Category Archives: Easter

Enough, and more than enough

Today is, so to speak, a “patronal feast” of this blog, since this is one of three times in the two-year Daily Office lectionary that Hebrews 6:19 is read.

We have this hope, a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul.

That verse, however, is only one part of the origin story of the “Daily Office Anchor Society.”

The name was first used as a tongue-in-cheek description following a retreat for newly-ordained GenX clergy held at the DeKoven Center in Racine, Wisconsin many (increasingly many) years ago.

At one point in the weekend we all realized that each of us had received at our ordinations a copy of the leather-bound, slipcased Daily Office Book along with the well-meaning expectation that of course “you’ll be saying the Offices every day now.”

Dave Walker’s “Cartoon Church” from the Church Times paints a pretty good picture of what we were up against.

That expectation of piety, coupled with virtually no exposure to the Offices (how often does *your* church have Evensong, huh?), we all experienced as an anchor dragging us down.

Being a card-carrying member of the “Daily Office Anchor Society” was not really a good thing.

The leather-bound, slipcased Daily Office Book, displayed on our shelves but rarely used, became a visible symbol of our failure to meet expectations — other people’s expectations, the Church’s expectations, and our own.

Daily Office Book

These days, nearly 20 years later, I no longer feel that the Daily Office represents a weight of expectation, a letter of law or institutional requirement against which I am judged.

Praying the Daily Office is instead a portable practice (I use a leather-bound BCP and Bible, but you could use the Forward Day by Day app on your iPhone) that allows me to participate in the Church’s ceaseless prayer and to “travel light” like the seventy disciples that Jesus sent out in today’s Gospel passage.

After this the Lord appointed seventy others and sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go. He said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. Go on your way. See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves. Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and greet no one on the road. Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this house!’ And if anyone is there who shares in peace, your peace will rest on that person; but if not, it will return to you. (Luke 10:1-6)

There is a sense of lightness, I think, that is the fruit of time spent in Jesus’ presence.

The seventy found, even though they had no supplies (no buildings, no tools, none of the stuff we usually haul around with us), that their relationship with Jesus was enough — and more than enough.

It’s this sense of lightness, I think, that the recent Memorial to the Church seeks to recall us to.

The Episcopal Church has enough, and more than enough, if it accepts the call:

To recommit itself to the spiritual disciplines [Daily Office, Eucharist, etc.] at the core of our common life, to go into our neighborhoods boldly with church planters and church revitalizers, and to restructure our church for the mission God is laying before us today.

The seventy returned to Jesus with joy, exclaiming over the power they had been able to tap into. “Lord, in your name even the demons submit to us!”

I have found in my own life, through experiences of loss and grace and through practices of recovery that build hope — what Richard Rohr calls the “coded Gospel” — that my relationship with Jesus is enough.

The Daily Office, for me, is the way I spend time in Jesus’ presence most mornings so that for the rest of the day I can travel lightly into my neighborhood and hold lightly my expectations about what success looks like.

In this way, the Office serves me as a “sure and steadfast anchor” connecting me to Jesus, who is my hope.

How do you stay connected to Jesus? What builds hope in your life? What helps you to set aside expectations and find that you have enough, and more than enough?

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The spiritual disciplines at the core

As a practitioner and promoter of one of “the spiritual disciplines at the core of our common life,” in fact the first-named of those disciplines (see BCP 13), I have endorsed the Memorial to the Church found here. I urge you all to do likewise.

The Memorial also calls upon the church to go into our neighborhoods boldly and to restructure our church for the mission God has in mind for us.

The Daily Office is a portable discipline (I use a prayer book/Bible combo, but you could show your neighbor the Forward Day by Day app on your iPhone), and praying it means living in the “big, exciting room” of the Scriptures, the “house built on rock” (Matthew 7:24).

Pay attention to how you listen (and look)

For while they live among his works, they keep searching, and they trust in what they see, because the things that are seen are beautiful. (Wisdom 13:7)

The writer of the book of Wisdom expresses a theme common to our discussion of science and faith.

Either the amazing beauty of millions of galaxies testifies to the creative power of God, or the distant stars bear mute witness to the emptiness and loneliness of our plight.

It matters how you look.

For the Wisdom writer, those who “live among his works” but who are “still searching” haven’t looked closely enough or carefully enough.

They’ve seen the beauty of creation, but haven’t recognized the Creator.

They’ve clicked on the image in this post, the most detailed image ever compiled of the Andromeda Galaxy (M31). Perhaps they’ve noticed that it contains 1.5 billion pixels, but they haven’t comprehended “the bright immensities” (Hymn 459) that span what little we can see of the universe — more than 14 billion light years back into time.

The Wisdom writer goes on to wonder, “If they had the power to know so much that they could investigate the world, how did they fail to find sooner the Lord of these things?” (Wisdom 13:9).

In the Gospel passage appointed for this morning, Jesus has just gotten through explaining the parable of the sower to his disciples (spoiler alert: they didn’t get it) and is trying another example on them, the parable of the lamp under a jar.

Jesus interrupts himself — I picture him rolling his eyes at a bewildered James and John (the “dunderheads” as John the evangelist calls them) — and says “Pay attention to how you listen; for to those who have, much more will be given; and from those who do not have, even what they seem to have will be taken away” (Luke 8:18).

Pay attention to how you listen.

When they come to him and say, “Your mother and your brothers are standing outside” and he replies “my mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it,” then pay attention to hearing the word of God.

When you are in trouble and cry out that everything is hopeless, and Jesus replies “Where is your faith?” — then pay attention to the Word of God himself!

It matters how you listen, and it matters to whom you listen.

In the middle of a swirling storm, in the howling wind and the snap and strain of the lines, in the cries of the disciples pulling at the oars, Jesus speaks softly and the storm responds in kind.

In the tug and pull of relationships Jesus says “notice,” and the lines of the family are redrawn. And in the real anxieties and worries of your life, Jesus says “just a little faith is enough.”

Even in the rendering of starlight that you’re looking at on your smartphone, God the “maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen,” says “Here I am.”

So pay attention to how you listen (and look).

I am small and of little account … come and see

I am “in between jobs” for the second time in 18 months.

Because I had so much free time during Lent, I think, I have been dwelling a lot on the notion of “smallness.”

Perhaps it’s time to get off the road and work closer to home. Perhaps it’s time for me to shift my ambitions, to discern what few things I must do instead of chasing all of the things I could do.

Perhaps it’s time to put down roots instead of spreading wings.

Perhaps this frame of mind that I’m in caused the words of Psalm 119 to strike me so powerfully this morning: “I am small and of little account.”

Your word has been tested to the uttermost, *
and your servant holds it dear.
I am small and of little account, *
yet I do not forget your commandments.
Your justice is an everlasting justice *
and your law is the truth.
Trouble and distress have come upon me, *
yet your commandments are my delight.
The righteousness of your decrees is everlasting; *
grant me understanding, that I may live. (Psalm 119:140-144)

We don’t know much about Philip beyond what we read in today’s Gospel lesson, and we can’t even sort out who the biblical James really was — talk about obscurity!

Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.” Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” (John 1:45-46)

But that simple invitation from an obscure follower turns everything around. Philip invites Nathanael to know Jesus, and Nathanael, “an Israelite in whom there is no guile,” comes to love Jesus.

That simple invitation to “come and see” also echoes in two of the Friday prayers in the Daily Office.

Every Friday morning, we ask God to “mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the cross, may find it none other than the way of life and peace” (BCP 99).

Come and see, says Jesus to his disciples. Follow me in the way of the cross. “Trouble and distress” may come upon you, but I am with you, he says. You will find life and peace with me.

I would guess that most of us who pray the Office regularly also pray this Prayer for Mission on Fridays, too:

Lord Jesus Christ, you stretched out your arms of love on the hard wood of the cross that everyone might come within the reach of your saving embrace: So clothe us in your Spirit that we, reaching forth our hands in love, may bring those who do not know you to the knowledge and love of you; for the honor of your Name. Amen. (BCP 101)

The way of the cross that we follow with Jesus is not only suffering, but also compassion. The Spirit we share with Jesus not only draws us in to intimacy, but also leads us out to embrace.

Here, we pray that we may extend the same invitation to others that Christ extends to us. We pray that we, small as we are, “may bring those who do not know [Christ] to the knowledge and love of [Christ].”

I don’t know what Philip and James expected when they began to follow Jesus. I don’t know what to expect in the next stage of my work and ministry. But I look forward to finding out.

How is God calling you to “come and see” what’s next in your life?

Having the Son of God

And this is the testimony: God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. (1 John 5:11-12)

What does it mean to “have” the Son?

Does it mean saying particular things about Jesus? Reciting particular creeds of the Church?

Does it mean arguing about religion? Imposing religious laws on people?

Does it mean wearing certain Christian t-shirts? Wearing certain ecclesiastical robes? Having a certain hairstyle? Wearing a certain hat?

Does it mean reading special prayers? Making up special prayers? Singing special music?

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What might it mean to “have” life?

Might it mean owning up to our own faults? Admitting our own mistakes?

Might it mean praising God for the way things are? Thanking God for what is?

Might it mean receiving forgiveness? Giving forgiveness?

Might it mean serving God? Might it mean being served by God?

Love (III)

Love bade me welcome: yet my soul drew back,
Guilty of dust and sin.
But quick-eyed Love, observing me grow slack
From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning
If I lacked anything.

“A guest,” I answered, “worthy to be here”:
Love said, “You shall be he.”
“I, the unkind, ungrateful? Ah, my dear,
I cannot look on thee.”
Love took my hand, and smiling did reply,
“Who made the eyes but I?”

“Truth, Lord; but I have marred them; let my shame
Go where it doth deserve.”
“And know you not,” says Love, “who bore the blame?”
“My dear, then I will serve.”
“You must sit down,” says Love, “and taste my meat.”
So I did sit and eat.

-George Herbert

Deep gloom enshrouds the peoples

Arise, shine, for your light has come, *
and the glory of the Lord has dawned upon you.
For behold, darkness covers the land; *
deep gloom enshrouds the peoples.
But over you the Lord will rise, *
and his glory will appear upon you. (Isaiah 60:1-3; BCP 87)

Yesterday evening, my Twitter feed and then the news filled with images and video of Walter Scott being shot so casually by North Charleston police officer Michael Slager.

Meanwhile, back on NCIS (Tuesday night is NCIS night) the usual storyline unfolds, and Gibbs very casually shoots the arms dealer who has killed a Marine; as often happens on NCIS, the show ends with an emotional appeal for gifts in memory of fallen Marines.

On NCIS: New Orleans, a hostage situation unfolds, met with the entirely understandable armoring of the FBI and a Navy SWAT team.

Through the gloom, the evening starts to feels like the Gospel accounts of the crucifixion — the Roman Empire says  “force wins,” the religious people say “it’s better for one person to die for the country,” the criminal gets taken down, and protests over his death are met with a carefully crafted story and an extra layer of security: “Otherwise, his disciples may go and steal him away” (Matthew 27:62-66).

It’s so hard to proclaim Easter when it’s gloomy like this. It’s so hard not to retreat, not to try to close out the news.

Alienation

But it gets better.

This morning in my Facebook feed, a friend shared a link to a reflection by New Jersey relationship columnist Anthony D’ambrosio on marriage and divorce.

One of the five reasons D’ambrosio cites “why marriage just doesn’t work anymore” is our alienation from each other because of all the devices and screens that surround us (I chuckle as I read in the living room; I can hear my wife tapping away on her laptop in the kitchen).

I can also hear the disciples walking on the Emmaus road shaking their heads in dismay. “It wasn’t supposed to be like this. We had high hopes.”

Communion

The stranger who joins them, and who accepts their polite invitation to a meal, opens the eyes of their faith in the way he breaks and blesses the bread (Luke 24:13-35).

O God, whose blessed Son made himself known to his disciples in the breaking of bread: Open the eyes of our faith, that we may behold him in all his redeeming work; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen. (BCP 223)

Perhaps simpler gestures of communion will pierce the deep gloom that enshrouds us.

Perhaps seeing each other through the eyes of faith — not as dangerous criminals, not as armed storm troopers, not as self-absorbed people pushing each other away on purpose — perhaps seeing each other is the first step to seeing the Risen Lord.

“Over you the Lord will rise,” says Isaiah, “and his glory will appear upon you.” Perhaps if we make time and space (and a place) to sit with each other, we will have a chance truly to see each other.

Give us eyes to see each other, O Lord, not to look past each other. Give us pause before we alienate one another again. Give us hunger to share a meal with each other, and in our breaking bread together to see you with us.

Exsultet Redux

(To be hummed quietly to oneself in the days following the Easter blowout)

Relax now, heavenly hosts and choirs of angels,
and give your trumpets a vacation
after the victory of our mighty King.

Relax and breathe now, all the round earth,
quiet with a glorious splendor,
for darkness has been vanquished by our eternal King.

Relax and be glad now, Mother Church,
and let your holy courts, in peace and quiet,
reflect on the saving of your people.

All you who rest near this intimate and holy flame,
pray with me to God the Almighty
for the grace to live in worthy praise of this great light
through Jesus Christ his Son our Lord,
who lives and rests with him,
in the stillness of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.