St. Mark 2:13-22

Dec. 4, 2021

saying, We never saw it on this fashion.

13And he went forth again by the sea side; and all the multitude resorted unto him, and he taught them.

14And as he passed by, he saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the receipt of custom, and said unto him, Follow me. And he arose and followed him.

15And it came to pass, that, as Jesus sat at meat in his house, many publicans and sinners sat also together with Jesus and his disciples: for there were many, and they followed him.

16And when the scribes and Pharisees saw him eat with publicans and sinners, they said unto his disciples, How is it that he eateth and drinketh with publicans and sinners?

17When Jesus heard it, he saith unto them, They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.

18And the disciples of John and of the Pharisees used to fast: and they come and say unto him, Why do the disciples of John and of the Pharisees fast, but thy disciples fast not?

19And Jesus said unto them, Can the children of the bridechamber fast, while the bridegroom is with them? as long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast.

20But the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken away from them, and then shall they fast in those days.

21No man also seweth a piece of new cloth on an old garment: else the new piece that filled it up taketh away from the old, and the rent is made worse.

22And no man putteth new wine into old bottles: else the new wine doth burst the bottles, and the wine is spilled, and the bottles will be marred: but new wine must be put into new bottles.

The Baby in the manger. The angels sing His birth and shepherds go to see Him; these are high and low. The man Jesus, in the verses above, sits with the Pharisees and with sinners (which actually means they were just regular folks) – the high and the low. The Pharisees are the Old Covenant; the sinners are learning about the New Covenant which Jesus ushers in as He, Himself, is the New Covenant. Once again looking back and looking forward.

That tiny infant in swaddling cloths is the King of kings and Lord of lords all at the same time. He is above all and yet reaches out to us to bring us closer to Him and the Father. He doesn’t care where you are or who you are or what you may have done. He wants us – He wants you – to join with Him, to be one with Him.

The Baby Jesus is the promise; the Resurrected Jesus is the promise fulfilled.

St. Mark 2: 1-12

Dec. 3, 2021

And again he entered into Capernaum after some days; and it was noised that he was in the house.

2And straightway many were gathered together, insomuch that there was no room to receive them, no, not so much as about the door: and he preached the word unto them.

3And they come unto him, bringing one sick of the palsy, which was borne of four.

4And when they could not come nigh unto him for the press, they uncovered the roof where he was: and when they had broken it up, they let down the bed wherein the sick of the palsy lay.

5When Jesus saw their faith, he said unto the sick of the palsy, Son, thy sins be forgiven thee.

6But there were certain of the scribes sitting there, and reasoning in their hearts,

7Why doth this man thus speak blasphemies? who can forgive sins but God only?

8And immediately when Jesus perceived in his spirit that they so reasoned within themselves, he said unto them, Why reason ye these things in your hearts?

9Whether is it easier to say to the sick of the palsy, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Arise, and take up thy bed, and walk?

10But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (he saith to the sick of the palsy,)

11I say unto thee, Arise, and take up thy bed, and go thy way into thine house.

12And immediately he arose, took up the bed, and went forth before them all; insomuch that they were all amazed, and glorified God, saying, We never saw it on this fashion.

Every day life has always been difficult. With all our technological advancements, we still have all we can do to accomplish each day’s list of things to be done. It was no different in the days when Jesus walked the earth with us.

So many people were surrounding the house from which Jesus was teaching and healing that late arrivees, so to speak, had slim chance of catching His eye or waving Him over. They all had homes and jobs and things that needed to be done but they went, instead, to see, hear, and learn. They flocked to where He was.

When Jesus was born, all the angels in heaven gathered overhead and sang praises. Shepherds, ‘watching their flocks by night’, came to the stable to see Him whom the angels sang. It’s not stated in the Bible but we know something of shepherds; we know they not only steer the sheep to good grazing ground, but they also protect them from wild animals and thieves. They would not have left their flocks unprotected to see the Child the angels sang – they would have brought their flocks with them. Flocks. We are the ‘sheep of His pasture’. Perhaps we can think of the flocks as representative of those who will become believers.

This Baby is the Shepherd; He drew the shepherds and their flocks at His birth. In His manhood, he drew flocks of seekers and believers. Looking forward and looking back. They merge in Advent, this forward and back. Jesus is never one thing – He is always all good things together. All times. Everywhere.

St. Mark 1:40

Dec. 2, 2021

40And there came a leper to him, beseeching him, and kneeling down to him, and saying unto him, If thou wilt, thou canst make me clean.

I want to share this explanatory statement from the Ignatius Catholic Study Bible in regard to verse 40: “Leprosy was a skin disease that made victims unclean, i.e. unfit to participate in the liturgical life of Israel (Lev 13:1-8). Because ritual uncleanness was considered contagious, under the Old Covenant – infecting everyone who came into contact with it – lepers were isolated from society to keep those who were clean separated from those who were unclean (Lev 13:45-46). Jesus reaches across this divide when he touches the leper; and though others would be defiled by such contact, he conquers the uncleanness by the greater power of his holiness.”

Why would we read this at Advent? I think it’s because Jesus reached across the divide from heaven to earth when He submitted to the Father and came to us in human form. Through Him, at our baptism, our uncleanness of sin is washed away ‘by the greater power of his holiness”. In that day, with the leper, He opened the wider society to him; in our day, Jesus has opened heaven and we pray with the host of heaven and can come before God with our supplications.

Advent, like Lent, is a time when we look both forward and back; we look forward to the Resurrection and ‘the life of the world to come’, we look back to the time when we were lost in our sins and far from the Father. It is Jesus who reaches across the divide.

St. Mark 1:29-39

Dec. 1, 2021

And forthwith, when they were come out of the synagogue, they entered into the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John.

30But Simon’s wife’s mother lay sick of a fever, and anon they tell him of her.

31And he came and took her by the hand, and lifted her up; and immediately the fever left her, and she ministered unto them.

32And at even, when the sun did set, they brought unto him all that were diseased, and them that were possessed with devils.

33And all the city was gathered together at the door.

34And he healed many that were sick of divers diseases, and cast out many devils; and suffered not the devils to speak, because they knew him.

35And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed.

36And Simon and they that were with him followed after him.

37And when they had found him, they said unto him, All men seek for thee.

38And he said unto them, Let us go into the next towns, that I may preach there also: for therefore came I forth.

39And he preached in their synagogues throughout all Galilee, and cast out devils.

Verse 37 – to me, this is a verse that applies to Advent. “… all men seek for thee.” Like three Wise men who came from afar. They had followed a star in the heavens that foretold the birth of the King of Jews – you know the beloved story; gold, frankincense, myrrh. Not birthday gifts and not the first Christmas gifts but gifts for a King.

The Wise men could not have known, of course, that those gifts would be shadows of the Baby’s life – gold to support the trip to Egypt which saved the Baby from the slaughter of the innocents. Frankincense – the sweet, wholesome scent reminiscent of the yearly duty of burning incense in the Temple. And myrrh – a scented oil for burial.

All men seek thee. Even today. There’s a very famous psychologist who today is also seeking Him. We pray for his journey to belief. I have a friend in another country who is slowly starting his search for Him. Men and women still seek Him. We are blessed to know Him and pray with great hope and joy for the seekers because we know what they will find.

St. Mark 1:14-28

Nov. 30, 2021

14Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God,

15And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.

16Now as he walked by the sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew his brother casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers.

17And Jesus said unto them, Come ye after me, and I will make you to become fishers of men.

18And straightway they forsook their nets, and followed him.

19And when he had gone a little further thence, he saw James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, who also were in the ship mending their nets.

20And straightway he called them: and they left their father Zebedee in the ship with the hired servants, and went after him.

21And they went into Capernaum; and straightway on the sabbath day he entered into the synagogue, and taught.

22And they were astonished at his doctrine: for he taught them as one that had authority, and not as the scribes.

23And there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit; and he cried out,

24Saying, Let us alone; what have we to do with thee, thou Jesus of Nazareth? art thou come to destroy us? I know thee who thou art, the Holy One of God.

25And Jesus rebuked him, saying, Hold thy peace, and come out of him.

26And when the unclean spirit had torn him, and cried with a loud voice, he came out of him.

27And they were all amazed, insomuch that they questioned among themselves, saying, What thing is this? what new doctrine is this? for with authority commandeth he even the unclean spirits, and they do obey him.

28And immediately his fame spread abroad throughout all the region round about Galilee.

Once, when I was reading an article, I got brought up short, as they say, when the author wrote about the miracle of the calling of the twelve. I sat and thought about it – what miracle? They weren’t healed. They weren’t exorcised. What miracle? And then it occurred to me; Jesus said ‘come’ and these twelve men walked away from everything they knew, from their families, from their jobs, from their neighborhoods. Because Jesus said ‘follow me’. Jesus still says ‘follow me’ but we barely change our hearts, let alone the kind of changes the disciples made.

Two thousand years and Church Fathers and Doctors of the Faith later, we know Jesus. Two thousand years ago, the twelve men were drawn to someone, something, never seen before. One minute they were in their daily routines and at a simple invitation to follow – they walked away from everything they knew and understood and began a journey of epic proportion. Maybe I should say ‘of Biblical proportion’, but you get the idea. I can’t help but wonder what kind of seismic event must have happened in their minds and hearts that they would cease what they were doing and follow this stranger.

Did they wonder what all this ‘fishers of men’ stuff meant? What was their reaction when Jesus called the unclean spirit out of the man in the synagogue? Were they frightened? Who is this guy that casts out demons?

That author I read was absolutely correct. The calling of the twelve was a miracle.

St. Mark 1:1-13

Nov. 29, 2021

The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God;

2As it is written in the prophets, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee.

3The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.

4John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.

5And there went out unto him all the land of Judaea, and they of Jerusalem, and were all baptized of him in the river of Jordan, confessing their sins.

6And John was clothed with camel’s hair, and with a girdle of a skin about his loins; and he did eat locusts and wild honey;

7And preached, saying, There cometh one mightier than I after me, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to stoop down and unloose.

8I indeed have baptized you with water: but he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost.

9And it came to pass in those days, that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized of John in Jordan.

10And straightway coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens opened, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon him:

11And there came a voice from heaven, saying, Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.

12And immediately the Spirit driveth him into the wilderness.

13And he was there in the wilderness forty days, tempted of Satan; and was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered unto him.

Looking back and looking forward. John the Baptist is speaking to a mixed group of people at any given time; not just Jews but to Romans and Greeks and any other of the many nationalities in the areas in which he preached and baptized. He preaches repentance of sin and uses a practice of ‘washing in water’ that the Jews already practiced and expands their understanding to look for the One greater than he.

John is preparing the way of Lord and, like in Lent, having his audience – and us – look to our souls, our sins, our relationship with God. We do much the same in Advent – we prepare a room for Him. Not in a stable but in our hearts. In Advent, we are getting ready to receive the greatest gift mankind has ever known and we must make preparations. It should be a time of fasting, prayer, self-examination. As Lent brings us to glorious Easter, Advent’s quiet reflection brings us to the wonder and joy of Christmas.

St. Luke 1:5-25; Hebrews 12:14

Nov. 28, 2021

5There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judaea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the course of Abia: and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elisabeth.

6And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.

7And they had no child, because that Elisabeth was barren, and they both were now well stricken in years.

8And it came to pass, that while he executed the priest’s office before God in the order of his course,

9According to the custom of the priest’s office, his lot was to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord.

10And the whole multitude of the people were praying without at the time of incense.

11And there appeared unto him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense.

12And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him.

13But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John.

14And thou shalt have joy and gladness; and many shall rejoice at his birth.

15For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother’s womb.

16And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God.

17And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.

18And Zacharias said unto the angel, Whereby shall I know this? for I am an old man, and my wife well stricken in years.

19And the angel answering said unto him, I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God; and am sent to speak unto thee, and to shew thee these glad tidings.

20And, behold, thou shalt be dumb, and not able to speak, until the day that these things shall be performed, because thou believest not my words, which shall be fulfilled in their season.

21And the people waited for Zacharias, and marvelled that he tarried so long in the temple.

22And when he came out, he could not speak unto them: and they perceived that he had seen a vision in the temple: for he beckoned unto them, and remained speechless.

23And it came to pass, that, as soon as the days of his ministration were accomplished, he departed to his own house.

24And after those days his wife Elisabeth conceived, and hid herself five months, saying,

25Thus hath the Lord dealt with me in the days wherein he looked on me, to take away my reproach among men.

Hebrews 12:14Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord:

And so begins the magnificent story. The baby Elizabeth conceives is John, later known as the Baptist. It’s important to remember that Elizabeth and Zacharias were not without sin but that they served God faithfully. It’s interesting to note that Elizabeth and Zacharias were not Levites but also from a priestly group and God shows His special timing as in this priestly group, no man could offer incense more than once in a lifetime. (KJ study Bible)

I chuckle to myself when I think of the angel Gabriel. Talk about being a lucky angel – he gets to announce the wonderful news of babies coming. This first baby who will lead many to repentance and so prepare the way of the Lord, and then the First and only Baby who will save the world. Gabriel must be highly favored (in my opinion) to be given these messages.

I have to admit I’m just a big kid at heart and reading these verses from St. Luke just get me excited to get to part where Gabriel speaks to a young woman whose life is about be changed beyond measure.

There are times when I have trouble figuring out what one set of verses have to do with another set but in this case, it’s fairly obvious. Hebrews 12:14 “Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord” is a sign post as well as an instruction. The Prince of Peace is coming, as that is the direction the verses in St. Luke are heading in, and also the instruction to follow the ways of peace and make oneself worthy to see the Lord. A tall task but worth the effort – we are given so much more than we ever could hope for. Hurry Christmas!

2St. Peter 3:11

Nov. 27, 2021

11Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness,

And that’s the question we all have to answer – live by and for Jesus or by and for the world?

Some of us remember that old television game show, Let’s Make a Deal. I once tried to use it to help an atheist see the possibilities. I explained that he should consider behind Door#1 there is nothing. You go into the ground. End of. Behind Door#2 is life everlasting but not the life we live on earth. Life with God, in His presence, with Jesus. In a clean and beautiful place where there is no pain, no sorrow, no tears, no injustice, perfect bodies that can never corrupt. Which door would he choose? There are none so blind as those who will not see.

Stephen Hawking once stated that religion – Christianity – was for people afraid of the dark. It still amazes me to this day that that incredible intellect -genius – could not grasp that Christians have no fear of the dark because in Christ Jesus there is only light. We live here and now in the light and when we die, we go into a brighter, better light that never burns the eyes. We have no fear of darkness.

Getting back to St. Peter – what manner of person ought you to be?

2St. Peter 3:1-10

Nov. 26, 2021

This second epistle, beloved, I now write unto you; in both which I stir up your pure minds by way of remembrance:

2That ye may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us the apostles of the Lord and Saviour:

3Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts,

4And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.

5For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water:

6Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished:

7But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.

8But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.

9The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.

10But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.

“Where is the promise of His coming?” All throughout the New Testament, we are assured of Christ’s coming again. “And He will come again in glory, to judge both the quick and the dead.” The parable of the five virgins who had oil for the wedding feast; the faithless servant that doesn’t watch for the return of his master, and many others as well.

He will come the second time. It will be at the time of God’s choosing, just like the first time- that unique day and hour of the birth of our Lord Jesus. All things in God’s good time.

What we are called to do, in preparation of that day, is to live the lives Jesus called us to live. Learn Jesus. Love God. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Love each other as Jesus instructed us to do. Follow the ten commandments. Let everything you do be to the praise and glory of God.

We prepare each day now according to the news we hear about supply chains and empty shelves so as we do our weekly grocery shopping, we buy a few more cans of this, a couple extra things that’ll keep in the freezer, a little extra paper goods. It’s only smart to prepare so that your household runs as smoothly as you can make it run. It’s only smart to prepare for the second coming – it doesn’t cost money, no gas is used, you can prepare at your desk or counter or jackhammer. Live as Jesus has shown us how to live and you will be ready when He returns.

And fear not. He will be with us always, even until the end of the world. It doesn’t get any better than that.

1Thessalonians 5:12-23

Nov. 25, 2021

And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you;

13And to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. And be at peace among yourselves.

14Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men.

15See that none render evil for evil unto any man; but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men.

16Rejoice evermore.

17Pray without ceasing.

18In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

19Quench not the Spirit.

20Despise not prophesyings.

21Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.

22Abstain from all appearance of evil.

23And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Happy Thanksgiving! I hope it’s a blessed and joyous day for you and yours.

The 1928 Book of Common Prayer shows two New Testament readings that are suggested for Thanksgiving Day; they are 1Thess and John 6:26-35. I chose the 1Thess because I don’t think it’s as familiar as the Gospel of St. John.

I like verse 18 – In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. Each night as I lay in bed I thank God for the day – good, bad, or indifferent, He’s been gracious to me and I’m thankful.

We’re good at praising God but maybe not as careful to give thanks. For a long while, I did a rosary of thanksgiving. I used the Roman Catholic rosary beads with the four decades. I sat down one day and wrote out all the things I was most grateful for; the ten things most important to me was spoken at each bead (one at a time, of course) and saying the Lord’s Prayer at the large beads. Then I’d gotten a new job that was farther from my home and required more hours so I adapted to my circumstances …

I bought Anglican prayer beads. Not many people know we Anglicans have beads, too. I have to chuckle – people always think of the Roman Catholic beads and forget that other folks need to count and keep track, too! I’ve provided a link that I think is useful – it explains the beads and includes the prayers. I have no connection with the seller, I don’t get paid anything for supplying the link; I just think it’s a good site for the prayers and the pictures of the Anglican rosary. https://www.allsaintsomaha.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/anglican-rosary-prayers-v3.pdf#:~:text=The%20Anglican%20Rosary%20Praying%20the%20rosary%20is%20a,put%20us%20in%20a%20prayerful%20frame%20of%20mind.

Praise God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – every day but don’t forget to be thankful, too. He is a gracious giver; be a gracious receiver.

A daily walk with Jesus