Saturday, December 21, 2013

Advent, Day 21

Caravaggio, The Incredulity of St. Thomas (1601-02)
The Feast of St. Thomas the Apostle

Today's readings for Morning Prayer, while not specifically about "Doubting Thomas," can all be related very easily to his story.

The psalms appointed for today are two of the psalms people most rely on for comfort in times of doubt and distress. The Old Testament reading is Job's response to God's appearing "out of the whirlwind" to put his doubts and fears into perspective. And the epistle reading from 1 Peter does its best to reassure those who are suffering of better times to come. (I'll print the readings at the end of this reflection.)

Today, God willing and the people of God consenting, I am to be ordained as a transitional deacon in the Episcopal Church, a step on the way toward ordination as a priest. I will commit myself to the trust and responsibility of the life and work of a deacon. I will agree to be guided by the pastoral direction and leadership of my bishop. I will vow to be faithful in prayer, and in the reading and study of the Bible. I will promise to look for Christ in all others, to be ready to serve those in need, to pattern my life after Christ, and in all things to seek not my own glory but God's.

These are some weighty promises. But even as I write about me today, it is not ultimately about me. I am one of the many millions of baptized Christians, and it seems to me and to a good many others that God is calling me to serve in a certain away. I will do my best to do just that.

I love "Doubting Thomas" -- or, as he might be better called, "Believing Thomas." He didn't begin there, but he got there, and that's what counts. In the same way, ordination did not come quickly to me, and since I served for seven years as a layperson at a parish called St. Thomas, I find it especially appropriate to be ordained on his feast day. And so all these readings will be on my heart today, and the other four friends to be ordained with me will also be in my prayers. If you happen to read this, I would appreciate your prayers as well -- even if you happen to read this long after the day. Maybe prayers even work retroactively. Who am I to doubt it?


Psalm 23

The LORD is my shepherd;
I shall not be in want.
You make me lie down in green pastures
and lead me beside still waters.
You revive my soul
and guide me along right pathways for your Name’s sake.
Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I shall fear no evil;
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
You spread a table before me in the presence of those who trouble me;
you have anointed my head with oil,
and my cup is running over.
Surely your goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.

Psalm 121

I lift up my eyes to the hills;
from where is my help to come?
My help comes from the LORD,
the maker of heaven and earth.
The LORD will not let your foot be moved
and the One who watches over you will not fall asleep.
Behold, the One who keeps watch over Israel
shall neither slumber nor sleep;
It is the LORD who watches over you;
the LORD is your shade at your right hand,
So that the sun shall not strike you by day,
nor the moon by night.
The LORD shall preserve you from all evil;
the LORD shall keep you safe.
The LORD shall watch over your going out and your coming in,
from this time forth for evermore.


Job 42:1-6

Then Job answered the Lord:
“I know that you can do all things,
and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.
‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’
Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand,
things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.
‘Hear, and I will speak;
I will question you, and you declare to me.’
I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear,
but now my eye sees you;
therefore I despise myself,
and repent in dust and ashes.”


1 Peter 1:3-9

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who are being protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

In this you rejoice, even if now for a little while you have had to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith – being more precious than gold that, though perishable, is tested by fire – may be found to result in praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Although you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, for you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

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