the tentmaker

daily thoughts on the common lectionary

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Location: Sharpsburg, Georgia, United States

"...because he was of the same trade, he stayed with them, and they worked together — by trade they were tentmakers." Acts 18:3. Tentmaker is a title taken by bi-vocational pastors. As such, I am both a pastor and a project manager. I am a pastor of a local congregation of moderate, accepting and affirming people who worship in the Baptist tradition. We call our church "Hope Memorial Baptist" and we are about 40 in number. I am also a project manager of major construction projects for the State of Georgia. My home and church is in rural Coweta County, between Peachtree City and Newnan, with a mailing address of Sharpsburg, Georgia.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Reading & Hearing the Word of God

Nehemiah 8:1-10
Luke 4:14-21


When Ezra returned from Babylon he was carrying under his arm the only surviving copy of the Holy Scriptures. As he stood on a high platform before the congregation of the people, he opened the book. And all the people stood up. As he began to read the words, the people wept. Clearly, this was an important event in the lives of the returning exiles. Every day, Ezra would climb the platform and begin reading from early morning until Noon. Amazingly, the ears of all the people were attentive to the reading of God’s word. How unlike us today. We get bored if the preacher’s text is more than just a few verses.

From his youth, Jesus went to the synagogue in Nazareth with Joseph. He heard the reading of the scriptures on every Sabbath. He had no personal copy of the scriptures. Such things cost a great deal in His day. They had no printing press.
Each copy had to be painstakingly copied by hand. And yet, by the time he reached manhood he had heard every verse of scripture read at least five times through the lectio divina of the local synagogue. Jesus listened attentively, savoring each word as it was read by the rabbi.

It was no haphazard selection of scripture that Jesus read that day in the synagogue in Nazareth.

The Bible has come down to us through many centuries. For most of that time it was the world’s best seller. Most homes today have at least one copy. Christian homes may have many copies and many different translations. But what is this book we call the Bible? We believe it to be the Word of God. But what do we mean by that? How did God give this Word to us? Who wrote it? How did it get to be so important?
The Bible is the witness of the people of Israel to the hand of God at work in their lives. It is that. But it is much more.


God gave the Law to Moses on Sinai. In the midst of the fiery, thunderous and cloud enveloped mountain, Moses, face to face in God’s presence, received God’s words and carefully memorized them. What he wrote down on stone tablets were only ten words, the Decalogue, the Ten Commandments. Yet tradition attributes the entire Torah or the first five books of the Bible to his authorship. Much of what Moses received during those forty days on the mountain was retained in his memory and reinforced by God over his life time by continual visits from God. But if he wrote the words down, the Bible is silent about it. No copy bearing Moses’ signature has been found to this day. Instead, the Israelites preserved their scriptures by handing them down by word of mouth to their children.

In time men and women would set the words down in writing. Many men and women would be involved in the writing and the copying of the scriptures. They were copied over and over many times during the history of Israel. At some point during the divided monarchy, the reading of the scriptures was suspended and the scriptures became neglected and eventually lost. One of my favorite Old Testament stories is set in the reign of the young king Josiah. The priest Hilkiah was cleaning out the Temple, which also had fallen into disuse, and he found a copy of a book. The book turned out to be the lost scriptures, either in whole or in part.

Then the Babylonians conquered Jerusalem, destroyed the temple and carried the ruling class, including the priests, away to a little suburb of Babylon called Tel Aviv. The scriptures were again thought to be lost. Seventy years, two generations, went by with no reading of the Holy Scriptures. When the exiles returned to Jerusalem to rebuild the walls of the city and the Temple, they returned without their scriptures. They tried to maintain Temple worship from what the little the old people of the previous generation could remember. But even they were only children at the last reading of the scripture in the Temple.

Then came Ezra the Scribe.

Ezra had been a scribe in Jerusalem before the exile. Among the belongings he quickly gathered when the soldiers came to escort him to Babylon, was a copy of the Holy Scriptures. He treasured them and protected them. He copied them on to fresh paper. Some believe that he also edited them by smoothing out rough places and blending the writing of many authors. When Ezra returned he immediately told Nehemiah, the governor appointed by the Persians to rebuild the city walls. And Nehemiah realized that this was what his people needed to revitalize them and renew their spirit for building.


Ezra read the scriptures every day and the Levites interpreted them to the people for the purpose of instruction in the ways of the Lord. The reason the scriptures need to be interpreted was that they were written in Hebrew. After two generations in captivity, the people could only speak Aramaic, the language of the Persians.

When Alexander the Great conquered the known world he also spread the Greek culture across the world. In Alexandria in Egypt, several Jewish scholars translated the Hebrew scriptures into Greek. By New Testament Times, the available scriptures were this Greek translation call the Septuagint. The New Testament writers wrote their books in Greek. The common man could not understand Hebrew or Greek. Only the very rich and the priests in the church were given instruction in such languages. In the 5th century, a Roman scholar by the name of Jerome translated the Hebrew and Greek scriptures into Latin, which at that time was the language of the common people, hence the name the Latin Vulgate, vulgate meaning common.

But civilization spread into new territories that spoke different languages from Latin. Eventually Latin itself ceased to be used. There were French, Italians, Swiss, Germans, Austrians, Normans and Anglo-Saxons. Once again the common people were without a bible that they could read.

In 1611 King James of England issued a decree that the Holy Scriptures should be translated into English. For four hundred years we have had a translation of the Bible in a language we can read and understand. In the last fifty years, there has been a proliferation of translations intended to make the Bible more easily understood.

When Jesus opened the scroll of Isaiah and read from Chapter 61, it was for the instruction of the Jews in his hometown.

An aging Paul told young Timothy, “All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work.
One of the ways we should read the scriptures is for instruction and for understanding.


Another way of experiencing God’s Word is by reading and hearing the Word of God as an act of worship. You will notice that our Morning Worship is centered around the reading and the hearing of the scriptures. That is not the case in most Protestant, evangelical churches today. In many churches the scripture reading is short and used only as an introduction to the pastor’s sermon.

When Ezra opened the book, all the people stood up (an act of worship.) When Ezra gave thanks to God for the giving of the book, all the people shouted “Amen, Amen” (an act of worship.) Then all the people bowed down with their faces toward the ground and worshipped the Lord. In this religious ceremony recorded in the book of Nehemiah the reading and the hearing of the scripture is the focal point of the worship. Ezra simply read the scriptures and all the people listened.


To experience the Bible for both understanding and for worship, we must have men and women who are willing to take up the Bible and read. It is important to read the scriptures at least every day. We should read the scriptures in our private devotions, of course, but we should also read the scriptures aloud to each other. Mothers and Fathers reading to their children. Children as they begin to read can begin to participate by reading their favorite scripture. I am convinced that families that read the scripture together and pray on a daily basis are more loving and more intimate.


We must have men and women who come to the Word with open minds and open hearts. People who are searching for God. Jesus often said, “he who has ears to hear, let him hear.” If we are to hear the message that Jesus has for us we must prepare our ears, our minds and our hearts to receive the message He is sending to us. Preparation to hear the Word of God is made by prayer and by maintaining a prayerful attitude during the reading of scripture. God speaks to us through the age old scriptures but what He says to us is fresh and new and uniquely applied for each seeker.

You cannot properly hear Christ’s message until you have given your life to Him. He doesn’t want a part of your life. He wants you, totally, completely and unreservedly. Remember that Jesus said, “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” [John 10:10] When you give your life totally, completely and unreservedly to Jesus Christ, He gives it back to you more abundantly than before.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Southern Baptists turn on each other

'Since all the liberals are gone, conservative crusaders' challenge fellow conservatives
By Rachel Zoll, Associated Press
After purging liberals from their ranks, Southern Baptist conservatives who won control of their denomination are now taking aim at each other.

You can read the rest of this article here by looking for the title in the "Special Features in the Online Edition" section.

Yes, Virginia, there is a God!

Here's more:
Just two years earlier, a leading Baptist conservative had warned about the very infighting that Burleson is describing. The Rev. Morris Chapman, president of the Southern Baptist Executive Committee, said conservatives must realize they have won the battle with liberals over biblical inerrancy and should now stop fighting.

"I am concerned now that we have affirmed by vigorous endeavor that Southern Baptists are people of the Book, that we will develop a censorious, exclusivistic, intolerant spirit," he said, in a speech to the denomination's annual meeting. "If this occurs, we will be the poorer for it."

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

I pray thee Lord

Now I lay me down to sleep
I pray thee Lord
My soul to keep
If I should die before I wake
I pray thee Lord
My soul to take

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Sunday 01/22/06 Year B - Epiphany 3

Jonah 3:1-5,10
Psalm 25:4-9
1 Corinthians 7:29-31
Mark 1:14-20
Liturgy Alive Worship Liturgy
The Shadow of the Cross

Our text begins "...after John was arested, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God."

In the midst of chaos in the lives of the men and women of Palestine, John the Baptizer burst on the scene, preaching repentance. "Behold I send my messenger before thy face, who shall prepare the way; the voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight."

All four gospels preface the beginning of the ministry of Jesus with the story of John the Baptist. His preaching is one of the few constants of the Gospel message. Why do you suppose the ministry of John was so important?

John baptized Jesus. John announced the coming of Jesus. Jesus, himself, was probably a disciple of John in the very beginning. During this dicipleship the young man, Jesus, was formed into Jesus the messiah. During this formation Jesus was baptized by John and the spirit of the Lord decended upon him. Following his baptism, Jesus spent 40 days in the wilderness, fasting and contemplating what kind of messiah he would be. During this time of introspection Jesus was tested by the temptations of the world. In responding to these temptations Jesus relied on the wisdom of scripture to help make the right choices for his calling.

Then John, his mentor, his teacher, was arrested. The band of John's disciples were left without a leader. Paul tells us in Galatians 4:4: "...when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son..." Now was the time. And Jesus came from the wilderness of Judea to Galilee, preaching the gospel of God.

Our word "gospel" is a derivative of an old Anglo-Saxon word "godspel" it meant good news. The word used by Mark in his writing was the Greek ευανγελιον. This is a word that means good news. It is from this word that we get our English words: evangelist: one who spreads good news, evangelism: the spreading of good news and evangelical: being characterized by the spreading of good news. This word is used in the Greek translation of the Old Testament as well. In Isaiah 40:9, the prophet writes:

Get you up to a high mountain,
O Zion, herald of glad tidings;
lift up your voice with strength,
O Jerusalem, herald of good news,
lift it up, do not fear;
say to the cities of Judah,
"Here is your God!"

The essence of the good news that Jesus was spreading was "The Kingdom of God is at hand." What the crowds were expecting, and what they wanted to hear was that this Kingdom of God would be a political Kingdom. They wanted God to drive the Romans out of the land and set up his rule. And the Messiah, as the righful heir of David, would be their king. The central theme of Jesus' preaching was that God was establishing his kingly rule, but not a political kingdom. Jesus' message was that the Kingdom of God was a spiritual kingdom and he said "the Kingdom of God is among you and it is within you.

The apostle Paul tells us in 1 Thessalonians 1:5 that "Our gospel did not come to you in word alone, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit." Here Paul means that the gospel is not only a message of words, but a set of actions that are supported by the power of God and led by Holy Spirit. Luke tells us in his Gospel that Jesus further defined his gospel and his mission by reading these words from the prophet Isaish:

The spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me;
He has sent me to bring glad tidings to the lowly,
to heal the broken hearted
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and release to the prisoners;

Jesus' gospel was not a gospel of intellectual activity, it was a gospel of physical activity. In his first letter to the churches in Asia Minor, John the Apostle writes:

We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us-- and we ought to lay down our lives for one another. How does God's love abide in anyone who has the world's goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help?

The Apostle John, not to be confused with John the baptizer, tells us in his Gospel, that some of Jesus' disciples had formerly been John's disciples. Andrew was one. He brought his brother Peter to Jesus before Jesus began his ministry. But after John was arrested, all of his disciples fled back to their homes. Jesus then made the rounds gathering his own disciples to himself. In our text today we read where Jesus went to fetch Andrew and Peter, and in the process found James and his brother John.

Remember that John, the Baptist, had been arrested. The Greek text literally means "handed over." Mark will use the same word for Jesus being betrayed and "handed over" to death. It is the same word he uses for Jesus' followers being "handed over" to persecutors in chapter 13:9-13:

Watch out for yourselves. They will hand you over to the courts. You will be beaten in synagogues. You will be arraigned before governors and kings because of me, as a witness before them. But the gospel must first be preached to all nations. When they lead you away and hand you over, do not worry beforehand about what you are to say. But say whatever will be given to you at that hour. For it will not be you who are speaking but the holy Spirit. Brother will hand over brother to death, and the father his child; children will rise up against parents and have them put to death. You will be hated by all because of my name. But the one who perseveres to the end will be saved.

The shadow of the cross stretches back to John and forward to all followers of Jesus. Jesus says to each of us, "If anyone will follow after me, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me." Andrew and Peter, James and John gave up their life of fishermen, they gave up their homes and their families. They gave it all up for Jesus, but not to sit back and watch the world go by. They may have been slow to learn. They may have been afraid at first, but when the shadow of the cross fell across them they stepped up to do the bidding of the Master. When the shadow of the cross fell across them they were ready to be "handed over" to a world of hate and evil for the telling of the good news of Jesus Christ.

Has the shadow of the cross fallen on you? What will you do? Will you run and hide? Will you escape into the confines and safety of your church? Or will you step up ready to be handed over for serving Jesus as he calls you?

Remember, we all stand in the shadow of the cross.
A random thought, I got this from MertonFan75
To be a disciple of Christ: This is enough for the Christian. Friendship with the Master assures the soul profound peace and serenity, even in the darkest moments and the most difficult trials. When faith goes through dark nights, when one no longer "hears" or "sees" God's presence, friendship with Jesus guarantees that, in reality, there is nothing that can separate us from His love. (cf Romans 8:39) ~ Pope Benedict XVI, Angelus 01-15-06.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Thomas Merton September 7, 1949

John 12:20-25
Douay-Rheims,1899Latin Vulgate
Now there were certain Gentiles among them, who came up to adore on the festival day. These therefore came to Philip, who was of Bethsaida of Galilee, and desired him, saying: Sir, we would see Jesus. Philip cometh and telleth Andrew. Again Andrew and Philip told Jesus. But Jesus answered them, saying: The hour is come that the Son of man should be glorified. Amen, amen, I say to you, unless the grain of wheat falling into the ground die, Itself remaineth alone. But if it die it bringeth forth much fruit. He that loveth his life shall lose it and he that hateth his life in this world keepeth it unto life eternal.erant autem gentiles quidam ex his qui ascenderant ut adorarent in die festo hii ergo accesserunt ad Philippum qui erat a Bethsaida Galilaeae et rogabant eum dicentes domine volumus Iesum videre venit Philippus et dicit Andreae Andreas rursum et Philippus dixerunt Iesu Iesus autem respondit eis dicens venit hora ut clarificetur Filius hominis amen amen dico vobis nisi granum frumenti cadens in terram mortuum fuerit ipsum solum manet si autem mortuum fuerit multum fructum adfert qui amat animam suam perdet eam et qui odit animam suam in hoc mundo in vitam aeternam custodit eam

Nisi granum frumenti... unless the grain of wheat, falling into the ground, die, itself remaineth alone. The words are much more poignant in their context. Some gentiles had asked Philip if they might speak to Jesus. This is Our Lord's answer. They cannot come to Him through Philip and Andrew, they cannot even come to Him if they talk to Him, because words will not unite them with Him. They can only come to Him if He dies for them.

Itself remaineth alone. Saint John emphasizes more and more the loneliness, the moral isolation, of Christ before His Passion. He is alone from the beginning because He is God and all the rest are men. He is alone because nobody can understand Him. Already in the sixth chapter a whole crowd of disciples has abandoned Him because His doctrine of the Eucharist is so far beyond them. He is isolated by the increasing hatred of the Pharisees, who form a stronger and stronger front against Him, forcing others to separate themselves from Him. He is isolated by His own greatness, which elevates Him further and further above His enemies. Now He is alone among men who either hate Him or do not know how to love Him, because they are unable to know Him as He really is. Yet there are some who want to come to the true knowledge and love of Him. If they want to be with Him, He must pass through death and take them with Him into life.

I am alone in the world with a different loneliness from that of Christ. He was alone because He was everything. I am alone because I am nothing. I am alone in my insufficiency—dependent, helpless, contingent, and never quite sure that I am really leaning on Him upon whom I depend.

Yet to trust in Him means to die, because to trust perfectly in Him you have to give up all trust in anything else. And I am afraid of that death. The only thing I can do about it is to make my fear become part of the death I must die, to live perfectly in Him...

This passage was taken from The Sign of Jonas, pp 239-240.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

But God Intended It for Good

Genesis 50:15-23

In our youth, our minds are filled with visions of what life will be when... when we grow up... when we find a mate and get married... when we find a good job... when... when... when. Much of our life is spent either pursuing our dreams or dreaming our dreams. For some, the dreams of youth come true, for some the dreams of youth fall by the wayside and for some the dreams of youth are traded for more realistic and more rewarding dreams of adulthood. For those whose dreams prove to be elusive, life is filled with disappointment, disillusionment and bitterness.

In our Scripture today we look in on the last chapter in the life of a man who had every right to be bitter, depressed and disillusioned. Joseph was the apple of his father's eye, a favorite son. He was the first born son of Rachel, Jacob's most beloved wife. But Jacob had other wives and other children. There was Leah, Rachel's older sister who bore Jacob six sons and one daughter: Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Zebulun and Dinah. There was Zilpah, Leah's maid, who bore him two sons: Gad and Asher. There was Bilhah who bore him tow sons: Dan and Naphtali. And there was the beloved Rachel, who, in Jacob's old age, bore him two sons, Joseph and Ben-jamin. Rachel died giving birth to Ben-jamin.

What a family! Today we would call this a blended family. Think of all the rivalries and jealousies that are common in such families. Not only were there sibling rivalries but there were rivalries between Jacob's several wives as well. There was competition and jealousy among the wives for the love and affection of Jacob, the patriarch. Such jealousy undoubtedly aggravated the usual sibling rivalries.

Into this family came Joseph, the dreamer. Joseph dreamed the most fantastic dreams. In one dream, he and his brothers were gathering wheat into sheaves. Joseph's sheaf grew larger than the others' and their's gathered around it and bowed down to it. Another dream showed the Sun, the Moon and eleven stars surrounding Joseph and paying homage to him. We all have had dreams of similar fantastic nature. We usually shrug them off as last night's dinner talking. But in addition to being a dreamer, Joseph was a braggart. He used to taunt and tease his brothers about how he was his father's favorite son. He told the dreams of his superiority over the others which simply heaped coals of fire on their anger.

One day, the others had had enough of Joseph's bragging and taunting. They sold him to a passing caravan of Ishmaelites as a slave. Then they took Joseph's coat, the one of many colors that Rachel had made for him, and put the blood of a lamb on it. They carried it to their father with a tale that Joseph had been killed by a marauding lion.

This is the history that lies in the background of our scripture reading today. By this time Joseph and his brothers were middle-aged. Joseph was the overseer of the entire government of Egypt and the brothers were itenerant imigrants who had come to Egypt to beg for food. Joseph and his brothers found that sometimes in life, dreams do come true.

The brothers certainly feared Joseph would exact great punishment on them in revenge for what they had done so very long ago. But there were factors in Joseph's life that made revenge the farthest thing from his mind.

Joseph did not brood over his misfortunes, which were many. He did not moan or complain over either his slavery at the hand of his brothers or his imprisonment at the hand of a woman scorned. Joseph never felt sorry for himself nomatter what his circumstances.

How often do we experience temporary setbacks. Setbacks that seem like major life failures at the time they occur. When setbacks come, do you sit in self pity allowing your self-esteem to erode away with each passing moment?

In every thing that Joseph did, he did his best. He saw in every event an oportunity to use his intellect, his strength and his energy. Joseph did not believe his life was governed by fate, or luck. He believed in hard work, and he believed in the providence of a loving God. He made the most of every situation and set of circumstances.

Had Joseph stayed at home, he would have grown up to be a sheepherder because that was the only profession he knew. But when he was sold into slavery and carried into Egypt, his eyes were opened to the vastness of the world and it's opportunities. In First Corinthians chapter 15 and verse 58, Paul tells us: stedfast, immovable, always excelling in the work of the Lord, because you know that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

Although Joseph had been trained as a shepherd, God had given him talent for organization and administration. When the Ishmaelites sold him to Potiphar, the captain of Pharaoh's guard, he was put to work as a house boy. He quickly demonstrated his skills by organizing and administering the varous houshold duties. Joseph recognized the thing that he was most capable of doing and concentrated on doing his best at that one thing.

Do you find yourself moving from job to job, playing out one dream or another, each one meeting failure because of setbacks? No matter what work you do, you are the one who has to do it. You can choose to get by or to be the best that you can be at whatever you are doing? Do you know what your skills are. What are you good at? Find out what you can do, and what you like to do and be the best at whatever that is.

The one thing that kept Joseph going was his abiding faith in God. He prayed to God every day. He looked to God for guidance in his decisions and his actions. He trusted God to give him the strength to endure all his hardships. And he trusted God to take care of him in every situation. Joseph was able to rise above his failures because he truly believed that God would take care of all his needs. So he didn't have to spend time and energy worrying and bemoaning his situation. Do you have that kind of faith?

As you go through life, alwas keep your focus on God, and on Jesus-the-Christ. In Proverbs chapter 3 verse 5 it reads:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart; and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and he shall direct your paths.

A poem that came to me anonymously:
Great it is to believe the dream
As we stand as youth by the starry stream.
But a greater thing is to live life through
And say at the end, the dream came true.

Without realizing it, what Joseph was working toward was the ultimate fulfillment of his dream. His brothers were bowing to Him and paying homage to him. And because he lived out his dream and trusted in God he now has the choice of revenge or love. In the midst of his brother's fear of revenge, Joseph speaks words of forgiveness, "You intended to do me harm, but God intended it for good."

God intends nothing but good for you. If you do not know Jesus as your savior, I pray that you will ask Him to come into your heart today.

Let us pray...
My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore I will trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone. Amen.

Prayer by Thomas Merton from Thoughts in Solitude.

Sunday 1/15/06 Year B - Epiphany 2

1 Samuel 3:1-11
Psalm 139:1-18, 23-24
1 Corinthians 6:19-20
John 1:43-51

Friday, January 13, 2006

New Program

For the seven and a half years that I have been pastor of Hope Memorial Baptist Church, we have had only one service on Sunday. We tried a Wednesday night service several years ago which started off with good attendance and ended after a couple of years with no one showing up but me. So, beginning this Sunday, I will be holding services twice on Sunday and once on Wednesday evening. I'm going to do this for several months to see if any interest is generated.

Your prayers are welcomed.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Will the Church in all it's forms split apart over same sex affection

This post is too important to me to be overlooked. For that reason I am pulling it back up to the top of the thread.

I am keenly interested in the growing angst within the Anglican communion. Father Jake has a post on his blog, here, addressing this issue. Sarah Dylan Breuer was on the special committee assigned the task of responding to the Windsor report. I have read that response, To Set Our Hope on Christ, and I applaud it.

But, I have not heard, how it was received in Canterbury. Father Jake has answered one of my lingering questions, namely, where N. T. Wright stands in this matter. I am surprised, given his liberal theological position, vis a vis, the deity of Christ, that he would be found in the conservative camp on this issue.

So many forms of the Church are considering schism over this issue. I can't help but feel that this is a defining moment in the history of the church not unlike Wittenberg. I don't remember this kind of rift over the issue of segregation/integration of the races in the United States during the 50's and 60's.

Perhaps I am showing my ignorance of Church History, but this certainly is the biggest issue the Church has faced in my lifetime.

From an earlier post:
Lord, how divergent your Church has become. How estranged we are from each other because of differences of interpretation, ethnic differences, cultural differences, and differences of attitude toward you and your people. Even though we do not have unity in the world, I pray that we can be unified in spirit and in love for you, the one true God. Grant us, on this day of Thanksgiving, that we may concentrate on the Love of Christ for us as expressed in His prayer. And may we seek to emulate that love by our love for and actions toward our fellows here on earth.

Your thoughts are welcome.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Reading the Psalms

I haven't made it to 50 psalms per day yet. I'm only getting 25 so far. My attention span won't last more than about an hour and fifteen minutes. Most of the Psalms are not familiar to me. I really enjoy it when I come to one that I am familiar with. I can already recite Psalm 1, 8, 23, parts of 51 and 100. I am thinking about how the monks do it and I can't help thinking that their reading of a few psalms every day is the key. Once I have read through them several times, they will begin to be more familiar and I will be able to read longer. At least that's my plan.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Reciting the Psalms

I have a 15 decade rosary that I got at the Monastery of the Holy Spirit, a Trappist monastery in Conyers, Georgia. There is a history behind the string of beads with 15 decades instead of 5 decades as with the normal rosary. The monks recited the Psalms on each of the little beads and said the Our Father on the large beads. 150 beads, 150 psalms. Since I read this, I have admired the devotion and tenacity of anyone who could recite all 150 psalms.

In his journal, The Sign of Jonas, Thomas Merton's entry for October 12, 1947 is as follows in part:

This morning I was out there again reciting the 118th Psalm and the Gradual Psalms by heart, looking at the hills. I am finishing my Psalters for the dead., and this is the last time round for this year. I am finishing early. Five days more to go. We have a month in which to say the Psalter ten times over. And I like it. It means a great deal to me.

Merton entered the Trappist monastery, Gesthemani, on December 10, 1941. By the time he wrote the entry above he had been saying the Psalms every day for almost six years. Ample time to learn them by heart. I will turn 60 next month and am already beginning to have lapses of memory due to aging. What makes me think I can learn the Psalms? Well, I'm going to try.

To facilitate my study, I have printed and bound my own Psalter, as shown in the photograph above. I will record my progress here from time to time.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Thomas Merton: January 5, Her Presence Demands My Love

The description of this life style has a certain attraction for me:
A cold night. Woke up to find the night filled with the depth and silence of snow. Stayed up here in the hermitage for supper last night, but having cooked soup and cut up a pear and a banana for dessert, and made toast, finally came to the conclusion that it was all too elaborate. If there were no better reason for fasting, the mere fact of saving time would be a good enough reason. For the bowl and saucepan have to be washed, and I have only a bucket of rainwater for washing, etc., etc. Taking only coffee for breakfast makes a lot of sense, because I can read quitetly and sip my two mugs of coffee at leisure, and it really suffices for the morning.
     There is a great need for discipline in meditation. Reading helps. The early morning hours are good, though in the morning meditation (one hour) I am easily distracted by the fire. An hour is not much, but I can be more meditative in the hour of reading that follows (and which goes much too fast). The presence of Our Lady is important to me. Elusive but I think a reality in this hermitage. Her influence is a demand of love, and no amount of talking will explain it. I need her and she is there. I should perhaps think of it explicitly more often.
     In the afternoon, work takes up so much time, and there can be so much. Just keeping the place clean is already a big task. Then there is wood to be chopped, etc. The fire is voracioius—but pleasant company.
I don't personally believe in the deity or deification of Mary. I do, however, believe that man (both male and female) needs to relate to the feminine aspect of the deity. I have often thought that it is this need that keeps the devotion to Mary in the forefront of Catholic faith and praxis. Perhaps the devotion to Mary as well as the devotion to God is an outward expression of what Jung referred to as the anima and animus in us all. Jesus' prayer, recorded in the seventeenth chapter of the gospel of John, speaks of the Father who is in (within & among) us. It is to this God with whom contemplatives seek union. And it is this God, whether God and Mary, or anima and animus, that is so elusive in prayer. There are many distractions to keep us from achieving the goal of union just as Mertion describes the distraction of the fire. But that analogy is interesting, because I seem to be able to lose all touch with the world around me by staring into the flames of a fire in the fireplace.
Miscellaneous ramblings on a Thursday afternoon.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

More Thomas Merton

From New Seeds of Contemplation, pages 45 & 46:

This then is what it means to seek God perfectly:
  • to withdraw from illusion and pleasure,
  • from worldly anxieties and desires,
  • from the works that God does not want,
  • from a glory that is only human display;
  • to keep my mind free from confusion in order that my liberty may be always at the disposal of His will;
  • to entertain silence in my heart and listen for the voice of God;
  • to cultivate an intellectual freedom from the images of created things in order to receive the secrete contact of God in obscure love;
  • to love all men as myself;
  • to rest in humility and to find peace in withdrawal from conflict and competition with other men;
  • to turn aside from controversy and put away heavy loads of judgement and censorship and criticism and the whole burden of opinions that I have no obligation to carry;
  • to have a will that is always ready to fold back within itself and draw all the powers of the soul down from its deepest center to rest in silent expectancy for the coming of God, poised in tranquil and effortless concentration upon the point of my dependence on Him;
  • to gather all that I am, and have all that I can possibly suffer or do or be, and abandon them all to God in the resignation of perfect love and blind faith and pure trust in God, to do His will.
And then to wait in peace and emptiness and oblivion of all things. Bonum est praestolari cum silentio salutare Dei. (It is good to wait in silence for the salvation of God.)

Sunday 1/08/06 Year B - Epiphany

Isaiah 60:1-10
Psalm 72:1-7, 10-14
Ephesians 3:1-12
Matthew 2:1-12

Epiphany - The Light of the World

Sermon Notes:

Merriam-Webster: Epiphany
2 : an appearance or manifestation especially of a divine being
3 a
     (1) : a usually sudden manifestation or perception of the essential nature or meaning of something
     (2) : an intuitive grasp of reality through something (as an event) usually simple and striking
     (3) : an illuminating discovery
b : a revealing scene or moment

The story of the Magi

The Star that lighted the way

Jesus is the Light of the World

John 8:12
Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life."

John 9:1-7
1 As he walked along, he saw a man blind from birth.
2 His disciples asked him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?"
3 Jesus answered, "Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God's works might be revealed in him.
4 We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work.
5 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world."
6 When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva and spread the mud on the man's eyes,
7 saying to him, "Go, wash in the pool of Siloam" (which means Sent). Then he went and washed and came back able to see.

Jesus has said to us that we are the light of the World.

Matthew 5:14-16
"You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.