My Soul Rejoices: November 28, 2022

My Soul Rejoices

Music being the most direct route to my heart, I love Anglican musical traditions. Evensong, for example, with many gorgeous musical settings of the Magnificat, a centerpiece for this time of prayer.

“My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior…”

Mary’s audacious proclamation from her place of low degree warns the high and mighty of their precariousness apart from a proper reverence for God’s favor to the humble and poor.

“He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty.”

Well-fed Episcopalians, including me, sing this text, sometimes wearing expensive liturgical garments and standing amid architectural finery. Ironic, no? That’s not lost on me, vested in cassock and surplice and tippet, swept up in the beauty of the plainsong while light from stained glass falls across the page of the score.

“…He has mercy on those who fear him, in every generation.”

The music evokes reverence and awe (or “fear”), as befits the contemplation of the Being in whom we have our being, whose essence is mercy.

We sing on:

“…for he has remembered his promise of mercy,
The promise he made to our fathers, *
to Abraham and
his children forever.”

We are among that multitude, as numerous as grains of sand on the shore, as stars in the heavens. You and I and all the rest. Mercy is our inheritance.

Mary’s song has a sharp edge of warning against complacency, against a hard heart, against the delusions of power wielded without awe toward God’s mercy.

God is merciful. We’re bidden to let this truth transform us.

And so we sing:

“Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: *
as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen.”

-Fr. Jonathan Weldon

My Soul Rejoices: November 27, 2022

My Soul Rejoices

“And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, …for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is God’s name…”

I always sit in wonder at Mary’s faith-filled response. Unlike others who are documented as arguing, laughing, questioning, or quaking in their boots at the announcement of their miracle — Mary celebrates with unadulterated joy and immediately, humbly turns the focus on the miracle worker God who was showing up big with a big ask (wonderful, yes — but a life-quakingly big ask).

But… it took me a whole 60 words before I typed “but.” One of my character flaws is I tend to disrupt joy with the “but.” I can’t read even the mighty Magnificat without it creeping in! See, we read scripture and know the end of the story. We know the miracle arrival for all history and humanity. The resurrection, our salvation, the peace indescribable, the Spirit. But Mary had to walk the days in between the joy-filled announcements and the miracles when the miracles weren’t. A miracle would have seemed timely when there were side-glancing neighbors or no room in the Inn or when an insecure lunatic planned murder for all the baby boys in town. I rejoice with Mary in Luke 1, but I think I relate more to the in-betweens further on in the gospel because the in-betweens are tough sometimes. I confess with Mary that God is indeed good, but I always have nagging questions, and this can blur my joy.

So often, God doesn’t seem to show up during the in-between. Lord, give me faith more like Mary who rejoiced without always focusing on the boot about to drop. Help me celebrate wholeheartedly and trust you more completely.
-Nicole Smith

My Soul Rejoices: Rejoicing with Mary

My Soul Rejoices

Two things to know about me:

1. I root for underdogs.
2. I enjoy schadenfreude (taking joy at the misfortune of others).

I’m sure that second statement sounds like it would be antithetical to the Christian life, but it is more that I enjoy seeing unethical people struggle in the end. I love seeing bullies face justice, people who commit embezzlement leave in handcuffs, and unjust politicians be sentenced to jail time. I prefer to think that I’m “justice-minded”. 🙂

The Magnificat fits into that “justice-mindedness”. A teenage girl in an occupied land is singing about the social order being turned upside down. Those who are starving will be fed, and those who are well-fed will starve. Those in power will lose it, and those with no power will find themselves lifted up. It sounds amazing and honestly too good to be true. However, all of this came true in the actions of her son Jesus. He fed people, healed those whose illnesses were preventing them from being part of the community, called out those in power, and even pulled one over on Rome (the hated conqueror and occupier of Judea) by coming back to life after they brutally executed him.

In this devotional book, we are going to look at the Magnificat, but we will also look at three readings that came before it. Hannah’s song in 1 Samuel 2 mirrors the Magnificat in many ways, so we will start with it. The Annunciation and Visitation set the scene for the Magnificat so those will be looked at as well. Interspersed are a couple of essays from people in the parish on what the Magnificat means to them.

As always, there is a playlist with various settings of the text. You can find it here.
May you be blessed this Advent season!
-Jen McCabe

It Is Well With My Soul: Acknowledgments

It Is Well With My Soul

These devotional books are a labor of love and require many hands to reach completion.

The cover photo was taken by Jairo Gonzalez and sourced from Unsplash.Com. It is a shipwreck at Point Reyes, California.

My writers this time are Fr. Keith Axberg, Michael Boss, Barb Cheyney, Cathey Frederick, Fr. Paul Moore, Ashley Sweeney, Mary Ann Taylor, Carol Treston, Fr. Jonathan Weldon, Sharon Weldon, Penny Worrell, Tom Worrell, and myself. I appreciate them sharing their gifts with the congregation.

I wish you all a blessed Easter.
-Jen McCabe

It Is Well With My Soul: April 17, 2022 (Easter Sunday)

It Is Well With My Soul

“For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead has also come through a human being; for as all die in Adam, so all will be made alive in Christ. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ.” – 1 Corinthians 15:21-23

I remember in High School in an intramural soccer game, suddenly I was in front of the opposite team’s goalie with the ball at my feet. Another larger, more athletic boy on my team charged in behind me, and instinctively I stepped away to let him take the shot—I was too worried I would mess it up and have my teammates look down on me for it. My hesitancy did not help. The other boy blasted the ball so hard against the goalie’s hand that he jumped up in pain, with half his pinky finger at a right angle to the rest of it. I have never been good at sports, and that incident proved it beyond doubt.

It’s a small thing when put up against other failures I’ve faced in my life, but it is symbolic of just that. I fail. I mess up. I don’t always come through. I suspect you feel the same way about yourself. We see it in one another. Life is not all good, and we wish it were, yet try as we might, we never quite seem to get it right. We are somehow profoundly broken, both individually and as a society and a global species. There is no perfect society in the world, no perfect culture. I would go so far as to say that no culture is any more intrinsically whole than any other, or more broken.

This passage tells me that God knows and has done something about it. As a Christian, I see in Christ a process of redemption, beginning to unfold. We must die to our egos, our brokenness, even to our imagined dreams of a perfect society. Belonging to Christ means committing myself to loving as he loved, dying to my egocentric urges and ethnocentric fears for the good of people I don’t even understand, and trusting that such small deaths will ultimately transcend the big Death, which is to remain in our brokenness. In such a resurrection, death itself will finally serve no purpose and atrophy with disuse.

Loving God, on this day when we celebrate the resurrection of your Son, our trailblazer and guide, grant us the grace to witness the final death of death itself. This we pray by the power of the life-giving Spirit, and in the name of that same Son. Amen.
-Fr. Paul Moore

It Is Well With My Soul: April 16, 2022 (Holy Saturday)

It Is Well With My Soul

“Above all, maintain constant love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins.” – 1 Peter 4:8

If you have ever been a child, a parent, a friend, a human, you know the need for love. All creatures need love, and without it, they wither and die. Love is nourishment, and it includes forgiveness. How many of us do not need that? A toddler who runs out into the street finds he will be scooped up, scolded, and hugged all at once. Love for the little one covers up the anger at his behavior.

We use this kind of love in all our relationships. Loving and forgiving come hand-in-hand. It comes close to God’s agape love, being loved for oneself, not for what one has or has not done.
I have received this kind of love many times, and it has saved me. It is difficult to forgive myself, but the love of others has given me the courage and freedom to move on and try to do better at this thing called life. Thanks be to God and to those who can love and forgive.
Gracious God, we thank you for your undying, holy love for us. Without it, we would be nothing. With it, we are able to live and love those you have given us. Amen.
-Penny Worrell