Monday, February 15, 2016

Thomas Bray, Priest and Missionary

Today the church remembers Thomas Bray, Priest and Missionary, 1730.

The church in colonial America was often neglected and badly used by both Englishmen and Americans. But the church had a great champion in Thomas Bray, the Bishop of London's Commissary to Maryland, an Oxford professor as well as a priest. He took very seriously the task of educating poor clergymen, laymen, and children. His understanding of and concern for Native Americans and other people of color were far ahead of his time. He founded church libraries and schools in England and America, raised money for missionary endeavors, and influenced young English priests to try their vocations in America. He fought long to get an American bishop consecrated, but failed. He founded two of our church's most effective missionary organizations, the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge and the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts (now United Society for the Propagation of the Gospel), both still in operation after two and a half centuries.

The deplorable condition of England's prisons was of grave concern to Thomas Bray. He organized Sunday "Beef and Beer" dinners in those prisons and went to Parliament with proposals for prison reform. It was Thomas Bray who first suggested to General Oglethorpe the idea of founding a humanitarian colony for the relief of honest debtors, but he died before seeing this, the Georgia colony, a reality. Few clergymen have taken more seriously our Lord's command, "Feed my sheep."

Help us remember, O Lord, those whom society forgets, especially prisoners and captives. Amen.

O God of compassion, you opened the eyes of your servant Thomas Bray to see the needs of the Church in the New World, and led him to found societies to meet those needs: Make the Church in this land diligent at all times to propagate the Gospel among those who have not received it, and to promote the spread of Christian knowledge; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.

Daily Readings for February 15, 2016

Genesis 37:1-11
Jacob settled in the land where his father had lived as an alien, the land of Canaan. This is the story of the family of Jacob. Joseph, being seventeen years old, was shepherding the flock with his brothers; he was a helper to the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah, his father's wives; and Joseph brought a bad report of them to their father. Now Israel loved Joseph more than any other of his children, because he was the son of his old age; and he had made him a long robe with sleeves. But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him, and could not speak peaceably to him. Once Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers, they hated him even more. He said to them, "Listen to this dream that I dreamed. There we were, binding sheaves in the field. Suddenly my sheaf rose and stood upright; then your sheaves gathered around it, and bowed down to my sheaf." His brothers said to him, "Are you indeed to reign over us? Are you indeed to have dominion over us?" So they hated him even more because of his dreams and his words. He had another dream, and told it to his brothers, saying, "Look, I have had another dream: the sun, the moon, and eleven stars were bowing down to me." But when he told it to his father and to his brothers, his father rebuked him, and said to him, "What kind of dream is this that you have had? Shall we indeed come, I and your mother and your brothers, and bow to the ground before you?" So his brothers were jealous of him, but his father kept the matter in mind.

1 Corinthians 1:1-19
Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and our brother Sosthenes, To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, together with all those who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that has been given you in Christ Jesus, for in every way you have been enriched in him, in speech and knowledge of every kind-- just as the testimony of Christ has been strengthened among you-- so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ. He will also strengthen you to the end, so that you may be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful; by him you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Now I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you be in agreement and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same purpose. For it has been reported to me by Chloe's people that there are quarrels among you, my brothers and sisters. What I mean is that each of you says, "I belong to Paul," or "I belong to Apollos," or "I belong to Cephas," or "I belong to Christ." Has Christ been divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, so that no one can say that you were baptized in my name. (I did baptize also the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else.) For Christ did not send me to baptize but to proclaim the gospel, and not with eloquent wisdom, so that the cross of Christ might not be emptied of its power. For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart."

Mark 1:1-13
The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. As it is written in the prophet Isaiah, "See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way; the voice of one crying out in the wilderness: 'Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight,'" John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel's hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. He proclaimed, "The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit." In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, "You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased." And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.

Psalm 41 Beatus qui intelligit
1   Happy are they who consider the poor and needy! the LORD will deliver them in the time of trouble.
2   The LORD preserves them and keeps them alive, so that they may be happy in the land; he does not hand them over to the will of their enemies.
3   The LORD sustains them on their sickbed and ministers to them in their illness.
4   I said, "LORD, be merciful to me; heal me, for I have sinned against you."
5   My enemies are saying wicked things about me: "When will he die, and his name perish?"
6   Even if they come to see me, they speak empty words; their heart collects false rumors; they go outside and spread them.
7   All my enemies whisper together about me and devise evil against me.
8   A deadly thing, they say, has fastened on him; he has taken to his bed and will never get up again.
9   Even my best friend, whom I trusted, who broke bread with me, has lifted up his heel and turned against me.
10   But you, O LORD, be merciful to me and raise me up, and I shall repay them.
11   By this I know you are pleased with me, that my enemy does not triumph over me.
12   In my integrity you hold me fast, and shall set me before your face for ever.
13   Blessed be the LORD God of Israel, from age to age. Amen. Amen.

Psalm 52 Quid gloriaris?
1   You tyrant, why do you boast of wickedness against the godly all day long?
2   You plot ruin; your tongue is like a sharpened razor, O worker of deception.
3   You love evil more than good and lying more than speaking the truth.
4   You love all words that hurt, O you deceitful tongue.
5   Oh, that God would demolish you utterly, topple you, and snatch you from your dwelling, and root you out of the land of the living!
6   The righteous shall see and tremble, and they shall laugh at him, saying,
7   This is the one who did not take God for a refuge, but trusted in great wealth and relied upon wickedness.
8   But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God; I trust in the mercy of God for ever and ever.
9   I will give you thanks for what you have done and declare the goodness of your Name in the presence of the godly.

Psalm 44 Deus, auribus
1   We have heard with our ears, O God, our forefathers have told us, the deeds you did in their days, in the days of old.
2   How with your hand you drove the peoples out and planted our forefathers in the land; how you destroyed nations and made your people flourish.
3   For they did not take the land by their sword, nor did their arm win the victory for them; but your right hand, your arm, and the light of your countenance, because you favored them.
4   You are my King and my God; you command victories for Jacob.
5   Through you we pushed back our adversaries; through your Name we trampled on those who rose up against us.
6   For I do not rely on my bow, and my sword does not give me the victory.
7   Surely, you gave us victory over our adversaries and put those who hate us to shame.
8   Every day we gloried in God, and we will praise your Name for ever.
9   Nevertheless, you have rejected and humbled us and do not go forth with our armies.
10   You have made us fall back before our adversary, and our enemies have plundered us.
11   You have made us like sheep to be eaten and have scattered us among the nations.
12   You are selling your people for a trifle and are making no profit on the sale of them.
13   You have made us the scorn of our neighbors, a mockery and derision to those around us.
14   You have made us a byword among the nations, a laughing-stock among the peoples.
15   My humiliation is daily before me, and shame has covered my face;
16   Because of the taunts of the mockers and blasphemers, because of the enemy and avenger.
17   All this has come upon us; yet we have not forgotten you, nor have we betrayed your covenant.
18   Our heart never turned back, nor did our footsteps stray from your path;
19   Though you thrust us down into a place of misery, and covered us over with deep darkness.
20   If we have forgotten the Name of our God, or stretched out our hands to some strange god,
21   Will not God find it out? for he knows the secrets of the heart.
22   Indeed, for your sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.
23   Awake, O Lord! why are you sleeping? Arise! do not reject us for ever.
24   Why have you hidden your face and forgotten our affliction and oppression?
25   We sink down into the dust; our body cleaves to the ground.
26   Rise up, and help us, and save us, for the sake of your steadfast love

Daily Meditation for February 15, 2016

From Forward Day by Day

Genesis 37:9 He had another dream, and told it to his brothers, saying, “Look, I have had another dream: the sun, the moon, and eleven stars were bowing down to me.”

Joseph, given everything by God and his father and bragging about it endlessly to his less-loved brothers, is insufferable. As is Jacob, cheating his foolish older brother out of his blessing. And David, murdering a good man because he wants that man’s wife. Later, God calls Saul, of all people, to help establish the Church—Saul, who had participated in stoning Stephen. God gave these questionable people unique, extraordinary gifts and then turned those gifts to God’s service and the world’s.

Fortunately for us, God does not require perfect servants. Joseph, Jacob, David, and Saul, given a glimpse of God’s face, bowed their heads and stumbled along for the ride. May God similarly wrench my talents and goodness into the service of Christ and of the world. May I, like the great and flawed servants of God who have come before me, be given the grace to stumble along for the ride.