waiting for Jesus – an Advent-season-prayer-a-day, Day 15, the Third Sunday of Advent, December 17, 2017

Note: Advent, from the Latin, adventus, “coming”, is the Christian season of preparation for Jesus’ birth, the heart of the Christmas celebration, and, according to scripture and the Christian creeds, his second appearance on some future, unknown day and also according to scripture and Christian tradition, his daily coming through the Holy Spirit. Hence, the theme of waiting for Jesus is Advent’s clarion call.

O Lord Jesus, I wait this day for the wonder of Your Witness, in the words of Your lips and in the works of Your life, to Your irrepressible, indefatigable, unconditional, unchangeable Love. O Lord Jesus, by Your Spirit, lead me, guide me that I, more and more, day by day, may…will respond to You and Your irresistible Love by resting my weary and, yea, my warring soul in You.(1) Amen.

 

Footnote:
(1) Here, I think of the words of George Matheson (1882):
O Love that wilt not let me go,
I rest my weary soul in thee;
I give thee back the life I owe,
That in thine ocean depths its flow
May richer, fuller be.

waiting for Jesus – an Advent-season-prayer-a-day, Day 11, Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Note: Advent, from the Latin, adventus, “coming”, is the Christian season of preparation for Jesus’ birth, the heart of the Christmas celebration, and, according to scripture and the Christian creeds, his second appearance on some future, unknown day and also according to scripture and Christian tradition, his daily coming through the Holy Spirit. Hence, the theme of waiting for Jesus is Advent’s clarion call.

O Lord Jesus, I wait this day for the wonder of Your Weal. As Your Apostle, in his suffering service in Your Name, exclaimed, “I carry the marks of Jesus branded on my body,”(1) and as Francis,(2) beholding a vision of an angel crucified, was marked with Your stigmata, so, this day, O Lord Jesus, I will to bear on my mind and heart, soul and spirit the signs of Your suffering. By Your Spirit make me more deeply aware of the pain of life of the dispossessed and disenfranchised, the least of Your sisters and brothers for whom Your Love is greatest.(3) By Your same Spirit, move me, in my suffering for them as You suffer for them, to crucify my selfish want and need. Amen.

 

Footnotes:
(1) Galatians 6.17
(2) St. Francis of Assisi (1182-1226)
(3) See Matthew 25.34-40

any questions?

a sermon, based on Matthew 22.34-46, preached with the people of Epiphany Episcopal Church, Laurens, SC, on the 21st Sunday after Pentecost, October 29, 2017

From the moment Jesus entered Jerusalem on that occasion we annually commemorate on Palm Sunday,[1] he has been embroiled in one fight after another with Pharisees, Sadducees,[2] and Herodians,[3] chief priests, elders, and scribes, all, through serious questioning and subterfuge, seeking to discredit him. They have challenged his authority[4] to preach and teach in God’s Name and to act as a prophet, driving the usurious money changers and sellers of animals from the temple.[5] Jesus, in turn, has confounded them with parables that expose their duplicity[6] and, in one stunningly scathing declaration, beginning, “Woe to you,” condemning the unrighteousness of the scribes and Pharisees.[7]

Woe unto You, Scribes and Pharisees (Malheur à vous, scribes et pharisiens) (1886-1894), James Tissot (1836-1902)

Our gospel passage depicts the last gasp challenge of Jesus’ adversaries before being silenced, daring to ask no more questions. A testy lawyer proposes a test, “What is the greatest commandment?” A tough, trick question. By this time, the written code of God’s Law numbered 613 commandments; 365 “thou shalt nots” and 248 “thou shalts.” The lawyer, in effect, dared Jesus to choose wrongly and thus shame himself in the face of the people. Jesus, always standing on a higher plane, summarizes all of the laws; first and foremost, “Love God.” then adding a necessary corollary for all who dwell in time and space, that is, in relationship with others, “Love neighbor.”

A lawyer questions Jesus, James Tissot (1836-1902)

Now, we, who breathe the ether of life in this world, often equate love with our emotions; how we feel. Even more, our degree of loving often is based on the scale – and our often unconscious determinations – of our likes and dislikes. Still more, given our fundamental human self-interest, our recognition of love often is rooted in our awareness of the benefits we derive.

I know or think I know these things based upon years of pastoral ministry listening to others speak of their lives and loves and a longer number of years coming to know myself. To wit, I love Pontheolla because of who I have become through her. I love fine food and wine because they satisfy not only my hunger, but also my palate. I love good writing because it speaks to my intellectual curiosity and stretches my imagination.

Ah, but the love of which Jesus speaks, indeed, the love that Jesus is and demonstrates is never inwardly self-focused, but always outwardly other-focused on God and neighbor. And Jesus’ love does not emanate from emotion, but rather is a work of the will, the power to choose and to choose constantly. For this reason, Jesus’ love calls us, he calls us to love with our hearts, souls, and minds; all that we are, for it takes all that we are to be constant.

Jesus calls us to act benevolently, first toward God who first loves us, then toward all whom God hath created; yes, our families, friends, and acquaintances, those within our associations of birth and choice, those we like and the like-minded with whom we agree and strangers and those we don’t like and with whom we disagree, even those who have harmed us who we might call “enemy.”

So, let’s admit it. Jesus’ love is impossible for us. For how can we, sensate creatures, who know most (all?) of what we know through our physical senses, love God who is intangible Spirit? And how can we love our neighbors as ourselves, as we wish to be loved, for our neighbors, even our nearest and dearest, being other than we, at some point, are bound to do unto us as we would not desire, and so, too, we toward them?

Ah, here is the genius of Jesus in linking these two commandments. Our love of God is made manifest, real, tangible, visible in our love of neighbor, and our love of neighbor whom we can see is to love God whom we cannot see.

Any questions?

 

Illustrations:

Woe unto You, Scribes and Pharisees (Malheur à vous, scribes et pharisiens) (1886-1894), James Tissot (1836-1902)

A lawyer questions Jesus (Un avocat interroge Jésus) (1886-1894), James Tissot

Footnotes:

[1] Matthew 21.1-11

[2] Matthew 22.23-33

[3] Matthew 22.15-22

[4] Matthew 21.23

[5] Matthew 21.12-13

[6] Matthew 21.28-32. the Parable of the Two Sons; Matthew 21.33-45, the Parable of the Vineyard

[7] Matthew 23.1-36

a-Lenten-prayer-a-day, day 11, Monday, March 13, 2017

my-hands-2-27-17Note: As a personal, spiritual discipline, I write a prayer for each of the forty days of Lent; each petition focusing on a theme, truly, relating to a care or concern weighing on my mind and heart, at times, vexing my soul and spirit…

On following Jesus & repentance: O Jesus, as You called Your first disciples, so, throughout the ages, You continue to call, and, daily, hourly, moment by moment, You call unto me: “Follow me.” O Jesus, I relish these words of your summons; receiving them as confirmation that You love me and want me to be with You where You are.[1] Yet I must and do confess that I am not fond of that first word with which You inaugurated Your earthly ministry, that first word, which Your call, “Follow me,” alway follows, therefore, that first word, which You also daily, hourly, moment by moment speak unto me: “Repent.”[2] But You know, as You alway have known, that following You requires repentance, my repentance. For I am rarely innocent prey to my own devices and desires, as if my heart, somehow, imposes its ravening, separate will upon my unwavering God-fearing soul. No, I choose to follow my own path, thus, forsaking Your gracious leading and guiding.[3] O Jesus, then, I pray You, in Your Love and Desire for me, continue to call unto me, “Follow me”, and, aye, alway first saying, “Repent.” Amen.

Footnotes:

[1] My reference to John 14.1-3: (Jesus said) “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling-places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also.”

[2] See Matthew 4.17 (From that time, Jesus began to proclaim, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near”) and Mark 1.14b, 15 (Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news”) (my emphases). Repentance, from the Greek metanoia, meaning “to think again”, is an act of regret for one’s way or path of life leading to a decision to turn around, in theological terms, toward God and away from the dictates of one’s self-will or in the language of the prayer, “the devices and desires of the heart” (from Confession of Sin, Evening Prayer: Rite I, The Book of Common Prayer, page 62).

[3] My reference to Doris Akers’ gospel song, Lead Me, Guide Me, especially the words of the refrain: “Lead me, guide me, along the way, for if You lead me I cannot stray…”