Monday, September 30, 2013

haiku: pre-dawn

~light wind
   shushes through trees

prayer diary Monday 30 September 2013 (St Michael & All Angels - transferred)

'Very truly I tell you, you will see angels ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.' 
John 1. 51

The heavenly beings we call angels are woven into the very fabric salvation history. Today give thanks for all they do: praising God unceasingly, serving him faithfully, and doing all they can to help us attain eternal life.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

haiku: september sunset

september sunset
~ starlings
   bead the wire

the price of not listening to God

May my words be in the Name of the Holy & Undivided Trinity: + Father, Son, & Holy Spirit. Amen.

The parable in our Gospel reading is that of the rich man and Lazarus, also known as the parable of Dives and Lazarus. I know that people sometimes wonder why the rich man is also referred to as Dives, and the answer to that is simple: the Latin for 'a rich man' is Dives and of course the Bible in Latin as translated by St Jerome was the standard text in the Western Church for over 1000 years and when the Bible was being translated into English the name Dives was held onto …

It is a much loved parable and rightly so … but there is also a danger of that it might make people feel a little smug about themselves … Dives is rich and goes to hell … and we hear so many other places in scripture of the spiritual dangers that accompany being rich and powerful … our epistle reading today, for example, warns of the particular threat that material wealth can carry for a person's immortal soul … and most of us of course are neither rich nor powerful … and so we may look on the plight of Dives with a degree of complacency … the warnings of this parable are for other people, those few with great wealth and influence in the world … not for ordinary folk like us …

Which is why it is important to remember that Dives did not go to hell for being rich and powerful … any more than Lazarus went to heaven solely for being poor … as you may remember my saying before, the poverty of an evil man does not make him virtuous in God's eyes … any more than does the wealth of a good man automatically damn him … And if we read the text attentively, we will see that this is made clear in the parable: Dives is not suffering the torments of hell because he is rich, but rather because he has failed to listen to the voice of God during his life, as revealed in the words of Sacred Scripture, and to live out the commands given there to all men during his life. 

Dives realises this too late, when he is in torment … he cries out for help to father Abraham, but nothing can be done: once one has died and gone to their reward, nothing can be changed. Dives knows at this point that he has been judged and found wanting … judged for not following 'Moses and the Prophets' while he was alive. Moses, you may recall, was held to be the author of the first five books of the Bible, those which are often called the Pentateuch …. it is these books, along with those of the prophets – the bulk of the Old Testament, in fact – where God's moral law is laid out.

Dives recognises that the way he lived on earth has determined where he will spend eternity … and he begs Abraham to send
Lazarus back to warn his five brothers. He knows that they do not know live as they should … their lives must be very much as his was … and they can be saved from the same fate as him if only they will mend their ways. He asks that they be warned that hell is real … if only they will believe that, he thinks, then they will be spared sharing his damnation … but Abraham replies that they have the moral law to guide them, the Law and the Prophets … Dives thinks they need more than that … they need a personal messenger sent to them from heaven that will lead them to repentance … but Abraham replies that if God's word is not enough for them, then someone rising from the dead will add nothing … 

Ironic, of course, when we know that Jesus did in fact rise from the dead for us … but then, what does it matter to each of us as individuals that Christ died for our sins and rose again from the dead to assure us of his promise of eternal life if we will not also repent and live according to God's Holy Law?

As it says elsewhere in scripture 'not everyone who cries 'Lord, Lord 'will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.' Dives was judged not for his wealth but for his failure to obey the divine law … and we, wealthy or poor or somewhere in between, will be judged according to the same standard. You know what that standard is: to do the will of Christ's father in heaven … the will he has revealed to us in so many ways … particularly in Holy Scripture and the teachings of the Church Christ founded … I pray that you will study these diligently all the days of your life, and live accordingly … and I ask that you pray the same for me. In Jesus name, Amen.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

haiku: morning woods

morning woods
-beneath birdsong
 tractor's rumble

Examin 28 September 2013

You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, strength, soul, & mind
To receive the Blessed Sacrament worthily requires a conscience free from serious sin; and that requires a diligent and detailed examination of your conscience prior to the confessing of your sins. How much time do you spend in making such an examination? And how systematic are you when you do so? Do you go through the commandments, using them to guide you through all you have learned of what the Church teaches? Do you honestly and openly admit before God your Creator, Redeemer, and Judge where you have not followed his precepts and commands? Are you truly sorry for that wrong-doing, not only because you thereby risk your eternal salvation, but because of how greatly it offends his Almighty goodness? And do you firmly resolve to turn away from these sins for the remainder of your life, committing yourself anew to to live out your Baptismal promises, and seeking out your salvation in fear and trembling?

prayer diary Saturday 28 September 2013

'The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into human hands.' 
Luke 9. 44

Knowing that he would suffer and die, Christ came to earth. On the Cross he bore each sin that ever was and ever would be. Do you add to that burden? Do you betray him daily by your willful and deliberate sin?

Friday, September 27, 2013

prayer diary Friday 27 September 2013 (day of discipline and self-denial)

'But who do you say that I am?' 
Luke 9.20
This is a question that we must all ask of ourselves. And on our answer depends our chance of eternal life.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

prayer diary Thursday 26 September 2013

Herod said 'John I beheaded; but who is this about whom I hear such things?' 
Luke 9.9

Herod had the power of life and death over mortal man; yet he trembled in wonder and awe at what Christ did. How do you, who also hear what, he did react?

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

prayer diary Wednesday 25 September 2013

'Shake off the dust from your feet as a testimony against them.' 
Luke 9. 5

There are those who reject the truth. And we must never stop trying to save them. That includes not being afraid to let them bluntly know how things stand – what it is that they risk if they continue on the path that they are on.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

prayer diary Tuesday 24 September 2013

'My mother & brothers are those who hear the word of God & do it.' 
Luke 8.21

To hear and do the will of God brings an intimacy with Christ that surpasses all earthly relationships. But hearing without doing brings nothing.

Monday, September 23, 2013

prayer diary Monday 23 September 2013

'No one after lighting a lamp hides it under a jar.'
Luke 8. 16

Your faith is not a secret thing, confined to church on Sunday and your private prayers and devotions. It must inform every aspect of how you live, not only for the salvation of your soul, but so that your example may help save others.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

holding to the truth

May my words be in the name of the Holy & Undivided Trinity: Father, Son, & Holy Spirit. Amen.

I think we would all agree that it is a good thing to pray for others; more, that it is our Christian duty to do so. And not just our family, friends, and neighbours, or those who might be sick or in need, but all people, even those who hate us. Which means that when we hear words like those from our epistle reading today, they don't surprise us. In it, St Paul writes:

I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings should be made for everyone, for kings and all who are in high positions, so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity.

The usual Christian message, yes? Well, yes and no. Yes it is reminding us of our duty to pray for all people. But there's more going on under the surface here. The first clue is the unusual fervour with which prayers are being exhorted: I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings should be made for everyone. First he uses the Greek word δεησεις (de-ēs-is) which means a prayer, request, or supplication; then he uses προσευχας (pro-seuch-eas) which essentially means an urgent prayer, with some overtones that this prayer would be made in a place of worship; then comes εντευξεις (en-teu-seis) which means supplication, intercession, or prayer; and finally ευχαριστιας (euch-ar-ist-ias), which means to give thanks, and it the root of our word Eucharist, and was already being used at that to designate the celebration of Holy Communion, the greatest combination of prayer and thanksgiving in the Church then, since, and now.

To put it another way, St Paul is using several words that are close in meaning, but with subtle differences, to lay it on really thick that he wants those hearing or reading his letter to make these prayers. Why the extreme emphasis? That takes us to our second clue, which is found in the last part of that verse: these prayers are to be made - for everyone, for kings and all who are in high positions, so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity. St Paul is calling on people to pray for all people … but he singles out for special mention kings and all in high positions … and he gives his reasons for doing so … that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity. St Paul hopes that these prayers, both public and private, will allow Christians to live godly lives in peace and quiet.

At this point, we need to know some of the context in which St Paul writes. The fact that Jews believed in only one God and refused to worship the many other deities of the Mediterranean world was well known and accepted. But then, theirs was a national religion, one that didn't seek out converts. It was no threat to the religious system of the world around them – a religious system that was intertwined with the public life of the Roman Empire. It didn't matter if the Jews didn't wish to make sacrifices to what they saw as a bunch of false gods – or indeed, to emperors that they saw as gods. They did not go around stating loudly and publicly that these gods were false … or daily attract more and more followers to their faith.

So what St Paul is doing here is urging his flock to publicly prayer for those in authority, in order to prove that they are not some kind of threat to public order … and that the reason that they refuse to offer these sacrifices is not because that they hate the princes of this world and wish to see them overthrown; but that instead that they pray for their good health and happiness, and that they may be blessed with the wisdom to rule wisely.

We all know that there were times when that wasn't enough for those in power. That there were many times when Christians were dragged before governors and princes and told to make the prayers to the false gods and offer the required sacrifices – often, merely a pinch of incense into a brazier – or suffer death. And we know that uncounted and unnamed thousands of our brothers and sisters in Christ chose death rather than worship those false gods. Cruel, bloody deaths.

It would have been such an easy thing to do, to offer that little pinch of incense. They would have known in their hearts that they didn't really mean it … and the result would have been life and being accepted into the wider society of the community in which they live. But they would not. They preferred to stand as witnesses to their faith … and it is, of course, from the Greek word for witness, mar-tur-us, that our word martyr comes.

How would we do today if we were so tested? Would we hold true to Christ and die a martyr's death? Or would we offer that tiny pinch of incense? Perhaps there is no way of knowing. Or perhaps there is. We live in a world where secular values grow stronger every day … a world that asks us make concession after concession to the false gods of this modern world … gods like greed, lust, materialism, an obsession with individual rights over the duty one owes to one's fellow man and society, part of which is that if the truth hurts someone's feeling, then the truth must not only not be spoken, but oft-times changed … to name but a few … and it is hard not to think that each little concession we make … each time we say something like 'I know that this is what God, or Scripture, or the Church teaches on this issue, but who am I to tell anyone what is or isn't the Truth' … is that not our own pinch of incense offered to the flames of a heathen god … the sacrifice we make for a quiet life and social acceptance rather than defending the truth of the Gospel?

The advice of St Paul to his flock still holds true today: we not only can, but should, offer prayer after prayer for all those in the world, whether ordinary folk or those in positions of power, who follow the false gods of the secular world … but we must also remember the example of the martyrs, of whom St Paul was one, and stop short of anything that amounts to denying the truth of the Gospel. Something that I invite you to join with in praying for ourselves and all the world, Amen.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Examin Saturday 21 September 2013

You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, strength, soul, & mind

We read in both scripture and elsewhere that to eat and drink the Body and Blood of our Saviour unworthily is to bring condemnation upon ourselves. Do you take that warning with all due seriousness?  The only way you can worthily receive of this sacrament is to have a conscience free from all serious sin. And the only way to be free from such sin is by a diligent and detailed examination of your conscience prior to the confessing of your sins.

Prayer diary Saturday 21 September 2013 (Feast of St Matthew)

The disciples asked 'Who then can be saved?' But Jesus looked at them and said 'For mortals it is impossible; but for God all things are possible.' 
Matthew 19. 25,26

No one enters heaven without righteous living. But neither does one earn entry by that good living. Eternal life can only be achieved by God's grace. But his grace is freely offered to all.

Friday, September 20, 2013

the hamster, the carrot, & the truck

I'm sure I don't need to say this, but this really is not something you should try at home ...

Prayer diary Friday 20 September 2013 (day of discipline and self-denial)

Everyone who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock.' 
Matthew 7. 24

Our Lord describes a two part process. First one must hear his word. And then one must act on it. He speaks of righteous actions based on sound doctrine. By living thus one builds a solid foundation for eternal life.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Prayer diary Thursday 19 September 2013

'Not everyone who says to me 'Lord, Lord' will enter the kingdom of heaven; but only the one who does the will of my Father.' 
Matthew 7. 21

This is key. It is not enough to claim to be a Christian. God is not fooled by the surface words of one who laughs at him in their heart and whose deeds mock him. Words are meaningless unless they are proved by actions.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Prayer diary Wednesday 18 September 2013

'Beware false prophets who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.' 
Matthew 7. 15

Be wary of those whose teaching is more about their own opinion than what the Church teaches and has always taught. Rare indeed is the false shepherd who, having created something unknown to Christ, his Apostles, or his Church from generation to generation, that will not claim his innovation to be the true faith.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Prayer diary Tuesday 17 September 2013

'Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and road is easy that leads to destruction.' 
Matthew 7. 13

Many fool themselves that hell is only for the truly wicked, not for ordinary people like them. But if you daily prove that you do not love God by refusing to live according to his will, how much more wicked do you need to be? By your life you have chosen hell; you can not complain when your choice is honoured.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Prayer diary Monday 16 September 2013

'For every one who knocks, the door will be opened.' 
Matthew 7. 8

The gates of heaven stand open to all, but you must wish to enter. The way to indicate your desire of salvation is by the acceptance of God's grace and living your life according to the teachings of the Church that he founded.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

God wants you!

May my words be in the name of the Holy & Undivided Trinity: Father, Son, & Holy Spirit. Amen.

There is a theme running through all of our readings from sacred scripture today – and that theme is the lengths that God will go to correct his children when they stray from his ways and bring them back to him.

The prophet Jeremiah is typically blunt: the people are skilled at doing evil, but they do not know how to do good. God will bring desolation upon the land, but he will not annihilate it. The people will be punished for their transgressions, but God will not destroy them utterly, because, as always, his purposed is to correct his wayward children.

The Apostle St Paul tells his personal story of the terrible things he did oppressing those who had faith in Christ. Yet for all the evil things that he did, God was merciful and brought him to faith. We all know the story of how that happened – Paul had the original 'road to Damascus moment', one that left him blind for many days. But out of that suffering came an even greater faith in God, and the most memorable ministries of the early Church.

And then there is our Gospel reading – first the parable of the lost sheep, and then the parable of the lost coin. In each, of course, what is missing represents those people who have lost their way in this life, and strayed from the path that God has laid before them, the path he has laid before us all. And the searcher represents God, and the painstaking lengths he will go to find the one who is lost.

Consider the lost coin. The lamp is lit, every corner of the house – the house representing the world – is swept. And note well when the sweeping stops: only when the coin is found. The implication being that the search will go on and on and on until what is lost is found. And we are told how precious what is lost is to the seeker, not only from the endless effort that goes into the search, but also the great joy that results when it is finally found.

It is the same with the lost sheep. The shepherd leaves behind the rest of the flock and goes out into the wilderness to search – indicating again how precious that what is lost is – for if it were not, the shepherd would not risk leaving the rest unattended, nor brave the dangers of the wilderness. Again the search continues until what is lost is found. And again the joy is great when the lost sheep finally is returned to the fold.

There is something else these readings have in common too: in all of them the initiative comes from God. The Israelites do not ask God to send them his prophet – indeed, as we know from scripture, they treated Jeremiah very badly for speaking the word of God. He was beaten, imprisoned, thrown down a well, threatened with death.
And neither did St Paul ask for what happened to him. He had no interest in having his eyes opened to the truth of the Gospel message. Indeed, he already thought he was doing God's work by persecuting the Christians. 

And certainly in our parables, it is God, the one who seeks, who initiates action; indeed, Christ has chosen in his parables a coin and a sheep, both of which are incapable of asking for help, of asking to be found, to represent poor sinners like us.

And despite the fact that no one asks him to seek them out and bring them back to his ways, God does anyway. Why – because it is who he is; he is love; the creator who made his creatures to be with him; he will not simply create us and then abandon us to go our own way; for if he did that, we would surely be lost; and to be lost is to loose forever all hope of eternal life. 

He doesn't wait for us to cry out for help before he offers it; and he doesn't ask our permission before he offers us eternal life. Because he loves us and wants only the best for us, the joy of being with him in heaven for all eternity. Even with all the help he offers, we may still lose out on it; but if we do, it will not be because he did not give us every chance, every help, every grace that would help us attain it. If we fail to attain heaven at the last, it is not because he did not seek us out; but because we refused to be found.

He sought, unasked, to bring the Israelites of ancient times back to him through the word of his prophets; he sought, unasked, to bring Paul and the people of those days back to him through the sending of his Son; and he seeks, unasked, to bring us and all others to return to him through the grace he bestows upon us, through the Church his Son gave us, and through his Holy Spirit which he promised and sent to guide us. My only prayer is that we will let ourselves be found. I hope it is your prayer also. Amen.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Examin Saturday 14 September 2013

You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, strength, soul, & mind

At the Last Supper our Lord declared 'This is my Body, this is my Blood.' Do we receive the Blessed Sacrament believing this in our hearts? Do we approach the Communion rail in a prayerful and reverent fashion, doing nothing to detract from the sacredness of what is happening? After we receive, do we then return quietly to our seats, careful at all times to do nothing that will distract others? And how do we prepare to receive the Body and Blood of our Lord? Do we do so having confessed our sins in penitence and faith, having first made a careful examination of our conscience? And do we hold it ever before us that to receive him unworthily is to eat and drink our own condemnation?

prayer diary Saturday 14 Sep 2013

'No good tree bears bad fruit; nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit; for each tree is known by its own fruit.' 
Luke 6. 43, 44

There are many who cry 'Lord, lord,' who do not know Christ. Therefore, be careful whose teaching you follow; for if it is not that which Christ gave to his Apostles then they can not be a good tree. And neither can they help you bear fruit unto eternal life.

Friday, September 13, 2013

prayer diary Friday 13 Sep 2013 (day of discipline and self-denial)

'Can a blind person lead a blind person? Will not both fall into a pit?' 
Luke 6. 39

A false teacher can only lead you down a false path – a path that leads to the loss of eternal life for both. Be careful then to listen only to those who teach sound doctrine.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

prayer diary Thursday 12 Sep 2013

'But I say to you that listen: love your enemies; do good to those who hate you; bless those who curse you; pray for those who abuse you.' 
Luke 6. 27

Many will hate those who hold unbending the faith passed down from generation to generation. Do not repay their hatred in kind; instead, continue to try to convert them from their worldly ways. And even if they will not listen to your words, and mock the good example of your of your life, pray for them always.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

prayer diary Wednesday 11 Sep 2013

'Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you and defame you on account of the Son of Man.' 
Luke 6. 22
The life of one who follows Christ is not an easy one; for his life is one that stands contrary to the values of the world. Do not lose heart because of that hatred; but rather, because if it comes as a result of your fidelity to Christ, be encouraged by it.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

clergy stress and burnout

Our diocesan clerical meeting had a speaker in today talking on the topic of stress and the effects it can have on clergy, their spouses, and children. I thought of doing a post on it, but a colleague got there first and said it all far better than I could have, so I decided to just link to his instead (& save myself the stress of trying to write something just before I run out the door to a Mother's Union enrolling service!).

prayer diary Tuesday 10 Sep 2013

He spent the night in prayer to God. And when day came he called his disciples and chose twelve of them whom he named Apostles. 
Luke 6. 12, 13
Even Christ, the second person of the Blessed Trinity, thought it necessary not only to spend time in prayer, but long hours in it, especially when he had an important decision to make. How much more should we call upon God's help that we may know that our actions are in accordance with his will?

Monday, September 9, 2013

prayer diary Monday 9 Sep 2013 (The Birth of the BVM, transferred)

'My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour.' 
Luke 1.46

Today we celebrate the birth of Mary, the Mother of God. Through her 'Thy will be done' the Word was made flesh and lived among us. Follow the example of her faith and let your soul also magnify the Lord, and let your spirit always rejoice in God your Saviour.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

guidance, not compulsion: a lesson from the letter to Philemon

May my words be in the name of the Holy & Undivided Trinity: Father, Son, & Holy Spirit. Amen.

There's quite an exciting story behind our epistle reading today. The young slave Onesimus has run away from his master Philemon in Colossae. More, he has apparently robbed Philemon before he left, perhaps to fund his escape. This doubles the danger for Onesimus, because now not only is he a slave on the run but he is a thief as well … and in the ancient world a thieving slave could be killed by his master at will – no trial, no appeal. The stakes are very high for Onesimus if he is caught.

And he is of course very likely to be caught. They were very good at catching errant slaves back then – well, of course the were: if they hadn't been, it would have been all too easy for a slave to simply slip away the first chance he got. This was a society that depended on a lot of slave labour. If they hadn't been good at snapping up ones that decided to go walk-about, it would have caused huge problems for their economy.

So what does Onesimus decide to do? Well we can't be sure; but we do know that he ends up with St Paul.

Now from the letter, it appears that Onesimus made it to Paul sometime during one of his periods of house arrest. Of these there were several. But we can narrow it down a bit if we factor in how difficult it would have been for a runaway slave to travel too far – Rome, for example, one of the places of Paul's imprisonment, seems too far away to be probable. Ephesus, on the other hand, was only about 70 miles or so away from Collossae; and Collossae wasn't too far away from the great road that went from Ephesus on the Aegean Coast to the River Euphrates far to the East. This was an important trade route and would have had plenty of traffic – easy enough to slip into the back of one of the many carts and wagons; or even to walk if needs be.

Now, I don't think Onesimus was looking for Paul. Most likely he chose Ephesus because it was a port town and easy to get to and he had the idea of making it on to a ship and getting as far away from his master as possible. He and Paul simply came across each other co-incidentally and Paul recognised him, because Philemon was someone who was well known to him. Philemon, as the letter makes clear, was not only a Christian, but the leader of a house church in Collossae. So I imagine that Paul and Onesimus simply bumped into each other in Ephesus and Paul, seeing his friend's slave so far from home, guessed at once what was happening. And knowing that the life of a runaway slave was likely to be a pretty miserable one, he offered to sort things out.

Now the letter makes it clear that Onesimus was not at this point a Christian. But he trusted Paul enough to go with him. Perhaps a few days on the run had made it plain to him just how limited his options were. Shortly after this, perhaps, Paul was placed under house arrest. And Onesimus stayed with him, helping him out, running errands, cooking, whatever it was that Paul needed doing. And it seems likely that they must have spent a lot of time talking. Because during this time, Onesimus became a Christian.

And when the period of arrest was coming to an end, Paul I think looked at Onesimus and said to him: 

'Son, I think it is time that we got things sorted between you and Philemon. If we don't, you'll be a slave on the run forever, and that is no kind of life.
''OK' said Onesimus. 'What do we do?'
'Well,' said Paul. 'I'm thinking of writing him a letter. Asking him to forgive you for what you stole, and to remember all that he owes me for what I have done for him by bringing him the faith. I'll tell him that you are now a Christian and are therefore his brother and should be treated like one.'
'Sounds good,' said Onesimus.
'And I want you to take him the letter.'
'You want me to do what!?'

What is Paul up to here? He could, after all, have had some one else take the letter to Philemon. And he could have ordered him as his Father in God to free Onesimus and forgive him. Instead, he advises him of what he thinks he should do, reminding him of the moral authority that he, Paul, has and then leaves it up to him.

But maybe that's the point. At the end of the day we all have free will and do right or wrong as we chose. Nobody forces us. It's a little ironic really, where you hear people talking about the Church trying to force people to do things. The Church forces no one. It teaches people what they ought to do, based on the authority it has been given by Christ … and then people either do what it teaches or they don't. When people complain that the Church is trying to force them to do things, what they really mean is that they want the Church to change its teaching to accommodate their actions … or keep quiet about the teachings that remind them that their actions are sins in the eyes of God.

But that's not the Church's way; and it wasn't Paul's way. He taught according to the fullness of God's revelation that he had in Christ … and then it was up to the individual to do as he taught or not.

Did Philemon obey Paul & receive Onesimus as a brother in Christ. We do not know. There is a tradition that Philemon later became bishop of Colossae and was eventually martyred; and Ignatius records that some years after this letter a man named Onesimus became bishop of Ephesus. And it seems unlikely that Philemon would have kept and passed around copies of the letter for others to read if it showed that he had failed both in his duty to Paul, his father in God, and Onesimus, a brother in Christ.

So I think we can have confidence that Philemon did as he ought on this occasion. Just as I pray that all here will, when faced with difficult choices, always choose to follow the way that Christ and his Church teaches … even as I ask that you pray the same for me. Amen.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Prayer diary Saturday 7 September 2013

Jesus said to them 'The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.' 
Luke 6.5

Therefore give him honour on the day that is his, not for the sake of making a display before the world of your piety, but in order to show your love for him. 

Examin 7 September 2013

You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, strength, soul, & mind

In loving God, do you show honour for his house? Does your generous giving keep it not only in good repair, but help make it a place that gives him glory before the world? And what of your demeanour in church? Does your every movement, gesture, and word give reverence to him from the moment you enter the church and serve as a witness that you are aware that you are in his house and in his presence?

Friday, September 6, 2013

Prayer diary Friday 6 September 2013 (day of discipline and self-denial)

'The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them; and then they will fast.' 
Luke 5. 35

Christ expected that his followers would take up their cross and follow him. This means the denial of self, some times in great ways, sometimes in little ways. The small sacrifice of fasting is a way of dying to self that disciplines the body so that the soul may draw nearer to God.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Prayer diary Thursday 5 September 2013

'Do not be afraid. From now on you will be a fisher of men.' 
Luke 5. 10

All Christians are called to convert others to faith in Christ. This begins with the example of one's own holy living, but it can not end there. All must do all that they are able to do, in word and deed, to bring the good news of Christ to all people that all might be saved. Failure to play your part in this work is to risk your own salvation.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Prayer diary Wednesday 4 September 2013

He stood over her and rebuked the fever and it left her. At once she got up and began to serve them. 
Luke 4. 39

The natural and immediate reaction to understanding all that God does for us is to desire to serve only him. Do not let the temptations of the world, the flesh and the devil come between you and this holy desire.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Prayer diary Tuesday 3 September 2013

They were all amazed ... 'What kind of utterance is this? For with power & authority he commands the unclean spirits and & out they come.' 
Luke 4. 36

All the evil powers of the world submit to Christ's authority; how can we, weak sinners longing to be holy, not do the same? And though it may seem hard, do not fear; for the same power and authority that cast out demons is there to help and guide you.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Prayer diary Monday 2 September 2013

Then he began to say to them: 'Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.' 
Luke 4. 21

In Christ the promises God made to his people in Holy Scripture have been made real, for he is the Word made flesh. Because of this, we can trust that the promises we have in Christ are true also.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

using your gifts

May my words be in the name of the Holy & Undivided Trinity: Father, Son, & Holy Spirit. Amen.

What kind of an image pops into your head when you hear the parable in today's Gospel about the guest who gets it badly wrong about where he should sit at the banquet – do you see a long dining table with chairs at either side and the host sitting at the head? If you do, you have the wrong picture entirely – but it's not your fault! The problem lies with the translation – our English version talks about sitting at the table, while in Greek, the language it was written in, it says recline. And that's important, because it tells us exactly what kind of a dining-scene Jesus is talking about.

What we have here is a triclinium, the formal dining arrangement of the Mediterranean world. To give you an idea of what it looked like: in the centre was a low, square table; On three sides were a couch, wide enough for three men. On these the diners would recline on their side, with plenty of cushions to keep them comfortable, reaching the food from the table with their free hand. The fourth side of the square was left open, in order to allow the servants room to get in and out with the dishes and wine. It also allowed the diners a view of what ever entertainment might be on offer as part of the banquet.

The arrangement was very formal; the host reclined on the side of one of the couches closest to the free side; the guest of honour lay next to him; and so on from the most important to the least until all the places were filled. And in a rigidly hierarchical society, the rules surrounding such a formal banquet were rigidly adhered to.

Now at a wedding, the example Jesus uses, this would have effectively been the 'top table.' There may have been one or two other such triclinium elsewhere in the room or perhaps not. All the other guests would probably have to make to would low chairs around the walls, or maybe cushions on the floor, well away from the top table.

Knowing this gives a clearer picture of what Jesus was talking about in the parable. At such a small, intimate group as the triclinium, there could be no quiet word in the ear of the guest who had wrongly decided that he was higher up the pecking order than he actually was. All who were already reclining would see and know exactly what was going on. They would see the host approach the man lying in the best place, and then see him get up and move away … and not just to the next place down either … in the parable, Jesus indicates the man is sent to the lowest place … the host isn't going to make everyone shift down and inconvenience and embarrass all his guests … this man was the one who got things wrong, let him be the one to suffer the consequences and go sit in the only place left, the lowest place at the table, even though it is quite certainly a place that is far below his station … in such a society, this would be a crushing humiliation … he has not only been publicly rebuked, but he has openly demeaned … his social standing might never recover …

Understanding the implications of what has gone before gives us an insight into how shocking the advice that Christ then gives to his listeners. He doesn't say, be careful to judge things right so that you recline in the right spot; he says deliberately chose the lowest place. In the parable, such a one is rewarded by being moved higher up the table. But the point Jesus has to make has nothing to do with playing games with the social customs of his day. He is making a profound theological point, one with Christological overtones. He is calling his followers to a life of perfect humility, even as his life was one of perfect humility. He, God's Son, humbled himself becoming man – and a man in very humble circumstances at that – and a humiliating death on the cross. From that lowly place he was raised to the highest place possible – the right hand of the Father.

We also are called to try our very best to imitate that perfect humility. To care nothing about worldly glory, to care nothing indeed for any of the things of this world. Because if we seek only for the better place at the table of this world, we will ultimately fail … the glory of this world ends in the grave for us all … and it is at the moment that we will discover whether we will be raised up to the better place to join with Christ in the glorious banquet in heaven, or be crushed to discover that we are instead being sent to the lowest place. I pray here will seek the perfect humility that Christ calls us to and so be called at the last to be with him in that higher place; even as I even as I ask that you pray the same for me. Amen.