Monday, December 31, 2012

Morning Prayer Guide - Monday

Monday, December 31, 2012
Begin by praying the Collect for Grace and Collect for Purity.

Collect for Grace:
Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought us safely to this new day: Preserve us with your mighty power, that we may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity; and in all we do, direct us to the fulfilling of your purpose; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Collect for Purity:
Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hidden: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we might perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy name; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.
Read: Psalm 147:12-20, 1 Kings 3:5-14, and John 8:12-19

The Pharisees didn’t understand Jesus when he told them that he was the light of the world.  They told Jesus that just because he said so didn’t make it so, because he was talking about himself.  In other words, they were calling him a liar.  Jesus responded that the law says that two witnesses are proof, and both he and the Father were witnesses to Jesus’ ministry.  The Pharisees, either trying to be clever or being somewhat slow, asked Jesus where his father was.  Jesus told them that they didn’t know his Father, because they didn’t know Jesus.

People are still mixed up about who Jesus is.  We might say that being a disciple is all about trying to learn and understand who Jesus really is.  We spend an entire life working on that one puzzle, and although we can come a long way, we still have questions when we reach the end of our lives.  We don’t give up in frustration, though, but continue to press onward.  What makes us different from the Pharisees isn’t our level of confusion, but our level of pride.  The Pharisees were so certain they had all the answers that they wouldn’t listen to Jesus.  Their eyes and ears were closed to his ministry.  We, on the other hand, have accepted that we don’t know enough about God and we’re working on learning more.  Sometimes we can get to a point where we think we’ve arrived and we know all there is to know.  At that point we become just like the Pharisees.  But if we keep our eyes and ears open and our hearts learning, we will be able to follow Jesus.

Ask God to help you remain focused on him.  Ask him to help you keep an open heart and mind so that you can learn more about him.  Ask him to help you see when you become too much like the Pharisees.  Write your own prayer.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Morning Prayer Guide - Sunday

First Sunday after Christmas Day, December 30, 2012
Begin by praying the Collect for Grace and Collect for Purity.

Collect for Grace:
Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought us safely to this new day: Preserve us with your mighty power, that we may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity; and in all we do, direct us to the fulfilling of your purpose; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Collect for Purity:
Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hidden: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we might perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy name; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Read: 1 Samuel 2:18-20, 26; Psalm 148; Colossians 3:12-17; and Luke 2:41-52

Today is a day of rest and worship.  Allow the readings to guide your thoughts and prayers.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Morning Prayer Guide - Saturday

Saturday, December 29, 2012
Begin by praying the Collect for Grace and Collect for Purity.

Collect for Grace:
Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought us safely to this new day: Preserve us with your mighty power, that we may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity; and in all we do, direct us to the fulfilling of your purpose; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Collect for Purity:
Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hidden: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we might perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy name; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Read: Psalm 147:12-20, 1 Chronicles 28:1-10, and 1 Corinthians 3:10-17

A house built of straw will only last until the first big, bad wolf comes along to blow it down.  A house built of brick will last longer, but even if no wolves come to visit, it will fall down eventually.  A house made of wood can last over a hundred years if we take care of it, but sooner or later it will fall apart.

It is the same with our character houses.  We’re all building houses – character houses.  Our characters are like houses.  The better materials we use, and the better care we give, the better the house will be.  But if we keep taking off boards to burn to keep ourselves warm, we’ll eventually burn our character houses up.  If we keep flinging rocks through the windows, we’ll eventually have none.

We need to be careful how we care for our characters.

Eventually, everything we do will be tested by fire.  This doesn’t mean that all of our houses are going to burn down.  This is more figurative.  Remember that one of the symbols of the Holy Spirit is fire (remember Acts 2?).  When God comes, he has a way of burning through the bad and leaving only the good.

Will your character house withstand the flame, or will you be left with nothing?

Friday, December 28, 2012

Morning Prayer Guide - Friday

Friday, December 28, 2012 – The Holy Innocents
Begin by praying the Collect for Grace and Collect for Purity.

Collect for Grace:
Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought us safely to this new day: Preserve us with your mighty power, that we may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity; and in all we do, direct us to the fulfilling of your purpose; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Collect for Purity:
Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hidden: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we might perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy name; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Read: Jeremiah 31:15-17, Psalm 124, Revelation 21:1-7, and Matthew 2:13-18

Mary and Joseph and the Christ-child became persecuted refugees after Jesus was born.  Herod wanted to kill them: “And he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under.”

After 2,000 years, very little has changed.  There are still people who are forced to leave everything they know, love and find familiar; rich or poor, though no fault of their own.  Think back over the news stories you have heard this year of people being forced out of their homes by war, persecution or disaster.  Pray for those refugees now.  You may find the following prayer helpful:

We remember today, O God, the slaughter of the holy innocents of Bethlehem by King Herod. Receive, we pray, into the arms of your mercy all innocent victims; and by your great might frustrate the designs of evil tyrants and establish your rule of justice, love, and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Morning Prayer Guide - Thursday

Thursday, December 27, 2012 – St. John, Apostle and Evangelist
Begin by praying the Collect for Grace and Collect for Purity.

Collect for Grace:

Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought us safely to this new day: Preserve us with your mighty power, that we may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity; and in all we do, direct us to the fulfilling of your purpose; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Collect for Purity:
Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hidden: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we might perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy name; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Read: Exodus 33:18-23, Psalm 92, 1 John 1:1-9, and John 21:9b-24

St. John was the only one of the Twelve to die a natural death.  Despite being boiled in oil and sent to the prison colony at Patmos, John died in about ad100 in Ephesus.
John worked tirelessly to tell others about Christ.  Where the synoptic Gospel writers show Christ as the Son of Man, John shows him as the Son of God.  In his epistles he tries to encourage his readers to love each other just as Christ loved us.  Many scholars believe that Revelation is a prophecy of the fall of Jerusalem, in AD70.

Ask God to help you tell others about Christ like John did.  You may find the following prayer helpful:

Shed upon your Church, O Lord, the brightness of your light, that we, being illumined by the teaching of your apostle and evangelist John, may so walk in the light of your truth, that at length we may attain to the fullness of eternal life; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Morning Prayer Guide - Wednesday

Wednesday, December 26, 2012 – St. Stephen, Deacon and Martyr
Begin by praying the Collect for Grace and Collect for Purity.

Collect for Grace:
Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought us safely to this new day: Preserve us with your mighty power, that we may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity; and in all we do, direct us to the fulfilling of your purpose; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Collect for Purity:
Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hidden: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we might perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy name; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Read: Jeremiah 26:1-9,12-15; Psalm 31, Acts 6:8-7:2a, 51c-60; and Matthew 23:34-39

“The old church calendar, in its wisdom, places immediately after the joyful feast of the Nativity the day of St. Stephen (December 26), first martyr of the Church in Acts and the... story of the bloody massacre of the boy babies. New birth and nativity, the cross and sacrifice get all mixed up in the gospel.  When will we ever learn that nothing truly new, no large move of God occurs without some pain?  Blood and birth go together.” – Bishop Will Willimon.

Today’s reading from Acts tells of the first deacon and martyr, St. Stephen.  These readings seem to clash with Christmas and the joy of the Incarnation.  The birth of Christ, while a wondrous affair, is meaningless on its own.  Without the cross, the incarnation is pointless.  Without self-sacrifice, even martyrdom, discipleship is meaningless.  While it is true that salvation is freely given, we do have an obligation to live our lives in a way that pleases God.  Sometimes that includes being martyred for our beliefs.

Are you willing to give your life for God?  Could you pray for the people who were killing you?  You may find the following prayer helpful:

We give you thanks, O Lord of glory, for the example of the first martyr Stephen, who looked up to heaven and prayed for his persecutors to your Son Jesus Christ, who stands at your right hand; where he lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Morning Prayer Guide - Tuesday

December 25, 2012 – The Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ: Christmas Day
Begin by praying the Collect for Grace and Collect for Purity.

Collect for Grace:
Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought us safely to this new day: Preserve us with your mighty power, that we may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity; and in all we do, direct us to the fulfilling of your purpose; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Collect for Purity:

Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hidden: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we might perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy name; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Morning readings: Isaiah 62:6-12, Psalm 97, Titus 3:4-7, and Luke 2:8-20
Evening readings: Isaiah 52:7-10, Psalm 98, Hebrews 1:1-4, and John 1:1-14

Sometimes we get so worked up over the fact that Jesus was a baby that we forget he was the Son of God.  St. John writes that he was made flesh and tabernacled among us.  That we beheld his glory.  That he was full of grace and truth.  Sure, the idea of a baby Jesus is sweet and sentimental.  But a baby is not to be feared.  A baby can be controlled.  A baby is helpless.  The Son of God is none of those things.  Grace and truth can be very scary things sometimes.  Seeing God’s glory shakes us to our core.  Christ came, not to be a sweet Christmas card, but to shake us to our core, to bid us to change and to follow him.

What things do you need to confess and change?  Talk to God about this.  You may find the following prayer helpful:

O God, you make us glad by the yearly festival of the birth of your only Son Jesus Christ: Grant that we, who joyfully receive him as our Redeemer, may with sure confidence behold him when he comes to be our Judge; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Morning Prayer Guide - Monday

Monday, December 24, 2012 – Christmas Eve (at sundown)
Begin by praying the Collect for Grace and Collect for Purity.

Collect for Grace:
Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought us safely to this new day: Preserve us with your mighty power, that we may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity; and in all we do, direct us to the fulfilling of your purpose; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Collect for Purity:
Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hidden: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we might perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy name; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Morning readings: Luke 1:46b-55, Micah 6:6-8 , and Hebrews 10:5-10
Evening readings: Isaiah 9:2-7, Psalm 96, Titus 2:11-14, and Luke 2:1-14

Everything in its time, everything in its season.
It has been difficult to remain faithful to our Advent challenge.  There have been many opportunities, both within and without our local churches, to slip into Christmas too early.  Many of us have been listening to and singing Christmas music for weeks now.  There have been Christmas parties to attend, shopping to be done, gifts to wrap.  Our homes, workplaces, and churches are all decked out with Christmas trees, lights, wreaths, and other holiday decorations.  While none of these things are wrong, they too easily encroach upon and drown out a season which is very helpful for our spiritual growth.  Many of these things are unavoidable; most people, especially those who aren’t believers, would object to having a workplace Christmas party “after Christmas”.  Even among Christians this “Advent thing” is unpopular.  Churches have allowed Hallmark to set the calendar and seasons far too long.

Some of us have worked hard to celebrate Advent in its own right.  Once the cat is out of the bag, putting her back in will be next to impossible.  But we’re called to be counter-cultural anyway, to do things differently on purpose, to reject “because everyone else is doing it” as a reason.  Perhaps a few people being intentional about saving Christmas for Christmas will raise awareness in our churches and help each other find ways to keep Christmas from coming too early.

If you’ve been keeping Advent as a season in its own right, what have you learned this month?  What has been the hardest to resist?  Do you think it has been worth the effort?

If you haven’t kept Advent as strictly (or at all), why did you choose not to?  Was it because of obligations that you felt were incompatible, or was it because you’ve always kept Christmas a certain way and don’t wish to change?

Please consider leaving a comment with your answers.

May you have a very merry and blessed Christmas.

O God, you make us glad by the yearly festival of the birth of your only Son Jesus Christ: Grant that we, who joyfully receive him as our Redeemer, may with sure confidence behold him when he comes to be our Judge; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

O Emmanuel

The Antiphon:

O Emmanuel, Rex et legifer noster,
exspectatio Gentium, et Salvator earum:
veni ad salvandum nos, Domine, Deus noster.

O Emmanuel, our king and our lawgiver,
the hope of the nations and their Saviour:
Come and save us, O Lord our God.



The Reading:

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel.
Isaiah 7:14, NRSV

The Prayer:

Jesus, God-with-us, all compassionate and loving God whom we honor and adore, You have unlocked the gates of heaven and cleared the pathway for all humanity to come to You in the glory of the Father. Save us from the chains of sin and darkness. We thank you for the gift of redemption and look forward to the day of Your coming in glory. Amen.

Morning Prayer Guide - Sunday

Fourth Sunday of Advent, December 23, 2012
Begin by praying the Collect for Grace and Collect for Purity.

Collect for Grace:
Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought us safely to this new day: Preserve us with your mighty power, that we may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity; and in all we do, direct us to the fulfilling of your purpose; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Collect for Purity:
Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hidden: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we might perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy name; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Read: Micah 5:2-5a, Luke 1:46b-55, Hebrews 10:5-10, and Luke 1:39-45

Today is a day of rest and worship.  Allow the readings to guide your thoughts and prayers.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

O Rex Gentium

The Antiphon:

O Rex Gentium, et desideratus earum,
lapisque angularis, qui facis utraque unum:
veni, et salva hominem,
quem de limo formasti.

O King of the nations, and their desire,
the cornerstone making both one:
Come and save the human race,
which you fashioned from clay.


The Readings:


He shall judge between the nations, and shall arbitrate for many peoples; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.
Isaiah 2:4, NRSV

On that day the root of Jesse shall stand as a signal to the peoples; the nations shall inquire of him, and his dwelling shall be glorious.
Isaiah 11:10, NRSV

God is king over the nations; God sits on his holy throne.
Psalm 41:8, NRSV

Who would not fear you, O King of the nations? For that is your due; among all the wise ones of the nations and in all their kingdoms there is no one like you.
Jeremiah 10:7, NRSV

To him was given dominion and glory and kingship, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not pass away, and his kingship is one that shall never be destroyed.
Daniel 7:14, NRSV

The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, says the Lord of hosts.
Haggai 2:8, NRSV

The Prayer:

Lord, every nation on earth adores You, for by Your passion, death, and resurrection, You have saved all humanity. Your constant love and friendship reach from the heavens to the ends of the earth. You alone have bridged the deep chasm created by sin; You have protected us from the grasp of the evil one. You are the source of all life; help us to be as one family in You, our God and Savior. Amen.

Morning Prayer Guide - Saturday

Saturday, December 22, 2012
Begin by praying the Collect for Grace and Collect for Purity.

Collect for Grace:
Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought us safely to this new day: Preserve us with your mighty power, that we may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity; and in all we do, direct us to the fulfilling of your purpose; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Collect for Purity:
Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hidden: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we might perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy name; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Read: Psalm 80:1-7, Isaiah 66:7-11, and Luke 13:31-35

Jesus was going to leave when he was good and ready.  Not a moment before.
Jesus wasn’t afraid of what Herod might do.  He knew he had been given a job to do, and he knew that his time wasn’t up.  He didn’t fear confrontation.  He didn’t try to sweep things under the rug and keep a low profile.

He didn’t exactly go looking for Herod, either.  He didn’t go looking for a fight.  He didn’t bait him into doing something rash.  He would go out of his way to start things with the Pharisees, but that was different.

He ignored Herod.  He just went about his business.  He knew when he was going to be ready to leave.  He knew what he wanted to accomplish.  He was making a point.  He wasn’t going to let Herod push him around, and he wasn’t going to try to push Herod around.  He was going to do the work of the kingdom.  Nothing less.

Focus on doing the kingdom business.  Don’t let others push you away from that.  Don’t let them scare you away from what God wants you to do.  Don’t go looking for a fight, either.  Just focus on what God wants.  Write your own prayer.

Friday, December 21, 2012

O Oriens

The Antiphon:

O Oriens,
splendor lucis aeternae, et sol justitiae:
veni, et illumina sedentes in tenebris, et umbra mortis.

O Morning Star,
splendour of light eternal and sun of righteousness:
Come and enlighten those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.



The Readings:

But there will be no gloom for those who were in anguish. In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time he will make glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations.
Isaiah 9:1, NRSV

Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up quickly; your vindicator shall go before you, the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.
Isaiah 58:8, NRSV

Violence shall no more be heard in your land, devastation or destruction within your borders; you shall call your walls Salvation, and your gates Praise. The sun shall no longer be your light by day, nor for brightness shall the moon give light to you by night; but the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory. Your sun shall no more go down, or your moon withdraw itself; for the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your days of mourning shall be ended.
Isaiah 60:18-20, NRSV

But for you who revere my name the sun of righteousness shall rise, with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall.
Malachi 4:2, NRSV

The Prayer:

Radiance of the Father, light for our eyes, and guide for our souls, brighten our days by showing us the way to the Father, for You said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” Your life showed us the way to live; Your words spoke of the truth of the Father; Your sufferings and death brought us to new life. May we be radiant with Your joy, as we begin to recognize Your coming to us in one another. We thank You for the gift of Your Body and Blood in the Eucharist which nourishes us and gives us renewed life. Amen.

Morning Prayer Guide - Friday

Friday, December 21, 2012 – St. Thomas, Apostle
Begin by praying the Collect for Grace and Collect for Purity.

Collect for Grace:
Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought us safely to this new day: Preserve us with your mighty power, that we may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity; and in all we do, direct us to the fulfilling of your purpose; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Collect for Purity:
Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hidden: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we might perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy name; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Read: Habakkuk 2:1-4, Psalm 126, Hebrews 10:35-11:1, and John 20:24-29

“Seeing is believing.”  That was St. Thomas’ motto.  He was a careful man, always wanting the facts, always wanting to make sure he made the best decision.  But we give Thomas an awfully hard time about today’s reading, while forgetting that when Jesus said it was time to go to Jerusalem and die, Thomas was the first one to say, “We’ll go die with you.”  Thomas ended up going to India with the Gospel, and there is still a church there which he founded and which follows very closely the teachings and forms of worship that he brought.  Thomas may have doubted at some points, but he was still a very dedicated follower of Jesus.

“Doubt is part of the journey.”  That’s what Christians in the east sometimes say to encourage one another.  In the Christmas icon called “The Nativity”,  Joseph is sitting at the edge of the picture, looking sad.  The Orthodox often include a shepherd, named Thyros, representing the doubts that were thrust upon Joseph, doubts that God really has done this miracle.  But Joseph is still in the picture; he is still an important part of it all.  The lesson for us is don’t go on the journey alone.  Don’t give up, because you've got doubts.  As a father with a sick child once said to Jesus, “Lord, I believe.  Help me overcome my unbelief!”

Ask God to help you overcome your doubts and live like Thomas did.  You may find the following prayer helpful:

Everliving God, who strengthened your apostle Thomas with firm and certain faith in your Son's resurrection: Grant us so perfectly and without doubt to believe in Jesus Christ, our Lord and our God, that our faith may never be found wanting in your sight; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

O Clavis David

The Antiphon:

O Clavis David, et sceptrum domus Israel;
qui aperis, et nemo claudit;
claudis, et nemo aperit:
veni, et educ vinctum de domo carceris,
sedentem in tenebris, et umbra mortis.

O Key of David and sceptre of the House of Israel;
you open and no one can shut;
you shut and no one can open:
Come and lead the prisoners from the prison house,
those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.



The Readings:

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness — on them light has shined.

For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Isaiah 9:2, 6, NRSV

I will place on his shoulder the key of the house of David; he shall open, and no one shall shut; he shall shut, and no one shall open.
Isaiah 22:22, NRSV

Then you shall say to them: Thus says the Lord: I am about to fill all the inhabitants of this land—the kings who sit on David’s throne, the priests, the prophets, and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem—with drunkenness.
Jeremiah 13:13, NRSV

Not like these is the Lord, the portion of Jacob, for he is the one who formed all things, and Israel is the tribe of his inheritance; the Lord of hosts is his name.
Jeremiah 51:19, NRSV

The Prayer:

Christ Jesus, You are the key to the happiness of our hearts. The darkness of sin and the awareness of our weaknesses drag us down, but You have come to lift us up and redeem us. We place all our hope in You who have freed us from sin. Teach us to open the doors of our hearts to You and to one another through awareness of the mystery of Your Presence in others. Lead us into the light of Your love and grace. Amen.

Morning Prayer Guide - Thursday

Thursday, December 20, 2012
Begin by praying the Collect for Grace and Collect for Purity.

Collect for Grace:
Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought us safely to this new day: Preserve us with your mighty power, that we may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity; and in all we do, direct us to the fulfilling of your purpose; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.


Collect for Purity:
Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hidden: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we might perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy name; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Read: Psalm 80:1-7, Jeremiah 31:31-34, and Hebrews 10:10-18

Jeremiah writes about a time when God will make a new covenant with his people.  It won’t be dependent on people teaching each other, because God will write it on their hearts.  God will take them to be his people, and they will take him to be their God.

God wants us to be his people.  He wants us to follow him.  He wants us to become more like him.  He’s even willing to help us, because he knows we can’t do it alone.  He’ll help us put aside the things that get between us and God, and he’ll help us cut away the things that bring us down.  He’ll help us grow the things that are good.  He’ll help us pick up the things that make us more like him.

Ask God to help you become more like him.  Be his person.  Let him be your God.  Write your own prayer.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

O Radix Jesse

The Antiphon:

O Radix Jesse, qui stas in signum populorum,
super quem continebunt reges os suum,
quem Gentes deprecabuntur:
veni ad liberandum nos, jam noli tardare.

O Root of Jesse, standing as a sign among the peoples;
before you kings will shut their mouths,
to you the nations will make their prayer:
Come and deliver us, and delay no longer.


The Readings:

A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots.
Isaiah 11:1, NRSV

On that day the root of Jesse shall stand as a signal to the peoples; the nations shall inquire of him, and his dwelling shall be glorious.
Isaiah 11:10, NRSV

[S]o he shall startle many nations; kings shall shut their mouths because of him; for that which had not been told them they shall see, and that which they had not heard they shall contemplate.
Isaiah 52:15, NRSV

The Prayer:

O Christ, living sign of the Father’s love, we adore You as the Center of our lives. You are our model for grace, truth, and living in the light of the Father. Be our strength in times of sorrow and trouble; be our joy in times of sadness; be our light in the darkness of sin and our troubled world. We are in awe of Your holy Presence. May we rejoice and share the signs of Your coming with one another. Amen.

Morning Prayer Guide - Wednesday

Wednesday, December 19, 2012
Begin by praying the Collect for Grace and Collect for Purity.

Collect for Grace:
Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought us safely to this new day: Preserve us with your mighty power, that we may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity; and in all we do, direct us to the fulfilling of your purpose; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Collect for Purity:
Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hidden: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we might perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy name; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Read: Isaiah 11:1-9, Micah 4:8-13, and Luke 7:31-35

Some people just can’t be satisfied.  John came along and refused to drink wine or eat the normal foods and everyone made fun of him.  “He has a demon,” people would say.  Then Jesus came along and drank wine and ate the normal foods and everyone called him names.  “Winebibber” means someone who drinks too much wine.

John was one who abstained from food and drink in order to show people that they needed to place less importance on those things.  Jesus was one who went from house to house, eating and drinking with the people there.  The problem was that Jesus also invited all his friends – the lame, the blind, the deaf, the stinky.  Tax collectors and prostitutes, working class men and women.  People whom Pharisees would never invite to a dinner party.  Jesus didn’t go to hang out with the Pharisees so much as he went to force them to hang out with his friends.  Jesus and his troublemaking go merrily along.

Whom have you entertained lately?  Anyone who the Pharisees would have disliked?  Anyone who couldn’t repay you?  Anyone whom Jesus would probably invite to dinner?

Gather around the table with some of Jesus’ friends today.  Include some that the Pharisees would never, ever invite.  Make sure they all know they’re welcome around your table, and around Jesus’ table.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Technical Difficulties

Good morning,

Just a quick note to say sorry for the technical glitches the past couple of mornings.  I think I've got it ironed out now.

Peace!

O Adonai

The Antiphon:

O Adonai, et Dux domus Israel,
qui Moysi in igne flammae rubi apparuisti,
et ei in Sina legem dedisti:
veni ad redimendum nos in brachio extento.

O Adonai, and leader of the House of Israel,
who appeared to Moses in the fire of the burning bush
and gave him the law on Sinai:
Come and redeem us with an outstretched arm.



The Readings:

For the Lord is our judge, the Lord is our ruler, the Lord is our king; he will save us.
Isaiah 33:22 NRSV

Then they remembered the days of old, of Moses his servant. Where is the one who brought them up out of the sea with the shepherds of his flock? Where is the one who put within them his holy spirit, who caused his glorious arm to march at the right hand of Moses, who divided the waters before them to make for himself an everlasting name,
Isaiah 63:11-12 NRSV

For I brought you up from the land of Egypt, and redeemed you from the house of slavery; and I sent before you Moses, Aaron, and Miriam.
Micah 6:4 NRSV

The Prayer:
Lord, our God, reveal Yourself to us in the persons, circumstances, and events of each day,
especially in those who need our time and talents. Open our eyes to recognize Your workings in all that happens to us; keep us open to Your coming to us in the unusual events and surprises of each day. May the place of our work become “holy ground” for we believe that You are present everywhere. Amen.

Morning Prayer Guide - Tuesday

Tuesday, December 18, 2012
Begin by praying the Collect for Grace and Collect for Purity.

Collect for Grace:
Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought us safely to this new day: Preserve us with your mighty power, that we may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity; and in all we do, direct us to the fulfilling of your purpose; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Collect for Purity:
Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hidden: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we might perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy name; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Read: Isaiah 11:1-9, Numbers 16:20-35, and Acts 28:23-31

St. Paul, freshly arrived in Rome, got into an argument with the Jews about Christ.  After a while, some believed, while some did not.  Paul quoted Isaiah 6 to them, telling them that salvation had been given to the Gentiles.  This caused a large argument among the Jews.

They just couldn’t accept that God would do things the way he had done.  They couldn’t accept that God would send the “wrong” person.  They couldn’t accept that God would not restore the political kingdom with a descendant of David to be the king.  And the idea that God would allow Gentiles – Gentiles! – to be a part of the kingdom was an especially tough pill to swallow.  They had a hard time with all of it.
Sometimes we’re the same way.  We can’t imagine that God would have sent this guy to do this job.  We can’t figure out why God didn’t do it the “right” way.

Take some time to pray about this.  Has God done something the wrong way?  How can you get back into God’s plan?  Write your own prayer.

Monday, December 17, 2012

O Sapientia

The Antiphon:

O Sapientia, quae ex ore Altissimi prodiisti,
attingens a fine usque ad finem,
fortiter suaviterque disponens omnia:
veni ad docendum nos viam prudentiae.

O Wisdom, coming forth from the mouth of the Most High,
reaching from one end to the other mightily,
and sweetly ordering all things:
Come and teach us the way of prudence.



The Readings:

The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. His delight shall be in the fear of the Lord. He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide by what his ears hear;
Isaiah 11:2-3, NRSV

This also comes from the Lord of hosts; he is wonderful in counsel, and excellent in wisdom.
Isaiah 28:29, NRSV

The Prayer:

Christ, the Word of the Father, through all the ages You have cared for Your people as a shepherd his flock, as a mother her child, as a potter his clay. Be present to us who cry out for Your compassionate, helping hand. Help us to be faithful to those values which You taught us by Your life and Your love. May we find Your presence in the needs of the poor and abandoned around us. Amen.

Morning Prayer Guide - Monday

Monday, December 17, 2012
Begin by praying the Collect for Grace and Collect for Purity.


Collect for Grace:
Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought us safely to this new day: Preserve us with your mighty power, that we may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity; and in all we do, direct us to the fulfilling of your purpose; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Collect for Purity:
Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hidden: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we might perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy name; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Read: Isaiah 11:1-9, Numbers 16:1-19, and Hebrews 13:7-17

Democracy might be the best form of government in the secular world, but it is not God’s choice for the Church.  Today and tomorrow our Old Testament readings are about the sons of Korah.  They wanted to overthrow Moses because they were unhappy with him.  They wanted to elect their own leader – who wants to bet that Korah would have “selflessly” offered himself to be the new leader, “if you all insist”?  It’s a sucker bet, isn’t it?

God opened the ground under their feet and it swallowed them up, and then fire from heaven fell and killed 250 more.

Not a good end to the first recorded congregational vote, is it?

We get our panties all in a wad when things go wrong and we’re quick to want to vote on it.  We vote to fire the preacher.  We vote to pull out of the conference.  We vote to do this, to do that.  We try to run our churches as democracies.  Sadly, that’s not how God wants it.  The men who founded our nation knew that a straight democracy was the worst way to govern a nation – it boils down to mob rule.  Too often we run our churches by mob rule, too.  So we’ve got a democratic republic, a government that takes the benefits of both democracy and republic and blends them together.  There can be no mobs that get angry and make foolish decisions.  There are checks and balances to make sure it all runs properly.

The Church isn’t a democracy.  It isn’t even a democratic republic.  It’s a monarchy, and Jesus Christ is the king.  We don’t always get to choose who the pastor is, or who the bishop is.  We don’t always get to choose when the people in places of authority over us go or stay.  Instead of getting bitter about that, or trying to take matters into our own hands, we need to learn to trust God.  Korah and the others were upset because they hadn’t gotten into the promised land quite as fast as they thought they should.  They forgot that the reason the trip was taking so long was because of their own disobedience.  How often do we cause the very problems that we’re chafing to vote down!  We think getting mad and having a congregational vote will change something.  But we’re fooling ourselves.  God is in control, and God has placed authority over us.  We need to learn to work within that framework of authority.

Ask God to help you work within the authority within which he has placed you.  Ask him to help you see why he has placed you under authority.  Write your own prayer.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Morning Prayer Guide - Sunday


Third Sunday of Advent, December 16, 2012
Begin by praying the Collect for Grace and Collect for Purity.

Collect for Grace:
Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought us safely to this new day: Preserve us with your mighty power, that we may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity; and in all we do, direct us to the fulfilling of your purpose; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Collect for Purity:
Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hidden: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we might perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy name; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Read: Zephaniah 3:14-20, Isaiah 12:2-6, Philippians 4:4-7, and Luke 3:7-18

Today is a day of rest and worship.  Allow the readings to guide your thoughts and prayers.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

All About Epiphany

(Note: This is part three of a series about the seasons of the Church year.  For the first one, go here.)
Perhaps one of the most misunderstood seasons of the year is Epiphany. It sneaks in at the end of Christmas, when most of the world is bemoaning the weight they gained during November and December and the amount of money they’ve spent in the past few months. It gets little notice, even in church, because we’re so worried about everything else that’s going on.

Epiphany falls on January 6th. It is the celebration of the Magi coming to visit Jesus, as recorded in Matthew 2. Epiphany is the celebration of Jesus revealing himself to the Gentiles. The shepherds were the first to know and pay their respects. But God then allowed the Magi to find out, and they also came to worship. Tradition holds that there were three wise men, known as Melchior, Caspar, and Balthazar.

The first Sunday after the Epiphany is known as “The Baptism of our Lord Jesus Christ”. The Gospel readings are from Matthew 3, Mark 1, and Luke 3, and deal with Jesus coming down to the Jordan to be baptized by John. It is here that Christ is revealed as the Son of God: “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” (Mt. 3:17).

The next few weeks are known as “Ordinary Time”, and the color is green. The time is ordinary, not in the sense of being common or everyday, but in the sense of being counted. There are at least four Sundays and at most nine Sundays after the Epiphany. The number of Sundays varies by year and is dependent on the first day of Lent, called Ash Wednesday, which is in turn dependent on the date of Easter.

The Revised Common Lectionary (RCL) is set up so that each year, if Easter falls early and therefore the Season After Epiphany is short, those readings can be taken in the weeks following Pentecost (since that season will be longer in years when Easter is early). If Easter is later, however, more Sundays will fall between Epiphany and Ash Wednesday, and fewer between Pentecost and Christ the King, so the first few readings of the season after Pentecost are used in Epiphany. Confused yet?

Further, the Sunday readings all deal with Christ revealing himself to us. So we read about the wedding at Cana (Jesus revealing himself as the Son of God to his disciples through the miracle of turning water to wine), and so forth. Each Sunday deals with Jesus revealing himself to us as the Savior.

In Anglican, Lutheran, Methodist, and other Protestant churches which follow the RCL, the final Sunday after Epiphany is known as Transfiguration Sunday. The readings are from Matthew 17, Mark 9, and Luke 9, where Jesus was transfigured before Peter, James, and John. Christ is again revealed as the Son of God: “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!” (Mt. 17:5) This is the ultimate revelation, the climax in our discovery of who Christ is. One of my favorite hymns for the day is Charles Wesley’s “Christ, Whose Glory Fills the Skies”.

Epiphany is about growth, about Christ revealing himself to us. Christ reveals himself to us as we journey through life. The question is whether we will recognize him and follow him.

Morning Prayer Guide - Saturday

Saturday, December 15, 2012
Begin by praying the Collect for Grace and Collect for Purity.

Collect for Grace:
Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought us safely to this new day: Preserve us with your mighty power, that we may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity; and in all we do, direct us to the fulfilling of your purpose; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Collect for Purity:
Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hidden: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we might perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy name; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Read: Isaiah 12:2-6, Amos 9:8-15, and Luke 1:57-66

The second and third Sundays of Advent feature John the Baptist.  Today’s reading is about his birth.  His father, Zechariah, had been unable to speak since Elizabeth became pregnant, because he had questioned God’s ability to make it happen.  As soon as he wrote that the baby’s name was John, he regained his ability to talk and began to sing a song.

Some of us would nearly explode if we couldn’t talk!  It’s to the point that sometimes we talk so much that we miss all the good things going on around us.  Sometimes we get so enthralled with talking, talking, talking that we begin to talk just so we can hear ourselves talking.  We don’t have anything really to say. We’re just verbalizing what’s happening in our heads.

Sometimes that’s fine.  Sometimes it isn’t.

Think about how Zechariah must have felt during those long weeks.  Think about how difficult it would be to communicate, especially when most people were illiterate.

And the first thing he spoke when he got his speech back was a song of praise.
Try going a morning without speaking.  Try going a whole day.  When you’ve finished your time of silence, break it with a song of praise.  One idea would be the Song of Zechariah or the Song of Mary, both in Luke 1.  Take the time you’d spend talking and use it to listen to God.  What do you hear?

Friday, December 14, 2012

Morning Prayer Guide - Friday


Friday, December 14, 2012
Begin by praying the Collect for Grace and Collect for Purity.
Collect for Grace:
Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought us safely to this new day: Preserve us with your mighty power, that we may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity; and in all we do, direct us to the fulfilling of your purpose; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Collect for Purity:
Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hidden: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we might perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy name; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Read: Isaiah 12:2-6, Amos 8:4-12, and 2 Corinthians 9:1-15

St. Paul follows up on yesterday’s reading by talking about being a cheerful giver.  It isn’t enough to just give, but we must do so cheerfully.

Take a few minutes to pray about this.  You examined how good of a giver you are yesterday.  Now examine how cheerful you are when you give.  Write your own prayer.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Morning Prayer Guide - Thursday

Thursday, December 13, 2012
Begin by praying the Collect for Grace and Collect for Purity.

Collect for Grace:
Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought us safely to this new day: Preserve us with your mighty power, that we may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity; and in all we do, direct us to the fulfilling of your purpose; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Collect for Purity:
Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hidden: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we might perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy name; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Read: Isaiah 12:2-6, Amos 6:1-8, and 2 Corinthians 8:1-15

St. Paul writes a classic “put your money where your mouth is” kind of paragraph in this, his fourth letter to the Corinthian church.  He talks about how the other churches in the region of Macedonia (modern-day northern Greece) gave generously to his work, despite the fact that they didn’t have a lot of money.  They gave beyond their own ability, but God blessed them so that they could continue giving.  Paul tells the Corinthians that he’s sent St. Titus to them to help them improve in all areas, and especially this one.

God wants us to be giving people.  We should give our time, talents, and money to support the work of the kingdom.  That happens locally, regionally, nationally, and internationally.  Wesley required the people in his societies to be givers, even if they had very little.  Giving one’s way out of poverty seems counter-intuitive, but it’s actually the best way.

How good of a giver are you?  Write your own prayer.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Morning Prayer Guide - Wednesday

Wednesday, December 12, 2012
Begin by praying the Collect for Grace and Collect for Purity.

Collect for Grace:
Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought us safely to this new day: Preserve us with your mighty power, that we may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity; and in all we do, direct us to the fulfilling of your purpose; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Collect for Purity:
Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hidden: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we might perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy name; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.


Read: Psalm 126, Isaiah 35:3-7, and Luke 7:18-30

John the Baptist, rotting away in prison, got a little worried about whether or not Jesus was going to make good on his promises of a new kingdom.  He sent some of his disciples to Jesus to ask him about it.  “Are you the Coming One, or are we looking for someone else?” they asked.

John wanted Jesus to overthrow Herod and Pilate and spring him out of jail.  He, along with all the other Jews, assumed the promised kingdom would be a political entity here on earth.

They were wrong.

Jesus, that very day, took John’s disciples and began doing things.  He cast out demons.  He healed the lame, the deaf, the lepers, and the blind.  He preached good news to the poor.  He turned to them and said, “Ok, now go and tell John what you’ve seen and heard today.”

The prophets has written long ago that the Messiah would do all those things.  He would heal the blind, the lame, the lepers, and the deaf.  He would preach good news to the poor.  He would cast out unclean spirits, setting people free.  That was how Israel would know that the Messiah had come.  That was the Messiah’s mark.  When Jesus told John’s disciples to go back to him and report, they would report that he was doing all the signs that the Messiah had been prophesied to do.
Jesus, after they were gone, turned back to those who were gathered around, listening.  “You went to be baptized by John for a reason.  What was it?  Was it because he wears fine clothes? No, you’d go to the palace for that.  Was it because you wanted to see grass blowing in the wind?  No, you can get that anywhere.  Why did you go out there?  Because he’s a prophet, that’s why.  But let me tell you: although he’s the greatest prophet, he’s nothing compared to those who are in the kingdom.”

And what is the kingdom?  And how do we get in it?

“The kingdom of God does not come with observation; nor will they say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you.” (Lk. 17:20b-21, NKJV.)
We who follow Jesus are in the kingdom.  The implication is, of course, that we will do all the things that Jesus did for John’s disciples.  Not only did he proclaim the kingdom, but he also demonstrated the kingdom.  Proclamation and demonstration.  They go hand in hand.

So what can we take away from that?  Well, if the kingdom is proclamation and demonstration, then we had better get to work.  It is a lot easier to encourage people to enter the kingdom when they can actually see some good in it.  Besides, Jesus clearly commanded us to serve others.  By serving others, even if no words are spoken, we are preaching the Gospel.

Go and preach the Gospel today.  Use words if necessary.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Morning Prayer Guide -- Tuesday

Tuesday, December 11, 2012
Begin by praying the Collect for Grace and Collect for Purity.

Collect for Grace:
Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought us safely to this new day: Preserve us with your mighty power, that we may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity; and in all we do, direct us to the fulfilling of your purpose; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Collect for Purity:
Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hidden: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we might perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy name; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Read: Psalm 126, Isaiah 19:18-25, and 2 Peter 1:2-15

St. Peter gives us a list of character traits that we need to grow within ourselves.  Faith, virtue, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness,  brotherly kindness, and love.  If you don’t have these, he wrote, you’re so short-sighted that you’re blind.  If you do have them, you will grow.

Growth should be our ultimate goal.  When someone tells us that we are the same today as we were twenty years ago, or even last year, then we know that we’ve not grown any.  God doesn’t want us to sit on our keister and just wait to go to heaven.  He wants us up and moving, learning new things, becoming better people, serving our neighbors, and showing people why it is good to follow Jesus.  By the way, you can’t really “follow” someone if you’re not moving much – especially if that someone covers as much ground as Jesus does.

The seasons after Epiphany and Pentecost are “green” seasons.  The colors on the pulpit and altar are green, which reminds us of growing plants.  Both seasons emphasize growth.  The readings after Epiphany help us see Christ being revealed to us, and the readings after Pentecost help us see Jesus teaching about and demonstrating the kingdom of God.  We’ve spent six months on growth, and now is the time to put it all together.

Take some time to think back over the summer and fall.  What have you learned this year?  In what areas of your life have you grown?  What areas still need work?  You may find the following prayer helpful:

Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Morning Prayer Guide - Monday

Monday, December 10, 2012
Begin by praying the Collect for Grace and Collect for Purity.

Collect for Grace:
Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought us safely to this new day: Preserve us with your mighty power, that we may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity; and in all we do, direct us to the fulfilling of your purpose; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Collect for Purity:
Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hidden: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we might perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy name; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Read: Psalm 126, Isaiah 40:1-11, and Romans 8:22-25

This morning we have two passages that are very appropriate for Advent.  The reading from Isaiah is the one John the Baptist quoted in our Gospel lesson yesterday.  It is a promise for a bright future.  The reading from Romans talks about we eagerly anticipate the coming of Christ and the hope that he brings.
Isaiah’s prophecies come at a time when Israel is very prosperous, yet very worldly.  Under King Uzziah, Judah had quickly grown to a point of importance that only Solomon’s kingdom had rivaled.  Yet behind the prosperity was corruption, greed, and a failure to live according to God’s laws.  They had allowed their wealth to replace their dependence on God.  They took advantage of the poor, they fought with each other and with outsiders, and they allowed worship to be replaced by empty ritual.

Isaiah is prophesying that the day will come when there is renewed prosperity, but it will be because of our dependence and obedience to God, not our greed and violence.  God will overturn the punishments he has placed on his people and will bless them, for they will have learned to follow only him.

St. Paul follows up on this thought.  The world, he wrote, has been in birth pangs until now.  The world has been awaiting the coming of the Messiah, the one who will change the whole world and bring all unto himself.  We’re right at the cusp of realizing that the kingdom is among us.  We’re anticipating – which is exactly what Advent teaches us how to do.

Ask God to help you remain focused on anticipating the coming of his kingdom.  Ask him to help you be obedient to his will, not your own greed or selfishness.  Write your own prayer.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Morning Prayer Guide - Sunday

Second Sunday of Advent, December 9, 2012
Begin by praying the Collect for Grace and Collect for Purity.

Collect for Grace:
Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought us safely to this new day: Preserve us with your mighty power, that we may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity; and in all we do, direct us to the fulfilling of your purpose; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Collect for Purity:
Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hidden: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we might perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy name; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Read: Malachi 3:1-4, Luke 1:68-79, Philippians 1:3-11, and Luke 3:1-6

Today is a day of rest and worship.  Allow the readings to guide your thoughts and prayers.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Advent Blog Link

Please take a look at this blog post about Advent.  It is from a blog called "Dirty Sexy Ministry".  It's a very good picture of what Advent really means.

I may be posting several other links as we go through the season.

 -- Barefoot Friar

All About Christmas

(Note: This is part two of a series about the seasons of the Church year.  For the first one, go here.)

The secular world has the habit of celebrating a holiday for several weeks leading up to the actual day, and then when the day is done so is the celebration. We play Christmas music on the radio from Thanksgiving until December 25, but on the 26th we’re so sick of it that we go back to regular programming. We buy Easter candy for the month or so leading up to Easter Sunday, but as soon as Easter Monday comes, the candy is on clearance, the dresses are forgotten in the closet, and the eggs are all put away for next year.

The problem with this phenomenon is that it is just the opposite of the way the kalendar is supposed to work.

What we often fail to realize is that Christmas is a season that is twelve days long. Remember the song, “The Twelve Days of Christmas”? That’s what it’s talking about. Christmas begins at sundown on December 24th (Christmas Eve, so named because Christmas begins in the evening) and lasts until sundown on January 5th. Epiphany is a separate but related holiday celebrated on January 6th.

Why does Christmas start on the evening of the 24th? This is an ancient custom, and it has roots in the Biblical account of the creation in Genesis chapter 1. Over and over again it says that “the evening and the morning were the first day”. The Jews quickly adopted this pattern, and to this day the Sabbath begins on Friday evening at sundown and lasts until Saturday evening at sundown. Since the first Christians were Jews, it would make sense that they would adopt their own worship practices. The only difference is that since Jesus was resurrected on the first day of the week, Christians began worshiping on the day of the resurrection – the Lord’s Day.

At church, the colors go from the somber purple or royal blue to white, the color of celebration. This is when we should begin the Christmas music.

The interesting thing about the season of Christmas is that the first three days after Christmas Day (assuming they don’t fall on a Sunday) are dedicated to St. Stephen (the first deacon and martyr), St. John the Divine, and the Holy Innocents (the babies that Herod had killed in Bethlehem), respectively. Bishop Will Willimon writes about this:

“The old church calendar, in its wisdom, places immediately after the joyful feast of the Nativity the day of St. Stephen (December 26), first martyr of the Church in Acts and the... story of the bloody massacre of the boy babies. New birth and nativity, the cross and sacrifice get all mixed up in the gospel. When will we ever learn that nothing truly new, no large move of God occurs without some pain? Blood and birth go together.” (Found here.)

Now, Advent is a penitential season, and through all four weeks we’ve been setting aside our Christmas parties, Christmas music, Christmas decorations, etc., in order to focus on being prepared for Christ’s arrival. But Christmas itself is a celebration! It is the celebration of the incarnation. “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14, NKJV). So we’ve been waiting, almost hungrily, to enjoy all the things about Christmas we love, and now we have twelve days to do it in.

Impractical? Not as much as you’d think. Sure, there will be the odd party you need to attend that simply cannot be moved. There are people, Christians even, who will look at you as though you’ve got two heads for just suggesting they wait “until after Christmas” to have a party. But perhaps we should do less conforming to the world and more transforming people’s ideas. Maybe instead of just giving up before we even start we should try explaining what’s actually going on.

What if we were to be adamant about keeping Advent as Advent and Christmas during the actual season? What if we were to educate our churches, our families, and our friends about why we should do this? What if we were to put aside the December full of stress and rich food and gift-buying and plan further ahead to enjoy those things between December 25 and January 5?

As you begin Advent this year, think about ways you can keep Christmas during the season of Christmas, and not let it invade Advent. Think about how you can set aside some fun and good food to enjoy later. Then, when Christmas does arrive, how can you celebrate it more fully? How can you share in the joy of the incarnation and nativity of our Lord?

Morning Prayer Guide - Saturday

Saturday, December 8, 2012
Begin by praying the Collect for Grace and Collect for Purity.

Collect for Grace:

Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought us safely to this new day: Preserve us with your mighty power, that we may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity; and in all we do, direct us to the fulfilling of your purpose; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Collect for Purity:

Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hidden: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we might perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy name; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Read: Luke 1:68-79, Malachi 4:1-6, and Luke 9:1-6

Jesus sent the Twelve out to preach the kingdom.  He told them not to take anything with them, but to live on the things that people gave them.  If they were rejected, they were to shake the dust of that town off their feet.  They were also to cast out demons and heal the sick -- two things that have not ceased to be associated with the advance of the kingdom.

We are still sent to preach the kingdom.  We are still sent to heal the sick and cast out demons.  We are still to go out, without purse or extra coat, without expectation for gain.  We trust completely in God's ability to provide, and we trust in the Holy Spirit to go before us and prepare the way.

And when we respond with simple obedience, we cannot lose.  Nothing can withstand the Christian who is doing precisely what God has told her to do.

Ask God to take away your fears.  Ask him to help you be obedient to his commands.  Ask him to help you prepare for Jesus’ coming.  Write your own prayer.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Morning Prayer Guide - Friday

Friday, December 7, 2012
Begin by praying the Collect for Grace and Collect for Purity.

Collect for Grace:
Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought us safely to this new day: Preserve us with your mighty power, that we may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity; and in all we do, direct us to the fulfilling of your purpose; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Collect for Purity:
Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hidden: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we might perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy name; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Read: Luke 1:68-79, Malachi 3:13-18, and Philippians 1:18b-26

St. Paul wrote that he would rather go ahead and die so that he could be with Jesus, but that he knew the Philippians and others needed him so he continued to work.  It is interesting that Jesus never said anything about retirement in the kingdom.  Stopping work when we reach a certain age is a very recent phenomenon.  We're never too old to follow God.  Our rest comes as the body "sleeps in Christ" (death) and then again when we rise in Christ.

Paul continued to work right up to the end.  Others did as well -- some even as they died managed to help others find Christ.  The body may slow, but God still wants us to be faithful disciples.  The body may age, but God still wants us to follow him.

Those of us who are retired from our jobs suddenly find ourselves with more time available for serving God.  Those of us who are still working aren't quite so lucky.

Take a few minutes to pray about this.  Are you being faithful to what God wants?  Are you using your time for God's glory?  Write your own prayer.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Morning Prayer Guide - Thursday

Thursday, December 6, 2012 – St. Nicholas, Bishop
Begin by praying the Collect for Grace and Collect for Purity.

Collect for Grace:
Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought us safely to this new day: Preserve us with your mighty power, that we may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity; and in all we do, direct us to the fulfilling of your purpose; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Collect for Purity:
Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hidden: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we might perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy name; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Read: Isaiah 6:1-8, Psalm 107:33-43, Hebrews 13:16-21, and Luke 10:1-9

Advent is the time when Christians prepare to greet Christ – who came as a babe in a manger, who comes into our lives each day, and who will come again at the end of time. Advent is the time when people of faith are most at odds with the culture. The church calls people to focus on getting ready to receive Christ – preparing hearts and lives to make room for Jesus, to live as he would have us live. It is a time of longing, not fulfillment. Quiet reflection, not celebration. The culture, however, is already in a time of festivity, unable or unwilling to wait and contemplate and prepare for the real festival. It is not easy to observe Advent without being pulled prematurely into Christmas.

How does St. Nicholas fit into all of this? He is an Advent saint because his December 6th feast day always falls in early Advent. However, Nicholas is a good Advent saint for more important reasons than the date of his special day. Whatever he did, and it is said that he did many kinds of amazing things, may not be as important as the way he did it. Nicholas became so popular because he was a faithful follower of Jesus Christ. His life clearly reflected the way each one of us is called to show God's love to others, especially those in need.

Celebrating St. Nicholas on his day in Advent brings a bit of fun and festivity into homes, churches, and schools. His small treats and surprises help keep the spirit of good St. Nicholas, especially when stories of his goodness and kind deeds are told and ways to express his care for those in need are sought. Saint Nicholas helps us remember Christmas is a feast of love, hope, kindness and generosity. Yes, Nicholas is a good Advent saint.

Learn about St Nicholas on the internet or at your local library.  Ask God to show you how you can live like Nicholas did.  You may find the following prayer helpful:

Almighty God, you have surrounded us with a great cloud of witnesses: Grant that we, encouraged by the good example of your servant Nicholas, may persevere in running the race that is set before us, until at last we may with him attain to your eternal joy; through Jesus Christ, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Morning Prayer Guide - Wednesday


Wednesday, December 5, 2012
Begin by praying the Collect for Grace and Collect for Purity.
Collect for Grace:
Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought us safely to this new day: Preserve us with your mighty power, that we may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity; and in all we do, direct us to the fulfilling of your purpose; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.
Collect for Purity:
Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hidden: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we might perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy name; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Read: Psalm 90, Isaiah 1:24-31, and Luke 11:29-32

Jesus had some tough words for his listeners.  He is telling them that they are foolish and unrepentant.  We don't like that kind of talk.  We don't like the idea that Jesus would say such things.

We have been given a great gift.  God's wisdom far out-shines any wisdom of any person.  And if the Ninevites repented after Jonah's short ministry, how much more should we repent after beholding Jesus?

Advent gives us a chance to set ourselves straight so that when Jesus comes we will be ready.  What do you need to do to be ready?

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Morning Prayer Guide - Tuesday

Tuesday, December 4, 2012
Begin by praying the Collect for Grace and Collect for Purity.

Collect for Grace:
Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought us safely to this new day: Preserve us with your mighty power, that we may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity; and in all we do, direct us to the fulfilling of your purpose; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Collect for Purity:
Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hidden: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we might perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy name; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Read: Psalm 90, 2 Samuel 7:18-29, and Revelation 22:12-16

King David wanted to build a house for God.  He begged God to let him build it, but God told him that because he was a man of war, his hands were too bloody.  God told him his son would be the one to build it.

Instead of rejecting God and doing it his own way (how often do we do that?), David prepared things for his son.  Even though he knew he would never see it come to fruition, David made sure that Solomon would have the things he needed to complete the task.

We can learn from this.  Sometimes God tells us no about things.  Instead of reacting with bitterness or anger, perhaps we should find ways to be obedient to God.  David could have chosen to become embittered and angry, but instead he chose to honor God's command.  Yet he also was fruitful in his labors, setting up as much as he could for his son.

Take some time to ask God to help you put aside negative feelings over things and instead focus on being obedient.  God has a better plan than we can imagine.  We have only to trust him.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Morning Prayer Guide - Monday

Monday, December 3, 2012
Begin by praying the Collect for Grace and Collect for Purity.

Collect for Grace:
Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought us safely to this new day: Preserve us with your mighty power, that we may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity; and in all we do, direct us to the fulfilling of your purpose; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Collect for Purity:
Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hidden: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we might perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy name; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.
Read: Psalm 90, Numbers 17:1-11, and 2 Peter 3

The Lord is coming.  Don't lose hope.  Don't give up.  Don't take his absence as a sign that he's not coming.  We get into the same things today.  However, we forget that had Jesus come back when the apostles believed he would, you and I wouldn't be here! We would have missed out on a life of love and service.

St. Peter was trying to tell his audience that we don't need to focus too much on the when.  Jesus will return at the proper time.  There is no need to worry about that.  God is always in control of the situation.  Instead, we need to focus on the how.  How will Jesus find us when he does return?  How will we spend our time as we wait on him?

One quick note about the word "wait".  We tend to think of it as though we are on a bench in the mall, "waiting" for a friend or spouse to finish shopping.  Instead, we should think of it as though we're serving.  We used to call people who work in restaurants "waiters" and "waitresses".  They "waited" on tables.  They don't sit around.  They are constantly working on serving someone.  "Wait on the Lord" shouldn't mean to sit around while we see if he's going to do what we want, but should mean that we serve him.

Ask God to help you remain focused on the how.  Ask him to help you "wait" on him.  Write your own prayer.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

All About Advent


Advent is finally here!  That most blessed of seasons, a time of renewal and refocusing, a time of anticipation and preparation, a time of taking stock of one's life and seeing what needs to change in order to be ready for Christ's coming.  Advent is a wonderful season.

As I suggested in an earlier post, We Are Liturgical Beings, there is a progression of seasons through the year that do not necessarily correspond to the civil calendar. I'd like to introduce you to them, one at a time. I'd also like to invite those of you who are already familiar with the liturgical calendar to read these as well. I think you'll find it helpful.

We'll take a look at a new one each week until we've made it through the whole year. I think this is important, because it doesn't stop when we leave church on Sunday. The liturgical year flows through our whole lives, our devotional times, our worship (both public and private), our prayer. It is a very powerful tool, and to reject it or mutilate it is, quite frankly, wrong.

Oh, and by the way... From here on, I'm going to change the way I spell “calendar” when I'm talking about the traditional church one. That way, you'll know that “kalendar” refers to the liturgical one, and “calendar” refers to the one we use in the secular world. It's not actually my doing; I got it from Anglican circles, and found it useful.

Now that we have that down, let's begin. But where to start? Is there a good starting place? Actually, there is. The first season of each new liturgical year, and the best place to start, is in Advent. Now this is where my Methodist brothers and sisters, and my brothers and sisters in other faith traditions/denominations, have kind of allowed the calendar to influence the kalendar. (See how useful that is?) See, most of us think that Advent is just the precursor to Christmas. So we decorate the church with Christmas decorations, sing carols, have Christmas parties, and do all the Christmassy things that we've grown accustomed to in the secular world.

The problem with that is that Advent isn't pre-Christmas. It is its own, distinct, season.

Advent begins on the Sunday closest to St. Andrew's day, which always falls on November 30. Advent is the four Sundays leading up to Christmas. On years when December 24 is a Sunday, we celebrate the fourth Sunday of Advent in the morning, because Christmas does not begin until evening (hence the name... more on this later). The color is purple or royal blue. The purple color is the older, more generally accepted color, and helps us remember that Advent is a penitential season. In fact, the Orthodox call it “Lesser Lent”. But where Lent has the flavor of repentance, Advent has the flavor of hope and returning light. The other color, royal blue, is a more recent addition and is mainly found in Anglican circles (which may explain why I like it so much). It gives the visual cues of royalty, and helps us separate the penitence of Lent from the preparation and hopefulness of Advent.

The four Sundays in Advent follow a pattern. Advent is all about the coming Messiah, about preparing for Christ's arrival. So the first Sunday is about the Second Coming. The Gospel readings are drawn from later in Christ's ministry as he talks about his return. My most favorite hymn is traditionally sung on this first Sunday in Anglican and Methodist circles (and a few others, too): “Lo! He Comes With Clouds Descending” by Charles Wesley. I can't resist giving you a taste:



The second Sunday re-shifts the focus to Christ's first coming. Here we meet John the Baptist, crying in the wilderness, “Repent! The kingdom of God is at hand!” Please note that we still haven't started singing Christmas music yet. There is a marvelous selection of Advent hymns in The United Methodist Hymnal and in the Episcopal Church's Hymnal 1982.

The third Sunday starts hinting at Christmas. But it is still not Christmas. We talk about John the Baptist again, and his ministry. John was important because he rejected the finer things in life in order to devote himself to God and proclaim the immanent coming of the Kingdom. Roman Catholic and some Anglican churches will use rose colors on this day, to signify that Advent is half way over. In fact, this Sunday is called Gaudete Sunday, because in the Latin Mass, the service begins with “Gaudete, Jerusalem” (O be joyful, Jerusalem).

The fourth Sunday really starts hinting at Christmas, but it is crucial to remember that it isn't Christmas.  Here we meet Mary and learn about her encounter with Gabriel.

The whole theme of Advent is one of darkness. Advent falls in the northern hemisphere's darkest time. The days are getting shorter, the nights longer, and in the ancient world this was a cause of concern. As we progress through the season, however, we add more and more light, until we get to Christmas.

This is especially apparent in the Advent wreath. Advent wreaths are fairly new, so they don't really have much of a tradition. Usually there are three purple candles (or royal blue, depending on which colors that particular church uses) and one pink one, to correspond with Gaudete. The United Methodist Book of Worship calls for four purple candles. In the center is one white candle, usually much larger than the others. On the first Sunday, one of the purple candles is lit, and burns through the rest of the service. It may also burn at other services through the week. On the second Sunday, two candles are lit: The first candle and one other. The third Sunday, the rose candle is lit along with the previous two purple ones, and on the fourth Sunday all four are lit. The central white candle, known as the Christ candle, is not lit until Christmas Eve.

The whole reason for Advent's existence is to remind us that we live in darkness and we need Christ's light in order to function. It is a time of preparation for the coming of Christ. It's not so much that Christ came, or that he will come again, but that Christ comes, continually. We just have to open our eyes. In the beauty of a sunrise or sunset. In the taste of a cinnamon-raisin bagel with cream cheese. In the laughter of friends and family, gathered around the table at Thanksgiving. In the sound of a John Coltrane saxophone solo, or Pavarotti singing “Nessun Dorma”, or J.S. Bach's Brandenburg Concertos. In the smell of a baby or your spouse or incense. In the feel of a hug or a handshake or a shovel or a keyboard.

Advent trains us to see it. Advent shows us that Christ really is there. Advent is important, because if we're not ready we'll miss the Incarnation altogether.

Morning Prayer Guide - Sunday

First Sunday of Advent, December 2, 2012
Begin by praying the Collect for Grace and Collect for Purity.

Collect for Grace:
Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought us safely to this new day: Preserve us with your mighty power, that we may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity; and in all we do, direct us to the fulfilling of your purpose; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Collect for Purity:
Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hidden: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we might perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy name; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Read: Jeremiah 33:14-16, Psalm 25:1-10, 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13, and Luke 21:25-36

Today is a day of rest and worship.  Allow the readings to guide your thoughts and prayers.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Morning Prayer Guide - Saturday

Saturday, December 1, 2012
Begin by praying the Collect for Grace and Collect for Purity.

Collect for Grace:
Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought us safely to this new day: Preserve us with your mighty power, that we may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity; and in all we do, direct us to the fulfilling of your purpose; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Collect for Purity:
Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hidden: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we might perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy name; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Read: Psalm 25:1-10, Nehemiah 9:26-31, and Luke 21:20-24

Jesus is prophesying the fall of Jerusalem, which occurred in 70CE.  He is giving them advance warning so they are not surprised by it.  He’s not trying to scare them, merely warn them.  “Things are about to get tough, but hold firm because God is with you.”

Ask God to take away your fears.  Ask him to help you be obedient to his commands.  Ask him to help you prepare for Jesus’ coming.  Write your own prayer.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Morning Prayer Guide - Friday

Friday, November 30, 2012 – St. Andrew, Apostle and Martyr
Begin by praying the Collect for Grace and Collect for Purity.

Collect for Grace:
Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought us safely to this new day: Preserve us with your mighty power, that we may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity; and in all we do, direct us to the fulfilling of your purpose; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Collect for Purity:
Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hidden: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we might perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy name; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Read: Psalm 19, Deuteronomy 30:11-14, Romans 10:8b-18, and Matthew 4:18-22

St. Andrew was St. Peter’s older brother.  According to John 1, it was he who called Peter to come and meet Jesus.  Andrew is always mentioned fourth in the listing of the disciples and apostles, after Peter, James, and John.  Andrew was one of the ones who left everything to follow Jesus.

Tradition has it that Andrew preached along the Black Sea as far as the Volga, Kiev, and Novgorod, and that he was the first bishop of Constantinople (Byzantium).  This diocese is now the most important one in Eastern Orthodoxy.

Andrew is said to have been martyred by crucifixion at the city of Patras (Patræ) in Achaea, on the northern coast of the Peloponnese. Early texts describe Andrew as bound, not nailed, to a Latin cross of the kind on which Jesus was crucified; yet a tradition developed that Andrew had been crucified on a cross of the form called Crux decussata (X-shaped cross, or "saltire"), now commonly known as a “Saint Andrew’s Cross” – supposedly at his own request, as he deemed himself unworthy to be crucified on the same type of cross as Jesus had been.

Take a moment to consider Andrew’s obedience.  How can you follow his example?  You may find the following prayer helpful:

Almighty God, who gave such grace to your apostle Andrew that he readily obeyed the call of your Son Jesus Christ, and brought his brother with him: Give us, who are called by your holy Word, grace to follow him without delay, and to bring those near to us into his gracious presence; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.