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St. James
Episcopal Church

Father George's Daily Office blog

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The Quality and Quantity of mercy

Thursday, September 14, 2017  by George Roberts

Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often must I forgive? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.” Matthew 18: 21-22

Seventy-seven times seems like a lot to forgive the same person but Jesus is making a statement about the nature of forgiveness: God calls on us to have no limits which is nearly impossible for us to even conceive of, much less act on. Jesus goes on to tell a parable that highlights the importance of mercy and then the importance of paying that mercy forward. Jesus makes the bold claim that God is a God of nearly infinite mercy. I say nearly because God expects us to have mercy and, if we do not, will God stand in judgment of us for refusing to be people of mercy and forgiveness? We are all children of challenge and we struggle, in our own way, to live a life worthy of the coming of Jesus. None of us are perfect and we hope, we pray, for forgiveness each week in our Confession. God has promised that we are never beyond the reach of the mercy which Jesus demonstrates by forgiving all who come to Him and, of course, in dying for us “while we were still sinners.”

We are beloved children of God. Jesus assures us that He will never leave or abandon us. But Jesus warns us that when we stand in judgment of each other, then we ourselves are not far from judgement either. Jesus leaves little (or no) room for holding on to old grudges, slights, or even anger for serious wrongs committed against us. Forgiveness does not mean we allow people a pass on things for which they should be held accountable. WE speak truth to sin, deception, wrath, racism, and other wrongs against humanity that wound the heart of God. But mercy is not an option for us; we must extend it because Christ first gave His life in mercy to us, remembering forgiveness may be a process. We must be patient with ourselves when forgiveness does not come easy. And we must remember to seek it, too, when we injure each other and be mindful that forgiving another actually sets US free.

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The night is far gone...

Thursday, September 7, 2017  by George Roberts

September 7, 2017, Romans 13: 8 1 -14
"...for salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers; the night is far gone, the day is near. Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light..." Romans 13: 11-13

It would be hard to overstate how much comfort and joy I have found over the years from this passage in Romans. But it always begs the question: what do we need to wake up from and what things make us so tired that we struggle to wake up? The answers to these two questions could be legion - endless - but we all know that there is much that exhausts us. Over the last several weeks we have been struggling to know how to support the people of Texas in their time of need. And now we see Irma sweeping through the Caribbean, devastating poor island people, with so few resources, compared to ours in the U.S., to lift themselves up. We fear for our brothers and sisters in the Dominican Republic. And there are so many other things that instill fear and anxiety in our overly busy lives and, less face it, fear and anxiety are exhausting.
But what I always take away in Romans is the absolute joy and hope of Paul. "The night is far gone and the day is near ..." The dawning of a new day is always in front of us but how do we see our lives that way, in the face of challenging times and people? Perhaps, when we fully embrace that our salvation is at hand and our lives are inundated with the promise of God's great love and kindness. As I read prayers on Facebook from my friends and fellow Episcopalians in the DR, I sense some fear and uncertainty about what will happen with this storm. But I always, and I mean always, clearly see, too, the total reliance on God's goodness and the certainty of their continuing life of promise, because of what Jesus has done. The urgency for us is in embracing the promise of Jesus now and realizing the abundant love that is ours to hold in our hearts and to share. It is a love that is so full of light, darkness struggles to exist in it.
Fr. George +

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Transformation and the centrality of God

Thursday, August 24, 2017  by George Roberts

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God-- what is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12: 2

How does the world “conform” us? How are we pressured, internally, externally, socially, or in family life to bend our lives and spirits to the urging of “the world?” And what, pray tell, is the world, anyway? I think Paul means anything that draws our attention, mind, and energy away from the centrality of God in our lives. Paul does not imply that all things “of the world” are evil, bad, or lacking in usefulness but they can distract us from our larger purpose in life which is to serve, praise, love, and share the reality of God’s transformative power with “the world.”

Transformation is not easy but, for most of us, transforming how we think about life and living is necessary to push God to the center or, at the very least, to put God in a place of real, lasting prominence in our lives. So, as we move into a new program year, a new chapter, a fresh time of reflection, perhaps Paul might be challenging us, at the very least, to find ways of renewing our minds with certain things. We might explore new ways of praying, fresh ways of approaching worship, different books to read, new people to engage – that might bring us into a transformative way of seeing God as central to our being, our happiness, the pathway forward for us, a way to make ourselves “living sacrifices to the God who made us and the Savior who redeemed us.

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Thursday, August 17, 2017  by George Roberts

“Oh, how good and pleasant it is, when brethren live together in unity” (Psalm 133: 1)

At the outset of Psalm 133, the writer extols the blessings of unity as being a wonderful aspiration of God’s people. Unity is elusive in our modern world, as fleeting as our children’s childhood as they are with us and, in an instance, they are grown. We see flickers of real human love and unified will, as existed in the months after 9-11 but was quickly squandered and lost. Jesus prayed to God, in John 17:21, in the disciples’ presence, “I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one--as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me.”

Jesus’ prayer for his followers, on the night before He died, was that they would love one another, be united in and by that mutual love, and would be conveyers of that love to the world. Jesus’ desire for us is that we turn away from the sin of disunity and of all the things that tear us apart and threaten to bring us to nothing. Repentance, a turning away from the negative things that we hold onto, is required for us to come into the kind of unity that Jesus prayed to God for and longed for, on the night before His Passion. Jesus died that we all might be one, in body and spirit, with the One who made us all. We live in a world where fear and anger, distrust and apathy have divided us into a million little camps and silos of isolation. May we seek the courage of our Lord and Savior to let go of the fear and suspicion that separates us and hold fast to the love of God in Christ that, alone, can bring us together. 

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Lord save me!

Thursday, August 10, 2017  by George Roberts

Romans 10: 5-15; Matthew 14: 22-23, Thursday, August 10, 2017

Jesus’ famous walk on the water is known to us all, even for many who have never believed in Jesus or read the Bible. But when we look at Romans and Matthew’s Gospel together we get a clear picture of who Jesus is: one we can trust and believe in; one who has the power to save. Paul stresses, “Everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” We struggle with that idea though, don’t we? We are so much like Peter in Matthew 14, who begins to walk toward Jesus in faith on the water, too, but begins to sink as he notices the blowing wind and rising waves. Trusting in God is not too difficult in times when the waters of our lives are calm but it is much harder when we are dealing with the gales of challenge, particularly when tragedy, grief, or loss is part of the equation. But I see a positive energy in the story of Peter’s sinking faith, even when Jesus says to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”

The wonder of the story of Peter and Jesus walking on the water is that Peter, as he sees that he is sinking, when he can’t hold on anymore but gives way to fear and panic, cries out to Jesus, “Lord, save me!” Jesus reaches out His hand and “caught him” (interesting play on words in Matthew: Jesus “catches” the fisherman Peter), and pulls him into the waiting boat. We may shrug this story off as too simplistic but Peter’s cry is pivotal. He cries out to Jesus for salvation in his moment of weakness, trial, and fear and Jesus does not fail. We may not be able to sense Jesus’ love for us in the worst moments of our lives but it is exactly then that we must call on Him. In our fear, He calls out to us, as he did His disciples in the boat, as he walked on the water, and said, “Take heart, it is I: do not be afraid.”

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