The collect this morning is my favorite collect from the Book of Common Prayer.
My favorite part of the morning is when I grab my hot coffee and head to my home office to spend some time with Holy Scripture, listening, reading, marking, inwardly digesting and embracing the Written Word.
I am reminded of the passage in Genesis that says that God came down into the garden in the cool part of the day to walk with Adam and Eve. As it appears this was God’s custom. (Gen 3:8)
Another example of encountering the Living Word from the pages of the Written Word is the story about Moses was walking in the desert and he notices a bush burning, but the bush is not burning up. When he approached the bush to see what was going on, He is met by God with these words: Take off your shoes for the place you are standing is holy ground. (Exodus 3:1-6) The Bible in both the Old and the New Testament is full of these encounters with the holy. The message is this: The Written Word points us to the Living Word, a vibrant encounter with the Living God.
There are different ways to read the Bible, different methods of approaching scripture. The Written Word is a pathway that leads us to God. It is a book that we hold high, we read, study historical and cultural contexts, explore original languages, research authorship, dates written, structure and writing style. There are scholars that do that and they deserve our respect and appreciation as special gifts to the church. I do not consider myself as one of those. Most rectors that commit themselves to congregational development and outreach don’t have the amount of time that requires.
We also read for encouragement. We read to illuminate our faith; giving access for Gods big Searchlight to open our hearts and minds, because in our passage in 1 Thessalonians that says you are called to be children of light and children of the day. (1 Thessalonians 5:1-11)
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, and we encounter the Living Word.
I was on Sunset Cliffs in Ocean Beach this past Monday morning. It had been raining on Sunday and Monday and the waves were high and breaking onto the cliffs. I was working on my sermon for today, and I had to take some time and appreciate the magnificent shoreline, the cloudy skies with a sun that was working hard to send rays though the gray mist. This was an “Aha” moment, a time to enjoy the presence of God that nature pointed me too, a time to enjoy the Living Word.
Do you have a time or a place like Adam and Eve that was they’re custom to walk and enjoy the presence of God in the coolness of the day?(Gen 3:8) Do you have a special place you enjoy setting aside to be with the Living Word? For some of you it may be a special place that you spend time with God reading and in prayer. For some of you it may be a special writer or book that has changed your way of thinking and brought you closer to that divine encounter, that place that is enriched by the Spirit of God, so that your world and Gods world gets all tangled up, but that’s a really cool thing that happens. Sometimes it’s good to pause and say, this none other than a holy time to be with God. It’s beyond my comprehension, but I am really digging it.
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. As stewards of all things God has put into our treasury, the written word points us to the pragmatic message from the Living Word. Put the word into practice in your lives, as the theologian Soren Kierkegaard would say: “You really have not heard the word properly until you put the messages of Scripture pragmatically into your lives. You have to experience the word interactively or it is just an interesting book to read and think about”.
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 edified and encouraged.. And He will say to you: Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your Lord. (Matthew 25:21)