Morsels 2018 August

An archive of previous “Daily Morsels” published on the Cathedral app. Please note that these versions of the messages are not formatted to reflect line breaks or separate paragraphs, as they are purely an archival set. They also tend not to have any embedded web links from the original Morsel. To receive these message direct to your mobile phone or tablet each day, please download the Cathedral app.

 

FRI – 180831
Title
The God beyond words
Body
The following remark by Professor Kevin Hart of Virginia University, made during a recent podcast in the “On the Way” series from St John’s Cathedral in Brisbane, caught my attention: “When we stop trying to talk about God and we talk with God, God is there and we can talk with God. This paradox, it seems to me, is at the heart of the Christian life—and not just the Christian life, but the religious life—and is something we can never overcome.” Expertise is not required, just a willingness to open ourselves to the God beyond words. For the podcast, see the web link. For the context of this quote, go to 19 minutes and 30 seconds into the audio.
THR – 180930
Title
One bread one body one humanity
Body
At Grafton Cathedral last Sunday morning the opening hymn was based on the earliest extant Eucharistic liturgy. It comes from an ancient Christian text known as the Didache, which was composed around 100 CE. The final verse paraphrased a couple of lines from the Didache which are now used in contemporary liturgies across many mainline church families: “As this broken bread was once many grains, which have been gathered together and made one bread: so may your Church be gathered from the ends of the earth into your kingdom.” This is a vision of the church as gathered humanity: diverse and multicultural, yet one in Christ. At a time of rising nationalism and deepening trade wars, maybe such a vision is a gift that is both timely and of immense worth?
WED – 180829
Title
Hungry and thirsty for justice (Beatitude 4)
Body
Beatitude #4 seems to be a good sequel to yesterday’s morsel on forgiveness of real world debts being a key to our own forgiveness by God. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” (Matthew 5:6 NRSV) Am I hungry for justice? Am I thirty to see people treated right? Am I a student of Jesus?
TUE – 180828
Title
Forgive as we forgive (Part Two)
Body
As we saw yesterday, the Lord’s Prayer turns out to have some radical ideas wrapped up inside those familiar words. Here is our key line again, from Luke’s version of the prayer: “And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us.” The second things to note from this petition is what we promise to forgive. When we say this prayer we undertake to forgive the real debts that people owe us, not just some emotional or spiritual pain they have caused us. Rural debt was crippling ordinary people in the time of Jesus and he links forgiveness of sins to a restructure of the economics of the day. Dare we entertain the idea that forgiveness of our own sins cannot be claimed until and unless we address the structural evils that grind people into poverty and destroy their lives? Who still wants to say this prayer now?
MON – 180827
Title
Forgive as we forgive (Part One)
Body
The familiar Lord’s Prayer turns out to have some radical ideas. In a week when mutual forgiveness might be more needed than usual in our national affairs, let’s consider this line from the Our Father: “And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us.” I am deliberately using the form of this line from Luke’s version of the Lord’s Prayer as it is less religious than the version in Matthew and therefore probably closer to what Jesus would have said. There are two things to note in this, but we shall deal with just the first of them today: Forgiveness of our sins is not based on Jesus dying on the cross, but on our willingness to forgive others. Jesus teaches us to ask God—to dare God maybe—to treat us the way we treat others. Are we game to say that to God?
SUN – 180826 (Refugee Sunday)
Title
Refugee Sunday 2018
Body
God bless our eyes so that we will recognise injustices. God bless our ears so that we will hear the cry of the stranger. God bless our mouths so that we will speak words of welcome to newcomers. God bless our shoulders so we will be able to bear the weight of struggling for justice. God bless our hands so that we can work together with all people to establish peace. Amen. SOURCE: Uniting Justice Australia and numerous websites
SAT – 180825
Title
Lives that are holy and hearts that are true
Body
“Gather us in” is one of the most popular of the many contemporary worship songs composed by American Lutheran songwriter, Marty Haugen. The words of verse three have always resonated with me: “Here we will take the wine and the water, here we will take the bread of new birth, Here you shall call your sons and your daughters, call us anew to be salt for the earth. Give us to drink the wine of compassion, give us to eat the bread that is you; Nourish us well, and teach us to fashion lives that are holy and hearts that are true.” Ah to fashion lives that are holy and hearts that are true. That might even change the world!
FRI -180824 – St Bartholomew
Title
Seeking wisdom first
Body
The Old Testament reading from last Sunday now seems very timely in light of the political chaos in Canberra. After Solomon succeeded his father (David) as king over Israel he has a dream in which God invites him to ask for anything he would like to have as begins his reign (see 1 Kings 3:5). Solomon asks for wisdom to govern well. The storyteller continues: “It pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked this. God said to him, “Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches, or for the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, I now do according to your word. Indeed I give you a wise and discerning mind; no one like you has been before you and no one like you shall arise after you. I give you also what you have not asked, both riches and honor all your life …” (1Kings 3:10–13 NRSV) Do we have any Solomons in Canberra, or in Washington, or in Jerusalem …
THR – 180823
Title
A Celtic prayer for the morning
Body
I will kindle my fire this morning in the presence of the holy angels of heaven; Without malice, without jealousy, without envy, without fear; without terror of anyone under the sun, but the Holy Son of God to shield me. God, kindle thou in my heart within a flame of love to my neighbour, to my foe, to my friend, to my kindred all; To the brave, to the coward, to the man in the street, O Son of the loveliest Mary, from the lowliest thing that lives to the Name that is highest of all. In the name of Christ, I pray. Amen!
WED – 180822
Title
Beatitude 3
Body
The third beatitude found in Matthew 5:5 is not paralleled in any other early Christian text: “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” Meekness is not a value we admire much these days, yet it lies close to the heart of the spiritual wisdom that Jesus embodied. Meekness was almost his defining attribute. We might get a handle on meekness by considering its opposite: impatient, assertive, overbearing. Spiritual wisdom is to cultivate patience, to moderate our assertiveness, and to cultivate the best interests of others. Blessed indeed are the meek. The future belongs to such people.
TUE – 180821
Title
Tomorrow’s bread today
Body
The line in the Lord’s Prayer asking for the bread we need day by day, has a hidden surprise tucked inside. All three of the surviving ancient versions in Matthew, Luke and the Didache use a rare Greek word: epiousion. This word is so rare that it seems to have been created by whoever first translated the Lord’s Prayer from Aramaic into Greek. This word seems to have been derived from a more common Greek word (epiousei), which means “the next day” or simply “tomorrow”. So this line in the Lord’s Prayer is not simply asking for the bread we need each day, but at a deeper level is a request to experience each day the bread of tomorrow, the bread of God’s kingdom. This is how the line was translated in the Alternative Services Book published by the Church of England in 1980: “Give us today the bread of tomorrow …” That was too radical for most people in church, so Anglican prayer books reverted to the more familiar words. May we experience the blessings of the future right now, day by day, in our own life. Epiousion!
MON – 1801820
Title
Do not be daunted
Body
Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief. Do justly, now. Love mercy, now. Walk humbly, now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it. [While often attributed to the Talmud, this is actually a paraphrase of Rabbi Rami Shapiro’s interpretive translation of Rabbi Tarfon’s work on the Pirke Avot 2 which is a commentary on Micah 6:8. See Rami Shapiro, “Wisdom of the Jewish Sages: A modern reading of Pirke Avot,” 41.]
SUN – 180819 –
Title
Holy Sophia, Lady Wisdom
Body
The alternative first reading in today’s lectionary depicts Lady Wisdom setting a table and inviting people to come to her feast: “Come, eat of my bread and drink of the wine I have mixed. Lay aside immaturity, and live, and walk in the way of insight.” (Proverbs 9:5–6 NRSV) Each Sunday as Christians gather around the Table of Jesus we hear that invitation renewed: Come and eat; taste and see that the Lord is good.
SAT – 180818 –
Title
Tikkun olam
Body
These two Hebrew words sum up a very important principle for Judaism, Christianity and Islam. The phrase means: “repairing the world”. This challenges those expressions of religion that focus on personal salvation, the forgiveness of sins or winning access to the afterlife. Tikkun olam invites us to hear the divine call to join with God in redeeming and repairing the world. It reflects the ancient wisdom of Micah: “… what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8 NRSV)
FRI – 180817 –
Title
Kingdom come
Body
The reign of God was at the very centre of Jesus’ mission and ministry. The Greek is often translated as “kingdom of God” but that is too static a concept. What Jesus intended was more like “reign of God” or “rule of God”; even “God’s empire”! According to Jesus, this dynamic sacred presence was coming and yet it was already present: among us, within us and between us. Jesus taught people to pray: “your kingdom come …” What a dangerous thing to do. What an exciting thing to seek: setting God loose in our lives and in our world. Everything will be different …
THR – 180816 –
Title
What we sing we believe
Body
The songs of God’s people are a treasure trove of spiritual wisdom.
About once a week our daily morsel will be one of the songs of faith; mostly new but occasionally ancient. Here is one of my favourite modern songs, perhaps because I especially like the portrayal of Jesus as the one who upsets religion.
Praise with Joy the World’s Creator
Praise with joy the world’s Creator, God of justice, love, and peace,
Source and end of human knowledge, force of greatness without cease. Celebrate the Maker’s glory—pow’r to rescue and release.
Praise the Son who feeds the hungry, frees the captive, finds the lost, Heals the sick, upsets religion, fearless both of fate and cost.
Celebrate Christ’s constant presence—Friend and Stranger, Guest and Host.
Praise the Spirit sent among us, liberating truth from pride,
Forging bonds where race or gender, age or nation dare divide. Celebrate the Spirit’s treasure—foolishness none dare deride.
Praise the Maker, Son, and Spirit, one God in community,
Calling Christians to embody oneness and diversity.
Thus the world shall yet believe, when shown Christ’s vibrant unity.
[John L. Bell, b. 1949]
WED – 180815 – Mary, mother of the Lord
Title
Mary, mother of the Lord
Body
Today is one of several holy days dedicated to the mother of Jesus who, until the restoration of Mary Magdalene to the Anglican calendar in 1928, was the only woman honoured with a “red letter” festival in Western Christianity. The cult of Mary flourished in medieval Europe and she is similarly venerated in the Eastern Churches. In both East and West the mother of Jesus is an ambivalent figure in a theological world dominated by patriarchal gods and male saints. The doctrine of the Assumption of Mary into heaven following her death is the youngest dogma of the Roman Catholic Church, only having been defined as recently as 1 November 1950. The historical Mary of Nazareth was a rather different character than the pious traditions that have clustered around her legacy. Mary was a peasant woman in a pioneer Jewish village with not much more than a dozen families. Having given birth to five sons and at least two daughters (Mark 6:3), she was doubtless a feisty woman who knew how to run the household with limited resources. As we peel away the devotional tinsel on this feast of Mary, we give thanks for the women in our lives: mothers and grandmothers, sisters and aunts, wives and daughters. Let’s honour the mother of Jesus by making our cities and our families safe places for women and girls, and eradicating the scourge of domestic violence.
TUE – 180814 – Martyrs of the 20C
Title
Forge meaning, build identity
Body
The TED talk by Andrew Solomon seems like a good segue from yesterday’s morsel on the second beatitude: Blessed are they who mourn. Solomon says: “we don’t seek the painful experiences that hew our identities, but we seek our identities in the wake of painful experiences.” The comments of a friend who first alerted me to this TED talk sum it up: “Forging meaning is personal. Building identity is communal and enables us to change the world.” If you have 20 minutes to invest in serious personal growth, watch the TED talk by clicking on the link below.
MON – 180813 – Jeremy Taylor, d. 1667
Title
Beatitude 2
Body
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” [Matthew 5:4] The second Beatitude from the Sermon on the Mount strikes a dissonant chord. Happy (or blessed = to be congratulated) are those who are mourning some loss that has caused them to feel bereft. Really? Since when? How can such loss be—in any sense—a blessing, a source of deep happiness? Compensation in some afterlife is not going to make me feel blessed here as my life falls apart. How do we rescue meaning from tragedy, hope from despair, life from death? Can it be that in our moments of deep loss God is—or at least seems—closer? When something that we treasure is taken from us, one thing remains: God. Was God absent when Jesus hung on the cross? Some theologians say so. But I think not. Perhaps in his own extremity—as the loss of his own life engulfed him—Jesus found that God was not absent. The victim found deep comfort at the epicentre of his own loss. Sensing the divine presence even in our deepest loss might perhaps be the comfort that allows us to claim a blessing even in the midst of trauma. May it be so.
SUN – 180812 – Pentecost 12B
Title
The future begins today
Body
Sunday. This is the first day of the week, even if our modern calendars tend to group Saturday and Sunday together as the “weekend” for convenience. It is still known to some people as “the Lord’s Day”. In ancient Jewish thinking the “day of the Lord” was a day when God and humanity met. It would never be a casual encounter. When we meet with God we come away changed. When God comes calling, it is not without consequences. It would be a day of judgment or a day of blessing. Never a dull moment, we might say. Like Jacob we might walk away from the encounter with a limp, carrying a wound that reminds us of the encounter with deep life itself. Just as scratches on an old family dining table bear witness to the many meals shared around its surface. Like Moses, we might walk away from the encounter alight with the divine radiance. In the opening book of the Bible, Sunday is the day when God begins to call the world into being with the creation of light. For Jesus, the first day of the week was the day of resurrection, when God called him beyond death to new life deep within God’s own self. May this day, this Sunday, be a day of encounter with the Holy Other. That encounter will leave us different than we were when our eyes closed last night. Let’s live into the new creation, the transformed life, that God invites us to embrace.
SAT – 180811 – Clare of Assisi, d. 1252
Title
When the roses are in bloom
Body
One of my favourite legends about St Clare of Assisi (whose feast we observe today) celebrates the profound love between her and St Francis of Assisi. According to the story, as they were walking through a forest in winter Francis asks Clare whether she has heard what people are saying about them. Francis declares they must stop seeing each other for a period of time, but does not indicate how long this will be. When—after a period of strained silence—Clare asks when she will be able to see him again, Francis replies: “In the summer, when the roses bloom.” At once roses burst forth from the snow-covered bushes. Clare picks a bunch of the flowers and gives them to Francis. And they were never separated again. This legend celebrates a love that dances on the edge of social acceptance, and yet is affirmed as holy and good by God. May we have the courage to love adventurously, needing no approval beyond the response of the beloved and the blessing of heaven.
FRI – 180810 – Laurence, deacon & martyr, d. 258
Title
Treasures of the church
Body
August 10 is the feast day for Laurence, a Deacon in the Church at Rome, who was killed for his faith on this day is 258 CE. A rich set of legends about the circumstances of his death soon developed. While these legends may have little basis in fact, they tell us a lot about what really mattered to people of faith some 1,760 years ago. In the legend, Laurence is promised his freedom if he will surrender the treasures of the church. Three days later at the agreed time for handing over the most valuable assets of the Church in Rome, Laurence arrived with a crowd of beggars, sick people and widows. These, he insisted, were the treasures of the Church. Laurence was promptly put to death, but his legend continues to resonate awkwardly in our churches who have so often disregarded the vulnerable and protected the privileged, as the recent Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has revealed so starkly. The true treasure, the treasure hidden in the field of our lives, are the broken and vulnerable who God entrusts to our care.
THR – 180809 – Mary Sumner, d.1921
Title
Healthy families, healthy communities
Body
Today many people will be remembering with gratitude the work of Mary Sumner, who died on this day in 1921. She was the founder of the Mothers’ Union, a lay movement with a vision of a world where God’s love is shown through loving, respectful and flourishing relationships. There is no more important task and no more rewarding role than nurturing the spiritual capacities of our children and other family members. As a Cathedral community, we work with parents, godparents, grandparents and other members of the extended family to offer our children the best support as they grow in their knowledge, in their sense of connection with God, in their compassion for others and in their care for the fragile web of life. No matter our age or the ‘shape’ of our family, these are attributes we all need for everyday life.
WED – 180808 – Now the green blade rises
Title
Love is come again
Body
The evocative hymn by John Crum (1872–1958) elaborates the saying of Jesus about a grain of wheat that falls into the ground, where it is transformed to become many grains. The first verse of the hymn reads: Now the green blade rises from the buried grain, Wheat that in dark earth many days has lain; Love lives again, that with the dead has been; Love is come again like wheat arising green. May our lives be places of transformation, renewal and resurrection. Love lives again!
TUE – 180807 – Pearl of great price
Title
The priceless pearl
Body
Matthew 13:45–46 preserves the following parable of Jesus (also found in the Gospel of Thomas): “… the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.” This is classic Jesus wisdom: edgy, exaggerated, impractical, but evocative. What is it about the wisdom that Jesus proclaims which makes us discard everything else of value in our lives for the sake of having this great treasure? What is this priceless pearl, the nugget of immense value, that we seek? Are we actively engaged in the search, or just hoping it might fall into our lap?
MON – 180806 – Transfiguration / Hiroshima
Title
A world transfigured
Body
August 6. In the calendar of the western churches, today is observed as the feast of the transfiguration of Jesus. For many of us, the world itself was transfigured when the first atomic bomb was detonated over Hiroshima on this date in 1945. We glimpsed new possibilities, for good and evil, that day. In one sense we stepped out of the Iron Age and into the Nuclear Age in that moment of unparalleled destructive power. Most people alive now have never experienced the old world on the other side of Hiroshima. All of us need wisdom old and new to live faithfully in a strange new world on this side of Hiroshima.
SUN – 180805 – Pentecost 11(B)
Title
Love, actually
Body
As any parent or grandparent knows, love matters more than anything else. How sad that many people of faith seem to think that having correct beliefs or acting in certain ways matters more than being loving. Yet last time I checked, the “new commandment” Jesus gave his followers was to love one another, not check each other’s beliefs or personal behaviours. And the two great commandments are: (1) love God, and (2) love other people. At Grafton Cathedral we reflect this ancient spiritual wisdom in our tag line: “open doors … open hearts … open minds …” In the end, it is all about love. What else matters?
SAT – 180804 – Stillness
Title
Stillness
Body
The ancient Hebrew creation poem that we find at the opening pages of the Bible culminates with these words: “Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all their multitude. And on the seventh day God finished the work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all the work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work that he had done in creation.” (Genesis 2:1–3 NRSV) Coming at the end of the seven momentous days, we might like to think of resting, of sabbath, as the ultimate point of creation, the deepest significance of existence. What matters most is not that we are active, but that we can be still: aware, mindful, reflective, conscious, alive, self-aware.
FRI – 180803 – First Principles
Title
First principles
Body
The ancient Jewish prophet, Micah, gets to the heart of things with this classic piece of spiritual wisdom: “what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8 NRSV) Not bad as a personal mission statement?
THR – 180802 – Beatitudes 1
Title
Beatitude 1
Body
The so-called Sermon on the Mount is an ancient Christian collection of the core teachings of Jesus. There is nothing here about sin and atonement, but a great deal about living in a simple and uncomplicated way. Those who live this way, according to Jesus, will possess the kingdom of God, or the reign of God. This is not a matter of status or power, but of knowing ourselves to be loved by God. Just as we are. At the beginning of the great Sermon is a version of the Beatitudes, a list of people who know deep blessing. Here is the first of those Beatitudes, first as preserved in the Gospel according to Matthew: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:3 NRSV) Simplicity of spirit, and uncomplicated openness to God’s presence among us and within us, is a pathway to a life that is truly blessed.
WED – 180801 – Our daily bread
Title
The first morsel
Body
“Give us today our daily bread.” This is one of the most loved lines in the Lord’s Prayer. It is also one of the most difficult lines of biblical Greek to translate, as can be seen by the variants in different versions of the prayer. What is this bread that I need each day? What sustains me on the journey? In what sense is this “bread” something I receive as a gift from God, from Life? I trust these daily morsels from Grafton Cathedral will be one of the ways that God provides you with the bread you need for each day. May Jesus be the bread of life for us … today and always.

About gregoryjenks

Anglican priest and religion scholar. Senior Lecturer in the School of Theology at Charles Sturt University. Dean, Cathedral Church of Christ the King, Grafton and Rector of the Anglican Parish of Grafton. Formerly Dean at St George's College, Jerusalem. The opinions expressed in my publications, including my blog posts, are my own and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the Diocese of Grafton nor Christ Church​ Cathedral in Grafton.
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