Friday, September 30, 2011

Psalm 119:1

Alleluia. Blessed are the blameless in the way,
Who walk in the law of the Lord.

Most of the Church's understanding of the Old Testament and in particular the Psalms derives from a Christological reading of them. Reading through the Old Testament with my Orthodox Study Bible, I see it is filled with study notes about the God-man who would enter the world much later. For the Church (outside of modernity's historical-critical imposition upon the sacred scriptures) Christ is found on every page of the Old Testament, especially the Psalms.

Indeed for most of the Church, Christ is found to be the true author of the Psalms. Chris is the true psalmist. As many of the early Church Father's note regarding Ps. 1:1 "Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly...", that "man" is Jesus Christ. He is the blessed man whose will is the "law of the Lord." (1:2).

There again we see the blessed one/s are blameless "who walk in the law of the Lord." Christ again rings out as the Blessed Blameless one, for He is th sonly one who blamelessly walks in the law of the Lord. To this I add my own hearty, "Alleluia." It is not me who is blameless in the law, but the spotless Lamb of God. In Jesus is found the pure obedient Son of God and law-keeper. He fulfills the law completely, submitting to it at every turn of His life. O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will. (Mt 26:39).

Christ is the Blessed one for in keeping all of the Law in pure fidelity to His Father, He is truly blameless. For such a High Priest was fitting for us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and has become higher than the heavens. (Heb. 7:26). And this blessed blamelessness is proven true, right, and rewarded by God in the Resurrection of the servant Son who drank the cup of the Father's will. It is His vindication from the charges of not walking in the law of the Lord leveled by the chief priests, scribes, pharisees, elders, etc. Life from death is the reward of the blameless. Resurrected eternal life.

So what of us? We are the blamed, the ones condemned under the law. We are fallen to the point of being unable to walk in the law of the Lord. It is outside of our reach and beyond our comprehension. Therefore how can we walk? Who will teach us? How do we attain to this blessed blamelessness? How do we attain the reward which follows, resurrection to life? It is, I think, found in the word, "Alleluia." Praise the Lord. This word can only be uttered first from the heart transformed by the grace of faith given by God in Baptism. It is this heart which speaks faith sustained by the Word and the Sacrament.

Because of Christ we are given a share of His blessed blamelessness through faith empowered by the Holy Spirit through the Sacraments. Therefore we were buried with Him by baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life." (Rom 6:4). Again the apostle writes, "I have been crucified with Christ, it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life which I now life in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and set me free." (Gal 2:20).

To live in faith is to live in Christ and He in you. And what is Christ doing in you? He is doing that which He did from the beginning, that which He has always done; walking in the way of the Lord and now getting and transforming me to do the same. To walk in the law of the Lord is to share the life of Christ and to be shaped by His life.

In as much as we live by faith in Him we are always, for it cannot be separated, walking in the law of the Lord. There we are blessed in this life as He conforms us to Himself by the Holy Spirit and the means of grace. Because He is at work in us, we journey with Him in His walk from obedience to death, and to life everlasting.

Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen. Alleluia.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Feast of St. John Chrysostom- Sept 13

The Paschal Sermon of St. John Chrysostom
If anyone is devout and a lover of God, let them enjoy this beautiful and radiant festival.
If anyone is a grateful servant, let them, rejoicing, enter into the joy of his Lord.
If anyone has wearied themselves in fasting, let them now receive recompense.
If anyone has labored from the first hour, let them today receive the just reward.
If anyone has come at the third hour, with thanksgiving let them feast.
If anyone has arrived at the sixth hour, let them have no misgivings; for they shall suffer no loss.
If anyone has delayed until the ninth hour, let them draw near without hesitation.
If anyone has arrived even at the eleventh hour, let them not fear on account of tardiness.
For the Master is gracious and receives the last even as the first; He gives rest to him that comes at the eleventh hour, just as to him who has labored from the first.
He has mercy upon the last and cares for the first; to the one He gives, and to the other He is gracious.
He both honors the work and praises the intention.
Enter all of you, therefore, into the joy of our Lord, and, whether first or last, receive your reward.
O rich and poor, one with another, dance for joy!
O you ascetics and you negligent, celebrate the day!
You that have fasted and you that have disregarded the fast, rejoice today!
The table is rich-laden: feast royally, all of you!
The calf is fatted: let no one go forth hungry!
Let all partake of the feast of faith. Let all receive the riches of goodness.
Let no one lament their poverty, for the universal kingdom has been revealed.
Let no one mourn their transgressions, for pardon has dawned from the grave.
Let no one fear death, for the Saviour's death has set us free.
He that was taken by death has annihilated it!
He descended into Hades and took Hades captive!
He embittered it when it tasted His flesh! And anticipating this, Isaiah exclaimed: "Hades was embittered when it encountered Thee in the lower regions".
It was embittered, for it was abolished!
It was embittered, for it was mocked!
It was embittered, for it was purged!
It was embittered, for it was despoiled!
It was embittered, for it was bound in chains!
It took a body and came upon God!
It took earth and encountered Ηeaven!
It took what it saw, but crumbled before what can not seen!
O death, where is thy sting?
O Hades, where is thy victory?
Christ is risen, and you are overthrown!
Christ is risen, and the demons are fallen!
Christ is risen, and the angels rejoice!
Christ is risen, and life reigns!
Christ is risen, and not one dead remains in a tomb!
For Christ, being raised from the dead, has become the first-fruits of them that have slept.
To Him be glory and might unto the ages of ages.

Prayer of the Feast
Father, the strength of all who trust in you, you made John Chrysostom renowned for his eloquence and heroic in his sufferings. May we learn from his teaching and gain courage from his patient endurance. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen. (Liturgy of the Hours)

Sunday, September 11, 2011

13th Sunday After Pentecost- Sermon

Lectionary 24/13th Sunday After Pentecost- Sermon

9/11/11- Year A

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Evil. Dastardly. Sinister. Conniving. Ruthless. Wicked. The darkness of revenge and jealous of anger and hate, prompted those 10 men to commit an unspeakable and unthinkable act. They plotted together, waiting for just the right moment of attack. To surprise their well known victim with assault and treachery of the cruelest sort. Thought it was already 40 years after his brother’s crimes against him, surely the pain and tragedy was still close to Joseph’s heart. The beat him. They threw him into a hole, to be left to rot and die. If the oldest Reuben hadn’t piped up, he would have died in that hole. Instead they sold him to slave runners on their way to Egypt. He was bitterly torn away from his father and his mother, at the hands of his own flesh and blood. A no doubt terror-full, terror-filled experience for the youngest, the 17 year old Joseph.

Now was the moment of revenge. Now was the moment to strike. Now was the opportunity to inflict his wrath upon his brothers. Having buried his father, any last promises of safety he had given to his father were now expired. He was the number two man in all of Egypt and none could stand in the way of his revenge. Even his brothers know this, that’s why they come to him pleading with some made up story. “Your father gave this command before he died…” No he didn’t. There is no record of this in all of the 23 chapters that Joseph’s tale is recounted in. His father likely didn’t tell his brothers that. But they come in their fear, finding any way any way, even the memory of their now departed father to coax a little bit of mercy out of Joseph. They do it so they don’t meet the just and rightful wrath of their brother.

And kneeling there at the feet of Joseph there is no doubt in my mind that both Joseph and his brothers there minds drift back to the event that sparked it all. The dream. Just to refresh our memories...Genesis 37:6-8, “Joseph said to them, “Hear this dream that I have dreamed: Behold, we were binding sheaves in the field, and behold, my sheaf arose and stood upright. And behold, your sheaves gathered around it and bowed down to my sheaf.” His brothers said to him, “Are you indeed to reign over us? Or are you indeed to rule over us?” So they hated him even more for his dreams and for his words.” The forty year old dream. The forty year old terror. Together at a head.

Seeing them again at that moment the Holy Scriptures record the pain of the experience in a simple way, “Joseph wept. (2x).” Even though his brothers rightly deserved wrath, his hand could not strike. Revenge was not to be, because Joseph knew and saw in his own life the truth that he told his brothers, “you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good.” A wisdom that only 40 years of living could comprehend. Though the darkness surrounded Joseph, out of it God brought life, life to the Egyptians, life to his father and mother during the famine, and now a life of peace and forgiveness to his brothers.

I think it is by no small miracle that today, on the 10 year anniversary of 9/11 that we are confronted with this text from Genesis, Joseph forgiving his brothers. His words strike a two-note chord which should be the focus of our reflection on the past decade. The first: “As for you, you (Al Qaeda) you meant evil against us, but God meant it for good.” What good has God brought forth from such devastating tragedy? Are we better people today than we were on 9/10? Has our focus been brought back to the fundamentals of life, God and Family? How has God touched your life since then? How has he revealed himself to you? Healed you? Comforted you? And sustained you since that Tuesday morning? And the Second: Are we at peace enough with souls that we can forgive, (not forget, not excuse, not deal out just punishment) but forgive, be at peace, and show the mercy of God, because God has shown us his mercy.

And if any of you are getting nervous, there are no right answers to these questions. They are meant to help us reflect on the present reality of past tragedy. Some of them cannot be answered, not now. It’s much too soon only a life time worth of seeing God active can answer them. Perhaps, like 40 years.

But it is this my brothers and sisters in Christ why you and I continue week in and week out to come to this house of our Lord and hear his word and to receive His gifts given in the holy sacraments. It is to help us see all that God has done for us in spite of our wicked intents or the wicked intents of others. To hold in our hands the very forgiveness of our sins in the body and blood of the man who died upon the cross to save us all. To as the psalmist declares, “Taste and See that the Lord is good, indeed!” Knowing that, “Blessed is the Man who takes refuge in Him.” (Ps. 34:8). Here our God and Lord reveals to us His mercy, here He shows us that even from evil He will bring good, for our good. He is active and alive and showers you and I with his mercy.

It is this very fact that excites us about Rally Day and beginning the new year of Christian Education. For in our classrooms and studies God shows us His work for us in the Holy Scriptures and the faith encounters of fellow brothers and sisters. Here our youth learn to trust in God and to know and love His Son, who is the strength of the weak and the mighty Lord of all. God is with you in this year’s adventures and here you will come to trust in Him and be loved by Him. Therefore let us all recommit ourselves to being grounded in Christ and the cross, embraced by His suffering so that when anything befall us we may not waiver, in faith or in strength. So that we may stand in the righteousness of God, knowing and trusting in all that He has done for us and if we are called upon to give life to others; to give mercy and forgiveness to others, just like our forefather Joseph.


Saturday, September 10, 2011

A New Look and a New Start

It has been a long while since I've blogged or even thought about blogging. Most of my interest in the adventure was spurred on by the inner turmoil of the ELCA. Though it continues for me, most of it has passed. There is a new church body (NALC) filled with old church friends and in the ELCA...well The Lutheran has announced the future as "Full Speed Ahead." This is the new reality within American Lutheranism and where this takes us no one yet knows.

I cannot help but wonder if now more than ever if we, meaning I, need to continue to reflect upon the Sacred Cross. It is my hopes that through this blog that will be accomplished. The cross will be the focus of my future posts and the man who hung upon that cursed tree.

Soul of Christ, sanctify me;
Body of Christ, save me;
Blood of Christ, refresh me;
Water from the side of Christ, wash me;
Passion of Christ, strengthen me;
O good Jesus, hear me;
Within Thy wounds hide me;
Suffer me not to be separated from Thee;
From the malicious enemy defend me;
In the hour of my death call me,
And bid me come to Thee
That with Thy saints I may praise Thee
For all eternity. Amen.

~Anima Christi