Tuesday, February 28, 2017

The Lenten Journey: Shaped by Wilderness

Morning: Psalm 26, 28; Deuteronomy 6:16-25; Hebrews 2:1-10
Evening: Psalm 36, 39; John 1:19-28
‘Wilderness experiences’ can bring us to wisdom. In wilderness, we suffer and come face to face with ourselves, in all our vulnerability and weakness.  In wilderness, we learn it is better to accept our plight than to pretend we do not need help; for we learn that everyone suffers, everyone struggles.  In the wilderness, John pointed to Jesus as the help we need: Jesus endured suffering on our behalf, to show us a way of compassion. Com-passion means ‘suffering with’. We ourselves may at times suffer with others and in that way we offer God’s compassionate help in the world.

Graham

Monday, February 27, 2017

Grace and Truth

Morning: Psalm 25; Deuteronomy 6:10-15; Hebrews 1:1-14
Evening: Psalm 9, 15; John 1:1-18
Truth is, we humans are learning lots, but we don’t know much yet! We still live with a myriad of marvelous mysteries about life and death. Frequently, perhaps futilely, we offer explanations. Deuteronomy (around 622 BC) thought trouble and death came from God’s jealous anger because we betrayed him!?  Ouch! When Jesus appeared, Hebrews found ‘evidence’ that he was in fact the eternal God in human form. John’s Gospel agreed.  Interesting, though, that this God-in-the-flesh showed no signs of jealousy; Jesus was “full of grace and truth.”

Graham
Graham BLand
Rector
St. George’s Anglican Church

Sunday, February 26, 2017

The Lord our God, the Lord is One

Morning: Psalm 148, 149, 150; Deuteronomy 6:1-9; Hebrews 12:18-29
Evening: Psalm 114, 115; John 12:24-32
Listen to the earthshaking realization of an ancient people – Israel – who used to worship idols. “Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.” Jesus, son of Mary, learned to “keep these words … in (his) heart.” He himself would become one more earthshaking sign that God’s unshakeable Love still guards the creation, in spite of the messes we humans make. “Truly, we live with mysteries too marvelous to be understood.” (Mary Oliver)

Graham
Graham Bland
Rector
St. George’s Anglican Church

Saturday, February 25, 2017

We walk by faith, not by sight

Morning: Psalm 137:1-6; Ruth 4:1-17; 2 Corinthians 4:13-5:10
Evening: Psalm 104; Matthew 6:1-6
Some dreams (fortunately) are unrealizable. But dreams conceived in Love are assured. The faithfulness of Ruth and Boaz gave Naomi hope, a grandson. Quietly generous and prayerful lives produce good fruit. Our inner natures are strong when we walk by faith in the Love of God. We cannot see or touch Love, but it is part of us. So we do not lose heart. Muslim poet, Rumi, taught: “Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love. It will not lead you astray.”

Graham
Graham Bland
Rector
St. George’s Anglican Church

Friday, February 24, 2017

Unexpected treasure … in serving the stranger


Morning: Psalm 140, 142; Ruth 3:1-18; 2 Corinthians 4:1-12
Evening: Psalms 141, 143:1-11; Matthew 5:38-48
I choke at some Hollywood caricatures, especially predictable religious leaders, mouthing pious platitudes!  Lord, help me be authentic! But the characters who unpredictably and unexpectedly serve strangers who cannot repay them … Now, they always touch my heart - Superman, the Lone Ranger, Robin Hood!  God fills our human ‘clay vessels’ with the great treasure of Love.  Lavishing love only on those closest to us is a miserly caricature of humanity.  But when, unexpectedly, I serve a stranger, I release a treasure of Love I did not know was in me - or in them.

Graham
Graham Bland
Rector
St. George’s Anglican Church

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Where the Spirit is, there is freedom


Morning: Psalm 131, 132; Ruth 2:14-23; 2 Corinthians 3:1-18
Evening: Psalm 134, 135; Matthew 5:27-37
The Ten Commandments (Moses’ Law) were written on stone; but the Spirit writes on our hearts, so we know the truth within.  While the Law condemns, the Spirit frees. Jesus challenged those who used laws about adultery and divorce to justify mistreating women. They observed the Law, but ignored the Spirit. Living well is never just about following rules; people bend rules to suit their needs.  Living well, true freedom, is a matter of the heart. When the Spirit is at work there, we are free to obey the truth. Marvelous paradox!

Graham
Graham Bland
Rector
St. George’s Anglican Church


Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Faith heals our common life, not just me.


Morning: Psalm 119:145-176; Ruth 2:1-13; 2 Corinthians 1:23-2:17
Evening: Psalms 128, 129, 130; Matthew 5:21-26
If we think faith is about personal satisfaction (as many religious leaders teach), we’re not talking about faith. Boaz offered Ruth, a foreigner, the protection and solace of community.  Paul knew faith as a ‘fragrance’ that wafts through communities to heal, to bring forgiveness and life.  Jesus made it our responsibility to heal broken relationships, whether or not we caused the problem. Faith is not about ‘me’; it’s about ‘us’. If faith does not move us to reconciliation in our common life, it is not worthy of us.

Graham
Graham Bland
Rector
St. George’s Anglican Church

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

The heart knows


Morning: Psalm 121, 122, 123; Ruth 1:15-22; 2 Corinthians 1:12-22
Evening: Psalm 124, 125, 126; Matthew 5:13-20

“Where you go I will go, where you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God.”  Ruth spoke these stirring words of human commitment to Naomi. Ruth said “Yes” to the deep kinship forged when she married Naomi’s son. When we say, “Yes” with our hearts and are true to what we believe in, our lives are ‘salty’ and full of ‘light’. Like Ruth, we enrich and bless our communities. Rules and laws usually do not help us to know the right path for life. The heart knows.

Graham
Graham Bland
Rector
St. George’s Anglican Church

Monday, February 20, 2017

Gain through Loss

Morning: Psalm 106:1-18; Ruth 1:1-14; 2 Corinthians 1:1-11
Evening: Psalms 106:19-48; Matthew 5:1-12
Ruth’s faithfulness to Naomi after both suffer the tragic loss of their husbands is a wonderful human story. Ruth’s loyalty leads her eventually to become the great-grandmother of David, from whose line Jesus will be born. It is a strange mystery that spiritual growth and blessing often only come from learning to bear the inevitable suffering we humans all share. Jesus teaches: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”

Graham
Graham Bland
Rector
St. George’s Anglican Church

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Let’s Make it All for One and All for Love

Morning: Psalm 118; Isaiah 66:7-14; I John 3:4-10
Evening: Psalm 145; John 10:7-16
The Three Musketeers and their “All for One, One for All,” appealed to me as a teenager. But at 19, I consciously chose the way of Jesus … a life laid down for Love, with no priority of importance among persons, of religion or any other distinction. In ’93, the Musketeers were back but Bryan Adams added a musical twist … ‘All for One and All for Love’.  Now it was ‘All for Love.’  That was what touched my heart about Jesus. His way made much more sense to me than swordplay and chivalry.  It still does.

Graham
Graham Bland
Rector
St. George’s Anglican Church

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Guard what has been entrusted to you.

Morning: Psalm 107:33-43; 108:1-6; Isaiah 66:1-6; I Timothy 6:6-21
Evening: Psalm 33; Mark 12:35-44
My old high school’s motto was: “Quod Tuum Tene.” They said it meant, “What you have, hold.”  It sounded selfish to me, ungenerous.  It really means: “Guard what has been entrusted to you.”  All that we build is only a shadow of creation’s glory. “Too low they build who build beneath the stars,” wrote Edward Young.  Riches carry no lasting value. Yet humility, right action, the search for God, faith, love, endurance and gentleness are a sacred trust. A poor widow’s generosity with the little she has matters more than large gifts given by us who can easily afford them.

Graham
Graham Bland
Rector
St. George’s Anglican Church

Friday, February 17, 2017

“wishing is the wings the truth comes true on”

Morning: Psalm 102; Isaiah 65:17-25; I Timothy 5:17-25
Evening: Psalm 107:1-32; Mark 12:28-34
Isaiah prophesied, 2500 years ago, that God was about to create a new heaven and a new earth.  That was just a moment ago in the 13 billion year history since the Big Bang (like one second in 60 days).  The new creation is just beginning. St. Paul might suggest we read this wonderful vision of the new creation with a little wine! Imagine it being real … to love God completely, to love our fellow human beings, and to love ourselves as we are.  Fred Buechner wrote: “Sometimes wishing is the wings the truth comes true on.”

Graham
Graham Bland
Rector
St. George’s Anglican Church

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Trust God with everything? Yes, everything!

Morning: Psalm 105:1-22; Isaiah 65:1-12; I Timothy 4:1-16
Evening: Psalm 105:23-45; Mark 12:13-27
“What do I have to do to get your attention!?” This question may describe God’s experience with humankind. God says, “Here I am, but you keep looking elsewhere”. Like when you invite someone to dinner, and they say, “I don’t know what I’m doing yet,” hoping for a better offer! What are we expecting to find that God did not already give?  Jesus gets to the heart of the matter: “Give God his due,” everything. When we trust God with everything, we may find what we were so busy looking for.

Graham
Graham Bland
Rector
St. George’s Anglican Church

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Do I recognize God’s help when I get it?

Morning: Psalm 101, 109; Isaiah 63:15-64:9; I Timothy 3:1-16
Evening: Psalm 119:121-144; Mark 11:27-12:12
Humans blame trouble on God … “How can a loving God allow suffering?” “God only gives you what you can handle.” “God took her.” “God made us stray.” Blaming God is a handy out.  But it’s not that simple.  God’s ancient people begged, “come down, help us!”  Yet when Jesus did “come down”, he was scapegoated and killed. You must have heard about the drowning man who turned away 3 boats and a helicopter because he had asked God to save him. Strange that we would expect God’s help less than we expect trouble? But God doesn’t give up.

Graham
Graham Bland
Rector
St. George’s Anglican Church

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Prayer joins us to God and to Love

Morning: Psalms 97, 99; Isaiah 63:7-14; I Timothy 1:18-2:8
Evening: Psalm 94; Mark 11:12-25
Why do we lose faith in God, or in Love?  We neglect to pray. We love new things and go after them instead. The people of Israel knew God’s love through his presence with them “all the days of old”. But they rebelled. For stability of faith and peace in our hearts, prayer must be like breathing. Monks pray 5 times a day. So do our Muslim friends. Prayer makes us strong. Christian communities are not “dens of robbers”, but when we do not pray, we rob ourselves of a rich blessing.

Graham
Graham Bland
Rector
St. George’s Anglican Church

Monday, February 13, 2017

Faith is not always simple or easy

Morning: Psalm 89:1-18; Isaiah 63:1-6; I Timothy 1:1-17
Evening: Psalms 89:19-52; Mark 11:1-11
Mr. Trudeau goes to Washington.  Sounds like a movie!  What’s a PM to say?  The US administration is causing some chaos and suffering.  In Isaiah, what sounds like God’s revenge for suffering is really God’s natural order reasserting itself in the face of injustice.  People of faith do not support acts of vengeance. In Jesus, God is seen to be merciful. He treats us with utmost patience and calls us to patience too.  Jesus humbly and firmly confronts unjust power in Jerusalem.  Pray that wisdom and courage may prevail today in Washington.

Graham
Graham Bland
Rectore
St. George’s Anglican Church

Sunday, February 12, 2017

God is the unshakeable one, and Love

Morning: Psalm 66, 67; Isaiah 62:6-12; I John 2:3-11
Evening: Psalm 19, 46; John 8:12-19
On the American dollar bill are the words, “In God we trust.”  Yet it’s the dollar we really trust. In 2008, the world economy was shaken to the core. Those responsible were not brought to justice. Now we print more money to prop up a broken system. We still put our faith in the wrong place. Are we blind to Love? In our devotion to money, we measure people’s worth by what they have; our own worth too. But God is the unshakeable one, and Love – do not trust in anything else.

Graham
Graham Bland
Rector
St. George’s Anglican Church

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Be persistent

Morning: Psalm 87, 90; Isaiah 61:10-62:5; 2 Timothy 4:1-8
Evening: Psalm 136; Mark 10:46-52
Can you measure how much the children in your life give you joy?  Is your joy less when they mess up?  Our joy in those we love is big, and we share it with others. God’s joy about us is immeasurable. Rejoice! God delights in us! Just as we are merciful to those we love, God never gives up longing for us to turn our lives to his purposes and ways.  Sometimes we are blind to God, yet in our hearts we long for God too.  Let us persist and persevere in seeking God, then tell others what we find.

Graham
Graham Bland
Rector
St. George’s Anglican Church

Friday, February 10, 2017

The greatest is the servant of all

Morning: Psalm 88; Isaiah 61:1-9; 2 Timothy 3:1-17
Evening: Psalms 91, 92; Mark 10:32-45
After the shooting at the mosque in Quebec last week, someone wrote in support of our Muslim friends: “Not only do we stand behind you; we are also ready to stand in front of you if need be.” The ancient Good News that Jesus came to affirm is that God is bringing justice to the earth.  And yet, there are evil forces that oppose God. Disciples do not seek God’s favour or special privileges. Disciples are servants. Like their master, they may even have to suffer for what is right.

Graham
Graham Bland
Rector
St. George’s Anglican Church

Thursday, February 9, 2017

What do we need?

Morning: Psalm 146, 147; Isaiah 60:1-17; 2 Timothy 2:14-26
Evening: Psalm 85, 86; Mark 10:17-31
Nations and people sometimes need reassurance, words of comfort predicting that their suffering will end. Wisdom responds to different needs differently.  When you’re in trouble, you need compassion; when you’re complacent, a challenge.  Martin Marty said: “God comforts the afflicted and afflicts the comfortable.” Jesus told the rich young ruler he needed to give away all he had; he had to decide whether to stay in his comfortable rut or break out into freedom.  And we, if we feel like arguing about this, or other things, we may simply need to be silent.

Graham
Graham Bland
Rector
St. George’s Anglican Church

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

God is faithful and regards us with Love

Morning: Psalm 119:97-120; Isaiah 59:15b-21; 2 Timothy 1:15-2:13
Evening: Psalms 81, 82; Mark 10:1-16
Some people think God is watching them to catch them out in mischief.  No! Jesus teaches us that God regards us with Love. God is displeased with our injustice, yes, but when we seek his way of justice, we find strength in his Spirit.  God is faithful, even when we are not. When we are, others learn about Love from us. Faithfulness may bring suffering and trials.  But those who come to Jesus with the innocence of children find joy; he called it the ‘Kingdom of God,’ where God’s justice just is.

Graham
Graham Bland
Rector
St. George’s Anglican Church

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

A Holy Calling

Morning: Psalm 78:1-39; Isaiah 59:1-15a; 2 Timothy 1:1-14
Evening: Psalm 78:40-72; Mark 9:42-50
Jesus’ radical ‘remedies’ for wrongdoing – cutting away the offending hand, foot or eye!! – are shockingly unappealing and surely to be taken metaphorically. But Jesus does call us to take dramatic action to address our ‘stumbling’.  His is a ‘holy calling’, ‘not (to) a spirit of cowardice, but of power, love and self-discipline.’ God entrusts us all with good treasure, and the Spirit wants to help us guard it.  But we must remove the barriers we ourselves create that keep us from seeing and hearing God.

Graham
Graham Bland
Rector
St. George’s Anglican Church

Monday, February 6, 2017

The greatest is the servant of all

Morning: Psalm 80; Isaiah 58:1-12; Galatians 6:11-18
Evening: Psalms 77, 79; Mark 9:30-41
Those who practice religion often misunderstand it.  A recent study in England found that many who attend church are ‘heretics’ with a distorted understanding of Christianity. One common distortion is the notion that God needs to be appeased or satisfied in some way. So people do religious things – fasting, circumcision, baptism – because they think God needs them to.  God needs nothing from us. It seems hard for us to avoid a ‘commercial’ notion of faith - you do this, you get that.  But what you ‘get’ from following Jesus is the privilege of serving others.  Just that.

Graham
Graham Bland
Rector
St. George’s Anglican Church

Sunday, February 5, 2017

The Spirit of God revives the spirit of the humble

Morning: Psalm 93, 96; Isaiah 57:14-21; Hebrews 12:1-6
Evening: Psalm 34; John 7:37-46
Those who trust in a power greater than their own become channels of life for others, because the strength of the Spirit flows through them.  When we trust God, others may not like it. Jesus endured such hostility, so that we may not lose heart when it happens to us.  In my own quest for a better world, I have not had to shed my blood.  On Friday, though, someone asked whether, as well as standing behind my Muslim friends to support them, I would be ready to stand in front of them to protect them?  Mmm?

Graham
Graham Bland
Rector
St. George’s Anglican Church

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Let us work for the good of all

Morning: Psalm 75, 76; Isaiah 57:3-13; Galatians 5:25-6:10
Evening: Psalm 23, 27; Mark 9:14-29
President Harry Truman, postwar pioneer of international cooperation, said: “It’s amazing what you can accomplish if you don’t care who gets the credit.” How easy it is to become conceited and compete with one another.  We see how that only causes isolation and mistrust in the world. Prayer, though, is trusting there is a power greater than my own.  When the Spirit guides me, I pull my weight and also help you carry your load, without keeping a tally. Community is born in our letting go of our egos.

Graham
Graham Bland
Rector
St. George’s Anglican Church

Friday, February 3, 2017

My House shall be a house of prayer for all peoples

Morning: Psalm 69; Isaiah 56:1-8; Galatians 5:16-24
Evening: Psalm 73; Mark 9:2-13
What is our work in the world?  Here’s a hint, God said about Jesus, “This is my Son … Listen to him!” Soon after, Jesus challenged those who did evil in the temple, quoting Isaiah: “My house shall be a house of prayer for all peoples.”  Think, for a moment, of the earth as God’s ‘house’.  We, led by the Spirit, are agents on earth of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Imagine it! … God is rebuilding his house, using our hands. Let heaven and earth praise him!

Graham
Graham Bland
Rector
St. George’s Anglican Church

Thursday, February 2, 2017

The Truth will free you

Morning: Psalm 42, 43; I Samuel 2:1-10; John 8:31-36
Evening: Psalm 48, 87; Haggai 2:1-9; I John 3:1-8
Mary felt Jesus move in her womb, and praised God. Hannah did, too, after she ‘lent’ her son Samuel to God.  Both women found freedom in doing God’s will. Jesus himself said: “Continue in my word; you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” To do God’s will is to be free … no longer a slave to illusions about life. One illusion is that my life is my own. When we are free, we freely choose what God wants, and let go of ourselves, as Hannah and Mary did.

Graham
Graham Bland
Rector
St. George’s Anglican Church

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Free to serve

Morning: Psalm 72; Isaiah 54:1-17; Galatians 4:21-31; Mark 8:11-26
Evening: Psalm 113, 122; I Samuel 1:20-28a; Romans 8:14-21
Shockingly, human slavery still happens. Most humans, however, believe in freedom for all. True freedom is of the heart; it makes us want to serve others in love, because all are children of God. Jesus teaches that we are agents of the new reality that God’s steadfast love is building in the world. God’s children do not depend on signs, wonders, or handouts. When we see that our lives are meant for service, we are free indeed - free to invite the world into the paradoxical freedom of loving service.

Graham
Graham Bland
Rector
St. George’s Anglican Church

Summer Sabbath time; the pause that refreshes

Morning: Psalm 102 ; I Samuel 9:1-14; Acts 7:17-29 Evening: Psalm 107:1-32; Luke 22:31-38 Becoming human – becoming ourselves – is dem...