Posts Tagged ‘The Liturgical Year’

Maranatha: 1st Sunday of Advent (C) 2015

1st Sunday of Advent (C) 2015

It begins; a new Church calendar year has started today. I have grown quite fond of this time through the years. It signifies many things to me: hope, newness and fresh starts, putting to rest hurts and failed expectations are a few of the more prominent things that are on my mind on this First Sunday of Advent in the year 2015.

This time of year brings to the front of my memory a couple of the most significant heartbreaking moments in my life when I lost my sister in a tragic automobile accident in 1992 and two years later in 1994, almost to the same date, I lost my grandfather also to tragic automobile accident. While the years have been merciful in healing the raw pain of those losses, the felt absence of these beautiful and dear souls in my life has never been healed. It is for this reason there is always a sense of somberness mixed with hopeful and hope-filled expectations infusing my soul as I begin again the retelling of the Gospel—the salvation of humanity in the coming of God in the flesh, Emmanuel, God-with-us.

This morning, while sharing with a group, reading from Scripture (Lectionary text Psalm 25:1-5), I was captured by several words from the text; the words trust, truth, and hope were ringing like a clanging gong in my soul. As I sat reflecting and holding those words in silence, I listened for what the Spirit might bring to my memory about them… the thought of “confidence and security” seemed to emerge from the triad of trust, truth, and hope. I read through the text again.

This time as I read the text, additional details and clarity of understanding came into view. Considering my own somber memories mentioned earlier, and reflecting on the state of current events, both domestically and abroad, I was struck with a sense of dread and a feeling of helplessness in a world engulfed in chaos. Only a fool will deny the craziness that surrounds us. It seems no place is truly safe. Violence abounds at every compass direction, racial unrest seems as volatile as it has ever been in my lifetime—maybe in the history of this country, social inequality continues to divide our nation between the haves and the have-nots…and this, arguably, in one of the wealthiest nations on the planet. Globally, there are wars and rumors of wars; terroristic acts and crimes against humanity continue to reveal themselves in each pressing of the daily news. Chaos, fear, dread, despair, and hopelessness are the main entrees of earth’s buffet in year 2015. Still, the words “confidence” and “security” were the words coming to my mind as I read through this Psalm 25:1-5 text. So, I read the passage again.

1 O Lord, I give my life to you.

2     I trust in you, my God!

Do not let me be disgraced,

    or let my enemies rejoice in my defeat.

3 No one who trusts in you will ever be disgraced,

    but disgrace comes to those who try to deceive others.

4 Show me the right path, O Lord;

    point out the road for me to follow.

5 Lead me by your truth and teach me,

    for you are the God who saves me.

    All day long I put my hope in you. (Psalm 25:1-5 NLT)

I continued with silent reflection, pondering these words amidst the other thoughts that were populating my mind. I considered the many temptations throughout any given day to allow myself to become consumed by the depressing state of the world I live in. I thought about all the hate-filled rhetoric that dominates the airwaves of the news media and the devices of social media. I was reminded how easy it is to forget that still, even in the midst of chaos and darkness, my salvation and my hope are in God alone. The Holy Trinity, the Father, the Son, and the Blessed Holy Spirit is my Agent of trust. Christ Jesus, who is Emmanuel, God-with-us, is Truth incarnate. This is my Hope and my Rescue from a world in chaos.

I feel that the Spirit of God was reminding me that darkness and chaos are real. The pains of my losses are real. The possibility of becoming consumed, overwhelmed, and ultimately defeated by the distractions and destruction of evil amongst us today is equally real. On the other hand, salvation and truth are real…a right path that leads out of the darkness and into the Light of Hope and the Presence of God is even more real than the threats of chaos and darkness. This is what Advent calls us to remember. Christ is coming. Christ has come. Christ will come again.

In the coming days, I will be told by forces distracting my world that I need to consume. I will be told my life is not satisfying or gratifying or fulfilling for a myriad of reasons. I will be told I should be afraid…I need to retreat, hide, defend, attack, hoard, and protect. I will be pushed and taunted, pulled and cajoled to enter into a race I cannot win, where even the leaders who run out front are still losers in the end.

The Spirit of God bids me, “Slow down and do not be afraid.” We are reminded in the Advent that the blessing of hope for which we wait is coming. God is reconciling all creation to himself. He speaks to chaos and tells it to come to order. It will happen and this is a truth that can be trusted. This is our hope: Christ is our Hope. I will reject the temptations to join in with fruitless fray of a world gone mad. I have been invited to travel a different path, a right path, a road to follow that delivers me to my God who saves me—he is Jesus, Emmanuel, God-with-us.

Maranatha, Come, Lord Jesus, Come. Amen.

The theme of Advent is waiting, waiting for God, waiting with sometimes rising impatience, deepening frustration, and frequent disappointment. We wait, we hope, we look. And in that attitude and perspective one finds the whole liturgical year’s forward drive and direction. “Small wonder then that at this time, the beginning of the Preparation, the Message of Announcement is so completely illuminating and wide-reaching. It signalizes no individual event; it marks no one day or hour; it describes no single trait or act; but centralizes in its words the Whole Story and carries it home to the waiting heart.”

“Stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” (Luke 21:28). The Church begins the year by looking forward to the birth of her Beloved, the Word made flesh. As an anxious bride, she counts the days, preparing, longing, constantly anticipating the joy that will be hers when the time will be fulfilled and Emmanuel will indeed be God-with-us. But the Church gives voice not only to the expectant joy of a bride or of a mother at the impending birth of her child. Mother Church expresses her deep longing for the coming of Christ in glory at the end of the ages. It is not a fearful dread that the Church wishes to instill in her members when through the psalms and hymns and readings and prayers she calls on us to think about the Parousia, the final coming, but rather she points us to the goal of our efforts to keep awake and to watch: unending union with Jesus Christ. All our work and study and prayer and living has one purpose and meaning: to bring us and all humanity into the kingdom of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. So the central prayer of Advent is the one word, the concluding prayer of the Bible, Maranatha, Come, Lord Jesus.  (From Journey into the Heart of God: Living the Liturgical Year by Philip H. Pfatteicher)

Advent (2014): Christmas Day—Incarnation—God in Flesh, God in Me

25DEC2014—Christmas Year B

Incarnation—God in Flesh, God in Me: Christmas Day

Scripture Reading:  Year One Readings from the Book of Common Prayer

Lectionary – Christmas 1: Psalm 96  Isaiah 9:2-7  Titus 2:11-14  Luke 2:1-20

Christmas Collect: O God, who makest us glad with the yearly remembrance of the birth of thy only Son Jesus Christ: Grant that we being regenerate and made thy children by adoption and grace, may daily be renewed by thy Holy Spirit; Grant that as we joyfully receive him for our Redeemer, so we may with sure confidence behold him when he shall come to be our Judge; who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, one God, world without end. Amen.

Contate Domino1 Sing to the LORD a new song; sing to the Lord, all the whole earth. 2 Sing to the LORD and bless his Name; proclaim the good news of his salvation from day to day. 10 Tell it out among the nations: “The LORD is King!” 11 Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad. (Psalm 96)

Christ has come! The LORD is King!

Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad.

What a great and marvelous promise that comes to us through the words of the prophets, speaking as the oracles of God. These, the words of the prophets, are the words that strengthen and encourage us as we wait in patience…even in suffering… with hopeful, and joyful, expectation. James exhorts his listeners; “For examples of patience and suffering, dear brothers and sisters, look at the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord (James 5:10). Let us look to the prophet Isaiah today, based upon the exhortation of James, to hear what the LORD might speak to us.

(Isaiah 8:20) Look to God’s instructions and teachings!

1 The time of darkness and despair will not go on forever… 2 The people who live in darkness will see a great light. 3 They will rejoice as people rejoice at the harvest. 4 For you will break the yoke of slavery and lift the heavy burden from their shoulders. You will break the oppressor’s rod. 6 For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders and he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7 His government and its peace will never end. The passionate commitment of the LORD of Heaven’s Armies will make this happen! (Isaiah 9:1-7).

What amazing hope-filled promises to look forward to from God through the words of Isaiah. The passionate commitment of our God is to “break the oppressor’s rod.” No more will the yoke of sin’s slavery be the burden of humanity! This is the promise! “Darkness and despair will not go on forever…”

700 years might seem like forever (the amount of time between Isaiah’s prophecies and the birth of Jesus), but the beginning of the fulfillment of God’s decree arrived in the form of God himself wrapped in the flesh of humanity. Light came. Darkness was dispelled. The rod of the oppressor was broken. The promise was real and the promise was realized; Luke’s gospel shares the account of the herald of his arrival.

The angel said; “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today… Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.” (Luke2:10-20 NLT)

The One the world waited for since the time of Adam’s rebellion had come. The waiting was much longer than 700 years. The wait had been millennia. The estrangement of humanity from God had been too long. God himself condescended himself (Phil. 2:5-7), so he might re-breathe life into his most cherished creation (Gen. 2:7, John 20:21-22) to reconcile and reunify himself to them (John 17:20-24) as he had determined all along, before creation and time itself, that this creation, yes, humanity, would be the Tabernacle of His very Presence (1 Cor 3:16; 6:19, 2 Cor 6:16, John 14:16-17).

God has come. Incarnation. God in the flesh, and God in me.

The free reign of the oppressor is no more in the life of the believer. God can live fully in me as he did in Jesus when he walked amongst men (John 14:12, 2 Peter 1:3-4 NLT). This is the joy of what the day of Advent, His Coming, the Christmas Celebration entails. The Apostle Paul helps to shed “light” on the what the coming of Light means to us in his letter to Titus.

For the grace of God has been revealed, bringing salvation to all people. And we are instructed to turn from godless living and sinful pleasures. We should live in this evil world with wisdom, righteousness, and devotion to god, while we look forward with hope to that wonderful day when the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, will be revealed. He gave his life to free us from every kind of sin, to cleanse us, and to make us his very own people, totally committed to doing good deeds (Titus 2:11-15).

We live as people who are filled with the presence and full-embodiment of Christ. Are we not filled with his Holy Spirit? Is not the Holy Spirit a person of the Triune Godhead? The Spirit of Christ lives in us and among us. What is the Spirit of Christ?

In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. He existed in the beginning with God.God created everything through him, and nothing was created except through him. The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it. (John 1:1-5 NLT)

God has come. Incarnation. God in the flesh, and God in me.

It means something. Christmas. Incarnation means something. God came. God has come. There is a reason and there are lasting repercussions to his coming… both good and bad. For those who receive Him and his eternal, life-giving, Holy Spirit, breath… the repercussions are good and active even now as we wait for the eternal fulfillment of all God’s promises. We can live and expect to live fully into the atoning grace of Jesus Christ today. This is good news. This is great joy news! This is Glory to God in highest heaven. Let the heavens rejoice and let the earth be glad. I know I am. Glad. And rejoicing. God has come. He was in the flesh and now is in me.

Prayer:

O Lord my God, I will give you thanks for ever…

My merciful God comes to meet me…

Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be your Name; may thy kingdom come and thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil—for thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Glory be to God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, so it is now and so it shall ever be, world without end. Alleluia. Amen.

Leo the Great preached, “Truly wondrous is the whole chronicle of the incarnation. From the time when Christ came, the ancient slavery is ended, the devil confounded, demons take to flight, the power of death is broken, paradise is unlocked, the curse is taken away, sin is removed from us, error driven out, truth has been brought back, and speech of kindliness diffused. A heavenly way of life has been implanted on the earth.”

“My merciful God has come to meet me…” This is Christmas. Christ has come. Christ lives in me. Christ will come again. Praise Him. Alleluia and Amen.

And now may the spirit which was in Jesus Christ be in me, enabling me to know God’s will and empowering me to do God’s will. Amen.

Advent (2014): Christmas Eve—The Power to Save

24DEC2014—4th Wednesday ADVENT Year B

Advent: Christmas Eve—The Power to Save

Scripture Reading:  Year One Readings from the Book of Common Prayer

Psalm 45, 46  Isaiah 59:15-21  Phil. 2:5-11  Luke 1:67-80

As for me, this is my covenant with them, says the Lord. My spirit, which is upon you, and my words, which I have placed in your mouth won’t depart from your mouth, nor from the mouths of your descendants, nor from the mouths of your descendants’ children, says the Lord, forever and always. (Isaiah 59:21 CEB)

Today is the eve of Mystery revealed; Advent is upon us, and darkness is now at dawn. The question begs asking; “Are we ready?” Are we prepared for the greatest and our most longed for Visitor to arrive? Are we looking for and anticipating his living amongst us…living within us? Arrival is nigh. He comes. Ready or not.

“How can we expect to find Jesus if we do not seek him in the states of this earthly life, in loneliness and silence in poverty and suffering, in persecution and contempt, in annihilation and the cross?” -Francois Fenelon

The time and place of Jesus’ birth makes me wonder if many of us in this modern and over-busy world would recognize his coming today. We people living in “first world” countries have a debilitating habit and hunger for the loud, proud, and shiny things. Many of us like busy and entertainment filled lives; we do not crave the quiet or silence, and many of us do not like being alone or in solitude.

Jesus was born in the shadows…and lived in relative poverty on the edges of his society hidden from the world’s stage for more than ninety percent of his life. Would we know him? Would we recognize him? In all likelihood, many who claim to know him today probably would not have recognized him then… Truthfully, many who say they know him today, probably would not recognize him if they saw him face-to-face today. I count myself as one of those who likely would not have known or recognized him.

For Christmas is not merely a day like every other day. It is a day made holy and special by a sacred mystery. It is not merely another day in a weary round of time. Today, eternity enters into time, and time, sanctified, is caught up into eternity… We are then, above all, obliged to reveal Christ in our lives… Every day of our mortal lives must be His manifestation, His divine Epiphany, in the world which He has created and redeemed.”  -Thomas Merton

A Psalm and a Prayer

God is our refuge and strength, a help always near in times of great trouble. That’s why we won’t be afraid when the world falls apart, when the mountains crumble into the center of the sea, when its waters roar and rage, when the mountains shake because of its surging waves. There is a river whose streams gladden God’s city, the holiest dwelling of the Most High. God is in that city. It will never crumble. God will help it when morning dawns. Nations roar; kingdoms crumble. God utters his voice; the earth melts. The Lord of heavenly forces is with us! The God of Jacob is our place of safety. (Psalm 46:1-7 CEB)

Lord God, our Father in heaven, you have sent u the Savior, who was born to bring great joy to all people. Glorify your name, we pray. Give the world the peace you along can give, the peace that wells up in our hearts. Let your favor rest on us so that we may hold out under our sufferings on earth. We need your loving help to remain inwardly steadfast until everyone can be reached by the message, “Be strong in the grace of Jesus Christ.” Amen.

Advent (2014): God in the Flesh–God with Us

23DEC2014—4th Tuesday ADVENT Year B

Advent: Emmanuel, God in the Flesh–God with Us

Scripture Reading:  Year One Readings from the Book of Common Prayer

Psalm 66, 67  Isaiah 11:10-16  Revelation 20:11—21:8  Luke 1:5-25

December 23nd: O Emmanuel (Is. 7:14) : “O Emmanuel, you are our king and judge, the One whom the peoples await and their Savior. O come and save us, Lord, our God.”

This week, with only two days remaining until Christmas, I will focus my reflections on what God “in the flesh” means to me. What does the little Hebrew baby born in a lowly manger two-thousand years ago really mean to my life? How does this reality translate to the life I live out daily? How does this translation of God in the flesh, living in me, create anticipation and expectancy for his coming again.

The fulfillment of a divine plan…from the eternal wisdom of God; this is Christmas. The most amazing thing to me about this mystery that I cannot fully comprehend is the desire of God to be in holy union with humanity. That’s the way it all began with the creation of humankind. The Holy Triune Eternal of Days wanted to share the incredible joy that is Divine Communal Love, and so They made man. However many thousands of years, that passed after Adam’s rebellion, the redemptive promise was realized in the birth of the Christ child, Jesus… Emmanuel; God with us. Thirty some odd years later the Christ child turned man would be put to death on a Roman cross and the redemption work of God would come to a climax when after three days the murdered Messiah would arise and emerge from the tomb that could not contain His Presence or Glory. In a short span of fifty days the mystery of divine union with Holy God would be experienced in a room of five hundred people and then witnessed by more than three thousand that same day. Mystery indeed…magnificent and marvelous!

These “Mysteries” of Christ are not merely called “Mysteries” because they are too deep for us to understand and are therefore proposed to us to be contemplated with silent and adoring faith. They are not just something you think about and look at. The term mysterium in Saint Paul has a dynamic sense. It is the fulfillment of a divine plan, springing forth from the eternal wisdom of God, producing its effect in time and, by virtue of this effect, elevating men from the level of time to that of eternity, from the human level to the divine. -Thomas Merton

The wonder of this mystery is that it isn’t only for a single night or day, but the reality of God’s gift is every day, all day, every minute…always with us and never entirely silent, until He comes again. Yep, this is Christmas. Emanuel. God is with us…with me… and the greatest of all mysteries? God is within me. Amen.

A Psalm and a Prayer

16 Come close and listen, all you who honor God; I will tell you what God has done for me: 17 My mouth cried out to him with praise on my tongue. 18 If I had cherished evil in my heart, my Lord would not have listened. 19 But God definitely listened. He heard the sound of my prayer. 20 Bless God! He didn’t reject my prayer; he didn’t withhold his faithful love from me. (Psalm 66:16-20 CEB)

“O holy Child of Bethlehem, descend on us, we pray; Cast out our sin, and enter in, be born in us today. We hear the Christmas angels. The great glad tidings tell; O come to us, abide in us, Our Lord Emmanuel! Amen.” (O Little Town of Bethlehem by Phillip Brooks)

Advent (2014): Jesus the Rising Sun and Eternal Light

21DEC2014—4th Sunday ADVENT Year B

Advent: Jesus the Rising Sun and Eternal Light

Scripture Reading:  Lectionary Year B-Book of Common Prayer

Psalm 89:1-4, 19-26 or Canticle 3 or 15 2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16 Romans 16:25-27 Luke 1:26-38

December 21st: O Oriens (Is. 9:1): “O Rising Sun, you are the splendor of eternal light and the sun of justice. O come and enlighten those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.”

27 Gabriel said to her, “Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you!” 28 Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean… 30Don’t be afraid” the angel told her. 35 The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you…For nothing is impossible with God.” 38 Mary responded, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.” (Luke 1: 28-30, 35, 38)

Several things “pop” out to me in the passage of text above. First, the angel Gabriel assures Mary that she is favored and the Lord is with her. Oddly enough, Scripture says this “confused and disturbed” Mary; other versions say the encounter left her “greatly troubled.” I think the end result is the same in either case… meeting with an angel and hearing a direct message from God sorta freaked the teenage girl out. I don’t think we are different in how we respond to God’s word. I think hearing from God in almost any capacity kind of freaks us out. I have realized most people like to keep God at an arm’s distance. In the midst of Mary’s discomfort, and ours too, God’s ambassador says do not be afraid; “The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow all” And then, Mary takes this all in and proclaims; “I am the Lord’s Servant. May everything you have said about me come true.

The portions of the text that are bolded above are of particular interest to me as thoughts began to stir while I was reading them. It is interesting to me first, the description of the angel, Gabriel’s, appearance and message. He comes, greeting and praising Mary; “Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you!” I wonder how this really went down; I mean, from the things I could find to learn about the angel Gabriel (particularly Jewish and Catholic literature) it would be an intimidating meeting. Gabriel is said to stand in the presence of God and is believed to be a messenger-warrior-avenging-protector angel, fearsome and imposing in stature I am sure. He comes to visit a young teenage girl. The Bible records this event as “greatly troubling” to Mary; other versions relate her response being “confused and disturbed.” I can only imagine or wonder how I would have reacted… something tells me I might be searching for a change of clothes.

In the midst of this supernatural meeting, an incredible proclamation is made to Mary declaring her as “favored by God.” Perhaps equally and maybe more important is the announcement Gabriel makes when he tells Mary, “The Lord is with you!” These two pieces of information would be important promises for the young girl as she soon finds out what God has planned for her. Following the details and Gabriel’s explanation to Mary that she would carry the Christ child, he tells her, “Don’t be afraid.” Gabriel continues to respond to Mary’s “confused and disturbed” state by telling her “The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.”

Wonder! God is come among humanity; he who cannot be contained is contained in a womb; the timeless enters time, and great mystery: his conception is without seed, his emptying past telling! So great is this mystery! For God empties himself, takes flesh and is fashioned as a creature, when the angel tells the pure Virgin of her conception: “Rejoice, you who are full of grace; the Lord who has great mercy is with you!” Stichera of Annunciation

This story is incredible on so many levels. It seems I learn something new each time I read it, but this time I just started to consider what this encounter meant to me on a practical and daily living perspective. Yes, we’re talking about the birth of our Savior and I get that, but I think some of these points are meant for each of us too… not just applied to Mary and Gabriel’s exchange.

The Bible teaches us from cover to cover that each of us is favored by God. I think we overlook that nugget of truth sometime. Additionally, if we are “in Christ” …HE is in us and thus, the LORD is with us. Jesus said he would never leave us alone and the gift of the Holy Spirit living-indwelling the heart of believing followers ensures this is the case. The Lord is with us. How easy it is for this divine truth to escape us in our day-to-day business of living. We are so quickly caught up in the urgency of each day we forget how highly favored we are in the eyes of our God and fail to remember the very Guiding Presence of the Triune God is within our very soul …always there, always faithful, always with a word of wisdom when we need it. We are never alone and God is never entirely silent. Ever. Remembering these promises helps us in times of dire need or times of doubt to never be afraid. God is with us; He holds us in the palm of his hand and will never let us fail or be plucked from His grasp (Romans 8:38). We are favored, God is with us, and we have no reason to fear. Even knowing these things it is sometimes hard to hold the faith. In the midst of uncertainty and gazing into the face of my own insecurities and frailty, sometimes my faith wavers… not in God, but in me. This is why it is all the more important to commit this promise to memory: The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. That’s right; when I can’t, He can… and will. Not only does the Holy Spirit dwell within me and provide me with the comfort and guidance I need from day to day, but the power of the Holy Spirit will come upon me to assist in the needs I have when I need that strength. When I feel I have done all I can possibly do and I am close to failing… I stand firm and allow the power of the Most High to overshadow me.

What an incredibly affirming and encouraging word. Praise the Lord who Saves and provides us with the gift of Himself to dwell in us, guide us, comfort us, strengthen us, give us wisdom… Praise Him!

I think the last thing I glean from this encounter is the attitude of Mary… even in her state of “doubt, troubled heart, confusion, and being disturbed.” She loved and trusted God. She loved and trusted God to such a degree she wholeheartedly agreed to a plan that would lead her to possible stoning, rejection by friends and family, put her in harm’s way up to even facing death at multiple points in her life, disgrace, distress, and so much more that is not good. The cost to become the woman God desired and fulfill the plan God had for her would be high, but she said, “may it be as you say to your servant.” I believe it is the surrendered heart of Mary that paved the way for all the promises that God made to her through the words of Gabriel. I can only imagine and wonder what God has in store for those of us willing to full submit and surrender our hearts to Him in the same way as Mary.

A Psalm and a Prayer

I will sing of the Lord‘s loyal love forever. I will proclaim your faithfulness with my own mouth from one generation to the next. That’s why I say, “Your loyal love is rightly built—forever! You establish your faithfulness in heaven.” You said, “I made a covenant with my chosen one; I promised my servant David: ‘I will establish your offspring forever; I will build up your throne from one generation to the next.'” (Psalm 89:1-4 CEB)

Purify our conscience, Almighty God, by your daily visitation, that your Son Jesus Christ, at his coming,, may find in us a mansion prepared for himself; who lives and reighns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Advent (2014): Key of David, the Kingdom of Light

20DEC2014—3rd Saturday ADVENT Year B

Advent: Key of David, the Kingdom of Light

Scripture Reading:  Year One Readings from the Book of Common Prayer

Psalm 55, 138, 139  Isaiah 10:20-27  Jude 17-25  Luke 3:1-9

December 20th: O Clavis David (Is. 9:6; 22:22): “O key of David and scepter of Israel, what you open no one else can close again; what you close no one can open. O come to lead the captive from prison; free those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.”

In that day the LORD will end the bondage of his people. He will break the yoke of slavery and lift it from their shoulders. (Isaiah 10:27)

But you dear friends, must build each other up in your most holy faith, pray in the power of the Holy Spirit, and await the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will bring you eternal life. (Jude 20-21)

We have observed extended reflection on the themes of hope, peace, and joy during the past three weeks of Advent. Tomorrow begins week four and our theme changes to love as we light our fourth candle. Even now my mind is swirling with thoughts about the love of God for me and all that it entails and implies. The Bible says things like, “For God so loved the world…” (John 3:16), and “Greater love has no man…” (John 15:13), and “While we were yet sinners…” (Romans 5:8).These are all wonderful examples revealing the love of God for men, but what boggles my mind even more is the promise and experienced reality of God inhabiting the souls of men through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. God and man joined… Christ sharing the glory that he had before the world… with men. Incredible. This is the coming of Divine Love; God and man in holy union, joined now and joined for eternity. Wow!

Quite often out of an intimate encounter with God encounters with other human beings become possible… If you are the beloved of God, if you start thinking about other people’s lives, you start realizing that they are as beloved as you are. One of the profound experiences of the spiritual life is that when you discover yourself as being the beloved son or daughter of God, you suddenly have new eyes to see the belovedness of other people.—Henri Nouwen.

This week I will focus my thoughts and heart on what this love means to me today and how this love translates to the world around me. What is the transformation God desires to affect in me as His Spirit, which dwells in me, perfects and makes me into the reflected image of the SON, our Savior, Jesus. May it be so in His Name for His Glory. Amen. Maranatha, Come Lord Jesus, Come.

Every tree that does not produce good fruit will be chopped down and thrown into the fire. (Luke 3:9)

Contemplation of Christ does not mean an emotional sort of pious daydream; it means entering by a deliberate, self-oblivious and humble attention into the tremendous mysteries of His Life—mysteries which each give us some deep truth about the life and Will of God and the power and vocation of a soul that is given to God—mysteries which each one of us in particular is called to make part of our very lives. They will break up, into colors we can deal with, that white light of God’s Holiness at which we cannot look. -Evelyn Underhill

A Psalm and a Prayer

The LORD will work out his plans for my life—for your faithful love, O LORD, endures forever.  (Psalm 138:8) 14 I give thanks to you that I was marvelously set apart. Your works are wonderful—I know that very well. 15 My bones weren’t hidden from you when I was being put together in a secret place, when I was being woven together in the deep parts of the earth. 16 Your eyes saw my embryo, and on your scroll every day was written that was being formed for me, before any one of them had yet happened.17 God, your plans are incomprehensible to me! (Psalm 139:14-17 CEB) Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life. (Psalm 139:23-24)

O Loving heavenly Father, whose blessed Son did suffer for the whole world, grant that we may know you better, love you more, and serve you with a more perfect will. Lord, I admit that I often feel inadequate, in spite of your promises. Often I hold back. Help me to take the risks of faith, to be aware of your affirming presence in my life. Now, in Advent, sharpen my spirit and my senses, and enable me to pay attention to the moments of God-radiance when you ask me to look, to listen, and to be a peacemaker. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ your son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever. Amen.

Advent (2014): O Root of Jesse

19DEC2014—3rd Friday ADVENT Year B

Advent: O Root of Jesse

Scripture Reading:  Year One Readings from the Book of Common Prayer

Psalm 40, 54, 51  Isaiah 10:5-19  2 Peter 2:17-22  Matt. 11:2-15

December 19th: —O Radix Jesse (Isaiah 11:10, Isaiah 52:15, Habakkuk 2:3): O Root of Jesse, you stand as a sign for the peoples; before you kings shall keep silence and to you all nations shall have recourse.  Come, save us, and do not delay.

Are you the Messiah we’ve been expecting, or should we keep looking for someone else? (Matt. 11:3)

Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand. (Matt. 11:15)

As I consider the questions from yesterday’s reflections, I have continued to ponder what it means to “have the peace of Christ” and how one becomes a peacemaker. Interestingly enough, a practical opportunity to engage these ideas presented itself to me today and I was able to glean more insight about maintaining an attitude of peace and bearing peace as a peacemaker.

As I’ve been reflecting upon past writings from Advent seasons past, I found the following words from a couple years ago. It’s interesting how this particular writing has shaped my journey since my originally writing. My spirit, my mind, and my emotions continue to be tested by circumstances and seasons of life, but I am more keen to understand I do not  have to be controlled by circumstances. I will continue to seek out my God in all facets and stations of life. He is my Master-Savior and it is He I desire to be controlled by—I do not want to be controlled by emotions or rash reactions to circumstances outside my control.

You are a slave to whatever controls you. (2 Peter 2:19)

Today my peace was tested…not disturbed, but tested. I had a number of errands and appointments and was “on the go” much of the day.  While there were many opportunities for me to lose my peace, there was a solid foundation and I sensed the presence of God at every meeting and every turn of my day. Peace won. I maintained a peaceful attitude of heart and I think I lived the part of a peace-bearer, if not a peacemaker.

“If we realized and were constantly conscious that whatever we do to each other, to any human person, we do to Jesus, to the Son of God, to our beloved Savior, how then would we act?” -M. Basil Pennington, O.C.S.O.

Tonight presented a different scenario and my peace was disturbed. I realized at the moment that I was disturbed, I was being presented with a choice. I could allow the disruption to continue unraveling my peace or I could choose another path. At the same time I was realizing my choices, I had the consciousness to recognize that my inner joy and winsome attitude was slipping from me with almost equal proportion to my peace, which had been “disturbed.” I was aware that a swirl of unhealthy emotions was amassing at my mental gate waiting to be released into my spirit. I had the mental image of some type of infection being released into my bloodstream… At the same time these thoughts were being stirred in my mind, other memories and Scripture recollections were being called to my mind as well.

You are a slave to whatever controls you. (2 Peter 2:19)

I was on the cusp of being offended and angry; and for the most part, over something inconsequential. I had a choice to make; I could choose to be offended and allow my peace to be disturbed and have my joy dampened or I could choose to dip into the reservoir of Christian virtue and the teachings of Jesus who said; “You will know them by their love.” I remembered the greatest Christian virtue of all, love.

4  Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged.It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. (1 Cor. 13:4-7)

Love, and its practice, was the key to maintaining my peace, keeping ownership of my joy, and remaining credible as a witness to bearing peace and potentially being a peacemaker. What I determined is that there are countless opportunities to let peace and joy slip from us each day. I reflected earlier, with pride, how I had managed to maintain my peace in the throes of a potentially disruptive day. That pride was almost my undoing (Love is not boastful or proud) later in my evening. Instead of choosing offense and “wanting my own way,” I chose to love. I chose and I choose; patience, kindness, selflessness. I choose peace. I choose joy. Love never gives up. Love never loses faith. Love endures through every circumstance. Through the empowerment of the Holy Spirit and Almighty God, Love wins.

I am grateful that Jesus has given us the words of life and a model to follow. I am thankful to Him for the Peace he has given to his disciples; the Peace Who is the Comforter and Holy Spirit. I boast in Christ my Savior that I am His servant and I can “joyfully” smile when I read Peter’s words, “You are a slave to whatever controls you…” And know that tonight, it was my surrender to the Holy Spirit and His control that maintained peace and joy in my soul.

Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand. (Matt. 11:15)

A Psalm and a Prayer

I waited patiently for the LORD to help me, and he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire. He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along. He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God… Oh the joys of those who trust the LORD… I take joy in doing your will, my God, for your instructions are written on my heart. Please, LORD, rescue me! Come quickly, LORD, and help me. May all who search for you be filled with joy and gladness in you. Let the LORD keep me in his thoughts. You are my helper and my savior. O my god, do not delay. (Psalm 40: 1-4, 8, 13, 16-17)

Gracious and eternal Lord, in your bounty you have sent us your Holy Spirit. May he teach us to think and do what is right, so that we, who without you cannot exist, may live in loving obedience to your will. Come Holy Spirit and enlarge your presence in me this day, that I may bring into the world more of your life and more of your love. Lord, hear my prayer. And let my cry come to you. Let us bless the Lord. Thanks be to God. Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

Advent (2014): O Adonai

18DEC2014—3rd Thursday ADVENT Year B

Advent: O Adonai

Scripture Reading:  Year One Readings from the Book of Common Prayer

Psalm 50, 59, 60  Isaiah 9:18—10-4  2 Peter 2:10b-16  Matt. 3:1-12

December 18th:
O Adonai (Is. 11:4-5; 33:22): “O Adonai and leader of Israel, you appeared to Moses in a burning bush and you gave him the Law on Sinai. O come and save us with your mighty power.”

I observe the circumstances of life around me, looking at the timeline of life and drama that is occurring right now in the daily living of people who have surrendered their will to following the Christ who is their savior. While God the Holy Spirit is our Comforter and gives us Peace in the midst of our journey, sometimes the journey is exceedingly difficult. Jesus said this would be so; “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world” (John 16:33 NLT). Pursuing the Christ and His Cross requires grit, passion, singleness of heart, and faith in the big picture (Luke 14:25-35). There is nothing easy about being wholly committed to Jesus.

Similarly, there is nothing passive about surrendering or living wholly surrendered to the LORD, Jesus Christ. On the contrary… it requires more action, faith, will, tenacity, endurance, courage, and risk-taking than any venture or activity I have ever been part of. History and the experiences of many other countless millions of Christians will also testify to this reality. “The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.Just as this was true with Mary, Jesus promised it would be true with us; “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth… You know him because he lives with you now and later will be in you. I will not abandon you as orphans—I will come to you” (John 14:15-18).

We are not alone and there is no such thing as a weak, wall-flower Christian. The ONE who opened His mouth and the universe came out…now lives in me. Weak? Passive? I think not. This is what surrendered to Christ is. As Mary said, “I am the servant of the Lord, may it be unto me as He says.” This is not only our surrender, but it is our battle cry. We know the trials of our faith will prove our genuineness (1 Peter 1:6-9) and lead us to the eternally rich life with Christ each follower so desperately desires.

Behold, I am the servant of the Most High God. May it be done to me according to your word and your will. Amen. – Let everything within you watch and wait, for the Lord our God draws near. Alleluia.

A Psalm and a Prayer:

1 The Lord, the Mighty One, is God, and he has spoken;  he has summoned all humanity from where the sun rises to where it sets.  2 From Mount Zion, the perfection of beauty, God shines in glorious radiance.  3 Our God approaches, and he is not silent. Fire devours everything in his way, and a great storm rages around him. (Psalm 50:1-3 NLT)

He is the perfection of beauty, shining in glorious radiance. God approaches…and he is not silent; a storm rages around him and fire devours everything in his way. There is something calming and terrifying all at once in these words. I think I will continue to meditate upon them.

Blessed be you, Lord God of Israel, for you have looked favorably on your people and redeemed them; you have raised up a mighty Savior for us, just as you spoke through your holy prophets of old. O God of peace, sanctify me entirely; may you keep my spirit, soul and body sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Because you have called me and you are faithful, I believe you will do this.

Pour into us now, O most loving One, the gift of eternal grace, so that, by the misfortunes of new deception, old error may not destroy us. O God, the Father of all humankind, you bid us listen to your Son, the well-beloved. Nourish our hearts on your word, purify the eyes of our mind, and fill us with joy at the vision of your glory. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, on God forever and ever. Amen.

Advent (2014): O Antiphons

17DEC2014—3rd Wednesday ADVENT Year B

Advent: O Antiphons

Scripture Reading:  Year One Readings from the Book of Common Prayer

Readings: Psalm 50, 59, 60  Isaiah 9:18—10-4  2 Peter 2:10b-16  Matt. 3:1-12

Beginning of the “O” Antiphons

Since the seventh century, this set of seven prayer texts has been sung or recited over the final days of Advent during daily service of vespers, or evening prayer. They are voiced in response to the Magnificat (Lk 1:46-55). Each antiphonal prayer addressed God with “O” and a biblical name and concludes with a call for him to come. The phrases of prayers derive from Scripture. For the following seven days, we will be using these prayer texts in conjunction with our normal Advent devotions and meditations.

December 17th:
O Sapientia (Is. 11:2-3; 28:29): “O Wisdom, you come forth from the mouth of the Most High. You fill the universe and hold all things together in a strong yet gentle manner. O come to teach us the way of truth.”

Prove by the way you live that you have repented of your sins and turned to God. He (Jesus) is ready to separate the chaff from the wheat with his winnowing fork. Then he will clean up the threshing area, gathering the wheat into his barn but burning the chaff with never-ending fire. (Matt. 3:8, 12)

Today I am thinking about peace and what it really means to me. In a world full of conflict, injustice, oppression, greed, competitiveness, jealousy, hatred, war, and contempt…it seems peace might be something very important to us despite that the majority of this population appears to not hold peace with very high regard. Jesus said; “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” He also said to his disciples, “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.

I think the starting point for understanding peace is the definition Jesus probably was working with.

The Hebrew word for peace, shalom, is derived from a root denoting wholeness or completeness, and its frame of reference throughout Jewish literature is bound up with the notion of shelemut, perfection. Its significance is thus not limited to the political domain‑-to the absence of war and enmity‑-or to the social-‑to the absence of quarrel and strife. It ranges over several spheres and can refer in different contexts to bounteous physical conditions, to a moral value, and, ultimately, to a cosmic principle and divine attribute. In the Bible, the word shalom is most commonly used to refer to a state of affairs, one of well‑being, tranquility, prosperity, and security, circumstances unblemished by any sort of defect. Shalom is a blessing, a manifestation of divine grace. (From Contemporary Jewish Religious Thought, edited by Arthur A. Cohen and Paul Mendes-Flohr, Twayne Publishers)

I feel as though I live with an abiding and deep peace within me. I believe I have received the “Peace of Christ” that Jesus spoke of in John 14, but I wonder how this peace radiates from me and affects people and circumstances around me. This, I think, is the most crucial question and will ultimately determine if I am a peacemaker. It is something I want to continue to meditate on and examine in my life.

A Psalm and a Prayer

The LORD, the Mighty One is God, and he has spoken; he has summoned all humanity from where the sun rises to where the sun sets. Our God approaches and he is not silent. Make thankfulness your sacrifice to God. Repent, all of you who forget me… Giving thanks is a sacrifice that truly honors me. If you keep to my path, I will reveal to you the salvation of God. (Psalm 50:1, 3, 14, 22-23)

O Loving heavenly Father, whose blessed Son did suffer for the whole world, grant that we may know you better, love you more, and serve you with a more perfect will.

Lord, I admit that I often feel inadequate, in spite of your promises. Often I hold back. Help me to take the risks of faith, to be aware of your affirming presence in my life. Now, in Advent, sharpen my spirit and my senses, and enable me to pay attention to the moments of God-radiance when you ask me to look, to listen, and to be a peacemaker.

We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ your son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever. Amen.

Advent (2014): Our Joy—Anchored Deeply in Christ

16DEC2014—3rd Tuesday ADVENT Year B

Advent: Our Joy—Anchored Deeply in Christ

Scripture Reading:  Year One Readings from the Book of Common Prayer

Psalm 45, 47, 48  Isaiah 9:1-7  2 Peter 1:12-21  Luke 22:54-69

The people who walk in darkness will see a great light. For those who live in a land of deep darkness, a light will shine. For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. His government and its peace will never end. He will rule with fairness and justice from the throne of his ancestor David for all eternity. The passionate commitment of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies will make this happen! (Isaiah 9:2, 6-7)

We saw his majestic splendor with our own eyes when he received honor and glory from God the Father. The voice from the majestic glory of God said to him, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy.”  We ourselves heard that voice from heaven when we were with him on the holy mountain. (2 Peter 1:16-18)

Day and night we walk in the graying dusk, the between time of the then, now, and yet to come.

The Promise of Him coming, anchored in the ancient faith stories.

By faith, I believe and by faith, He anchors me.

Momentary light afflictions remind us of our frailty; spiritual blessing and promise-filled joys buoy our tired hearts, providing hope-sustenance for eternal tomorrow.

We wait for the coming Christ, the One who changes our earthly mourning story…into eternal morning glory.

To Him we praise while we wait.

                                                         Jeff Borden ©18DEC2010

The promises of God and the historical record of their unfolding are what produce joy in His followers. My thoughts, based on this premise, follow:

  1. Joy is not about what happens to us.
  2. Joy is the meaning we give to what we do that determines the nature—the quality—of the lives we live.
  3. Joy is not about self-centeredness (John 5:30)
  4. Happiness (true happiness) is not about self-satisfaction; it is about the joy that comes with a sense of purpose.
  5. Joy comes from living our lives immersed in the will of God and not self-aggrandizement.
  6. Joy is not in “things,” if we are found in Christ, joy is in us.

A Psalm and a Prayer

Come, everyone! Clap your hands! Shout to God with joyful praise! For the Lord Most High is awesome. He is the great King of all the earth. (Psalm 47:1-2)

Incline a merciful ear to our cry, we pray, O LORD, and casting light on the darkness of our hearts, visit us with the grace of your Son.  Stifle the empty clamor of this too-often secularized Christmas season, and set us free to reject the greed and waste so prevalent around us. Let us confirm our convictions without speech, praising you with our actions and our lives as dazzling witness to Christ who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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