Good morning, Christ Church!
I want to again thank Rick+ for giving me the opportunity to work on these Friday meditations. It has been a real blessing to have something “other” to think about than whatever happens to be in the daily news cycle. Indeed, it has become a discipline that brings meaning to the rest of the week, and for that I am most thankful.
I also want to thank Laurie Gethin for her excellent editing, technological skills, and patience when it comes to posting these Daily Devotionals. I am given the template, compose a few paragraphs, and Laurie does all the rest. It has been a powerful reminder as to what St. Paul had in mind in 1st Corinthians when he wrote, “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” Thank you, Laurie, for serving the common good of this community in this way.
I pray that all of you continue to find God’s strength in all that is now going on. I have always been fond of roller coasters, but I will readily admit that this ride, at times, gets…uncomfortable. All the more reason to remember Julian of Norwich and her words of grace: “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.”
In other words, keep knocking, my friends. Keep on knocking.
Faithfully in Christ,
Friday, May 15, 2020 RCL Daily Office Readings, Year 2
“Ask, and it will be given you; search and you will find; knock and the door will be opened for you.” (Matthew 7:7)
I have been reviewing some of the prayer journals I have kept over the years. One in particular has been helpful in these uncertain times. I wrote a number of the entries while on a retreat making use of “The Spiritual Exercises” of Ignatius of Loyola. Ignatius was the “founding father” of the Society of Jesus, otherwise known, of course, as the Jesuits. These exercises are based on his personal experiences of deepening faith in God, and love for God, and are the cornerstones on which the spiritual life of the Jesuit Order is built.
The exercises are divided into four “weeks,” although that term should not be taken literally. Each stage is about transformation – transformation that allows the participant to see God, and find God, ever more clearly and nearly in all things. Please know that it is not my intention to take you through the entire process here! Instead, I want to briefly reflect on just the first week because I believe that it has everything to do with Jesus’ invitation to ask, find, and knock.
The first week is all about trust. More specifically, it is about standing in the presence of the living God without fear, or anxiety, or guilt. It is about discovering that the Creator of the Cosmos is as close to you as the next breath you take and loves you beyond any fathomable measure. No matter where we have been, no matter what we have done, this God welcomes us home each and every moment, inviting us to ask, to knock, and to find. In this trust, we find the love that opens the way to confession, repentance, forgiveness, reconciliation, and restoration. In short, as one spiritual director once put it, “Imagine this: Behold God beholding you…and smiling.” Does this remind us of Jesus’ parable of “the Prodigal Son”? Indeed, it should, because the love that the father has for his son in that story is the very same love that God has for each one of us, and more so. To paraphrase St. Paul, the first week is about knowing that there is nothing at all in heaven or here on earth that can ever separate us from the love of God revealed in Christ Jesus. In God, we trust.
Trusting in that love is what keeps us going and empowers us to keep on knocking even in the most uncertain times. While he was an Episcopalian and not a Jesuit, I think this prayer, written by Bishop Phillips Brooks, takes us to the heart of the first week of the Spiritual Exercises:
O God: Give me strength to live another day; Let me not turn coward before its difficulties or prove recreant to its duties; Let me not lose faith in other people; Keep me sweet and sound of heart, in spite of ingratitude, treachery, or meanness; Preserve me from minding little stings or giving them; Help me keep my heart clean, and to live so honestly and fearlessly that no outward failure can dishearten me or take away the joy of conscious integrity; Open wide the eyes of my soul that I may see good in all things; Grant me this day some new vision of thy truth; Inspire me with the spirit of joy and gladness; and make me the cup of strength to suffering souls; in the name of the strong Deliverer, our only Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.