Category Archives: Biblical Reflection

Noonday Sight and Blindness

Almighty Savior, who at noonday called your servant Saint Paul to be an apostle to the Gentiles: We pray you to illumine the world with the radiance of your glory, that all nations may come and worship you; for you live and reign for ever and ever. Amen.

Was it at noon that the burst of light and the voice of God met Saul on the road? At noon that his companions had to lead a blind Saul into the city? At noon that a blind Saul was healed, transformed into a sighted Paul?

How is it that we can remain blind to what it takes to live a holy life – loving God, self, and neighbor – even on the brightest of days? Saul couldn’t see it, or didn’t see how to apply it; it took three days of blindness, the courage and grace of a stranger, and a new name for writer of so much of our New Testament.

What will it take for me to see?

[Book of Common Prayer, p. 107]

Daily Sustenance

Give us this day our daily bread.

What’s the difference between a want and a need? What is necessary for a life well lived and loved? This question is all wrapped up in a request for daily bread – not daily five course dinner in a mansion, but what is necessary to sustain life and a roof over my head.

This is playing out in a larger sense at the moment, as I decide what to bring to a new (and temporary) home and what to leave behind. I want to bring what will make a fruitful, faithful life possible; I want to leave behind what distracts and hampers that life. I don’t want to waste this opportunity to let go of what is unnecessary and what doesn’t really matter.

Lord, help me discern what daily bread is, and what it is not. And help me pack accordingly. Amen

[For more on this, click Noonday Prayer Service above.]

Our

Officiant and People: Our Father, who art in heaven

If you look through the New Testament, the word saints is only in its plural form – no singular saints, just a collective. This is different from the honorific Saint that is bestowed on a select few whose very human essence scattered the love of God like a prism flings light. Christianity, like its mother Judaism, is a communal affair rather than a singular pursuit.

The collective shows up again in the prayer Jesus left with us. Our father, not my father or your father. God isn’t the personal property of a single person, even one praying this prayer in solitude. God gives life to everyone, and everyone is claimed as a child of God’s love.

Our means I can’t exclude those I’d prefer to exclude, and they cannot exclude me. We are in this life together. We come before God together, even when we don’t, can’t, or won’t admit it.

What a powerful reminder, in the middle of whatever activities the day brings, that I am not alone – unique, beloved, but never alone.

That goes for you, too.

[For more on the Noonday Prayer service, click above.]

It’s Always Pouring

The love of God has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us. Romans 5:5

It’s been a summer of drought. High humidity and temperatures, but not a drop of water to bring this parched land life-giving relief. Many afternoons, the air has been so saturated that it seemed impossible that the rain wouldn’t come down. But with a couple of welcome exceptions, the life-giving raindrops never made it to the ground.

Spiritual droughts have come to my inner landscape more than once, when my spirit was straw more than a green and growing vine. At such times, I choked on these words because they felt something like an aspiration more than a statement of the obvious and true. When I most needed to pray, when quieting my inner voices to be in God’s presence was most necessary – that’s when I was least able to do either. I turned away from the very sources that offered my soul refreshment and life. When desert times came, I chose to remain in that dry place when I could have moved into a greener, life-giving place.

But true these words remain. God pours love into us, and remains with us in the Spirit. When my own small reservoir of love is inadequate, I am filled again and again from the infinite sea of God’s own love. If I fully accept these words as truth, I could offer love to every living thing and never worry about running out.

Psalmlight

Your word is a lantern unto my feet, and a light upon my path.

I have sworn and am determined to keep your righteous judgments.

I am deeply troubled; preserve my life, O Lord, according to your word.

Accept, O Lord, the willing tribute of my lips, and teach me your judgments.

My life is always in my hand, yet I do not forget your law.

The wicked have set a trap for me, but I have not strayed from your commandments.

Your decrees are my inheritance for ever; truly, they are the joy of my heart.

I have applied my heart to fulfill your statutes for ever and to the end.

Psalm 119, BCP

When the seminary library was doubled in size by a new addition, many of the existing sidewalks were removed or rerouted to connect the new indoor spaces to the outer campus. Most of the sidewalk lights were taken out during construction, so new lighting was needed for old and new walkways. Unfortunately, the tall bright lights that were originally proposed couldn’t be installed – a town light ordinance banned bright lights in order to preserve its historic charm, even at the expense of safety. The seminary had no choice but to comply. Still wanting enough lighting to keep the paths illuminated, designers went in a new direction: footlights. Two feet off the ground, with caps to keep the light directed downward, the new fixtures illuminated the paths without adding light to the surrounding airspace. The town was happy, and everyone could see where to direct their feet even in the darkest of nights.

I think of those paths when I read this psalm. Scripture doesn’t turn the darkness into daylight – my own limitations keep me blind to much of reality. But scripture offers enough illumination for me to keep my feet on the right path. I may not be able to see where the path is going to take me, but I trust that it leads to God, making my life a holy walk.

Alleluia

It comes after the Glory To‘s, and the So Be It/Make It So/Amen that is our affirmation that such glory is the right response to God’s graciousness and eternal presence.

But nothing in those words says we have to be happy about any of this. Nothing says giving God glory is a joy, an honor, a privilege, and something we love. The wonder and elation that we are blessed to offer God the glory is summed up in a word that is hard to define exactly, but is almost universally understood:

Alleluia

Perhaps the reason we don’t say it during Lent is to remind us that we can choose a joy-filled or a joyless life. It’s our call.

And

Officiant and People

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit; as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever. Amen. [Book of Common Prayer, p. 103]

And is usually a filler or a connecting word. When we are at a loss for words, trying to remember the seventh item on our never-written-down to-do list, or still in the process of figuring out exactly how many persons/places/things are involved, and leaves the end open. And means it isn’t quite nailed down, not quite finished yet.

And means there’s more to the story: not just an officiant, because no one worships God in solitude – even when alone, there’s the communion of saints that surrounds us all through space and time. And means God’s creative, loving presence wasn’t just a past reality: now and for all the nows to come, God will continue to hold us all in love.

And means that God comes to us in multiple forms, even while always being God: it means we recognize that our language is too small to offer more than a passing glimpse of God, even with a trinitarian understanding.

And means there will always be more to life than we can experience or grasp. If we kept this in mind every time we used or heard this most common of words, I doubt we’d be anything but amazed. And grateful.

Speed and Haste

Officiant: O God, make speed to save us.

People: O God, make haste to help us.

[An Order of Service for Noonday, Book of Common Prayer, p. 103]

The middle of the day doesn’t usually lend itself to extremes in the same way that the middle of the night might – or early in the morning, for that matter. The day is moving along its usual course, leaving the extremes in favor of moderation. By noon, there doesn’t seem to be enough time or energy to change the general direction of the day; such things can be put off until the next day.

I wonder if this lull in awareness, this willingness to aimlessly keep to the task and the direction already begun might not be the very peril that endangers me: this willingness to disengage from the only holy life I’ve been given as if I had an eternity of days to enjoy the beauty of the world and offer thanks to the loving creator that included me within it.

Driving Lessons

Last Friday, we packed the car and headed to Philadelphia. I’ve made this drive numerous times, but not recently; I had forgotten the manic driving on full display from lower Connecticut all the way through Philadelphia. Numerous cars, not just an occasional one or two, were weaving from lane to lane, cutting between cars at high speed. Brake lights marked the path each speeding car made as it continued forward, and more than once a car had to swerve to avoid getting clipped.

I wonder what goes on in the heads of the speedsters. Is there an emergency, or something vital that they cannot miss? Do they think about their effect on the drivers they leave in their rearview mirrors – the ones who had to brake to avoid a collision? Are they more than minimally aware of anyone outside their own vehicle? What can be so important that it’s worth endangering others?

Once I got over the Mario Cuomo Bridge and onto the Garden State Parkway, I pulled into a service area. A quick stretch and a snack later, Dave took the keys and drove the last leg of the trip. The reckless drivers continued to appear in the rearview mirror and disappear from sight through windshield.

I wonder if this isn’t a good metaphor for these times. A pandemic has created islands of isolation, interacting but not creating a greater sense of connection – passing by rather than engaging. Perhaps it’s easy to telescope down until all that seems real is our own little reality, and everything else becomes a blur outside the window. If so, I’m really hoping to park the car soon – I’d much rather meet someone than just see a blur passing by on the road.