Monthly Archives: December 2014

All the peoples of the earth / Aller Völker der Erde

Oh Gott, du hast aller Völker der Erde aus demselben Blut gemacht, und deinen gepriesenen Sohn gesandt, um denen, die weit entfernt und denen die nahe sind, Frieden zu verkünden: Gib, dass Menschen überall nach dir suchen und dich finden; bringe die Völker in deine Herde; gieße deinen Geist aus über alles Fleisch; und eile mit dem Kommen deines Reiches; durch Jesus Christus, unsern Herrn. Amen.

This is one of the familiar prayers for mission in Morning Prayer, but its plea takes on new meaning when one prays for “all the peoples of the earth” in a different language.

In this Christmas season especially, it’s important to remember that God became human for all of us, that God shares the flesh that we all share.

I’m grateful during this trip to Germany for the work of the Convocation of American Churches in Europe, which has translated portions of the Book of Common Prayer into Italian, French, Spanish, and German.

Praying the Daily Office (das Gebet der Tagzeiten) in German means, for me, slowing down and paying attention to the words of the prayers in a new way.

What practice might you embrace during these 12 days of Christmas that will encourage you to slow down and “ponder all these things” in a new way?

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Daily visitation

How resonant that word, “daily.”

“Daily we begin again to put into practice the Lord’s teaching,” says the Rule of Benedict.

“One Day at a Time” say those of us in recovery.

Richard, Bishop of Chichester (1197-1253), is popularly credited with this prayer, made familiar both by Ralph Vaughn Williams and the musical Godspell:

Day by day,
Dear Lord, of thee three things I pray:
To see thee more clearly,
Love thee more dearly,
Follow thee more nearly,
Day by Day.

“The Holy Eucharist, the principal act of Christian worship on the Lord’s Day and other major feasts, and Daily Morning and Evening Prayer, as set forth in this Book, are the regular services appointed for public worship in this church,” says our own Book of Common Prayer (BCP 13).

May your daily visitation with the Lord be a source of blessing and strength, both this day and always.

Forgetful of the cleansing

For this very reason, you must make every effort to support your faith with goodness, and goodness with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with endurance, and endurance with godliness, and godliness with mutual affection, and mutual affection with love. For if these things are yours and are increasing among you, they keep you from being ineffective and unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For anyone who lacks these things is nearsighted and blind, and is forgetful of the cleansing of past sins. (2 Peter 1:5-9)

One of the first insights I had about the Daily Office after I entered recovery was that, even though the rubrics say the Confession of Sin is optional at the beginning of Morning Prayer (BCP 79), for me it is required.

It’s so easy for me to be “forgetful of the cleansing of past sins,” to press forward without remembering the hard-won lessons of my recovery and my new life.

It’s easy for me to start thinking things are fine, but how quickly I can slip back into the thoughts that led me into trouble in the first place. How little I really want to do what is good, how little I want to wait for anything, how little thought I give to anyone else, how little self-control I have!

The grace that filled me when I entered recovery, admitting my powerlessness and my need for God’s help, is the same kind of grace that is given to us in the sacrament of baptism.

It occurred to me today that we make our Confession of Sin and then say the Apostles’ Creed each morning so that we do not become “forgetful of the cleansing of past sins.”

The point is not to rehearse our past sins over and over — they have been forgiven, and we are made new in baptism. Rather, the point is to learn from our experience in order to better trust in the hope we have been given.

The point is to be mindful each day of our need for God, and each day to recommit ourselves to walking in the steps laid out for us.

Therefore, brothers and sisters, be all the more eager to confirm your call and election, for if you do this, you will never stumble. For in this way, entry into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be richly provided for you. (2 Peter 1:10-11)

A Collect for the Renewal of Life

O God, the King eternal, whose light divides the day from the night and turns the shadow of death into the morning: Drive far from us all wrong desires, incline our hearts to keep your law, and guide our feet into the way of peace; that, having done your will with cheerfulness while it was day, we may, when night comes, rejoice to give you thanks; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (BCP 99)

Without shame or fear

In just a few minutes, Fr. Ralph will lead us in the Great Thanksgiving as we prepare to celebrate Communion:

It is right, and a good and joyful thing, always and everywhere to give thanks to you, Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth, because you sent your beloved Son to redeem us from sin and death, and to make us heirs in him of everlasting life; that when he shall come again in power and great triumph to judge the world, we may without shame or fear rejoice to behold his appearing.

“That we may without shame or fear rejoice to behold his appearing …”

But we should be ashamed.

We are citizens of a country in which black men like Mike Brown and Eric Garner and black boys like Tamir Rice are killed and the police officers who killed them are not indicted. We good citizens too often prefer to talk about the character of the victim and not the behavior of the police.

We live in a world in which at least 20% of women report being victims of sexual assault, and where 1,600 years after St. Nicholas saved girls from slavery they are still sold into sex trafficking. We well-behaved people too often prefer to talk about dress codes for young women or blame the woman for not protecting herself, instead of focusing on the behavior of the rapists and abusers.

We are part of a society in which a mentally ill man is not only not in the hospital, but is on Death Row and just a day away from execution. He was pardoned this week, but the scandal is that he was that close to being killed for being mentally ill. We who are supposedly “sound of mind” would rather not think about it.

We belong to each other, but we feel like we’re individuals. We feel alone.

And we are so afraid …

We are afraid to offer a hand to a poor person, in case a working mother uses her SNAP benefit to buy something tasty for her family. We’re so afraid that $74 billion is too much to spend, that we don’t notice she’s only getting about $125 a month for each person in her family. [FNS USDA 2014]

We are afraid that we’re not beautiful enough, or thin enough, or sexy enough, or fit enough, and we spend $60 billion each year on dietary supplements and gym memberships and diet soda [US News 2013]. Even in the middle of the recession, in 2010 we spent $11 billion on plastic surgery [Reuters 2010].

We are afraid to admit that we benefit from a strong military presence around the world, that our being able to feel secure and safe means that innocent people sometimes die in raids and drone attacks.

How long, O Lord?

We are too often blind and cheap and shallow in our daily lives, but what we’re really afraid of is dying, and what we’re ashamed to do is face up to our own failings.

Advent, far from being a run-up to Christmas, to gentle-Jesus-meek-and-mild, is as much a reminder of death as it is of life, and it confronts us with the question of judgment. Will we be forgiven?

The reading from the Second Letter of Peter is a perfect example. “What happens to the people who die?” is the question behind today’s passage.

Peter replies by saying this: “The Lord is not slow about his promise, as some think about slowness, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance.” He goes on to say, “Regard the patience of the Lord as salvation.” (2 Peter 3:9,15)

Regard the patience of the Lord as salvation …

Peter also asks the question, “What sort of persons ought you to be in leading lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God?”

That is, how should we live in the meantime?

I don’t think Peter means for us to live in shame, but rather in humility and expectation, having experienced the forgiveness of Jesus.

The author Marilynne Robinson writes that:

The one letter confidently attributed to Peter, the friend of Jesus, represents Jesus in terms of his humility and patience to suffering … Perhaps it is Peter’s memory of the moment in which he himself injured Jesus that gives such power to his description. (from Incarnation: Contemporary Writers on the New Testament)

If Peter, who denied Jesus before his crucifixion, has been forgiven, who are we to remain ashamed? If you have confessed your faults to another person, as I have, and received forgiveness, as I have, who are you to feel ashamed?

And who are we to be afraid?

Another of my favorite authors addresses Paul, the other great apostle of the New Testament, who would not want us to live in fear.

Robert Farrar Capon writes:

[I]f God has really done what the Epistle to the Romans says he has, he’s gone ahead and solved all his problems with sin independently of what sinners might or might not do about it. That’s outrageous, of course; and it’s not at all what most people think a God who’s a card-carrying member of the God Union ought to do. But it is what the Mystery of Christ is all about, because by that Mystery, God’s love and forgiveness are intimately and immediately present in full force to everyone in the world, virtuous or wicked, Christian or not, simply because the Word of God incarnate in Jesus is present to everyone in the world. Nobody has to clean up his act in order to be forgiven or loved; all anybody has to do is *believe (trust, have faith)* that he’s home free already, and then enjoy the forgiveness he’s had all along by passing it on to everybody he runs into. (The Mystery of Christ … and Why We Don’t Get It)

So, to Peter’s question, what sort of persons ought we to be?

If we have been seen in our shame and forgiven for our blindness and pettiness and shallowness, can we pass along that forgiveness? Can we look clearly at the behavior of those who injure others – or kill them or abuse them or belittle them – and see them through the same forgiving eyes as Jesus saw Peter?

If we have been set free from the fear of death, how should we treat those who are still afraid? Can we defend those who do fear death – or abuse or imprisonment or hunger – because they are vulnerable? Can we protect them so that they might experience the same freedom we enjoy?

If we can see and forgive, defend and protect, perhaps then we can inspire people to repentance and holiness, as we ourselves have been inspired.

If we can help people see that the grace and forgiveness comes first, and that our repentance, our turning around, is how we respond to the freedom we’ve been given, maybe then we can inspire others to live that way, too.

And maybe then our prayer will indeed be true:

It is right, and a good and joyful thing, always and everywhere to give thanks to you, Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth, because you sent your beloved Son to redeem us from sin and death, and to make us heirs in him of everlasting life; that when he shall come again in power and great triumph to judge the world, we may without shame or fear rejoice to behold his appearing.

 

Amen.

What can the righteous do?

What can the righteous do?

When the foundations are being destroyed,
what can the righteous do?
The Lord is in his holy temple;
the Lord’s throne is in heaven.
His eyes behold the inhabited world;
his piercing eye weighs our worth. (Psalm 11:3-5)

Weighing our worth

When [the people] heard [the parable of the wicked tenants], they said, “Heaven forbid!” But he looked at them and said, “What then does this text mean: ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone’? Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces; and it will crush anyone on whom it falls.” When the scribes and chief priests realized that he had told this parable against them, they wanted to lay hands on him at that very hour, but they feared the people. (Luke 20:16b-19)

Who does he think he is?

I mean, seriously, what can we do?

This guy is in our church teaching, and there’s something not quite right about him. Who does he think he is?

No matter what question we ask him, he slips away sideways, and when we try to go in for the kill, we trip over his words and he makes us look bad. It’s aggravating! Someone should throw him out of here.

Trouble is, the kids love him. The young adults are coming back to church. Even the Rite One crowd seems to like him, and a couple of them cornered us after the service last Sunday and asked if what he said about the Bible was true.

Maybe the bishop can do something about him. Maybe we should call the cops.

What are we going to do?