Awaken and read a spiritual meditation? Awaken and think to give thanks to God? Wake up to offer your challenges to God for a little extra guidance today? Open your eyes to a fresh spring day and think religiously? What is this all about? It's about morphing into a more spiritually grounded person. It's about devotion, becoming a person fueled by devotion. It makes a difference. The world class opera star Luciano Pavarotti once said, "People think I'm disciplined. It is not discipline. It is devotion. There is a difference." Nobody and no religious institution can make you, impose a discipline on you to love life and God. Let it be a natural outgrowth of devotion to the good stuff. It may be that you are reading spiritual reflections right now because, well, you are becoming a little more devoted. What a great awakening.
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May Day! In the old country May Day was a festive time for springtime celebrations. In Roman times the goddess Flora, queen of the flowers we might say, was revered in full bloom. Things are certainly blooming up around these parts in May. Take it all in and let it be good. May Day is also international workers day, an occasion to honor all who labor. There's great integrity in your honest work no matter how big or small the job. May the day come when, as the prophet Isaiah said, all workers will be rewarded with living wages sufficient to have a house, feed a family, and feel reasonably secure. All workers. If it were up to Jesus, this is how it would be. Your labor is valued! Give it your best effort today. Thank someone for their work.
"The means of life is found in God alone" (Irenaeus) Oft times we find ourselves in financial squeezes. With so many of us living in that precarious balance of barely making it month to month, paycheck to paycheck, the effect of a sudden car repair or broken hot water tank can send waves of stress through the mind and through a household. We all face these occasions of discomfort and somehow, for the most part, we find a way, especially if we can be gentle with each other. Others of us live beyond our means these days however. Unlike an unexpected brake job, we do it to ourselves by over spending. Sometimes we just lose our perspective and feel like we must buy something - anything?- to soothe our consumer compulsion. One spiritual director refers to such action as a misdirected way to satisfy one's 'holy hunger' - that deep yearning for a sense of fulfillment. The stairway to heaven is not for sale. Ireneaus was right way back in the second century, "The means of life is found in God alone." You can take that to the bank.
The great abolitionist and advocate to end slavery in the U.S., Frederick Douglas, was once punished for teaching fellow slaves to read and for setting up secret Sunday schools to share the liberating teachings of Jesus with the children of his people. St. Matthew's has a wonderful Sunday School that continues to share the Good News with our children, the news that they are loved by God - the news that no matter what challenge they face the Lord will stick with them and give them strength - the news that an informed faith is even more important to human development, happiness and freedom than all the toys at the mall - the news that nothing can ever separate us from the love of God. Not even slavery. Douglas once said, "If there is no struggle there is no progress." It's Monday and you can do it.
"Jesus said, I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved, you also need to love one another." (John 13:31-35) I don't know how many of us can recite the 10 Commandments in order. Most of the time we're lucky if we can remember our phone numbers, but surely we can recall the one, single, new commandment of Jesus Christ. Of course we can. It's Sunday, the Lord's Day, so let's get out there and give it a try. Love one another as Jesus loved, the kind of love that puts the needs and joy of the other before your own, the kind of love that insists that we treat the people around us with appreciation, respect, fairness and compassion. Take the new commandment out for a spin this Sunday. You'll be the kind of Sunday driver that people will want to get behind.
"Blessed are the people whose strength is in you! Whose hearts are set on the pilgrim's way." Psalm 84:4. Which way will you go today? Put your best foot forward. Use your moral compass for direction. Trust in that life affirming nudge from God every step of the way. But first, get up and brush your teeth. It's Saturday morning. Sunday worship tomorrow at 8 and 10 am.
Friday mornings in the spring in New Hampshire promise blessings ahead. "Direct us, O Lord, in all our doings and with thy most gracious favor, and further us with your continual help; that in all our works begun, continued, and ended in thee, we may glorify thy holy name, and finally, by thy mercy, obtain everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (Episcopal Book of Common Prayer pg. 832)
Awaken to this new day immediately! What's the rush? In the church calendar today, April 25, is St. Mark's Day. St. Mark's gospel is the shortest of the four in the Bible but, like Red Sox second baseman Justin Pedroia, it packs a powerful punch. St. Mark uses the word immediately often in his book about the Good News of Jesus Christ. He does so advisedly, to encourage you to think in terms of NOT waiting until some other day, some other time to get on with love and honest effort, healing and hope. Now is the time. Awaken to immediacy. Your God is beside you to guide today. Go get 'em. Happy St. Mark's Day! "And immediately Jesus made his disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to Bethsaida while He dismissed the crowd. After saying farewell to them, Jesus went up on the mountain to pray." (Mark 6:45)
"Give us wisdom and reverence so to use the resources of nature, that no one may suffer from our abuse of them, and that generations yet to come may continue to praise you for your bounty. Amen." (Episcopal Book of Common Prayer pg. 827) Bounty is the word. Right now God's amazing creation supports 7 billion people plus myriad animal and marine life. We humans, however, are growing at a rate that strains the earth's life affirming capacity. Too often we take far more than we give back. The prayer above asks for God to grant us wisdom and reverence as we move forward in history as a species while requesting a sense of reverence as we move ahead as a community of faith. Jesus called those who would follow Him 'the beloved community'. Awaken this morning to appreciate that you are counted among the beloved of God. Embrace also the healthy challenge of doing all you can to make sure those who will follow us will experience bounty and blessing as well. It is meet and right so to do.
"Almighty and everlasting God, you have made the universe with all its marvelous order, its atoms, worlds, and galaxies, and the infinite complexity of living creatures: Grant that, as we probe the mysteries of your creation, we may come to know you more truly, and more surely fulfill our role in your eternal purpose; in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen." (Episcopal Book of Common Prayer pg. 827) It is morning. This is the day God has made for us to find joy, courage, honest effort and relaxation in. One of the aspects of Episcopal/Anglican spirituality I love most is our embrace of reason and learning, science, music, drama, art and literature as valued resources for deepening our faith and understanding of life and of God. Many religions, political voices and even Christian denominations tend to mistrust, even reject the discoveries of modern science. Not so with Episcopalian Christians. As the prayer above suggests, we have an abiding trust that the more we seek and unlock answers through scientific method, the more expansive and informed will be our encounter and appreciation of God. Some say that knowledge is power. But knowledge can be more, it can be revelation too. Get interested in something today and learn more about it. Ask yourself how this might broaden your knowledge of or deepen your relationship to God.