During these days of disruption and isolation we have invited the Parishioners and Friends of St. Peter’s to share any devotional thoughts or reflections.
May 2, 2020
From Sue Smith
GOD’S BLESSINGS FROM DAWN TILL DUSK
It floated in, a veil of cloud,
And hid the trees, amid a shroud.
The birds flew off, as if afeared.
A world of shadow had appeared.
Then rose the sun and with it light.
The day had dawned and all was bright.
Oh, how I love these Springtime days
That start with misty, dewy haze.
Radiant sunbeams filtered through,
The cloudless sky was oh so blue,
Although by noon t’was overcast,
Alas, the sunshine would not last.
Cool rain cascades, plip plop, plip plop,
I wonder, will it ever stop?
But eventide brings sun again
To mingle with the misting rain.
A glorious rainbow forms an arc,
I hear the singing of a lark
Who soars aloft and flies away,
Though he’ll be back another day.
As twilight fades, the moon appears
The day is ending, darkness nears.
For these gifts bestowed with love,
I thank my Lord in Heaven above.
April 27th 2020
Poem of the Day by Michael J. Adams
The Sacrament of Desire
I’ve failed to comprehend how shut-ins fare
Apart from corporate worship. And before
This virus hit, I never had to share
Their hardships or despair, robbed of rapport
With others. I, instead, could celebrate
With those I love and know and, so, derive
A sense of close connection. Now the State
Insists I isolate. Can I survive
This stretch of home-bound separation? Stuck
Alone, I’m forced to contemplate the scope
Of God’s provision. Suddenly, I’m struck
By this fresh revelation: Certain hope
Is grounded in God’s ever-present Fire,
Distributed to those with chaste desire.
April 24th, 2020
I opened the row cover last week to check on my warm-season seedlings. My heart sank as my eyes saw the tiny plants, each bent over, a lifeless dark transparent green. One frosty night of my neglect killed them.
Death. I thought with the coming of Eastertide, there would be less of it. Less of seeing my own sins and weaknesses. Less of having to die to myself.
Anger and sadness accompanied me as I reached for the seed packets. I pulled each dead seedling out of the soil. In its place went a new seed, the hope for new life.
Later that day, as I was on my knees weeding my herbs, I found unexpected joy: miniature dill and cilantro plants sprouting up. Last fall the herbs had died and gone to seed. And now, completely independent of my own will, life was resurrecting at the perfect time, resilient and powerful, though small enough to hardly see.
This desire for resurrection is good. We who have the Spirit groan along with creation for the full redemption of our bodies out of death and decay. I wonder if these “pangs of childbirth” we feel right now have the potential to birth in us even greater hope. Is it possible together to discover a more intense confidence in the Resurrection? Could this confidence help us– help me– wait with patience?
If we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.
April 10th, 2020
This poem is based on the icon “Crucifixion,” by the Master of Monte Oliveto, c. 1310
Ah, fearful Saviour, thou
art hammered thin like foil.
In bitterness and toil
Pierce I thy blameless brow.
I strike thee, holy Lord.
Thy wounds my own hands glaze,
and bloodshed for thy praise
vermilion doth afford.
Down cast I thy mother’s hands
in sorrow near to thee.
Beneath thy living tree
Our second Eva stands.
I wind her mantle close,
bluewoven, so to spare
the heart sure-bleeding there,
afflicted with thy woes.
Gleam, Lord, though sin betide.
Thy golden ribs are beaten;
Here have sinners eaten
flesh, drunk from thy side.
Forgive these hands, my Lord;
O clement Saviour, bless!
Thy wounds with tenderness
I made, and have adored.
Verdant pasture, indigo sky,
Flowering branches, golden light–
All seem dissonant.
Weep, creation, weep
To recall that day
Your Creator’s flesh was mauled,
Stripped, beaten, hung
On a tree He willed to grow.
Thorns and hyssop, His design.
Sky, darken. Wind, whip.
Every breath your Maker breathes
Every nerve awakened
To feel nothing but love.
The Word becomes the lament.
The Life, holding all things together,
Is torn asunder. Dead.
The earth shakes.
Still the earth shakes:
A psalm of new creation
Louder than the curse,
Stronger than the grave.
Exult, you forests! Sing, you fields!
“It is finished!”
Is the very beginning.
April 8th, 2020
This sonnet by my brother in law, Michael Adams will be published in an up-coming issue of First Things Journal
An avalanche of reckless thoughts keeps us
Apart. I’ll find excuses when, by chance,
We meet between distractions. Let’s not fuss
About my guarded habits. Our romance
Seemed fine, at first, until you sought to know
My hidden self: the hurts, the fears, the shame
Of past mistakes. Why should I stoop to show
My foiled pride? Why bother, since you claim
To know all things? Let’s leave me as I am,
Why yield protected ground? Can’t you prove love
Apart from crosses, blood and thorns? The sham
I use to hide behind should rid me of
My need to wear the robe you wove for me.
Inquire once more and you may see me flee.
April 6th, 2020
“It is good for you that I am going away.”
This must have puzzled the disciples. For three years, their eyes had seen, their ears had heard, and their hands had handled the physical body of Jesus. Now these words leave His mouth and hit their ears.
They might have recalled when the thronging crowds desperately begged Jesus to stay with them. The itinerant Messiah passed from village to village embodying the good news of the kingdom. But all those years, never had the twelve been left behind. Countless shared meals, long journeys along dusty roads, parables and miracles– God in the flesh had surely come to be with them.
But now? He was leaving them? How could this be? Their hearts utterly broke at the thought. This loss of His bodily presence was more than they could bear.
Now and again, we encounter people that make our hearts expand toward God and man. What we behold is Christ in them. Love becomes the sole possibility. For the disciples, love for Jesus had become their life. They had left all to follow Him, and this journey of love was now leading them toward the physical absence of their Beloved. John leaned into His Lord during that final meal, unable to comprehend, but able to still love.
The comprehension would come later. They discovered that it was good that He ascended. He had not left them to be orphans. They were not forsaken. Jesus sent them the advocate, the Holy Spirit. The Spirit would help them and be with them forever. And even more, the Spirit would dwell IN them. Their physical bodies and their gatherings would become the new temple, His body. Heaven itself was breaking into earth.
In this new understanding, the Spirit may have brought to the disciples’ minds the many times they had rose in the morning, sensed the Lord’s absence, and discovered that Jesus was on a mountainside spending time with His Father. The thought of Jesus with the Father brought them comfort and strength. Now this earthly rhythm found a deeper meaning. They realized Jesus had risen and was again with the Father interceding for them.
What gifts we have been given— the Spirit of Jesus dwelling in our frail flesh. Our Great High Priest interceding for us even this very moment. We are not alone.
April 4th, 2020
From David Bell
During a recent phone conversation with Fr. Mark, I shared an insight that I gained on Sunday, the fifth week of Lent. After reading God’s Word, I was being still and listening. It was the second week of imposed isolation and we were all experiencing the reality of separation from one another in order to curtail the harm of this pandemic crisis. God brought to my mind a reflection on a previous life changing crisis and with it, insight into this present crisis. Mark asked me to share this with you. I pray you will find insight as I have.
In 2000, I went for my annual physical exam. Although I appeared to be a very healthy 56 year old, a routine EKG revealed that I had an 80% blockage in the main artery feeding my heart. They call this artery “the widow maker” for a reason. I was told that within an unknown amount of time with no treatment, I would have a slim chance of survival. As if that were not enough to absorb, I was immediately sent to see cardiologists in Lexington and told by a kind and thoughtful doctor that with all things considered, I needed an immediate open heart procedure which would replace that artery with the one from my breast. The next words were to go home, get my affairs in order and to return for surgery.
After two weeks of recovery, I had an unsettling desire to return to work. My over- anxious spirit was causing me to be impatient. I was focused on the disruption to my life, even though I was aware of how important this third week was to healing and I remember sitting on our back porch in prayer. I was sensing the heat of the July day and the warmth to my body. My son’s best friend stopped by and walked into the field about 100 yards from our porch and began to play my favorite hymn, “Amazing Grace”, on his bagpipe. I listened and the words came alive to me. I knew it was God’s grace alone that had brought me safely to that place and it was by His grace that a life threatening blockage had been revealed; the God given insight and skill of a very gracious doctor had restored a clear flow of life giving blood to my heart. I had been spared a heart attack. I was being given a revelation of God’s loving grace and His healing power. I had been given a new transformed heart and a transformed life of awareness of my Creator God! Further insights brought stepping stone changes to my spiritual and physical well being. I have never been the same.
Now we are in the third week of the isolation mandated by this pandemic crisis of 2020. You do realize that is the number of perfect sight?
Do we, as the body of Christ , need open heart surgery? Do we need to listen silently in the warmth of this Spring sun, and feel His healing power? I believe this crisis will be transformational if we will pray for Him to create in us a new and clean heart and to renew a right spirit within us as His body.
God bless you all!!
And from Bob and Sue–perfect timing! Click here for link.
April 2nd 2020
Here is a beautiful prayer from the BCP.
O most mighty and merciful God, in this time of grievous sickness, we flee unto thee for succour. Deliver us, we beseech thee, from our peril; give strength and skill to all those who minister to the sick; prosper the means made use of for their cure; and grant that, perceiving how frail and uncertain life is, may apply our hearts unto that heavenly wisdom which leadeth to eternal life; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
This podcast is an excellent discussion with practical insights on how to adjust (or begin) the practice of a Rule of Life during quarantine. Sometimes we might be tempted to think St. Benedict and monasticism are worth reading, but don’t have much to offer our modern rhythms, our urgent sense of mission as Christians. This podcast will challenge that assumption, recovering theology that is both beautiful and true, and make once-lofty goals into grounded, realistic ways of being with Jesus for the sake of the world. Pete and Geri share how practicing this kind of Sabbath rest is truly counter-cultural, and resists the powers and principalities at work in our nation and world that seek to define us by what we do, what we have, or what others say about us: the same three lies that tempted Jesus in the desert. It’s a lovely invitation to let Christ be all in all, and walk with Him in the desert this Lent. Click here to listen.
March 31st, 2020
From Mike Adams, my brother-in-law
Death assumes a thousand faces
This virus is but one
Life persists in countless places
Begotten through God’s Son
As most assume we’ve reached the end
Of all that they hold dear
Will we resist, can we transcend
This tendency toward fear?
Peace resides in sacred places
This virus has not won
Death attempts to mar the traces
Of God’s persistent Son
March 29th 2020
I’m wrestling with two sides of a coin, these days: the blessing-curse of technology. People are right to be wary of online substitutes for community, and the addictive qualities of screentime. Yet, I cannot wring my hands about it too much, having experienced deep connection and joy using the various tools of long distance communication during military deployments, for most of my life. There was a time when I found myself resisting the “powers that be” in public school, who pushed us to accept technology as a unilateral savior of our students, when we teachers (and parents) knew better. Now that I stay home part-time, I am teaching students around the world online, and my own kids in person. Both experiences continue side by side, for me, and are relatively seamless in spite of the coronavirus: Analog homeschool, online school, homeschool using digital tools… Most days we can play outside on the farm, so the only difference is finding our new normal with nowhere else to go.
Click here to continue…
March 28th 2020
More Than Milk and Honey
The rhythmic squirting of milk into the pail. The smell of new grass and manure. There won’t be much cream in this milking. She’s holding back. We might have a full let-down next time.
I think about holding back. It’s the opposite of surrender. How do we ever hold back anything from God? A few weeks back on a Wednesday night, Fr Mark posed an essential question. ‘What does God want?’ Is it obedience? Trust? Love? What if what God wants is to give us everything… to give us Himself?
The people of Israel were on the cusp of entering the land of milk and honey. They had experienced the might of God delivering them out of bondage in Egypt. This Shepherd-King fed and watered His flock through the wilderness. He drove away their enemies. He lavished them with the miraculous. He gave them His own Presence.
I realize any holding back on my part is because I crave the wrong things. I want the milk, the honey, the provisions, the comforts more than the presence of God Himself. What if the loss of all things is the gaining of the One thing, and the gain of Christ is really the gain of all?
I wonder at the power of this vision to transform. The early church shared all things in common, proclaimed Christ boldly, rejoiced in suffering. They held nothing back because they had received from an eternal God who held nothing back.
Lord, have mercy on me.
March 27th 2020
March 26th 2020
Yesterday was the Feast of the Annunciation. Due to computer problems I was a day late getting this posted. This reflection and poem comes from my sister Sharon Adams.
Since this is the Feast Day of the Annunciation I am reminded of the choice given to Mary by the angel.
Sadly for many in our country at this time, “Choice” has become a demand, often one which leads to death. Death of the innocent.
As recently as this week, the news cycle tells us our legislators want to pass a bill giving financial aid to those whose earning power has been reduced because of this virus.
Some of our elected officials only want to release funds for this aid if Planned Parenthood also receives an increase in financial backing.
In glaring contrast Mary’s choice gave birth to Christ, the Giver of Life, who gives us all the chance/choice to follow Him.
The Planned Unplanned (my reflections the movie “Unplanned,” and Abby Johnson’s story)
Convinced with finely crafted motives, I
Sign on. “Women in crisis need a boost.
If I can help bring hope to them, then why
Not do my part?” The options introduced
Are worth considering. For I have been
Where they are, too. Not long ago I chose
Not to disrupt my student status when,
I could abort instead . . . For me the pros
Outweighed the cons on every scale except
For one. That restless gauge inside my heart
Asked, “What if Mary, saying ‘Yes,’ had slept
On it . . . and waking, wished that from the start,
More choices had been offered her?” Marriage
To Joseph gave no guarantees against
Those wanting nothing more than to disparage
Him, for sparing her. Their shame dispensed
In knowing looks and calculating weeks:
Between the baby’s birth and wedding vows,
Exchanged too late. “A virgin’s claim? It reeks
Of the preposterous. What God allows
His reputation to be slandered so?”
The babe she carried was unplanned, for sure.
So, who could blame her if she chose to go
With an alternative, that might assure
The future she had planned? And what if she
Had chosen Choice . . . then where would MY Hope be?
March 25th 2020
Serve: Gain relief from how much richer it is to love than to be loved and how much more gratifying to serve than to be served. Take a holiday from the grueling search of self-fulfillment in the name of an infinitely superior goal: the reassuring and relief of others.
Alain de Botton
March 24th 2020
In today’s reading in “This Day with the Master” (Dennis Kinlaw), he asks the question, “When he (God) asks you to change your behavior, do you listen?” This reminded me of something that happened in my life a number of years ago, as I was going through a difficult journey. I can remember the exact place, in the Fayette Mall parking lot, that God said to me: “Dr. Laura is not your God, your dad is not your God, but I am your God.”
You have to know the impact of this statement in my life. I was an avid Dr. Laura (Schlessinger) listener. Through our marriage whenever we moved, I would search for Dr. Laura on the radio, and when I knew where I could find her program, it oddly provided a comfort to me. She was a constant voice and continuity to me. If you were my family, it was common to hear me say, “Dr. Laura would say…” I guess I loved hearing other people’s “stuff” and the interactive nature of the show. Mostly I agreed with her advice. I probably listened to Dr. Laura’s show for perhaps 10-15 years. My dad was a strong, Christian man with an authoritative voice, so I would often
seek his wisdom on things. But he wasn’t God. When this voice from God came to me, I immediately stopped listening to Dr. Laura and have not turned her on one time since. I learned to put Dad’s advice into perspective. I am glad I took heed to the voice of God in my life, and I am healthier for it.
“I am the LORD your God…” Exodus 20:2
Who would have guessed the unusual shape of this Lent? To be fasting from not only our fellowship, but fasting from our communal participation in the bread and wine. It has now been two weeks without it. Each day, I feel something growing within me. Is it hunger? Thirst? Is this what God’s love feels like?
Jesus said that He wouldn’t drink of the fruit of the vine until He drinks it together with us in the coming kingdom. I can’t help but think even now He is longing for this day to come. All creation is groaning for that day of restoration and fullness. The Spirit groans in each of us, and we groan together as a church. Our present longing for communion and union might be a glimpse into the Bridegroom’s heart.
“I believe in the resurrection of the body.” Week after week, we speak these words. Now in this absence, they become more of a heartbeat. To be ever united to God and His embodied people. To feast together at the marriage supper of the Lamb. No separation. No sickness. No death. No sorrow.
This morning the birds seemed to sing their loveliest songs from an in-between place. Night was ending, and the day was at hand. It could be here in this longing for the dawn that we find our song is sung best through our lives.
The Love of Calvary
Oh, Jesus, high upon the cross
What agonies you had to bear.
For all our sakes, you suffered there
That we might live, despite your loss.
Your love eternal shines on all,
Although ’twas gained by hate and gall.
Dear Lord, my tears, shed for your pain
Reflect my gratitude, my gain.
How will I ever let you know
How much I care, how much I owe?
My shallow prayers, reveal my heart,
And deep within, true love impart.
I’m sure the thought has crossed your mind. Is the coronavirus a punishment from God to a disobedient, sinful humanity? Are we living in “the last days?” In the Old Testament, whenever the Israelites abandoned the covenant with Yahweh and turned to idols, he would send out a warning with a call for repentance. Prophet after prophet cried out to the people. Unfortunately, Israel turned her back on God time and time again, with few exceptions. The time for repentance finally ran out. The northern kingdom of Israel was destroyed by the Assyrians in 722 B.C. The southern kingdom of Judah fell to Babylon in 586 B.C. This is historical fact.
Is God calling out to us today as he did through his prophets so long ago? How long will humanity defy God before judgment falls? Of course, only God knows. That is why Jesus admonishes his Church to keep awake and watch. We do not know the day or the hour.
We can be eternally grateful that our God is patient and merciful, not willing that any should perish. God’s grace is generously extended, but for how long? Will there come a time when repentance ends and judgment begins?
The Lord is speaking to the world right now. I can’t help but believe this coronavirus crisis is a warning, a wake up call. God seems to be putting us in “time out.” Is it because he wants to punish us? No. With the warning comes the great opportunity to stop, think, and reflect. He wants us to critically and honestly examine our hearts and our lives. The time has come for brutal honesty about ourselves. Is there anything you are carrying around that needs to be confessed, forsaken, and rooted out? The Holy Spirit knows what it is. It is the Holy Spirit who calls us to answer the call to grace, and to take that call to the unconverted. We need to ask the Holy Spirit to equip us and show us what he has for us to do. He wants people the world over to repent and believe the Gospel and so be saved. What will it take for us (humanity in general and the Church at large) to get the message?
Personally, I think the world is on the cusp of something big; something unprecedented. Perhaps this crisis will be used in the hands of God to bring people to their knees, to usher in a global revival the likes of which has never been seen before in history. I pray it may be so. Historically, great awakenings happen in times of great upheaval. I invite you to join me in praying for a great new “Jesus Movement ” to bring transformation to billions. God has a miraculous way of taking something evil and making something good out of it. As he lay dying, John Wesley said, “The best of all is, God is with us.” May our circumstances never blind us to this everlasting reality. God is with us, and he is up to something good…really, really good!
Here is a short meditation from Linda’s cousin. He is a pastor and VA chaplain who is awaiting test results for COVID 19.
I don’t agree with all that Ekhart Tolle teaches, but there are many valuable things in this video.
Zach just sent this in. You won’t find a more Anglican perspective than this.
C. S. Lewis on how to respond to threats like COVID-19:
“On Living in an Atomic Age” (1948) in Present Concerns: Journalistic Essays
In one way we think a great deal too much of the atomic bomb. “How are we to live in an atomic age?” I am tempted to reply: “Why, as you would have lived in the sixteenth century when the plague visited London almost every year, or as you would have lived in a Viking age when raiders from Scandinavia might land and cut your throat any night; or indeed, as you are already living in an age of cancer, an age of syphilis, an age of paralysis, an age of air raids, an age of railway accidents, an age of motor accidents.”
In other words, do not let us begin by exaggerating the novelty of our situation. Believe me, dear sir or madam, you and all whom you love were already sentenced to death before the atomic bomb was invented: and quite a high percentage of us were going to die in unpleasant ways. We had, indeed, one very great advantage over our ancestors—anesthetics; but we have that still. It is perfectly ridiculous to go about whimpering and drawing long faces because the scientists have added one more chance of painful and premature death to a world which already bristled with such chances and in which death itself was not a chance at all, but a certainty.
This is the first point to be made: and the first action to be taken is to pull ourselves together. If we are all going to be destroyed by an atomic bomb, let that bomb when it comes find us doing sensible and human things—praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends over a pint and a game of darts—not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about bombs. They may break our bodies (a microbe can do that) but they need not dominate our minds.
Most of you remember my friend Rollin Grams. He did our 2017 Christ and Culture Conference. He wrote this story a couple of years ago:
‘We are going to Ross-on-Wye today,’ announced the master to his disciples. It was market day in the popular, English town near Wales, and this plan did not seem all that surprising to the disciples. When they arrived, however, the master led them to St. Mary’s churchyard. There, in front of the Plague Cross, the master began to teach. A small crowd began to gather, thinking that they might overhear a tour guide explain some things about the old church and the town’s history.
‘A plague of death has descended upon this land,’ began the master. ‘It has taken the lives of thousands. Within a few days of contracting this awful disease, people die. They are sealed up in their houses, abandoned by fearful relatives; their deaths are painful and lonely. Bodies are hastily dumped into a pit each night. Lime is thrown on top, then some dirt, and the process is repeated the following day. The plague is spread from person to person, but people do not know how. They say that they are clean, but they are not. The towns and villages are laid waste.’
Click here for the rest on his blog site.
Please pray for the Peterson family in Egypt. They cannot leave the country right now and are in distress about their son Isaac’s asthma condition. He is fine at the moment, but you can understand their concerns. It is very difficult to be ill in a foreign country. they are also finding it impossible to maintain social distancing in the crowds there.
I woke the other morning remembering last Maundy Thursday. Each candlestick and parament was removed. Each of us joined together in this process of stripping of the altar. The cross, shrouded in black, was all that remained.
I wonder if we might be living this. Could the Lord be using this time to be creating in us a singular focus on Him? How many things so often come in between my soul and Him. How many idols I have found this week. How many fears. We can see more clearly what our hopes are fixed upon. We find out how fragile and vulnerable we are. How dependent we are on God for every breath.
I was thinking about how beautifully we worked together that dark Thursday evening to clear the altar. Our souls are being exposed in unexpected ways. Even in the grief of being physically absent from one another, I think it’s possible we might find new unity. The body of a crucified and risen Jesus holds us together in this time of scattering. Together we are joined to Him. Together we are His body. Together we are discovering things that have cluttered and distracted our hearts. We have too easily left our first love. We love the things of this world too much. We love our neighbors too little.
But together we look up and see the cross. We see the unfathomable love of God in the face of a betrayed, beaten, broken Savior. We see Jesus. Could we be willing to suffer the loss of all things for the gain of God Himself? What if we together can really know Him and the power of His resurrection? Like a bud ready to bloom, perhaps the kingdom of God is just waiting to burst forth among and through us.
Click here to go to Joel Sams’ blog for his most recent work.