POETRY: Quinquagesima Sunday by Blessed John Keble

POETRY: Quinquagesima Sunday by Blessed John Keble

March 4, 2019

I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between me and the Earth. (Genesis 9:13) Sweet Dove! the softest, steadiest plume In all the sunbright sky, Brightening in ever-changeful bloom As breezes change on high;— Sweet Leaf! the pledge of peace and mirth, “Long sought, and lately won,” Bless’d increase of reviving Earth, When first it felt the Sun;— Sweet Rainbow! pride of summer days, High set at Heaven’s command, Though into drear and dusky haze Thou melt on either hand;— Dear tokens of a pardoning God, We hail ye, one and all, As when our father’s wak’d abroad, Freed from their twelvemonths’ thrall. How joyful from th’ imprisoning ark, On the green [...]

PRAYER: Prayer For Quinquagesima by Johannes Eichorn

March 4, 2019

Lord God, Heavenly Father, who graciously opened the eyes of the blind man through your Son, Jesus Christ, and let the Light be seen, we poor sinners beseech you that you would enlighten our hearts through your blessed Word, that we would learn to know you rightly through Christ, your Son, who died for us on the cross and paid for our sins. Mercifully grant us in all distresses and attacks of Satan to look only at your gracious help and your tender-hearted mercy, seek them by a prayer uttered in faith, and thus find solace and rescue from the devil, sin, and death, and be numbered among the blessed. [...]

SERMON: Of Charity, or The Love of God by Jeremy Taylor

March 3, 2019

Love is the greatest thing that God can give us; for himself is love; and it is the greatest thing we can give to God; for it will also give ourselves and carry with it all that is ours. The apostle calls it the band of perfection; it is the old, and it is the new, and it is the great commandment, and it is all the commandments; for it is the fulfilling of the law. It does the work of all other graces without any instrument but its own immediate virtue. For as the love to sin makes a man sin against all his own reason, and all the discourses of wisdom, and all the advices of his friends, and without temptation, and without opportunity, so does the love of God; it makes a man chaste without the laborious arts of fasting and exterior [...]

DISCIPLINE: Costly Grace (Part 4) by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

March 2, 2019

From The Cost of Discipleship We Lutherans have gathered like eagles round the carcass of cheap grace, and there we have drunk of the poison which has killed the life of following Christ.  It is true, of course, that we have paid the doctrine of pure grace divine honors unparalleled in Christendom, in fact we have exalted that doctrine to the position of God himself.  Everywhere Luther’s formula has been repeated, but its truth perverted into self-deception.  So long as our church holds the correct doctrine of justification, there is no doubt whatever that she is a justified church!  So they said, thinking that we must vindicate our Lutheran heritage by making this grace available on the cheapest and easiest terms.  To be [...]

POETRY: Create In Me by Anna Beth Fore

March 2, 2019

From: A Voice for My Soul Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit to sustain me. (Psalm 51:10-12) Create in me a pure heart filled with love, joy, and peace. Calm these inner struggles and give my soul release. Renew my love and passion for my Savior and my King. Fill me with psalms and songs, an offering to you I bring. Cleanse me every day, Lord, and make me pure and holy. Comfort me with your Spirit as he lives inside of me. Transform me with your love, your mercy, and your grace. Strengthen me when I am weary so that I can finish the race. Welcome me with open arms [...]

HOLY SPIRIT: What Are You Afraid Of? by Francis Chan

March 1, 2019

From: Forgotten God The Lord challenges us to suffer persecutions and to confess him.  He wants those who belong to him to be brave and fearless.  He himself shows how weakness of the flesh is overcome by courage of the Spirit.  This is the testimony of the apostles and in particular of the representative, administrating Spirit.  A Christian is fearless. (Tertullian) Fear of rejection has paralyzed me more than once.  God has answered my prayers for greater boldness, but I would be dishonest if I did not admit there are still times when I worry about how others view me.  Even as I write this book, I wonder how friends will respond and how I will be labeled or even misunderstood. Maybe caring too much about what other people think is [...]

MYSTICISM: First Vision—On The Oright Of Life (7) by Hildegard of Bingen

March 1, 2019

From: Hildegard of Bingen’s Book of Divine Works, With Letters and Songs Everything God has done was done by the Deity before the beginning of time in the divine present.  In the pure and holy Godhead all visible and invisible things shine before all eternity without a temporal moment and without the elapse of time, just as trees and other bodily things are reflected in adjacent waters without being within them in a bodily fashion, even though their outlines may appear in this mirror.  When God said, “Let it be done!” things were enclosed at once within their forms, just as the divine providence had seen them in an incorporeal way before time was.  Just as everything in front of a mirror shines within that mirror, all the works of [...]

ATTENTIVENESS: What Is Meant By Indwelling? by Leighton Ford

February 28, 2019

From The Attentive Life One who has spoken compellingly about “indwelling” as the way we know almost everything is the late Hungarian scientist/philosopher Michael Polanyi.  Already a world-class physicist, in the 1930s Polanyi turned his attention to the philosophy of science. In his influential book The Tacit Dimension he told of a conversation he had with a leading Soviet scientist who said that the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics saw science as useful only to advance socialism by rationally conceived five-year plans.  Polanyi was dismayed at the limits of this version of how scientists work and how it overlooked the powerful role of intuition. Polanyi envisioned science as an “indwelling” of what the scientist tacitly [...]

GRACE: Grace In The Garden by Preston Sprinkle

February 28, 2019

From: Charis If Genesis 1 emphasizes the transcendence of God, then Genesis 2 (specifically, 2:4-25) highlights the intimacy of God. Transcendence and intimacy.  We need both. The two chapters reveal different aspects of God’s character.  God is far beyond us, (Genesis 1), yet very near, (Genesis 2).  God is our King, (Genesis 1), but also our Friend, (Genesis 2).  God is infinitely powerful, (Genesis 1), yet intimately personal, (Genesis 2).  Genesis 1 shows off God’s raw power.  Genesis 2 showcases God’s Earthy affection.  Here’s how. First, notice the different names for God in Genesis 1–2.  Throughout Genesis 1, the English word “God” translates the Hebrew term Elohim.  Thirty-five times, in fact, Moses writes [...]

POETRY: Sexagesima by Christina Georgina Rossetti

February 27, 2019

Yet Earth was very good in days of old, And Earth is lovely still: Still for the sacred flock she spreads the fold, For Sion rears the hill. Mother she is, and cradle of our race, A depth where treasures lie, The broad foundation of a holy place, Man’s step to scale the sky. She spreads the harvest-field which Angels reap, And lo! the crop is white; She spreads God’s Acre where the happy sleep All night that is not night. Earth may not pass till Heaven shall pass away, Nor Heaven may be renewed Except with Earth: and once more in that day Earth shall be very [...]

BIBLE: An Inner Light by Brother Roger of Taizé

February 27, 2019

From Seeds of Trust John wrote: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God.  All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being.  What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.  There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.  He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him.  He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light.  The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.  He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet [...]

PSALMS: Connivance (Part 1) by C. S. Lewis

February 26, 2019

From Reflections on the Psalms Every attentive reader of the psalms will have noticed that they speak to us severely not merely about doing evil ourselves but about something else.  In Psalm 26:4, the good man is not only free from “vanity” (falsehood) but has not even “dwelled with” (been on intimate terms with), those who are “vain.”  He has “hated” them (v. 5).  So in Psalm 31:7, he has “hated” idolaters.  In Psalm 50:18, God blames a man not for being a thief but for “consenting to” a thief, (in Dr. Moffatt, “you are a friend to any thief you see”).  In Psalm 141:4-6, where our translation appears to be rather wrong, the general sense nevertheless comes through and expresses the same attitude.  Almost [...]

GRACE: Defending—Truth On The Scaffold (Part 1) by Charles R. Swindoll

February 26, 2019

From: The Grace Awakening While most people in the world are busy building towers with highest hopes of making a name and gaining fame, God’s truth sets the record straight.  On the basis of God’s Book, his Holy Word, it is my plea that we simply admit our need and claim God’s grace.  Instead of striving for a manmade ticket to Heaven based on high achievement and hard work (for which we get all the credit), I suggest we openly declare our own spiritual bankruptcy and accept God’s free gift of grace.  “Why?” you ask.  “Why not emphasize how much I do for God instead of what he does for me?”  Because that is heresy, plain and simple.  How?  By exalting our own effort and striving for our own accomplishments, we insult [...]

EARTH: Encouraged To Fly by Francine Rivers

February 26, 2019

From: Earth Psalms Jesus said, “Be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20) A red-tailed hawk lives somewhere down in the green space behind our fence. We’d heard the hawk’s piercing cry before but figured it was the scrub jays again, imitating the hawk’s call. That high-pitched screech sends the mourning doves, quail, and songbirds scattering for cover – leaving those jays laughing as they claim our abandoned bird feeder and scarf down the seed. This time, the piercing cries really were from hawks: not one, but three.  Mom’s cry sounded encouraging, mature, and confident; the babies sounded so pathetic, I wanted to weep.  We kept trying to spot them, and then two perched in our [...]

PRAYER: Private Lectio Divina by M. Basil Pennington

February 25, 2019

From An Invitation to Centering Prayer Choose a text of the scriptures that you wish to pray.  Many Christians use in their daily lectio Divina one of the readings from the Eucharistic liturgy for the day; others prefer to slowly work through a particular book of the Bible.  It makes no difference which text is chosen, as long as one has no set goal of “covering” a certain amount of text: the amount of text “covered” is in God’s hands, not yours. Place yourself in a comfortable position and allow yourself to become silent.  Some Christians focus for a few moments on their breathing; others have a beloved “prayer word” or “prayer phrase” they gently recite in order to become interiorly silent.  For some Centering [...]

BLESSING: Ancient Blessings by Pierre Pradervand

February 25, 2019

From The Gentle Art of Blessing The ancient spiritual teachers understood the extraordinary power of thoughts – both good or bad – that we have only started to rediscover.  Thought can very literally give life or kill.  Thus the book of Exodus 21:17 condemns to death he who has cursed his parents.  And in the struggle between Jacob and the angel at Peniel in Genesis 32, Jacob refuses to let go of the angel before the angel blesses him.  (This story is to be interpreted in its symbolic sense as the new birth of Jacob, who becomes aware of his spiritual identity; hence his change of name, which indicates his awareness of his divine nature.) That a practice such as blessing could be so universally widespread in almost all cultures, [...]

PRAYER: Prayer For Sexagesima

February 25, 2019

Lord God, Heavenly Father, we thank you that you have sown your Blessed Word among us through your Son, Jesus Christ. We beseech you that you would so prepare our hearts through your Holy Spirit that we would hear this Word with diligence, keep it in noble and good hearts, and with patience bring forth fruit. Mercifully grant that we may not be choked by sins, but that by your merciful help we smother them. In every kind of danger may your grace and eternal consolation hold us steady and give us sure comfort. [...]

THE CHURCH: A Theology Of Disconnection

February 24, 2019

The medieval mystic, Hildegard of Bingen began to have visions as a very young girl.  Her parents decided that it would be best for her to enter a monastery where she was educated by a fellow anchoress and the monks there.  As she grew into an adult she became oppressed by what she felt was the corruption of the priests and monks.  So she picked up her skirts, fled into the countryside, and established her own convent where she wrote down her visions and some very beautiful music. For me this is a perfect illustration of how a person of profound faith can come to feel a serious disconnection with the church. I relate to her story.  But there are differences in our storylines. First, in my church history I have rarely come across a [...]

SERMON: A Sermon For Sexagesima Sunday (and the Purification of Our Lady) by Robert Crouse

February 24, 2019

The seed is the word of God that on the good ground are they who hearing the word keep it and bring forth fruit with patience.  (Luke 8:11-15) For thus saith the Lord to the men of Judah and Jerusalem: Break up anew your fallow ground, and sow not among thorns.  (Jeremiah 4:3) The three Sundays before Lent, Septuagesima, Sexagesima, and Quinquagesima, constitute a time of preparation; and the scripture lessons appointed for these Sundays have the purpose of preparing our minds and hearts for the spiritual undertaking which lies before us in the season of Lent – our spiritual pilgrimage, our spiritual journey with Jesus to Jerusalem. Thus, on the first of these Sundays – Septuagesima – the lessons impress upon us the urgency of our [...]

DISCIPLINE: Costly Grace (Part 3) by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

February 23, 2019

From The Cost of Discipleship At the end of a life spent in pursuit of knowledge Faust has to confess: I now do see that we can nothing know. That is the answer to a sum, it is the outcome of a long experience.  But as Kierkegaard observed, it is quite a different thing when a freshman comes up to the university and uses the same sentiment to justify his indolence.  As the answer to a sum it is perfectly true, but as the initial data it is a piece of self-deception.  For acquired knowledge cannot be divorced from the existence in which it is acquired.  The only man who has the right to say that he is justified by grace alone is the man who has left all to follow Christ.  Such a man knows that the call to discipleship is a gift of [...]

POETRY: Your Grace by Anna Beth Fore

February 23, 2019

From: A Voice for My Soul Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:8-9) Because of your grace, Lord, I am free. I’m no longer blind, Lord; now I see. Because of your grace, Lord, I am forgiven. My sins are washed away, Lord; Christ has risen. Because of your grace, Lord, I am blessed. I’m no longer anxious, Lord; in you I find rest. Because of your grace, Lord, I am saved. I’m sanctified by your holiness, in which I am bathed. Because of your grace, Lord, I have less fear. I can feel your presence, Lord; You are always here. Because of your grace, Lord, I do believe that your gift of eternal life I [...]

HOLY SPIRIT: Joni Eareckson Tada by Francis Chan

February 22, 2019

From: Forgotten God Recently I was asked, “Who is the most Spirit-filled person you know?”  My response: Joni Eareckson Tada. A 1967 diving accident left then seventeen-year-old Joni a quadriplegic.  Lying in a hospital bed, she was filled with an overwhelming desire to end her life.  The thought of spending the rest of her years paralyzed from the neck down and relying on others to care for her basic needs was staggering. But Joni did not end her life that day.  Instead, she chose to surrender it to God.  Little did she know that the Spirit of God would transform her into one of the Godliest women ever to grace this Earth.  God gave her a humility and a love that enables her to look beyond her own pain and to see others’ [...]

MYSTICISM: First Vision—On The Oright Of Life (6) by Hildegard of Bingen

February 22, 2019

From: Hildegard of Bingen’s Book of Divine Works, With Letters and Songs On the topmost part of the right wing’s curve you can see the head of an eagle with fiery eyes.  In those eyes a choir of angels shines as in a mirror: When people subject themselves to God on the height of triumphant subservience and overcome Satan, they will advance and enjoy the bliss of divine protection.  And if they are inflamed by the Holy Spirit and lift up their hearts and turn their eyes to God, the blessed spirits will appear within them in total brightness and carry up to God the surrender of those individuals’ hearts.  For spiritual people, who in the devotion of their hearts often gaze at God like the angels, are marked with an eagle.  [...]

GRACE: Locusts And Field Mice by Lee Strobel

February 21, 2019

From: The Case for Grace I imagined the bounty of food that’s put before Penelope three times a day – and which, like more preschoolers, she routinely picks at with casual disinterest.  “How did you manage to eat?” I asked Stephanie. “Actually, food was plentiful in the country, except in the winter,” she said.  “I could steal whatever I wanted.  There were fruit fields, vegetable fields, and rice fields.  As long as I didn’t get caught, I could eat. “I remember following a group of homeless children.  At night they would crawl on their bellies into the fields and get some of what we called sweet melons.  I thought, I could do that.  So there was a season where every night I would wait for the watchman of the field [...]

ATTENTIVENESS: What Does It Mean To Abide? by Leighton Ford

February 21, 2019

From The Attentive Life If to contemplate means to look at life in the presence of God, to see with fresh-washed eyes, then how do I stay in touch during this day, and all the days of my life? Princeton scholar Robert Wuthnow has suggested that the current interest in “spirituality” takes two forms.  One is a kind of free-floating, rootless fascination with all things “spiritual.”  The other he characterizes as “abode-oriented” – finding a home in centuries-old practices and grounded in the realities of daily life. Abode immediately suggests abiding, and abiding is vital to Christian spirituality.  Our imagination may dance like the waving branches of a tree, but our reality must be as grounded as the trees I saw growing [...]

GRACE: Cracked Mirrors by Preston Sprinkle

February 21, 2019

From: Charis After God showcases his transcendent power by speaking one hundred billion galaxies into existence, he says that the crown of his creation – the most majestic display of beauty and wisdom and power – is you. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God bless them.  And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the Earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the Earth.” (Genesis 1:27-28) You and I reflect God.  When we look at people, or when they look at us, we see a reflection of the God of Genesis 1.  We are created in his image.  And [...]

POETRY: Septuagesima by John Betjeman

February 20, 2019

Septuagesima—seventy days To Easter’s primrose tide of praise; The Gesimas—Septua, Sexa, Quinc Mean Lent is near, which makes you think. Septuagesima—when we’re told To “run the race,” to “keep our hold,” Ignore injustice, not give in, and practice stern self-discipline; A somewhat unattractive time Which hardly lends itself to rhyme. But still it gives the chance to me To praise our dear old C. of E. So other churches please forgive Lines on the church in which I live, The Church of England of my birth, The kindest church to me on Earth. There may be those who like things fully Argued out, and call you “woolly”; Ignoring Creeds and Catechism They say the C. of E.’s “in schism.” There may be those who much [...]

BIBLE: An Ever Greater Love by Brother Roger of Taizé

February 20, 2019

From Seeds of Trust Am I a God nearby, says the Lord, and not a God far off?  Who can hide in secret places so that I cannot see them? says the Lord.  Do I not fill Heaven and Earth? says the Lord. (Jeremiah 23:23-24) “A God who is near”: this expression sums up Israel’s experience of God’s tenderness.  God watches over his people, Israel – “shielded him, cared for him, guarded him as the apple of his eye,” (Deuteronomy 32:10).  But God’s people also experienced a “God who is far away,” and Jeremiah complains about this: “Why should you be like a stranger in the land?” (Jeremiah 14:8))  It is as though God no longer intervened in human affairs; his presence could no longer be felt.  He let Jerusalem and its [...]

PSALMS: Sweeter Than Honey (Part 3) by C. S. Lewis

February 19, 2019

From Reflections on the Psalms By this assurance they put themselves, implicitly, on the right side of a controversy which arose far later among Christians.  There were in the eighteenth century terrible theologians who held that “God did not command certain things because they are right, but certain things are right because God commanded them.”  To make the position perfectly clear, one of them even said that though God has, as it happens, commanded us to love him and one another, he might equally well have commanded us to hate him and one another, and hatred would then have been right.  It was apparently a mere tossup which he decided on.  Such a view, of course, makes God a mere arbitrary tyrant.  It would be better and less [...]

GRACE: Warning—Heresy On The Loose by Charles R. Swindoll

February 19, 2019

From: The Grace Awakening You’ve heard words like that, haven’t you?  If you’re like me, you’ve heard them since you were just a child.  They sound so right, so inspiring.  “Just reach down real deep and pull up hard on your own bootstraps, and you can make it all on your own.  You can endure whatever.  Nothing is out of reach, so press on.  Climb higher!  You can make anything of yourself.  You can even attain Heaven!”  (Or, as in Luther’s day, at least buy a quicker way to Heaven for someone else.) What seems so right is, in fact, heresy – the one I consider the most dangerous heresy of Earth.  What is it?  The emphasis on what we do for God, instead of what God does for us.  Some are so convinced of the [...]