Counting forward from December 25 as Day One, we find that Day Forty is February 2. In accordance with Leviticus 12, a Jewish woman lived in semi-seclusion for 40 days after giving birth to a son...
And if you're wondering "How can I possibly leave ______ and obediently follow Jesus after all these years?" Consider what Paul left behind: prestige, wealth, comfort, health. You see our conversion is ultimately a choice between two realities. The "reality" of the here and now which lasts perhaps 80 years (a little more or less) and the reality of perpetual existence. But we must choose - and choose daily - which reality. It is never too late. When our certainty or courage is lacking, as Anglicans we cling to each other and those who have gone before and ask the Holy Spirit for grace to help our doubts. Today we thank God for St. Paul.
By: Fr. Sean Templeton
How do I really set priorities in my life? What do I see as the necessary things? What are the important things? Who are the important people? How do I spend my time? How does my certainty in Jesus' return change my view of life? Is it close enough in my mind?
28 “From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts out its leaves, you know that summer is near. 29 So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, eat the very gates. 30 fTruly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. 31 gHeaven and earth will pass away, but hmy words will not pass away.
No One Knows That Day or Hour
32 “But concerning that day or that hour, ino one knows, not even the angels in heaven, jnor the Son, kbut only the Father. 33 lBe on guard, mkeep awake.1 For you do not know when the time will come. (Mark 13:28-33)
Scripture Union Meditation
We should be convinced of the certainty of Jesus’ return, as certain as the budding of the fig tree announces summer. The signs of verses 5–23 will happen in the lifetime of those listening (30) and continue throughout history. They are not, however, to be taken as asserting that the coming is immediate. The phrase “is near, right at the door” (29) “must be taken to mean that the end is sure, not that the end can be plotted in time” (Larry Hurtado). The certainty is underlined further by the enduring nature of Jesus’ words (31).
Assurance must never breed complacency... (Scripture Union)
If you are like me, you have what I like to call "fleeting moments of mortality." I suspect that I am not the only one. These are moments when you realize that you are a bit older today than yesterday. You think, "that ache is new" or "what did I do yesterday to bring this on"? I had one of those moments last week sitting at the doctor's office. There I sat. As the automated blood pressure cuff squeezed my arm periodically, I had around 5 minutes of silence to myself.
At first I busied myself with the things on the wall: the diplomas of the doctor, the certifications from the state board. I looked at the years and could not help but to think about my first visit to the doctor regarding blood pressure. Then I got to thinking about my mortality. None of us live forever on this earth. I hope that I am not yet to the mid-point of my life, but what if I am closer to the end than the beginning? Am ignoring the certainty of the end? As Christians we trust in Jesus for the next life and - of course - this is warranted. After all, he promises "I go to prepare a place for you" (John 14:2). But then I got to thinking, "Am I really convinced of Jesus' return or is it some nice comfortably distant future event?" As I was thinking on this the doctor came and stopped that train of thought. This meditation brought me back to it.
Sometimes, the things of the Bible can seem so remote. It can seem like a distant reality at best, but in reality it is the imminent and present reality. Jesus asks us to "be alert" in the Mark passage above. What does that mean? How does that interrupt my daily routine? I think part of it is living more with the certainty of his presence and return than the "certainty" of daily life. How do we keep the right perspective? This Advent I continue to strive to be alert to Jesus' reality of my mortality and Jesus' return in daily life. In short, I want to be certain of and in the end. Will you join me?
By: Fr. Sean Templeton
I am generally a happy guy. It is true that I and often dissatisfied and frustrated, but I think "good-natured" is a descriptor few would argue with. For some reason I have been more troubled this Advent than in year past. Perhaps there is more suffering around me in the parish this year? Perhaps I am just more aware. I want to share a meditation from the Scripture Union which is a site that I use from time-to-time in my prayer life. As an Advent discipline, I want to interact with these meditations on this blog with the hope it is also helpful to you.
This reflection is on Psalm 88 which begins:
I cry out day and night before you.
2 Let my prayer come before you;
incline your ear to my cry!
3 For my soul is full of troubles (Psalm 88)
Scripture Union Meditation
"Christians can interpret despair and hopelessness as a lack of faith, but if we expect people to be positive all of the time then their grief cannot be processed. Suppressing anguish only drives unresolved pain deeper. If Israel used this psalm in liturgy, we can also learn that crying and sitting in pain with a sufferer has a place in the worship of God. Instead of a taboo there is openness; instead of stigma, acceptance.
The psalmist’s despair is not simply self-pity. Although he accuses God of causing his suffering, he paradoxically knows him as the one who saves (1). His questions (10–12) suggest that he has not forgotten God’s character. He is the God of “wonders,” a word associated with his powerful acts of salvation in the Exodus (Exod. 15:11). He is the God of “[covenant] love” and “faithfulness” (Exod. 34:6,7; Deut. 32:4). The psalmist does not experience these things, yet he holds on to a knowledge of God attested by God’s people. He is left in darkness, yet he has not given up talking to him." (Scripture Union Meditation)
I have to say that I have had a lot of experience with people who think that grief should be suppressed. If I am honest, I can be one of the people who participates in this. In my experience part of this is due to the false idea that the meditation cites viz. that Christians should not be negative. But if I am honest, I find myself limited by my own inability to deal with lament or grief emotionally. I want to fix it things. I find others' grief overpowering and sometimes paralyzing. But I know as a Christian and - certainly as a priest - I have to mourn with those who mourn. How can I better do this?
I think the above meditation holds and answer. Bringing grief before God, I can use the Psalms to cry out to him on my own behalf and on behalf of others. I can realize that these things are over-powering and yet the burden is Jesus' not my own. And if I am routinely crying out to him and emptying my soul, perhaps I can be of better use to those around me. This Advent we all look to Jesus' return. How can we better help each other be honest in the pain we carry? Is it as simple as crying out to a God who cares? "Come Lord Jesus."
CONFESSION IN LENT AND ADVENT is traditional. These penitential times are natural for what is called “auricular confession” - private confession between a penitent and priest. Auricular Confession for Anglicans is underused. This is unfortunate since it is tremendously freeing and uplifting. Everyone thinks of it as a Roman Catholic practice but it has been a practice for Anglicans, Eastern Orthodox, and Lutherans for centuries as well. While it is not mandatory, it is encouraged. There is an old Anglican saying regarding who ought to go to confession: All Can, Some Should, None Must.
WHY DO WE CONFESS THE WAY WE DO?
When we go to Confession we meet Jesus who takes us to himself and, because we are in him and because we are sorry, God our Father forgives us. Each time we sin, we damage the loving relationship that exists between God our Father and ourselves, between Jesus our Brother and ourselves, between the Holy Spirit and ourselves, and between ourselves and the Church.
SIN IS PUBLIC, NO MATTER WHAT
Each time we sin even though the sin may be an entirely private affair we harm the other members of God’s family. We are all members of Christ’s Body, the Church. A sin hurts us individually and so affects all other members. St. Paul writes: ‘If one part is hurt, all parts are hurt with it’.
(I Corinthians 12:26)
That is why it is not just enough to apologize to God, we must also apologize to God’s people, and so we either do so generally (during the service at the time of General Confession) or personally (called “Auricular Confession”) to the Church’s deputy - the priest. So when we go to confession although what we say to the priest and what he says to us is absolutely private, what we are doing is something public. It is much more than when in the privacy of our bedrooms, during our night prayers, we kneel down and tell God we are sorry. All of us participate in the General Confession at each Eucharist and in Morning/Evening Prayer and Compline.
ALL CAN, SOME SHOULD, NONE MUST
Auricular Confession for Anglicans is underused. Everyone thinks of it as a Roman Catholic practice but it is a practice for Anglicans, Eastern Orthodox, and Lutherans as well. There is an old Anglican saying regarding who ought to:
All Can, Some Should, None Must.
WHAT TO EXPECT
The Book of Common Prayer has two forms for Confession. It is called “Reconciliation” in the 1979 Book of Common Prayer and can be found on page 447 or page 449.
There is a time in each Rite to confess specific sins. This examination is meant to be an aid in order to help you make a full confession.
All things confessed remain between you and your priest. The seal of the confessional is never broken. This is both established in church and secular law. Your confessor will not bring up anything to you in the future unless you seek counsel.
Along with your absolution the priest may assign what is called “Penance.” This should never be seen as away to “make up” for your sin. Only Jesus Christ can or has done that. Rather, it is a way to make yourself right or your relationship with another right and bring restoration.
PREPARATION FOR ALL TYPES OF CONFESSION
Begin by asking the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Jesus to help me to realize how you need God’s pardon. Ask that He will move you to be truly sorry, that He will help you to see yourself as you really are.
This prayer should be best said in your own words. The following is only a suggestion:
O Spirit of Jesus be with me now.
I have sinned and I stand in need of pardon and help.
Lead me to true sorrow for my sins.
I ask you to help me to search my mind.
If you do not help me, I shall see only what I want to see. I shall make excuses for myself.
And so I ask you to help me to look at my daily living.
Let me see myself as I truly am. Amen.
O Christ my God, at the last day, we will all stand before your judgement seat; now drawn by your mercy and seeking your grace, I come before your presence, and stand as if before you, and the angels and all the whole company of heaven. I bring before you my unrighteousness, my evil thoughts and deeds. Look on my heart, broken by my guilt and humbled in your presence; my sins are more than I can count, and I pray for your mercy. Amen.
Use the following examination to help you list our your sins to confess and bring them written to confession.
THE ANATOMY OF SIN
THE ANATOMY OF VIRTUE
SELF-PERCEPTION AND EXAMINATION
MY INTERACTION WITH OTHERS
With those at home and also those who are related to me but who do not live under the same roof:
My relationship with my parents Grandparents
My relationship with my siblings
My relationship with my children
My relationship with my husband/wife
• Have I treated them with the dignity and respect they deserve as well loved children of God?
• Have I consistently tried to love them as Christ loves them, even at a cost to my convenience? Or have I been selfish at home, moody, inconsiderate of others’ feelings, neither sharing things with them, nor working with them for the good of all?
With those at work:
• Have I cooperated with them for the good of all?
• Have I been honest with my employer/employees/teachers – in the
matter of time-keeping, work materials, and quality of work?
• Do I try to show Charity (Christian Love) to my co-workers, employees, boss etc. seeing them as people created in God’s image?
With those I meet:
• Have I been considerate towards other road-users?
• Have I used my gifts to the best of my ability and in the service of my community?
• Have I used them to make this world of his a better place?
• Do I try to love my enemies and pray for my persecutors?
• Am I a peace-maker?
The Gifts of Health and Strength:
• Have I forgotten that my body is a not my own but God’s work?
• Have I damaged it by over-eating, abusing stimulants of any kind, over-smoking or lack of sleep?
• Am I vain in appearance?
• Do I view my body as the source of my confidence?
• Am I involved in addictive behavior?
MY USE OF MY GIFTS
THE GIFT OF SIGHT
• Have I used my eyes as God my Father would have wanted, to notice the needs of others, to enjoy and be amazed at all the good things around me? Or have I used my sight in ways that will be used as sinfully?
• Has my sight led me to look critically at others, searching for the speck that is there while I ignore the planks of wood lodged in my own eyes?
THE GIFT OF HEARING
• Have I used my ability to hear as God my Father would have wished to listen to other people, to listen to the suggestions my colleagues make, to listen to the request my own family make of me?
• Am I a listening person, using this gift for sympathy or empathy or am I still immature and show it by boring other people with stories about myself only?
THE GIFT OF SPEECH
• Have I used it as God my Father would have wished relate only the good I hear about people, and not the bad?
• To bring about harmony and unity between peoples, races, and creeds. Or, have I been harsh and critical in my speech, condemning others, relating gossip, blackening people’s characters, unkind to people and unkind about people?
• Have I spoken the truth?
THE GIFT OF SEX
• Have I used (or not used) this gift as God my Father would have wished in accordance to His Word?
• Have I betrayed his trust in me by misusing this precious gift, using it before he sanctions its use through the Sacrament of Marriage, or using it selfishly simply for my own pleasure and not as an expression of love towards my spouse?
• Have I allowed my passions to rule me beyond my responsibilities and other forms of intimacy?
• If I am married, have I been faithful physically, emotionally, spiritually?
The Gift of Intelligence:
• Have I hampered its use through spending too much time watching or reading things that are harmful, or in day-dreaming, or in futile conversation?
• Do I recognize my mind for the tremendous gift that it is?
POTENTIAL AND WORK
The Gift of Work:
• Have I tried to work honestly and well?
• Have I used at least part of my money and effort for the relief of suffering in those less fortunate than myself?
RELAXATION AND LEISURE
The Gift of Leisure:
• Have I used my leisure time constructively?
• Do I make adequate time for leisure and the Sabbath?
• Have I allowed my use of leisure to encroach on my family duties?
• Have I spent more on my leisure and comforts than I have offered in care for others and for the support of my Parish?
MY RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD
Lastly, think about your relationship with God your Father, Jesus your Brother, and the Holy Spirit your protector:
• Have I spoken with God as a real father, or have I ignored him, or just gabbed a few prayers from time to time?
• Have I been concerned for God’s honor, wanting his name known and loved by all?
• Have I had faith in the realness of Jesus, close to me now?
• Have I trusted him and realized that if I am not in him I am worth nothing?
• Have I loved him and shown my love by ‘keeping his commandments’ and showing the same love to others as he showed to me?
• Have I listened to the Holy Spirit?
• Have I tried to do as he told me?
• Have I believed that I can do no good of myself but only in the power the Holy Spirit gives me.
Did you know that for hundreds of years the Thanksgiving holiday was celebrated primarily with a church service? Last year we restarted this tradition in our parish. We will once again gather to give thanks to God for his great bounty this Thursday at 9:00AM. Please join us for this simple but moving service if you’re in town. I also wish to offer a Thanksgiving Litany to help start our Thanksgivings around the table.
A THANKSGIVING LITANY
All things come from Thee, O Lord, and of our own do we offer Thee.
1 Chronicles 29:14
Accept, O Lord, our thanks and praise for all that you have done for us.
We thank you for the splendor of the whole
creation, for the beauty of this world, for the wonder of life,
and for the mystery of love.
We thank you, Lord.
We thank you for the blessing of family and friends, and for
the loving care which surrounds us on every side.
We thank you, Lord.
We thank you for setting us at tasks which demand our best
efforts, and for leading us to accomplishments which satisfy
and delight us.
We thank you, Lord.
We thank you also for those disappointments and failures
that lead us to acknowledge our dependence on you alone.
We thank you, Lord.
We thank you for all the blessings of this life and year.
(The family may here thank God for anything they wish)
We also remember those who are no longer with us at this table but who are seated with you at the heavenly banquet.
Above all, we thank you for your Son Jesus Christ; for the
truth of his Word and the example of his life; for his steadfast
obedience, by which he overcame temptation; for his dying,
through which he overcame death; and for his rising to life
again, in which we are raised to the life of your kingdom.
Grant us the gift of your Spirit, that we may know him and
make him known; and through him, at all times and in all
places, may give thanks to you in all things. Amen.
(The blessing of the meal is then said here.)