Wednesday, October 30, 2002

Thursday, 31 October, 2002

From the second lesson for All Saints Sunday

See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are. 1 John 3:1-3

Knowing this God...s life. I read this a second time and was simply stunned by this simple proclamation. For no other reason than the fact that God calls us children of God...are we children of God. We are not people who have made ourselves into God's children. It is not like a costume we put on. It is not merely a designation we can carry a title. We are...we are...our very being is wrapped up in the reality God has declared is the truth of all things...we are children of God and that comes out of God's love for us. That's the truth.

Connection: What does that have to do with our life this day? What does it bring to life among us? What else rules among us when the only thing that counts is what God has called us...made us...? All of life looks fresh and new as we are transformed by such a proclamation.

Lord of New Life, let you word of life pull us into this day that all things will be shaped by such love that is known only in you. Amen.

Tuesday, October 29, 2002

Wednesday, 30 October, 2002

The Prayer of the Day for All Saints Sunday

Almighty God, whose people are knit together in one holy Church, the body of Christ our Lord: Grant us grace to follow your blessed saints in lives of faith and commitment, and to know the inexpressible joys you have prepared for those who love you; through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

We follow..."in lives of faith and commitment." In our weekly confirmation class, we are reading the stories of the unfolding of the people of Israel as they emerge from the lives of Abraham and Sarah to their children. The storytelling keeps circling around the faith of Abraham. Was he better than other people of the day...was he more upright...did he live the most commendable life? No. He trusted...he lived by faith and he and Sarah were committed to the promise made by God. We walk by faith into the moment at hand and we are open to the "inexpressible joys" that crack open before us as we trust in the one who calls us and forms us and promises to be for us the very breath of our lives. I really appreciate and honor the remembrance of the saints who have gone before us and those who are a living witness of faithfulness as they enter our lives even now. It is as though I am drawn up into a new those who are also stumbling and yet call upon our God for all things. Saints are not isolated individuals. They are members of communities of saints who prayerfully engage life within the blessed assurance of God's graceful love for us.

Connection: Sometimes we need to take the time to remember how has given us this day. The saints of God help one another stay focused and leaning on the everlasting arms of our God.

O God, for all the many witnesses who have pointed to the new life you bring to all your children, we give you thanks. Continue to be present as our paths cross the ways of others so that we may all be a part of the blessed event call the community of saints each day. Amen.

Tuesday, 29 October, 2002

Continuing the text from Romans for Reformation Sunday:

Now we know that whatever the law says, it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. For "no human being will be justified in his sight" by the deeds prescribed by the law for through the law comes the knowledge of sin.(3:19-20)

But now, apart from the law the righteousness of God has been disclosed and is attested by the law and the prophets, the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction, since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a sacrifice of atonement by his blood, effective through faith. He did this to show his righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over the sins previously committed; it was to prove at the present time that he himself is righteous and that he justifies the one who has faith in Jesus. (3:21-26)

"Justified by his grace as a gift." Free...without any action on our part. Free. Many people do not receive "gifts" well. Very often we either think we must do something in order to receive a gift...or when we receive a gift we must give a gift back. Can a gift be from any and clear? YES! We are told that we are made right before God through Jesus' life, death & resurrection - nothing on our part puts us there. Our side of this story is to trust that it is so...without condition. Nothing from the past can negate this gift. Nothing in the present or to come can pull the rug out from under God's promise in Christ. Therefore, we live today in faith....that is, trusting whose we are and living as though it is true. The grace and love of God shapes life more richly than any list of laws.

Connection: Before you do anything today and after you have finished the day and are resting in bed, remember the gift that is for us all. Trust it...and live.

Lord God you lift us up and set us down within the domain of your loving kindness. Keep us mindful of your gracious will and how you never change your mind about us even as we are blown about by the winds of the day that tempt us to follow other word than your promises. Amen.

Monday, October 28, 2002

Monday, 28 October, 2002

As we just celebrated Reformation Sunday a few days on the lesson from Romans.

After Paul has built his argument to the point of saying "...all, both Jews and Greeks, are under the power of sin..." he writes:

Now we know that whatever the law says, it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. For "no human being will be justified in his sight" by the deeds prescribed by the law for through the law comes the knowledge of sin.

The law sets boundaries. The law is constantly reminding us of our brokenness. In some ways we could say that the voice of the law never will continue to hound us...pointing our our shortcomings. This is what the law does. In the case of Paul's letter, the law is the law of the Jews of his day...many laws both written within scripture and those a part of the tradition of the elders. Once our lives are being lived according to such an accounting, there is no other way to see life because we are always being reminded of how we fall short of the reach of the law. As much as we try to keep within the law...we all, in one shape or form, step over its boundaries. Krister Stendahl writes that for Paul, "it is grace that showed him how the law condemns...not the law that drove him to grace." Tomorrow we will spend some time with how grace plays into the picture for all of us.

Connection: Within the context of our lives as people of faith, it is very easy to be enticed into the world of religious laws that attempt to guarantee that if we follow the right way of living (as defined in a certain set of laws) we will have good lives and God will be pleased with us. Remember to say "baloney" each time you hear that religious rubbish (it is much more polite to say it quietly to yourself). We are a people invited to live by grace...and that demand a singular focus that will reveal how living by the law always bring death and always condemns.

Lord of the Good News of the Reign of God, let your mercy and grace reign among us so that we can see our lives within a new perspective and become a witness to the power of your love and faithfulness. Amen.

Friday, October 25, 2002

Friday, 25 October, 2002

From the Book of Jeremiah

Then the Lord put out his hand and touched my mouth; and the Lord said to me, "Now I have put my words in your mouth. See, today I appoint you over nations and over kingdoms, to pluck up and to pull down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant. (Jeremiah 1:9-10)

The Lord God gives the gift of speech to Jeremiah. Not just speech as speech, but speech as putting out before a called people the vision of God's reign in the midst of a people who may be living quite contrary to such a calling. It is always in conversation that we define ourselves. The task of a prophet is to bring a word that must be heard to a people who have been listening only to their own ideas and words. That is not an easy task. Most often, we would prefer to listen to our own voices and expect that our own voices will shape us and guide us into new life. Not. When all we listen to is our own voice, we are most likely to become a self-centered people who find it impossible to be transformed or to be transforming. The words of the prophet Jeremiah would be harsh and demanding. They would be revealing and carry with them the potential for renewal and reformation. Unfortunately, it doesn't take much to avoid the word of the Lord brought by prophets. We can simply turn our backs and walk away. Or...if the voice is too loud and too persistent, we can find ways to justify silencing it. Then, the word can be put onto paper and read or not read as we choose. We hate to let anyone or any other voice have a say in our lives.

Connection: Sometime, we must halt what we are doing and where we are going and how we are trying to have control of everything in our lives and listen to the voices that keep calling us to look beyond ourselves to the renewing of our lives in the midst of a community of conversation.

Lord send your word among us with power so that we may hear it even as we do not want to hear it. May our hearts be receptive to your word and our lives transformed in its hearing. Amen

Wednesday, October 23, 2002

Thursday, 24 October, 2002

From the Book of the Prophet Jeremiah

After Jeremiah has been approached and appointed by God here is what follows:

Then I (Jeremiah) said, "Ah, Lord God! Truly I do not know how to speak, for I am only a boy. But the Lord said to me,

"Do not say, "I am only a boy'; for you shall go to all to whom I send you, and you shall speak whatever I command you,

Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, says the Lord."

We do not have to count on what we see in ourselves to be the word of worth about what we can or cannot do. Our God calls us to follow God alone. This story and the stories we live as people within the reign of God are not about us and our abilities. Rather it is about our God and the way our God uses and empowers regular people - people who may think they are too young, too old, too shy, too bold...whatever - to bring the word of the Lord into the regular activity of the day. Not one of the followers of our Lord God are "only" this or that. We are who we are - beloved of God. Any "only" we may feel or think is overruled. You...YOU...are grasped by our God whose faithfulness never diminishes and whose power is available for us as we are called to be a living presence of God's word in the world. Sometimes, we have to face the fear we have about what may happen to us if we speak and we must face the anxiety that squeezes us into silence. Our God faces that fear and anxiety with us by saying fear not I am with you...I will be your rock...I am your strength...I will give you the words and the actions needed to life up the way of God's Reign.

Connection: You are not "only"... You are the Lord's. You are favored by the God who creates all things and makes the day out of nothing at all. No matter what we think our gifts may be, they are still gifts. And our God will use what we have and who we are to lift up the vision of God's reign for all to see. You are the Lord's!!!

How powerful is your command to follow you, O Lord. We give you thanks for the many ways you call us into new life even as we cannot see beyond our limits. Guide us as we take the gifts you have given us and begin to use them to the glory of your Holy name. Amen.

Tuesday, October 22, 2002

Wednesday, 23 October, 2002

From the Book of the Prophet Jeremiah

Now the word of the Lord came to me saying,

"Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations." (Jeremiah 1:4-5)

The text for today is the same as yesterday because its simplicity struck me. The word of the Lord that comes to the prophet is one that comes and speaks of a time before the prophets "time." "Before I formed you in the womb" is a part of that breath of life that comes to us before all things. Before the prophet could do anything...before the prophet could make anything of himself or become less than anyone else in the eyes of the world, the Lord God was present and focused and attending and calling Jeremiah to bring the word of the Lord to the people. The potential for faithful life is within us and being mixed into the brew of who we will become as people within God's reign. As we approach Reformation Sunday, I am struck once again by the unqualified and unconditional action by God. Yes, this is the calling of one of the great prophets of Hebrew scriptures, but it is also a reminder to all who have been baptized in Christ Jesus. Before anything can be established within our lives...before we turn out like "this" or like "that"...before anyone can come to some opinion about us based on what we look like or how we act, God has already acted and called us and made us God own. We are baptized! We are the Lord's beloved. Before you can think of anything else, trust this word that comes before all other words.

Connection: What is it to be a part of a community in which God's word before all other words is the only word that matters? What does that do to how we engage ourselves with the day's activities and the relationships we will enter? What difference does it make to this day if we see in the "other" what our God sees?!

Speak to us Lord, God. Your word of love has the power to transform this day and make us look anew at each person with whom we enter into conversation and share our gifts and our time. Bless us and call us out into your reign of peace and love. Amen.

Monday, October 21, 2002

Tuesday, 22 October, 2002

From the Book of the Prophet Jeremiah

Now the word of the Lord came to me saying,

"Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations." (Jeremiah 1:4-5)

It is easy to overlook the power of the message brought to God's people. In rereading this section of Jeremiah I was caught like a deer in headlights...stopped dead in my tracks. To the prophet comes "the word of the Lord." This word is the same word that is uttered at the very beginning of all things...when, indeed...there were no things at all. Out of nothing comes God's creative word and it creates the possibility of all things. To this "boy" Jeremiah is brought a future that will be shaped by the creative and powerful and loving word of God. It would do us well to be reminded that this word is still being lifted up for all of us. Yes, I realize the day may look as though no word at all can bring about new life. Yes, I realize that some days can be so down that it would be easier to crash than to lift up our eyes to the possibilities of the day. Yes, I realize that we can be so consumed by the running and panic of the day that it can feel as though we are simply flying recklessly into the future. I also realize that our God is faithful...has been...will be...and is now. Therefore, before anything else is said or any action takes place...remember that our God speaks of for each of us no matter where we may be. Remember that such life is already within the breath that precedes the word, therefore already our God is on our side creating possibilities for life prior to our actions or our reflections.

Connection: In the wind that passes by us this day comes the voice that speaks directly to our hearts. Be soothed. Be refreshed. Be the beloved one whose name is already on the lips of the Creator of all things.

Lord of All that Is, hold us and protect us. Walk with us and send us off with the power of your creative word so that this day will be a living witness to the glory of the ways of your loving and merciful reign. In such a day as this be the wind that moves us and stirs us and steers us. Amen.

Monday, 21 October, 2002

Sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the whole earth.

Sing to the Lord and bless the Lord's name; proclaim the good news of the Lord's salvation from day to day.

Declare the Lord's glory among the nations and the Lord's wonders among all peoples.

For great is the Lord and greatly to be praised; the Lord is more to be feared than all gods.

As for all the gods of the nations, they are but idols; but it is the Lord who made the heavens.

It is a tired Monday. I would rather be in bed. These are words that are almost too bright to read and yet their brilliant praise sets the tone for the day. There are those days when singing is not the first thing that comes into my mind. Then again, when I consider the life that I have been given by God and the possibilities for new life with each day, even when tired, there is a trace of a song whipping through my head. I must say that once I am caught up in the language of song in this section of Psalm 96, I am then awake to hear the call to be watchful. Each of our days will have the many gods of our lives pulling on us and calling us to follow them and support them and make sure they are standing tall (gods need that kind of attention). In the face of these gods, we are called to remember the God who is not created by hands with metals and wood and precious stones, but the God who creates all things out of nothing at all. When we remember our God we are drawn into the life our God calls us - to love God and to love neighbor. I find in this simple command the direction for this day as I work among the many gods that will pull on me. This love becomes the light that will shine to provide a path to walk and a way to evaluate the call of idols longing to gain my heart.

Connection: Sing to the Lord a new song. That a part of a new song. A song that comes forth from the simple command to be a part of the love of God that creates all things and brings life to us rather than calling us to prop up the life of our idols. How will following the Lord God differ from following the many things and people who will call for our allegiance this day?

Lord God we lift our voices in praise of your mighty works and the new life that you hand to us each day. Pull us up into the fullness of this day and awaken us to the possibilities to see glimpses of your blessed rule within the ordinary adventures of our this day. Amen.

Friday, October 18, 2002

Friday, 18 October, 2002

From The Hauerwas Reader

Is there a particular point in people's lives when they decide to accept or reject the Christian story?

I resist the notion that conversion is a sudden change at a particular point in one's life. Now, people clearly have had overwhelming religious experiences of which I stand in awe. But conversion is the name for the lifelong process of discovering that one's life has been constituted by a good God in ways one could never have imagined. Read Saint Teresa of Avila; Teresa never had any sudden conversion. She was just born knowing God and knowing that God knew her.

If find these comments to be inspiring. That is, filled with a sense of the working of the Holy Spirit that is beyond any box in which we might want to put the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of God, hovers over creation as in the beginning of time and the Spirit continues to transform all things each day. Therefore, today I am invited to step beyond what was and enter what is taking shape as the Spirit blows life into this day. Over the many years I have been in the ordained ministry and the many years I have been a Christian, the Story of God For Us keeps knocking me off my horse and pulling me into a new view of the glorious reign of God. What I see today is much different from what once was. The constant in all these years....has been the God who keeps calling me and inviting me to trust what God has done and is doing and already has completed out at the end of all things.

Connection: When asked about your conversion...the when and the where...simply say....God keeps opening up my eyes and ears so that I can keep seeing and hearing all things through the promise of life in Christ, Jesus.

God your faithfulness has been the power for new life when we enter times in which we cannot see how we will make it through to the other end. Knowing that you will be with us is a fountain of hope and encouragement. Lift us up and inspire us to trust in you alone. Amen.

Wednesday, October 16, 2002

Thursday, 17 October, 2002

From The Hauerwas Reader

Another hallmark of Christianity is that salvation is not individualistic - it's not something one person receives for himself or herself alone. Salvation is the reign of God. It is a political alternative to the way the world is constituted. That's a very important part of the story that has been lost to accounts of salvation that are centered in the individual. But without an understanding that salvation is the reign of God, the need for the church to mediate salvation makes no sense at all.

The reign of God is a total reign. We see glimpses of its unique and powerful presence in the life of God's people throughout the ages. We say we are able to look at its glory most fully as we look to Jesus. Jesus is not a guru simply bringing inner that the events of the world do not disturb us. Jesus brings peace to the world...the whole thing...or there is no peace at all. Presently in our country, there is a strong movement within the Christian Right that is urging our country to go to war against Iraq. In that movement there is an arrogance that wants to claim that the U.S. is a Christian nation...a nation needed to clean up & subdue the "pagans" or...even worse...bring about the great and final day through an end time battle. I find such a movement to be antithetical to the reign of God for the military defeat by our country (or others) or the imperialistic presence of one country or a cadre of wealthy countries, does not bring peace as it is envisioned in the reign of God. The reign of God will always be a contrary presence to the ways of the world. We will not be individualistic and secluded away from the world...we will be actively a part of the everyday events of the world. Our presence will be one of peace - mercy - loving kindness - forgiveness - reconciliation...even if flies against the prevailing winds of the powers of the day.

Connection: Speak of peace and let not the self-centered words of war prevail among us. Witnesses to the reign of God must live within a tension that honors the powers of the day but never lets those powers over rule the vision of God's reign. Speak of peace!

Lord of New Life, you have given us many ways to stand tall within our world as a witness to your love for all. Lift our eyes so that we can see the majestic vision of your reign in which you bring all things to a creative new existence within your domain of peace. Amen.

Wednesday, 16 October, 2002

Pastor Al will be away from his computer Tuesday and Wednesday. We will be posting devotions from June of 2000 during those days.

Text: Matthew 5:33-37

Again, you have heard that it was said to those of ancient time, 'You shall not swear falsely, but carry out the vows you have made to the Lord' But I say to you, Do not swear at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is God's footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. Let your word be "yes, Yes' or "No, No"; anything more than this comes from the evil one.

This is where the marketing people for Nike found the idea of "Just do it!" Not. And yet, there is much to be said about doing and not doing and leaving all the promises/vows out of the picture. It appears very often that it is the stuff we promise to do - and yet do not do - that creates breaks in our relationships...any and all of them. The danger in making vows is that we often don't have the power to fulfill them. Anything can happen between the time we speak and the time we needed to make those words into the deeds or the results promised. In the movie "Dead Poet's Society" the young men were taught to "seize the day" - act - just do it - now. For we will all be food for worms - gone. Jesus is again calling on his followers to "live" out of the day by acting out of God's Reign with no great promises of what is to come - but of life that is available now. A 'yes" or a 'no' - and the actions that reflect such a word.

Connection: This does not mean there must be some frantic running around to "do" so much today. Rather, simply do only that which you can. But in that, we keep a simple word. We do not heap on great expectations that often drown ourselves and others. This is probably most important for all of our relationships. Watch out for the promises we make that are merely used as an attempt to make us look good to the others - spouse, friend, work mate, children... To commit and do - no matter how little the task is seen as making a person one "of their word." It is still considered a place of character.

Blessed God of this day, move us into this day in the confidence that your love for us will indeed shape us and as we are shaped by you, our lives are graciously shared with others. Amen

Monday, October 14, 2002

Tuesday, 15 October, 2002

Text: Matthew 5:31-32

Pastor Al will be away from his computer Tuesday and Wednesday. We will be posting devotions from June of 2000 during those days.

It was also said, 'Whoever divorces his wife , let him give her a certificate of divorce.' But I say to you that anyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity, causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

You're probably wonder how in the world I'm going to use this as a daily devotion! I suppose I will start by asking why we don't abide by this "teaching from Jesus in Matthew's gospel." Not only that, why do those who claim to take the bible "literally" also put this aside. Could it be that we all realize that we live in a less than perfect world and divorce happens for many and various reasons? Or could it be that the religious leaders of Jesus day had a way of saying this divorce is okay and that one is not as though some may use divorce as they see fit for their own ends and it will be "blessed" by the leaders...and Jesus didn't buy the practice? Personally I come back to this passage whenever I hear "biblical literalists" spout off about the "abomination of homosexuality." How is it that we go about deciding what can be held among us and what need not be held among us anymore? In our world, that is not just as we might want it to be, we are called to still love - in an unbounded and merciful manner. The days of picking and choosing what we want to be right according to convenience and tradition does not serve the good news. The days of forgetting about the God's embrace of all who stumble and all who are sent out away from us is over. Now, we must ask how we are to have the Reign of God come to life here - in our brokenness so that all are Christ to be wholly, holy in God's sight. As a divorced person, these few verses can sting. But as a child beloved by this God who calls me home in Jesus, I am a full citizen of God's Reign with all the rest of you. And all I can say to that is Praise be to God.

Connection: What are laws, mandates, uncrossable lines that need to be re-viewed as you walk through this day so that people might be given the power to live new lives? This doesn't mean - anything goes. It does mean we are free to live without excuses. The next time you think you have to offer an excuse for yourself, remember no excuse is needed to have a place within the family of God's beloved. Simple come.

O God of relationships and honor, remind us of what it means to faithful spouses and partners and friends. Remind us of what it means to honor those around us and cherish all the lives of the people you bring into our lives. Keep us walking along the way of your perfert rule that we might reflect the perfection of your eternal love. Amen.

Friday, October 11, 2002

Friday, 11 October, 2002

From The Hauerwas Reader

How should Christians...respond to injustice within the church?

Listening to the weakest member is the kind of church government that is at the very heat of the Gospel... The weakest brother or sister is always there to speak as a Christian and to be a witness to Jesus Christ. Giving power to those weakest members is necessary; otherwise, the entire community is always dependent on the good nature of the leadership... The church as an institution is not just about providing for greater participation; it's about being a people in a hostile environment capable of sustaining the witness to Jesus of Nazareth, who has brought to us a way of life that we know to be life-giving.

I find this to be a reflection of the very core of the Good News for it does not place anyone in a position of power over and against another. In fact, it presses us to remember the we each are a part of the whole body...the same body...and therefore precious to the whole for our life as the church to be complete and well. Keeping our eyes on the one we call the Lord of us all must be a constant exercise - a prayerful one we could say. I don't know about you but I can easily forget the twinkling of an eye. Therefore we must be willing to remind one another just as quickly...we are followers of Jesus...we welcome all and look after the well being of all...even those who usually have no say in our world.

Connection: Be surprised what can be gained by listening to those who are often left in the background or not given a voice for it is one that is contrary to the prevailing winds of conversation. It will at least make the day sound new...and it may be quite refreshing.

Lord of All, bless us with the power of your Holy Spirit that is present in the gathering of your children. When we are blind to the gift of others in our presence, open our eyes and our ears to what is in store for us within the life of your people. Amen.

Wednesday, October 9, 2002

Thursday, 10 October, 2002

From "The Hauerwas Reader"

I found this quote to be quite alarming. Especially as we are so inclined to run the church by vote and simple majority and expect that the majority knows what is the best for all.

The church believes that it is always under the judgment of truth. The ideology of democracy believes that somehow truth is discerned and carried out by the majority. But we must never forget that the most democratically elected leader of modern times was Adolf Hitler.

We often go along with what we are convinced will do the best for us...and keep us safe. Hitler made many promises and he had a way of delivering a message that sounded like a sure thing. And yet, the majority did not carry the truth. In fact, it carried a lie and in that lie it perpetrated the most brutal of atrocities. We are called to draw all things into the shape of the cross. That is, into the way of Jesus. That "way" does not hold one people above others nor does it carry a sword in order to destroy others for the advantage of one side over another. In the face of the majority, even when it claims to be a "moral" majority, there is a truth for life that is molded by acts of forgiveness and reconciliation and the grace of God. The church becomes the agent of such truth through dialogue and mutual conversation in which there is a creative respect for the welfare of all. Democracy is a wonderful way to run a country...but as resident aliens who are citizens within the reign of God, there are times when we cannot abide by the rules and notions of the majority...even when it considers itself moral by its own standards.

Connection: If the majority of of people are allowed to rule, what happens to those who are not a part of that majority. Are they discounted? We have a history within the followers if Jesus that looks after and sides with the minority view so that no people are considered dispensable. How does that have an impact on what will take place within this day.

Lord of all Life, be for us the truth that sets us free to live with the many people you have called your beloved. Mark us with the sign of the cross and let your Holy Spirit inspire our living that all may have life abundant even as it mean we must face the cross. Amen.

Wednesday, 9 October, 2002

So how should Christians live in society? Here are pieces of Stanley Hauerwas' response

Very carefully; but, I would also say, joyfully. That's the most important thing a Christian can do.... Every social order is going to give Christians peculiar challenges. Christians belong to a worldwide church that has great and varied resources; they're not trapped in any one country. Their home is part of a movable feast.

This notion of our home as a "movable feast" is powerful and practical for me. It became even more so when I was talking with a person who finds great encouragement from the weekly celebration of worship and the Lord's Supper. As we were talking about the interest in many people who are "caught up" in being "caught up" and taken to heaven, he said that the way he enters a conversation with people who want to go to heaven is to say he's been there and he would be willing to take them with him. He also would go so far to say he has seen and been a participant in the end times of the glory of Christ. He said he would invite them to worship. The Lord's Supper offered to all who come brings us into the the completion of all things. The singing of hymns...people gathered together - without the distinctions within our world holding a place for us...the emphasis on the the gathering of saints from every time and place...the reading of scripture that ties us to the past - points to the end of time - and brings substance to this day, is for him...the beginning of the end...the fullness of time within time. The service of worship or the mass or liturgy of Holy Communion or the gathering for the Lord's Supper in worship. etc., is an event that has no one homeland and cannot be claimed or owned by any one people. It is a movable feast that claims us and shapes us no matter what political power appears to be in control.

Connection: So how do we live within this day? As though we are people invited to the feast of victory of our Lord God. How do we take the graciousness of that invitation and make it a part of the way we approach the people of our day? How would you live with the people around you at work knowing that they too are guests at the feast...just as you are?

Lord of all time, you shelter your people within your loving embrace like a hen protecting her chicks at times of terror and trouble. For us you bring life through death...for us you bring hope for tomorrow when today appears grim and at an end. Be for us the joy that fills this day with new life for all. Amen.

Tuesday, October 8, 2002

Tuesday, 8 October, 2002

To be followers of Jesus implies that there is a character to our lives. There is an authority that serves to "lead us, guide us" as the gospel hymn notes. We are called to be faithful to the God who raised Jesus from the other allegiance is to be our guiding light. Stanley Hauerwas makes a striking comment about our society and the way we are so willing to give up our character in order to fit into the notion of being successful as it is defined in the American culture. He writes: The United States is a social order built upon the presumption that each person gets to be his or her own tyrant - that's called the pursuit of happiness. Each person gets to make up his or her own mind based on the presumption that choices are made free from an overarching influence.

We are a people called to be a community. That involves taking care of others and being in dialogue with that we may be well. The prophets of old brought a word of judgment against Israel because they let their character be shaped by the prevailing winds and powers of the day...that promise much happiness and success. The people - who were to be a people...a community - became deaf to the call of justice and were willing to let the poor and widows go without help even as there was enough for all to be fed and nurtured. God's people - we - are gifted with a character for life that is not to be disregarded for something as individualistic as the mere "pursuit of happiness." For what happens if my idea of happiness means I can get rid of you...because I see you as a threat...or bad...or evil...or getting in the way of the life I want to have?

Connection: We may be going to war soon. What is it all about? Idols, false gods, have been defined as things within our lives that we have to fight to protect and preserve...for they are unable to sustain themselves and they demand our life blood. It takes daily prayerful attention to spot what demands our life from us and takes us away from the character of God's reign. What can you see within the mundane parts of your day...that pulls you from the character of the followers of Jesus?

Lord, be a lamp for us that brings light to the dark corners of our lives that attempt to pull us away from you. To trust in you alone is a power gift that your Holy Spirit brings to us...grant us a special measure of the power of your Spirit. Amen.

Monday, October 7, 2002

Monday, 7 October, 2002

From "The Hauerwas Reader" - Stanley Hauerwas

What does it mean to be Christian?

Being Christian is a way of life; it's being part of God's story. To be Christian is to appreciate what God has done for us through Jesus of Nazareth. Being Christian doesn't mean following a set of rules or principles; Christianity depends on the character of people's lives. The Gospel has no meaning unless it can be lived out and embodied in people's lives. That's why the live of the saints are so important.... When Christians try to look the same as everyone else, they find themselves in all sorts of quandaries.

I suppose there will be some who will argue that the character of a person depends on how they follow some set of rules. When our character is determined by a set of rules that we either keep or do not keep, life can be quite like following a recipe. Follow it closely and "viola" a Christian character! But as Hauerwas notes, if we look at the lives of the saints...the followers of Jesus who have lived before us...many of them are held up as models of strong character and faith because they broke the "rules" and did not pattern themselves around what was said to be "right." Our character is formed out of a vision. That vision may conflict, at times, with the very rules we hold close to our lives and community. For example: the character of the Christian community is not the same as the American dream. We may live within the "empire" but we may find ourselves needed to resist the ways of the empire when it conflicts with the way of the cross. That may be why it is so dangerous to call ourselves a "Christian nation"...for we are not...we cannot be aligned and identified with any one country. We are a part of a way.

Connection: How is the character of the saints alive today contrary to the prevailing rules and character of one's homeland. Sometime we need to focus on the very core of what calls forth our allegiance and what we then follow. The ways will often look very different and we must be very aware of the vision of the reign of God as we look around us.

Lord of New Life, be for us the light that leads us into this day boldly living as followers of Jesus. Keep us aware of the cost of discipleship in every time and place and empower us to live within the character of your reign. Amen

Friday, October 4, 2002

Friday, 4 October, 2002

In a chapter called "Christianity: It's not a Religion: It's an Adventure," Stanley Hauerwas writes this about the trend toward individualism in the U.S.

One of the deep difficulties for people in the United States is what I call the Groucho Marx Principle. Groucho Marx said he wouldn't want to belong to a country club that would have him as a member. The same problem holds true in making moral choices. Would you want a moral life that you've created? Most people wouldn't, so cynicism has become the primary virtue of U.S. public life. Cynicism ensures that there's absolutely nothing worth dedicating one's life to in a way that totally encompasses it. One always wants to be able to disassociate oneself from one's engagements at any given moment.

There is that well know song about having life "My Way..." but when we are our own guiding light for life, we may be in for trouble. For too often, our individualism leads us into a lifestyle in which we are forced to make choices that are based only on how I feel...what I think...what I can see and hear. That is quite limiting. Like the image of baseball used yesterday to speak of morality, the game would be complete chaos if I only did what I wanted to do. The game would be consumed by the egos of the players. But to play the game, there are rules...and they are not set down by each player for each players own good. We don't just play for as many innings as we choose, we sign on for the whole game...all 9 innings. We don't bat when we want to bat or remove others from the batting list because I don't want that person to bat. There is an order and we all follow it...even when it doesn't suit us as well as I would like. The Church is not a place for people who want to do thing or have things go "my way." We are called to follow the way of Jesus...the way of the cross. It means there will much within our lives that will not be our "choice." Instead, there will be much expected of us simply by definition of who we say we are as Christians. Unfortunately, we have too easily said that anything can go...and therefore...our identity become so diluted we cannot see what it is we are to be.

Connection: An exercise of the day may be to take note of the ways we are led through our day by what I want in life and to hell with the rest. How difficult is it to abide by a "rule" that is constant...out of our control...and consistent for the whole group?

Lord of life, you call us into the way of your Son, Jesus. Keep us mindful of the many ways that life shine and the invitation we are given to shine within its everlasting glory within the days of our lives. Amen.

Wednesday, October 2, 2002

Thursday, 3 October, 2002

I found this piece by Stanley Hauerwas to cause me much reflection this week.

How can we bring up our children to be moral?

Start with baseball and also teach them to read. Don't teach kids a bunch of rules. Help them submit their lives to something that they find to be a wonderful activity that transforms them. Activities such as baseball and reading are where the virtues are inculcated with a seriousness that is hard to match in other areas of our lives.

In both of these activities there is involvement...participation...discipline. It is not as though there are a number of propositions upon which we agree and therefore we are baseball players or readers. Instead, there is the day in and day out practice...putting to life some basic "skills of the game." I'm not the best writer or reader...but I find the more I read and the more I write...I can, at least, make my way through a bit of written communication and can enjoy someone who really writes well. In the process of putting to life the elements of a life we would define as moral, we introduce the opportunity for transformation that cannot come from simply saying I agree with a way to live. Each of must learn to carry follow through...and then, do it again and again with the knowledge that even the best readers and baseball players strike out! We could say that the best way to bring our children up to be moral is to bring them into the life of a community. In that way, they will not be able to be hypothetical about morality. It will be a part of community together. Sometimes when I hear about more and more people (specifically Christian families) who pull their children from schools so that they can be taught at home, I wonder about how one learns the skills of being with and living with others. How do we teach fairness, justice, mercy, forgiveness if we don't let our kids practice...practice...practice.

Connection: The laboratory of morality is the day we are entering. Live boldly.

O Lord you call us into community and you bless us with a vision for life that respects the life of all your children and looks after the welfare of all. Walk with us as we learn the ways of life within your blessed reign. Amen

Tuesday, October 1, 2002

Wednesday, 2 October, 2002

One of my favorite phrases I use to describe the life of being a follower of Jesus is to say it is "an adventure for life." Like an adventure movie, we are taken beyond our boundaries or borders and we are set down into a new situation that will begin to test us and insist that we put to use all our gifts and talents. We enter this day with the stories of our past - faithful stories - and we engage new stories. Our stories can serve as a stronghold that inspires life in new situations. That life is always becoming new as we mix the stories of our past with the stories we create within the adventures of this day. Stanley Hauerwas also uses the image of an "adventure when he writes about "stories that provide a way to locate ourselves in relation to others, our society, and the universe." He writes: Stories capable of doing that may be thought of as adventures, for there can be no self devoid of adventure... Moral growth comes exactly through the testing of my role amid the other possibilities in the adventure. The adventure moves us out of ourselves and into a greater awareness of the fullness of life that is God given and yet, may not be quite life. The adventure enables us to explore the vast expanse of God's grace that is beyond what I may call my own stories.

Connection: All kinds of experts say that communities (and churches) will resist diversity. We will, they say, settle into some type of homogeneous grouping. That grouping may be quite broad...middle class...white...African-American....whatever. Though this seems to be the case, I find that in such homogeneous groups we lose the opportunity for adventure. Accepting the notion that we tend to stick to homogeneous groups, how will your day pull you into an adventure for life that is outside of the expected.

Lord of All, lead us, guide us, and bring us face to face with the many textures of your blessed reign. Remind us that we are made whole as we have the opportunities to experience the wholeness of your creation. Amen.