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Reflections

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7/14/2024
Proper 10

Collect: O Lord, mercifully receive the prayers of your people who call upon you, and grant that they may know and understand what things they ought to do, and also may have grace and power faithfully to accomplish them, through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

 

Scripture (Ephesians 1:3): Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places. 

Reflection: To be “in Christ” can mean a lot of things. To me it means being in community with others, caring for those who struggle, and meeting God in prayer. For a number of years, I led an open mic at our church, called “Sanctuary Open Mic.” The music we made weren’t the kinds of songs that you normally hear in church, but to us it felt like we were in one of those “heavenly places.” After one of these open mic nights, I closed up the church and, walking out to the parking lot, heard yelling and intense cursing. As I came around the corner I saw a woman in the parking lot looking up at the cross on the roof of the church, shaking her fist, and screaming at God in the dark. When she saw me coming, she took off walking the other direction. I left wondering about her and the kind of pain and anger and loss she must have been experiencing. Where were the heavenly places for her? Where were her spiritual blessings? And finally, how would I answer her if she demanded to know how God could allow her to be experiencing such suffering? 

 

I have no idea how to answer all of these questions. But I do believe in a God of love who meets us not only in our times of rejoicing and praise but also somehow blesses us in our brokenness and poverty and humiliation, when we are in the middle of our suffering and crying out like Jesus did on the cross, “my God, my God, why have you forsaken me?!” 

 

Our duty as Christians to comfort the suffering and feed his sheep is also an invitation for us to find Christ. But how do we find Christ when we often don’t even know our own selves? 

 

In our culture we have this incredible idea that we can go on a journey and find ourselves. There is also another notion that “Life isn’t about finding ourselves or finding anything. Life is about creating ourselves and creating things.” But Why can’t it be both? There is a version of you who you need to find in this life, who you will absolutely recognize when you do. That version of you is somehow hidden with Christ in God. When you find yourself in Christ, you are invited to create that amazing self with God and others who are also walking along the way of love. 

 

God is beyond our capability of understanding, but we can know God. We can know without knowing, and we can do this through a journey of prayer with one another and in private. The catechism of our church says, “Prayer is responding to God, by thought and by deeds, with or without words.” This says a lot for me. It starts by assuming that we are already experiencing God acting in our lives and that prayer is how we respond. That we can do it in all kinds of ways, by worshiping here together, singing weird songs at an open mic, or shouting our anger at God under a streetlight. And sometimes we might find that the best response to God is to have no words at all. 

7/7/2024
Proper 9

Collect: O God, you have taught us to keep all your commandments by loving you and our neighbor: Grant us the grace of your Holy Spirit, that we may be devoted to you with our whole heart, and united to one another with pure affection; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.

 

Scripture (2 Corinthians 12:8-9): Three times I appealed to the Lord about this, that it would leave me, but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.

 

Reflection: All of us love to feel in control and powerful. It’s a natural human instinct. We go far out of our way to avoid the times and places where we feel weak and confused. But God often has other ideas. If we are able to step out of a sphere of which we are the center and dare to look at the bigger picture, it is a fascinating and complicated one indeed. It is a vast web of interdependency in which, under God’s grace and guidance, we are always called to minister to one another in an ever-shifting variety of ways. And sometimes we accomplish this best from places of weakness and confusion. From such places we can provoke one another and, in addition to ministering to others in their need, we can offer them the opportunity to minister to us. It can be a hard pill to swallow, but St. Paul had it right. Power is usually not made perfect in the moments we experience ourselves as large and in charge. Power is made perfect in weakness.

6/30/2024
Proper 8

Collect: Almighty God, you have built your Church upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone: Grant us so to be joined together in unity of spirit by their teaching, that we may be made a holy temple acceptable to you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.

Scripture (Mark 5:29): Immediately her hemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease.

Reflection: We all need healing. There is not a person on the planet not in need of various kinds of healing of body, mind, and soul. The exact sort may differ from person to person, but the basic need is universal. And healing can be a confusing and maddening enterprise. There are an almost infinite number of voices giving us different diagnoses and different prognoses in terms of what ails us and how it can be fixed. This is what makes today’s story from the Gospel of Mark so extraordinary. The woman at the center of it had, according to the text, spent everything she had on many physicians and only grown worse in her disease. But when she touched Jesus, that all disappeared in the twinkle of an eye. She no longer needed a clear diagnosis from any other person, nor did she need confirmation that she was healed. She felt in her body with utter clarity that what had plagued her for so many years was gone. The question this raises for us is can we share in her faith? Can we trust that when we are utterly confused and hopeless, at the end of our ropes with all the supposedly healing voices around us that never seem to really get to the root of the issue, we still have a divine Healer? The healing will almost certainly not unfold according to our vision and timeline, but when it does it will have as its hallmark utter certainty and completeness. Can we grab hold of such a faith?

6/23/2024
Proper 7

Collect: O Lord, make us have perpetual love and reverence for your holy Name, for you never fail to help and govern those whom you have set upon the sure foundation of your loving-kindness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.

 

Scripture (2 Corinthians 6:1-2): As we work together with him, we urge you also not to accept the grace of God in vain. For he says, ‘At an acceptable time I have listened to you, and on a day of salvation I have helped you.’  See, now is the acceptable time; see, now is the day of salvation!

Reflection: The concluding blessing in our service of Holy Eucharist always refers to “the peace of God which surpasses all understanding.”  This is both good and challenging news.  The good news is that it is a peace which nothing, truly nothing, can steal away from us. The challenging news is that it often doesn’t look like peace at all by any of the metrics we’re used to using.  It’s a peace that guards us not only when outer circumstances are anything but peaceful but even when our inner lives are in turmoil.  It’s a peace that doesn’t depend upon our minds being settled.  And it resides in a place buried so deeply in us that even we don’t have access to it; God alone does.  This is why St. Paul can write so confidently to a church where we can be sure that both individuals and community were often in turmoil that now is the acceptable time, and now is the day of salvation.  This peace of God is available to us here and now, even when everything without and within seems unsettled.  All that is required of us is surrender.  God will not infuse us with this peace without our permission to enter that deep place in us where even we don’t know where to find it.  But a simple prayer of assent does the trick.

6/16/2024
Proper 6

Collect: Keep, O Lord, your household the Church in your steadfast faith and love, that through your grace we may proclaim your truth with boldness, and minister your justice with compassion; for the sake of our Savior Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

 

Scripture (Mark 4:30-32): He also said, ‘With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.’

Reflection: In the previous week we had our annual day camp/vacation Bible school at St. Bart’s.  So much of this looks from the outside like pure silliness.  There are water balloon fights, nerf gun battles, campers try to creep their way through human-made “spiderwebs,” and so on.  One might ask what any of this has to do with God and Jesus.  The answer is everything.  It is actually quite rarely the dramatic and spectacular things that touch someone’s heart and bring them closer to God.  More often than not it is something so simple and so small that it goes unnoticed by anyone but the person who was touched.  A line from a song sung at camp, a smile offered to a camper having a rough morning, or a simple word of encouragement might be all it takes to engender a life of rich faith in a young person.  These things are the mustard seeds of which Jesus speaks in today’s Gospel.  Our only job is to scatter them as generously as we know how and then watch as God gives the growth.

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