Friday, June 28, 2002

Friday, 28 June, 2002

The lead piece is from "Amazing Grace by Kathleen Norris. In this book she takes many of the words and images of the faith and attempts to put some reality and life to them.


...I encountered
(in the book Liturgical Theology) an ancient tradition of the Christian Church, lex orandi, lex credendi, which translates into a truth that seems radical in our own suspicious, divisive, and narrow-minded age, that "orthodoxy first means right worship, and only secondarily doctrinal accuracy."... Much of the exasperation with what people term "organized religion" comes from the fact that the Christian church has often given so much weight to doctrinal accuracy that the life-giving potential of worship, and faith itself, gets lost in the shuffle, made all but inaccessible to the skeptical multitudes.

Norris notes that the author of Liturgical Theology finds that the notion of "orthodoxy as 'correct doctrine' was unheard of in western Christianity" until the mid-sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, when both the Catholic and newly formed Protestant churches found it prudent to standardize worship and dogma and thus establish distinct identities. This was politics, of course, but the root cause was fear... It does not surprise me to discover that the Christian prejudice in favor of "correct theology" took hold as literacy increased and oral traditions faded. Theology moved from the mouth, ear, and breath onto the page. Words set in stone, as it were, that had the unintended effect of fossilizing doctrines that were meant to be lived and breathed.

The "living poem" of the liturgy pulls us into an adventure that is most likely well beyond the place we would go by ourselves. Getting our "praise straight" (ortho-doxy) is a part of the dynamics of being a community that worships together. Often the liturgy is ridiculed because it is not "contemporary enough" for people in our day. And yet, in those forms of worship we are pulled beyond ourselves and introduced to the journey of the faith that has been practiced for centuries as a way to shape our daily lives of praise. Some months ago I used comments by Bishop Desmond Tutu. He went through each part of the liturgy and unveiled its meaning and its importance for our lives as saints of God in every day. We will always need to keep an eye on what is being introduced into the life of the church and what is being taken away. That watchfulness does not have to be born out of fear. It can be born out of the need simply to keep our praise pointed in the right direction.

Connection: It is not uncommon for folks to praise God for the "good" things that happen to us as individuals. And yet, our praise of God is not dependent on what happens to me. It is the work of the people to praise our God. We could say it this way: It is the daily liturgy (work of the people) to praise our God. So, how is your life an example of the ortho-doxy of the Church alive today?

Lord of every time and every place, you hold us together within the poetic realm of our praise of you. Within the variety of our lives comes the common thread of praise that connects us to you and pulls us beyond ourselves and into the great community of saints. Praise to you, O God, this day. Amen

Wednesday, June 26, 2002

Thursday, 27 June, 2002

The lead piece is from "Amazing Grace by Kathleen Norris. In this book she takes many of the words and images of the faith and attempts to put some reality and life to them.


I came to consider that the creeds are a form of speaking in tongues. And in that sense they are a relief from the technological jargon that we hear on a daily basis. Now, when I'm preaching and remember to include a creed in the worship service, I usually select the Nicene Creed, because then no one can pretend to know exactly what it is they're saying: "God of God, Light of Light, Very God of Very God." It gives me great pleasure to hear a church full of respectable people suddenly start to talk like William Blake. Only the true literalists are left out, refusing to play the game.

I was particularly grabbed by these comments. The last time we shared the Nicene Creed in worship I was caught up in the immensity of the imagery. Corporate worship is the time in our week when we step beyond the boundaries of the day...the worldly ways. I'm not always thrilled with the creed as we share it. I am most caught up with the faithful image of a gathering of people who are trying to bring some boundaries into the church that will allow for vision beyond our expectations but will also make a strong witness against the notion that "anything goes" among us. When I had the last Confirmation class come up with their design for a creed one of the lines about God was: "God sees what we see not." What a great way to take vision out of our hands and give it back to God who bestows such a gift upon God's people. There are many ways we can "put together" creeds...and yet, I find it interesting that we, at times, have allowed ourselves to let go of the mystery of a small document that has been used for centuries to help Christians take a holistic look at the adventure of faithfulness we are called to enter.

Connection: Sometimes the creeds that run through our day are the stories we tell one another. They are stories that keep us connected to the past and yet define where we will attempt to walk today. We all have them as individuals and households. Now - in the middle of all the stuff that goes on today - how do the Creeds of the Church speak to you this day.

Breath of Life and Creator of all that is, in our Lord, Jesus, you present us with the way to walk through the days of our lives as people who trust in you alone. Fill us with the vision of your holy reign and the grand banquet that is set before all of your beloved. Amen.

Tuesday, June 25, 2002

Wednesday, 26 June, 2002

The lead piece is from "Amazing Grace by Kathleen Norris. In this book she takes many of the words and images of the faith and attempts to put some reality and life to them.


If heresy might be seen as slipping toward one extreme or another on a Christian continuum, apostasy is another matter altogether. The word comes from the Greek for "to revolt," "to defect," and signifies a break with the family... There is a certain pride inherent in apostasy, which often manifests itself as a remarkable faith in oneself, as in "I alone know what is right for me." Teachers, traditions, the family stories, and the beliefs of the common herd are all suspect; suspicion rather than trust is what defines the apostate. And it defines our age.

Let me now copy a whole paragraph from Norris that is quite an observation.

But the use of one's own experience as the measure of the world contains the seed of another kind of tyranny. The accomplished gadfly Wendy Kaminer...examines the way in which much contemporary spirituality (which from a Christian frame of reference is apostasy) offers a closed belief system in which "the possibility of error is never considered," as one's feelings are always right. But, as Kaminer points out, these trendy belief systems - she is examining some recent best-sellers that address alien abductions, personal angels, and the ability to will oneself into a supernaturally evolved state - usually fail to deal adequately with the evil in the world. And they encourage a disastrous self-absorption, allowing people to believe that they are part of a spiritual elite. "Like extremist political movements," she writes, "they shine with moral vanity." If I had to come up with a synonym for apostasy, that would be it: for the most part, it is simple vanity.

The almighty "I" become the corrective to all that is wrong in the world. Norris also notes that people will often leave a church because they get "angry" at what is going on as though the church exists for "me." In some ways she would say we all have a bit of the apostate in us. We go to "church" to be a part of the whole. To give and to teach and to be serve and to be served...and to praise our God for the many ways God makes us a people...holy. When we are so wrapped up in our "self" - either in the positive or the negative - we don't often step out of the tomb...where Jesus say unbind them...and calls us back to life. Life as given to us by our God is not a journey into is a journey alongside one another and in conversation with one another.

Connection: Your face, your presence, your participation in the this day may be all that someone else needs to see - hear - touch God's marvelous gift of life. Our faith, our spirituality, is corporate as well as personal. It is that constant play between these two positions.

O Lord it is by your Grace that we enter this day. Open our eyes to see how your whole creation is shaped by you and therefore we too are active agents within the creativity of this day under your reign. Amen

Monday, June 24, 2002

Tuesday, 25 June, 2002

The lead piece is from "Amazing Grace by Kathleen Norris. In this book she takes many of the words and images of the faith and attempts to put some reality and life to them.

HERESY (I just had to continue with this one. Especially after I noted how important it was to study church history.)

Many American Christians, for example, are Donatists at heart. Donatism is a heresy that arose in the early years of the church, following the last great persecutions of Christians under the Roman Empire. (...questioning whether other Christians, including priests or bishops who had turned over their Bibles to be confiscated and offered pagan sacrifices in order to save their lives, were now worthy to be church members or to administer sacraments.)

Donatism surfaced recently on the "Faith page" of the Bismarck Tribune, where a pastor related having to convince skeptical Lutherans in a rural parish that having a United Church of Christ minister conduct their communion service did not invalidate the sacrament. "What if that person doesn't believe like we believe?" he was asked, and he replied that for Christians the question had been settled in the fourth century. "The person administering [the sacrament] could believe anything," he explained, "and it doesn't change it. It is not that person's table we are coming to, but the Lord's."

The response to the members dates back to an Argument from St. Augustine. But it also is a part of what was Luther's thought on the sacraments. So even today, there are those who would like to think in old patterns that can as Norris says, "keep coming back to haunt the church." We do many things in the church for the sake of "good order" and yet those orderly things cannot be the final word. We must be willing to keep wrestling with what brings the Christ into the center of our life together....and "life" is the operative word here. Not everything goes...and yet many things can "go." The important part is that we all become aware of those things that are very central to our life together. I am finding more and more that Luther's catechism is a good refresher.

Connection: Sometimes it is good to simply listen to what is being said when people start talking about the life of the faith. I find that this is easily done with things like superstitions. There are no superstitions in the church...and when we hear things that sound like..."if you do this...then this will happen" - be careful.

Lord of all the ages and foundation for the adventures of our lives, keep our eyes set on the vision of your Gracious reign that we may tune into the words and actions and life that make up the many facets of your faithful people. Amen.

Monday, 24 June, 2002

The lead piece is from "Amazing Grace by Kathleen Norris. In this book she takes many of the words and images of the faith and attempts to put some reality and life to them.


...feminist Mary Daly defines heretical as "weird beyond belief." As I understand it, however, heresy in the Christian tradition could better be described as "belief beyond weird," that is, a Christian doctrine that a believer has taken and stretched out so far along the spectrum that it reaches an unacceptable extreme, one that most Christians would not wish to adopt. As church scholar Eleanor McLaughlin has written, " Heresy and orthodoxy are not as rivers which never meet; on the contrary, they frequently arise out of a common source and one stream often flows into the other."... In the long history of Christianity, accusations of heresy have been made for all kinds of reasons, church politics foremost among them. But at times it has come down to a matter of mistranslation, or more precisely, an inability to translate the theologian of another place and time.

There have been many times when people have talked about the importance of studying church history and learning about the "heresies" of the early church. The reason for that advise comes down to the fact that some of those early heresies are being recirculated with new faces...but the same old same old "belief beyond weird." Every time I hear about a "greater consciousness" or "being enlightened" or when there is an attempt to make less of the physical and attempt to more and focus on the "spiritual" I begin to see the streams running off by themselves pulling people with them. But then I remember that John Hus was burned as a heretic...and yet...had he lived a hundred years later with the printing press at hand, he would have been Martin Luther! Heretic! On the edge and pressing for change can be see as "off the edge." And yet, if someone doesn't go to the edge we have a tendency to lose the "real life" engagement of the faith.

Connection: We cannot be afraid to walk out to the edge of the domain of the reign of God. Then again, somethings we hear and see during our day may indeed be, "beyond weird" and need to be observed more closely before jumping on their band wagon.

Lord of all the ages, you are the Alpha and the Omega who call us forth in faithfulness to you alone so that we may have new life within all of our days. Encourage our questions and uphold us as we search for ways to be the body of Christ in our world. Amen

Friday, June 21, 2002

Friday, 21 June, 2002

The lead piece is from "Amazing Grace by Kathleen Norris. In this book she takes many of the words and images of the faith and attempts to put some reality and life to them.


Preaching has brought me closer to the Bible than I had imagined possible. I have been told by Benedictine friends that they find Christ to be sacramentally present in the whole of scripture, just as he is in the Eucharist... For me, preaching is not about teaching. It is not about something I know well enough to pass on, but a means of suggesting and pointing to possibilities I have discovered in a text as it interacts with life itself... Sermons point to a relationship with a God who has promised to be present when two or three are gathered in his name. This is Jesus, whom Christians refer to as the Word incarnate, the Word made flesh. And as people come to church to renew and sanctify their lives, only a living word will do.

I found it interesting that this chapter on preaching was one of the longest ones in Norris' book thus far. This morning, Friday, is my day to put the Sunday sermon together. If it is a good morning, I will have something pretty much in hand by lunchtime. That doesn't mean it doesn't get reworked. By the time I leave the house early Sunday morning, I may have deleted or moved or rewritten a number of pieces. Even on Sunday morning, it is not odd for me to go to worship with side note written into my "typed" pages. Not only that. I record the sermon at home for our website prior to leaving the that must be about 6a.m. on Sunday. It never fails...but that recording is always shorter than the sermons in front of the congregation....always. Norris writes about the congregation as it it thrown into the mix of the sermon. The faces, the lives the preacher knows, the visitors, the events of the last week...they all come into the preaching event. Sometime It would be interesting to record what I say in the pulpit verses what is written verses what was recorded for the website. It would be interesting to see what goes on and what is transformed.

Connection: Our lives are like preaching events. What is the Word that is being presented through your living this day? What actions and words and silence team up to bring a message into your living space?

Inspiring God, we await your touch and long for you Word to bring us a bit of fresh air that we might breathe deeply and be renewed for another race around our world that is before us this day. Praise be to you. Amen.

Wednesday, June 19, 2002

Thursday, 20 June, 2002

The lead piece is from "Amazing Grace by Kathleen Norris. In this book she takes many of the words and images of the faith and attempts to put some reality and life to them.


In writing on these realities Norris says: ...I prefer the perspective of the Roman poet Terence, who wrote: "I am human; I do not think of any human thing as foreign to me." I feel that it is my business, when I read the news account of some horrible crime not to regard my "good" self as completely separate from the "bad" people depicted in the story but to search my own heart for a connection. I try to see if I can understand how it is these people have done what they have done. Not to excuse them, but to draw them closer in order to pray for them and also to prayer over what it means to be linked with them in a common humanity. And sometimes murderers do help me recognize that my own anger feels like murder; I can comprehend all too well how my rage, left unchecked, might translate into a careless or even truly terrible act meant to destroy another.

Sure there is a line that can be drawn between good and evil. What is also the case is the fact that this line is drawn right through each of us. It is that warfare that takes place prior to warfare taking place all around us and with us included in it. The Church must be the collection of God's people who are continuously inspired to look again at who we are and who can become "in the twinkling of an eye." We can be a part of the changing of this day as we are honest about "our part" or "our potential" to seek the utter separation of one another either by war or anger or judging others and giving us the "right" to get rid of them. In an informal conversation this past week a person made a comment about the inhuman treatment of a person against a group of people. And then...he stopped and corrected is not inhumanity that does the horrendous things to others, it is our humanity...being human...that can create the greatest and most calculated acts of evil.

Connection: We have the opportunity today to see to the well-being of our community. It means we will at times have to say "no" and at times say "yes." It means we will need to have a light that allows us to see ourselves and one another very honestly.

Lord you bring us to the crossroads of life in which we must face the traffic that speeds our way. Teach us to be patient, flexible and firm. So that when good or evil presents itself to us we will see the possibility of going down both pathways and yet, we, by your Spirit's power, call us to a new life shaped by your Beloved, Jesus. Amen.

Wednesday, 19 June, 2002

The lead piece is from "Amazing Grace by Kathleen Norris. In this book she takes many of the words and images of the faith and attempts to put some reality and life to them

FAITH (Part 2)

The desert monastics became extremely sensitive to what would help or hinder their faith. The fifth-century nun Amma Syncletica, for example, warns that faith dies when the monk or nun goes from one place to another - she compares this to a hen abandoning her eggs. Faith, then, is fragile, something that needs tending. These early monastics seem far more charitable than many contemporary Christians when it comes to giving each other the benefit of the doubt; they do not questions another monk's faith. And only rarely do they trouble to define it - when asked, Abba Poeman spoke of it not as a modern person might, as an intellectual stance, but in terms of inner attitude and outward service: "Faith is to live humbly and give alms."

It seems odd that we would even begin to "questions or judge someone's faith." Even if we were to judge it to be "little" that is enough. The disciples who walked with Jesus were described as having little faith...even NO faith...and yet, by the power of the Holy Spirit, the body called the Church emerges from the faith measured up for them. It is enough. The question that must come to each of us may not be how can we have more faith, but how can we nurture and feed the faith we have. I know that when I took on these weekday devotions, it was at a time when I needed to be sustained...I needed a discipline that would help to patch up and repair and feed my faith. A little faith is a grand and glorious gift in the middle of a world like ours. Don't we even say it can "move mountains!" It is most important to note that Norris' friend was able to make the very important connection between inner attitude and outward service. For even among those of "little faith" the impact on self and others is a blessing to all.

Connection: Be as faithful as you are...but be faithful. The world begins to look completely different as we are able to see ourselves and others through faithful eyes. As that happens, remember we begin to our God in all things...that is a great gift of faith.

Lord God you fulfill your promises and we are empowered for the living of these days trusting in your faithfulness. Praise be to you as we faithfully walk into this day with the confidence that you walk with us. Amen.


Monday, June 17, 2002

Tuesday, 18 June, 2002

The lead piece is from "Amazing Grace by Kathleen Norris. In this book she takes many of the words and images of the faith and attempts to put some reality and life to them.

FAITH (We make take several days on this one)

After mentioning the "strong-arm tactics of evangelism" that fail to take into account biblical ambiguity, Norris writes: I appreciate much more the wisdom of novelist Doris Betts's assertion that faith is "not synonymous with certainty...(but) is the decision to keep your eyes open. It corresponds with what a fourth-century monk, Abba Bessarion, said about the attentiveness required in a life of faith: "The monk should be all eye." My new understanding of faith as like energy itself - fluid, always in motion but never constant... Faith is a constant, always there, but surging and ebbing, sometimes strongly evident and at other times barely discernible on my spiritual landscape.

She makes it sound like a journey. I like that. It means changes will come and shapes will move about and I will be responsible for keeping my eyes open so that I might be ready for the next way God will bring things together in my life. Part of that surging and ebbing has to do with how often I am attempting to seclude myself or keep to one way of seeing the world around me. The fluidity of faith offers a wider understanding of the faithful world in which we are called to live. It is so refreshing when I hear about bouts of faithlessness from someone who seems to be a pillar of faith. It is not that it is good to see someone having difficulties. Rather, it is a knock on the door of my heart saying, "You see...there is room in the household of God for many kind of folk beyond my imagination...even me!"

Connection: It is important for us to be willing to tell one another about the ebbing and surging of our faith. Those with whom we share such tales become for us the presence of the Holy Spirit and often these moments serve everyone who is around the table.

Lord of all faithfulness, as you promise to abide with us, we pray that we will be aware of the many ways you touch us and bring us together in the name of your Beloved, Jesus. Amen.

Monday, 17 June, 2002

The lead piece is from "Amazing Grace by Kathleen Norris. In this book she takes many of the words and images of the faith and attempts to put some reality and life to them.


I often felt a void at the heart of things. My Christianity seemed to be missing its center. When I confessed this to a monk, he reassured me by saying, "Oh, most of us fee that way at one time or another. Jesus is the hardest part of the religion to grasp, to keep alive." I told him that I probably felt Jesus' hand in things most during worship, whether I was in church at home, or at the monastery. Just a look around at the motley crew assembled in his name, myself among them, lets me know how unlikely it all is. The whole lot of us, warts and all, just seems so improbable, so absurd, I figured that only Christ would be so foolish, or so powerful, as to have brought us together.

Sometimes it is quite hard to see how that which appears to be foolish is indeed powerful. In looking at the gathering of saints in worship, I would agree with Norris as she mentions the "motley" crew. In a world that can be so easily divided over the least little difference, the Christ, seeks to unite. No power is greater than that which unites what so easily could be separated. It is like the opening line of a hymn: "In Christ there is no east or west..." What would appear to be the greatest example of separation is indeed a part of the whole. Christ makes the community of strangers and aliens whole. Norris writes that when she was in a monastery and the sisters would line up two-by-two to come into worship, as they came to their pew, they would bow to the Christ at the altar and turn to face our partner, and bow to the Christ in each other. There is something very human and real...very divine and eternal in this one we call the Christ.

Connection: Once before I note how people in some religions greet one another with a simple gesture and phrase that acknowledges the divine in the other person. That doesn't always mean that we will truly treat the other person as such. Then again, it may be a good practice if we were able to bring to mind - remember - the connectedness we are invited to share with all God's people in Christ's name.

Uniting Lord God, we stand in so many places and carry so many different banners over our lives and yet you call us to greet one another in peace and share in the relationships that bring wholeness and healing to our world. Praise be to you for abiding with us in all our attempts to be divided and separated and seeking to bring us home to each other. Amen!

Friday, June 14, 2002

Friday, 14 June, 2002

The lead piece is from "Amazing Grace by Kathleen Norris. In this book she takes many of the words and images of the faith and attempts to put some reality and life to them.


Jacob's theophany, his dream of angels on a stairway to heaven, strikes me as an appealing tale of unmerited grace. Here's a man who has just deceived his father and cheated his brother out of an inheritance. But God's response to finding Jacob vulnerable, sleeping all alone in open country, is not to strike him down for his sins but to give him a gives me hope to think that when God gazed on the sleeping Jacob, he looked right through the tough little schemer and saw something good, if only the capacity for awe, for recognizing God and worshipping. That Jacob will worship badly, trying to bargain with god, doesn't seem to matter. God promises to be with him always.

The grace of our God is a difficult reality to grasp. I originally typed in "a difficult concept to grasp" but it isn't a concept. It is a reality. Whether we trust it or is. Whether we trust it or not, God will be the Lord of all hopefulness whose grace awaits us like the father in the story of the two sons in Luke's gospel. The world can go on its cruel and unjust ways but our God continues to engage us as though we are God's beloved. By the power of the Holy Spirit we are able to see that reality and it is the power that transforms life and brings peace. The amazing thing about this grace is that we are then gifted to see others through just such a gracefulness and that can change the whole manner in which we face this day.

Connection: Beloved of God, how will you face this day? Is it possible to see those within our day with the eyes of our God who sees God's beloved everywhere? That is why we continue to say in our worship - "Come, Holy Spirit, Come." For we need such power to re-view all things.

Lord God you promise to be for us in all times and places. Lead us into this day as the beloved sons and daughters we are in your sight. Within that vision, enable us to walk with our sisters and brothers with a sense of awe and respect and loving kindness as we see your love extending to each of us. Amen

Wednesday, June 12, 2002

Thursday, 13 June, 2002

The lead piece is from "Amazing Grace by Kathleen Norris. In this book she takes many of the words and images of the faith and attempts to put some reality and life to them.


I sense much fear of fear itself in the contemporary landscape.

Having lost the ancient sense of fear as a healthy dose of reverence and wonder, we are left with only the negative connotations of the word...instead of opening us up, allowing us to explore our capacity for devotion in the presence of something larger and wiser than ourselves, fear is seen as something that shrinks us, harms us, and renders us incapable of acting on our own behalf...

The more I am aware of God's presence in my life, and in the world, the more intimate this relationship becomes, the more I am in awe. And the more I stand in holy fear, the smaller I seem in the face of God's vastness, God's might, God's being.

To be aware of my smallness...reminds me of my worth and potential and the amazing power of God. That may seem odd. To fear what may happen to me can paralyze me. Most often, I am paralyzed because I am puffed up with myself and therefore I fear what may happen if life doesn't go my way. When I can remember the awesome power of God and how that power is eternally for me and on my side, I am free to be vulnerable and in that vulnerability...fear-less. Fearlessness may simply be that reverence and wonder that is available to us as we encounter the Creator God on our side...on our side - WOW! Fear of the Lord...the beginning of wisdom...of course...the beginning of life in as a gift to be shared and not withdrawn.

Connection: How will this Lord of Life lead you today? How will you be empowered by our God to let go of all the stuff onto which you want to hold so dearly? Sometimes, by taking a look at the smallest piece of life we can begin to see the awesome presence of our God standing alongside of us.

Almighty God, by your power you shape all things and bring life to all that is. We give you thanks and praise you that in every time and place you call us by name and bless us and promise to abide with us that we...we may be your children, full of life and willing to take the risk to trust how you will lead us. Amen

Tuesday, June 11, 2002

Wednesday, 12 June, 2002

The lead piece is from "Amazing Grace by Kathleen Norris. In this book she takes many of the words and images of the faith and attempts to put some reality and life to them.


The last paragraph of this chapter reads: In the suspicious atmosphere of the contemporary Christian church, it is good to know one's ground. When others label me and try to exclude me, as too conservative or too liberal, as too feminist or not feminist enough, as too intellectual or not intellectually rigorous, as too Catholic to be a Presbyterian or too Presbyterian to be a Catholic, I refuse to be shaken from the fold. It's my God, too, my, Bible, my church, my faith; it chose me. But it does not make me "chosen" in a way that would exclude others. I hope it makes me eager to recognize the good, and the holy, wherever I encounter it.

It chose me! One of my favorite ways of dealing with people who want to exclude others from the full life of the congregation is to return to the baptismal font. For most often, those who are being excluded by others who claim to be protectors and gatekeepers of the faith have been brought to the water and had the Word of covenant spoken to them. Did God make a baptize those who we want to now exclude? No! Could it be that we forget who it is that chose me and you...even if you and I would chose not to be chosen together!?! Imagine the witness and the power and the life that would be among us if we would accept the fact that God chooses more than me...and my own kind. Imagine if Jesus had limited his view of those with whom he would sit at table and those for whom he would go all the way to death and back in order to give life abundantly.

Connection: This is not easy to walk through. It takes vision that is beyond what we want and are able to see on our own. That is precisely why our God who chooses us also promises to send the Holy Spirit - that breath of life that can overcome all our limited ways of seeing one another and God's reign. It may be difficult...but let us rejoice in the fullness of God's choice for us!!!

Lord of New Life, as we stumble into this day be our guide. When we find it easy to settle in our ways of exclusion and judgementalism, burst open our lives that we may breath from your life giving breath that promises a wholeness in life and community that we too often forget or ignore. Amen

Monday, June 10, 2002

Tuesday, 11 June, 2002

The lead piece is from "Amazing Grace by Kathleen Norris. In this book she takes many of the words and images of the faith and attempts to put some reality and life to them.


The anger of God speaks the truth. No matter how "nice" we think we are, or morally in the right, our hands, too, are full of blood; we do not exist as little kingdoms apart from our human societies full of murder, thievery, cheating, whole systems of oppression. I have come to have a certain level of trust in God's anger; it is a response to what is genuinely wrong... But human anger can never be as simply and essentially righteous as God's anger; in us, even well-placed anger all too easily becomes mean and self-serving. It can cause us to lose both our focus and our balance... Now that I appreciate God's anger more, I find that I trust my own much less. I am increasingly aware of its inconsistencies, its tendency to serve primarily as a mask for my fears. If I can remember this when I am tempted to anger, I am less likely to inflict my rage on others.

This is another reason why we need others. Too often, I cannot see my own rage and anger. It can be so familiar to me it goes unnoticed. Then again, it can take me so long to catch myself in the midst of my own anger that I have given myself ample opportunity to justify my anger and wrath. My anger divides. God's anger serves to unite and build up the connections between one another. God's anger seems to be a teaching and merciful anger that grabs our attention for the sake of grabbing our hearts and turning us to acts of loving kindness. I don't think I have the ability look at what is called God's anger and read it appropriately. I think it is within the conversations of the community that we are able to walk away from the stories of God's "anger" without being frightened. Instead, I trust that we would be encouraged and hopeful for we will begin to see how we miss the mark and how our God will persistently call new life from us.

Connection: Counting to 10 isn't bad advice. Breathing time can turn my "righteous" anger into the wisdom to talk openly and be willing to take the risks necessary for the welfare of all...not just me. At other times, it is good to make sure we speak sooner...not later, lest we say nothing and evil continues to rule.

Lord, God, show us the way. By your Holy Spirit, guide us that we would face one another in truthfulness. Let our anger diminish as the vision of your reign increases. Amen.

Monday, 10 June, 2002

The lead piece is from "Amazing Grace by Kathleen Norris. In this book she takes many of the words and images of the faith and attempts to put some reality and life to them.


...The word "bless" has its origins in blood. In Exodus 24, it is the blood of oxen that Moses sprinkles to sanctify the altar that God has commanded him to build. Then he sprinkles blood on the people who have assembled to worship, saying, "See the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you..."

Blood includes us in the Incarnation - not so crazy, after all, but an ancient thing, and wise. The rhythm of life that we carry in our veins is not only for us, but for others, as Christ's Incarnation was for the sake of all.

It is, in many ways, a very intimate image. Our God sheds blood in relationship with us. When we used to have great apple fights under and around some of the big apple trees in the park we didn't make much of someone getting hit with a bunch of apples. Then again, when we wanted to press the seriousness of the brutality of the battle it usually had to do with someone saying, "Stop it he's bleeding!" I remember a friend getting in a fight in the park. I don't think any of us took it real serious until there was the first bloody nose. The story of our faithful past is one that is meant to connect us and unite us. Obviously some of the blood shed in the scriptures seems odd. At least that is what people will say about some of the stories in the Old Testament. Then again, as Norris points out, there are those images in the book of Revelation in which the blood carries a powerful "for us" as the Lord triumphs and the saints are gathered round.

Connection: I once had a science teacher who told us to sit quietly and try to imagine your blood running through your arteries and veins. I'm sure he was attempting to have us take a look at how the body never shuts down. It was one way to draw us away from our 7th grade concerns and focus on something greater than "me." Sometimes blood reminds me of devotion and connection to others.

Life-giving Lord, within this day your encourage us to reach out beyond our own concerns and anxieties and joys so that we may be connected to those around us and share in the power and wonder of your mystical body. Let us stay in touch with your power to bring life to your faithful as we are called into community with you. Amen

Friday, June 7, 2002

Friday, 7 June, 2002

The lead piece is from "Amazing Grace by Kathleen Norris. In this book she takes many of the words and images of the faith and attempts to put some reality and life to them.


Hope may be a kind of name for God, but my favorite is the one revealed to Moses when he is distracted from tending sheep on Mt. Sinai... "I am the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob."

This is a God who is not identified with the help of a dictionary but through a relationship. One that demands great willingness to trust and to take risks... The next passage might be seen as the premiere of Jewish humor, a theological vaudeville routine. "What is your name?" Moses asks, and God says, "I Am Who I Am." Moses might as well have asked, "Who's on first?"

I was reading a pamphlet that is being handed out to warn college students about religious groups that come around and have a way of pressuring people into submission. They are cult like. They do not allow you to have open friendships with everyone and anyone. They pull you into their way and their people and then demand that you must be in their group or you will be damned. If our God is known through relationship, how can a group claim to be of God when they limit relationships. The Pharisees tried to pull Jesus aside and tell him he should watch out for "those" people with whom he was eating and "hanging out." But Jesus knew about being...and being to its fullest would always mean being in relationship...without bounds. Our God is without bounds and promises to never be detached from God's creation. Our God will be among us pursuing us with an unbounded love. Norris quotes Catherine LaCugna and it is an interesting piece to consider: "One finds God because one is already found by God. Anything we would find on our own would not be GOD."

Connection: Another definition of God by a 7th grader: "I find God through dogs because dogs are full of love." What does this love of God do to the face of your day and then...what does it bring to life in, with, and under your life with others?

Lord God you set our hearts on fire with your love and ongoing presence. As we come to see your power and grace and love unfold in the story of scripture, keep us mindful of how you continue to meet and greet us in this day and among those people who are around us this day. Amen

Wednesday, June 5, 2002

Thursday, 6 June, 2002

The lead piece is from "Amazing Grace by Kathleen Norris. In this book she takes many of the words and images of the faith and attempts to put some reality and life to them.


The word "righteous" used to grate on my ear, for years I was able to hear it only in its negative mode, as self-righteous, as judgmental. Gradually, as I became more acquainted with the word in its biblical context, I found that it does not mean self-righteous at all, but righteous in the sight of God. And this righteousness is consistently defined by the prophets, and in the psalms and gospels, as a willingness to care for the most vulnerable people in a culture, characterized in ancient Israel as orphans, widows, resident aliens, and the poor.... Much of the fabled wrath of God in Hebrew scriptures is directed against those who preserve their own wealth and power at the expense of the lowly; someone who won't pay a fair wage, for example, or who mistreats an immigrant laborer.

Norris goes on to say that righteous means at its root: one whose aim is true. It takes vision to understand and see the meaning of righteous. The vision, if full and adequate, is the vision of the reign of God. If we are not inspired by the Spirit of God, we will tend to see only our own side and our own ways and we will do anything we can to keep things as they are best for "me" and my own. It is no wonder that the "righteous" are those who keep their eyes and their concerns with the least, the lowest and the little ones. I know that movies are not the best way to receive information, but when I watch the movie "Ghandi" (and I do so regularly) they were able to capture his righteous vision for life. He could have stayed within certain bounds...still made changes but also still kept certain things in place (especially divisions). And yet, he pressed on even to the point at which he places himself in danger and a position of utter humiliation. But, for the "welfare of all" a righteous person would give even one's life. Sound quite like Jesus doesn't it?!? Though it would have been politically prudent for Jesus to act in ways other than what he did, he had this vision...this ability...this gift to see the reign of God already coming into focus and to life...already in his everyday living.

Connection: Remember to take a deep breath the next time you are faced in this day with a choice that will invite you to aim at what is true. The breath may be just enough of a prayer to give you space to be empowered by the Holy Spirit and act in a whole new way...righteous are the beloved of God.

Loving Lord, you shape us by the power of you Spirit that we would never lose touch with those around us who are also created in your image and called you own. In all that is big and small within our lives, keep us focused on the care and well-being of all your beloved. Amen

Tuesday, June 4, 2002

Wednesday, 5 June, 2002

The lead piece is from "Amazing Grace by Kathleen Norris. In this book she takes many of the words and images of the faith and attempts to put some reality and life to them.


Norris writes of a man her family knew while she was growing up back in western South Dakota.

Out of the blue, Arlo began talking about his grandfather, who had been a deeply religious man, or as Arlo put it, "a damn good Presbyterian." His wedding present to Arlo and his bride had been a Bible, which he admitted he had admired mostly because it was an expensive gift, bound in white leather with their names and the date of their wedding set in gold lettering on the cover. "I left it in its box and it ended up in our bedroom closet." Arlo told us. "But," he said, "for months afterward, every time we saw grandpa he would ask me how I liked that Bible. The wife had written a thank-you note, and we'd thanked him in person, but somehow he couldn't let it lie, he'd always ask about it." Finally, Arlo grew curious as to why the old man kept after him. "Well, he said, "the joke was on me. I finally took that Bible out of the closet and I found that granddad had placed a twenty-dollar bill at the beginning of the Book of Genesis, and at the beginning of every book of the damn thing, over thirteen hundred dollars in all. And he knew I'd never find it."

Norris notes that at the time that the money was put in the Bible, it was quite a sum. Why do you turn to the Bible? For answers...for encouragement...? The Bible is many things for many people. It can even become an idol. Rather than being the finger that points to our God and the Good News of the Reign of God, it becomes the Lord in itself. Odd. And yet, it is within the stories of the Bible that we hear of this God who promises to be our God - no matter what goes on in our lives...whether we want God to be our God or not! I'm not to thrilled with "Bible thumpers" who like to use scripture passages like bullets to shoot people down or win arguments. The Bible is so much more than a bag of ammunition. It is the attempt by many faithful people to record the acts of God among a people who were grasped by God's mighty Spirit and then asked to come and be God's beloved. In those stories we are engaged in the midst of our own stories and here within our communities of faith we wrestle with who we are because of the Good News of the Reign of God. The Bible is a part of our faithful dialogue with one another. If you are ever in a group in which the Bible seems to be used as a way to beat you up or demand complete control of how you are to live and with whom you are to associate and what questions, if any, you are allowed to ask, turn and run the God of Grace who is really the foundation of the life within the scriptures.

Connection: Engage yourself in the reading of scripture. Honor the book as a trusted companion along life's pathway this day. I like to go into a passage with the challenge to find the word of Grace within the text. Sometimes that can take some faithful imagination. Contemplate why a story is being told and what it may be able to offer you today.

Lord of History, you bring to your faithful people the stories of your faithfulness among our ancestors. Encourage us to stay in touch with their journeys as we call on you to be with us on the journeys we will face today. Bless us Lord with vision. Amen!

Monday, June 3, 2002

Tuesday, 4 June, 2002

The lead piece is from "Amazing Grace by Kathleen Norris. In this book she takes many of the words and images of the faith and attempts to put some reality and life to them.

IDOLATRY - a 2nd piece

The Bible - and human life itself - is full of evidence that religion itself can become an idol: what the sentimental call the love of God is nothing if it is short-circuited into private piety or religious self-righteousness and doesn't translate into compassion for others. Unfortunately, it is scorn for others that often marks religion's public face in America, leading me to suspect that one of the most popular idols around today is still the Pharisee's prayer as recorded in the Gospel of Luke - when he prays, it's to thank God that he is not like other people, who don't go to church, or if they do, don't say the right prayers. Idolatry in this sense is the original equal-opportunity employer, and anyone can play: The Protestant fundamentalist looks down on the mainstream one as not "really" Christian, the conservative Catholic despises the "cafeteria" one, the self-proclaimed spiritual seeker sneers, "You go to church? I find God in nature.

"My way" can easily get into the way and lead me directly to the idols of my life. The idols of our lives cause us to put everything in life under a microscope and make a measurement or value judgment about each and every part of our day. We each have any number of things within our lives that cause us to look down our noses at others. It can become so easy to support the idols of our lives...we simply need to put down others. One note about idols is important to consider. It takes our life...our energy...our time...our keep up our idol worship. To worship the one true God of Grace demands that we simply trust that our God's love for us is enough to overcome all things and make us into a blessed people...people of worth and purpose. Example: When I worship money (an age old idol), my whole life can easily become a servant to the process of getting more money, finding ways of spending it, complaining about those who have it, making it the ground of my worth in life...etc. Eventually though, like all idols, this one gives out on us in one way or another. Idols break down me as an individual and they break down the community because they demand our sacrifice. The Most High God gives us life and relationship and commitment to one another.

Connection: Idols are often the things that finally grab us and try to have the final word in our decisions. Idols don't let us be free...they want us to pay attention to them no matter what the cost may be. Anything can become an idol within our day...look around.

Lord, you are the Creator of all that is. You bless us with so many things within our lives that we often lift up and praise the gifts you have given us rather than lift our voices of praise and thanksgiving to you alone. Bless us with your life-giving love. Amen

Monday, 3 June, 2002

The lead piece is from "Amazing Grace by Kathleen Norris. In this book she takes many of the words and images of the faith and attempts to put some reality and life to them.


Idolatry makes love impossible... It seems that many men, and some women, cannot give up the illusion of possessing another person. The idea of that person - the "idea" is related etymologically to the word "idol" - becomes more important, more potent than the actual living creature. It is much safer to love an idol than a real person who is capable of surprising you, loving you and demanding love in return, and maybe one day leaving you. People who have murdered their spouses often talk about how much they love them, and they mean it. In order to keep the idol intact, in order to keep on loving it, they had to do away with him or her.

I remember a strange movie...I think it was "Boxing Helena." In that movie, the main male character is in love with Helena. To keep her, he piece by piece cuts off a part of her body until all she is left with is a head and the trunk of her body. I know there was much more to the movie than that...but its been years since I saw it and only this final image remains. But what an odd way to show love. Odd, because love does not contain another person. As Norris might say it, idolatry contains...idolatry makes love impossible. Love seeks out the welfare and the growth and the changes within another. Love allows and love assists the other to change and move and continue to become more fully the person s/he can be. It is no wonder that some people turn their world...or at least a image of their world into a fix image and, therefore, an idol. They do not want things to change or people to move through the wonderful adventure of growth and transformation. The people of Israel really thought begin back in Egypt could be a good thing compared to the wilderness wandering. Back there, things were fixed in place least there was the same-old-same-old routine. No wonder they fashioned an idol when Moses was off exploring what would come next for them...they wanted to stay put in what was.

Connection: Letting go of the images we want to make secure can be the most dynamic and life giving part of our day. Sometimes that simply means we change the way we see them. Rather than making them fit into a box that will benefit us for a short period of time, we can let them live with us forever...changing every day.

Great Deliverer, it is by your amazing power that we are able to stand and walk into a new world at the beginning of this day. Inspire us to be graceful as we build our relationships and seek to grow alongside one another with a sense of justice and peace and love. Amen