Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Presence and Passion

Tuesday, December 15, 2009 -- Week of 2 Advent, Year Two
John Horden, Bishop and Missionary in Canada, 1893; Robert McDonald, Priest, 1913

Today's Readings for the Daily Office (Book of Common Prayer, p. 939)
Psalms 45 (morning) 47, 48 (evening)
Zechariah 2:1-13
Revelation 3:14-22
Matthew 24:32-44

First, a note about our Calendar today:
Horden, John [1828-Jan. 12, 1893] Bishop and Missionary. Born in England of a working-class family, he educated himself so that he might be a missionary in India. Instead, the Church Missionary Society sent him to Moosonee in Western Canada. There he was able to build on the work of a Methodist missionary among the Cree. Horden was ordained in Canada and soon began training native Christians to help him in his work. After establishing solid missions among the Cree, he began to work with the Inuit. He died in office. (Dec 15)

McDonald, Robert [?-August 30, 1913] Missionary. Because of his mixed blood (he was part Ojibwa), McDonald was treated as a second-class priest by the Church Missionary Society. He ministered in the Yukon and Alaska to Kutchin tribes, helping establish native ministries. His valuable ethnographic work produced ground-breaking studies of native life and language. His devotion to the gospel surmounted prejudice and helped establish vibrant native ministries in the far north. (Dec. 15)

The image that Zechariah offers us today is compelling, inviting us to expand our imagination and know the presence of God with us.

The first vision is of a surveyor who is making measurements to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. Don't bother, says the angel. You do not need the protection of walls. God will be your protection like "a wall of fire all around" you. And within the walls, God will be present: "I will be the glory within it." Zechariah speaks in God's name to the exiles: "Sing and rejoice, O daughter Zion! For lo, I will come and dwell in your midst, says the Lord." Then the vision expands universally: "Many nations shall join themselves to the Lord on that day, and shall be my people; and I will dwell in your midst."

There is no need for walls. The reach of God's life extends infinitely. God promises to dwell with us, and God promises to draw the nations into God's life and to dwell in their midst as well.

When Christians began to develop our theology of the incarnation, that God has come to us in the life of Jesus -- to dwell with us in the flesh, to be the human face of God -- we looked to passages like this one from Zechariah which anticipates God's indwelling presence. As we imagine the momentum of God's incarnation, we can also see God's presence as a universal indwelling, drawing all into the eternal love, compassion and justice that is God's presence within us and among the nations.

It is good to celebrate the lives of two who recognized the spirit among the native nations in Canada and Alaska and helped promote God's presence among the tribes, John Horden with the Cree and Inuit, Robert McDonald among the Kutchin. Their passion overcame the prejudice that some held toward these tribes and broke down walls of division.

It takes passion to break down walls and to extend God's grace. Passion seems to be what is missing from the church in Laodicea that John writes to in today's reading. This seems to be the most quoted of all of the messages to the seven churches of Revelation. Passionate preachers employ this section to call people to new energy. "I know your works; you are neither cold nor hot. I wish that you were either cold or hot. So, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I am about to spit you out of my mouth."

It is a powerful image. Some background: Laodicea was founded as a Roman military colony to reward retired soldiers and to protect an inland trade route. It was a location without a natural water supply, either warm springs or cold streams. So the water had to be piped from elsewhere, lukewarm.

Laodicea was a prosperous trading town that had a vibrant business, including trade in black wool and in an eye salve. Listen to John's words from Christ to them: "For you say, 'I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing.' You do not realize that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. Therefore I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire so that you may be rich; and white robes to clothe you and to keep the shame of your nakedness from being seen; and salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see. I reprove and discipline those whom I love. Be earnest, therefore, and repent. Listen! I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to you and eat with you, and you with me..."

John speaks to the lukewarm and distracted conditions of the church of Laodicea, and tells them Christ is present. Open the door and Christ will enter to be with us, to be in communion with us.

God is in the midst of us. Christ is knocking at the door of our hearts. There is no need of walls. God is present throughout creation. Don't be lukewarm. Be passionate about that. Invest in the real business of life in the spirit, the priceless worth of God's presence with us, the royal clothing from on high, the vision to see truly. An Advent message. Awake! Be alert! Christ is coming! Even now! Prepare!


Audio podcast: Listen to an audio podcast of the most recent Morning Reflections from today and the past week. Click the following link: Morning Reflection Podcasts

About Morning Reflections
Morning Reflections is a brief thought about the scripture readings from the Daily Office of Morning and Evening Prayer according to the practice found in the Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church.

Morning Prayer begins on p. 80 of the Book of Common Prayer.
Evening Prayer begins on p. 117

An online resource for praying the Daily Office is found at www.missionstclare.com
Another form of the office from Phyllis Tickle's "Divine Hours" is available on our partner web site www.ExploreFaith.org at this location -- http://explorefaith.org/prayer/fixed/index.html

The Mission of St. Paul's Episcopal Church
is to explore and celebrate
God's infinite grace, acceptance, and love.

Visit our web site at www.stpaulsfay.org

Our Rule of Life
We aspire to...
worship weekly
pray daily
learn constantly
serve joyfully
live generously.

Lowell Grisham, Rector
St. Paul's Episcopal Church
Fayetteville, Arkansas


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