O God, who before the passion of your only-begotten Son revealed his glory upon the holy mountain: Grant to us that we, beholding by faith the light of his countenance, may be strengthened to bear our cross, and be changed into his likeness from glory to glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. (The Last Sunday after Epiphany BCP 217)
“Life is this simple: we are living in a world that is absolutely transparent and the divine is shining through it all the time. This is not just a nice story or a fable, it is true." Thomas Merton
This coming Sunday we can catch a glimpse of the magnificence and glory which is really true in this world. Each year, on the last Sunday after Epiphany and before Ash Wednesday, we are shown Jesus in true splendor on top of the mountain, shining for all the world to see. Before the valley of shadows that can be the season of Lent, we are given this glimmer of what is truly waiting for us, the awesome fullness of God's love and power in this world. I hope you can see Jesus this week waiting for you in glory, giving you hope and peace for the coming season of Lent.
O Lord, you have taught us that without love whatever we do is worth nothing; Send your Holy Spirit and pour into our hearts your greatest gift, which is love, the true bond of peace and of all virtue, without which whoever lives is accounted dead before you. Grant this for the sake of your only Son Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen. (Seventh Sunday after the Epiphany BCP 216)
"For the fourth year in a row, the Southern Poverty Law Center, a civil rights organization that tracks hate groups, reports that hate and domestic extremism are rising in an unabated trend. The center found a 30 percent increase in U.S. hate groups over the past four years and a 7 percent increase in hate groups in 2018 alone, according to the center's annual "Year in Hate and Extremism" report. The group designated 1,020 organizations as hate groups in 2018, a high of at least 20 years." (https://www.npr.org/2019/02/20/696217158/u-s-hate-groups-rose-sharply-in-recent-years-watchdog-group-reports, heard on All Things Considered)
In this coming Sunday's gospel passage from Luke, Jesus tells his disciples to "Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you." It seems that in the United States, we have a long way to go in working on loving our enemies.
Whether we have personal enemies, or simply find it hard in our hearts to love those who are different than ourselves, we are called by Christ to offer up prayer and blessings for others. As Lent is coming up, consider the ways you can change towards love this year, letting go of hate, opening up to new people, or simply praying for a change of heart.
This coming Sunday we will be taking a moment of prayer for hate groups in the United States. We will be offering prayer for those we consider our enemies and those who hate us. I hope you will join me in opening our hearts to the amazing love that God has for all people.
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. (Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany BCP 216)
The collect for this coming Sunday is meant to remind us that without God's grace, we cannot do anything good in our lives. All goodness, all kindness, all love, flows from God to and through us. You've heard the saying, "We love because He first loved us." Christians throughout the ages have relied on God's grace and love in order to follow Jesus' commandments to love others, love themselves, and love God.
It is one of those theological mysteries which take pondering to understand how what inside of us that wants to do good and to love others is an outpouring of God's love for us. We can only love God because God gives us love, which we share in return. That which spurs us forward through valley, darkness, or trouble to seek God, is in fact, God inside of us already.
The seasons of the church year, Advent to Christmas, Epiphany to Lent to Easter, take us on a journey through light and darkness. On the journey we go through seasons where we see the goodness of God plainly highlighted in each story and we rejoice in our redemption, and then seasons where everything is hidden and paradoxical, where we remember our sins. Epiphany is a season where light is shown on the goodness, where we rejoice in the Good News, where Jesus is revealed as the Savior of the World. I hope that in the midst of the cloudy weather, you can see the light and have the mystery of Love revealed to you.
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. (Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany BCP 216)
Life in God is marked by many different things. Community worship, contemplative prayer, care for others, especially those in need, care of the world and God's creation, are all ways in which we can recognize the life of God in others. Another way we can recognize God's presence in the life of another is by their focus on abundance, instead of scarcity.
Scarcity is a threat in our lives. The fear of scarcity works in very subversive and detrimental ways in our society. We may not even always see it as it happens, but scarcity permeates our needs to save up, whether it is saving things, clothes, food, or money, and not share with others. Having an attitude of abundance allows us to relax and enjoy. Knowing God's abundant life means we are not held captive by the fear that there will not be enough. God always has more than enough, more than enough love, more than enough grace, more than enough community, more than enough food to share.
The gospel stories are full of instances of God sharing abundantly. When I look at my life today the list of abundant gifts God has given me would include grace, love, forgiveness, cat hair, paperwork, words to write and share, wonderful community, and sustaining relationships. What has God shared with you abundantly today?