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St. James
Episcopal Church

Father George's Daily Office blog

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Someone to teach me

Thursday, April 19, 2018  by George Roberts

Acts 8 follows the apostle Philip, as he comes into his own in ministry. He shows an openness to God’s voice in his life. There is the somewhat famous incident with the “Ethiopian eunuch” (Acts 8: 26-40) who is a powerful man, the treasurer of the Ethiopian empire. He is a “seeker,” possibly a convert to Judaism, who Philip overhears reading a passage from Isaiah 53 that begins, “Like a sheep he was lead to the slaughter…” Philip sees an opening, goes up and begins talking to the Ethiopian, and before long they are talking about Jesus’ saving grace and the Ethiopian is being baptized by Philip. But what made this all possible was (a) Philip listening to the voice of God (b) Philip being open to an encounter with a fellow human and (c) a conversation that begins with scripture but leads into the deeper meaning of our journey with God.

Being open to God’s voice is, perhaps, where many of us are; trying to crack open our hearts be more fully present to God’s possibilities in our lives, in nature, and in the world. One area that we may not be mining to anywhere close to its full potential is our engagement with Holy Scripture. We need not be a “fundamentalist” to read and hear the voice of God speaking in our everyday lives as we more carefully and consistently read the Bible. The voice that speaks to us in Holy Writ is God’s voice, through the various interpreters of God’s presence in the lives of Israel over the millennia. They were not perfect voices but God does not need perfection to speak clearly in our continuing lives; God asks for willingness, not perfection. I invite all of us to find a comfortable way to allow God to begin shaping our lives more fully by reading the Bible more often. Find a friend to read with and talk with (it could be a church friend). Ask for guidance, if you need it, to find a way to get started. We may tend to look on the reading of the Bible as something that others do but inside its pages may be the key to a closer, more joyful connection to Almighty God.

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MLK, Jr. and the Apostles

Thursday, April 5, 2018  by George Roberts

“They devoted themselves to the apostle’s teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers” Acts 2: 42

After we speak the words of the Baptismal Covenant, during a Baptism, we then say the above words from the Book of the Acts of the Apostles. We promise to continue in the work the apostles were doing in Jerusalem, immediately following their reception of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. The apostles were trying their very best to teach what Jesus taught, do what Jesus had told them, and had begun creating a community where sharing in common, loving each other, and caring for the poor was paramount, to them, in following the way of Jesus.

This week we commemorated the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. Dr. King was a shining star, America’s prophet. He was not a squeaky clean, sanitized proclaimer of the good news of Jesus but fully human, flawed, and wracked with doubt. But, let’s face it, there has only ever been one perfect proclaimer of God’s love, and He was mocked, ridiculed, and crucified. The man that his close associates called “Martin,” was a light, no matter his humanity, that was willing to tell uncomfortable truths to white America. He made it plain that the color of a person’s skin was being used to demonize, disenfranchise, and terrorize a whole group of people that had suffered centuries of oppression in a country they had been brought to against their will. But he also famously said, “We may have come over in different boats but we are all in the same boat now.” He spoke, too, about community, loving each other (in spite of our differences), and no matter who we are. He advocated non-violent resistance, in the name of Jesus. Look back at the above verse from Acts that we find in our Rite of Baptism. We also can recall, at the end of the Baptismal questions, that we will ‘strive for justice and peace…and respect the dignity of every human being.” We will, with God’s help.

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He has been raised! He is not here!

Wednesday, April 4, 2018  by George Roberts

Easter Week

Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples, 'He has been raised from the dead…' This is my message for you. Matthew 28: 5-7

As we continue in this Easter Week, let us hold fast to the message of the angel in Matthew 28: He is not here; for He has been raised. Jesus is raised and as the angel goes on to say, He goes ahead of us. For the disciples, Jesus went ahead to Galilee where he would instruct them to go out into all the world and to preach, teach, baptize, and make disciples. Jesus calls us from living death into life; he bids us to follow where He would lead. And, as with the angel, Jesus tells us not to fear, for where He sends us, He has already gone before.

Today we also commemorate the tragic assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 50 years ago today who, in the name of Jesus, blazed a trail of justice and light for those who would struggle for equality of any kind. In the name of Love, Dr. King sacrificed a life of continuing promise to become at one with the will of Almighty God. He answered Jesus’ call from the mountain, given to His disciples, to go out into all the world and proclaim the good news. Martin (a gentle name) understood that we cannot proclaim the Good News of Christ crucified and risen without calling ourselves and the world to live into its promise. Jesus calls us to love one another; it is, perhaps, His greatest calling, after His command to love God. I remember Dr. King’s life and sacrifice this day, knowing that He was doing his very best to follow the Risen Jesus and all that can imply.

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If we endure....

Thursday, March 22, 2018  by George Roberts

“She, out of her poverty, has put in all she had to live on.” Luke 21: 4b

Luke 21 is perhaps Jesus at His most prophetic, as he tells of signs of the end times, and how those who are going through times of distress must be faithful. “By your endurance you will gain your souls.” Jesus was preaching, teaching, and healing during a time of calamity for almost all poor people in Palestine, Jews and Gentiles alike. The poor continue to struggle in our world, as do those who, for reasons too numerous to name, find themselves on the outside looking in. The poor, women and children, are always disproportionately affected by war and violence. One need only do a little research into recent times in Syria, Iraq, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, inner city Chicago or Hartford, to see how people suffer during times of conflict, crisis, and the chaos that drugs, violence, and poverty inflict upon the people stuck (yes stuck) in its path. And those in ivory towers continue to flit about, doing what they do, with not too much (or any) concern for the plight of those caught in the crosshairs of life. And we need not be poor, a black or brown person, a woman or a child, to understand that poverty and violence can touch us, and all the other vagaries of life (loneliness, death, depression, divorce, betrayal, and illness).

Jesus was born into poverty. He lived, mostly likely, in poverty, and was from an area (Galilee) that was not considered a great place to be from. Discrimination against people who were poor, farmers, carpenters, lower wage workers, or female was common. Jesus came to minister to the lost, as he said, to those who the religious elite of his day did not seem to have a lot of time or use for. Jesus called, with one or two exceptions, people from the lower classes (fishermen), to be His friends, His disciples, and His legacy that would build the beginnings of the Church. They would suffer and experience much heartache and pain. But they had the good news inside of them: The Lord of all creation had come into the world and chosen them, loved them, died for them, and revealed Himself to them in all His risen glory. Jesus said to His disciples, as He says to us still: You are mine, and I love you. Let me show you how much. With the Spirit of Jesus, and all that implies, we hold onto the faith that He gave us, we endure and, sometimes, we thrive. Our goal is not to thrive. Rather, our aim is to have faith and to know and experience the love of Jesus which sustains, and to grow in spiritual awareness of His great love. We endure because we are loved.

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Letting go of anger

Thursday, March 15, 2018  by George Roberts

Holding onto anger is like drinking poison in hopes that it will kill my enemy. 

- Saying attributed to the Buddha

As we move through the wonderful Gospel of Luke, we will discover many arresting and profound stories but few more compelling than the Parable of the Prodigal Son. The story, simply put, has a young man who, not content to wait for his father to die, asks for his inheritance NOW. His father, probably sadly, agrees, and off goes the son the very next day, carrying the loot of his father's legacy with him. Now it doesn't take him long to spend, in selfish indulgence, all his father's money and he finds himself, for the first time in his life, in real want. After much degradation he decides to go home and tell his father that he isn't worthy to be called his father's son and beg his dad to make him one of his hired hands; at least he won't starve. But his father, seeing him from far away, runs to him, hugs him, kisses this wayward son, and has him clothed, bathed, and throws a party, in celebration of his safe return. All is forgiven, because it is the nature of this father to forgive even the most grievous slights. But the elder brother, who stayed and worked while his brother ran off with his father's money, is none too pleased that the dad has forgiven so easily. He is furious at his father and refuses to come into the party.

I am the elder son, a lot of the time. How many of us are? Someone really does something that seems unforgivable and we hold onto that anger, that grievance and refuse to let it go. Holding onto anger can feel powerful and may temporarily aid us in the illusion that we are "in control." But, like the saying above (attributed to the Buddha), our anger is a corrosive that holds us back, eats away at our sense of good will and love, and can turn us into a husk, a mere shell of who God intends for us to be. The Parable of the Prodigal Son is not really about resentment; it is about the nature of God who, in Jesus Christ, is able and willing to forgive us all. "God so loved the world (i.e. us) so much that he gave His only Son ..." God's forgiveness is lavish, a love that sees us from far off, where we have dragged ourselves away from Him, and he comes to us with His forgiving Spirit. We are called to God's forgiveness, one of the hardest things for us humans to do. But if we hold onto resentments, however, what space is there for the love of God to grow?

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