The collect this morning is one of, if not my favorite collect from the Book of Common Prayer. Every time I hear it or read it I have a strong desire just to get my Bible and spend some time in the scriptures, listening, reading, marking, learning, inwardly digesting and embracing scripture. Let’s read it again:
“Blessed Lord, you caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever”.
There are different ways to read the Bible, different methods of approaching scripture. The Written Word is a conduit that points us to God. It is a book that we hold high, we read, study historical and cultural contexts, explore original languages, researching to adequately determine authorship, dates written, structure and style of writings. We also read them for encouragement, vitality, strength and healing, a tool that brings us to Living Word. It is way of embracing and renewing our faith daily and weekly; to read, highlight, to memorize, take notes, learn and inwardly digest so that the Word can transform our lives, to be changed from image to image as our lives are transformed by God. That’s the picture of this collect.
This is what our liturgy on Sunday morning is designed to do. It’s not just so we can go through the motions and say, we did church. It is designed to focus our attention on God. Liturgy can become a thin place where we experience God, full of symbols, icons, and practices that point us to God; candles, cross, altar, communion, incense, reading of scripture, preaching. It is all intended to be a thin place, a place where our space and God’s space become pleasantly blurred.
Liturgy, just as the beautiful collect from this morning is intended to help us embrace and hold fast to our faith, to teach us, train us, and assist us to responsible stewards of our time, abilities, resources, committed to the spiritual family (church) and to the community outside of this church.
In the gospel reading today we looked at a parable about responsible stewardship. The parable teaches us that we should use our resources, time and talents wisely. And, as in the story, we are encouraged to invest what we have. The one person that buried his talent reminds us to invest our talents. “I don’t have enough. I just want to keep things as they are. I don’t need to invest because I don’t have enough to invest”.
We have plenty to invest. I know we are a small congregation, and I know for the most part, I’m preaching to the choir. I’m on staff, but all of you are volunteers. You invest your talent, time and money. I for one will invest more of my time, talent and resources in 2015. My New Year resolution is to commit to work harder and smarter and do a better job of managing time, to increase my financial pledge, and to be more creative with the talents God has given me. And, to spend more time in prayer, meditation, listening, reading, marking and digesting Scripture.
I always encourage good devotional habits. Many of you pick up the “Day by Day” devotionals published by Forward Movement, a wonderful ministry. The “Day by Day” lists the same scriptures as listed in the Daily Office in the Book of Common Prayer. The short daily commentary’s are from laity and clergy. They change every day. I notice we are out of them again, so more of you are picking them up. We increased the order, but looks like we need to increase it again. A few years ago, a relative of mine was in prison, and one of my commitments to him was to make sure he had the current Day by Day every month. In one of the months every devotional was written by a prisoner. That meant a lot to him. He looked forward to reading his devotional and scriptures every day. It became a new and good habit.
In Advent we will be doing a study on the first week of Christmas. The class will be a potluck following our Wednesday evening Eucharist, and we will look at Christmas through writings of Matthew, and then the writings of Luke. I encourage you to join us. I can assure you that it will be mentally and spiritually challenging and encouraging. In January, I would like to start a Bible refresher series, beginning with an overview of the New Testament. I promise that it will be challenging and enriching. It will be a time to hear, to read, mark, learn and inwardly digest and embrace scripture. Our goal will be to make it a thin place, a place where your world and Gods world intersect.
Invest your talents, so that when Jesus comes and says what did you do with your talents? What did you do with your resources? What did you do with your time? Then you can say: “Look this is what I did. I invested them wisely and creatively and look they are paying dividends and the kingdom has been enhanced. Lives have been changed and people have been ministered to. Children have been taught. And He will say to you “Good job, my good and faithful partner”.
Year A 23rd Sunday After Pentecost
November 16, 2014
St. Alban’s Episcopal Church
The Reverend Dr. David Madsen