Trinity Episcopal Church
3401 Bellaire Dr. So. • Fort Worth, Texas 76109 • 817-926-4631
The daily lessons are linked to an online Bible site. Simply click on each lesson to view the text, then read the accompanying devotional, written by a member of Trinity Episcopal Church.
Passage(s) addressed: Matthew
When I was 7-years-old my father accepted a call to a Lutheran church in Columbus, Ohio. I remember our first Sunday at that church clearly because, as the pastor's young daughter, I was taken around and introduced to the many children of the congregation. I was very much the center of attention. For the following five years I was treated like a princess. Our family was involved in everything at that church. I basked in lots of attention. Then at age 13 my dad resigned from that church to pursue more education. We decided, as a family, what church to attend. Our first Sunday at the next church was shockingly uneventful. We knew some people there and there were newcomer committee members that spoke with us. That was it. No hoopla. No cake. No praise from people.
It is so easy to think that going to church every Sunday, serving on committees, being obvious participants in church make us worthy of salvation. It's also exhausting. This gospel lesson gets right to that point. Jesus is asking us who's praise matters most? Do we serve to impress other people? Or are we focused on our Lord? Our salvation is contingent 100% on the will of God. We cannot make ourselves worthy—ever.
Oh but there's more! We do need to attend worship, we need to serve our church, pray, fast. Why, if not to gain glory for ourselves? Because He offers us the blessing of JOY. The JOY of relationship with Him. How many marriages would last with no conversation and no service to one another? How many of us are satisfied by friendships that include no talking or time together? God offers you more than salvation. He offers you joy in all circumstances, if you remember to always keep a proper prospective:
Praise from our peers feels good until it's over. Pursuit of it is exhausting and carries an inherent risk of humiliation. Joy is a blessing in this world and an enduring treasure in heaven.
The daily lessons are linked to an online Bible site. Simply click on each lesson to view the text, then read the accompanying devotional, written by a member of Trinity Episcopal Church.
Passage(s) addressed: Psalm, Deuteronomy, Titus
"Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him."
As we begin our Lenten journey together, we are blessed at Trinity to have this opportunity to meditate on words written by our fellow parishioners and clergy. Often in Lent we give up something or take on a spiritual discipline. How can we be nourished this Lent? Lent is a good time to examine the need for healing in our own lives. From the collect for Ash Wednesday, "Create and make in us new and contrite hearts." Our psalm for today invites us into silence. The beginning or ending of a day can be a time of prayer filled meditation. In verse six are the words, "He will make your righteousness as clear as the light and your just dealing as the noonday."
I would like to invite you to join me daily at noon during Lent, wherever you are, to take a deep breath and breathe in the Healing Presence of God in your life. It is encouraging to know that friends are praying with me at other times during the week. We also have a short noonday service in our prayer book on page 103.
Jesus spent "His Lent" in the wilderness. We live in a secular wilderness. There are so many distractions in our daily life. We cannot have a relationship with someone unless we listen. Even our prayers and words can get in the way of The Way.
In Deuteronomy are the words, "The Lord your God has chosen you." In Paul's salutation to Titus, he writes, "my loyal child in the faith we share." This phrase reminds me of my Trinity family and the variety of gifts we share in the One Spirit.
You might think of Lent as a pilgrimage, an opportunity to explore an old path called 40 days of Lent from a different perspective.
"For with you is the well of life, and in your light we see light." Psalm 36:9
Emily Tipton Williams
The daily lessons are linked to an online Bible site. Simply click on each lesson to view the text, then read the accompanying devotional, written by a member of Trinity Episcopal Church.
Passage(s) addressed: Psalm 35
God loves us. God cares for us. We know that but we sometimes think God focuses only on our spiritual well being, not our basic human needs. That is not true.
God knows that in this world we are like lambs amidst wolves. The wolves are not just people who want to suppress the wonderful message of the Bible or who want to persecute us because we are Christians. The wolves are also anything that makes us lose our focus on God—unemployment, unpaid bills, fiscal cliffs.
God sends us into this world full of wolves to spread the message of His love and His salvation. When He does, He fends off the wolves that pull us away from Him. As God did with the seventy laborers described in the Gospel of Luke, God takes care of where we will stay, what we will eat, what money we need. Because God cares for us. Because God loves us.
Passage(s) addressed: Deuteronomy, Titus, John
Healing comes in many different forms, encapsulated in body, mind and spirit. The human body has miraculous healing powers from within, recognizable by anyone who has suffered physical injury. There are also mental healings that provide the transition from insanity to clear-headedness (Titus 3: 3-5), or from mean-spiritedness to benevolence (Titus 3: 9, 14). And there are spiritual healings that make the transition from confession to absolution, or from fear and doubt to strength and trust in the Lord (Deut. 7: 18-19).
As a recovering alcoholic of over twenty years, I have recently assisted in the formation of an Alcoholics Anonymous chapter at Trinity Episcopal Church. Although numbers are still small, I am amazed at how enthusiastically the program has taken hold in just two and a half months!
Although the AA program as such is not affiliated with any particular church or denomination, the principles are similar: the healing of body, mind and spirit through maintaining a rigorous and honest self-evaluation program, nourishing a heartfelt God-consciousness through prayer and meditation, and ministering to others who are trudging along the same rocky path to a better life. And AA would not have seen such an overwhelming success for the past seventy-five years had it not been for the same "radical hospitality" that our own church offers, and the miraculous transformations that take place among its committed members (John 1: 46 "Come and See;" 49 "You will see greater things than these.").
The AA program must never be at odds with, or compete with, organized religion, but must work in conjunction with the common mission of both to serve and minister to those in need, and to acknowledge and proclaim the presence of the one God who loves us and cares for us. Active ministry, for each member of the Church and the AA program, is essential to the survival of each, and vital to any healing process!
Passage(s) addressed: Deuteronomy and Mark
Jesus is constantly being tested and answering his critics with stories, parables. When those looking for a reason to complain asked why his followers don't follow the prescribed fasts he answers them: "They can't," he says, "This is like a wedding feast and there will be no fasting as long as the Bridegroom is with them. After the Bridegroom is gone, there will be plenty of time for fasting."
Of course, he is referring to himself knowing what is to come. But he knows also, and tells them in another place that inasmuch as he is the Light of the World, he will never leave them. They don't understand that either. I can imagine them nodding in agreement with eyes filled with question marks. Eventually they understood it a little, just as we understand it, a little. We nod our heads in agreement with eyes filled with question marks but, as Paul points out in the Epistle reading, they weren't and we're not, called to understanding as such but to faith. Faith that God knows us and our lives and that whatever that brings us during and at the end we will be alright.
The faith of the Martyrs was not that God would protect them from pain and death or the miseries of life but that, in the end, we would know that being with Him made it worthwhile. It isn't wrong to ask for protection or for healing of our bodies and minds. We should and we do but we end these prayers of supplication with the words of Jesus as he prayed for relief. "Nevertheless, not my will, O Father, but yours be done."
Oh, God, the power of our lives, we ask your Grace to grant healing on us and on the minds and bodies of all those to whom we are related by blood, family, friendship, love, and yes, even hate but, nevertheless, not my will but yours be done.
Today (February 18), the Episcopal Church celebrates Martin Luther as a feast day. Luther is honored in the Episcopal Church as a "reformer," for were it not for Luther the English Reformation, which begat the Anglican church (and its Communion), might not have occurred. Legend has it that in moments of despair during the tribulations of the time we now know as the Reformation, Luther would exclaim to his theological compatriot, Phillipp Melanchthon, to sing Psalm 46.
The readings in the daily lectionary for today —notably, the Collect and the Psalm —feed off of Psalm 46: "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble". It relates to our need to continually remind ourselves that we are not in this alone. It is, indeed, a healing prayer. We need the centrality of the Word —of the Cross—to root us in the performance of our daily Christian life. We need it to do what a noted historian terms, "the liturgy after the liturgy." To go out into the world after the reinforcing grace of liturgy is to be protected by the sustenance that "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble".
If Psalm 46 is familiar sounding, that may be because Luther used it as general reference for one of the hymns for which he is most familiar, arguably his magnum opus: "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God." The hymn is a paraphrase, a reaffirmation, of Psalm 46.
You can read all hymns like poetry—studying hymns should be an essential tenet of preparation for worship, in my view, as well as for reflection. And in the case of this hymn, a bit of history as it does reflect theological development of Luther in the context of the Reformation. But I think this hymn especially lends itself as a form of poetry and an essential theological credo. Inflection helps to provide some emphases. So, allow me to share with you Luther's famous hymn, with inflections to intone, and some personal changes to punctuation, as contemplation on Psalm 46:
"A Mighty Fortress Is Our God"
I read this hymn, with these inflections and subtle changes in punctuation, at a service in New York in 2011 in the wake of Hurricane Irene and its devastation in the mid-Atlantic and New England states. The first stanza, with "Our helper, he, amid the flood…" was of particular emphasis to me. Wind and flooding had wreaked havoc all over the region. As the storm rolled up the East Coast, all rail travel was cancelled from Washington, D.C. through New York and extending into Connecticut and north—an extraordinary and history-making event. The regional rail lines in New Jersey and beyond New York City were flooded in parts and took several days to recede. As the U.S."northeast corridor" is known for its dependence on rail and airplane traffic, given the location of several major centers of government and finance, such infrastructure is critically important to its culture and economy. But at that time, all were stunned that the system was shut down. But no one ever imagined that the New York subway system would be flooded, as it was recently from Hurricane Sandy's flood waters into the Battery Park area, including the World Trade Center memorial site, and parts of the lower east side of Manhattan.
Through these pestilences, God truly was our refuge and strength—a very present help in trouble. And there was need for that community to be reminded of God's presence, as parts of that community again need that reaffirmation in the wake of the recent devastation from Hurricane Sandy. The same, of course, was certainly true here in April 2012 when tornadoes came through the DFW metroplex.
Verse 2 could be read that our Christian witness is threatened by all sorts of enemies. Hatred, intolerance, war, avarice, and poverty, are, of course, most often cited and rightfully so. But what about self-doubt? What about pride? A friend of mine from my graduate-student days at Temple University recently shared on her social media page a comment from someone else that the three hardest things to say are " I love you,", "I am sorry" and "I need help." Do you have trouble saying these words? I know I do sometimes. To whom? Why? We need to be healed from the vicissitude of pride and fear and to live into love. After all, that was the "great commandment" from Christ on, of all nights, the night in which he was betrayed.
That segues into Verse 3. We cannot do it alone. We need the ability to say those things that are hard to say, because in community we are made strong. Community reinforces and strengthens our insecurities. Community heals our individual self, as it heals us. Reconciliation and forgiveness are essential by-products. Community can be between two people, a group of people, or within an organization. In community we are made strong because we are emboldened by the fact that "God is our refuge and strength" through the presence of Christ Jesus in our personal and communal lives.
It culminates in the final verse. The Word abideth, despite all potential threats against it. The SPIRIT and the GIFTS are OURS. Yours and mine, certainly, but OURS, together. When all else fails, when something seems hopeless, we need to just let it go. Let go of pride, vanity, prejudice, preconceived notions. From that Word, and those gifts, and with spirit, we are healed in order to go out into the world and preach truth to power: to preach the need for tolerance, reconciliation, forgiveness, social justice, and economic and environmental sustainability. We need to overcome our reluctances so that the Word of God can be proclaimed. Word, sacrament and liturgy prepare us—heal us—to overcome our infirmities for the service of being Christian in the days when we are not inside the doors of Trinity. We need to use that SPIRIT and those GIFTS to help us to proclaim our witness to all within our midst. Thanks be to God!
Lord, thank you for being my refuge and strength—a mighty fortress always shielding and protecting me. Thank you for the WORD and help me to proclaim it. Thank you for the GIFTS and the SPIRIT which are OURS, and which nourish me—and us—to do the work of Christian witness inside and outside of our church doors. Help me to know that you are with me, when I am unable to say words I must, or feel inadequate to say or do something when I know I should. Help me to recognize and to resist intolerance and help me to promote reconciliation and forgiveness in all that I do. Amen.
Passage(s) addressed: John 2:13-22 Hebrews 3:1-11
Healing includes acknowledging the wound, seeking competent advice and following the directions of the trusted Healer! How do I go about beginning? It would seem likely that I need to go aside, away from the noise of the world…to a quiet place where I am free to expose my innermost thoughts. I need to ask, to listen and when the answer comes, it is imperative that I heed the prescription (Rx).
The Rx requires prayer…praying for light in order to see the trash in my temple! After that sight, oh my, I must be active to begin the change! I must be resolved to persevere with patience and trust in God. In God's time, He brings us to a new place.
Why would I do this? I ask myself what harm comes when I bear my grudge? What can grow when I show compassion, when I forgive insults, real or imagined? What good can God accomplish when I release my pain—to clear my temple?
When I remove the bushel that hides the light of my Baptism, God can be seen by others.
That is my calling. In every thought, word or action of my life, with God's help, that CHRIST may be visible. That our Father may look my way and see His Son.
Oh! It seems so impossible, but with God nothing is impossible. He will assure our growth and adorn our temple, His favorite resting place!
Be not afraid…He will be with us all along the way Home, and then? We can only imagine what incredible joys await! Take my hand…help me! Forgive me, as I forgive you. Together we can make the journey. Before we begin, let's remove these tiresome bushels!
Passage(s) addressed: All (Readings: Frederick Douglass, Prophetic Witness, 1895)
All of these readings are admonitions—a mix of promises and warnings of consequences if we fail. Promises in the Psalm 12-13: "The Lord will give you what is good, and our land will yield its increase. Righteousness will go before him, and will make a path for his steps." Isaiah begins with some warnings, but ends with promises: "...until a spirit from on high is poured out on us, and the wilderness becomes a fruitful field, and the fruitful field is deemed a forest. Then justice will dwell in the wilderness, and righteousness abide in the fruitful field. The effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever. My people will abide in peaceful habitation, in secure dwellings, and in quiet resting places."
To show that we flawed humans can strive for perfection, Hebrews tells us that God sent us the example of Jesus, who said, "...Here am I and the children whom God has given me." The unknown author of the letter to the Hebrews says that it is clear God did not send Jesus "to help angels, but the descendants of Abraham. Therefore he had to become like his brothers and sisters in every respect, so that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make a sacrifice of atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself was tested by what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested."
Hebrews tells us that there are risks in disbelief, not sustaining our belief, neglecting living up to our commitment, not listening to God, and being spiritually immature.
Giving up what for Lent? Temptations of the flesh? Temptations of the soul? Temptations of the culture? Temptations to accept closely held biases as beliefs?
Jesus went through all of those as one of us and sacrificed himself for our atonement. All that is asked is that we believe and live our faith. That requires daily choices of how to live our lives.
Passage(s) addressed: All
The common theme from these readings seems to be that if you love God and follow His teachings, He will reward you and if you do not, then "… you who forget God, I will tear you apart, and there will be no one to deliver." When I read the Psalm I noticed that it said it was a Psalm of Asaph, and I did not know who that was, so in this Age of Technology, I Googled him.
Asaph was King David's music director, wrote original music for David's Psalms and wrote twelve Psalms (maybe thirteen) of his own. Asaph lived from 1020-920 BCE and served David, Solomon and Rehoboam. Asaph was a young priest from the tribe of Levi and his father was Berekiah who was the Doorkeeper of the Ark of the Covenant. Asaph was placed in charge of the music for the Ark of the Covenant and remained near King David and the Tent of Meeting in Jerusalem. He was assisted in this by his brother Zechariah. He served in this position until the building of the Temple under Solomon when the Tent of Meeting and the Tabernacle were consolidated in the Temple and the Ark of the Covenant was placed in the Holy of Holies.
Asaph would have seen the rise of David, and the giving of God's great promise that David's seed would build a great temple and establish a kingdom that would last forever. The promises are found in Samuel: 7. When David sinned and took Bathsheba for his wife, Asaph would have heard Nathan admonish David and heard David's anger at the telling of Nathan. He would have heard God's forgiveness when David repented. He would have been there for the birth of Solomon and the joy that comes with the promise of new beginning. Asaph would have also seen the death of David, the accession of Solomon and the building of the Temple. Asaph would have believed that he had seen the promise of God fulfilled.
After the dedication of the Temple, Asaph would have seen Solomon turn his back on God and build temples for the foreign Gods of his wives. Solomon pursued power, wealth, and luxury and financed this with taxes and slavery. Solomon had become wicked in the eyes of the Lord and Asaph's brother, Zechariah, was assassinated in the Temple because neither he nor Asaph would keep silent about Solomon's wickedness.
Asaph was there when Solomon died and witnessed the division of the kingdom between Rehoboam and Jeroboam. He would have been there at the burning of the Temple and the realization that Solomon was not the Messiah. Asaph had seen all of these events and witnessed the heights and depths of the human soul. When you read the Psalms of Asaph you can feel his emotion at each event and his bitterness at his brother's death and his disillusionment at his realization that Solomon was not the Prince of Peace. In the end you see his call for the God of Israel, whose name is Jehovah, to make Him known to all the earth.
God's message of love for those who follow has not changed. "For God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him, should not perish, but have everlasting life." Amen
R. Jefferson George
(Readings: Eric Liddell, Missionary to China)
Passage(s) addressed: Isaiah
Who has not felt that prickling fear of abandonment unexpectedly seize them? The first time you can remember may be the evening your Mother was late to pick you up. Perhaps you watched when you were a teenager as your 'friends' drove off without you. Or maybe the person that you thought you would spend the rest of your life with discarded you for some more tantalizing prize. But now, we are more mature, right? We know who we are and where we are going. Until…a death, a disease, an injustice occurs and our confident tidy little basis of life is challenged. Of course we pray, we're Christians! But what happens when nothing happens?
That is most certainly how the Israelites felt. They prayed. Hey, they YELLED! This isn't fair! What have I done to deserve this? How long will you let this go on, Lord? They had some very good reasons to complain. Things were not going well. The evidence pointed to an absent or disinterested God. The problem was…well, they were the problem.
They had forgotten or perhaps had never really known who God truly was and Isaiah hastens to remind them: "Do you not know? Have you not heard?" Our God is not bound by time; there are no yesterdays or tomorrows for Him. He knows our history from beginning to end; nothing escapes Him. Nothing; (and that includes whatever the current challenge is for us—the outcome is not a surprise to Him). He has made all things and all people (us!). Can we even begin to comprehend His understanding? He is the source of all energy so He is never lacking it—weariness or weakness are an impossibility. The amazing thing is that He shares that strength and power with us when we turn to Him in our weariness…
Notice that Isaiah does not say "He removes all of our problems." Instead, the picture he paints is of a God who comes alongside us in our struggles. When we rely on our own resources we will grow "tired and weary" and even "stumble and fall." But, God promises through Isaiah that if we "wait upon" or "hope in" the Lord something truly amazing will happen. We will have our strength renewed. Not only will we be able to face our challenges but we will "soar on wings like eagles"! This is not a strength that runs out—it is sustaining. The key to our part is the 'waiting' and 'hoping.' It is a trusting spirit that God is looking for. You may receive deliverance. You may receive grief and sadness. Whatever the outcome, God asks you to look to Him for strength; to hope in Him; to trust Him fully with your life and love.
Passage(s) addressed: Psalm 55, 138, 139
The overarching theme of today's Psalms is Praise. King David praised the Lord even when the circumstances did not seem to warrant it. After all, he was being attacked by his own friends (Psalm 55). If someone who does not like us is mean or cruel, while it is by no means pleasant, it is at least not surprising. It hurts much more when the cruelty comes from someone we counted as a friend.
Even so, David continued to praise, knowing that God would care for him. Can we do any less? Many families have been attacked by disease or poverty or other troubles. Some have even turned against each other. In the midst of all this, we must remember that God is still in control and He will heal the divisions within our families if we but let Him.
In Psalm 138, David praises the Lord for saving him from his enemies and protecting him. Are disease and poverty not enemies? As we remember to praise the Lord even when our world seems to have fallen apart, he will heal our families' physical and spiritual health.
In Psalm 139, David praises the Lord for the very act of creating him and knitting him together (Psalm 139:13) and reminds us that God knows what is going on with us every step of the way. He knew us before we were even born and knew everything we would do and everything we would go through (Psalm 139: 16). Like David, we should continue to praise the Lord both through the good and the bad, secure in the knowledge that He hears us and cares for us.
Passage(s) addressed: All
There is a theme that runs through all of these readings: God is the creator of the universe. This includes us, the world that we live in as well as outer space.
God has thought about each of us as individuals and has given each of us gifts, talents, traits that are uniquely ours. No one else is quite like us. Because of this, He also wants us to share these gifts, talents and traits with others because theirs are not the same as ours. There are times when we need the gifts, talents and traits of other to help us.
Just as we have times when we have difficulty coping with situations confronting us, our friends, co-workers and daily acquaintances have situations they are having difficulty handling. God expects us to share our gifts with these people when they need us. How often have you been confronted with a problem and thought that you couldn't handle it and then God sends someone who knows exactly the solution to your problem? As with Jeremiah, when he said to God, "How am I to speak; I am only a boy." God told him that He would provide the necessary tools to handle the situation. God does the same for us. We must be willing to use our gifts, talents and treasures to help others and we must be willing to ask God for direction.
As we are asked to help in the healing of others, we have "taken off the veil clouding our vision" and see the necessity to help another soul using the gifts, talents and treasures God has given us.
Finally, the parable of the sower who casts seed on many different types of soil indicates to us that when we help others, our "seeds" will fall on different types of soil. Some seeds will fall on those who are skeptical and don't accept our offer of help. Some seeds will fall on those who briefly take the seed but don't follow through and the seeds die. Finally, some seeds fall on fertile ground, ripen into good grain and grain becomes food for another one in need of help.
When God gave each of us the gifts, talents and treasures we have, He commissioned us to use them in helping others to achieve the health and wellness they are longing for. Your reward will be in knowing that you have helped others attain the health and happiness they desire. What greater reward could you ask for?
Passage(s) addressed: Psalms, Romans
When we see the heavens and the stars it makes us wonder why you elevated man to be a little less than a God, the master of all your creatures. (Psalm 8)
And while you believe in us, mankind, you also tell us:
We have waited eagerly for the infinite love of the Lord to deliver us from death. We have put our hope in You. (Psalm 23)
You ask us to trust in You and not be afraid:
When Paul writes to the Romans wanting to help them, he first says he wants to bring them a spiritual gift to make them strong. Then he clarifies his goal. He wants to be among them and show them by being himself and being encouraged by their faith in him and his faith in them, that turning to their inner spring—always welling up for eternal life—is the answer to the meaning of life. The reaper is drawing his pay and gathering a crop for eternal life, so the reaper and sower may rejoice together.
However, when loyalty is no more and good faith between man and man is over...when one man talks with smooth lip and double heart, our healing happens when we turn to the pure words of the Lord to protect us. (Psalm 12) There is, after all, a reward for the righteous and a God that judges on earth. (Psalm 58)
We can take refuge in the shadows of God's wing until the storms are past. (Psalm 57) We can quit trying to manipulate our situations to get ourselves healed and turn to God to lift our burdens, protect us, fight for us, and show us the path of life. (Psalm 16)
Passage(s) addressed: John
What an auspicious and wonderful day it must have been for the Samaritan woman who went to the well and came back with the Messiah! In fact, it was out of the ordinary for a Jewish religious leader to speak to a woman in public. But when the disciples appeared they did not ask Jesus why he was speaking to her. Because Jesus, and we must assume God the Father were inclusive, and because Jesus had also taught and spoken with Mary and Martha, and another woman at a well, even the woman who only wished to touch the hem of his garment.
Jesus did not exclude women from his teachings. The Samaritan woman must have felt so special that the Messiah was speaking to her. And she acted as a guidepost to her city. She took Jesus at his word and testified to her friends and family, "Come and see a man who has told me everything I have ever done." Many people were saved that day, because she went back to the city and encouraged her friends to see him. He extended his stay by two days. We are like the Samaritans. We like our friends' stamp of approval before we try a new restaurant, shop or other things. When she told her city about the man at the well, they were willing to come out and see him. That way, one by one, or ten by ten, Jesus became the light of the world. Ever giving us humans hope for God's heavenly kingdom and looking forward to the day that we would join him.
Passage(s) addressed: All
This week we focus on healing for our friends, co-workers, and daily acquaintances. How do we know when someone is in need of healing? One answer might be, "Who isn't?" If this is the answer we prefer, then we needn't concern ourselves with the specifics of each person's wounds. We can pray generically that, "Whatever the wounds are, Lord, please heal them." When the wounds are healed the wounded shall no longer be in pain and can serve the Lord with energy and focus, and that will be a good thing.
When we ask for this blessing we have no need to diagnose each person's needs, and we have no need to be specific when we ask for healing. But if we don't try to be more perceptive than this, are we really loving our neighbor as ourselves, or are we just passing the buck in the comfortable knowledge that God knows what each person needs in the way of healing?
On the other hand, what if we try to understand specifically what each person on our prayer list needs and pray for that? Suppose we identify wounds caused by the actions and behavior of the person we pray for—self-inflicted wounds, as it were. Does that involve judgments that Paul warns against in Romans 1:28-2:11?
Psalm 119:73-96, like many Psalms, is a prayer involving judgments about others being enemies, arrogant and wicked, who the Psalmist accuses of evil thoughts and actions. Clearly the Psalmist has made judgments, and he is declaring wounds that he wants God to heal by punishing his persecutors. This seems totally out of step with righteous living. What are we to make of this?
I have trouble seeing the common thread between the Daily Office Readings for today (February 27). In the case of John 5:1-18 we have the parable of Jesus's healing of the invalid at the pool of Bethesda. This parable shows how Jesus's fulfillment of scripture was misunderstood by Jewish leaders as blasphemy because they were succumbing to the all-too-human inclination to codify and strictly interpret the law simplistically regardless of the fact that common sense had to be ignored.
This is an example of the pitfalls that await those who want to avoid making any judgments before taking action and before praying for God's intervention. God gave us brains for a reason. We need to be careful how we use them, but we are not expected to avoid perception and interpretation of our reality. If we go that route we cannot be instruments of God's will.
Passage(s) addressed: Jeremiah
My anguish, my anguish! I writhe in pain!
Sometimes you just need a good cry!
Something has gone completely amiss in our culture's relentless, never-ending drive toward the ubiquitous goal of "happiness." If we are not "happy" 100% of the time, something must be wrong, something that surely can be fixed with enough human ingenuity. A quick trip down the "self-help" isle of most any bookstore reveals a plethora of books devoted to the never-ending quest for the rainbow-journey that ends with the pot-of-gold, happiness. Wouldn't it be wonderful if seven steps really did always end in that place, a veritable recipe to bliss?
Unfortunately, the best-laid plans of humans more often than not fail. For any number of reasons, the seven steps aren't as easy as first imagined, or I just can't control my eating, or my tongue, or any of the other myriad distractions that constantly pull me off my storied trip to exuberant bliss. The Bible is testament of humanity's uncanny ability to create systems that ultimately fail.
No group of God-followers understood this more than the prophets! It was the duty of the prophets to shock the masses out of their stoic complicity with the status quo in the desperate hope of averting disaster. "God's economy, God's new world order, is on the way, one way or another; we can do this the easy way or we can do this the hard way."
If you've been keeping up with the daily lectionary, we are now knee-deep in the work of the prophet Jeremiah. Jeremiah demonstrates his devotion to God and his passion for God's people. Jeremiah is affectionately dubbed "the weeping prophet." I love this image! It is bathed in pathos, the gut-and-heart wrenching emotion of the eventuality Jeremiah knows is coming down the pike. Jeremiah stands in the wide gulf that separates God from humanity, and pleads between the two for change.
There is no way to read today's passage and not be caught up in the drama of pathos, of sheer emotion that Jeremiah expresses on behalf of God and himself. Jeremiah has had no success in shocking the people into action. Jeremiah is not God; he rapidly approaches the end of what he can do as a prophet. His weeping is the only human response available.
What an incredibly beautiful posture to assume, to finally and fully realize that we, with all our steps and engineering and works, are not God. God is God, and we are God's creation. We do the best that we can to be faithful to that which God calls us, and more often than not, we fail. And God's mercy is there, waiting to envelope and embrace us, time and again. But it takes that critical turn through grief to realize that we are NOT God.
I propose that we spend some time weeping with Jeremiah. It is cleansing and therapeutic. It is not a sign of weakness, rather of great strength that we can choose to make this turn. So go have a good cry—you have my permission!
Passage(s) addressed: Romans, John
In Romans, Paul explains that circumcision is spiritual—not literal—it is a matter of the heart. It is your relationship with God.
John stresses for the Jews that if they believed in Moses, they should believe in Jesus because Moses foretold about him. Jewish law did not accept individual's testimony on matters that concerned themselves, so they did not believe in Jesus. John testified that Jesus was the Son of Man and was a burning and shinning lamp and "you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light."
Let us all be his light. John asserts that for the believers eternal life does not wait until the end of time but it is given now.
Knowing that, let us rejoice that we are believers.
Passage(s) addressed: Jeremiah, Romans, John
"This will be our response to violence: to make music more intensely, more beautifully, and more devotedly than ever before." ~ Leonard Bernstein
As a Christian and a classical musician these words have called me to purposeful healing at several times of moral disaster in this young century. They came to mind as I meditated on today's lessons. Jeremiah describes a world that sounds very much like our own. Driven by fears of all kinds fanned by 24-7 media attention, our society "circles the wagons" around self-centered individual desires and needs, seeking control, comfort, and security in possessions and power. Those who are different or in need are feared, ignored, or shut out. As The Message paraphrased in summary, we "race for the honor of sinner-of-the-year." As a Christian I must live more intensely, more beautifully, and more devotedly than ever before.
In John, Jesus states that the world hates Him because He testifies against the evils of the world. Still true. As Christ's body in the world, each of us faces the same dilemma, physically in many parts of the world, morally even in this "Bible Belt" existence. Fear raises its ugly head again in this passage: people were afraid to talk openly about Him for fear of the Jews (read "of the politically correct establishment").
Fear and its cohorts: How can I reject it? Where is the authority to face it down? Paul does not waver. Salvation, healing—GRACE—comes from the faith of Jesus Christ (and faith in Jesus Christ—the footnote is revealing). Jesus lives, not in fear, but in obedience; moving forward with steadfast faith in the ultimate and perfect rightness of His Father's will. I find my way, my strength, my healing, and through it the ability to help others in obedience and grace, God's abundant grace.
So I will not fear. My resolve will be to follow Jesus' faith: to prayerfully discern and then speak and act fearlessly, knowing God is ultimately in charge as Psalm 27 assures me: "The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?" I will use the calling God has given me to heal others from fear and anxiety. For today the music I make more intensely, more beautifully, and more devotedly than ever before will be the old Gospel hymn:
Where He leads me, I will follow,
Passage(s) addressed: Psalm 96, Mark
. . . Declare his glory among the nations,
Thanksgiving, gratitude, praise—what we owe the Lord for all of the wonderful blessings that He has so graciously granted to us and that we too often take for granted. Psalm 96 makes my heart sing, for it consists of 13 verses that are pure praise for the glory of God. How often as we bog down in the daily routines of life or confront the challenges and obstacles that inevitably come our way do we forget that "honor and majesty are before him; strength and beauty are in his sanctuary?" I know that I should wake each morning thankful for the rest with which I have been blessed and grateful for waking to live another day, but so often rest has been disturbed by fears, by memories, by guilt, by loss, and by emptiness and the day doesn't promise easy answers and pleasant encounters. Yet, even on our most challenging days, He is with us and will give us the strength to get us through.
The passage from Mark also emphasizes thanksgiving. After Jesus called the unclean spirits named "legion" from the man among the tombs and sent them into the swine herd, the man who had been possessed by demons begged to follow Jesus. Christ told him, though, "Go home to your friends, and tell them how much the Lord has done for you and what mercy he has shown you."
Ah, that we might each proclaim by words and actions our appreciation for how much the Lord has done for us and the mercy He has shown us. Whatever troubles or disturbs our lives—relationships, financial difficulties, losses, employment uncertainties, or guilt—the Lord has nonetheless given us so much. We live in an unusual and friendly city, we enjoy a moderate climate, we have friends and loved ones who care for us, we have Trinity Parish to nurture us, and we are the recipients of the Lord's mercy.
"Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice; let the field exult and everything in it." Lord, help me to remember to sing to you and to bless your holy name.
Passage(s) addressed: Jeremiah, Psalm
The readings for today show what it means to ignore God's will and what it means to live in God's will.
In the first reading, Jeremiah says that God longs to "dwell with [us] in this place," but that God will do so only if we follow the guidelines that have been set out for us. Jeremiah reminds us that faith in God requires more than belief—faith also requires us to listen to God's will for us and to take action on behalf of God and other members of our community.
Jeremiah reminds us of our responsibilities to "act justly with one another" and explains how we must support one another and live in God's will: by caring for "the alien," "the orphan," "the widow," and the "innocent." He also explains what it looks like when we ignore God: "when I spoke to you persistently, you did not listen, and when I called you, you did not answer." Although Jeremiah's description of a God who "will cast you out of my sight" makes me very uncomfortable, I am cheered by the message that God is willing to speak to us and call us persistently. I like the idea of a God who hollers until I listen instead of casting me out.
Psalm 80 shows us how to ask humbly for God's will in our lives. The psalmist repeatedly pleads, "Restore us, O God of hosts; show the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved." The request for God to "restore us" is a prayer for healing and renewal that shows the psalmist as supplicant and God as the illuminating light of the world. I am excited to be part of a parish that is actively seeking the "light of God's countenance." I pray that we listen for and live in God's will for us as individuals, members of Trinity church, and activists in the local community.
Editor's Note: Today we invite you to reflect upon Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori's Lent Message, which challenges you to pray, fast, study and give alms.
I wish you a blessed Lent.
Lent is the ancient season of preparation. Preparation for Baptism at the Easter Vigil and it's a season of solidarity with those who are being formed to be disciples of Jesus and missionaries in God's mission.
We form people in a sense that God dreams of a healed world, a world restored to peace with justice, and some of the ancient images of that healed world are those of the prophets. One of the famous ones from Isaiah is an image of people having a picnic on a mountainside, enjoying rich food and well-aged wine. That image of being well-fed is particularly poignant in a world like ours where so many go hungry.
Lent is a time when we pray, when we fast, when we study, when we give alms. It's a time of solidarity and it is particularly a time to be in solidarity with the least of these.
As you prepare for your Lenten season and your Lenten discipline, I'd encourage you to think about consciousness in eating. That's really more what fasting is about than giving up chocolate. Being conscious of what you eat, standing in solidarity with those who are hungry, whether it is for food, or shelter, or peace, or dignity, or recognition, or for love.
When we stand in solidarity in terms of eating, we might consider what we are eating and how we are eating it and with whom we are eating, and I'd invite you to consider some of the challenges that are around us. Many leaders in this United States part of the church have engaged in an act of solidarity with the poor by trying to live on a food stamp budget for a week. That's about $4 a person per day. And it's very, very difficult to find adequate calories and reasonably nutritious food for that kind of a budget. But it would be an act of solidarity with those who do go without every day and every week. An act of solidarity like that might increase your consciousness about those who go hungry, it might increase your own consciousness about what you eat, and it might provide an opportunity to share some of your largesse, some of what you save from that kind of eating with those who go without.
The violence in our country, the violence around the world is most often an act in response to those who don't have enough. Those who are hungry, those who ache for recognition and dignity, those who struggle for peace.
Your and my preparation for the great Easter festival can be an act of solidarity with the least of these. As you engage this Lent, I would encourage you to pray, to fast, to act in solidarity with those who go without. Learn more, give alms, share what you have. Be conscious about what you eat.
A blessed, blessed Lent this year.
The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori
Passage(s) addressed: Jeremiah; Psalm 82
"Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there?" My cry echoes the prophet—"Is there no balm in Fort Worth? Is there no physician here? We—all of us—are in need of a healing balm for ourselves, our families, our city, our state, our nation, and the earth which God created for us and put in our charge. If we read only the words from Jeremiah, we have no hope: "Beware of your neighbors, and put no trust in any of your kin. . . ." But the other readings offer words of hope accompanied by challenge.
If I want to be a part of the healing process, what must I do? If Trinity wants to be part of the healing process, what must we do as a family of faith? Psalm 82 offers a guide:
"Save the weak and the orphan;
We need first to ask questions: who are the weak, the orphans, the humble, the needy, the weak and the poor in Fort Worth whom we need to save and rescue and deliver? What do these words mean? We remember today the Mayos and the Menningers, physicians who are examples of responding to identified needs, in this case for physical and mental balm, not with a grand vision but with a desire to help those who were ill. What kinds of physical and emotional balm can we provide to those whose needs we know?
Prayer: "Almighty God, you give seed for us to sow, and bread for us to eat; make us thankful for what we have received; make us rich to do those generous things which supply your people's needs; so all the world may give you thanks and glory." (from A New Zealand Prayer Book)
Passage(s) addressed: All
These readings challenge us. The theme of the Psalms arises from people crying out to God for deliverance from national enemies and personal enemies. The Jeremiah reading points out that God's role in political events is not to be overlooked. Sounds a lot like today's world—international turmoil, political corruption and mass killings. Enough. Let's look at the New Testament.
Paul's message in Romans brings hope into the picture, contrasting Adam's disobedience with Jesus' obedience and sacrifice leading us to eternal life. So, the message grows and goes deeper.
In John, we hear Jesus speaking directly and clearly to his followers about their disobedience.
"…you live in terms of what you see and touch. I'm living on other terms. I told you that you were missing God in all this." (translation from The Message Bible) Ok, what am I missing?
Oops, I hear a "bing" from my computer. There is a message for me. Perfect, I need a distraction from all this sin talk. Guess what the message says?
This 50th High School Reunion won't be about waistlines, hairlines, hemlines, or credit-lines. It's about reaching out to our lifelines, connecting with friends. We need you to be there.
Whoa, even my high school world is asking me to step out of the ego world… that touchable, prideful part …and to step into relationship, and to reach out to our Lifelines. Might that be Jesus, the one who truly is our lifesaving guide? God just doesn't give up. His message is everywhere. Are we truly listening?
Direct us, O Lord, in all our doings, with thy most gracious favor, and further us with thy continual help; that in all our works begun, continued, and ended in thee, we may glorify thy holy Name, and finally by thy mercy, obtain everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen (BCP, p. 832)
Passage(s) addressed: Jeremiah, Romans, John
So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
Today's readings would be very difficult for a nonbeliever to understand. In Jeremiah, we hear an angry God, telling his prophet to warn the people that he is preparing to bring disaster upon them, because they have chased after other gods and not kept the covenant given to their ancestors.
With study and preparation, we in the church can readily see the parallel between this reading and the reading in John. Here Jesus is warning the people to listen to the Truth he brings from the Father. But they stand on their own importance as children of Abraham and cannot see their sin.
We can enjoy judging these misguided ones who miss the point. Yet, are we so different? We Christians see ourselves (correctly!) as members of the Body of Christ, children whose sin Jesus has covered in his sacrificial death. After all, we have embraced His offer to make us "free indeed."
But Saint Paul brings us back to ourselves: "Shall we continue in sin in order that grace may abound? By no means!" He goes on to describe how in our baptism, we have died to sin. We believe. We hope. Yet inside us, we know we continue to sin every day, "in thought, word, and deed," not loving others as Jesus loved. We live in a prison of self-will, on the one hand, and in Christian freedom, on the other. These readings are difficult. How can we explain this seeming paradox to nonbelievers? How can we describe the Christian path we treasure?
One powerful solution is in the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. The physician Bob S., summarized them in six words: Trust God, Clean House, Help Others. They describe the conversion experience, how we learn to trust God, admitting that we are powerless over the desire for alcohol or riches, power or approval, whatever keeps us from truly loving. Seeking healing, we turn our lives over to God's will. We clean the house of our soul, fearlessly facing the truth of our sin and confessing it. We ask for healing and seek to make amends to those we have hurt, and we stay clean by living these principles daily, continuing to seek God's will and sharing with others the Good News of our freedom.
We are sinners who die to sin, daily rising to renewed Life. Though others in our community may not share our understanding of the Trinitarian God, this process of trusting a Power greater than ourselves, seeking justice by confessing our wrongs and making restitution, can be the path to healing our society's pain.
Dear God, we pray for healing for ourselves, our community, and nation, that we might die to sin.
Passage(s) addressed: Jeremiah, Romans
"Very truly, I tell you, whoever keeps my word will never see death."
It takes a long time to get over ourselves. We enter into the world as infants who believe we are one with the universe. As we develop a sense of our individuality, a process referred to as individuation, we become separate from the universe and we realize the differences between us, and all those around us. We perceive others as "them." People we do and do not like. People we believe are our enemies. People who want what we have. People who have what we want. We are egocentric little people who are consumed in our primal drives of survival and pleasure. Some want to be better than others—richer, beautiful, famous, popular, etc. It's all about ourselves, and in the words of the prophet Jeremiah, we are "good for nothing," because we are slaves to such egocentric pursuits. Banks fail. Cyclists cheat. Young men murder. People treat others as sex objects. The list goes on forever, but the lives of those driven by such sin do not. Such sin enslaves us, creates a nation of addicts, destroying ourselves, and our communities.
It takes a long time to get over ourselves. Many never do. To "present ourselves to God as an instrument of righteousness," as Paul writes to the Romans, is not just a one time Baptismal event, or a once a week event at the communion table. It requires a continual striving. To transcend and evolve past our egocentric selves is a monumental journey. But don't be discouraged. We don't have to do the driving to get there. All we have to do is "Let Go, and Let God." Don't think you're controlling? Think again. We're all controlling, in different ways. We often seek to control the behavior of others, even their beliefs, all for their own good, or so we tell ourselves. We attempt to control the feelings of others, if not by telling them what to feel, then by changing our own behavior to prevent "making them" mad or sad, or whatever. We all seek to control situations and outcomes. We all want our way.
Letting go of control while listening to God frees us to act with boldness, while giving others the gift of free will that God gives us. We become less and less egocentric, and more and more concerned with those all around us. We develop the ability to truly love, not just say the words. We are connected to our families, friends, community, nation and people. With that connection we feel love and concern. Such love and concern causes us to always consider the impact of our behavior on others. Our families, community, nation and the world benefit from this. Knowing God's Love isn't about saving our little egocentric selves; it's about getting over ourselves, and rejoining the One from whence we came. That's eternal life.
Dear Father, this Lenten season I pray that I more fully submit myself to your will, so that I may be more fully able to love all of your creation. Amen.
Paul L. Warren
Passage(s) addressed: All
All of the verses reflect the way we feel about God. We praise him when he pleases us. We feel he has forgotten us when the going gets rough as in Jeremiah. Galatians reminds us Christ came to set us free. In Mark, Christ reminds us to understand why he was sent. We humans have a hard time remembering that God loves us, and we have to love him in return.
Passage(s) addressed: John
It was Passover in Jerusalem, and there were a lot of people in town for the festival already. A large crowd kept following Jesus around, because they saw the signs that He was doing for the sick. Maybe some followed Him because they wanted to hear Him speak. Others followed because they wanted something from Him. Still others followed because they just wanted to see the spectacle. When He looked up and saw a large crowd coming toward Him, Jesus tosses out to Philip, "Where are we going to buy bread for these people to eat?" I can see him, smiling to himself, thinking, Let's just see how they handle this one.
I can imagine Philip thinking, Where? Where are we going to buy bread?! The question is, how in the world are we going to pay for it all? Andrew is looking around to see what resources are at hand, as if he's going to MacGyver a buffet for the crowd out of five barley loaves and two fish.
We see this same scenario every day. There are people around us, and they need something from us: food, love, healing. I have to admit, I am often like Philip. When I'm confronted with something I don't know what to make of, my mind quickly conjures up the worst possible scenario, and I start trying to figure out how I'm going to deal with the disaster even before it occurs. Or, like Andrew, I look around and think, I'd like to solve this problem, but I just don't have the resources or the skill. This issue is too big for me. Jesus could've felt threatened by that large crowd, or worn out with everybody always following him, always wanting something from him. He could've just wanted to get away from the crowd pressing in on him.
But, something else altogether is going on. Picture Jesus on the grassy mountainside with five thousand people sitting around him. He isn't worried, or threatened. The gospel says that after He gave thanks, He distributed the food, everyone had as much as they wanted, and there was some left over. I can visualize Jesus making His way through that crowd, smiling, talking with everyone, touching a shoulder here, shaking hands and passing the peace there, asking people where they are from, learning what they are looking for, healing those who are sick. He gives thanks for what He has, and He accepts the mission. God provides what is needed in abundance. Everyone has as much as they want.
Passage(s) addressed: John
This scripture reminds me of a time when I went to visit my mother during the severe drought in Fredericksburg, Texas. It was a time when my mother rarely left her land for fear that it would catch on fire during her absence. The two of us were contemplating some injustice and I quoted, "Sometimes it rains on the just, and sometimes it rains on the unjust, and sometimes it just rains." And my mother responded, "Well, we will take some of that rain!" I had to laugh at myself. How silly to talk about philosophical rain when my mother had such a desperate physical need for rain.
In this scripture, Jesus refers to the Israelites who were starving and God had it rain "manna from heaven." He fed them physically. Now Jesus says, "I am the living bread that came down from heaven."
In our state, we have people who need their daily physical bread. According to the USDA Food and Nutrition Service, 4.9% of the population in Texas, more than one million people, experience hunger on a regular basis. And children who are worried about their next meal don't do well in school. (Texas is ranked #49 in verbal SAT scores and #46 in math SAT scores.)
I feel like Eucharistic prayer C is speaking to me, "Lord God of our Fathers; God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ: Open our eyes to see your hand at work in the world about us. Deliver us from the presumption of coming to this Table for solace only, and not for strength; for pardon only, and not for renewal…"
When I eat of this bread, the bread that Jesus gave for the life of the world, I am to partake in the healing of the world as well. And yet, a healing of this magnitude is overwhelming! I can't help but ask, "What can I do, I am just one person?" In saying that, I have forgotten that God is with me and a community of believers and the communion of saints! So, let it rain! Let it rain food banks and soup kitchens, but more importantly, let it rain jobs that enable all Texans to put food on their tables. And I pray that God may use me to help it rain manna from heaven once more. "Risen Lord, be known to us in the breaking of the bread."
Passage(s) addressed: Romans
Most of us believe that babies are a miracle of God. Scientists tell us that, in actuality, it's nearly impossible to become pregnant. Life is a miracle. But, what isn't usually acknowledged is that there is a secondary miracle. It is a miracle that mothers love their babies while they are pregnant and after they give birth. There are a (very) few mothers that would call childbirth a snap. For the rest of us it is the hardest work we will do in our lives. Immediately after being born a baby isn't able to do much and half of what they can do isn't pleasant. So we have discomfort, followed by hard work, followed by a squishy person.
But I can say that from the second I saw MY squishy person I was head over heels, rapturously, totally mad with love. That is why when I read "He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? " (Romans 8:32 NIV) I fall to my knees breathless and trembling.
God gave us His precious firstborn Son. The One He loved more rapturously, more totally, more completely than I love my daughters. He gave up his Son for me, for you, and for that horrible person that nearly ran me off the road this morning. He gave up His baby to suffering and death. That is more Grace than I could ever wrap my mind around. That is enough Grace for me to love everyone.
That is enough grace for me to love the people who don't agree with me about abortion, same-sex marriage, immigration, gun control, or who should be president. Unfortunately how many professing Christians forget this overwhelming grace in the heat of anger?
This returns me to the miracle I experienced at the births of my children. Not only did God not spare His own Son, He surrounds us with miracles and unexpected blessings as reminders that He always loves us and He is always with us. "For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 8:38, 39 NIV)
And, if in the heat of an argument, I forget the grace I should be extending, I can picture my opponent as a wrinkly, red baby, which is just funny.
Passage(s) addressed: All
The main theme I observed in the readings for today is that God is in charge, not us humans. When we don't recognize our responsibility to the covenant made with God, situations can get ugly.
Jeremiah writes of being very unhappy about prophets in Jerusalem "committing adultery and walking in lies; they strengthen the hand of evildoers so that no one turns from wickedness."
St. Paul writes to the Romans about the law being given to Moses which has not been followed as it should be. Paul asks: "Is there injustice on God's part? By no means! …So it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God who shows mercy."
John is talking about Christ who says: "It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and life". I assume John and Christ are referring to advice learned through the parables on how to live our lives.
The Psalmist says: "Rejoice in the LORD, you righteous; it is good for the just to sing praises…He loves righteousness and justice; the loving-kindness of the LORD fills the whole earth …He is our help and our shield…Let your loving-kindness O LORD be upon us, as we have put our trust in you."
Dr. Ellis Minton, who has come to Trinity and become confirmed only a couple of years ago, gave me insight to the spirit of our parish. He loves the fact that we are "non-judgmental" (compared to more fundamental churches). I like that thought as we are leaving the judgment process up to GOD and trying to reach out to others in love.
My prayer is: "Let your loving-kindness O LORD be upon us, as we have put our trust in you," and please help us to be a blessing to others in our lives.
Passage(s) addressed: John
"So Jesus said to them, 'Truly, truly I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.'" (John 6:53)
"As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me." (John 6:57)
What a challenging idea, maybe even more difficult to hear for a rational, scientific 21st century American than it was to the assembled Jews at the synagogue in Capernaum. I never realized this more than the first Sunday I brought my bright, curious 16-year-old Japanese exchange student to Trinity for the first time and this was the Gospel reading. She was eager to absorb all things Western, and I'm sorry to say, I worried that she was getting the wrong message. Assuming she was having no trouble with the English, if she was stuck at the literal level of the language, she could think that we Christians were ritualizing cannibalism.
Fortunately, we know it's not that at all. We aren't stuck at the literal level because language flowers into metaphor and beyond—to a level of spiritual understanding which goes to the root of being a Christian: "This is the Bread which came down from heaven, not such as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live forever." (John 6:58)
Eat flesh?—not literally.
But, by understanding the truth of receiving Jesus Christ, perfect God and perfect man, in the form of bread and wine, we accept the gift of health, wholeness and salvation which we have been promised.
Passage(s) addressed: Jeremiah, Romans, Psalm
. . . My heart is crushed within me, all my bones shake;
I know that the "Lord looks down from heaven [and] sees all humankind" and must be dismayed at what we have done with his creation and what we have done out of our selfishness and greed. In Jeremiah, the Lord looks down on the Israelites, whose "course has been evil . . . [and] both prophet and priest are ungodly." In John, after the feeding of the multitude from the loaves and the fishes, the crowd surged to take Jesus by force and make him an earthly king. In Romans, Paul laments the great sorrow that he feels for the rejection of Jesus as the Messiah by his fellow Jewish people.
I wonder how the Lord feels when he looks down at Fort Worth and at Trinity Church. I suspect that he is, to say the least, disappointed. I doubt that he sees the level of evil that is described in Jeremiah, although we know that all manner of evil does occur in our fair city and its surrounding communities. I surmise that the Lord sees a place and a people to whom so much has been given, but who selfishly do not share. I'm not thinking only about our material wealth, but also of our spiritual and intellectual wealth.
What do we as individuals and as a church community contribute to healing the wounds of those around us? Do we take the time to listen to a distressed co-worker, make the time to volunteer to help those who are struggling, and give out of our abundance to those in need? I know I am guilty of selfishness with my time, my talents, and my money. I can only be grateful that the Lord in his mercy will not give me wormwood to eat or poisoned water to drink, but I know that I, Trinity Church, and this community will be judged and found wanting. Forgive me, dear Lord, and please show me how to let go of "me" so that I can be a source of healing to others.
"Imagine there's no countries/It isn't hard to do/Nothing to kill or die for/And no religion too/Imagine all the people living life in peace"
What an ironic set of lyrics from John Lennon on this, the Feast of St. Patrick. Northern Ireland was for decades setting brother against brother in a bloody terrorist-like conflict that had everything to do with country, and everything to do with religion. Perhaps there on that island more than anywhere the idea that humans could achieve peace only when they gave up religion seemed to make sense.
To heal a country—a daunting task. We have seen it done in our time though: Ireland moves closer together each day, not without continuing dialogue, and certainly not having abandoned religion altogether. Indeed, it seems religion is finally working in Ireland as Jesus commanded us; they are learning they have common goals of peace, and to love one another as themselves.
We have seen it in South Africa, where the Truth and Reconciliation Committees have discovered horrific atrocities; and yet in their voicing, the memories and hate lost power. The people regained their lives, learning they have common goals of peace, and to love one another as themselves.
Our own country has been involved in ongoing war with al-Qaeda in Iraq and in Afghanistan for over a decade. The action has occurred on foreign soil, but it has also occurred in our hearts, minds and spirits as we were witness to the war, the senseless killing that provoked the invasion, and the need to support our troops even as we sent them into harm's way, to do for our country what we as civilians cannot do. Our hearts, minds and spirits need healing. Our eyes have seen too much pain and death, whether on TV or the internet. We have to arrive now at a place where healing can begin. How do we get there?
We must know we have common goals with the average, everyday person everywhere on this planet. We want to do our job, feed our families, and we hope for a little fun and God's blessing of charitable work before our lives run their course. Others want the same. Let us share also in that understanding an appreciation that for many, it takes far more effort just to go to work and feed the family.
We must be grateful. We must acknowledge what has made us grateful. We must live into that gratefulness. Yes, I am grateful for Canada. It's easy to love those neighbors as I love myself—they are so polite, after all. But that's not the point, is it?
When we live in this world with a grateful heart, open mind, and spirit of peace and reconciliation, we live with spiritual intention. God would have us do as He commanded: love our neighbors as ourselves. First, recognize that you are loving your neighbors: you have given to Trinity, to Episcopal Relief and Development, and no doubt to many other charities and causes that help to do God's work in this world. You may have even lifted that paint brush at a Habitat home. You have lived into what God intended.
True peace can come in this world when we can live our lives and worship our God alongside those who wish to live their lives, and worship their God. The two need not be mutually exclusive—it is from God we can draw closer to the "'truth unchanged, unchanging...."
"You, you may say/I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one/I hope some day you'll join us/And the world will be as one"
I don't think John Lennon would mind that I add an Amen; I think it might make him smile.
Anne Morag Nocher
Passage(s) addressed: John
The passage from John today tells of the healing of the man who had been blind from birth. Jesus tells the blind man "I am the light of the world." Jesus then spits on the ground and makes mud to place on the man's eyes. He tells him to go to Siloam and wash and his sight is healed.
Can our healing be so easy? What do you suffer from? Can our faith make us well? Can we heal from all of the tragedies that we have faced? Can our faith help to heal things like the damage that we have done to our environment? Yes, our faith can make us well but first we have to step out of our comfort zone and go wash in our Siloam. In other words we need to step into the world around us. Take on missions like working to feed the hungry, clean up our environment and do those things Jesus is calling us to do. With faith we must follow the light of Christ so we can be healed.
In the readings today, our relationship with God is front and center. Not only are we our Father's children, he has created a covenant with us.
Through his grace, we are bound to God in our hearts, minds and bodies. While God inhabits us, we inhabit the place he created. Not only did God make the Universe a wondrous place and gave it to us for our home, he gave us dominion over it.
"I shall make his dominion extend
And while at the root of dominion is to dominate, we are called to care for God's creation and to nurture it, and one another, as he nurtures us.
"Yours are the heavens; the earth also is yours;
It is so easy to get caught up in the demands of the here and now and forget that our responsibility lies in preserving God's creation for the throne of David forever. The decisions we make about even the smallest things in life—"'paper or plastic?"' can have a lasting impact on our children, our grandchildren and their children.
We can't expect God to "rule the raging of the sea and still the surging of its waves" if we've made a mess of things in His creation. The healing must begin with us.
Lord, guide us to make the right decisions when it comes to caring for your creation.
Passage(s) addressed: All
Internally and externally, our nation is confronted with threats to our very survival. The lessons of the past, and especially today's Biblical readings, urge us to work for common goals, to listen and learn from each other, and above all to pray for the healing processes that will reinvigorate our society.
Psalm 130 is typical of those that progress from despair and desperation to hope and trust, from the pleadings of self ("O Lord, hear my voice!") to those of community ("O Israel, hope in the Lord!"). Our personal prayers are answered only through consideration for our neighbors' needs.
The message from Jeremiah grips us with a grim forecast of Armageddon, as terribly real in 2013 A.D. as it was in the seventh century B.C. The Lord's promise to "put the wicked to the sword" could well cause us to exhale in relief: That can't apply to me—I'm not a wicked person! But wickedness can apply to those "things left undone" that include intolerance, indifference, neglect, or any other kind of passive behavior easily avoiding human judgment, but having a negative effect on the health of our society.
Similar to our present-day debates over immigration and ethnicity, Jesus and Paul confront issues of inclusiveness and acceptance, specifically regarding the conversion of Gentiles to Christianity, and whether or not to accept Jewish law as a precondition. Jesus uses a pastoral metaphor in his vow to accept "other sheep that are not of this sheep pen," inviting them to be part of "one flock under one shepherd." Paul agrees, when he offers "the good news" to all who fervently believe in the Resurrection and fully commit themselves to follow the guiding hand of Jesus.
Then as now, when we decide to abandon prejudice, exclusivity, and intolerance in our dealings with others, the doors are open for meaningful dialogue and positive results in our neighborhoods and in the world community!
Passage(s) addressed: Jeremiah, Romans, John
"Don't kill the messenger!" Running pervasively through the readings selected for today is this unfortunately familiar theme. Jeremiah sought to speak the Lord's word to him in his prophesies before the priests and courtly crowd in Jerusalem, warning the populace that they had turned from God's Way and Jerusalem would be a "heap of ruins" as it was previously prophesied by Micah. In Micah's case, cooler heads prevailed due to the wisdom of the king at that time, Hezekiah. In another instance, an earlier prophet, Uriah, was not quite so lucky and was slain by a very frightened king who fled to Egypt.
Likewise, when Paul writes his letter to the Romans, he has a difficult time resolving his credentials before a mostly Gentile Church. He must argue that he is of Judaic lineage, a descendant of the tribe of Benjamin, people who "foreknew" God's message. Rumors abounded in Rome about him. As a Gentile his Christianity was in question and he wanted his letter to the Church in Rome of A.D. 56 – 57 to have a positive impact. Basically, he was attempting to develop "street cred."
Paul wasn't to actually see Rome for another three years or so, and then as a prisoner who was eventually executed. This because he delivered a message which the courtly crowd of Rome couldn't stomach…Jesus Christ is Lord, not Caesar!
And then, of course, there was Jesus, Himself. In the passage from John, He is in the temple, preaching during the feast of the Dedication, or Hanukkah, a purification festival from the Maccabean times. He has infuriated the priests, Pharisees and the Jews by his predications and all but admitted that he is the Son of God. He has to escape from being stoned right there on the portico of Solomon. Later, he performs the raising of Lazarus, and that was, of course, the final straw for the Jews!
Reading this compilation of Scripture, we must notice that Jesus Christ, St. Paul, and yes, even Uriah, were all killed for being the bearer of News from our Lord God. Christ's Resurrection brings the promise of a New Life. Through our service to God as Christians, to what lengths might we go, with earthly consequences, to proclaim the Good News?
R. G. "Bob" Hunt
Passage(s) addressed: Jeremiah
In thinking about healing for our country, its people, leaders, and environment, my first thoughts were of the men and women who have served our country in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq . . . and of the healing needed for their bodies and spirits. I also thought about our leaders in Washington whose discord and incivility need healing as well.
In times of discord, struggle, and pain, the lessons and words of faith are always healing and calming for me. Today's reading from Jeremiah includes one of my favorite messages of hope and healing for all of us:
For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope. Then when you call upon me and come and pray to me, I will hear you.
For all of us and for those in our military, from the prayer for the armed forces of our country: Grant them (and us) a sense of your abiding presence wherever they (we) may be . . .
And for us and for those serving us in Washington from the prayer for social justice: Grant, O God, that your holy and life-giving Spirit may so move every human heart that barriers which divide us may crumble, suspicions disappear, and hatreds cease; that our divisions being healed, we may live in justice and peace, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Mary Frances Barlow
Passage(s) addressed: Jeremiah, Romans, John
These readings all discuss our relationship with God. In the Gospel, we join Jesus as he is arriving at Mary and Martha's home. They had sent word to him a few days earlier to let him know that their brother Lazarus was dying, and they had asked him to come and heal him. Jesus delays his return, and doesn't arrive until four days after Lazarus' death. Mary and Martha confront Jesus, and both tell him, "If you had been here, my brother would not have died." They may even have felt that he didn't care enough about them because he didn't respond to their call for help immediately. When Jesus saw Mary weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. He wept, too. He wasn't weeping for Lazarus—he knew that he was going to raise Lazarus to life; but, he wept because of Mary's and Martha's pain and loss, in sympathy, because he cared for them, and they had lost their brother. Sometimes we, too, feel that we would like to confront God. Maybe we have prayed, and felt that our prayers were not answered as we wished. We feel that if only God would do what we ask, things would turn out better.
We have it wrong. God cares for us, and wants to be in relationship with us. He always has, and always will want relationship with us. But, he lets us choose. Sometimes, we let our sin and our self-centeredness come between us and our relationship with God. We make sin an obstacle, not him. In Jeremiah, God says, "I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people...they shall all know me...for I will forgive their iniquity and remember their sin no more." Paul's letter to the Romans reminds them that we have all been disobedient to God; but, God is merciful.
Look at what Jesus says when he prays: "Father I thank you for having heard me. I knew that you always hear me." Likewise, God always hears us when we pray. I believe that sometimes, we don't get what we want because God loves us, and has our best interests at heart. Just because we want something really badly doesn't make it the best thing for us. We are bound by time and circumstances and don't have the perspective that God has. Jesus tells Martha that if she believes, she will see the glory of God. Notice, he does NOT tell her that she will always get what she wants; but, that she will see the glory of God. If we choose relationship with God, just as Jesus raised Lazarus, so we will be raised on the last day, and will see the glory of God. Because Christ died for our sins, we can choose relationship, and our sins don't have to come between us and God.
Father, you know our desires, our fears and our sadness before we bring them to you. Thank you for hearing us. Give us patience, and help us understand that in love, you give us not just what we ask, but what is best. Let us choose, today, to live in relationship with God.
Passage(s) addressed: Isaiah 49, Psalm 71, 1 Corinthians 1, John 12
The readings for today talk about how God creates us, calls us to do God's will in our lives, and gives us the courage to act. They also celebrate the joy and protection we can find in God.
Isaiah passionately declares himself to be God's creation, saying, "The LORD called me before I was born, while I was in my mother's womb he named me. He made my mouth like a sharp sword, in the shadow of his hand he hid me; he made me a polished arrow, in his quiver he hid me away." I feel comforted by the idea that God called me and knew me before I was ever born; this kind of connection seems like the one between mother and child. And I love the idea that I was created to be a force as powerful and discerning as a "sharp sword" or a "polished arrow." Psalm 71 also demonstrates the strong, nurturing sustenance we receive from God. The psalmist describes God as "a strong rock, a castle to keep me safe." The writer also describes the comfort and joy that God's love engenders: "For you are my hope, O LORD God, my confidence since I was young. I have been sustained by you ever since I was born; from my mother's womb you have been my strength; my praise shall be always of you." Again, the idea that God provides us with sustenance both inside the womb and after we are born seems maternal. But in both instances this love is underscored by a martial power signified by the sword, arrows, and castle.
The readings also remind us that God calls us to attempt good works even if—and perhaps because— we are not powerful. Corinthians says, "Consider your own call, brothers and sisters: not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are, so that no one might boast in the presence of God." And John tells us that we are "children of light" who have been called "to walk in the light." Isaiah provides a model for how to "walk in the light" when he acknowledges and accepts his responsibility as God's servant: "surely my cause is with the LORD, and my reward with my God." He feels absolutely certain that he has been called to serve as a "light to the nations."
In the last six months we have talked a great deal about how we hide our individual and collective lights under bushel baskets. The readings for today provide clear guidelines for how to throw off those baskets and shine!
This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine.
Editor's note: Debora Clark invites you to reflect upon this hymn.
My song is love unknown (Hymnal 458)
My song is love unknown,
He came from his blest throne
Sometimes they strew his way,
Why, what hath my Lord done?
They rise, and needs will have
In life no house, no home
Here might I stay and sing,
H 458 — Music: Copyright © 1924, John Ireland. By permission of executors of N. Kirby deceased.
Passage(s) addressed: Jeremiah, Psalm 6, Psalm 94
Woe is me. How often have we said that in so many words? When we're really down, as Jeremiah was, who do we turn to? Jeremiah turned to God. He addressed him directly, saying "Why is my pain unceasing, my wound incurable, refusing to be healed?" God's reply? "If you turn back, I will take you back, and you shall stand before me."
The psalmist in Psalm 6 relates much the same thing. Claiming that his "bones are shaking with terror," he asks God to heal him, and in verse 9 we read the results. "The Lord has heard my supplication; the Lord accepts my prayer."
Finally Psalm 94 has this comforting passage: "If the Lord had not been my help, my soul would soon have lived in the land of silence. When I thought, ‘My foot is slipping,' your steadfast love, O Lord, held me up. When the cares of my heart are many, your consolations cheer my soul."
We all find ourselves in situations of woe, and I wager that we all in some way or another discuss that situation with God. Sometimes we pray privately, sometimes we ask others to pray for us. We put folks on the church prayer list: ourselves, our friends and family, our leaders, sometimes complete strangers. We even pray for rain. Why do we do that? Because we know God hears our prayers and answers them—maybe not in the way we expected, maybe not as quickly as we wanted, but God does answer. Remember that the next time you recite the Prayers of the People. God will answer.
Thanks be to God.
Passage(s) addressed: All
Do you ever despair that our broken world seems to get more dangerous and less peaceful with every passing day? I know my faith is small when I think about the wars we have endured throughout history and observe that evil powers seem to be more present, ominous, and lethal today than at any time during my lifetime. Depending on your age, you may have lived through other desperate times such as the Great Depression and world wars. My generation of Americans knows mostly prosperity and peace, which for me makes the last decade a stark contrast to the previous four. I am often skeptical that there will ever be a time when our world can be fully healed, when the threats that we face today are vanquished, and the TSA, the CIA, the NSA, and the Departments of Homeland Security and Defense will no longer be necessary.
Today's lessons give me hope! The psalmist expresses confidence in God's deliverance:
"But I call upon God and the Lord will save me." (Ps. 55:16)
"He will redeem me unharmed from the battle that I wage, for many are arrayed against me." (Ps. 55:18)
"Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved." (Ps. 55:22)
"Why do you hold back your hand; why do you keep your hand in your bosom? Yet God my King is from of old, working salvation in the earth. You divided the sea by your might; you broke the heads of the dragons in the waters. You crushed the heads of the Leviathan; you gave him as food for the creatures in the wilderness." (Ps. 74:11-14)
Jeremiah prays for vindication: "Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed; save me and I shall be saved; for you are my praise." (Jer. 17:14)
"Do not become a terror to me; you are my refuge in the day of disaster;" (Jer. 17:17)
And the wonderful passage from Paul and Timothy's exhortations to the Philippians:
"Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. "Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things." (Phil. 4:5-8)
And finally two phrases from Jesus' oratory foretelling of his death in the Gospel of John seem especially powerful in this context:
"Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of the world will be driven out." [Scholars agree that "ruler" is a reference to the devil.] (John 12:31)
"While you have the light, believe in the light so that you may become children of the light." (John 12:36)
As we walk through the darkness of the remembrances of Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, let us turn from despair to delight as we acknowledge the power of the Light that is Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world. Through Him all things are possible.
"A New Commandment"
See also The Hymnal 1982, #528
Editor's Note: Mother Carlye invites you to reflect upon this hymn.
Were you there when they crucified my Lord
1 Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
2 Were you there when they nailed him to the tree?
3 Were you there when they pierced him in the side?
4 Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?
Man it’s hard to wait.
Holy Saturday seems to be so far away when Lent begins. And it is—we have forty days to wait. Yet there is purpose in that waiting, much like the process when we are healing from a long illness or surgery. It is incumbent upon us to imbue the wait with a sense of holiness so that the healing is done as it should be, from the inside out.
In the readings for today, one thought recurs: how do we heal such a broken, angry, hurting world and what is our part in it? Do we have time for that? We must!
We are reminded in the stillness of the empty tomb that yes, we have time. We are reminded by the actions of the women who went to the tomb to anoint Jesus’ body that there is a purpose for everything, even in a death, beyond healing. We are reminded in the bursting joy of radiant Easter that triumph comes, slow, but sure, and we can achieve it, even if only in part at this moment.
When the world needs healing, we pray. When our leaders need healing, we pray. When bad things happen to good people, we pray. When we abuse our mother earth, this “fragile earth, our island home,” we pray.
Then we determine what we can do—that is what we should do. We determine what the future might need—that is what we should provide. We pull together all that we can to supply ourselves and the world around us with the best of our resources—as God has given us. And we pray for wisdom, vision and guidance.
While we cannot know the answers to all of our prayers (perhaps only some in our own time will be revealed) and we cannot always know in advance how God plans to use us to heal our world, we know in the mystery of Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and joyous Easter that He has moved heaven and hell to heal our brokenness before we became His own creation. He determined, He planned, He pulled it all together, and He acted. So did Christ. And we must be open to hearing His voice.
Go in peace, to love and serve the Lord. Thanks be to God! Hallelujah!!
Deacon Janet Nocher+
Passage(s) addressed: All
Alleluia, He is risen. The Lord is risen indeed, alleluia!
Though we may talk with passion about our faith, pray fervently for our needs, seek Divine wisdom before making decisions, and look relentlessly for signs of God’s presence; all of our efforts pale when placed within the glory of resurrection.
Christ’s resurrection was and is the ultimate game-changer. We stopped being solely a people of the covenant, trying to do the best we could, and with his resurrection became an Easter people. Our heritage was forever changed when Jesus defeated death and set about gathering us into God’s dominion for all time.
We have always been members of God’s beloved creation and as such protected by God. Yet the risen Jesus Christ snatched us from the repetitious failure of a faith powered by our own efforts and carried us into eternal relationship with God. As Easter People we are destined to be transformed by God’s powerful yet tender mercy, love, and justice. It is our great joy to share this good news of what Jesus has done.
We are an Easter People—always and forever. May this Eastertide be filled with the blessings of God’s transformative presence in every area of your life.
Alleluia, He is risen! The Lord is risen indeed!
Carlye J. Hughes+