Epiphany +6: Blessing and Woe

Look: Sermon on the Mount (detail), Henrik Olrik

( source )

The season after Epiphany is winding down. In less than two weeks, we’ll begin Lent which puts us 40 days with Jesus on the road to the cross. Epiphany means more to me this year than in the past. It may be because it’s been a long season compared to some years. With Easter being later in the calendar we get to celebrate Epiphany for a full eight weeks this year.

The Gospel accounts of Epiphany show God being revealed through Christ more openly than ever as Jesus begins his three years of intentional ministry. This year I can’t get enough of them. I’m captivated by the paradox of Jesus as both the Son of God and the Son of Man.

In the article, What’s the Good News In the Season After Epiphany? , the author encapsulates the message of Epiphany: I’m here, says Jesus. Yes, and this hasn’t changed.

We often say that Jesus completed all the work God gave him to do from the manger to the cross. That’s true. The season of Epiphany adds technicolor dimension to the tiny preposition “to”. We meditate on the manger in Advent and Christmastide. We reflect on the cross in Lent and Eastertide. Epiphany is for the in between, and maybe that’s why I find it so enthralling. We live in the in between, in the “to” between the first coming to the second.

This week and next we are invited by the lectionary to listen again to Jesus preaching the earth-shattering truth of the Sermon on the Mount. May we welcome this shattering to our lives between law and grace, earth and heaven, the kingdom of God and the kingdom of man. From today to the world without end. Amen.


Listen: “Beatitudes”, from Live at Carnegie Hall, Sweet Honey In The Rock

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Listen to my entire playlist on Spotify: Epiphany - Beatitudes. Add it to your account by clicking ‘Follow.’


Thus says the Lord:
’Cursed is the man who trusts in man
and makes flesh his strength,
whose heart turns away from the Lord.
He is like a shrub in the desert,
and shall not see any good come.
He shall dwell in the parched places of the wilderness,
in an uninhabited salt land.

’Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord,
whose trust is the Lord.
He is like a tree planted by water,
that sends out its roots by the stream,
and does not fear when heat comes,
for its leaves remain green,
and is not anxious in the year of drought,
for it does not cease to bear fruit.’

*

”He is like a tree
planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.
The wicked are not so,
but are like chaff that the wind drives away.”

*

”And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.

But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.”

*

”And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said:

“Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.

“Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you shall be satisfied.

“Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh.

“Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets.

“But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.

“Woe to you who are full now, for you shall be hungry.

“Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep.

“Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets.
— Jeremiah 17:5-8 * Psalm 1:3-4 * 1 Corinthians 15:17-20 * Luke 6:20-26 (ESV)

Sunday Scripture readings are taken from the Revised Common Lectionary (Year C). Daily Scripture readings are taken from the Book of Common Prayer (Year 1), using the Psalm selections for Morning Prayer.


Pray:

O God, the strength of all who put their trust in you: Mercifully accept our prayers; and because in our weakness we can do nothing good without you, give us the help of your grace, that in keeping your commandments we may please you both in will and deed; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
— Book of Common Prayer, Collect for Sixth Sunday After Epiphany

Do:

Bless each person you encounter

Silently or aloud, no matter the person and no matter the context

Practicing the Sermon on the Mount”, by Richard Foster:

“In the “beatitudes” Jesus takes up various kinds and classes of people that in his day were thought to be unblessed and unblessable, and he shows how the Kingdom of God is available to them and how they too can be blessed. No wonder the poor heard him gladly! As the Simon and Garfunkel song goes, “Blessed are the sat upon, spat upon, ratted on.”

In The Divine Conspiracy Dallas Willard gives contemporary expression to these “unblessed and unblessable-–the physically repulsive … the bald, the fat, and the old … the flunk-outs and drop-outs and burned outs. The broke and the broken. The drug heads and the divorced. The HIV-positive and herpes-ridden. The brain-damaged, the incurable ill. The barren and the pregnant too-many-times or the wrong time. The overemployed, the underemployed, the unemployed. The unemployable. The swindled, the shoved aside, the replaced… .” (pp. 123-124).

Ask yourself: How can I make the kingdom of God available to individuals who are humanly hopeless? Then as you go about your days, learn to take time to point out the natural beauty of every human being.”

You can find other activities for Epiphany at this post: 12+ Ways To Keep Celebrating With the Rest of the World (loads of links)


(See all Epiphany Daybook posts from 2018 here.)

Weekend Daybook: listening, resting, reading, and practicing edition

Seven days of collecting what I've been up to lately: places, people, books, podcasts, music, links & more for your weekend downtime.

(1) photo from this week

on a study and reflection retreat this week and the timing couldn't be more perfect. Also: thank you,  @roseberrytea , for the loan of your Irish Book of Common Prayer. We've been enjoying it for each of the Offices!

on a study and reflection retreat this week and the timing couldn't be more perfect. Also: thank you, @roseberrytea, for the loan of your Irish Book of Common Prayer. We've been enjoying it for each of the Offices!


(2) songs on repeat

  1. Jesus, See the Traveler, Sara & Ruby Groves

  2. The Kingdom Is Yours, Dee Wilson & Brittney Spencer (lyrics and chord chart here)

 

(3) projects I’ve been working on

  1. Spiritual practice stories on Instagram - I fully intended to write a blog series during Epiphany on spiritual practices that have been life-giving for me. It didn’t happen on the blog for a variety of time-related reasons, but I’ve been grateful for the IG platform to share what I’m learning and to hear back from you. Even if you don’t have an Instagram account, I believe you can view what I’ve shared about the practice of silence and noticing without judgement.

  2. Last weekend we facilitated a weekend intensive for those seeking inner healing for relational, emotional, or sexual wounds. I had the privilege not only of caring for a small group of women, but also speaking on the subjects , “How Jesus on the Cross Bears the Sins Committed Against Us (our wounds)” and “Becoming Secure in the Father’s Love”. I’m hoping to share a tiny portion of that teaching in an Instagram story this week. You can read a portion of my own journey toward healing in this post I wrote during Holy Week last year.

  3. I’ve been posting the lectionary readings along with art, music, prayer, and suggested practices each Sunday in Epiphany. I’ve gained a deep affection for this season in the church calendar. I love reflecting on the groundbreaking teaching of Christ as the world first got to hear him represent the Father.


(4) meaningful conversations during Black History month

  1. This account is full of beauty, truth, and goodness. Don’t miss it: Black Coffee With White Friends on IG

  2. Perhaps the most helpful resource yet to help me understand the meaning of “whiteness”: Can “White” People be Saved: Reflections on Missions and Whiteness | Willie Jennings via Fuller Studio. Explore more on the complex intersection of race, politics, and society.

  3. Sad, convicting truth told in love: To All the White Friends I Couldn’t Keep by Andre Henry

  4. In 1963, more than a dozen African American girls, including Carol Barner-Seay, Shirley Reese, Diane Bowens, and Verna Hollis, were arrested for protesting segregation in Americus, Georgia. At StoryCorps, they remember being held in a small makeshift jail for nearly two months.


(5) books I’m reading

  1. (Re) reading for Epiphany with Apostles Reads: Walking On Water: Reflections on Faith & Art by Madeleine L’Engle.

  2. I read the devastatingly beautiful The Sparrow five years ago and am finally getting to the sequel: Children of God by Mary Doria Russell.

  3. A big part of my final assignments for my spiritual director certification: The Essential Writings of Christian Mysticism by Bernard McGinn.

  4. Brian gave this to me for Christmas 2017 and I lost track of it for over a year! Glad to finally be enjoying Word by Word: A Daily Spiritual Practice by Marilyn McEntyre.

  5. A beautiful book on the essence of my work: Holy Listening: The Art of Spiritual Direction by Margaret Guenther


(6) meaningful perspectives on current events

  1. Please don’t miss this one - Gary Haugen, president and founder of International Justice Mission, speaks at the National Prayer Breakfast and demonstrates how to speak truth to power - with the U.S. president sitting two people away - to speak truth with self-differentiated, non-anxious authority. I want to memorize this speech and repeat it to myself daily.

  2. I’m done letting anger separate me from pro-life work. Simcha Fisher steps up to speak on my behalf.

  3. A Debt to Education via Plough - With four kids just finished or trying to finish degrees, this one hit home. Help us, God … “All debt forms us, but it’s important to recognize how student debt shapes our conception of ourselves and our society.”

  4. Related - The Fleecing of Millenials via NYT . (and when, oh when, will someone have the integrity of intelligence to include the economic effect of abortion in this list of things economically screwing the millenial generation?!?)

  5. On the subject of quality of life for all - Why Conservatives Should Oppose the Death Penalty via American Conservative. “The state is not God, and capital punishment is not infallible.”

  6. While the government argues budgetary earmarking for Immigration Reform, let Christians consider this: How Does the Bible Orient Us Toward Immigration? The recordings at this link include the every plenary session with Dr. Danny Carroll that Brian and I attended with clergy from our diocese this past November. If I were pope for the day, I’d make it required listening for every church in the U.S. right now.


Emmett's Baby Shower1.jpeg

6 years ago

Decorating our house in Austin for our godson Emmett’s baby shower. (Our friends Blake & Krista made this gorgeous book page wreath for the book-themed shower.)


May your weekend include some rest and some fun with friends and family. Peace...

p.s. This post may contain affiliate links because I'm trying to be a good steward, and when you buy something through one of these links you don't pay more money, but in some magical twist of capitalism we get a little pocket change. Thanks!

Lent Daybook, 6: Zeal

Look: Glory, Roger May

Artist’s Statement : “I had wanted to photograph a tent revival for as long as I could remember. That summer, I happened upon a tent meeting where a service had just gotten underway. Sitting in my truck with the windows down, listening and not wanting to intrude, I noticed a man get up from his chair, leave the cover of the tent and make his way to me. “You’re welcome to join us,” he said. I explained that I was a photographer and that I didn’t want to impose and take the focus away from the message. Gripping my hand again, he said, “Honey, you can take pictures of anything you want. You’re welcome here.”  Brother Roger Stevens and everyone in attendance that evening welcomed me and invited me back to another tent revival a few weeks later. These photographs are from July and August of 2014 in Goody, Pike County, Kentucky and on Gilbert Creek in Baisden, Mingo County, West Virginia.”  ( Source )

Artist’s Statement: “I had wanted to photograph a tent revival for as long as I could remember. That summer, I happened upon a tent meeting where a service had just gotten underway. Sitting in my truck with the windows down, listening and not wanting to intrude, I noticed a man get up from his chair, leave the cover of the tent and make his way to me. “You’re welcome to join us,” he said. I explained that I was a photographer and that I didn’t want to impose and take the focus away from the message. Gripping my hand again, he said, “Honey, you can take pictures of anything you want. You’re welcome here.”

Brother Roger Stevens and everyone in attendance that evening welcomed me and invited me back to another tent revival a few weeks later. These photographs are from July and August of 2014 in Goody, Pike County, Kentucky and on Gilbert Creek in Baisden, Mingo County, West Virginia.”

(Source)


Spotify | YouTube


In your majesty ride out victoriously
for the cause of truth and meekness and righteousness;
let your right hand teach you awesome deeds!
Your arrows are sharp
in the heart of the king’s enemies;
the peoples fall under you.

Your throne, O God, is forever and ever.
The scepter of your kingdom is a scepter of uprightness;
you have loved righteousness and hated wickedness.”

*

”‘Do not say in your heart, after the Lord your God has thrust them out before you, ‘It is because of my righteousness that the Lord has brought me in to possess this land,’ whereas it is because of the wickedness of these nations that the Lord is driving them out before you. Not because of your righteousness or the uprightness of your heart are you going in to possess their land, but because of the wickedness of these nations the Lord your God is driving them out from before you, and that he may confirm the word that the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.”

*

”Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says,

“Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion,
on the day of testing in the wilderness,
where your fathers put me to the test
and saw my works for forty years.
Therefore I was provoked with that generation,
and said, ‘They always go astray in their heart;
they have not known my ways.’
As I swore in my wrath,
‘They shall not enter my rest.’”

*

”The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.” His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.’
— Psalm 45:4-7a * Deuteronomy 9:4-5 * Hebrews 3:7-11 * John 2:13-17 (ESV)

Epiphany +5: Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For

Look: The Miraculous Draught of Fishes, Eugene Delacroix

( source )

Not much time to add commentary this week, but can I just say that I had fun curating a U2 cover with a 19th-century painting as way to imagine Peter and the others searching for fish and coming up empty. Then taking Jesus at his word and casting their nets again….


Listen: “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” from For Freedom: A Covers EP, Jenny & Tyler, featuring Sara Groves

Spotify | YouTube

Listen to my entire playlist on Spotify: Epiphany - Come, Follow. Add it to your account by clicking ‘Follow.’


“In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said:

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory!”

And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!”

Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.”

And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.”

*

”I give you thanks, O Lord, with my whole heart;
before the gods I sing your praise;
I bow down toward your holy temple
and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness,
for you have exalted above all things
your name and your word.
On the day I called, you answered me;
my strength of soul you increased.”

*

”For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.”

*

”On one occasion, while the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, he was standing by the lake of Gennesaret, and he saw two boats by the lake, but the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. Getting into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, he asked him to put out a little from the land. And he sat down and taught the people from the boat. And when he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.” And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking. They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish that they had taken, and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him.
— Isaiah 6:1-8 * Psalm 138:1-3 * 1 Corinthians 15:9-11 * Luke 5:1-11 (ESV)

Sunday Scripture readings are taken from the Revised Common Lectionary (Year C). Daily Scripture readings are taken from the Book of Common Prayer (Year 1), using the Psalm selections for Morning Prayer.


Pray:

Set us free, O God, from the bondage of our sins, and give us the liberty of that abundant life which you have made known to us in your Son our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
— Book of Common Prayer, Collect for the Fifth Sunday After Epiphany

Do:

Be still

In today’s Old and New Testament passages we see the reaction of those who’ve encountered the voice of Christ. The reflex for both Isaiah and Peter is worship and then action. Set your time for 5 minutes and sit in quiet - no music, no words, no language. Don’t be discourage when distracting thoughts interrupt; consider repeating the words of Isaiah, “Here am I. Send me.” Take a few deep breaths and repeat as necessary. Try this as many days this week as you are able.

You can find other activities for Epiphany at this post: 12+ Ways To Keep Celebrating With the Rest of the World (loads of links)


(See all Epiphany Daybook posts from 2018 here.)

Epiphany +4: Satan, Your Kingdom Must Come Down

Look: There Will Be No Miracles Here, 2007, Nathan Coley

( source )

Listen: “Satan Your Kingdom Must Come Down”, from Complete Recorded Works, Vol. 2, Blind Joe Taggart

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Listen to my entire playlist on Spotify: Epiphany - Break Every Chain. Add it to your account by clicking ‘Follow.’


Then I said, “Ah, Lord God! Behold, I do not know how to speak, for I am only a youth.” But the Lord said to me,

“Do not say, ‘I am only a youth’;
for to all to whom I send you, you shall go,
and whatever I command you, you shall speak.
Do not be afraid of them,
for I am with you to deliver you,
declares the Lord.”

*

”Rescue me, O my God, from the hand of the wicked,
from the grasp of the unjust and cruel man.
For you, O Lord, are my hope,
my trust, O Lord, from my youth.
Upon you I have leaned from before my birth;
you are he who took me from my mother’s womb.
My praise is continually of you.”

*

”If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.”

*

”And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” And all spoke well of him and marveled at the gracious words that were coming from his mouth. And they said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?” And he said to them, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘“Physician, heal yourself.” What we have heard you did at Capernaum, do here in your hometown as well.’” And he said, “Truly, I say to you, no prophet is acceptable in his hometown. But in truth, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heavens were shut up three years and six months, and a great famine came over all the land, and Elijah was sent to none of them but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.” When they heard these things, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath. And they rose up and drove him out of the town and brought him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they could throw him down the cliff. But passing through their midst, he went away.
— Jeremiah 1:6-8 * Psalm 71:4-6 * 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 * Luke 4:21-30 (ESV)

Sunday Scripture readings are taken from the Revised Common Lectionary (Year C). Daily Scripture readings are taken from the Book of Common Prayer (Year 1), using the Psalm selections for Morning Prayer.


Pray:

Almighty and everlasting God, you govern all things both in heaven and on earth: Mercifully hear the supplications of your people, and in our time grant us your peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
— Book of Common Prayer, Collect for Fourth Sunday After Epiphany

Do:

Pray blessing throughout your house and neighborhood

If you haven’t yet, this is a great week to chalk the doors and pray blessing and protection over each room in your house.

Watch here and here for explanations from a couple of Protestant pastors and here for a video demonstration from a Catholic mom. You can find prayers here or print out a larger prayer service adapted from various sources that leads you to pray through each room of your home: Feast of the Epiphany.

You can find other activities for Epiphany at this post: 12+ Ways To Keep Celebrating With the Rest of the World (loads of links)


(See all Epiphany Daybook posts from 2018 here.)