The Eighth Day

Scripture: 2 Peter 3.12-13
That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells.

Reflection: The Eighth Day
By John Tillman

Peter encourages his readers about Christ’s second coming with thoughts that closely relate to the Jewish concept of the eighth day that was influential on early Christian belief and practice.

Justo L. Gonzalez writes about this concept in his book, A Brief History of Sunday:

Christians as well as Jews, did not believe that the repetitive cycle of a new week following another, and a new year following another, would be endless. There would be a day when that cycle would be broken, and a new age would dawn. This would be a final Sabbath, an eternal day of joy and rest.

Given their observance of the Lord’s resurrection on the first day of the week, and the manner they related that day with the first day of creation, Christians would soon point out that the first day of the week was also the eighth, and that therefore what they celebrated on that day, besides the resurrection of Jesus and the beginning of a new creation, was also the promise of the eighth, the beginning of eternity.

In brief, the first day of the week, most commonly called the Lord’s day—the kyriaka or dominica—was taken as a celebration of the three great events of salvation history.

It was first of all the day of the resurrection of the Lord and therefore the beginning of the new creation.

It was also the very first day of the first creation, and therefore a time to rejoice in the goodness of God’s bounty.

And it was the eighth day of the week and therefore a day of hope pointing to the consummation of all things.

In our vitriolic culture it is easy to picture the second coming like a childish revenge fantasy where our enemies get theirs.

But Peter, despite his description of the violence of the day of the Lord, urges his readers not to gleefully anticipate the destruction of enemies but to dutifully make every effort to prepare themselves for the new creation.

The day of the Lord will be a day of destruction but not annihilation. It will be like the scraping of an old canvas to repaint a new landscape, or the burning and tilling under of a harvested field so a new kind of crop can be planted.

May we allow God’s Spirit to prepare our hearts to flourish, both now and in the new creation.

Prayer: A Reading
Jesus taught us, saying: “No one sews a piece of unshrunken cloth to an old cloak; otherwise, the patch pulls away from it, the new from the old, and the tear gets worse. And nobody puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and the wine is lost and the skins too. No! New wine into fresh skins!” — Mark 2.21-22

– Prayer from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Isaiah 22 (Listen – 3:53)
2 Peter 3 (Listen – 3:21)

Looking Back at Good Friday

Scripture: 1 Peter 5.8-9
Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.

Reflection: Looking Back at Good Friday
By John Tillman

Much of the conclusion of 1 Peter echoes words Jesus said to Peter in the week of Christ’s Passion or in the days following his resurrection.

“Your enemy the devil…looking for someone to devour,” recalls Jesus in Luke 22, “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat.” And “Be shepherds of God’s flock…” is passing on Christ’s post resurrection reinstatement of Peter in John 21, “Feed my sheep…”

On this the last Friday of the season of Easter we also look back to Passion week and particularly to Good Friday, remembering that the Spirit that was to be poured out on all flesh came to us through sacrifice. We do this anticipating the celebration of Pentecost this coming Sunday, 50 days after Christ’s resurrection.

In his book, Death on a Friday Afternoon: Meditations on the Last Words of Jesus from the Cross, Richard John Neuhaus writes that Good Friday should be relived and reflected on beyond its place in the Christian liturgical year.

Good Friday is not just one day of the year. It is a day relived in every day of the world, and of our lives in the world. In the Christian view of things, all reality turns around the “paschal mystery” of the death and resurrection of Christ.

As Passover marks the liberation from bondage in Egypt, so the paschal mystery marks humanity’s passage from death to life.

Good Friday cannot be confined to Holy Week. It is not simply the dismal but necessary prelude to the joy of Easter, although I’m afraid many Christians think of it that way.

Every day of the year is a good day to think more deeply about Good Friday, for Good Friday is the drama of the love by which our every day is sustained.

One of the blessings of the liturgical year is that we cyclically return, again and again, to the most important foundations of our faith. But at times we can allow the dates on the calendar to be storage boxes holding holiday decorations that we only look at when the box is pulled down from the shelf.

That should not be. Let the messages stay on our walls year round and in our hearts throughout each day.

May the love we were shown on Good Friday be carried by us not just on Fridays, but on everyday.
May we stay alert, for the same adversary stalks us as stalked Peter.
May we accept Christ’s forgiveness, reinstatement, and commission, as did the Apostle, feeding and caring for the shepherdless sheep of our culture.

Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Righteousness shall go before him, and peace shall be a pathway for his feet. — Psalm 85.13

– Prayer from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Isaiah 17-18 (Listen – 3:44)
1 Peter 5 (Listen – 2:11)

This Weekend’s Readings
Isaiah 19-20 (Listen – 4:49) 2 Peter 1 (Listen – 3:06)
Isaiah 21 (Listen – 2:32) 2 Peter 2 (Listen – 3:52)

Restful Meditations :: Advent’s Hope

Reflection: Restful Meditations :: Advent’s Hope
The Park Forum

Focusing our hearts on Christ, the hope of Advent, expands the holiday experience beyond mere merriness. In the gospel our hearts find rest from pain and hope for renewal.

“Jesus, my feet are dirty,” prayed Origen in the third century. “Come even as a slave to me, pour water into your bowl, come and wash my feet. In asking such a thing I know I am overbold, but I dread what was threatened when you said to me, ‘If I do not wash your feet I have no fellowship with you.’ Wash my feet then, because I long for your companionship.”

Origen’s prayer captures the spirit of Advent: looking back at Christ’s work on our behalf, looking forward at the completion of his fellowship, and longing for his presence and power today.
Another third century prayer, an anonymous Syriac Christmas liturgy, gives words to this hope:

The radiance of the Father’s splendor, the Father’s visible image, Jesus Christ our God, peerless among counselors, Prince of Peace, Father of the world to come, the model after which Adam was formed, for our sakes became like a slave: in the womb of Mary the virgin, without assistance from any man, he took flesh.

Enable us, Lord, to reach the end of this luminous feast in peace, forsaking all idle words, acting virtuously, shunning our passions, and raising ourselves above the things of this world.
Bless your church, which you brought into being long ago and attached to yourself through your own life-giving blood…

Bless your servants, whose trust is all in you; bless all Christian souls, the sick, those tormented by evil spirits, and those who have asked us to pray for them.

Show yourself as merciful as you are rich in grace; save and preserve us; enable us to obtain those good things to come which will never know an end.

May we celebrate your glorious birth, and the Father who sent you to redeem us, and your Spirit, the Giver of life, now and forever, age after age. Amen.

Christ, may our hearts find their rest in you, the hope of Advent.

Listen: Greensleves by Vince Guaraldi Trio.

The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. — 2 Corinthians 4.6

– From 
Christmastide: Prayers for Advent Through Epiphany from The Divine Hours by Phyllis Tickle.

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
1 Chronicles 29 (Listen – 5:50)
2Peter 3 (Listen – 3:21)

Today’s Readings
2 Chronicles 1 (Listen – 2:47) 1 John 1 (Listen – 6:18)
2 Chronicles 2 (Listen – 3:41) 1 John 2 (Listen – 3:02)

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel :: Advent’s Hope

Reflection: O Come, O Come, Emmanuel :: Advent’s Hope
The Park Forum

“Caesar is Lord,” the people would shout as his chariot traversed the streets. Rome’s elite culture—from philosophy to viaducts, engineering to economics—was unsurpassed and almost universally recognized as the hope of the world. It was stunning when the empire fell into decline.

In the end, Caesar proved not only unable to save his kingdom, but even himself. The fall of Rome plunged civilization into what historians have long-called the Dark Ages. For hundreds of years battles raged endlessly, pestilence and plague spread freely, and chaos seemed to gain the upper hand all too regularly.

The period isn’t significantly brighter in church history. Scripture was largely inaccessible, starving the Church of sound doctrine and increasing the growth of folk religion, superstition, and far worse. (The devastating interpretations of Scripture that lead to the crusades fomented during this time.)

“O come, Thou Wisdom, from on high, and order all things far and nigh,” wrote an anonymous monk sometime before 800 C.E. The words to “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” cry out from the depths of the Dark Ages—longing for God’s presence, Emmanuel, to rescue humankind.

In some ways the unknown author behind this song is an outlier to his or her world; the lyrics demonstrate intimate knowledge of Scripture in a time of illiteracy. In other ways the lyricist was shaped firmly by the Dark Ages—depravity writ large—and its revelations of humanity’s limits. Even had there been a vision for restoration present, no one on earth would have been sufficient to breathe it to life.

O come, Desire of the nations, bind
in one the hearts of all mankind;
bid every strife and quarrel cease
and fill the world with heaven’s peace.

“Jesus is Lord,” is a revolutionary claim. It not only upends global empires, but whatever we would enthrone on our hearts to save ourselves from the insufficiency of our world.

In Advent we await the coming of the all-sufficient King; he is the wisdom we yearn for and the power we need. He is God, and his presence brings healing to our world and restoration to our hearts.

Listen: O Come, O Come, Emmanuel by Francesca Battistelli (4:20)

The Request for Presence
For God alone my soul in silence waits; truly, my hope is in him — Psalm 62.6

– From 
Christmastide: Prayers for Advent Through Epiphany from The Divine Hours by Phyllis Tickle.

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
1 Chronicles 28 (Listen – 4:45)
2 Peter 2 (Listen – 3:52)

Depression, Anger, Redemption :: Advent’s Hope

Reflection: Depression, Anger, Redemption :: Advent’s Hope
The Park Forum

“Charles Jennens was a collaborator of Handel’s who struggled with depression following the suicide of his younger brother,” writes Mitch Davis who produced a documentary on Handel’s Messiah. Jennens’ brother was reportedly talked out of his faith at university and subsequently took his own life. “Jennens craved the spiritual solace he found in the exalted strains of Handel’s music and sought to combine that music with the scriptural words that comforted him during his depressive bouts.” Jennings composed the libretto of Messiah from translations of the Bible from the King James Version and The Book of Common Prayer.

Handel bounced from patron to patron throughout his career. Poor management of money and the resulting large shifts in his income, led him to become significantly indebted in London. Additionally, Handel’s first biographer John Mainwaring recorded that Handel, ”paid more attention to [food] than is becoming to any man.” Handel eventually became overweight, but was known far wider for English tabloid reports on his temper. In one argument he threatened to throw a soloist out a window, in another he escalated a verbal fight until a friend stabbed him with a sword (Handel was spared, as the sword was blunted by a metal button).

Mesmerized when he saw Jennens’ impassioned libretto, Handel worked feverishly on an oratorio, completing it in less than four weeks. Messiah was a turning point for Handel; its success freed him from his debts, and he became extraordinarily generous with the wealth his fame allowed. Something beyond material success seems to have happened as well. During the composition, Handel had what some call a spiritual epiphany. “I did think I did see all Heaven before me, and the great God himself.” Handel wrote as he composed the Hallelujah Chorus. “Whether I was in the body or out of my body when I wrote it, I know not.”

“Even when the subject of his work is religious, Handel is writing about the human response to the divine,” observes Harry Bicket, the director of The English Concert chamber orchestra. It’s clear both Jennens and Handel found personal grounding in Messiah and wanted to share that experience with others. Messiah seems to be both both men’s declaration that Christ is sufficient in the chaos of the world. They approached Messiah, as we can during this season as well, drawing solace and strength from the glory of Christ.

Listen: Hallelujah Chorus by The London Philharmonic.

The Request for Presence
Gladden the soul of your servant, for to you, O Lord, I lift up my soul. — Psalm 86.4

– From 
The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
1 Chronicles 26-27 (Listen – 9:39)
2Peter 1 (Listen – 3:06)

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