Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Christmas Blessing for the Less Fortunate

Jesus, the Light of the World, as we celebrate your birth may we begin
to see the world in the light of the understanding you give us. As you
chose the lowly, the outcasts, and the poor to receive the greatest
news the world had ever known, so may we worship you in meekness of
heart. May we also remember our brothers and sisters less fortunate
than ourselves in this season of giving.


Sunday, December 08, 2013

That We All May Be One

The times I have written on the boundaries and borders of Church are occasions for a great deal of comment. Generally the comments run in two directions: Orthodox who agree that "we are the Church," and defend my thoughts, and others who are challenged, or offended by the suggestion that "one," might not include them. This is all too easy - especially for my Orthodox readers. Many settle for their own comfortable form of institutional unity - "everyone permitted at the cup is part of us!" It's both true and not true.

When Christ prayed, "That they all may be one," there was no thought of a divided Christendom. His prayer was not a primitive effort at ecumenism: it is a prayer for a mode of existence that it His gift to the world - that is first manifested in the life of the Church. The mode of existence that He gifts to us is to be "one," even as "He and the Father are one." It is a communion a "community of union" (as one translation of St. Irenaeus phrases it) that heals the fragmentation of our individual lives and unites them in a common existence that is the ultimate revelation of love.

St. Paul makes reference to this:

[God has] made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth-- in Him. (Eph 1:9-10 NKJ)

The phrase "gather together in one" is an attempt to translate the Greek anakephalaiomai (ἀνακεφαλαίομαι) to "recapitulate." St. Irenaeus propounds a version of the atonement under the heading of recapitulation. It is the "gathering together again under a single head." There is a sense that everything was once under the "headship" of Adam and is now being restored to a proper unity by being "recapitulated" ("re-headed") in Christ. Thus, the manner of existence given to us is more than union - it is a union in the proper order - a union with "headship." Christ and the Father are "one," though the Father is always Father to the Son, and the Son is always Son to the Father. There is a hierarchy, a "holy order" in the Godhead. This holy order has no compulsion, nor oppression, no forced submission, no assertion of rights and no defense. It is a communion in love in which one person empties themselves towards the other.

We hear this in a number of Christ's sayings:

I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me. (Joh 5:30 NKJ)

Therefore, whatever I speak, just as the Father has told Me, so I speak. (Joh 12:50 NKJ)

Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner. (Joh 5:19 NKJ)

"Nothing of Himself..." This is the true nature of love and a "nothing" that is itself the fullness of life. As the Son empties Himself towards the Father, so the Father gives all things to the Son:

The Father loves the Son, and has given all things into His hand. (Joh 3:35 NKJ)

This is the heart of what it means to be one.

...that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me. (Joh 17:20-23 NKJ)

This is the one life that is found in the Cup. Not one as the world understands one - but as the Son is in the Father and the Father is in the Son - self-emptied and glorified.

It is this one life that is the work of the Son in the world, the work that is the life of the Spirit in the Church. And it is this mystery which makes all discussion of the One Church and the One Cup problematic. It does not make such discussion fruitless or without merit - but it challenges us to actually recognize the character of what is being discussed. The one mystery is the gift of God, and all things are being drawn towards that one. The action that draws us (the work of the Holy Spirit) both smashes the false idol of the ego, the boundaries that are imaginary, as well as raising up and exalting our true existence as persons.

That personal existence, however, is the same as we find in Christ:

Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Phi 2:4-11)

All of creation is being drawn toward union with Christ - it is God's revealed intended purpose. I frequently think that we narrow the meaning of Church (the "assembly") in a severe manner. The institutional manifestation of the Church can be seen as somehow exhausting the content of the word. In the Eucharist, however, the bread and wine that are offered, are but tokens of creation itself. The Divine Liturgy is not an institution's worship of God - it is the voice of the whole of creation. That is the "priestly" role of the Church. Thus it's inaccurate to say (as the bumper sticker proclaims) that the Orthodox Church was founded in 33 a.d. It is more accurate to place that date contemporaneous with "Let there be light." For the assembly of the firstborn (Heb. 12:23) includes the whole of creation.

Of course, taken the wrong way, we affirm so much that we have said nothing. There remains a boundary at the Cup, but that boundary is the communion of the firstborn which we must always strive to reach.

Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; (2Pe 1:10 NKJ)

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Thin places

Undo what wills. Do what shall in peace delight.

Love has no direction but its own

bright grace, yet is particular,

"beloved" or solitary

so as to return again and again

to its own Self.

Here. There.

Wrapping itself around you,

petal and leaf.

Becoming wings where there is nothing left

to bind you to this 'only' place--yourself.

Every word whispered, breathed,

by this inner wind

into every other's space,

Here. At last

residing in Itself.

Ourself. This silence,


Thursday, February 14, 2013

Our prayers for the hungry in America


The Face of hunger will surprise you!

Hunger In America

Feeding America should be the main job of the faith based community but unfortuntly in most of the USA it is only at Christmas time that the faith based community really plays a part. There for it is left to others to try to make up the differnce.

People should know and understand that there are eleven more months to the year and that hungry and homeless people need help all of the year not just at Christmas time.

It is also really sad that we have as many hungry people as we do in a country that is rich as the USA. Over all there are said to be 38 million hungry people in America and 14 million of them are children. How can this be in this country and you know I have not heard one of the presidential canidates mention hunger yet. How can this be. They should forget all the political in fighting that goes on and focus instead on the hungry , the homeless and people with no health insurance.

Poverty in 21st Century America: Making Ends Meet

Poverty in America

Feeding America

A great many Americans are forced to choose between paying the house rent or buying food. Or buying medicine or buying food. Hunger is very real. Most likely there are hungry people including children with in a few miles of where you live. You may be able to walk in the kitchen and make a sandwich but a lot of Americans can't.

And huge amounts of food goes to waste because greedy corporations like Walmart chooses to throw food away in dumpsters instead of giving it to organizations that would use the food to feed hungry people.

Loving God, in your grace you have gathered us at this time and in

this place to hear the word you are speaking this day in the voice of people

who are hungry and poor. Open our hearts and minds to the power of

that word. May we see with your eyes the vision of a world that knows no

borders, no boundaries, no fear, but invites us again to live together the

promise of abundance which is both your gift and your promise. We ask

this in the name of your Son, who lives and reigns united in the love of your

Holy Spirit, now and always. Amen.

Friday, July 22, 2011

A Prayer for America

I said a prayer for you today.
I hope you didn't mind.
I asked the Lord to comfort you
and put your tears behind.

I prayed for peace and mercy, too,
to help you through this day,
And for His loving guidance
as He leads you on your way.

You need not walk this path alone
so I prayed He'd hold your hand,
and offer you some guidance
in a way you'll understand.

I asked Him for little miracles
and to bless you today.
Keep searching for the Rainbows -
and let Him light your way.

Dear God,
Please bless America.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Prayer: How important is it?

I mailed this letter to many of my friends. The cost was great so, many others of you did not receive the letter. We live in troubled times and prayer should always be imperative in our lives. I have looked at the subject of prayer for some time because many of my friends have asked for prayer during their times of trouble. So, allow me to refresh our thinking about the importance of prayer.

The lesson of the Old Testament tells us that our God is a God Who hears and answers prayer. That makes our personal responsibility in prayer more crucial and consequential if we claim to have fellowship with God. " Prayer-hearing" is one of His attributes as a part of His nature. Therefore, praying should be an attribute of the child of God. God inspired the Psalmist to call Him…
"Thou that hearest prayer" (Psalm 65:2).

He selected that title for Himself and delights to be called the God Who hears and answers prayer. We find in that same Psalm (verses 9-13) that God wants to provide all of man’s needs. The Psalmist goes on to say…

"Thou visitest the earth, and waterest it: thou greatly enrichest it with the river of God, which is full of water: thou preparest them corn, when thou hast so provided for it. Thou waterest the ridges thereof abundantly: thou settlest the furrows thereof: thou makest it soft with showers: thou blessest the springing thereof. Thou crownest the year with thy goodness; and thy paths drop fatness. They drop upon the pastures of the wilderness: and the little hills rejoice on every side. The pastures are clothed with flocks; the valleys also are covered over with corn; they shout for joy, they also sing."

The Psalmist seems to say that the God that loves to answer man’s prayers has anticipated so many of his needs. God has watered the ground that was dry and has given to the hungry flocks the pasture and has covered the valleys with corn for man and beast and these pastures and valleys shout and sing of the benevolence of a loving and merciful God. The theme of Psalm 104 is God’s care for the cattle of the earth and for mankind through nature.

"He causeth the grass to grow for the cattle, and herb for the service of man; that he may bring forth food out of the earth; and wine that maketh glad the heart of man, and oil to make his face to shine, and bread which strengtheneth man’s heart" (Psalm 104:14,15).

And he continues…

"The high hills are a refuge for the wild goats; and the rocks for the conies" (verse 18).

And he continues…

"The young lions roar after their prey, and seek their meat from God" (verse 21).

And then of the beasts of the sea we are told that…

"These wait all upon thee; that thou mayest give them their meat in due season. That thou givest them, they gather: thou openest thine hand, they are filled with good (verses 27,28).

This Psalmist recognizes that the God that made the animals makes food for them also. The God that made the plants causes the rain to fall for them and the sun to shine upon them. The God that made honeybees, made flowers for them. For every living thing there is a place, food, protection and provision from the hand of an infinite God. The question comes again, if we pray, for what should we pray? And do not these things show that where there is want, need and desire, God wants to fill it? Where there is hunger, God wants to satisfy it. Is His nature to do it before we pray?

Biology teaches us that an all-providing care begins as soon as a child is born. Before the baby is born God prepares the mother’s breasts and then a few hours after childbirth the mother’s breasts begin to prepare milk. The instinctive seeking of the little puckering lips for food is satisfied in the mother’s arms and over the mother’s heart.

Medicine teaches us that God has provided in nature every kind of food to balance the diet and supply the needs of man. Insulin is in supply for the diabetic person. There is no need of the human body but that God has provided it. It only awaits the discovery and applying of mankind.

History tell us that as soon as there begins some shortage of wood on earth, man discovers that the bowels of the earth are full of coal that God has laid by for man’s use. By the time man has invented an internal combustion engine (the ordinary gas or gasoline engine) it is discovered that infinite lakes of petroleum have been stored up for man’s need. When man needed iron for tools, he discovered it was already provided and then learned that God had provided alloys to make the hardest steel. And now that man longs for a lighter metal, rust-proof, it is discovered that there are giant stores of bauxite, the ore from which aluminum is made. The earth proves that God answers the needs of man already. The question arises again, should we pray?

Science tells us that the whole earth shows it was deliberately planned by infinite wisdom, just to fit man’s needs. Suppose that the diameter of the earth had been 10,000 miles instead of 8,000 miles. Then the mass would have been almost doubled and gravity would have been about twice as great. A man who now weighs 170 pounds, of exactly the same size and with the same muscles, would weigh 332 pounds. His muscles would not be strong enough to lift himself. His stomach would not be big enough to hold enough food to provide strength. Life would be intolerable or impossible. Or if the diameter of the earth were only 6,000 miles instead of 8,000, only 2,000 miles less, the gravity would be so much less that air would be much lighter and rarer. Instead of weighing 14.7 pounds to the square inch, the air pressure (and density) would be only 6.2 pounds. But men cannot live without an oxygen tank where the air is less than 7.3 pounds to the square inch. Life would be impossible on this earth if it had not been tailored exactly to fit man’s needs. God made it just the right size. Or if three-fourths of the earth’s surface were covered by land instead of by water as now, then the earth would be simply a giant desert, with fringes of vegetation around the seas; and the variation of temperatures would be so great it would be impossible for mankind to live. Or if God had made the surrounding atmosphere with another element instead of oxygen, neither animal nor man could breathe. And if the water were not made of oxygen and hydrogen, there would be no living thing in seas and lakes and rivers. Do not these things suggest that God is a God Who in His very nature longs to provide what mankind needs? Then, do we need to pray to such a loving and caring God?

Nature does not tell of Calvary and redemption but it does point to an infinitely merciful, benevolent, loving God, Whose heart is open to mankind. He Who clothes the lilies of the field and notes the fall of the sparrow is the God Who hears and answers prayers of those who diligently seek Him and who trust Him. James says,

"Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning" (James 1:17).

God never varies, in any age, nor with any people, from His constant watchfulness to give what men need, what their hearts cry out for, what will make them happy and good. And does not that mean that by very nature God is predisposed to hear the cry of men and is lovingly concerned about whatever want or desire or need is felt by any contrite heart who seeks God’s face.

Then if He is a God that hears and answers prayer, let us pray. Prayer, then, becomes the most compelling Christian duty. Being a singer, God never commanded me to sing without ceasing. Being a preacher for over 50 years, God never commanded me to preach without ceasing, nor give without ceasing, nor work without ceasing. However, He did say,

"Pray without ceasing" (1st Thess. 5:17).

The apostles after Pentecost demanded the selection of deacons that the apostles might give themselves to prayer and the ministry of the word (Acts 6:4). Not first the preaching, but first that they should give themselves to prayer.

When Solomon built the temple at Jerusalem and dedicated it to God, God did not say He would be listening for the songs of the antiphonal choirs, nor watching for the smoke of the altars where many sacrifices should be offered; but God said,

"Now mine eyes shall be open, and mine ears attend unto the prayer that is made in this place" (2nd Chron. 7:15).

Then In Isaiah 56:7 God said,

"For mine house shall be called an house of prayer for all people."

And Jesus quoted this scripture as recorded in Matthew, Mark and Luke because the temple was primarily a house of prayer for all people. Back of all the preaching, praying, prophesying, singing, religious observances, God intended there should be a living faith in a God Who hears and answers prayer and thus that men should call upon the name of the Lord. There is no pleasing of God without prayer. God is the God Who hears prayer. Hebrews 11:6 says,

"But without faith it is impossible to please Him: for he that cometh to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him."

So, the answer to whether or not we should pray is found in the idea that prayer is simply talking to our Father about things, people, His will and thanking Him for His goodness and love. Prayer is not a time of asking the Father to do what He has already done or what He promises to do for His children. We don’t need to ask Him to bless us when Ephesians says that He has already blessed us with all spiritual blessings (Eph. 1:3). We don’t need to ask Him to help us for we understand that all things work together for good to those who love Him (Rom. 8:28). We don’t need to ask Him to supply our need for He is constantly supplying because of His care for His children.

Money is a world-wide problem and God’s word says that "the love of money is the root of all evil" (1st Timothy 6:10). However, covetousness is a most respectable sin of sins and is found in the best of families. God hates that sin and Paul calls it idolatry (Col. 3:5). In Ephesians 5:5 Paul says that a covetous man is an idolater. Asking God for money to make our lives more exciting and comfortable would be off base in prayer to a caring God.

Peter tells his audience that the fellowship of husband and wife in the home is so important that a broken fellowship could hinder prayer reaching the ear of God (1st Peter 3:1-7). Unresolved debts, unforgiving attitudes and unsettled arguments are the reasons for unanswered prayer. So, with a contrite heart, full of faith, willing to resolve all problems, let us come to God in prayer… for He cares.

The key problem with the way many of us pray today is that we focus our prayers on ourselves instead of on God. The purpose of prayer is not to get healed, get a job, get our house sold, or get whatever else we want and feel is the greater need at the time. It is to get "the life of God in us." Prayer nourishes the life of God. The life of God is the most powerful property of the believer’s possessions. Our Lord nourished the life of God in Him by prayer; He was continually in contact with His Father. We generally look upon prayer as a means of getting things for ourselves, whereas the biblical idea of prayer is that God’s holiness, purpose and wise order may be brought about through us.

May the God of Grace and Benevolence bring us into conversation with Him Who is the God that answers prayer.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

An Irish prayer

May God give you...
For every storm, a rainbow,
For every tear, a smile,
For every care, a promise,
And a blessing in each trial.
For every problem life sends,
A faithful friend to share,
For every sigh, a sweet song,
And an answer for each prayer.