Sunday, April 20, 2014

Lenten Reflection - April 20, 2014 Easter

If we have died with Him, we shall live with Him; if we hold firm, we shall reign with Him.
2 Timothy 2:11

These two verses must be connected with the next two: "if we deny Him, he will also deny us; if we are faithless, He remains faithful - for He cannot deny Himself."

Many scholars believe that these four verses are a portion of a very early Christian hymn. Paul is sharing his belief that we must live our lives fully in Christ. This is why the forty days of Lent, culminating in the events of Holy Week - Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter Day—must be seen as a whole. Paul knew that Jesus prepared Himself spiritually in the wilderness for His ministry, experienced the Last Supper with His loved ones, was betrayed, denied, crucified, and His dead body placed in a tomb, and on Easter was raised from the dead. In this passage Paul is sharing this hymn with Timothy to remind him of our need to experience these events with our Lord. We cannot "jump" into Easter and the Resurrection without experiencing the preparation of Lent, His Last Supper, our connection with Him being betrayed, denied, and killed. We cannot share in the Crown without sharing in the Cross. On this glorious day, I am reminded of the words from the song, The Rose: "Just remember in the winter far beneath the bitter snows lies the seed that with the sun's love in the spring becomes the rose." We must die with Him in order that, with the "Son's" love "in the spring," we will be raised with Him. Amen.

William H.C. Ticknor+ (2009)

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Lenten Reflection - April 19, 2014 Holy Saturday

Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received.
I Peter 4:10

First and foremost Peter is reminding us that as Christians we are tasked with being good stewards. Secondly, as good stewards to serve one another with our time, our talents, and our treasures. The good News is that St. James consists of a congregation that works hard at being good stewards and serving one another. However, to better understand Peter's message let's take a look at what a good steward is and how we can better serve one another.

First, a good steward understands that everything they have is a gift from God. This includes our lives, our health, family, friends, career, and accomplishments. These all belong to God. Second, a good steward recognizes that these gifts from God are a blessing and were given to us by God to use them as a blessing for others. If you use your gifts as a blessing to others and those who receive your blessings do likewise, God will be glorified by all who recognize these as blessings, especially those who acknowledge these truly are gifts from our Father above.

Joe Carta (2012)

Friday, April 18, 2014

Lenten Reflection - April 18, 2014 Good Friday

But he was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that made us whole, and by his bruises we are healed.
Isaiah 53:5

The prophet Isaiah, the most poetic of prophets, says on this black day that our Lord was "wounded, crushed and bruised" by our sins. When I hear those words, I flinch. Yet I am immediately assured that Our Lord's wounds have "healed" us and "made us whole." It is a powerful measure of God's greatness that we can be forgiven and comforted by one who was "despised and rejected," who was taken away and murdered "by a perversion of justice."

Part of the Songs of the Servant, this section has been called "the golden passional" and "the most important text in the Old Testament." The Ethiopian eunuch ponders it with Philip in Acts 8: 26-40. The verse is in what is known as Second Isaiah, assigned to an author or authors who came after Isaiah, beginning in 539 B.C. It first appears that the "servant" symbolizes the nation of Israel, (42:1-4) then later scholars see the servant as Jesus himself. especially in Chapter 53. As we read on in Isaiah, we know the Suffering Servant "shall see light" and make "intercessions" for us, the transgressors. I marvel at the prophet's vision and realize that he wants us to know the hope God gives us regardless of the blows life hands us - that there is a loving light beyond the darkness.

Val Hymes (2009)

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Lenten Reflection - April 17, 2014 Maundy Thursday

I tell you the truth, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink anew in the kingdom of God.
Mark 14:12-25

Jesus shared these words with His twelve disciples during The Last Supper. They broke bread and drank from the cup. Jesus told them, "This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many...I tell you the truth, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until I drink it anew in the kingdom of God."

I think Jesus' words were meant to prepare the disciples for His crucifixion. These twelve men had followed Jesus with unshakeable faith. They had heard Him preach and had witnessed Him perform many miracles. I would imagine, no matter how much Jesus may have reassured them that His crucifixion was God's will, it was a painful and difficult thing for them to understand and to accept. I think Jesus' words were meant to prepare them for His death, which He knew was imminent. He may have also hoped His words would comfort the disciples by reassuring them that He was not afraid - that He would have life everlasting in the kingdom of God. Jesus needed the disciples to believe in the kingdom of God, to know that it should not be feared so that they would continue to spread the word of God.

Kathy Dickinson (2008)

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Lenten Reflection - April 16, 2014

So teach us to number our days that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom....
Psalm 90

Upon reflection of the passage "So teach us to number our days that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom," my first thoughts were of the Latin saying "carpe diem" or "seize the day."

We must also reflect on the fact that our lifestyles today are very busy, and we can get caught up in maybe doing too much. The passage advises us to spend each day wisely. But, why or how do we do so?

The full passage of Psalm 90 wants us to understand that while God has a definite purpose and meaning for our lives, that some day that purpose here on earth will be completed. We don't know when that day will be or how it will come. But if we try to live each day trying to fulfill God's purpose for us, we will be ready to be with God when that day does come.

We need to also know that God's purpose varies for each of us and that purpose may vary each and every day, and it may vary during each day. We have a responsibility to God to do our best in whatever we do, including work, school, sports, and chores.

Now there will be days in which we will face problems. These "bad" or "tough" days are there for a Godly reason that we can not always understand. However, we should have faith, knowing that God is with us and will support us with His strength in doing His work each and every day and help us overcome these problems, if we do our part by doing our best and not giving-up.

Live each day wisely doing your best, knowing God is supporting you always.

Doug Ellmore (2008)

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Lenten Reflection - April 15, 2014

"This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel..." declares the Lord. "For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more."
Jeremiah 31:31-34

God's heart must be breaking. Is this what God had in mind when God said, "I will be their God, and they shall be my people"? Bishop Mark Dyer often reminded his students at Virginia Seminary that schism is the greatest sin. When we fracture the body of Christ, we literally break God's heart. Sadly a small number of Episcopalians have decided they alone know the truth and are attempting to break away from the Episcopal Church. This weighs heavy on my heart, since I now serve in the Diocese of Pittsburgh, one of four Dioceses that are seeking to separate from the Episcopal Church. Ironically, those who claim to be the "orthodox" Anglicans have abandoned a central tenet of Anglicanism: the ability to debate and to agree to disagree, coming together in common worship, not common theology.

It's not just the Church that breaks God's heart. Does the way we live our lives cause God to weep, or to rejoice? Do we put God first, or is God an afterthought? Do we give generously of our time, talent, and treasure, remembering that all that we have and all that we are comes from God?

The good news is that faithful Episcopalians in every Diocese are firmly committed to the Episcopal Church. The good news is that we try to live our lives as God intends. The very best news is that God forgives our iniquity, and remembers our sin no more.

Lou Hays+ (2008)

Monday, April 14, 2014

Lenten Reflection - April 14, 2014

So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God's law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members.
Romans 7:13-25

"I try to be good, but sometimes I just can't help myself." I don't remember which of our daughters said it or what the circumstances were. Most parents hear similar words from their offspring, but when we examine the statement in the light of our quotation from Paul's letter to the Romans, we hear a different message. Each of us earnestly tries to obey God's law, and each of us is frequently frustrated at our inability to ignore the temptations assaulting us from every side. Indeed, we "delight in God's law," but we also find many ways of delighting in the empty pleasures of the secular world.

Are we too hard on ourselves? Maybe, maybe not. God gave us pleasurable earthly pastimes for our enjoyment, so they can't be all bad. Where we go astray is in what balance we achieve between the worldly and the holy. We know we shouldn't devote every hour of our lives to fun and games, but we also should realize that we don't have to spend all of our time with our noses to the spiritual grindstone. Even the most strictly cloistered monks find time to have fun.

What's the right balance for you and me? That's a good question for reflection during this Lenten season. If we are honest with ourselves, we will probably find that we need to change by God's grace in some way. We might need to pray more. Maybe we will actually find that we have to play more.

Bob McCoy+ (2008)