Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Saint Philip and Saint James, Apostles

The Collect
Almighty God, who gave to your apostles Philip and James grace and strength to bear witness to the truth: Grant that we, being mindful of their victory of faith, may glorify in life and death the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

The Psalm

The Readings
Isaiah 30:18-21     +     II Corinthians 4:1-6     +     John 14:6-14

For we do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your slaves, for Jesus' sake. For it is the God who said, "Let the light shine out of darkness," who has shone in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
~II Cor. 4:5-6

In today's Gospel, during the last supper, Philip says, "Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied." To which Jesus answers, "Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you do not know me?" John's Gospel asserts that no one has ever seen God (John 1:18)--and yet it also asserts that to see Jesus is to see God. Even the twelve who lived and worked with him, his closest companions and friends, were slow to understand it. But when that truth had fully shone on them in the resurrection, they gave their lives, even to death, to spreading the good news.

For all who have followed after them, we whose faith is based on the testimony handed down, we have not seen and yet believe (John 20:29). We who have not actually seen the face of Jesus--do we also see God? Jesus says, "If you know me, you will know my Father also; from now on you do know him and have seen him" (John 14:7). We come to know Jesus as we meet him in the loving relationship of those who today are his closest companions and friends; we meet him when we come in faith to read and hear the holy scriptures, and hear a word behind us say, This is the way--walk in it (Isaiah 30:21); we meet him through the gracious and grace-giving Spirit of God, who shines into our inmost being to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ (II Corinthians 4:6).

Closing Prayer
Lord Jesus, give us a heart to know and love you, eyes to see you and ears to hear you, and a will to share your light with all people. Amen.

Monday, April 29, 2019

Saint Mark the Evangelist

(transferred from April 25th, due to Easter Week)

The Collect
Almighty God, by the hand of Mark the evangelist you have given to your Church the Gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God: We thank you for this witness, and pray that we may be firmly grounded in its truth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

The Psalm

The Readings
Isaiah 52:7-10     +     Ephesians 4:7-16     +     Mark 1:1-15

How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the messenger who announces peace,
who brings good news, who announces salvation, who says to Zion, "Your God reigns." 
~Isaiah 52:7

Rejoice! It is Easter! It is no mistake that the season of Easter, "the Great Fifty Days," is longer than the forty-day season of Lent. This is the season of life and victory toward which every Sunday eucharist calls us. This is the feast of victory for our God, who has comforted his people and bared his holy arm in the sight of all the nations, that all the ends of the earth might see the salvation of our God. This is the time to give ourselves over to rejoicing.

It is also a time to share the joy. The good news we have received, given by the hand of Mark the evangelist and so many other faithful saints of God, is always for us to proclaim and pass on to others. And that word of good news is always in season, but perhaps never more so than in Easter season. The world needs good news--how beautiful are all who announce it!

Closing Prayer
Almighty God, we thank you for this time of joy and resurrection, and for the eternal life that is ours by your gracious gift and mighty victory; give us grace to share the joyful tidings with the people in our lives, that they may see and know in us the life we have in your Son our Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

Monday, March 25, 2019

The Annunciation of our Lord Jesus Christ to the Blessed Virgin Mary

The Collect
Pour your grace into our hearts, O Lord, that we who have known the incarnation of your Son Jesus Christ announced by an angel to the Virgin Mary, may by his cross and passion be brought to the glory of his resurrection; who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

The Psalm
Canticle 15 (Magnificat)

The Readings
Isaiah 7:10-14     +     Hebrews 10:4-10     +     Luke 1:26-38

And the Angel came in unto her, and said, Haile thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: Blessed art thou among women. And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her minde what manner of salutation this should be.
Luke 1:28-29

The divine human encounter we commemorate this day has been one of the most celebrated inspirations of artists down the centuries. Here is one beautiful example, which itself provides inspiration for a further reflection. Hudgins' poem in turn invites us to reflect on the way in which this rightly celebrated event, for all its high piety, can also serve as a window into the very real and relatable--the questioning and uncertainty, the fear and confusion that are here, even here, in this most holy moment. The life of faith consists of such moments, wherein Christ dwells.
The Cestello Annunciation
Sandro Botticelli, 1489

"The Cestello Annunciation"
by Andrew Hudgins

The angel has already said, Be not afraid.
He's said, The power of the Most High
will darken you. Her eyes are downcast and half closed.
And there's a long pause--a pause here of forever--
as the angel crowds her. She backs away,
her left side pressed against the picture frame.

He kneels. He's come in all unearthly innocence 
to tell her of glory--not knowing, not remembering
how terrible it is. And Botticelli
gives her eternity to turn, look out the doorway, where
on a far hill floats a castle, and halfway across
the river toward it juts a bridge, not completed--

and neither is the touch, angel to virgin,
both her hands held up, both elegant, one raised
as if to say stop, while the other hand, the right one,
reaches toward his; and as it does, it parts her blue robe
and reveals the concealed red of her inner garment
to the red tiles of the floor and the red folds

of the angel's robe. But her whole body pulls away.
Only her head, already haloed, bows, 
acquiescing. And though she will, she's not yet said,
Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord,
as Botticelli, in his great pity,

lets her refuse, accept, refuse, and think again.

Closing Prayer
Almighty and Everlasting God, who has stooped to raise fallen humanity through the child-bearing of the Blessed Virgin Mary: Grant that we, who have seen your glory revealed in our human nature and your love made perfect in our weakness, may daily be renewed in your image and conformed to the pattern of your Son our Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
~ from Saint Augustine's Prayer Book

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Saint Joseph

The Collect
O God, who from the family of your servant David raised up Joseph to be the guardian of your incarnate Son and the spouse of his virgin mother: Give us grace to imitate his uprightness of life and his obedience to your commands; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

The Psalm
89:1-4, 26-29

The Readings

II Samuel 7:4, 8-16     +     Romans 4:13-18     +     Luke 2:41-52

For this reason it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his descendants . . . in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist. 
~Romans 4:16-17

Time and again the scriptures bid us to hear this message: It is not all up to you. It is not that you are unimportant, or that what you do is of no consequence. On the contrary, you are of such great worth to God that God takes the responsibility for your welfare. This is grace. This is more even than we can imagine. This is life from the dead. This is the work of God in and for us.

God remains faithful when we are faithless. God establishes the promise of faithfulness toward us on the solid rock of divine grace. There it rests secure.

Ours is, as always, to respond to the gracious invitation, the grace-filled promise. Joseph responded in faith to the angel's message, and believed that God was able to call into existence something hitherto unimaginable. May we, following his example, find that same grace-empowered faith and to trust in the God who calls us always to life--to its nurture, its abundance, its resurrection from the dead.   

Closing Prayer
Ancient of Days, Alpha and Omega, still you knew the long years of growth and learning; Lord Jesus, teach us by the example of Joseph to act in justice tempered by kindness, to be obedient to your call, and to work for the well-being of those committed to our care; make us faithful in the work you give us to do. Amen.
~from Saint Augustine's Prayer Book

Saturday, February 2, 2019

The Presentation of Our Lord Jesus Christ in the Temple

The Collect
Almighty and everliving God, we humbly pray that, as your only-begotten Son was this day presented in the temple, so we may be presented to you with pure and clean hearts by Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

The Psalm

The Readings
Malachi 3:1-4    +     Hebrews 2:14-18    +     Luke 2:22-40

And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple. The messenger of the covenant in whom you delight—indeed, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts. But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears?
~Malachi 3:1-2

As Luke relates, the child Jesus is presented in the temple, in accordance with the Law of Moses. The church has always understood this event to be a fulfillment of the prophecy from Malachi about the Lord coming to his temple. And yet there is a tension. As is usual, Jesus surprises--the scriptures are not fulfilled exactly how we imagined they would be. In Malachi, the presence of the Lord is so powerful in its purifying flame that none can stand. And yet how does the Lord appear in Luke? It is Jesus himself who is unable to stand--he is a mere baby, carried in the arms of the mother who gave him birth just forty days ago.

This us how the Lord chooses to come to his temple. Not in power (as we imagine it), but carried. And have any of us brought ourselves to faith? In the baptismal liturgy, the candidate, no matter his or her age, is always presented by another, a sponsor or godparent. We do not come to faith alone; we do not present ourselves before the Lord except in the community of others. This is how the light comes into the world--it is born, it is carried, it is lovingly passed from one to another.

Closing Prayer
O Lord God, through your prophets Simeon and Anna you revealed your Son Jesus as the light of the nations and the glory of Israel. Grant that, by your Holy Spirit, we may live by the light of faith until we come to the light of glory; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

* Today's feast is also known as Candlemas, as it is traditionally the day on which candles for the coming year are blessed in church (note the candles in the image above). If you are not already in the habit of praying Compline, consider doing so tonight in observation of Candlemas. It is a brief and beautiful way to end the day in prayer, and is replete with images of light in the darkness. It begins on page 127 of the Book of Common Prayer, and concludes with Canticle 17, the Song of Simeon (from today's Gospel).

Friday, January 25, 2019

The Conversion of St. Paul the Apostle

The Collect
O God, by the preaching of your apostle Paul you have caused the light of the Gospel to shine throughout the world: Grant, we pray, that we, having his wonderful conversion in remembrance, may show ourselves thankful to you by following his holy teaching; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

The Psalm

The Readings
Acts 26:9-21     +     Galatians 1:11-24     +     Matthew 10:16-22

Let your ways be know upon earth,
     your saving health among all nations.
Let the peoples praise you, O God;
     let all the peoples praise you. 
~Psalm 67:2-3

Several of us at Holy Apostles are currently reading through St. Paul's letter to the Romans with the Good Book Club. Almost certainly the most influential of Paul's many letters, Romans opens with a powerful statement that sets the tone for what follows: For I am not ashamed of the gospel; it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed through faith for faith (Rom. 1:16-17).  

In this season of Epiphany, we hear a lot of scripture and song about God's salvation for all the earth, or the dawning light of Christ drawing all the nations of the world. That was the theme of Paul's ministry. Though Paul often has gotten a bad rap as someone hung up on morality or rules, that is a caricature based on pulling verses out of context or simply an unwillingness to seriously engage his writings. In fact, Paul was fundamentally inclusive. After his conversion, he understood himself to be called by God to be "apostle to the Gentiles"--to carry the good news of God's salvation beyond the traditional sphere of Judaism and into all the world; to bring the nations to Zion. Paul's letters bear out what a challenge this call was; he was often opposed or misunderstood from both sides, by both Jew and Gentile. And yet, as his assertion in the letter to the Romans boldly asserts, Paul was utterly convinced in the power of God to bridge the divide. None are excluded from the saving health God extends in Jesus. That was the conviction upon which Paul was willing to stake all things, even his life.

Consider your own life in Christ. 
Do you have a "conversion story"? 
How would you describe God's call on your life? 
What do you make of Paul's claim that the gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith? Would you say the same?

Closing Prayer
Lord Jesus, as you called your servant Paul to a life of faithful discipleship, make us to hear, recognize, and heed your call in our own lives; for the sake of the world for which you died and rose again. Amen.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

The Confession of Saint Peter the Apostle

The Collect
Almighty Father, who inspired Simon Peter, first among the apostles, to confess Jesus as Messiah and Son of the living God: Keep your Church steadfast upon the rock of this faith, so that in unity and peace we may proclaim the one truth and follow the one Lord, our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

The Psalm

The Readings
Acts 4:8-13     +     I Peter 5:1-4     +     Matthew 16:13-19

Simon Peter answered, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God." And Jesus answered him, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it."
~ Matthew 16:16-18

Today marks the beginning of the annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. It is no mistake that it begins on this feast of the Confession of St. Peter. A church so long divided in so many ways needs reminding of our Lord's promise that the gates of Hades will not prevail against her. And though working for that loving unity among the churches is indeed work, I believe that the unity of the church is finally a gift of God. Our God is ever gracious, and will not force us to accept something we do not want--and that is where our own prayers and real struggle for unity come in. But, like the grace given Peter to confess Jesus as the Christ, the grace of Christian unity is a gift revealed by the Father in heaven. In God's time, may we receive it. In our time of brokenness, may we work and pray for it.
Here is a place to start: a week of scriptures, reflections, and prayers jointly offered by the presiding bishops of four churches, including our own Bishop Michael Curry.
"Justice, and Only Justice" Daily Devotions for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2019

"Confession of St. Peter" by Alexey Pismenny (see details here)

Closing Prayer
Lord Jesus Christ, you said to your apostles, "Peace I give to you; my own peace I leave with you:" Regard not our sins, but the faith of your Church, and give to us the peace and unity of that heavenly City, where with the Father and the Holy Spirit you live and reign, now and for ever. Amen.
~ BCP p. 107