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Sunday Lesson All Saints

The Collect

All Saints

Almighty and merciful God, it is only by your gift that your faithful people offer you true and laudable service: 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.

Old Testament – Ruth 1:1-18

In the days when the judges ruled, there was a famine in the land, and a certain man of Bethlehem in Judah went to live in the country of Moab, he and his wife and two sons. The name of the man was Elimelech and the name of his wife Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Chilion; they were Ephrathites from Bethlehem in Judah. They went into the country of Moab and remained there. But Elimelech, the husband of Naomi, died, and she was left with her two sons. These took Moabite wives; the name of the one was Orpah and the name of the other Ruth. When they had lived there about ten years, both Mahlon and Chilion also died, so that the woman was left without her two sons and her husband.

Then she started to return with her daughters-in-law from the country of Moab, for she had heard in the country of Moab that the Lord had considered his people and given them food. So she set out from the place where she had been living, she and her two daughters-in-law, and they went on their way to go back to the land of Judah. But Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, “Go back each of you to your mother’s house. May the Lord deal kindly with you, as you have dealt with the dead and with me. The Lord grant that you may find security, each of you in the house of your husband.” Then she kissed them, and they wept aloud. They said to her, “No, we will return with you to your people.” But Naomi said, “Turn back, my daughters, why will you go with me? Do I still have sons in my womb that they may become your husbands? Turn back, my daughters, go your way, for I am too old to have a husband. Even if I thought there was hope for me, even if I should have a husband tonight and bear sons, would you then wait until they were grown? Would you then refrain from marrying? No, my daughters, it has been far more bitter for me than for you, because the hand of the Lord has turned against me.” Then they wept aloud again. Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clung to her.

So she said, “See, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods; return after your sister-in-law.” But Ruth said,

“Do not press me to leave you or to turn back from following you!

Where you go, I will go;
Where you lodge, I will lodge;

Your people shall be my people, and your God my God.
Where you die, I will die— there will I be buried.

May the Lord do thus and so to me, and more as well, if even death parts me from you!”

When Naomi saw that she was determined to go with her, she said no more to her.

The Response – Psalm 146 – Lauda, anima mea

  1. Hallelujah!
    Praise the Lord, O my soul! *
    I will praise the Lord as long as I live;
    I will sing praises to my God while I have my being.
  2. Put not your trust in rulers, nor in any child of earth, * for there is no help in them.
  3. When they breathe their last, they return to earth, * and in that day their thoughts perish.
  4. Happy are they who have the God of Jacob for their help! * whose hope is in the Lord their God;
  5. Who made heaven and earth, the seas, and all that is in them; * who keeps his promise for ever;
  6. Who gives justice to those who are oppressed, * and food to those who hunger.
  7. The Lord sets the prisoners free;
    the Lord opens the eyes of the blind; *
    the Lord lifts up those who are bowed down;
  8. The Lord loves the righteous;
    the Lord cares for the stranger; *
    he sustains the orphan and widow, but frustrates the way of the wicked.
  9. The Lord shall reign for ever, *
    your God, O Zion, throughout all generations. Hallelujah!

The Epistle – Hebrews 9:11-14

When Christ came as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation), he entered once for all into the Holy Place, not with the blood of goats and calves, but with his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls, with the sprinkling of the ashes of a heifer, sanctifies those who have been defiled so that their flesh is purified, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to worship the living God!

The Gospel

Mark 12:28-34

One of the scribes came near and heard the Saducees disputing with one another, and seeing that Jesus answered them well, he asked him, “Which commandment is the first of all?” Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” Then the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that ‘he is one, and besides him there is no other’; and ‘to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength,’ and ‘to love one’s neighbor as oneself,’ —this is much more important than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” When Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” After that no one dared to ask him any question.

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Jan 27, 2018 Forward Day-By-Day Meditation

The next Cursillo in our Diocese is #278 in March; and then, #279 in May. Today’s Forward Day-by-Day meditation tells us a bit about Cursillo. Sound interesting? Call and ask for a Cursillista. Have you already made your Cursillo (or Walk to Emmaus)? Comment w/your number below!

John 6:24 So when the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum looking for Jesus.

For years, my wife urged me to go to Cursillo, a weekend retreat designed to deepen and strengthen faith. She had found the experience to be transformational, but I wasn’t sure. I didn’t think I needed to go—my relationship with the Lord was strong enough. In 2006, I finally acquiesced and said, “Yes.” My wife was right. The experience transformed me.

On Saturday night I was baptized in the Holy Spirit. I received a laying on of hands by a priest who had also been baptized in the Holy Spirit by a priest who had been baptized in the Holy Spirit. I was on the receiving end of a baptismal ripple that is centuries long.

I woke up Sunday morning with a word on my lips that I had never spoken before: Christos. More words came. None in English. I spell them the way they sounded: Tu. Es. Christos. Amore. Illuminari. “You are Christ’s love illuminated.” All of us can be Christ’s love illuminated if we say “Yes” when Jesus asks: Come look for my love within you and carry it into the world.

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Christmas Eve

I was deeply moved by a quote from Prior Aelred, a Benedictine monk from St. Gregory’s Abbey,

I don’t have a clue how it is possible for God to become a human being. It is beyond my ability to comprehend. That doesn’t mean it isn’t true. I was very good at Euclidian geometry and Newtonian physics. I could follow the logic and the mathematics because I could comprehend them. I don’t understand subatomic physics and the significance of the hunt for the Higgs boson. I can’t comprehend things that function so far outside my own experience. That doesn’t mean that they are not true. It just means that I can’t comprehend them.

Summing up: we cannot comprehend God. But we can experience him—in human form.

The benediction we will close with this evening, May God, who in the Word made flesh, joined heaven to earth and earth to heaven sums up the reason we celebrate: Heaven joins earth. Can you comprehend heaven living inside of you and me? Maybe not, but we can experience heaven and its unfolding within us.

For this church year, if just not for this moment alone, how can we invite Divinity more into our humanity? If we’re careful to read the gospels, humanity is woven through them. Instead of reporting data of the birth as our culture does: time, height, weight and color of eyes, Luke’s world speaks of more human factors: swaddling clothes, a manger and his first visitors. Our culture, based in Greek thought tends to separate the world of things from the world of ideas, the realm of spirit from the realm of the physical and human from Divine. Jesus joins divinity and humanity, spirit and matter as one and thereby begins to heal us from our inner separation from ourselves and our outer separation from the world. Without this marriage between divinity and humanity we ricochet through life without consciousness and we look at others as objects instead of spiritual human beings. This is why it can be so difficult to look into the eyes of another: we begin to see their soul, and to begin to see their soul requires that we are in contact with our own.

Why is this important? Recall, all the headlines in the news this past year: observable escalating aberrant behavior and belief systems—it’s not difficult to comprehend that there’s definitely something missing in the world—that a large percentage of humanity is definitely in need of some divinity in order to align humanity with creation.

Prior Aelred continues: What I understand the Incarnation to mean is that there is no pretense in God. God really became a human being. He didn’t pretend anything about being human. He needed his mother to feed him and change his swaddling clothes and he really went through the adolescent angst of the human condition.

If Christmas is to have any meaning at all besides the Disney Fantasia aspect, it means that Jesus reaches into our earthiness with his own and is more willing to be with us our light and in the shadows than we are ourselves. This is why it can be so difficult to read the Psalms: they are ever so earthy, sometimes dripping with the base nature of our animal nature, begging the Divine to take root in it.

So this Christmas, let us invite the Divine child to dwell with us fully: in our joy, in our anger, in our sadness, anxiety and dread. Let us invite him into our doubt, our sense of inferiority, wounded memories, confusion; in our overconfidence and grandiosity that covers our fear. Let us invite him into our troubled relationships and take flesh there. Let his infancy take root in us this season so that the blissfulness of new birth may place its breath within us where we find ourselves most hypoxic.

There are places in our lives where we find it more difficult to breathe. Anxiety, fear, doubt, questionable self-acceptance and worth are all places where our physical respiration decreases, because this inner conflict is borne in our flesh blocking our ability to breathe and live freely. . Allow the Divine infant to enter us so that we too may cry out as an infant for our greatest need: for his love and joy to transform our pain—to be made whole by the one who comes to lead us there.

The infant Child, is in our midst, breathing with us as we also prepare to be birthed anew. The labor is worth it for the joy that this child will reveal in us.   We will know truth by being awakened to know more of him. May we be fully present to his presence—allowing his presence to touch our hearts, minds and wills to dismantle that which is holding us back from our birthright to become our true selves found in him.

Gloria in Excelsis Deo!

 

 

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Advent III

Advent 4B; Luke 1:26 ff; 12/24/17

I am wondering if we can identify with Mary and Joseph?  How can this be? Mary asks Gabriel.   Mary doesn’t know what God is doing or what God is about to do?  Do we know what God is doing or is about to do?

With Mary, we have a pretty good idea of what God is doing and what God is about to do. Hindsight is helpful.  But what about us—might God have a message for us and would we know that God is doing or about to do?

Mary asks a question: How can this be? Mary seeks understanding. Gabriel explains and Mary accepts. Yet there is so much more Mary does not understand. There’s the who, where, what and how that have yet to be understood.  There is so much more that we do not understand about what God will do and is doing in our midst.

How can this be? we ask. Sometimes we receive answers. If you’re like me, the answers I receive are mostly by hindsight—that is insight finally comes after the fact and after the action that God has, is and will do outside of my awareness.  One of the great challenges in our western culture is to move ahead in faith without full understanding. Our nearsightedness tempts us to limit God to the level of whatever our perceptions are. Big mistake if we fall prey to this.

God is nudging Mary to respond—to move into unknown territory. We first think that the territory has to do with geography, people, places and time. But the territory God is really asking Mary to explore is within her—Mary, come let me live within you God is saying through Gabriel—in more ways than one, in the flesh in the son she will bear, but more so in her heart, which will be the fulcrum upon which Mary’s faithfulness will act in obedience and faith.

So it is with us. 

We are each born with an inner restlessness that will not know peace until we are ready to ask our questions—Lord, where do you want me to go—what do you want me to do? These questions though, are premature.

And first like Mary, God will ask us—Come let me live and abide in you.  

The ball is in our court.

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Advent II

Advent 2B; Mark 1; 12/10/17

Kathy and I are in a new era of our lives. We’ve been going through our belongings and furniture that suited us before but no longer fit in the lives that we are living here.  We’ve been culling out old things that have meant much to us that we’ve been comfortable with but that are no longer truly useful in our lives here.  We sometimes find mementos long forgotten which bring back many memories.  It’s difficult to part with some things to which we have become attached but now that they are no longer useful, they get in the way.  We’ve been adjusting to living from 5 acres, 3600 sq. ft. and 3 bedrooms to .28 acres, 1900 sq. ft with two bedrooms.  It takes time to figure out what is helpful vs. what needs to be discarded; and in some cases what needs to be added.  Sometimes I get tired of it all, and just stick it all in one room, like the garage and shut the door and try to put it out of my mind.  I wonder if you might be like me, with anything in your lives that you like to put out of your mind and shut the door?  But the mess is still there and needs to be cleaned up if we want to make full use of the house.

I believe this is also true in our spiritual lives. If we venture into the many rooms within the human heart we often find things long forgotten and undiscovered, long waiting to be addressed. This is why Advent is such a gift.  I get to walk into the garage and the second bedroom and sit with the mess until I get some internal bearings and direction about what to keep, what to get rid of and where to put it.  Same thing with the spiritual life.  Sitting still for long enough to be able to ascertain the internal compass God gives us to sort through what to keep and what to discard—so that we know what direction to live.  Advent is like removing the barriers that hinder us from passing by the Bethlehem road to the manger, so we can again, spend another year of our lives figuring out where Jesus wants to take us this year.  Advent energy is about being aware—awakened is the term Jesus used, instead of busy.  Our culture chooses busy and we are often swept up into it.  We usually don’t put our decorations up until later in Advent because we need the empty space, not filled up with lights and glitter, so we can hear the voice in the wilderness within us crying out for God instead of a commercial substitute.

We know where we’ve been in the past but we really don’t know where Jesus will lead us this year.   I hear many people say “same old, same old,” when they are asked how or where their lives are going.  I often wonder if they really mean it.  The Jesus of the Gospels never really stayed in one place long enough to say “same old, same old.”   Yet he did stay in the One Place that really matters along the way: the place called the presence of God.   So if life seems, “Same old, same old,” to us, perhaps we’re not taking enough time to listen.

There are many beliefs, attitudes and practices that no longer are helpful and block our path to God. Metaphorically, cleaning out the spiritual closets barriers to spiritual practice, mental attitudes, belief, behavioral habits and activity that impede our freedom to walk lightly on our path of being connected to God is the major message of Advent.  John the Baptist believed this in his message of clearing a path.

 

Back then, roads were only cleared of refuse and repaired when a king or prince would make an official visit which could be many years apart. Local officials took great care that the refuse and rubble would be removed to prevent any delay in the royal visitor’s visit realizing that their rise and fall depended on the attention they would give to the clear path that they would provide.  Clearing a path meant that people would prepare their lives by releasing those things that were not genuine piety, integrity and justice.

The difference between then and now, is that at this point in history, we’re not waiting for God to show up. God is already here.  So this clearing of path is more now a lifestyle than a periodic event.  We use Advent and Lent as times for pulling back from activity to an internal activity of assessing our spiritual lives, but in all truth, this is an ongoing process.  The wisdom revealed in Proverbs, without a vision, the people perish held up to the present condition of our society reveals much about how John the Baptist’s message has been forgotten.  Yet there is no need for despair, as despair is void of spiritual presence.  The authentic spiritual life is one of attraction, wherein the love of God pours through with a Holy Libation that draws those who are aware of their thirst to the God who quenches all emptiness and thirst.

St. Benedict who was touched by this wisdom spoke in his Rule: Every day we begin again. “Beginning” from The Aramaic word, resha, refers to a new era that God brought through Jesus’ ministry and gospel.  New era—brought a new way of being released from sins.  The old era involved sublimating an animal to be sacrificed on a person’s behalf for no fault of its own.  People in a sense blamed the goat.  Now the era involves returning to God directly while sparing the animal and its natural outcome of living in prayer, humility, integrity and treating others justly in the presence of the Spirit.  God will bring us through the wilderness to the Christ Child who will gradually lead us if we follow into paradise. Amen.