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St. James
Episcopal Church

Father George's Daily Office blog

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The piercing of our souls

Thursday, February 15, 2018  by George Roberts

“This child is destined for the rising and falling of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will opposed by many…and a sword will pierce your own soul, too.” (Luke 2: 34b, 35b)

Simeon, in Luke 2, after waiting his whole life to have a sign revealed to him that the Messiah was here, actually sees the child of promise in the arms of his mother, Mary. Luke is very meticulous about making a case for Jesus, Son of God, Savior of the world, to be the One for whom humankind has waited. Through him the love and strength of God will be revealed. But, Simeon is quick to add, not even the coming of our Savior will save us from the pain of our opposition to the good news of Christ. And, perhaps, that is one of the messages of Lent.

The horrific shooting in Florida yesterday puts me in mind of Simeon’s prophecy to Mary: “…and a sword will pierce your own soul, too.” Jesus has come, Jesus is with us, the kingdom of heaven has come so close we could literally touch the power of God’s love for us. Yet, though the promise has come, even if we are confronted with a Jesus who has crucified our sins with Him, the madness of the world continues on. We travel in the wilderness of our own humanity because we oppose, in ways big and small, the mandate of Jesus to reject violence, to reject revenge and fear, and to “love one another, as I have loved you” (John 13: 34). It is possible for us to embrace the promise of Jesus, for us to live out the Resurrection in our daily lives, and to combat all that would destroy the people of God. We must be willing to wade into the painful wilderness of difficult issues, like gun control and mass violence, and bring the Light of Jesus into the conversation. We are an Easter people and though we are not at Easter quite yet, its promise calls us into hope. The blood of 17 people killed in Parkland, Florida yesterday cries out to us. Not for vengeance but for love and action, acknowledging that our Savior has come and we intend to act as people fully alive and aware of that reality.

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Am I a shepherd?

Tuesday, February 13, 2018  by George Roberts

This week, St. James began a journey through the Gospel of Luke, using the Forward Day by Day's Good Book Club. Please consider joining us, reading the scriptures of the day. Today's reading is Luke 2: 1-21, the Nativity story.

Today, as I read the first 21 verse of Luke 2, I became a shepherd, a man who had heard the angels proclaim the good news that the Messiah is born. I rushed to the manger to see this baby that would be the Savior of the world.

During the upcoming season of Lent, perhaps we might focus more clearly on the face of Jesus, the One who will save us from us from our sins (He already has, in fact). Through the innocent face of a child, we can see the eternal promise and love of God. Children grow and grow and may our faith be the same? May our curiosity not stay in one place but be ever growing.

 

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The Word of God breaking us open

Thursday, February 8, 2018  by George Roberts

“…God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” 2 Cor 4: 6

This Sunday is the last Sunday of Epiphany; the last Sunday before Lent; a Sunday that always features the reading of Jesus being “transfigured” before the eyes of James, John, and Simon Peter. God booms out of the clouds, as Jesus shines bright like the sun, “This is my beloved, my Son. Listen to Him!” By listening to Jesus, we are invited into a closer walk with God.

This Sunday we will begin a journey of discovery called The Good Book Club. The Good Book Club is an invitation for us to read, together, during the nearly-upon-us season of Lent, the Gospel of Luke, in sequence, day by day. Forward Day by Day, the devotionals that you will find in your pews, contains short devotions for each reading, beginning with Luke 1: 1-56. We are inviting each other into this time of reading from scripture so that we may be transformed by engaging (i.e. listening with our hearts to) the word of God. Our hope is, as we read scripture and open our hearts to the possibilities of God, we will not only be illumined by God’s word but brought closer to each other and God’s will for our lives in this time and place.

Jay Sidebothom, Executive Director of RenewalWorks, reminded me this week about the wonderful story of Jesus and the two disciples, on the road to Emmaus after His Resurrection. As the group reached their destination, Jesus continued walking, as if He would continue on His way. The two disciples implored Him to come in and have dinner with them. As Jesus, who is a guest, breaks the bread, He becomes host and the two disciples, finally, recognize Jesus. Engaging in The Good Book Club is an opportunity for us to break open scripture in a new way, and allow God to break us open with His revealed love that we will find there.

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Jesus and the powers of darkness

Friday, January 26, 2018  by George Roberts

What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God. Mark 1: 24

There is an interesting phenomenon that we see and hear in the Gospels but especially in Mark: demons/evil spirits recognize Jesus immediately as the Son of God. But it can it be hard for the rest of us to know Jesus, to know and see our Lord and Savior, when we experience Him in the world, in other people, or in ourselves.

When I had my recent “procedure” the care that my family took of me, their gentleness, kindness, and patience as I recovered, was an extraordinary presence of Christ to me. I didn’t necessarily see it at the time. But how does seeing goodness and grace in the world as a sign and symbol of Christ make a difference? The light of Jesus Christ splinters the darkness of the world, the depravity of violence and power-grabbing leaders but it is our willingness to see things as they really are that actually makes the difference. WE must sometimes name evil, in the name of Jesus, if said evil is to lose its power. We often understand what evil looks like because, in Christ, we know what its opposite is.

We must also remember that evil knows Jesus when it sees it. Goodness and hope is always going to be attacked by some who see it as a threat to their own agenda. We may not like to use words like evil but, if we are tuned into the world, we know that it exists. Jesus did not eradicate evil by naming it, challenging it, preaching against it, or by dying at the hands of it. But he showed us what evil was by the way He lived, died, and rose again and, in those same actions, He showed us who He was: The Son of God. How can we name the evil in the world, in our own day, in our own lives, by speaking the Name of Jesus? What does the name of Jesus imply? Love, in the end, but more than love only. The loving name of Jesus represents a force that can dispel the darkness, if we have the courage to shine the light of Christ into the dark places in our world. “Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are,” says the demon in Mark 1. Jesus does not answer but orders the demon to leave. That is what the love of Jesus can do.

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Lord, just send me back to the whale!

Friday, January 19, 2018  by George Roberts

I take some delight (the devil in me, I suppose) in how God upends our expectations, mostly out of His great mercy. Jonah’s story, our Old Testament reading this week, is case in point. Jonah, after detouring for three days in the belly of a “great fish,” for refusing God’s call to go on Nineveh, finally shows up in this giant metropolis. He cries out for the people to repent. And, well, they do!!! They not only turn toward God but show outward signs of repentance (wearing sackcloth and ash). Jonah, as the story continues, is mighty peeved that God would bless such a damnable people, and he goes off and sulks. He cannot conceive of God’s willingness to extend mercy so far as the dirty, awful people of Nineveh. Jonah might be heard to cry on the streets of Nineveh, “For cryin’ out loud, Lord, just send me back to belly of that confounded whale!!”

God’s willingness to save us goes far beyond our understanding. Deserve has nothing to do with God’s overwhelming desire to save or love us back into life. Our Baptism should remind us that whenever we go astray, God will nudge us back on the path to Him, if we are willing to listen. The people of Nineveh, in spite of a great reputation for wickedness, were really ready to be saved by God’s mercy. How about us? And are we willing to share the good news of God’s mercy in Jesus Christ with all of God’s people and not just the ones we think are “desirable” or easy to talk to? Who are the people in our lives that we might even think deserve the difficulty that they are in; they created their own mess? What God has decided that we all deserve, by virtue of being His children, is love and forgiveness. We are never beyond the reach of God’s grace. God needs us to open our hearts to the possibilities of His blessing and acknowledge or need for said blessing (i.e. love and forgiveness). God’s mercy renews us and makes changed life possible. 

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