Monday Matters (April 17, 2023)


The Collect for the second Sunday of Easter

Almighty and everlasting God, who in the Paschal mystery established the new covenant of reconciliation: Grant that all who have been reborn into the fellowship of Christ’s Body may show forth in their lives what they profess by their faith; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

These days, Monday Matters offers reflections on the prayers we say in church on Sunday, the collect of the day. We do this based on the conviction that praying shapes our believing, that what we pray forms us. We do this hoping that the prayers we say on Sunday will carry us through the week.

The Difference Easter Makes

What happens on Sunday morning is not half so important as what happens on Monday morning. In fact, what happens on Sunday morning is judged by what happens on Monday morning.

-Educator and theologian, Verna Dozier

The collect we heard yesterday in church (above) made me think back on why I started writing on Monday mornings. In part, I was prompted by the wisdom of a woman whose faithful witness inspired me. Verna Dozier was an educator in the schools of Washington, D.C., and a leader in the Episcopal Church. I’ve got her quote, the one printed above, on the wall of my office to remind me of the Sunday/Monday connection.

Don’t get me wrong. Sundays are awesome. We rightfully spend a lot of resources to make Sunday worship our best offering. But faith becomes compelling when it shapes our lives when we’re not in church. As the General Thanksgiving in the Prayer Book says, we are called to honor God not only with our lips but with our lives.

Among other things, it’s a way of saying that thoughts and prayers are not enough. That’s tragically obvious as we contend with the scourge of gun violence. Indeed, if all we do is rely on thoughts and prayers, that can have damaging and dangerous effect.

Hear what the prophet Isaiah has to say on the subject: “The Lord said these people draw near with their mouths and honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me.” (Isaiah 29:13) Jesus put it this way: “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of My Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 7:21) The New Testament letter of James says: “Faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.” (James 2.17)

So in the season of Easter, as a church we read from the New Testament book called the Acts of the Apostles. I’m guessing no one thought of calling the book the Thoughts and Prayers of the Apostles. Again, don’t get me wrong. Gathering for worship was clearly at the heart of the early church. Thoughtful prayer mattered.

But the early church grew exponentially because people outside the church looked at people inside the church and said: “See how they love one another.’ Members of the community of faith shared resources with each other. No one was in need. Church members went out into the world to share good news with people who had been excluded. Folks who were marginalized, regarded as dispensable, e.g., children, old people, immigrants, orphans received care, were given compassionate attention.

Oh, how I wish people looked at the church, looked at our congregations, looked at my life and saw the love of Jesus at work in the world. I can dream, can’t I? But newsflash: that’s not the word on the street about the church in America these days. So here we are. What might we do about that?

We could do worse than to keep Verna Dozier’s quote front and center. To start each day with a bit of creative imagination about how we can show and share the love of God, known to us in Jesus. What would it mean to start each day thinking about how we can worship not only with our lips but with our lives. Our culture is hungry for that kind of faithful authenticity. It can be as simple as treating people we meet with lovingkindness, even the jerks (of which there are ample supply). It can be a matter of praying blessing on those who have hurt us, those who fuel our resentments. It can be hard, mustering courage to face the forces of violence in our world. It can be active ministry to those in need.

When any of that happens, we begin to get a vision of resurrection faith, enough to make us say: “Alleluia.”

-Jay Sidebotham

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