my miscellany

Lent II, 2018 — 25 Feb 18

Lent II, 2018

RCL Year B Lent 2
Genesis 17:1-7 and 15-16, Psalm 22:22-30, Romans 4:13-25, Saint Mark 8:31-38

The First Lesson today gives us a Patriarch, Abraham, and a Covenant between the Lord and him. And the covenant is this. The Lord promises Abraham that he will be “the ancestor of a multitude of nations.”[1] About the only way forward for Abraham is to put one foot in front of another; in other words, his way forward is to live as though the promise is true. What avails him if he should do otherwise?

In the Epistle, Saint Paul calls it “faith” to live as though the promise is true. Also, Saint Paul says that Abraham “grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, being fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised.”[2]

Dear People of God, we find ourselves today in exactly the same position as the Patriarch Abraham. The Lord has made a covenant with us, the Lord has promised us in Baptism, that God has raised Jesus from the dead, “who was handed over to death for our trespasses and was raised for our justification,”[3] as Saint Paul describes that covenant in today’s Epistle.

And so, being in the same position as the Patriarch Abraham, we have no way forward except Abraham’s way forward. We put one foot in front of another, just as Abraham did, and we jump to no conclusion if we think of living in this way as living in faith.

Moving forward and living this way, we do what Abraham did. We hold the promise of our justification in mind just as Abraham held his paternity of many nations in mind, and we go on toward the very hope of our justification and salvation in the hands of a loving and merciful Creator.

I don’t think faith is more than this. But I don’t think that faith is less than this, either. Moving toward that hope believing that God is able to keep the covenant is to have faith. By believing every step of the way we do Abraham’s part, we do what we’ve been asked to do. And in the end, God will keep his covenant; God will keep his promise; and blessed will be those who carry their cross, as Jesus says in the Gospel, “when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”[4] For hope in the Lord brings fulfillment, the fulfillment that the Lord alone can give.

[1] Genesis 17:4.

[2] Romans 4:20-21.

[3] Romans 4:25.

[4] Saint Mark 8:38.

Lent I, 2018 — 18 Feb 18

Lent I, 2018

RCL Year B Lent 1
Genesis 9:8-17, Psalm 25:1-9, I Peter 3:18-22, Saint Mark 1:9-15

“And God said to Noah, ‘I have determined to make an end of all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence because of them; now I am going to destroy them along with the earth. Make yourself an ark of cypress wood; make rooms in the ark, and cover it inside and out with pitch.’”[1]

How would you like to be told to do that? We have only been invited to “the observance of a holy Lent.”[2] But Noah finds favor with the Lord, and Noah finds that the devastation of a flood, intended for those who have not found favor with the Lord, saves him. An instrument of shameful death saves him.

Does that phrase, “instrument of shameful death,”[3] sound familiar? We use it in Holy Week about Jesus’ Crucifixion, and it points us to a fundamental article of our faith. God can use a flood, or a cross, to save us. Saving us is the point and the issue. We heard in the Epistle that by the flood “a few…eight persons were saved through water.”[4] That is the point and the issue.

I charge you that when God gives you something like a flood or a cross, to ask yourself, and to ask God, how whatever it is may be an instrument of salvation. For that is God’s declaration to each of us: he desires not our death but that we turn and live.

Whatever obstacle seems to block your path, whatever hindrance you encounter, turn your mind to Christ, and ask yourself, ask God, how that hindrance can be used to carry you to salvation.

For we are reminded in Lent that Christ carries us to salvation. He throws us up on his shoulders, the shoulders of the Good Shepherd, and takes us across to the other side. I don’t think we are permitted to be backseat drivers. I am not sure that we can continually object that God knows not what he is doing. This Lent is yet another opportunity to join the program and to get on board. It’s another opportunity to accept God’s goodness and to give God permission to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves.

[1] Genesis 6:13-14.

[2] BCP, page 265.

[3] BCP, page 220.

[4] I Peter 3:20.


Ash Wednesday, 2018 — 14 Feb 18

Ash Wednesday, 2018

RCL Ash Wednesday
Joel 2:1-2 and 12-17, Psalm 103:8-14. II Corinthians 5:20b–6:10, St Matthew 6:1-6 and 16-21

I heard it the other day. Someone said, “I think he colors his hair.” And there he was for all the world to see. A seemingly quiet, unassuming man whose ends were a sort of medium ash brown, and whose roots were as white as a newly-fallen snow in downtown Scranton. “I think he colors his hair.” There he was, unmasked, a man different from what he appeared to be.

You know that you can tell the truth, and you can use the truth to hurt people. That’s got to be sinful. And you can say out in the open what we all know to be true and to the detriment of the person involved. That’s got to be sinful, too. You don’t have to live very long or travel very far before you realize that most of us can observe, most of us can unearth a lot of truth which is hurtful. We can wield the truth as if it were a weapon. But in most of our lives there is a lot of truth that we aren’t facing. There’s a lot of truth about ourselves that we aren’t coming to terms with. That’s got to be sinful, too. And it would be hurtful for anyone to urge that truth upon us. Anyone would be devastated to be told that he is doing something in some area of his life which is very like dying his hair.

Today is the day which begins the season when we try to undo a self-deception or two, when we do something very like letting the roots grow out. We let vanity go, and we let God do the make-over. We put ourselves in God’s hands, in the hands of Reality Itself, and ask that the truth remake us, reshape us, so that we may more closely resemble God’s truth which lives in us already. It is the season when we accept that it is God who made us and not we ourselves. It is the season when we face our dependence on God for our creation and preservation, as well as our redemption and salvation. To return to that reality, to that relationship with God we do what we have to do to keep it whole, to keep it intact. And what we do may concern that funny business about the money. It may have to do with pretending to pray and pretending to serve God. It may have to do with exercising our bodies or our minds. It may have to do with that person not our spouse whom we have on the side. It may have to do with eating more rather than less if we haven’t been able to accept the waist-line God has given us. It may have to do with tiny and numerous selfishnesses so petty as to seem unmentionable but gathered together may be enough to weigh us down, keeping us from rising to new life in Christ.

Whatever it may be, the point is to let God, God’s reality in, into our lives. This is the day for a right beginning, a new start, confident that the God who made us is the God who wants to see us redeemed and wants to see us saved. Whatever we do, we want to let the reality which is God in. And that requires honesty, an honesty disarming in its force and keenness. We have to put away the dye, and take on the truth; put away the hypocrisy, and take on humility; put away the self-congratulation, and put on the praise of Christ.

We can do this, as tough as the honesty required to do it is, as keen as the knife must be to cut away what harms us, because our Father who sees what we do for him, what changes we make for him, the roots we let grow for him, our Father will keep us as his own, forever. Christ who gave his life that we might live, will give us our life back, in return, doubled and tripled in meaning. We will see with opened eyes, not the eyes of sophisticated experience and the eyes of disobedience, the eyes of eating the apple, but the eyes of restoration, of welcome, of being the people God created us to be, the people whose roots run deep, deep into the divine life. We shall see the truth with the eyes of a child looking to a loving parent: “As a father cares for his children, * so does the Lord care for those who fear him.”[1]

[1] Psalm 103:13.


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