The Rev. Tammy Jones is a deacon at St. Matthew’s in Rupert, Idaho and at the Church of the Good Shepard in Fort Hall. Tammy is also the Living Stones coordinator for the Diocese of Idaho. Here she shares excerpts from a sermon she gave on January 29.
I am curious how many of you made New Year’s Resolutions and have been able to keep them so far. I have read that four out of five people who make New Year’s resolutions will eventually break them. In fact, a third won’t even make it to the end of January. I myself made two commitments for this year. (1) I would exercise at least three times a week for a year and (2) I would do a year-long study on the Book of Common Prayer. I have already broken my commitment to exercise three times a week! I have, so far managed to keep up my daily discipline of studying the Prayer Book. This study consists of reading 3-4 pages every day from Marion J. Hatchett’s Commentary on the American Prayer Book, followed by looking up certain pages in the Prayer Book, and ending with a Psalm reading.
Reading the Psalms has been a good exercise for me. I have never been a big fan of the Psalms. Even when we read them on Sunday, I just read the words I don’t really listen to them. The Psalms always seemed to me to have a good part and a bad part. A mean God and then a beautiful loving Almighty God. My study Bible says this about the Psalms: “The Psalms describe the distress being experienced and then appeals for divine intervention.” This explains the mean God, loving God. It goes on to explain that the main function today, however, within Jewish and Christian tradition is that “the Psalms have become a type of inspirational literature where worshipers may find proper words to express the depths of their religious feelings.”
I decided to start reading the Psalms in a different way to see if I hear words that express the depths of my religious feelings. So, I now read the Psalms in different voices, changing at the asterisk. So, for example in Psalm 111 I would read it like this: (soft voice): Hallelujah! I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart, *(loud voice) in the assembly of the upright, in the congregation. Great are the deeds of the Lord! *they are studied by all who delight in them…. After reading the Psalm I pick an inspirational word or phrase that strikes me and write it down. In today’s reading of Psalm 111 that word or phrase is: The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. By the time I am done with my year-long study of the prayer book I will have read the Psalms twice. I wonder if I will pick out the same words or if I will choose differently.
In January my prayer book study took me through the calendar of The Saints, the Feast Days and the Holy Days. Learning about the Saints has been really, really interesting. The way the Saints and martyrs died ….burned at the stake, thrown to wild beasts to be eaten alive, beheaded, crucified in strange positions. They died like this because they were Christians, followers of Jesus. It makes me wonder if I have it in me to be a Saint.
With our focus on unclean spirits in Mark this month on, I have wondered about unclean spirits and what keeps me from being a saint. We tend to think of “unclean spirits” as demons or disease or mental illness, but it can also mean something different. I believe we all have unclean spirits from time to time. I look at unclean spirits as those little sins we don’t think much about, but keep us from our relationship with God. I love to do the crossword puzzle out of the paper every morning. I also try to read scripture or something spiritual every day. Sometimes I will do the crossword puzzle and forget about the spiritual piece because I only have so much time in the morning to get ready for work and I would rather do the crossword puzzle. Now it is not a sin to do crossword puzzles, but the sin is I didn’t spend time with God that day. I put a crossword puzzle in front of God. This might be a weak example, but I am sure you all have a similar story. Jesus is calling out to us to help us rid our unclean spirits to free us from our sin, to help us explore, to grow, and be the best we can be.
So be kind, rid yourself of unclean spirits, and like the Saints follow Jesus to the end of your life. Amen.