The Properties of God – Br. Jim Woodrum

Br. Jim Woodrum

2 Peter 3:11-18
Mark 12:13-17

The other evening, I engaged in a discussion with a friend about the Prayer of Humble Access. This prayer, recited just before communion in the Rite I liturgy; of the Prayer Book, and is known for its poetic, though somewhat outdated, language. I pointed out to my friend that is a version of the prayer, in contemporary language, which begins: “We do not presume to come to this your table, O Lord, trusting in our own righteousness, but in your abundant and great mercies. We are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under your table; but you are the same Lord whose character is always to have mercy.” Opinions on this prayer vary; some may find its tone overly submissive, while others, like myself, prefer to focus on the aspects of God’s grace.

My friend observed that, for him, the modern language didn’t capture the depth he found in the more traditional language, especially highlighting the phrase: “But thou art the same Lord whose property is always to have mercy.” He argued that “characteristic” doesn’t convey the same depth as “property.” The term property refers to a quality or feature uniquely belonging to an individual or thing. Being a science enthusiast, he likened it to a “physical property of matter,” explaining that such a property is an attribute observable and measurable without altering the substance’s chemical identity. Properties observable only through chemical changes are chemical properties, whereas physical properties are apparent without change or during physical alterations. Examples include changing states of matter or altering matter’s shape through actions like folding or cutting. Physical properties are detectable through our senses, making them crucial for describing matter.[i] Applying this analogy to the Prayer of Humble Access, we recognize that mercy is an unchanging attribute of God amidst a constantly changing and evolving world. Read More

Recognizing the Lord – Br. Geoffrey Tristram

Br. Geoffrey Tristram

Sirach 48:1-11
Matthew 17:9-13

The prophet Elijah is one of the great figures of the Bible, and straddles both the Old and New Testaments. In our first reading today from the Book of Sirach, we have this great paeon of praise for Elijah: ‘How glorious you are Elijah in your wondrous deeds’. There is also a profound hope that he would come again, to prepare the way of the Lord. This hope grows through the Hebrew scriptures, and culminates in the very last verses of the Old Testament, in the Book of Malachi: ‘Lo I will send you the prophet Elijah before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes.’  And to this day, when Jewish families celebrate Passover, they leave a place at the table for Elijah, and at one point a son goes to the front door to see if Elijah has come.

In our Gospel reading from Matthew, the disciples Peter, James and John are coming down the mountain having just experienced the glorious Transfiguration of Jesus. At the Transfiguration they saw Elijah, as well as Moses, who were talking with Jesus. As the disciples walked down the mountain they questioned Jesus about Elijah. They wanted to know why Elijah had not come earlier, as promised in scripture, preceding the coming of Jesus. Jesus told them that Elijah had already come, but that people did not recognize him. ‘Then the disciples understood that he was speaking to them about John the Baptist.’ John came preaching repentance and prepared the way for the promised Messiah. In this way, he was fulfilling the role of Elijah, but the religious leaders simply did not recognize him. They did not recognize him. The scriptures are full of this theme of failing to recognize the one who is in their midst; of not truly seeing; of spiritual blindness. Of course, Jesus’ enemies did not recognize who he was. Remember all those chapters in John’s Gospel, where the Pharisees keep asking him hostile questions about his identity. ‘Where are you from? Who is your family? How do you know so much – you’ve never been taught. You are not yet fifty; how have you seen Abraham?’  Finally, in chapter 8: 25 in exasperation, ‘Who are you?’  as the prologue to John puts it, ‘He was in the world, yet the world did not know him,’ Read More