Monthly Archives: November 2012

Come and See

Proclaim with me the greatness of the LORD; *
let us exalt his Name together.
(Psalm 34:3)

Today is the feast of St. Andrew, who with his brother Simon (St. Peter) was first called to follow Jesus.

The synoptic Gospels — Matthew, Mark, and Luke — place their calling together. The Gospel of John, as usual, tells a slightly different story.

The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, ‘Look, here is the Lamb of God!’ The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, ‘What are you looking for?’ They said to him, ‘Rabbi’ (which translated means Teacher), ‘where are you staying?’ He said to them, ‘Come and see.’ They came and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon. One of the two who heard John speak and followed him was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first found his brother Simon and said to him, ‘We have found the Messiah’ (which is translated Anointed). He brought Simon to Jesus, who looked at him and said, ‘You are Simon son of John. You are to be called Cephas’ (which is translated Peter). (John 1:35-42)

After Jesus’ invitation to “come and see,” Andrew turns and extends the same invitation to his brother Simon.

As we begin a new church year this coming Sunday, who will you invite to “come and see” Jesus and to join you in praising God, not only with your lips but in your life?


We who teach

Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers and sisters, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. For all of us make many mistakes. Anyone who makes no mistakes in speaking is perfect, able to keep the whole body in check with a bridle. (James 3:1-3)

A colleague once remarked that he had listened to me present an hourlong webinar and didn’t once hear me say “uh.” He asked how I did it, and I answered that I did it on purpose. I practice my presentation skills constantly.

We who teach aim “to make no mistakes in teaching,” even though we know all too well our own failings. We know we are not always able to “keep the whole body in check.”

Because we who teach practice how to present ourselves and our subjects, we may create a picture of ourselves in our hearers’ minds that is more polished, more poised than our true self.

James reminds us essentially not to believe our own press releases or our own Facebook statuses.

We who teach will be judged with greater strictness because the distance between our facade and our failings is so much greater.

Though I do not like being judged or corrected, I realize that it is a necessary part of becoming the best teacher I can be, a man who is at one with his subject and at peace with himself.

I am thankful for those around me whose judgment, correction, and insight provides me with the rigor and strictness I need in my life as a teacher.

Larger life is a banquet!

Then Jesus said to him, “Someone gave a great dinner and invited many. At the time for the dinner he sent his slave to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come; for everything is ready now.’ But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a piece of land, and I must go out and see it; please accept my regrets.’ Another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to try them out; please accept my regrets.’ Another said, ‘I have just been married, and therefore I cannot come.’ So the slave returned and reported this to his master.” (Luke 14:16-21)

Seeking wisdom openly in prayer

Pursue love and strive for the spiritual gifts, and especially that you may prophesy. For those who speak in a tongue do not speak to other people but to God; for nobody understands them, since they are speaking mysteries in the Spirit. On the other hand, those who prophesy speak to other people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation. Those who speak in a tongue build up themselves, but those who prophesy build up the church … So with yourselves; since you are eager for spiritual gifts, strive to excel in them for building up the church. (1 Cor. 14:1-2, 12)

We’ve been reading for just over three weeks now from the book of Ecclesiasticus, or “The Wisdom of Jesus Son of Sirach.”

As he finishes his writing, he says “While I was young, before I went on my travels I sought wisdom openly in my prayer. Before the temple I asked for her, and I will search for her until the end” (Sirach 51:13).

Sirach and Paul emphasize two paired attitudes — striving and sharing — in their teaching about spiritual gifts, and they both stress that prophecy and wisdom are not to be kept to oneself but to be used for the building up of the faithful.

“Pursue love and strive for the spiritual gifts,” says Paul. “My heart was stirred to seek her; therefore I have gained a prize possession,” says Sirach.

Sirach didn’t keep his learning to himself; he invited fellow seekers to “lodge in the house of instruction” (51:23) and learn from him about wisdom. Paul directed the Corinthians not just to speak in tongues but to prophesy with interpretation, so that the whole church would profit from each person’s gift.

What wisdom have you found in your seeking after God? What has your practice of prayer taught you? How might you share what you have learned with others in order to build them up, encourage them, or console them?

I shall always wait in patience

But I shall always wait in patience,
and shall praise you more and more.
(Psalm 71:14)

Waiting in Patience

Aside from the obvious pun, this verse struck me because we are so eager to rush to judgment these days.

This new thing is amazing, appalling, the best ever, the worst imaginable. We are not good at taking a longer view, waiting to see what happens, digesting before we plunge in.

Several members of my church are in Jerusalem for a class at St. George’s College on “The Palestine of Jesus.” In their first lecture they were reminded that God is already in the places we go, and if we rush through them too quickly we may miss the signs of his presence.

They write:

This is very important for Pilgrims who come to Jerusalem and want to “rush rush rush” to see everything right away.  Many who come go right to the High Holy places without taking time to “stand in the gates of Jerusalem” (Psalm 122).  When we don’t take the time to rest in God’s presence and instead want to press forward because “God has called me to do all this work” we do not understand the Way of God.

Praising God More and More

Yesterday morning the reading from Ecclesiasticus (Sirach) ended on this note:

We could say more, but could never say enough; let the final word be: “He is the all.” Where can we find the strength to praise him? For he is greater than all his works. (Sirach 43:27-28)

Our daily pattern of prayer and reading of Scripture helps reinforce this understanding.

Whatever concerns we bring with us, God is already there. However large our problems loom, God is greater. No matter how urgent or drastic or final the circumstances appear, “God is the all.”

But I shall always wait in patience,
and shall praise you more and more.

Run without stumbling

Grant that we may run without stumbling to obtain your heavenly promises; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen. (BCP 235)

To run without stumbling … what a beautiful picture. It’s a lovely vision that doesn’t bear too much resemblance to reality, though. Our prayer book life is built around a different picture of what progress in the spiritual life looks like.

The story goes that a visitor approached the abbot one day and asked, “What do you monks do in the monastery?”

“We fall down,” he said. “And we get up again.”

Falling down and getting up is the monastic rhythm, and in our prayer book we can feel that same pulse beating. The Daily Office is built around the monastic hours of prayer and the ancient habit of Christians to begin and end the day in prayer.

Morning and evening we rise to pray, and we fall on our knees to confess our failings. Our voices rise in praise and in song, and our hearts sink when we recognize how we fall short again and again.

If it were up to us, we probably wouldn’t run at all — but it’s not up to us.

This week’s collect begins with the words “Almighty and merciful God, it is only by your gift that your faithful people offer you true and laudable service.”

God’s gift, God’s mercy, is to lift me from the frustration of my stumbling efforts and “set me upon the rock that is higher than I” (Psalm 61:2).

That Rock is Christ, and in him we are able to “run with perseverance the race that is set before us” and, as Paul says, to “lift your dropping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed” (Hebrews 12:1, 12-13).

As another wise sage has put it,

Don’t lose your confidence if you slip
Be grateful for a pleasant trip
And pick yourself up, dust yourself off and start all over again

Even as I have been fully known

You are God: we praise you;
You are the Lord; we acclaim you;
You are the eternal Father:
All creation worships you.
To you all angels, all the powers of heaven,
Cherubim and Seraphim, sing in endless praise:
Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might,
heaven and earth are full of your glory. (BCP 95)

The opening lines of the Te Deum really caught my attention this morning, coming as they did on the heels of Paul’s famous “love passage” from the first letter to the Corinthians.

For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. (1 Cor. 13:12)

This is a marvelous thing, that we will one day “know fully” and “see face to face” the God that all creation worships. It is just as marvelous to think that we are even now “fully known” by that same God.

I don’t know about you, but I am fortunate to have in my life people who see parts of me more clearly than I can see them myself. When I am not living up to my potential, when I am missing the mark, I can trust them to help me get back on course. Their insight and observations may not be comfortable, but they are true and dependable.

The people in Paul’s congregation at Corinth had fallen way off the rails, and in today’s Epistle reading we see his clear-eyed, firm, but loving response. He knew them fully and loved them deeply.

I thank God that I have people like that in my life, and that from time to time I am the clear-eyed one for someone else. This “knowing and being known” is one of the loveliest aspects of life in the communion of saints, the Body of Christ.

You are seated at God’s right hand in glory.
We believe that you will come and be our judge.
Come then, Lord, and help your people,
bought with the price of your own blood,
and bring us with your saints
to glory everlasting. (BCP 96)

I mean to be one, too

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 11:39–12:2)

And one was a doctor, and one was a queen,
and one was a shepherdess on the green;
they were all of them saints of God, and I mean,
God helping, to be one too.

And one was a soldier, and one was a priest,
and one was slain by a fierce wild beast;
and there’s not any reason, no, not the least,
why I shouldn’t be one too.

Once you get past the stereotypical English charm of this hymn, a perennial favorite in the Episcopal Church, there’s a solid message about saintliness.

“They were all of them saints of God, and I mean, God helping, to be one, too.”

The letter to the Hebrews suggests not only what that intention looks like, but who the saints look to: “Let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:1-2)

What weight do you need to set aside? What sin clings so closely to you?

May the presence of Jesus in your life — made known to you in the Scriptures and in fellowship with the saints around you — help you persevere in the race that is set before you.

There’s not any reason, no, not the least, why you shouldn’t be a saint, too.