Saturday after Ash Wednesday

by Matthew B. Harper

Ezekiel 39:21 – I will display my glory among the nations; and all the nations shall see my judgment that I have executed, and my hand that I have laid on them.

In college I was very involved in the Episcopal campus ministry. I was a musician and a leader in our community. For a short while I dated a young woman who was a leader of another ministry. We enjoyed meeting for meals at the dining hall, and before she would eat she would pray. Right there in the noisy, crowded, dining hall, she would bow her hands and give thanks. It made me uncomfortable! I considered myself a man of deep faith, but deep was where my faith was; I wasn’t comfortable with such a public show of faith. I was more worried about how others might look at me than I was worried about being faithful.

But we are a testament to God. Our lives are a Gospel story about our faith and our relationship with God. We have a saying in here that there are five gospels, and most people will only read one of them – you. Our lives should be a constant testimony to what God is doing in us.

In here the chow halls are much more crowded than the dining halls of JMU, the scrutiny worse, and the food abysmal. But many of my Christian brothers do not pause or worry to close their eyes and bow their heads and give thanks. And after these many years I have learned to be more faithful to God. So no matter how bad the food, or how many eyes are upon me, I stop to give thanks to God. As the Lord said in Ezekiel today, Israel shall show forth God’s glory before the other nations, and so we shall show forth God’s glory before others.

“From all evil and wickedness; from sin; from the crafts and assaults of the devil; and from everlasting damnation, Good Lord, deliver us.” BCP148

11th Day of Christmas

by Matthew B. Harper

And the name of the city from that time on shall be, The LORD is There. (Ezekiel 48:35)

The gift of presence is one of the greatest gifts that we can ever give each other. I think to all the moments when we tried to express our lives and relationships in words, and found them totally inadequate. Sometimes there aren’t words. All we can do is sit and be with each other, to hold each other in our tears and pain, and celebrate together in our love and joy.

But true presence in relationship requires no barriers, no betrayals. It requires that we are open and loving, vulnerable and trusting, and that can be more difficult than it sounds.

In living with and loving my fiancé I found something amazing and wonderful beyond anything I had known, but it was founded upon a deep betrayal. Already guilty of my crimes I lived in a lie that I was innocent for many years. Despite all that we did for each other, despite a love that overwhelmed us, I could never truly be present for her. I was always hiding something, always holding back. There was a hindrance, a burden, upon our love. It was a deep betrayal, and hurt her dearly.

To hear that God is an ever-present God is to know not just that God is with you always, it is also to know that there are no separations and no hindrances to love. There is a total openness to us in God’s love. We have wounded God and turned our backs to God, and there is still a constant and ever-present accepting love. In a deep and accepting love we find the calm assurance not just to be more fully who we are, but also to love back with wild and wonderful abandon.

Be present to those you love, and love them with a joyful and reckless abandon, hold nothing back – for that is how God loves you.

To you, in David’s town, this day is born of David’s line the savior, who is Christ the Lord. (Hymn 94)