Labor Day

Right now in the USA is one of those weirdly named holidays. A day to rest from labor named after the thing we are resting from? 

The historically savvy know that it relates more to beginnings of Communism than anything else. Karl Marx and the struggle of the working class, etc. 

What’s truly weird is the complete loss of the concept of a holiday. Which derives from Holy Day. And that a nation might have a Holy Day would probably be a source of derision from the secular culture.   

Now we’ve managed to keep a few actual Holy Days in our line up of official holidays: Christmas and Thanksgiving. And even these are tenuous at best and detrimental at their worst. That Thanksgiving is now the kick off for voracious buying for the commercial nirvana that is Christmas morning gift opening is disheartening. 

The Holy Days instituted by God for the nation of Israel were based around an agrarian people.  Planting and harvest, cycles of the moon and the like. A rhythm built into the very fabric of the society. 

We have ours built in here: summer is marked between Memorial Day and Labor Day. The fall season of Halloween to Thanksgiving with a build up to Christmas. After New Years it’s the slog to spring marked around Easter (secular culture has stolen Holy Week from us, giving us instead the pathetic “spring break”). 

Then back to Memorial Day. A loop. And the older one gets the more one feels the repetitive nature of it all. The slow meandering brook of life.  We labor under the sun, toiling and laboring to an unknown end other than knowing we will be with our Lord. 

Now you might be wondering why I took you on this tortuous loop. It’s this: don’t separate the labor from the Holy God who gave it to you. Today is a Holy Day, an extra day of rest our Lord providentially provided for us. We were made to tend the garden of Eden. We were made to labor, to work. Not aimlessly, but to the good of our neighbor and the Glory of God. 

The culture may have forgotten about Holy Days, but our God surely has not. Someday all will be made right. Today let us rest and yearn a little for that day. 

Soli Deo Gloria 

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Day 30: It is finished

Today is the last day of my personal challenge to write 30 days in a row. A few days were nothing more than me phoning it in, pretty perfunctory really.  But overall I think I did a lot of writing. I do have one piece that’s nearly written that needs to be posted on a particular day to have the desired effect. I think you will know it when you see it. 

The title is two parts: one, I’m officially done with the challenge; two, the work of Christ is finished. Since today is Sunday, it’s fitting since it is a recalling of the Resurrection. Just before giving up His spirit he cried “It is finished.” The work of atonement was done. The Resurrection is the initial proof of the atoning sacrifice. 

When we come to Christ (and we only come because He called us) and we turn from our sin, we are forgiven. That forgiveness was purchased on that cross. 

There is a phrase “between the already and the not yet”. This is where we live. The work of Christ is done, the atonement finished, forgiveness is purchased. The kingdom of God is already, but not yet in its fullness. 

So I shouldn’t be striving to earn my forgiveness or impress God with my religiousosity, my Christian “bonafides”. I shouldn’t be praying to impress God, but because I’m leaning into Him for strength.  I don’t cross myself to prove to others my religiousness. No, I do it to remind myself to whom I belong. I was bought with a price. 

I don’t bow at name of Christ in the Nicene Creed because it want to show off, I do it to remind myself one day all knees will bow to him. Right now I choose to kneel. But only because He called me. It’s the end of me and the start of Him. I’m finished. 

Soli Deo Gloria 

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Day 29: Prayer

“My house shall be called a house of prayer”

Prayer

Jesus drove the money changers out with a cord of whips he made by hand. Deliberate and forceful action.

Jesus is frequently seen rising early, well before anyone else and going off to pray. At the raising of Lazarus, Jesus prays out loud.

There’s the parable of The Pharisee and the Tax Collector:

He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortions, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

His disciples ask him how to pray and He teaches them an incredibly short prayer:

Our Father, who is in heaven, Holy is your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. And give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.

In the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus asks his disciples to pray while he is praying and they sleep instead.

And when Jesus is arrested, his disciples scatter. But Jesus had prayed for them.

Saul is searching for and imprisoning followers of Jesus. He is blinded on the road to Damascus, and challenged by the Risen Christ: “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?”

Later the Lord sends Ananias to Saul. Ananias is a little hesitant to go. His reassurance is “you will find him praying.”

Here are the new converts to Christ in Acts:

“And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.”

So, let me ask the hard question: how are you praying?

Jesus drove the money changers and the animals out of the meeting space around the temple. We have many distractions to focusing on prayer. I deliberately get up early and pray in the darkness of the pre-dawn hours. It started as a part of my Lenten practice in 2016. I used a simple daily devotion using this app. (I invert the colors on my phone to keep the light level way down.)

It wasn’t easy. My body complained. My mind rebelled. But the spirit had life. And because of that posture I was able to take a hard lesson that came a few months later.

Healing of my anxious soul was interwoven with the fabric of prayer. My mind is focused on scripture and the old prayers of saints long dead. I breathe back to the Lord the worries and cares of my heart. I now use the book of common prayer Rite 2, morning devotion. This particular one includes the Lectionary readings. 

May I encourage you to drive out the distractions in your own life and find the time to pray. It cannot be truly comprehended in any other way.

Prayer, at its center, is experiential: it must be done to be truly understood.

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Day 28: So Close

I really hope I can write something tomorrow. 

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Day 27: Out of Gas

You guessed it. Nothing in the tank today to get anything written. Spent time developing relationships and nurturing the bonds in my family. 

Soli Deo Gloria 

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Day 26: Breakfast 

Fasted today. Evening service for prayer to start the ministry year. A Eucharist celebrated with the congregation surrounding the table. 

Literally broke my fast with bread and wine. 

God ministered to me in some tangible ways today. Oh He is so Good. 

Soli Deo Gloria 

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Day 25: Chance Encounter?

So, I decided to grab some coffee this morning before heading to work. As I walk into the place I notice a man in his twenties reading the Gospel of Luke (he was right in Chapter 1, so it was in nice bold print that even these old eyes can see). I grab my coffee and headed out. I normally don’t talk to people randomly. Something made me ask. “So, personal bible study or sermon prep?”

He initially looked a little startled. And then we chatted. He’s a young athletic trainer who is also mentoring some kids through his church. We talked about humility, Divine Mercy, the ways that pride sneaks up on you, the amazing strange ways that God works in, through and around our lives.

I then said how I never stop at this particular coffee shop in the morning. He said he’s never come to this place either to do his bible study. We just looked at each other and knew that it was He who arranged the appointment. We each chuckled a little about it but marveled at God’s timing.  He’s considering the pastorate and I’m thinking about mentoring young believers and strengthening the maturing. So I get to offer some encouragement to a young heart thirsting for God’s direction. He gets to see God’s timing and realize that the call is to a work that God is already doing. And honestly, I get to as well.

So, yet another divine appointment for me. God pre-arranging meeting with fellow believers so we are each able to see God’s perfect timing. Chance encounter? Nah, not at all. That’s my GOD and Savior at work: “both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”

Soli Deo Gloria 

 

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Day 24: A Random Thought 

I realized as I read my Bishop’s letter that it is entirely Kingdom focused. There’s a political neutrality to it that I can’t quite match. Other denominations may not have done it that way. But it is Pastoral for the portion of the Church in his care. 

I’m struggling with how I approach things in this setting here. My intent is for my writing to be for my fellow believers. However, viewing things through a theological/political grid comes rather naturally to me. 

I think I need to evaluate each piece as to whether I need to state the particular political grid if I bring in the political. Should I be striving for political neutrality? Things to ponder. 

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Day 23: Admitting Error

One of the main aspects of Anglicanism, and really all old order traditions, is the liturgy. We have a set practice, and in our particular case it is in the Book of Common Prayer (this is a link to Anglican Pastor for a good explanation of what that book is).

Every single Sunday, prior to the Celebration of the Eucharist (communion), we say prayers for the nations and then a confession of sin. We all say the same words together, led by the deacon:

Most merciful God, we confess that we have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done, and by what we have left undone. We have not loved you with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We are truly sorry and we humbly repent, for the sake of your Son Jesus Christ, have mercy on us and forgive us; that we may delight in your will, and walk in your ways, to the glory of your Name. Amen.

It’s also part of morning daily devotion. It’s a serious prayer. But let me reword it a bit to draw out some the ways it challenges us, I hope it makes you think and analyze the various ways we all rebel against God:

Calling on the mercy of God. We acknowledge that we have erred against God in every way, through action and inaction. Our Love has been on ourselves and not You and definitely not on others. This was a major mistake and we submit ourselves to examination by Jesus Christ that we have turned from our errors please be merciful to us because of our rebellion. Please Pardon our sins. Our error is we think your will isn’t really delightful for us, help us see the unbridled joy of your plans, show us the ancient paths of wisdom, for the Greatness of your Beautiful Name. Amen. 

Soli Deo Gloria 

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Day 22: A Party

So, in a little bit, I’m heading to a friend’s house to enjoy some smoked meats. It’s his birthday and he can smoke ’em if he wants ’em. I might smoke a cigar too.

Anyway, it has been an interesting day. Went for a long walk this morning wearing flip-flops. Bad idea, rubbed my foot half raw. So, decided to grab some coffee at our local café. I ended up in a long conversation with a brother over a loss in his life. Also talked to an old brother in the faith about his ministry and the struggles of a small town church’s pastor.

Our conversation ended up being about community, about the many ways in which it has been eroded. The church in America didn’t suffer persecution from outside. Instead it was like a slow infestation of mold in the foundation. Like an acid bath to the undergirding of the Church. Hundreds of years of tradition and practice were swept away in the name of modern progress. Away with Liturgy! Away with weekly communion! Away with regular gatherings of believers! Away with Gospel! Away with regular prayer!

And to be honest, I’m not entirely sure I even know what good community looks like. Now, I did learn a lot about community by living in Guatemala with my wife’s family. So, I guess maybe that’s what a church community looks like? Except with brothers and sisters in Christ instead of blood relations. But I’m sure some of the strife of a family would come out there too. A little sanctification never hurt anybody.

Anyway, the friend (whose birthday it is) is also a brother in Christ and the leader of the small group I and my wife are in. Some of our group will be there, along with his friends and people from the ministry he is a part of. And it will be a little bit of community. Around a friend. A little bit of rebuilding. Brick by brick. One friend at a time. One brother and sister at a time. A little Nehemiah-ish? Hmmm, there’s a thought. 

Soli Deo Gloria 

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