Friday, January 31, 2014

Epiphany Prayer 26 (Day 375)

O God, Your everlasting love revives me: I raise my heart before your altar in prayer, and I am filled with peace. You are the God who paints the sunrise: the glory of the Lord fills the skies. 

You set your hand before me and behind me; You set me upon your way, and my heart is full of joy. One thing I seek today: to do the will of my God, and to work for justice and peace for my brothers and sisters. Make me a friend to the downtrodden and a help to the weary. 

You have mercy on all who call upon You; let your light shine forth to those who have lost their way. 

Soothe the ache of sadness and sorrow in those who mourn, O Loving One: we trust in You, and our hearts are uplifted. Hear the cares and concerns of your people, O God, and be with those we now name.


Thursday, January 30, 2014

Epiphany Prayer 25 (Day 374)

O Lord Christ, you are our rock and our salvation: in you we put our trust. 

You have blessed us and loved us from our first breath: your hand is upon us to guide us in wisdom. Let us have the faith of little children, that we open our hearts completely to you and each other. Help us to grow in wisdom and grace, O Wonderful Counselor, and be joyful in hope that we may be your faithful servants today. Give us peaceful hearts and loving hands, and may hearts and hands be open to do your will. May all things we do shine with the light of Christ. 

You are always at our side, O Lord, sharing in our joys and our tears, and we are comforted indeed. O Lord, you hear us in our praises and our petitions: in your mercy visit your Spirit of love and compassion upon those we now name.


Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Epiphany Prayer 24 (Day 373)

Almighty God, you pierce the darkness within us and make us glad: let us arise to sing a song of praise to You. 

Take us by the hand today, O Lord, and guide us in the ways of peace. Let no word leave our lips but that which sings of your mercy and lovingkindness. Weave your love into the fabric of our souls that we be knit together as a holy people. Inspire us to place our selves in your service, that we burn brightly as a beacon of justice and reconciliation. 

Soothe us in body, mind, and spirit that we may always remember your great goodness. Hear our thanksgivings and our petitions for our brothers and sisters, and bend near to all who call upon You.


Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Epiphany Prayer 23 (Day 372)

Inspired by John 5:1-18
O God, you are our font of every blessing, and we rise to sing your praise. Let us receive your Word wherever we are in our hearts, and respond with hope and joy. 

Let us rise up from those things that paralyze us- uncertainty, bitterness, hardness of heart- and take up our mat and walk. Let each step we take be a testimony to the power of the peace of God, which restores us and draws us into wholeness. Stir up in us the waters of compassion, that we may recover our sense of community and justice. 

Breathe upon us, O Spirit of Christ, and fill our souls with your whispered, healing love. Let our prayers uplift those who are in need of healing, direction, or comfort, that You may embrace them.


Monday, January 27, 2014

Epiphany Prayer 22 (Day 371)

O Blessed One, we call upon you in the night and are comforted: dwell within our hearts forever. You are our light at midday: make us burn with a holy fire for your Word. 

By your great mercy you have saved us and set us free from fear; let us use this day you have given us to praise You. Let us love others not for what they do for us, but for the beauty of God that shines within them. Let us set our minds upon your holy wisdom: give us understanding to turn our hearts toward your will. Bless our endeavors, we pray, that we may persevere in running the race you have set before us. 

You have made your face to shine upon us: let us praise you with every breath. Heal the sick, Lord Christ, and tend to those who ache in body or soul with the balm of your love. O Loving One, send your blessing out upon those for whom we pray.


Sunday, January 26, 2014

Prayer for Discernment -Annual Meeting 2014 (Day 370)

O Gracious God, we are your people, and we ask that you guide us this day to do your will. Make of us a priestly people, dedicated to the ministry you have called each of us to do. 

Give us wisdom and love in equal measure, that we may know how, as well as why, we are to follow your path. 

Let us clasp hands around your altar as one people, dedicated to the shared vision of building your kingdom. Let us go forth then to be your disciples, nourished by the love that draws us together. 

Let us tend the sick, the sorrowing, the weak, and the lost in your Name, with joy in our labors and praise on our lips.

O Loving Savior, You are with us always: send, we pray, a special blessing upon those we now name. 


Saturday, January 25, 2014

Epiphany Prayer 20 (Day 369)

O Gracious God, you are our light and our salvation: guide us and keep us as the apple of your eye. 

By your gracious hand we are uplifted; your abiding faithfulness is our anchor and our bedrock. 

O God, gather your people in the tent of meeting; let them sing your praises in your courts. 

In your compassion forgive us our sins, that we may renew our relationships and obey your commandments. 

Animate us by your Spirit that we may proclaim your name and saving power throughout the world. 

Receive our thanksgivings and prayers for your manifold gifts; You are the Source of all our blessings. 

Extend the hand of your mercy over the sick, the sorrowing, and the weary, or those who are in any danger. For the sake of your Love, hear our prayers for those whose concerns we hold in our hearts.


Friday, January 24, 2014

Epiphany Prayer 18 (Day 368)

O God, we turn from our rest toward our rising, singing always your praises within our hearts. Our spirits rise on the wings of hope; our trust in You is a warm wind at our backs. Lead us, O Savior, into wisdom and truth; arm us with love and gentleness

 Let us never treat tender hearts with impatience, but attend to each other with care and integrity. Forgive us our foolishness, and call us into wholeness. Cleanse our intentions, so that all we do, we do in love and reverence. 

O God, our spirits rest within your hand; lighten the burdens of those we now name.


Thursday, January 23, 2014

Epiphany Prayer 17 (Day 367)

(Inspired by Psalm 25)
O Loving One, we cast ourselves into your embrace; we rest upon your breast and know peace. In You we put our trust: we will never be shaken, for You are our God, and You watch over us as we sleep. Our rest is in You through the watches of the night, and our hope is in You all through the day. Lord Jesus, teach us your ways, that we may never let our feet slip from the path of the Almighty. We rejoice in your healing power, O Spirit of Wisdom, and raise up praises for all God's blessing and mercy. You are gracious and tender to us in our loneliness or affliction, O Lord: You bear us up when we are weary. O Merciful God, receive our humble offerings of thanks, and hear our petitions for those who name.


Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Epiphany Prayer 16 (Day 366)

Almighty God, surround us in a cloud of rejoicing as we rise to take up our place in the throngs who praise You. 

Let us join hands in a circle of brotherhood and lift up our hearts to You, O Mighty Redeemer. You are our shield and our breastplate, the wind at our backs to send us forth in the power of your Name. We thank you for endowing us with reason and skill: let us use all your gifts in your service. 

Abide with those who are ill today, and guide the minds and the hands of those who treat them. Remember us, O Lord, in our sorrows and afflictions, in our cares and concerns. Hear the deepest longings of our hearts, drawing us to You, for we long for your comfort and counsel. 

In your tender love and care, Lord Christ, lift up the hearts of those for whom we now pray.


Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Epiphany Prayer 15 (Day 365)

Loving, Almighty God, you have called us to be your children and you embrace us every moment. You set the stars in their courses yet keep your eye on the sparrow, and we know that joy in you is our strength as we abide forever in the shadow of the Most High. We thank and praise you for your faithful love for us even when we despair. Watch over and strengthen and comfort, we pray, these your beloved children.


Monday, January 20, 2014

Prayer for Martin Luther King Day 2014 (Day 364)

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Prophet and Martyr

Almighty God, You created us in freedom, and called us to live in truth: may all that we do bring glory to your Name. You sent us martyrs and prophets, such as the Rev. Dr. King, to call us again to live in covenant and mutuality with each other. 

Prosper the work of those who seek to heal the divides among us, and forgive us for when we have failed to honor each other. May we never forget that to love each other is to love You, and join hands and hearts in brotherhood with all your children. Let us remember that the kingdom of God is our neighborhood, and build our foundations on justice and equality. Let us sit together at the table of fellowship, and share each other's joys and hardships. 

Bind the hearts of those who sorrow, and build the strength of those who are bowed down, O Holy One. Look with favor upon those who call upon You, especially those we now name.


Sunday, January 19, 2014

Epiphany Prayer 14 (Day 363)

Precious Lord, we gather together together to worship You today. You are the light of the world, Lord Christ: may we be enlightened anew by your Word and Sacraments to live our lives in You. 

May we live out your call to radical love to a world misshapen by our own faults. May we serve You by serving each other, and taking each other's burdens as our own in holy love, the key to our salvation. 

Lord, we pray for our brothers and sisters whose lives are torn by violence, displacement, or war; and pray for an end to injustice. We gather to our hearts those who are in pain, or who face uncertainty or sadness, that they be comforted. Send your Spirit to rest upon the troubled waters of our lives, and especially on those we now name.


Saturday, January 18, 2014

Prayer of Dedication and Discernment (Day 362)

We awaken with joy, uplifted by the Hand of God, our refuge and our rock. 

May we seek to serve You in unity and truth, using the gifts You have given us to build the kingdom of God. Take our hands and take our hearts, O Source of All Being: all that we have is Yours. 
Let us empty ourselves of everything but your call to love and serve You, and to love and serve all. 

Rest upon the hearts of those we love, and teach us to love each other and treasure their beauty as your child. We treasure your many blessings within our hearts; they spread to the very corners of our lives. We thank you for the voices of friends in the morning, and the companionship of Christ through the day. 

When trials beset us, may we remember that we dwell in the Shadow of the Almighty, who gathers us within Love's embrace. God calms the waters when storms arise, and sets us to rest, secure upon the gentle waves which carry us through each day. With gratefulness for your mercy, we place the needs of our loved ones before You, O God: hear our prayer.


Friday, January 17, 2014

Prayer 361

Dame Julian of Norwich

Let us rise up and shine forth the glory of God: New every morning, all of your creation praises thee, O Lord of hosts! 

Let us be knit together in mission, love, and faithfulness as You are One, O Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. As celestial bodies are moved under mutual attraction, draw us into your orbit, O King of Heaven. All power and glory are Yours, yet You have given us freedom: let us freely choose to serve You in all things. Make us worthy to claim your Name, that our obedience and compassion may sing out our place within your household. 

Incline your ear to our prayers for those we name, O Most Merciful God, as we bear them up in tenderness.


John Vernon Taylor- A Prayer of Daily Dedication

Lord Jesus Christ,
alive and at large in the world,
help me to follow and find you there today,
in the places where I work,
    meet people,
    spend money,
    and make plans.
Take me as a disciple of your Kingdom,
to see through your own eyes,
and hear the questions you are asking,
to welcome all men with your trust and truth,
and to change the things that contradict God’s love,
by the power of the cross
and the freedom of your spirit. Amen. 

-- John Vernon Taylor

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Prayer 360

We rest under the shadow of the Almighty; let us rise and take up our work with joy. Let us call upon the Name of the Lord, who surrounds us in the light of His embrace. 

O blessed Jesus, our Wonderful Counselor, guide us in each step we take today. May we seek to open ourselves to the will of God in our lives and center ourselves within God's love. May we make of ourselves a living sacrifice, our hearts a tabernacle for the Almighty. Watch over us, O Lord, as you watch over the sparrow and the lark: let us sing our praise to you for all your lovingkindness. 

Lord Jesus, you know our pains and afflictions; send your healing power into the hands of those who care for us. We pray especially for those who are facing surgery or treatment this day, and give thanks for how they have touched our lives and blessed us. Give ear, O God, we pray you: we place the needs of these loved ones within the stronghold of Your love.


Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Prayer for those undergoing medical treatment or surgery

Almighty God, we praise you for all your generous gifts: in your mercy, hear our prayer and supplications. 

You are the Eternal Healer, and call us to work with You in restoring balance to the world: be with those who are ill. You are the source of all wisdom, and have inspired us to hunger for learning, and persevere in seeking it. We thank you for the knowledge and skills of doctors and nurses, and ask that you guide their hands. Bless those, Lord Jesus, who have heard your call to take up your healing ministry. Give doctors wisdom as they determine treatment, and make their judgment steady and sure. Give nurses discernment, gentleness, strength as they tend the sick and their families and provide for their needs. Give those who are ill or injured comfort in their distress, and soothe their pain, O merciful One. Bind up their wounds, that they may heal swiftly, and be restored to health and physical comfort. 

Be present with the families of those who are ill, and draw them into your embrace as they await word. Your love for us is never-ending, O God; send your Spirit of healing and peace to those whose names we raise to you.


Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Epiphany Prayer 9 (Day 358)

Camp fire from Camp Phoenix, summer 2013

Lord Jesus, we come before you, the Light of the world, as dawn stakes its claim on the eastern sky. After a long night, we thirst for a deeper knowledge of You: make us worthy to walk beside You this day. 

All that we are, we offer to You: make of us a living prayer. Let us be bold witnesses of your saving power that binds us together regardless of differences, united in fellowship. Make us mindful of your presence in those we meet, attuning our hearts to those who are in need. Help us order our lives according to your wisdom, being for others in all we do, that we might humbly serve God. Let us sing the new song you have given us, that all the world may know Your love. 

Send out your Light, O God, into the shadows of anxiety that fall among us, and rest your hand upon those we now name.


Monday, January 13, 2014

Epiphany Prayer 8 (Day 357)

Almighty God, we praise your guiding hand upon us, and your tender care for us as we prepare for this day. Set our minds and hearts ablaze with the knowledge of your love. 

Let us be guided by hearts of faith and obedience to your Word, whom you sent to us that we should know You more fully. May we be true and faithful companions to Christ, walking the paths of righteousness to be a blessing to all your children. Make of us disciples whose wills are set to building your kingdom. Let us be joyful in all our work, and let it find favor in your sight. 

Make us mindful of all who suffer, and determined to work for the benefit of all, sowing justice and compassion in our wake. May we be ministering hands to those who are in any need, in mind, body, or spirit. May we build up each other in love, bearing with each other in all things. We ask your blessing upon those in need, that they feel your saving presence and are renewed in strength.


Sunday, January 12, 2014

Epiphany Prayer 7 (Day 356)

Jesus teaches in the Portico of Solomon

O God, we joyfully enter your courtyard, and approach your altar with song! We are glad to see the rising sun, and thankful that our God has preserved us through the chill of the night. 

Now is our time to hear your commandments and take them into our hearts. Now is our time to gather together in unity and brotherhood, united by our love of God and each other. Let us worship the God who protects the stranger, who calls us to act with justice to the poor and oppressed. Let us sing praises to the Son, who broke bread with outcasts, and humbly ask forgiveness for our wrongs. Let us gather around the altar of blessing, unified in hope of salvation and grace. Let us carry the Spirit of Love and Life in our hearts into the world, inspired to discipleship in all we do. 

Let us place our petitions before the Lord of kindness and gentleness, whose mercy endures forever. O Gracious God, hear our prayers for our loved ones, whom we lift before You as your beloved children.


Saturday, January 11, 2014

Epiphany Prayer 6 (Day 355)

My soul is at rest in the presence of God; my heart overflows with joy for the goodness and mercy of the Lord. 

The Spirit of God is at my shoulder: let me never wander far from God's light, or be drawn away by despair. The Peace of God surpasses understanding, but wells up as a stream of living water, to sustain and strengthen us. The Light of God streams through the windows of my soul; may I blaze forth in love and compassion for others. May God's Word take me by the hand and lead me into wisdom as a little child, that love may take root in my heart. 

Our Great Companion is steadfast in all our needs, and sustains us to see wonders of blessing even in times of trouble. Gathered together in the name of Christ, we pray for those in uncertainty or need, especially those we now name.


Friday, January 10, 2014

Epiphany Prayer 5 (Day 354)

O God, the rising sun reminds us that your sent your Light into the world: we sing and celebrate your unceasing care! Blessed Lord Jesus, you are our Good Shepherd: let us never stray from the sound of your voice! 

Help us work for justice and peace today, O Lord, and be faithful servants within the kingdom of heaven. Each moment of our lives is a gift from You, and each breath a chance to praise your Name. 

Give us the strength to persevere in times of trials, and in your mercy send your Spirit to renew our hearts. Our blessings dance before us like stars, and our sorrows blow away like chaff, for we know that You are with us. Our hope is in our God; how can we ever fear, for your love is a mantle upon our shoulders in the depth of winter. 

Resting upon your breast, O Loving One, we whisper into your ear our prayers.


Thursday, January 9, 2014

Epiphany Prayer 4 (Day 353)

Almighty God, awaken our sleeping hearts to perceive the glory of your creation! Let us bend the knee and kneel in thanksgiving and obedience to your throne. 

We mourn our hardheartedness and ask your forgiveness; we marvel at your loving gift of grace. May we see Christ in the stranger, and in the people who plague us, and remember that all are your children. May we seek to be a blessing to others, and remember the power of our words and actions. May we never treat friends with carelessness; may we never attempt to guard our hearts by contempt or cruelty. 

May we open our selves to the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, who broods over us as a mother bird broods over her young. May we be drawn to You on the winds of love and faithfulness; may we heed your call to amend our ways. 

O Loving One, we put our trust in You, in good times or bad, and ask your blessing upon those we now name.


Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Epiphany Prayer 3 (Day 352)

O Holy, O Almighty, O Merciful One, we call upon You from the depth of our spirits, giving thanks for all our blessings. 

May we seek to welcome you into our hearts and flourish as your people, honoring the name of your Son. Give us insight to discern your will in our lives, that we seek to serve You in all things, made holy by obedience. Let us flourish in faith and grow strong in your ways, borne upward by your Spirit, sustained and animated by your Love. 

Extend your Hand, O God, over those who come before You: give rest and comfort to those for whom we pray.


Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Epiphany Prayer 2 (Day 351)

Eternal God, holy be your Name: have mercy upon us. 

Guide us and govern us, O Lord, through the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may live in peace and goodwill. Give us the bread of heaven, that feeds the soul and never fails, that our hearts and minds cling to your Word. 

May we gather around your altar, and knit our hearts together as your children. Let us be men and women for others, a ministering people unto the world. May we make common cause with the helpless, that we may demand justice alongside the oppressed. Let us always rejoice in the gifts of help and compassion we receive from others, and never miss a chance to thank them. May we with songs of joy bear the standard of your Son, and make manifest your saving grace in the world. 

Give us the grace and insight to support those whose hearts are hurting, and whose pain is known to You alone. Grant your benediction upon those for whom we pray today.


Monday, January 6, 2014

Epiphany Prayer (Day 350)

Eternal God, source of all light, guide us by love as the Wise Men were guided by the star to honor your Son as King of All. 

Grant us wisdom to discern your saving love for us in all the blessings we receive. In the name of your Son, Jesus Christ, may we share the light of salvation to all the world, and strive to be a holy people. May we listen for your voice in all we do, and be strengthened in faith to follow the path you have set before us. Guide us to walk in humility and compassion, O Lord, for we always remember your forbearance to us. 

Protect those who confront the cold today, and shield them in your infinite mercy. Proclaiming your wondrous gift of salvation, grateful for your infinite grace, we lift up our concerns before you.


Sunday, January 5, 2014

Christmas Prayer 12 (Day 349)

Our God is a mighty fortress: let us give a shout of joy and exultation! 

Give us wisdom to discern your call to us: let us praise you from the depths of our souls. Before your altar we offer our lives, for all creation is bound up and anchored within your abundant Love. 

From the storms of life preserve us; blaze up in the hearths of our hearts, O Gracious Lord. Keep watch over us, O Loving One, as a hen broods over her young: gather us under the shadow of your wings. 

Guide us in the path of faith and trust, for we know You will not let our feet slip or hearts be pierced with fear. Let our prayers ascend upon the wind: and send your blessing upon those who call out to you.


Saturday, January 4, 2014

Lectionary notes Matthew 2:1-12

Matthew 2:1-12

1 In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, 2 asking, "Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage." 3 When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; 4 and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. 5 They told him, "In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet:

6 `And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,

are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;

for from you shall come a ruler

who is to shepherd my people Israel.'"

7 Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. 8 Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, "Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage." 9 When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. 11 On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 12 And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.

Read verse one very carefully: there is something missing.

Find it? For those of us who know some grammar, here’s another hint: it’s an adjective.

Ponder, while I give you a hint. Many Christians display nativity sets as part of their Christmas decorations. If they are (rather smug) keepers of Advent and Christmas proper, they don’t place the little baby Jesus figurine in the crèche, or feeding trough, until the night of the 24th of December. And there we leave Mary and Joseph, surrounding a little half-naked baby (and if you’ve ever had a newborn around, you KNOW that just isn’t right). There are some other figurines: an angel up on top, perhaps, and some animals: donkeys and cattle and oxen and sheep, especially if there’s also some shepherds. And then, around January 5th, or better yet, 6th, they add some new figures: the Wise Men. Now, here’s what’s missing in that first verse—nowhere did it say HOW MANY Wise Men there were. Tradition has it that there are three (but some others say 12), and so we usually put three guys in turbans into the nativity sets on January 6. But Matthew’s Gospel just says there are more than one. That’s it.

I saw an awesome picture of a nativity set that a kid had put together, which frankly is a little less accurate. Enjoy.

And if this amused you, don’t deny yourself the pleasure of this: Really. You’ll thank me later. The Spam Nativity makes me thirsty just looking at it. And here’s one made out of Peeps: And now, back to business.

Our selection from Matthew (and only Matthew of all the gospels includes this story) tells part of the story of the (indeterminately numbered) Wise Men. Why are they wise? Because, as non-Jews, they know something the “king” of the Jews, Herod, should know. They obviously expect Herod (and everyone else in Jerusalem) to know, and stop in Jerusalem so that they can fine-tune their directions. Yet, they get their first surprise, for not only do the people of Jerusalem and their king NOT know about the birth of this new king, they are completely terrified by the possibility that there could be a new king on the horizon. One has to wonder why, if the Wise Men WERE indeed so wise, they might not have foreseen this possibility—since the birth of a new king means the end of the reign of the current king, and kings usually don’t take being deposed too well.

Sometimes, these visitors are called “Magi.” This word referred to a priestly class in Persia—which lay to the East of Jerusalem in the country we now call Iran. Over time, the word for magi became applied to sorcery or witchcraft, and is the root of the word “magician.” The wise men have read a sign in the sky—which is why some portray them as astrologers, or “magicians,” although these two things are actually quite different. But these guys are religious. And the star in the sky heralding the birth of this new king (bright shining lights in the sky were often taken in the ancient and even medieval world as a portent of something amazing about to happen) has led them here to Jerusalem, a well-known religious center. So they ask around: where is this newborn king?

Herod would like to know too, so he gathers together his own religious advisors, and the chief priests and scribes relate this prophecy, a paraphrase Micah 5:2:

But you, O Bethlehem of Ephrathah,
 who are one of the little clans of Judah,
from you shall come forth for me
 one who is to rule in Israel,
whose origin is from of old,
 from ancient days.

However, Matthew’s rendering of this prophecy uses slightly different wording that we can look at here for comparison’s sake:

And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,

are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;

for from you shall come a ruler

who is to shepherd my people Israel.'"

Bethlehem, in the area of Ephrathah, was located in Judah. Notice the difference in the second line, however: “who ARE one of the little clans” versus “are by no means the least among the rulers.” Also notice that the original prophecy does not mention “shepherd[ing] the people of Israel--” language that could be used either to describe a king, or the Messiah—but simply says the rule will have an ancient origin.

But it’s close enough. Herod then secretly meets with the Wise Men on the pretext that he wants to worship this new king, too, and asks when they first saw this star. He then sends them on their way, and the star leads them straight to that baby in Bethlehem—but here’s another little glitch: verse 11 says “house,” NOT “stable” or “manger” (feeding-trough, from the French word manger, which means “to eat”). Also, let’s face it, that trip from the East must have taken days or weeks, or even months, especially if the Wise Men had gotten lost a couple of times. So the baby by now could be several months old. But he’s in a house, so there goes the animals from our little scene. The pay the baby homage, and offer him three gifts: gold (worthy of a king, signifying wealth); frankincense, a resin-based incense which was part of a combination burned on the altar in the Temple in Jerusalem (symbolizing worship), and myrrh, a preserved wood resin that was very expensive and used for perfume, medicine, as well as an embalming spice for the dead. As we discussed last year, Gold symbolizes wealth and power; frankincense symbolizes worship, and myrrh foretells Jesus’ passion and death.

As is often the case in scripture, and even today (Carl Jung, anyone?) dreams are seen as significant and meaningful, and out gospel reading ends with a dream: a dream warns the Wise Men not to go back home through Jerusalem, and the Magi do not come back to Herod to reveal the location of the child, demonstrating their openness to God and right intentions. Dreams often work in Matthew as warnings: Joseph is warned not to put Mary from him in 1:20; Joseph is going to be warned to flee to Egypt to save Jesus from Herod’s murderous designs and then an angel in a dream tells him to return when Herod dies; and Joseph is warned in a dream that one of Herod’s sons is ruling Judea and urged instead to Galilee; and in chapter 27, Pilate’s wife is warned in a dream to have nothing to do with Jesus (which he ignores).

Here are the notes we closed with last year when we read the same readings on Epiphany: It is important to note that it is Gentile wise men who are the first to recognize and proclaim of the special quality of Jesus at his birth in the version told here from Matthew, which is used in all three years of the lectionary. Matthew emphasizes Jesus’ Jewish roots as a way to attempt to mediate the relationship between this new sect and its Jewish roots. Thus Matthew starts with demonstrating Jesus’ historical claim as a son of David, but doesn’t stop there and continues back to Abraham. For Matthew, Jesus is the fulfillment of the Law. In Matthew, Jesus is the new Moses—he goes up to a mountain and preaches from it rather than from a plain, he proclaims himself as not seeking to overturn Mosaic law but fulfill it. The coming of the Magi unifies the idea of Jesus as Jewish Messiah foretold in prophecy and Jesus as savior for ALL nations and people, since they, though Gentiles, are the first to worship Jesus and recognize him as being someone worthy of worship. Gentiles are thus assured that they are included in the divine plan through the gift of God’s son (as Paul always insisted); Gentiles reveal that gift to those who should already know and themselves offer gifts and worship.

And finally, a little humor: What would have happened if it had been the 3 wise women? They would have asked for directions, arrived on time, helped deliver the baby, cleaned the stable, made a casserole, and brought practical gifts.

Links for more information:

NT Wright , Matthew for Everyone

Lectionary notes on Ephesians 1:3-6, 15-19a

Ephesians 1:3-6,15-19a

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 just as he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love. 5 He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace that he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.

15 I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, and for this reason 16 I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers. 17 I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, 18 so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe.

For the second week we have the compilers of the lectionary readings taking a knife to the middle of a verse for no real discernible reason, although this week’s versectomy (it’s a new word I invented! Too much?) doesn’t really change the meaning of the sentence. But here is all of verse 19: “and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power.”

Ephesus was the Roman capital of Asia Minor; hence, Ephesians emphasizes Jesus as being sent to unify Gentiles and Jews in the worship of God. The authorship of the letter to the Ephesians is not without some dispute. Some argue that the writing style is different from that of Paul’s earlier letters, although the theology is in line with Paul’s developing theology; as it was supposedly written near the end of Puul’s life, it could be Paul’s or it could be written by one of Paul’s disciples from teachings they had heard from him. Since there is no consensus, let’s just call it “Pauline.”

This reading begins in vv. 3-6 with praise and blessing of God for sending Christ as the ultimate blessing from God to humanity, because Christ acts as the bridge between humans and God, making possible our adoption as God’s children. Thus this early section mentions God the Father and God the Son (the trinitarian formula was completed in v. 13, omitted in our selectio today, through reminding the Ephesians that they had been sealed by the Holy Spirit as God’s beloved children).

Our second section contains a typical Pauline feature: a prayer by Paul to God praising the church he is addressing and encouraging them. Verses 15-16 implies that the writer does not peronally know the leaders of the community in Ephesus, but only knows of their faith through hearsay, but gives thanks for it nonetheless. Paul explains the importance of Jesus in making known to us God the Father in verse 17. Jesus is God’s means to give us wisdom and revelation to understand God’s redeeming plan for us. Verse 19 mentions the riches of God’s power that we inherit, but our reading cuts off before what exactly those riches are. This is made clear in verses 20-23: “God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come. 22And he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, 23which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.” It is the resurrection of Christ, who overcomes death and then sits at the right hand of God, where he reigns as the head of the Church, that we inherit through faith in Christ.

Links for more information:

Lectionary notes on Psalm 84

Psalm 84, Page 707, BCP

Quam dilecta!

1 How dear to me is your dwelling, O LORD of hosts!

My soul has a desire and longing for the courts of the LORD;
my heart and my flesh rejoice in the living God.

2 The sparrow has found her a house
and the swallow a nest where she may lay her young;

by the side of your altars, O LORD of hosts,
my King and my God.

3 Happy are they who dwell in your house!

they will always be praising you.

4 Happy are the people whose strength is in you!

whose hearts are set on the pilgrims' way.

5 Those who go through the desolate valley will find it a place of springs,

for the early rains have covered it with pools of water.

6 They will climb from height to height,

and the God of gods will reveal himself in Zion.

7 LORD God of hosts, hear my prayer;

hearken, O God of Jacob.

8 Behold our defender, O God;

and look upon the face of your Anointed.

9 For one day in your courts is better than a thousand in my own room,

and to stand at the threshold of the house of my God
than to dwell in the tents of the wicked.

10 For the LORD God is both sun and shield;

he will give grace and glory;

11 No good thing will the LORD withhold

from those who walk with integrity.

12 O LORD of hosts,

happy are they who put their trust in you!

This psalm, attributed to the “sons of Korah” rather than David, is understood as a pilgrim psalm, sung as travelers approached the Temple. The mood is one of joy and exaltation, anticipating being in the place that was understood in the Temple cult to be the actual dwelling of the Lord, as we are reminded in verse 1. And yet, Walter Zorn notes that the rhythm pattern used is that of a lament, even though this psalm is uniformly joyful. One solution to this strange combination might be that this is a psalm written when the writer could not actually go to the Temple, and so is remembering being able to worship there with longing. The author longs for God, just as we all long to be in the presence of someone we truly love.

The psalter version used in our Book of Common Prayer is NOT the NRSV version, but an updated version of the translation of Myles Coverdale from 1535 (Hatchett, 551-2), which is why the demarcation of verses sometimes differs from other translations, including the NRSV in this case. This is less than optimal in the case of the first verse of this psalm, in my opinion, because the first words are rendered here “How dear…” when the more common understanding is “How lovely…” The primary meaning of the Latin title is “loved, beloved, dear” with a secondary meaning of “chosen, special” etc. according to the online Latin study tool

Likewise, in verse 6, “desolate valley” is usually translated as “valley of Baca” which probably was not a literal place but means “valley of weeping,” reminding us that in order to get to a place of praise we also must undergo trials and suffering.

Verses 7-10 in our psalter (8-11 in NRSV) are a prayer for “God’s anointed.” Originally referring to the king or for a priest, as Christians, we can read this as referring to Jesus. Verse 9 is a beautiful summation of worship: as we allow ourselves to sink into worship as a means to enter God’s presence, time stands still. Further, the “sons of Korah” who are ascribed as the authors of this psalm also were sometimes describes as “doorkeepers.” Referring to God as “the sun” is unusual, since many pagan religions worshiped the sun, and hence that terminology was usually avoided. The psalm ends with a benediction in verse 12, a statement which is at the same time a request for blessing.

While the psalm on its surface focuses on being in God’s sanctuary, actually the real theme is being in the presence of God. This is a love song to God, as many of our favorite psalms are. For us, God is not only encountered in a church sanctuary, but in the faces of those we love, in the woods, at the seashore, in the sound of our children’s laughter, in moments of grace that drop unexpectedly upon us like a summer shower, and especially in our times of prayer or service, which are blessed no matter where they take place. God is our true home.

Links for more information:

Walter D. Zorn, The College Press NIV Commentary: Psalms, vol. 2
Marion J. Hatchett, Commentary on the American Prayer Book