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St. James
Episcopal Church

Father George's Daily Office blog

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Where can i go from your Spirit?

Thursday, July 20, 2017  by George Roberts

Psalm 139 has tones, words, and expressions that send my heart soaring. "Where can I go then from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence ... If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the innermost parts of the sea, even there your hand will lead me and your right hand hold me fast" (vv. 8-9). The Psalmist acknowledges a fundamental truth of our faith: God is always with us, waiting for us to return to Him, to turn around and embrace His promises of enduring love, steadfast faith, and incomparable beauty. We cannot escape the presence of God. We may run, hide, bristle with anger and  be nearly blown away by longing but God, in His wonderful blessedness, never leaves us. We may feel abandoned and alone but "Darkness is not dark to you; the night is as bright as day; darkness and light to you are both alike" (v. 10).

Sometimes the darkness threatens to bowl us over and rush over our lives like a raging torrent. There are times, in the worst of times, where darkness succeeds in convincing us that is all there is: a great blackout from hope and love and nothing exists except pain and confusion. I have been in that place myself before; so have you, probably. But there is no place we can ever go that our God does not go with us, no place He fears to enter, and no darkness He will not illumine with His "celestial brightness." God's love penetrates the darkness even of death, even of the deaths that we suffer in the land of the living. "You press upon me behind and before and lay your hand upon me" (v. 4). Surely it is God who saves us and delivers us from the darkness into the light. God be with us and overshadow us in whatever darkness we face this day.

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The end of conflict?

Thursday, July 13, 2017  by George Roberts

Esau and Jacob, in Genesis 25, are literally fighting from the time they were (twins) in Rebekah’s womb. When Esau is born first, Jacob comes right behind him, holding onto his heel, as if saying, “No, me first!” One thing that scripture highlights for us is that conflict is part of the human condition and it is sometimes very ugly. Esau is willing to sell his birthright, the promise of Israel, for a bowl of stew and Jacob is more than willing to not only take it, but to demand it of his brother. Cain and Abel, the war between King David and his son, Absalom; the selling of Joseph into slavery by his brothers, out of jealousy and greed…are all acts we read of in the Bible. And as horrible as it all sounds, it is what it has meant, through the ages, to be human. We jockey for power, attention, some kind of pay off and more and more we may think we deserve it and, we don’t look for healing because we don’t know we need it.

What Paul proclaims, in his wonderful letter to the Romans, is that with the coming of Jesus Christ, the way of self has been turned on its ear and the pathway to grace has been opened through the overflowing love of God in the fleshy person of Jesus Christ. Jesus was human, like you and me, but he never needed to cry out, as Paul does, “Who will rescue me from this body of death!” Paul reminds us: “There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus…Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8: 1-2). Jesus has reversed our fortunes, the way of the world, with His sacrificing action at Calvary. We are called to live as if we are saved and realize, each and every day in the world, what the failure to live into the promises of Christ is costing us. “…you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you,” Paul claims. We must allow the Spirit into our lives, our relationships, the Spirit of Christ’s continuing love and promise and break the stranglehold of conflict.

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Arise, my fair one

Thursday, July 6, 2017  by George Roberts

Thursday, July 6, The Song of Solomon 2: 8-13

Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away; for now the winter is past, the rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth; the time of singing has come… (Song of Solomon 2: 10a – 12a).

The Song of Solomon, if I remember correctly, is the only book in the Bible that does not specifically name God and so it’s value as a religious text is often discounted. The Song of Solomon is a love poem, essentially, and is one of the optional readings for a wedding in the Episcopal Church. What I appreciate so much about the passage for this upcoming Sunday (S of S 2: 8-13) is that it captures the startling power of love that was often, in times of old, used as an allegory as Christ’s love for His Church. Love is a renewing force, though, is it not? Love can desert us, break us, and shake us to our core but it can also rescue, strengthen, and bless us in a way nothing else truly can. Romantic love is something that most people experience, at least once in their lives; a breathless, heart-pounding love that sweeps us into a place of near euphoria but also into a kind of vulnerability that nothing else can. The fear we have, often, is that the love we feel for another will not be returned, will be taken away…will be lost somehow. The love of God is a different kind of love, sharing some things with romantic love but taking us in a different direction. Jesus says, this week, “Come to me, all who are weary and carry heaven burdens, and I will give you rest.” God’s love, in Jesus, refreshes and renews us, heals us and reimagines us, so that we have the strength, the will, and the courage to love those in our lives who need it the most. And of God is a love we never need fear for it will never abandon us.

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Jesus' love and the stranger

Tuesday, July 4, 2017  by George Roberts

Independence Day, Deuteronomy 10: 17-21; Matthew 5: 43-48

The Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who is not partial…and who loves the strangers, providing them food and clothing. You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt (Deuteronomy 10: 17-19).

I have thought often about this passage, particularly of late. Today we celebrate the Independence Day of the United States of America, which do not feel very united these days. And the national view of the “stranger” or “alien”, as foreign peoples are sometimes referred to in the Old Testament witness, has become cloudy and, in my view, somewhat sinister. Deuteronomy 10, the reading for July 4, is a telling piece for today’s times. Matthew 5 is even more so as Jesus’ familiar words explode in our ears in His Sermon on the Mount: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven… (Matthew 5: 43-44a). Love is the equalizer in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, a generosity for even those that we may mistrust, not understand, or even fear. The love of Jesus Christ knows no boundaries, ultimately, and calls us into Communion with the stranger, the foreigner, the fellow sojourner on this planet. It is understandable that we have doubts and fears, in this age of global terrorism and violence. But we must not, however, allow our leaders or our everyday fellow citizens push us off the path of Jesus, which is a way of sacrifice and love. What are we willing to sacrifice in the name of peace? What are willing to do and say, in the name of Jesus?

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Slaves to righteousness

Thursday, June 29, 2017  by George Roberts

Romans 6: 12-23

“….you, have been set free from sin, have become slaves to righteousness.” (Romans 6:18)

Paul uses the word slave or enslaved at least five times in 11 verses of Romans 6 and uses freedom or implies it nearly as many times. Paul lived in a world where everyone saw literal slaves all around them; people who were owned by or indentured to another person. The specter of slavery hovers over the American landscape, the inheritance of our involvement, in America, in the slave trade in the 17th- 19th centuries. Slave carries powerful and often discomfiting connotations; it is a word we don’t like to use or hear. Paul knowingly uses the word slave as a powerful symbol of how we choose our obedience and allegiance in this life. We can either be a “slave to sin” or a “slave to God.” Again, we don’t want to be a slave to anything and we wish Paul would use another word but there it is, big as life: do we choose to be in bondage to the things that draw us away from not only God but one another or will we allow God to place the shackles of righteousness around our hearts and claim us as His possession?

We are assisted, in deciding where we will come down – being bound to sin or to God – by the nature of God. God’s slavery is actually freedom. When we bind ourselves to Almighty God in Christ we are being bound over to love, hope, charity, light, and the ability to share those things with the world. If we are in God’s service we are not asked to save the world but to live as Jesus lived, to love as Jesus loved, to aspire to obey (another hard word for us) the will of the God the Father to the best of our ability. Yes, slave is a hard word but can we be a slave (substitute the word of power that works for you, without watering it down) to the God who loves us as no one else can or ever will.

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