumph in the end.

- Robert Corin Morris
Provocative Grace: The Challenge in Jesus’ Words

From page 129 of Provocative Grace: The Challenge in Jesus’ Words by Robert Corin Morris. Copyright © 1997 by the author. Published by Upper Room Books. All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.

Richard Rohr's Daily Reflection

"What God Has to Work With"

The Lord cares, despite all of our silliness. We are the kind of being God loves. God's love doesn't depend on our doing nice or right things. Yet it's an illusion to think that any of us would operate totally beyond self-interest. Realistically, every action of our life is filled with self. That's human nature, and it's probably OK as long as were honest about it.

For example, I have become tired of giving talks. As it does for everyone, my gift has become my curse. But at the same time I'd be lying if I didn't say that I gain some kind of ego satisfaction: I stand in front of crowds, and it makes me feel good. That's OK as long as I recognize my mixed motives and self-interest. That's the only way God gets anyone to do anything! It's legitimate and probably necessary self-interest.

What concerns me is when we say we're doing it all for Jesus, or purely for love, or for our spouse or children, or for the Church. That's usually a delusion. We're doing it in part for ourselves, and God, in great love and humility. That's what I work with. That's all I work with! It's the mustard seed with which God does great things. Thank God!

True recognition of our basic egotism is a humbling experience, but a liberating one too.

from On Letting Go: A Spirituality of Subtraction

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

Gathering the harvest

It was to save the apostles from anxiety that the Lord called the gospel a harvest. It was almost as if he said: Everything is ready, all is prepared. I am sending you to harvest the ripe grain. You will be able to sow and reap on the same day. You must be like the farmer who rejoices when he goes out to gather in his crops. He looks happy and is glad of heart. His hard work and many difficulties forgotten, he hurries out eagerly to reap their reward, hastening to collect his annual returns. Nothing stands in the way, there is no obstacle anywhere, nor any uncertainty regarding the future. There will be no heavy rain, no hail or drought, no devastating legions of locusts. And since the farmer at harvest time fears no such disasters, the reapers set to work dancing and leaping for joy.

You must be like them when you go out into the world — indeed your joy must be very much greater. You also are to gather in a harvest — a harvest easily reaped, a harvest already there waiting for you. You have only to speak, not to labor. Lend me your tongue, and you will see the ripe grain gathered into the royal granary. And with this he sent them out, saying: Remember that I am with you always, until the end of the world.

John Chrysostom

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


"Watch with Me." Matthew 26:40

"Watch with Me" - with no private point of view of your own at all, but watch entirely with Me. In the early stages we do not watch with Jesus, we watch for Him. We do not watch with Him through the revelation of the Bible; in the circumstances of our lives. Our Lord is trying to introduce us to identification with Himself in a particular Gethsemane, and we will not go; we say - "No, Lord, I cannot see the meaning of this, it is bitter." How can we possibly watch with Someone Who is inscrutable? How are we going to understand Jesus sufficiently to watch with Him in His Gethsemane, when we do not know even what His suffering is for? We do not know how to watch with Him; we are only used to the idea of Jesus watching with us.

The disciples loved Jesus Christ to the limit of their natural capacity, but they did not understand what He was after. In the Garden of Gethsemane they slept for their own sorrow, and at the end of three years of the closest intimacy they "all forsook Him and fled."

"They were all filled with the Holy Ghost" - the same "they," but something wonderful has happened in between - Our Lord's Death and Resurrection and Ascension; and the disciples have been invaded by the Holy Spirit. Our Lord had said - "Ye shall receive power after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you," and this meant that they learned to watch with Him all the rest of their lives.

G. K. Chesterton Day by Day

OUR modern mystics make a mistake when they wear long hair or loose ties to attract the spirits. The elves and the old gods when they revisit the earth really go straight for a dull top-hat. For it means simplicity, which the gods love.

'Charles Dickens.'

Today's reading from the Rule of St. Benedict

Prologue cont'd

Jan. 5 - May 6 - Sept. 5

Hence the Lord says in the Gospel,
"Whoever listens to these words of Mine and acts upon them,
I will liken to a wise person
who built a house on rock.
The floods came,
the winds blew and beat against that house,
and it did not fall,
because it had been founded on rock" (Matt. 7:24-25).

Having given us these assurances,
the Lord is waiting every day
for us to respond by our deeds to His holy admonitions.
And the days of this life are lengthened
and a truce granted us for this very reason,
that we may amend our evil ways.
As the Apostle says,
"Do you not know that God's patience is inviting you to repent" (Rom. 2:4)?
For the merciful Lord tells us,
"I desire not the death of the sinner,
but that the sinner should be converted and live" (Ezech. 33:11).

Some thoughts:

So far, the tone of the Prologue has been invitatory. Benedict's role is that opf messenger as the invitation comes cones from God. Can you hear how eagerly God waits for us?

Yes, we are expected to amend our evil ways, but this section tells me that God will supply what I lack, all I have to do is follow His lead.

Another thing about invitations: they presuppose and RSVP. It's only polite after all, a courtesy to acknowledge and invitation and to respond to it. So, what next? What will we do now? How important is all this Good stuff to us? How much are we willing to give to God?


Clearly, for Benedict, God is not something to be achieved; God is a presence to be responded to but to whom without that presence, we cannot respond. God isn't something for which spiritual athletes compete or someone that secret spiritual formulas expose. God is the breath we breathe. It is thanks to God that we have any idea of God at all. God is not a mathematical formula that we discover by dint of our superior intelligence or our moral valor. God is the reason that we can reach God. It is to this ever-present Presence that the Rule of Benedict directs us. It is to God already in our lives that Benedict turns our minds. The Hasidim tell the story of the preacher who preached over and over, "Put God into your life; put God into your life." But the holy rabbi of the village said, "Our task is not to put God into our lives. God is already there. Our task is simply to realize that."

The words of the Rule are as fresh on this point as the day they were written. The fact is that we still compartmentalize God. We tell ourselves that we are working on reaching the spiritual life by saying prayers and doing penances and making pilgrimages and giving things up. And we keep score: so many daily masses, so many rosaries, so many fast days, so many spiritual books read, so many conferences attended equal so many steps toward the acquisition of God. The Rule of Benedict sets us straight. God is with us, for the taking, but not for any spiritual payment, only for realizing what we already have.

God is neither cajoled nor captured, the Rule makes plain. God is in the Here and Now in Benedictine spirituality. It is we who are not. It is we who are trapped in the past, angry at what formed us, or fixated on a future that is free from pain or totally under our control. But God is in our present, waiting for us there.

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

Wed., September 5, 2007 Zacharias the Prophet & Elizabeth, Parents
of the Forerunner
Kellia: Joshua 24:1-29 Epistle: Galatians
3:15-22 Gospel: St. Mark 6:7-13

Choosing to Covenant: Joshua 24:1-29 LXX, especially vs.15: "But if it
seem not good to you to serve the Lord, choose to yourselves this day
whom ye will serve, whether the gods of your fathers that were on the
other side of the river, or...the Lord, for He is holy." How closely
ancient Israel's covenant with God parallels the covenant each person
makes with the Lord in Baptism, Chrismation and Communion - the
Christian Mystery! At Shechem the whole of Israel acted as a
community. In the Baptismal Mystery one person covenants with Christ.
Of course, the person who receives the Christian Mystery is joined to
the community of the New Israel, to the whole Church. The point here is
that Israel's covenanting illumines the Christian Mystery.

Joshua gathered Israel and "set them before God" (vs. 1). The Priest
"sets" a candidate before God at Baptism when he asks the Lord to
"enable him to know that Thou art the only true God...unite him to the
flock of Thine inheritance... regard him with mercy" and much more.
In recounting how God brought Israel out of idolatry "beyond the river"
(vs. 2); "guided" them to their own "land" (vs. 3); brought them out of
slavery in Egypt (vss.4-7); "delivered, blessed, and, rescued" them from
death-dealing enemies (vss. 8-12); and finally gave them the "land" (vs.
13), Joshua revealed that it was God Who led them to this destiny. In
exorcism, the Priest asks God to repeat the same type of saving acts -
to "root out" the Devil's operation, "crush down Satan,
give...victory...over foul spirits," and make the candidate worthy.

After exorcism, the Church, like Joshua, requires choosing personally to
"remove the strange gods...and serve the Lord" (vss. 14-18). Thus, one
being Baptized must "renounce Satan, and all his angels, and all his
works, and all his service, and all his pride" and "unite [himself] unto
Christ." Israel's decision and a Christian decision place one under
obligation to God.

Father Schmemann teaches that uniting to Christ is "more than some sort
of psychological 'unity.' It is a profession of personal attachment to enrollment in the ranks of those who serve oath
similar to the one taken by soldiers." Further, for Israel and for
Christians, to covenant with the holy God risks the dangers of not being
"able to serve the Lord" (vs. 19), of losing His forgiveness, and of
having Him "afflict" and "consume" (vs. 20). As the Creed implies and
as Father Schmemann says, "each one is responsible for the whole
faith." Thus, the prayers at the Font beg God that each one may "prove
himself a child of the Light," because God "is wonderful and glorious
and terrible unto adversaries."

At Shechem "Joshua made a covenant with the people...and gave them a
law" (vs. 25). Similarly, each servant of God at Baptism is anointed
"unto the hearing of faith...that he may walk in the way of [God's]
commandments. Likewise each one "is Baptized in the Name of the Father,
and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit," God's Name signifying the
Lord's claim, authority, power, and rule over each Christian and his
words, actions, and all he does thereafter.

Holy Chrismation, which follows Holy Baptism, seals all of the Faithful
personally with "the gift of the Holy Spirit" so that by God's grace
each of us may be a "warrior invincible," among Christ's "victors...unto
the end," remaining "justified...illumined...sanctified" in God's name.
The Church through her Priest, by Baptism, the anointing with Chrism,
and Holy Communion fulfills the earlier pledge Joshua gave to ancient
Israel by setting "a great stone" among them (vs. 26). The Christian
Mystery testifies that God has spoken to each of us and shall be "a
witness in the last days," if we should "deal falsely with the Lord
[our] God" (vs. 27).

Help us; save us; have mercy on us; and keep us, O God, by Thy grace
that we may always commend ourselves and each other, and all our life
unto Christ our God."



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