A short description of the gifts and fruit of the Holy Spirit
In the Wednesday Bible Study at St. Hugh’s Episcopal Church in Idyllwild, CA a discussion inspired by the reading of Romans 12:1-8 (appointed to be read on Sunday, August 23, 2020) explored both the Fruit of the Holy Spirit and the Gifts of the Holy Spirit. Want to learn more? Read on.
Fruit(s) of the Holy Spirit
These, based on Gal. 5:22 f. (AV, RV), are ‘love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance’, to which the Vulgate text adds ‘modesty, continence, chastity’, making 12 in all. That the correct number of the fruits is 12 is defended on theological grounds by St Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theol. II. 1, q. 70, a. 3.
AV *Authorized Version [i.e. King James Version, 1611] of the Bible.
RV [English] Revised Version (NT, 1881; OT, 1885; Apocrypha, 1895)
Summa Theol: Summa Theologica or Summa Theologiae.
Source: F. L. Cross and Elizabeth A. Livingstone, eds., The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church (Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2005), 648.
Gifts of the Holy Spirit
GIFTS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT: Permanent dispositions that make us docile to follow the promptings of the Holy Spirit. The traditional list of seven gifts of the Spirit is derived from Isaiah 11:1–3: wisdom, understanding, knowledge, counsel, piety, fortitude, and fear of the Lord. (Item 1830 in the CCC)
Source: Catholic Church, Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd Ed. (Washington, DC: United States Catholic Conference, 2000), 880.
I encourage you to explore the thinking of Aquinas as presented here. ~Fr. Dan
What is the proper spiritual response to the coronavirus pandemic? Although many Catholics seek to use this period as “a time of renewal,” as one priest put it, a vocal minority are approaching the pandemic with words more suited to culture warriors than to spiritual warfare. Any Catholic who has spent time on social media has probably encountered members of the faithful who are deeply suspicious of public health precautions. They will admit that people who are particularly vulnerable to Covid-19 are worthy of special protection. But they resist as overzealous government intrusion any precaution that might impede upon their personal right to celebrate the sacraments.
This mentality of suspicion leads some Catholics to deride those who observe public health precautions as cowards who have capitulated to a spirit of fear. To support their uncharitable attacks, they point to Jesus’ teaching (as in Mt 16:26) that the soul is more valuable than the body. Some even go so far as to assert that Catholics who refrain from attending public liturgies out of fear of Covid-19 are lukewarm in their faith.
How, then, to respond to those who claim that Catholics who heed health guidance are giving themselves over to an un-Catholic “slavery…by their fear of death” (Heb 2:15)? I suggest consulting St. Thomas Aquinas. In his Summa Theologiae, St. Thomas offers profound observations on fear and the virtue that remedies it, fortitude. Some points he makes are especially relevant to today’s debates.
There is no sin in fearing the needless loss of one’s life or health.A sin is by definition an unreasonable act. But, Aquinas says, “reason dictates that we should shun the evils that we cannot withstand, and the endurance of which profits us nothing. Hence there is no sin in fearing them.”
The answer to fear is not defiance. It is fortitude. Our fear should lead us to ask God for an increase in the cardinal virtue of fortitude. But practicing fortitude does not mean tempting God by being reckless. Rather, Aquinas says, fortitude strengthens us by “curbing fear and moderating daring.”
The words of the Serenity Prayer offer an example of fortitude in action: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can and wisdom to know the difference.” Although the “wisdom to know the difference” comes from the virtue of prudence, which directs the other cardinal virtues, the “serenity to accept the things I cannot change” and “courage to change the things I can” are both aspects of fortitude.
And this brings us to our final point from Aquinas: The principal act of the virtue of fortitude is not aggression. It is endurance. Sometimes it is necessary to attack our fears head-on. A priest I know faces his fear of Covid-19 so that, taking every reasonable precaution, he may bring the sacraments to patients in hospitals who are dying of the virus.
Aquinas grants there are times when one has no other option than “aggression”—taking bold action against that which causes fear. Even so, he takes care to emphasize that “the principal act of fortitude is endurance, that is to stand immovable in the midst of dangers rather than to attack them.”
But St. Thomas does not stop there. The Angelic Doctor, who lived at a time when Europe had 19,000 lazarettos—isolation hospitals for victims of leprosy or plague—offers a searing response to those who might protest that the Christian way is to “man up.” He stresses that endurance is not merely more proper to fortitude than is aggression; it is also more manly, in the genuine sense of being more human, than “manning up.”
“Endurance is more difficult than aggression,” Aquinas explains. This makes sense if we consider that when we fight, we attack because we believe we have some power over our opponent. But when we endure, we do so because we believe that our opponent is stronger than we are; “and it is more difficult,” St. Thomas notes, “to contend with a stronger than with a weaker.”
We need, therefore, to ask the Lord for an increase in fortitude so we may have the strength to endure temporary inconveniences, whether great or small, “and persevere in running the race that lies before us” (Heb 12:1). The sacrifices we make in limiting our sacramental participation will not starve us of grace, as the culture warriors claim. God is not bound by the sacraments. “Give,” Jesus says; give to God and neighbor, “and gifts will be given to you” (Lk 6:38).
St. Thomas would say that those who urge Catholics to push the boundaries of appropriate precautions are promoting a spirit of recklessness that is the antithesis of authentic virtue. If we are to be reasonable about the threat from Covid-19 threat, we must recognize that we can survive the virus only if we meet it on its terms, not ours.
In Matthew 25, Jesus says that we will be judged on the care we provide to others. When loving our neighbor means forgoing a normal ecclesial life—as Catholics have had to do during countless disasters, plagues and persecutions—we can trust that the Lord will continue to feed us with his Spirit until the time comes when we can celebrate together again.
Readings and supplemental resources for Proper 16A in the RCL
August 23, 2020 | Pentecost +12
Collect for Proper 16
Grant, O merciful God, that your Church, being gathered together in unity by your Holy Spirit, may show forth your power among all peoples, to the glory of your Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.~BCP 232
Isaiah 51:1-6 NRSV
Through the Prophet God bids his people to listen for his voice, pursue righteousness, and seek him.
1 Listen to me, you that pursue righteousness, you that seek the Lord. Look to the rock from which you were hewn, and to the quarry from which you were dug. 2 Look to Abraham your father and to Sarah who bore you; for he was but one when I called him, but I blessed him and made him many. 3 For the Lord will comfort Zion; he will comfort all her waste places, and will make her wilderness like Eden, her desert like the garden of the Lord; joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and the voice of song. 4 Listen to me, my people, and give heed to me, my nation; for a teaching will go out from me, and my justice for a light to the peoples. 5 I will bring near my deliverance swiftly, my salvation has gone out and my arms will rule the peoples; the coastlands wait for me, and for my arm they hope. 6 Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look at the earth beneath; for the heavens will vanish like smoke, the earth will wear out like a garment, and those who live on it will die like gnats; but my salvation will be forever, and my deliverance will never be ended.
Romans 12:1-8 NRSV
In this lesson Paul urges the Christians in Rome to devote themselves to God’s service and to recognize that with different functions they are all members of one body. Instead of dead animals, they are to offer themselves as living sacrifices. Their way of life is to be quite different from worldly standards. So will they know the will of God. All are to live in humility, realizing that they have their various gifts through God’s grace.
1 I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect. 3 For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. 4 For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, 5 so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another. 6 We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith; 7 ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching; 8 the exhorter, in exhortation; the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness.
Matthew 16:13-20 NRSV
In our gospel Peter realizes that Jesus is the Christ, and Jesus then sees Peter as the rock foundation for his church and gives to him the keys of the kingdom. The passage helps us to recognize that during Jesus’ lifetime and afterward there was speculation about his role. Some saw the Son of Man as a kind of reembodiment of John the Baptist or another prophet. Simon is renamed Peter (which means rock), for on him and because of this revelation the church will be built, although Jesus’ messiahship must be kept secret for the present. To Peter are given the keys to open or shut the gates of the kingdom and so to make judgment.
13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. 18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” 20 Then he sternly ordered the disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.
Psalm 138 BCP 793
A hymn of praise and thanksgiving to the Lord on high, who has saved God’s servant and cares for the lowly.
1 I will give thanks to you, O Lord, with my whole heart; * before the gods I will sing your praise.
2 I will bow down toward your holy temple and praise your Name, * because of your love and faithfulness;
3 For you have glorified your Name * and your word above all things.
4 When I called, you answered me; * you increased my strength within me.
5 All the kings of the earth will praise you, O Lord, * when they have heard the words of your mouth.
6 They will sing of the ways of the Lord, * that great is the glory of the Lord.
7 Though the Lord be high, he cares for the lowly; * he perceives the haughty from afar.
8 Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you keep me safe; * you stretch forth your hand against the fury of my enemies; your right hand shall save me.
9 The Lord will make good his purpose for me; * O Lord, your love endures for ever;
William was coming to the end of his first year as chairman of the company when I met him at a lunch.
‘How’s it been going?’ I asked.
‘Oh,’ he said, ‘it’s been wonderful in several ways. The company is doing well and I’m proud to be part of it.’
‘Why only several ways?’ I asked, picking up the implied hesitation in the way he had answered.
‘Well,’ he said, ‘I’ve only just realized what my problem has been. Everybody in the company has a clear idea of how they want the chairman to act, what sort of meetings they think they need, and so on. I’ve done my best to make my number with everyone. I’ve gone out of my way to learn the procedures they have in place. But I’ve figured out now that I’ve gone too far. I’ve let their expectations dictate the shape of my work, of how I spend my time. I now need to turn that inside out. I have my own ideas of what we should be doing, and from now on I’m going to set the pace.’
Now, of course, a wise executive will want to listen carefully to those who know more about the company than he or she does. To this extent the picture doesn’t quite fit what Paul is saying. But it does in the all-important point: his appeal now is that we should refuse to let ‘the present age’ squeeze us into its mould, dictate to us how we should think and indeed what we should think, and tell us how we can and can’t behave. Instead, we are to be transformed; our minds need to be renewed. We have to set the pace ourselves, and work out what sort of people we should be. The basis for this is not what the surrounding culture expects of us, but what God in his mercy has done for us.
One of the key phrases here is ‘the present age’ (verse 2). In Galatians 1:4 Paul calls this ‘the present evil age’. Like many first-century Jews, he believed that world history was divided into ‘the present age’, characterized by rebellion against God and the corruption and death which result, and ‘the age to come’, in which God would give new life to the world and humankind, bringing justice, joy and peace once and for all. Part of the point of Paul’s gospel is his belief that this ‘age to come’ had already begun in Jesus, and supremely in his death and resurrection.
Christians are therefore in the position, not (to be sure) of a new executive learning the job, but of someone who needs to stop letting the world around dictate its own terms and conditions, and who instead must figure out how to think, speak and act as is appropriate not for the present age but for the new age which is already breaking in. Christians are called to be counter-cultural—not in all respects, as though every single aspect of human society and culture were automatically and completely bad, but at least in being prepared to think through each aspect of life. We must be ready to challenge those parts where the present age shouts, or perhaps whispers seductively, that it would be easier and better to do things that way, while the age to come, already begun in Jesus, insists that belonging to the new creation means that we must live this way instead.
The key to it all is the transforming of the mind. Many Christians in today’s world never come to terms with this. They hope they will be able to live up to something like Christian standards while still thinking the way the rest of the world thinks. It can’t be done. Paul’s analysis of human rebellion against God in 1:18–32 included a fair amount of wrong thinking. Having the mind renewed by the persuasion of the spirit is the vital start of that true human living which is God’s loving will for all his children.
This, after all, is a way of growing up to maturity. People sometimes suggest that living a Christian life means a kind of immaturity, since you are guided not by thinking things through for yourself but by rules and regulations derived from elsewhere. That isn’t Paul’s vision of Christian living. Of course there are plenty of firm boundaries. He will have more to say about them presently. But at the centre of genuine Christianity is a mind awake, alert, not content to take a few guidelines off the peg but determined to understand why human life is meant to be lived in one way rather than another. In fact, it is the way of life of ‘the present age’ which often involves the real human immaturity, as people simply look at the surrounding culture, with all its shallow and silly patterns of behaviour, and copy it unthinkingly.
For Paul, the mind and the body are closely interconnected, and must work as a coherent team. Having one’s mind renewed and offering God one’s body (verse 1) are all part of the same complete event. Here Paul uses a vivid, indeed shocking, idea: one’s whole self (that’s what Paul means by ‘body’) must be laid on the altar like a sacrifice in the Temple. The big difference is that, whereas the sacrifice is there to be killed, the Christian’s self-offering is actually all about coming alive with the new life that bursts out in unexpected ways once the evil deeds of the self are put to death. (To get the full picture, we need to see the several ways in which this passage stands on the shoulders of others like 6:1–14 and 8:12–17.) Christian living never begins with a set of rules, though it contains them as it goes forwards. It begins in the glad self-offering of one’s whole self to the God whose mercy has come all the way to meet us in our rebellion, sin and death. Within that, it involves the renewal of the mind so that we are enabled both to think straight, instead of the twisted thinking that the world would force upon us, and to act accordingly.
One of the first things that Christians need to get their minds around—and one of the things that will have an immediate impact on the way we live—is the call to live as different members of a single family. Paul has already warned the Roman Christians against thinking too highly of themselves (11:25). Being loved unconditionally by the creator God makes you quite special enough without imagining that your family membership or civic background can make you any more so! Now he warns them again that they are to regard themselves, not as the ‘premier-league’ Christians while people in other places or from other backgrounds are in a kind of second rank, but as simply various limbs and organs of the one body which also possesses many others.
This is one of two famous passages (the other one being 1 Corinthians 12) in which Paul uses this image of the body with its limbs and organs in order to stress that the church is a unity made up of quite different members. ‘One body in the Messiah’; that is the way he puts it here, in verse 5. The Messiah is the truly human being, as well as being ‘God over all’ (9:5); those who are ‘in him’, members of his ‘body’, form God’s renewed humanity. In other words, the picture of ‘body and members’ isn’t simply an illustration at random. It is designed to speak of the new human life which the church is to live and model before the world.
This is one of those points where we begin to detect something of Paul’s wider purpose for the church, which will become more and more apparent as the next chapters go on. People sometimes suppose that the ‘theological’ part of Romans is finished with chapter 11, and that what we have from here on is simply ‘practical’ teaching. Paul is seldom as unsubtle as that. (In any case, there has been a lot of ‘practical’ or ‘ethical’ teaching already in the letter, as we have seen in chapters 6 and 8.) Rather, the appeal for church unity, which will be spelled out in more detail in chapters 14 and 15, grows directly out of everything Paul has been saying throughout the letter about the coming together of Jew and Gentile in the Messiah.
That unity is not simply based on a general belief that everyone matters. It is based, as we saw in chapter 3 and 4 (and in Galatians 2, 3 and 4), on the fact that Christians all have the same faith. God has given each Christian the same faith in Jesus as the risen Messiah and Lord. However different people may be, in temperament, background, calling and ability, all Christians share this faith, and it is the ground of their unity and co-operation.
This is a lesson the church of our own day needs to learn afresh. The world around us loves to force us into disunity. We must once more be transformed by having our minds renewed, not least through the self-offering of worship. That way, as we learn the lessons of unity, we may perhaps discover how to put them into effect.
Tom Wright, Paul for Everyone: Romans, Part 2: Chapters 9-16 (London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 2004), 67-72
1 Nicholas Thomas Wright (born 1 December 1948), known as N. T. Wright or Tom Wright, is an English New Testament scholar, Pauline theologian and Anglican bishop. He was the Bishop of Durham from 2003 to 2010. He then became Research Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at St Mary’s College in the University of St Andrews in Scotland until 2019, when he became a senior research fellow at Oxford University. –Wikipedia entry N.T. Wright
This is the online/on-demand service for the Eleventh Sunday After Pentecost (August 16, 2020)
Please join us on the Way (any time and anywhere via the internet) as we hear what the Spirit is saying in the appointed scripture readings, offer prayers for others and for ourselves, and join in singing (at home) for spiritual nurture and for God’s glory.
Readings and supplemental resources for Proper 15A in the RCL
August 16, 2020 | Pentecost +11
Collect for Proper 15
Almighty God, you have given your only Son to be for us a sacrifice for sin, and also an example of godly life: Give us grace to receive thankfully the fruits of his redeeming work, and to follow daily in the blessed steps of his most holy life; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen. ~BCP 232
Isaiah 56:1, 6-8 NRSV
In our opening lesson the Lord exhorts the people to do what is just because the time of righteous salvation is close at hand. The temple will be a house of prayer for all nations. This vision of hope emphasizes the outgoing aspects of Israel’s faith. Historically it deals with the fact that after the exile certain non-Israelites had come to live in Jerusalem and serve in the temple. The passage sets the conditions for their participation, but also looks beyond to a day when many peoples will worship the God of Israel.
91 Thus says the Lord: Maintain justice, and do what is right, for soon my salvation will come, and my deliverance be revealed.
6 And the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord, to minister to him, to love the name of the Lord, and to be his servants, all who keep the sabbath, and do not profane it, and hold fast my covenant— 7 these I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples. 8 Thus says the Lord God, who gathers the outcasts of Israel, I will gather others to them besides those already gathered.
Romans 11:1-2a, 29-32 NRSV
In this reading Paul sets forth his belief that God plans to bring Jews as well as Gentiles to salvation. This apostle to the Gentiles continues to wrestle with a difficult question: why is it that so many of Jesus’ own people have not accepted him as the Christ? God has not rejected the Jewish people who were foreknown, yet now Jews and Gentiles are equal in that all have been disobedient to God. In the next step the Jewish people will see the mercy shown to the Gentiles and want themselves to share in it in their own way.
1 I ask, then, has God rejected his people? By no means! I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin. 2 God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew.
29 for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. 30 Just as you were once disobedient to God but have now received mercy because of their disobedience, 31 so they have now been disobedient in order that, by the mercy shown to you, they too may now receive mercy. 32 For God has imprisoned all in disobedience so that he may be merciful to all.
Matthew 15:[10-20], 21-28 NRSV
In our gospel Jesus teaches that the thoughts and intentions of the human heart are paramount. Jesus warns against such blind guides preoccupied with externals. He then travels beyond the boundaries of Israel to the territory of Tyre and Sidon and encounters a Canaanite woman who beseeches him to heal her daughter. The first Christians were unsure whether they were to offer the faith to non-Jews, and the give-and-take in this story may reflect that uncertainty. Jesus sees his own mission as confined to Israel, but the woman’s faith causes him to give her the bread she asks for. Symbolically it is the saving food of the gospel which heals her daughter.
[10 Then he called the crowd to him and said to them, “Listen and understand: 11 it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but it is what comes out of the mouth that defiles.” 12 Then the disciples approached and said to him, “Do you know that the Pharisees took offense when they heard what you said?” 13 He answered, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted. 14 Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind. And if one blind person guides another, both will fall into a pit.” 15 But Peter said to him, “Explain this parable to us.” 16 Then he said, “Are you also still without understanding? 17 Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth enters the stomach, and goes out into the sewer? 18 But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this is what defiles. 19 For out of the heart come evil intentions, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander. 20 These are what defile a person, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile.”]
21 Jesus left that place and went away to the district of Tyre and Sidon. 22 Just then a Canaanite woman from that region came out and started shouting, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon.”
23 But he did not answer her at all. And his disciples came and urged him, saying, “Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us.”
24 He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”
25 But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.”
26 He answered, “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.”
27 She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.”
28 Then Jesus answered her, “Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.”
And her daughter was healed instantly.
Psalm 67 BCP 675
A prayer for God’s graciousness and saving power, and a bidding of praise by all people for God’s justice and bounty.
1 May God be merciful to us and bless us, * show us the light of his countenance and come to us.
2 Let your ways be known upon earth, * your saving health among all nations.
3 Let the peoples praise you, O God; * let all the peoples praise you.
4 Let the nations be glad and sing for joy, * for you judge the peoples with equity and guide all the nations upon earth.
5 Let the peoples praise you, O God; * let all the peoples praise you.
6 The earth has brought forth her increase; * may God, our own God, give us his blessing.
7 May God give us his blessing, * and may all the ends of the earth stand in awe of him.
Music unquestionably heightens emotional experiences. Can one imagine watching an epic film without its sound-track? Spiritual experiences are similar: the music enhances the liturgical drama of a particular moment in the service or season. The worshipper is moved by what he or she hears, and—consequently—feels.
Matthew Hoch in Welcome to Church Music & The Hymnal 1982
When we can again worship in person we may not (for health and safety reasons) be able to sing together. In the quiet of the coronavirus, let us pay attention to the hymns we used to and one day will sing together. I invite you to sing at home. Sing when at work. Sing when at play (or even at rest). In our Service of Readings and Prayer this Sunday we’ll use 2 hymns celebrating and giving thanks for God’s inclusive grace and love—what we hear in our readings. Feel the words of scripture. ~Fr. Dan
There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:28)
One of the clear teachings of the Bible is that the gospel does not presuppose the superiority of any race or culture. In the past, missionary endeavor has too frequently imposed “our” culture on others while spreading the gospel, often putting native believers in bondage to another culture rather than to Christ and the Scriptures alone.
Written in 1908 by the noted English writer, John Oxenham, this missionary hymn text was part of a script for a pageant at a giant missionary event sponsored by the London Missionary Society’s exhibition, The Orient in London. It is estimated that over a quarter of a million people viewed this presentation. It was continued from 1908–1914 both in England and in the United States.
An interesting account of the impact of this hymn relates an incident during the closing days of World War II when two ships were anchored together, one containing Japanese aliens, and the other American soldiers, all waiting to be repatriated. For an entire day they lined the rails, glaring at one another. Suddenly someone began to sing “In Christ There Is No East Or West.” Then another on the opposite ship joined in. Soon there was an extraordinary chorus of former enemies unitedly praising God with these words:
In Christ there is no East or West, in him no South or North, but one great fellowship of love thru out the whole wide earth.
In Him shall true hearts ev’rywhere their high communion find; His service is the golden cord close-binding all mankind.
Join hands then, brothers of the faith, whate’er your race may be; who serves my Father as a son is surely kin to me.
In Christ now meet both East and West, in Him meet South and North; all Christly souls are one in Him throughout the whole wide earth.
But Thou, O Lord, art a God full of compassion, and gracious longsuffering, and plenteous in mercy and truth. (Psalm 86:15 KJV)
A wealth of truth about the depth of God’s love and mercy is expressed simply but eloquently in this choice two-line hymn text written by Frederick William Faber in the middle of the 19th century. In addition to being known as a man with unusual personal charm, persuasive preaching ability, and excellent writing skills, Faber made his most lasting contribution with the 150 hymn texts he composed during his brief life of 49 years.
Frederick Faber had an unusual spiritual journey. Raised as a strict Calvinist, he strongly opposed the Roman Catholic Church. After education at Oxford, he became an ordained Anglican minister. Gradually, however, he was influenced by the Oxford Movement, which stressed that Anglican churches had become too evangelical—with too little emphasis on formal and liturgical worship. Eventually Faber renounced the Anglican State Church, became a Catholic priest, and spent his remaining years as Superior of the Catholic Brompton Oratory in London.
Faber had always realized the great influence that hymn singing had in Protestant evangelical churches. Determined to provide material for Catholics to use in the same way, he worked tirelessly in writing hymns and publishing numerous collections of them. In 1854 the Pope honored Frederick Faber with an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree in recognition of his many accomplishments. Today we are still grateful for this memorable declaration of the boundless love and mercy of our God to all mankind:
There’s a wideness in God’s mercy, like the wideness of the sea; there’s a kindness in His justice, which is more than liberty.
There is welcome for the sinner, and more graces for the good; there is mercy with the Savior; there is healing in His blood.
For the love of God is broader than the measure of man’s mind; and the heart of the Eternal is most wonderfully kind.
If our love were but more simple, we should take Him at His word; and our lives would be all sunshine in the sweetness of our Lord.
Grant to us, Lord, we pray, the spirit to think and do always those things that are right, that we, who cannot exist without you, may by you be enabled to live according to your will; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.~BCP 232
1 Kings 19:9-18 NRSV
The reading from the Hebrew Bible tells how God is made known to Elijah—not in wind, earthquake, or fire—but in a still small voice. In a mood of depression the prophet retreats to Mount Horeb. But the Lord gives him a new mission and a promise that there will be a remnant in Israel who will not worship the false god Baal. Although God is known in a word of revelation rather than in the awesome events of nature, these happenings can also be seen as harbingers of God’s presence.
9 At that place he came to a cave, and spent the night there.
Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 10 He answered, “I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away.”
11 He said, “Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; 12 and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence. 13 When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. Then there came a voice to him that said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 14 He answered, “I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away.” 15 Then the Lord said to him, “Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus; when you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael as king over Aram. 16 Also you shall anoint Jehu son of Nimshi as king over Israel; and you shall anoint Elisha son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah as prophet in your place. 17 Whoever escapes from the sword of Hazael, Jehu shall kill; and whoever escapes from the sword of Jehu, Elisha shall kill. 18 Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.”
Romans 10:5-15 NRSV
In this lesson Paul teaches that the word of faith is a gift; by it we make our saving confession that Jesus is Lord and that God raised him from the dead. Without God’s grace the way of righteousness would be impossibly distant. But the faith that leads to righteousness is in our hearts and the confession of salvation is on our lips. This is true for all people, no matter what their background, and so it is essential that the Good News be carried far and wide, that all may call upon the name of the Lord.
5 Moses writes concerning the righteousness that comes from the law, that “the person who does these things will live by them.” 6 But the righteousness that comes from faith says, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’ ” (that is, to bring Christ down) 7 “or ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’ ” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). 8 But what does it say?
“The word is near you,
on your lips and in your heart”
(that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); 9 becauseif you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved. 11 The scripture says, “No one who believes in him will be put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call on him. 13 For, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
14 But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him? 15 And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”
Matthew 14:13-21 NRSV
The gospel is the story of Jesus’ walking on the water and his rescue of Peter after his faith fails him. The narrative has several levels of meaning. In legendary terms Jesus is like the Creator God who strides over the watery chaos monster. Matthew’s gospel stresses this revelation of Jesus’ close relationship with God, as God’s Son, and the importance of faith on the part of the disciples. A church beset by its own problems and lack of faith would be glad to perceive in this story the saving presence of its risen Lord.
22 Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. 23 And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, 24 but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them. 25 And early in the morning he came walking toward them on the sea. 26 But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear. 27 But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.”
28 Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” 29 He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” 31 Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” 32 When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. 33 And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
Psalm 85:8-13 BCP 709
The psalmist both celebrates and prays for the Lord’s gracious favor, forgiveness, deliverance, and justice.
8 I will listen to what the Lord God is saying, * for he is speaking peace to his faithful people and to those who turn their hearts to him.
9 Truly, his salvation is very near to those who fear him, * that his glory may dwell in our land.
10 Mercy and truth have met together; * righteousness and peace have kissed each other.
11 Truth shall spring up from the earth, * and righteousness shall look down from heaven.
12 The Lord will indeed grant prosperity, * and our land will yield its increase.
13 Righteousness shall go before him, * and peace shall be a pathway for his feet.
…when Peter noticed the strong wind,he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. —Matthew 14:30-32
The Gospel story for this Sunday lends itself to reading the Bible as Jesus did. Intrigued? Read on. ~Fr. Dan
The best way in which a Christian can interpret Scripture is to do so as Jesus did! It almost sounds too simple, doesn’t it? Yet, ironically, this has not been the norm for most of Christianity. So, what does it mean to read the Bible as Jesus did?
Jesus approached the Hebrew Scriptures with the assumption that God had been dialoging with humanity since the beginning. He used the Jewish practice of midrash as a way of participating in this dialogue. Midrash is a method of interpreting Scripture that fills in the gaps, by questioning and imagining a multitude of possible interpretations. Midrash allows the text and the Spirit of God to open up the reader to transformation, instead of resisting change by latching onto one final, closed, and certain interpretation. This open-horizon approach was common for most of the first 1300 years of Christianity, where as many as six levels of interpretation and numerous levels of truth were perceived in any one Scripture text.
The traditional forms of midrash demand both a prayerful approach and scholarly familiarity with the Bible and commentaries which have formed the tradition over the centuries. However, it is possible for someone who is not a biblical scholar or theologian to get a sense of the practice of midrash.
The following practice, drawn from Teresa Blythe’s book 50 Ways to Pray, offers an interactive experience with the Bible through openness, contemplative attitude, and critical thinking. This practice invites us to trust that God will meet us where we are and will take us where we need to go as we consider the meaning of the text. We could engage in this dialogue often, even with the same text, since there will always be more discoveries about the meaning(s) of sacred texts.
Dialoguing with Scripture:
Choose one of the following Scriptures for reflection:
Choose Matthew 14:22-33(or one of Richard Rohr’s suggestions here)
Exodus 1:8-22 — The Hebrew midwives fear God
Exodus 18:13-27 — Jethro’s advice to Moses
1 Samuel 3 — The call of Samuel
Mark 9:14-29 — Jesus heals the afflicted boy
Luke 8:22-25 — Jesus calms a storm (see p. 6 of handout)
Luke 10:29-37 — The good Samaritan
Read (or listen to) your selected Scripture passage slowly. You may want to read (or hear) it more than once.
Consider which character in the story you would like to interact with. It could be a person you find agreeable, or a person with whom you want to question or debate. Who are you drawn to? When you decide on a character, write the name at the top [of a piece of] paper.
Hold an imaginary conversation—on paper—with the character in the story. You may want to stick with the theme of the Scripture and talk about that, or you may want to discuss other topics. It is completely up to you. Let your imagination roll free and see what transpires. (20 minutes)
When you are finished, read your dialogue out loud.
What is it like to have a conversation with a biblical figure? Why did you choose the character you chose? Did anything in the conversation surprise you? Did anything in the conversation move you? Did you feel any inner blocks to doing this sort of exercise? Did you feel the presence and guidance of God in the dialogue? What did you learn about yourself as you engaged this biblical figure? How easy or difficult is it for you to have these kinds of imaginary conversations? How useful would you say such conversations are for you?
End your reflection time with a prayer of gratitude for what you experienced.
Tip—You don’t have to be an excellent writer to enjoy this exercise. No one but you has to read what you’ve written. Just write from the heart and imagination. 
Source: Daily Email Meditation from Richard Rohr. Richard Rohr Meditation: Church: Old and New: Weekly Summary on November 1, 2019.
 Teresa A. Blythe, 50 Ways to Pray: Practices from Many Traditions and Times (Abingdon Press: 2006), 17-18.
The readings for Proper 13A Track 2 in the Revised Common Lectionary
Be well. Do good. Pay attention. Keep learning.
Listen. What do YOU hear the Spirit saying in these readings?
Collect for Proper 13 (August 2, 2020)
Let your continual mercy, O Lord, cleanse and defend your Church; and, because it cannot continue in safety without your help, protect and govern it always by your goodness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.~BCP 232
Isaiah 55:1-5 NRSV
In this reading we hear how the return from exile will be a time of prosperity and abundance when God’s covenant will be renewed. The prophet pictures the great day: for a people who have been near death there will be food and drink without cost. God’s covenant with David is to be extended to all Israel, and other nations will come to see her glory.
1 Ho, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you that have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. 2 Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. 3 Incline your ear, and come to me; listen, so that you may live. I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David. 4 See, I made him a witness to the peoples, a leader and commander for the peoples. 5 See, you shall call nations that you do not know, and nations that do not know you shall run to you, because of the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, for he has glorified you.
Romans 9:1-5 NRSV
In this reading Paul expresses his anguish and sorrow that so many of the children of Israel, the people especially favored by God, have not found the Lord’s promise. To them belong the covenants, the law, and so much else. From their nation Christ himself came. Paul would go to great lengths, even see himself an outcast, if such would help Israel to know its salvation. Later in this letter Paul tries to explain how this all may be part of God’s plan of redemption, which in the end will include Israel with the Gentiles.
1 I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience confirms it by the Holy Spirit— 2 I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. 3 For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my own people, my kindred according to the flesh. 4 They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises; 5 to them belong the patriarchs, and from them, according to the flesh, comes the Messiah, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen.
Matthew 14:13-21 NRSV
Our gospel is the story of Jesus’ feeding of over five thousand persons. After the death of John the Baptist, Jesus seeks a time of retreat. The crowds, however, follow him, and he has compassion on them. The narrative suggests many levels of meaning. It recalls Old Testament stories, especially God’s feeding of the Israelites with manna in the wilderness, and points forward to the legendary banquet at the end of time where Christ the King will preside. The abundant miracle illustrates Jesus’ lordship; he is intimate with the powers of creation. Other themes associated with the Eucharist are close at hand.
13 Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a deserted place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. 14 When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured their sick. 15 When it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a deserted place, and the hour is now late; send the crowds away so that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” 16 Jesus said to them, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” 17 They replied, “We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish.” 18 And he said, “Bring them here to me.” 19 Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. 20 And all ate and were filled; and they took up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full. 21 And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.
Psalm 145:8-9, 15-22 BCP 802
A hymn of praise to the Lord, who is mighty in deeds yet tender and compassionate.
8 The Lord is gracious and full of compassion, * slow to anger and of great kindness.
9 The Lord is loving to everyone * and his compassion is over all his works.
15 The Lord upholds all those who fall; * he lifts up those who are bowed down.
16 The eyes of all wait upon you, O Lord, * and you give them their food in due season.
17 You open wide your hand * and satisfy the needs of every living creature.
18 The Lord is righteous in all his ways * and loving in all his works.
19 The Lord is near to those who call upon him, * to all who call upon him faithfully.
20 He fulfills the desire of those who fear him; * he hears their cry and helps them.
21 The Lord preserves all those who love him, * but he destroys all the wicked.
22 My mouth shall speak the praise of the Lord; * let all flesh bless his holy Name for ever and ever.
Almighty God, the fountain of all wisdom, you know our necessities before we ask and our ignorance in asking: Have compassion on our weakness, and mercifully give us those things which for our unworthiness we dare not, and for our blindness we cannot ask; through the worthiness of your Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Collect for Proper 11, Book of Common Prayer, 1979, p. 231
This is a short meditation on the Collect for Proper 11 (July 19, 2020). It is my invitation to you to take the names and descriptions of God as your own prayer-starter or meditation. Listen also to our requests of God: “… have compassion on our weakness … mercifully give us (good, useful, helpful, wise gifts) those things which for our unworthiness (what does that admission do to you?) we dare not ask, and for our blindness (what are you not seeing?) cannot ask.”
Wind Chimes is being reborn as Wind in the Chimes.
In the time of the coronavirus it seems opportune to revisit and rename Wind Chimes—for a short time it was a regular feature of this Blog.
In the original post I wrote:
When a wind chime catches the wind (even the whisper of a wind) it makes music, it interprets the wind in ways that are always the same and always changing. In regular posts I will share links to news (religion news), reflections and meditations (related to our Sunday readings as often as possible), prayers or prayer starters, resources to help you keep learning and growing (spiritually), and whatever else I come across.
Wind Chimes posted September 25, 2012 on Hear what the Spirit is saying
Renamed “Wind in the Chimes” the intent remains the same: to help you and to help me better hear what the Spirit is saying.
The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. And then the Lord commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.” Genesis 2:15-17
Often in the past, the period after the fall of the Roman Empire was referred to as the “Dark Ages.” This assessment was based on a mistaken belief that without a central government, civilization was at a standstill. After the fall, there was a period of uncertainty initially, nevertheless, monasteries continued to function as centers of learning. When Charlemagne became king of the Franks, he initiated a cultural revival that was continued after he unified Europe and formed the Holy Roman Empire in AD 800. Two centuries later, the spirit of the Carolingian Renaissance remained a presence in Europe. When Otto III went to Rome in AD 996 to be crowned Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, Bishop Bernward of Hildesheim was there and attended the coronation. While in Rome, Bernward was impressed with several large doors that he saw on churches, and upon his return to Hildesheim, he commissioned doors for St. Michael’s Cathedral.
The fourth panel from the top of the left door is a depiction of God arriving to accuse Adam and Eve of eating the forbidden fruit, prior to their expulsion from the Garden of Eden (Panel 5 on the left side of the door) after they ate the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. The forward-leaning figure of God seems angry as He points to Adam and accuses him of disobeying God. In a familiar human reaction, both Adam and Eve try to shift the blame. Adam is embarrassed, is feeling guilt, and senses that he is without clothes. He tries to cover himself and points to Eve in an effort to blame her. Eve, in turn, tries to cover herself and points to the serpent to blame it.
Instead of casting separate panels for each scene, Bishop Bernward’s artists chose to cast each door as one unified piece. First, relief figures of each panel – eight on each door – were created in wax. Sprues of wax were added; after burnout they would serve as funnels into which the molten bronze would be poured. Also wax rods were attached; they would become vents through which gases would escape when the piece was being cast. After the wax pattern – with sprues and vents attached – was completed, foundry workers encased it in a plaster-like substance called investment and placed it in a furnace where the wax was melted and burned out completely (hence the term, “lost wax process”). This burnout created a clean hollow space into which molten bronze was poured to replace everything that was at one time, wax. When the bronze was cool, the investment was chipped off to reveal the doors. Sprues and vents were removed and the doors of St. Michael’s were cleaned and installed.
The panels on the left door depict images from the Book of Genesis and the panels on the right show events from the life of Christ.
The figures in these doors are not anatomically correct and the perspective is not accurate yet, the images are direct and intense. It was not until the Italian Renaissance of the fifteenth century that perspective and foreshortening became known. The figures on the doors at Hildesheim are primitive by Renaissance standards, yet they are expressive and filled with emotional depth.