Friday, November 29, 2002

Friday, 29 November, 2002

Note that the regular devotions were not sent today due to the U.S. Thanksgiving Day. This devotion is from June of 2000.

Text: Matthew 6:19-21

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where theives break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consummes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

What are we to treasure? What about the Reign of God, the Will of God. That is the treasure for which we pray in the Lord's Prayer. What about acts of kindness and mercy. You can take those one can steal those from us. Our focus is what gives purpose and form to the day at hand. Remember, our treasures can be any number of things. People, things, abilities all become treasures that can grow old and fade and give out. This does not mean that we are not to have or nurture these things in our lives. We are told not to put those things before or in place of the treasure offered within God's Reign and promises for life. Which will never lose their power and life. Everything else will have its place when our priority in life is focused on God's Reign available to us now.

Connection: How can treasuring the things of the Reign of God ( justice, peace, the welfare of all, forgiveness, etc.) shape the way we engage and treat the other "treasures" of our lives today. Sometimes, letting go of the other things we treasure is the most powerful way of honoring those things and staying focused on what God requires of us. Every time I think about my daughter being away from home and living on her own, I think about the possibility of losing her - somehow. It is frightening. And yet, it is what reminds me to thank God for what I have been given. And as usual, God gives us enough....always.

O Treasure of our lives, thanks be to you for the very life we breathe each moment and for the vast spectrum of gifts you bring into our lives. Remind us to treasure the gift of your Son and the life within your blessed Reign. Amen

Thursday, November 28, 2002

Thursday, 28 November, 2002

Note that the regular devotions were not sent today due to the U.S. Thanksgiving Day. This devotion is from June of 2000.

Text: Matthew 6:16-18

And whenever you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, put oil onyour head and wash your face, so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

This is the last comment from Matthew's gospel that is about the three disciplines of religious piety mentioned last week: Fasting. It is probably the least practiced of the three (almsgiving, prayer, fasting). Today, fasting has more of a connection to dieting than it does to an exercise that helps us focus on our relationship with God and our place in the world as God's children. The cover of this week's Newsweek reads, Fat for Life written across the waist of a "typical" US youth. The discipline of fasting cannot help that boy or any of us with our weight. It can be for us a focus...a way to make an intentional prayer-like move within our everyday order that would help us prayerfully think about what it means to be God's beloved. Fasting takes us out of our usual pattern of life. Therefore, we will be jarred enough by the change to our daily order that we have the opportunity to intentionally consider our status as connected to God. The note in today's lesson has to do with how we fast. Fasting is a personal discipline - no need for anyone to hear or see that we are involved in fasting. Another note. We can fast even as we restrict our diet. For example, when I was at Holden Village, we had a weekly potato day. That was dinner. The village then took the money that it would have spent to prepare a regular meal and we sent it to something like the ELCA Hunger Appeal. So as a community even our eating was a prayerful fast of sorts. It also allowed those who cannot go without food to fast in a particular manner.

Connection: Households can fast in a variety of ways. If you do choose to fast, do something with your regular eating time that allows you freedom to do something you would not usually let yourself do...walk, write a letter, give someone a call who would really enjoy hearing from someone. Maybe a good way to break a fast is to invite someone over for dinner - they don't need to know you were will know...and so will your Father in secret.

Gracious God, keep us focused on the wealth of life within your Reign. Keep us steadfast in journey within your loving embrace. Amen

Tuesday, November 26, 2002

Wednesday, 27 November, 2002

The focus of today's devotion is on a portion of the second Lesson for the Day of Thanksgiving: 2 Corinthians 9:6-15

The point is this: the one who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the one who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God love a cheerful giver. And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that by always having enough of everything, you may share abundantly in every good work. (vs..6-8)

I like to hear this as an invitation to be conduits of God's many gifts bestowed upon God's people. In that way, we are all conduits...we all have something to share with others. We are not the end of the line where things and gifts pile up for our own use or mere storage. We are given much and invited to share much. I do not need to hear reward and punishment in this lesson. There is no "payback" system so that we will give in order to get what we want or to be given more and more. It is vital for us to consider what is enough. The amount of our material possessions and the gold we can wrap around our necks or the cars we are able to drive say little about the wealth we have in this God of ours who loves us and will abide with us no matter what we "have." It would be good for us to be prayerful about what is enough and what can be released from our control and possession and handed on to others so that they too might have the opportunity to gift others. The gifting and the sharing never stops. All of any of our situations can be "cheerful givers" even as our gifts may vary greatly. We have been blessed and we stand within the blessed position of being a blessing to others.

Connection: It is not easy to consider what is enough for our lives. The temptation is always to have more...biggy size up good things...hold off with sharing until we are absolutely sure we have enough (which is often never). Today is another day to share abundantly of the enough that is given to us.

Lord of All Good Things, you hand over to us the world and all of its resources. Though we each hold so little, you inspire us to make much of the little we have by blessing us with the opportunity to share with others and thus, create a community of loving compassion and care. Praise be to you. Amen

Tuesday, 26 November, 2002

Again from the second lesson from Christ the King Sunday.

I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, and for this reason I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers. I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power. Ephesians 1:15-19

The prayer is for the community to be gifted by the Spirit. These are not merely gifts that will bring into our lives "stuff" or what we want. These are gifts that enable us to see the reign of God in all its glory breaking in to this day. This is to be a "spirit of wisdom and revelation" sufficient to change the way we see all things for we will see all things through the lens of promise. Today, the horizon is exposed and the end is handed to us as an inheritance and we are invited to leap into today trusting in that view from the very horizon of the end of time. We are ordinary folk. And yet, to ordinary folk there comes a power for life that makes the ordinary into the extraordinary - which is simply revealed in our freedom to serve one another for there is nothing to prove within our lives. The greatest gift is already ours - that's a promise. Therefore, we are able to engage this day with new vision and great hope.

Connection: Sometimes the most powerful gift we bring into our day as we are among others is the ability to see opportunities in which we are held up by God's love and we become instruments of that love in all we do.

Precious Lord, you make us a people whose lives are filled with many changes and new beginnings and a rich history. Remind us that it is in this day that we begin again to give you thanks for the gift of vision that enables us to see the ways of your glorious reign unfold before us. Amen.

Monday, November 25, 2002

Monday, 25 November, 2002

A brief switch from our look at The Hauerwas Reader. This is part of the second lesson from Christ the King Sunday.

I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, and for this reason I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers. I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power.

First of all, if we were still teaching the art of diagramming sentences, this second sentence would be a great one to give as homework. Then, it is simply wonderful to hear such a word of commendation to the church at Ephesus. It first shows how connected this early church was - one part to another. There is a feeling as though the life of one congregation was tied to another and the various parts - though far from one another - were of utmost importance to the whole. My initial reaction to the open words of this passage was that these words could be the word of a bishop as s/he visits with a congregation in what we would call a Synod in our church. It shows interest...loving connection...the focus is completely on the life of the congregation...and the congregational life is called a gift to all because of the very core of their life together - their faith.

Connection: It would do us all well to commend one another and offer words of encouragement as we live as disciple of Christ in this day. It takes more than me to build up my life in the Lord. The me...always needs you.

Lord of all faithfulness, inspire us to be bold in showing our appreciation for one another in the faith. It is by your Spirit that you work to bring us together as one people and by your Spirit that we begin that journey of intimacy. Amen.

Friday, November 22, 2002

Friday, 22 November, 2002

From "A Story-Formed Community:Reflections on Watership Down in The Hauerwas Reader.

The rabbits of Watership Down were staying with Cowslip's warren. There was not chief Rabbit need for cunning or fear...a large den with plenty to eat and a farmer near by to make sure there was always food for them. There was "one strict rule: No one must ever ask where another rabbit was and anyone who asked: 'Where' - except in song or a poem - must be silenced."

Because they could not ask where anyone was, they also lost the most precious skills rabbits needed to survive: cooperation and friendship. One could not risk getting to close to another rabbit, for that one might be the next to die. Friendship implies mutual giving of aid, but these rabbits had accepted a social system that required them to look after themselves first.

The Church must be a gathering of friends -at least. This would mean that each of us would be concerned and connected to others. Our prayers would be on behalf of those around us and therefore, our lives would be eternally connected no matter what might come upon us this day. The temptation to be self-concerned to the point of withdrawal from others can become so great because it is easy to think that our own preservation and meeting our own needs will provide us with a life that is whole and complete. Well, it may be complete -in that we become all there is in our lives - but it is not whole. The others in our lives who become our friends not only draw us into new life with new perspectives, we are also drawn up into a give & take that brings each of our gifts to the table to share with one another. Christians are often called "friends of the Lord" because our ties...our friendships...are born out of the water of our baptism and in the shape of the one whose love would not let us go. That is a story of a friendship that creates bonds of loving compassion for one another: A community of Christ.

Connection: I can be in the middle of a bad day and be instantly renewed when I enter the presence of friends. Maybe it is the freedom to speak and laugh and share all that is good and bad about life. Maybe it is the opportunity I am given to sort through life's many problems and predicaments. Will we have the opportunity today to engage in conversation with those who we call friends...and to simply know that we can be silent among them and still be a part of a group of people connected to one another?

Spirit of God you bind us together with a love that forms a community and nurtures friendships and pulls us into relationship so that each of us may have the many gifts and resources for life. Let you Spirit whip around us and create friendships that make us a body of saints being reshaped each day by one another presence. Amen

Wednesday, November 20, 2002

Thursday, 21 November, 2002

From "A Story-Formed Community:Reflections on Watership Down in The Hauerwas Reader.

Along the journey of Watership Down, there are rabbits that are added to this warren from another warren they visit. There was Fiver who had many skills to offer to the group but then we hear of others:

Pipkin, like Fiver, was small; unlike Fiver, he had no gift or skill. Though weak and constantly in need of help, in some ways he is the most crucial rabbit for the determination of the character of Watership Down warren. By endangering themselves in order to care for Pipkin, they develop an openness to the stranger.

Years ago I remember reading a comment that went something like this: The Character of a society is noted by how they treat the elderly and infirmed. It can be so easy to leave off those who do not meet a certain grade. Too often we judge a person's worth by what they can produce or what they can bring to the "table" in the form of skills and wealth. In the gospel lesson for this Sunday, it is the story of the sheep and the goats and how they do not know what they have done right or wrong. In both of their cases, the ones who would usually be overlooked become the center of attention. One group of animals attends to the needs of the those who were most left out and in need during their lives. The other group did not pay them any attention. The community of the beloved of God have such a character about them that no one is left out and without the care of the others. That is the vision. That is life that is eternally creative and blessed and saving. It is the kind of life that considers the whole and seeks after the well being of all. Just as our God sees in each and everyone of us - even when we are strangers - a beloved child for who God will give up all things, so are we invited to have such eyes and such action in regard to those around us. The stranger is not a stranger among us.

Connection: Pipkin did not have to be the center of attention in the community. Pipkin was simply included. Room was made. Pipkin, was brought on board and in that action we are given a view of the backbone - the character of others. Pipkins mere being...being within the whole is a gift to the whole. The church would do well to prayerfully consider our ability to "endanger themselves" for the welfare of the least among us.

God of infinite love and mercy,

Wednesday, 20 November, 2002

From "A Story-Formed Community:Reflections on Watership Down in The Hauerwas Reader.

...a key purpose of most societies is to provide a sense of security...

Absorption into most societies is training in self-deception as we conspire with one another to keep death at bay. Ironically, the more our societies confirm this self-deception, the more dangerous our life becomes. We lose the skill of recognizing what danger is and where it lies. Deception become the breeding ground for injustice, since the necessity to hide the dangers of our world make it impossible to confront those aspects of our social order that impose unequal burdens on others. Our conspiracy for safety forces us to see our neighbor as a stranger.

And...we all know how we tend to treat strangers. They are different. They are not like us. If they are not like us, we must beware that they may be a danger to our group or society. In the movie "Bowling for Columbine" Michael Moore throws in a cartoon on the development of western civilization and it is a sad/funny commentary on fear and our ability to tell self-deceptive stories in order to maintain an order or a direction within a group of people. As Hauerwas rightly notes, "deception become the breeding ground for injustice." To maintain a dominant story or simply the story of a group of people, means that we must be very watchful of anyone who does not fit a certain profile or, at least, fit in so well within the dominant self-deception that a portion of their profile may be overlooked...for now. But the stranger among us is always a stranger...someone is always placed into that role...the outsider...the one who causes us to have to put up our walls of security. Even if those walls are manufactured by self-serving rules and pictures. I am always overwhelmed by the stories of Jesus as he does not go along with notion of "outsider" as it is defined within the security of the community. He makes the stranger a sister or brother. That is utterly foolish within the societies and groups who want to control by painting those outside the norm as a threat.

Connection: We must be a people willing to hear another version of the story. Therefore, an exercise that would be good for all of us is to ask how it can be seen differently and what might a different view do to help us have a wholesome and creative picture of the society or group in which we find ourselves.

Lord of All, your creative powers have been used to bring into existence the many people of your world. We differ so much and yet you call us out as one - a people beloved and inspired by your Holy Spirit. Where there is the possibility of division and warfare among us, grant us the wisdom to look again and see how we may set our fears aside and listen and speak as people drenched by your gracious reign. Amen

Monday, November 18, 2002

Tuesday, 19 November, 2002

From "A Story-Formed Community:Reflections on Watership Down in The Hauerwas Reader.

Author Richard Adams suggests that society can best be understood as an extended argument, since living traditions presuppose rival interpretations. Good societies enable the argument to continue so that the possibilities and limits of the tradition can be exposed. The great danger, however, is that the success of a tradition will stop its growth and in reaction some may deny the necessity of tradition for their lives. The truthfulness of a tradition is tested in its ability to form people who are ready to put the tradition into question, or at least to recognize when it is being put into question by a rival tradition.

It is not easy to live through having anything in our lives "exposed." We quickly draw a towel around our body if a stranger was to walk into the bathroom just as we were stepping out of the shower. It is a reactive behavior about which we may not even have time to is done. Imagine then how difficult it is to live through someone or some group exposing something in our lives or our tradition or in our family...the list can go on and on for us. And yet, the holes...the lies...the mistakes...the misjudgments...etc., to which attention may be drawn often becomes a moment ready for reactivity and defense. I find that we all need to be graceful with one another in those moments of "exposure." We do not need to stop being critical or asking questions or insisting on some account of our actions. Rather, we need to continue to engage one another and our traditions but we allow for that initial need to "react" before we go on with what will become a constructive and creative time together. Putting our lives and our traditions into question helps us to define that which we call foundational to our lives. As people continue to be formed by tradition, it makes great sense to keep those traditions sharp through review and redefinition and at times, rejection.

Connection: Why do we do what we do...act the way we act...go about the routines of the day this way and not that way...react to the world around us in a pattern that disturbs us or is so "given" we can't see it in ourselves? Hmmmm.

Lord of Life, you bring us into a community and call us to share our lives with those around us. Empower us to speak words of truth and to listen to the questions of the day that call for clarification for the many ways we act in community. Inspire us to view change as an opportunity to view life in new ways and to grow more deeply into those traditions that keep our lives alive and creative. Amen

Monday, 18 November, 2002

This week we will begin with selections from "A Story-Formed Community:Reflections on Watership Down in The Hauerwas Reader.

For several years, I have been throwing out onto the floor the notion that we are followers of Jesus in the reign of God...and this following is "an adventure for life." The word "adventure" is a very deliberate choice for our life as followers of Jesus. This is one small piece of Hauerwas' work that has a similar feel to it to me.

...Watership Down is primarily a novel about the various forms of courage and hope necessary for the formation of a good community. Adventure requires courage to keep us faithful to the struggle, since by its very nature adventure means that the future is always in doubt. And just to the extent that the future is in doubt, hope is required, as there can be no adventure if we despair of our goal. Such hope does no necessarily take the form of excessive confidence; rather, it involves the simple willingness to take the next step.

Gandhi once wrote about the courage that was necessary to be someone whose life was nonviolent. The discipline of nonviolence is not a way of disengagement. Rather it is shaped by engagement. We must be brave and have a story that we use to help define our actions and pull us into an engagement with all the powers of the day...even when we are not sure of what the outcome may be of such engagements. Hauerwas seems to use the word adventure when we are pulled into such engagement in the world. His comment "by its very nature adventure means that the future is always in doubt" leaves us in a place that may demand our complete trust in a story that is willing to face the possibility of non-being...death...harm...loss of all things. When we engage the day unsure of how the day will come to completion we can only engage it one step at a time. Each step become the adventure of new life and I would hope...a step within the domain of God's reign. Yes, as Douglas John Hall may write, God reigns: all contrary evidence not withstanding, but we must step out into the contrary evidence holding onto a story of promise from the Lord of all Hopefulness.

Connection: Take the next step.

Lord of all Hopefulness, grasp us and breathe into us this breath of new life that is available to all of your beloved. Grant us courage to step into our lives trusting in the vision of your promised eternal reign as it comes among us even now. Amen

Friday, November 15, 2002

Friday, 15 November, 2002

From " Self Deception and Autobiography" by Stanley Hauerwas - in The Hauerwas Reader.

The irony of self-deception is that a cynic is less vulnerable to self-deception than a conscientious person. "The less integrity, the less there is motive to enter into self-deception. The greater the integrity of the person the more powerful the contrary inclination, the greater the temptation to self-deception (the nearer to saintliness, the more a powerful personality suffers). It is because the movement into self-deception is rooted in a concern for the integrity of spirit that we temper our condemnation of the self-deceiver.

Just as he speaks of the great temptation to self-deception as one is nearer saintliness, it is all the more important to point out that the ones we have traditionally called saints are saints precisely because they had that marvelous gift of a story to guide them and help to face the reality of the day and of their own situation. In the face of the pressures of time and the world, the saint will often be the one who stands contrary to the world even when s/he is rejected by or dishonored by the world. Those we would call saints (both the living and the dead) are held up because their following in the way of Jesus is a way of truthfulness. This "way" though it demand much and demands that one be utterly conscientious, demands truth telling that is in line with the story of Jesus' way of truth.

Connection: Remember, self-deception is an important part of our coping mechanism....that is we all use it and use it well and use it every day. So, how will this day be gifted by the truth telling of people who follow Jesus? How will truth telling that is in line with the story of Jesus help to shape this day?

Lord of all Truthfulness, lead us into the many facets of our day. There are too many times that we do not risk being your beloved and living as though your love for us is the only power that needs to shape us and move us along this day. Keep us honest and bold and willing to risk within our lives for the sake of the truthfulness of your blessed reign. Amen

Wednesday, November 13, 2002

Thursday, 14 November, 2002

From " Self Deception and Autobiography" by Stanley Hauerwas

Our protective deceits become destructive when they begin to serve our need to shape a world consistent with our illusions. The power of fabrication makes it that much harder to uncover our deceptions by masking them with sufficient plausibility to render them acceptable. Occasionally we are fortunate enough to be forced to face our deceptions, but ironically the very same imaginative and intellectual skills that lead us to discriminate falsity from truth also empower us to create those webs of illusion that lend plausibility to our original deceptive policy.

You may be wondering why I am spending this time on self-deception. Well, as I am working my way through the book of the prophet Jeremiah with our Tuesday Bible study, self-deception (individually and corporately) is one of the dynamics at work at the center of the break between Judah and Israel and their God. I often call on us to be connected to others to stay honest and to be nurtured in our call to be followers of Jesus, and yet, I know that even a group of people can lead one another into a pit of self-deception. The Nazi regime in Germany is at least one case from the last century...and we can, if we are honest with ourselves, point to the way we as a people deceive ourselves as to the place and power and direction of our own country...and others nations of our day. This is all the more reason for us to not merely be a community of people. We are a community of the followers of Jesus. We are to define ourselves from the story we know in him and the story from all of scripture that points to a trust in our God who from the beginning declares that God is for us...on our side...ready to make us a light...a new people...a holy people where justice, mercy, loving kindness, reconciliation and forgiveness are at the very core of our engagements in the world.

Connection: Scripture is not about a story far away. It is about a story that is very close to us...a commentary on how people turn from the power of new life in order to stay with the stories we choose for ourselves. One way the Spirit of God keeps us honest with ourselves and one another is to encourage the conversations that keep asking questions and seeking the character of the reign of God among us.

Lord of all the colors of this season, you bring together images of life and death and you invite us to live boldly no matter what we see before us. Guide us in the way of your beloved, Jesus, so that we may enter this day with a sense of anticipation and hope and joy in your presence. Amen.

Wednesday, 13 2002, 2002

From " Self Deception and Autobiography" by Stanley Hauerwas

To battle self deception we must be very conscious of what we are doing. Taking a look again and again at our actions and lives. Hauerwas quotes Herbert Fingarette:

"...I propose, then that we do not characterize consciousness as a kind of mental mirror, but as the exercise of the (learned) skill of 'spelling out' some feature of the world we are engaged in."

To become explicitly conscious of one's situation, then, demands that one rehearse what one is doing.

Hauerwas goes on to say that there are many things within our day that do not need to be spelled out or rehearsed. We just do them...dressing, eating, playing with our children...etc. But there must those things we do in which we do indeed take the time to go over what is happening and what we are doing. By "rehearsing" we are forced to take a look at what puts together our actions. I was flipping through stations on television on Saturday and came upon a golf station and a teaching pro was giving some advice. He placed two clubs on the ground as a "runway" of sorts with the ball in the middle between the clubs. This exercise is to be used to make a golfer look at how one lines up toward the green and to be very conscious of where feet are planted so that at least the "line up" at the ball will be proper. He said it is hard to do this over and over again at a driving range but on the golf course, there needs to be a "ritual" we go through before each shot in order to keep us honest with how we approach the ball and take the shot. If we stop doing it, we may slowly fall out of line. To combat our tendency toward self deception, there is a need to "exercise" and spell out how we engage the day and the activities around us. Again, this is most helpful when we have others who will help us see what we are doing and reacting and living so that we have extra eyes giving us input for change and encouragement for truthfulness.

Connection: What goes into the "swings" of your day? How are you able to stay conscious and honest about how you are facing and moving through the events of this day? Rehearsal often uncovers the minor pieces of a play that move it from being the same-old, same-old performance and make it a noted performance. How do we rehearse the things of our lives - the roles in which we find ourselves?

Lord of All Truthfulness, it is by your grace that we are free to take another look at our lives and find space for renewal and change and honesty. By your Holy Spirit, we are given the ability to nurture the vision of your blessed reign within our lives. Amen.

Tuesday, November 12, 2002

Tuesday, 12 November, 2002

Again, from " Self Deception and Autobiography" by Stanley Hauerwas

On self-deception, Hauerwas quotes David Harned:

Seeing is never simply a reaction to what passes before our eyes; it is a matter of how well the eye is trained and provisioned to discern the richness and the terror, beauty and banality of the worlds outside and within the self. Decisions are shaped by vision, and the ways that we see are a function of our "character," of the history and habits of the self, and ultimately of the stories that we have heard and with which we identify ourselves.

He seems to go on to talk about how faith is central to the stories we have heard. If faith is, as Paul Tillich, would write, "our ultimate concern," then we must ask what is the object of our faith. For that object -that agenda -that story - will shape our seeing. When our faith is family centered, our vision will be shaped around our family or our children. If our faith is centered around our finances, our vision will be seen through that lens. That in which we place our trust will be the influence that trains our eyes to see the world in this way or that way. We claim to have the story of God revealed in the life, death and resurrection as our focus...our story above all other stories...the story in which we have faith for life. We say that this will shape our decisions in all we do. But as we all know, the other things in our live, in which we place our trust/faith are constantly working to win our allegiance and shape our vision so that we will see thing in ways that will be favorable to them.

Connection: Stay focused on the gracious reign of God and the promise that comes to us in the way of the cross. It would be a simply yet valuable exercise to simply ask: What is shaping my decision right now? It is a hard thing to ask and yet it is the way we face our self deception. It is ask this question with other followers of Jesus helping us to ask and then discuss it.

Lord of All Truthfulness, we are pulled by many powers within our day. Some of them seem innocent and down right good...and yet, all the powers that pull us, no matter how they might appear, must be measured by the story of your gracious reign. Inspire us to see this day through the eyes of your promises for life. Amen.

Monday, November 11, 2002

Monday, 11 November, 2002

From " Self Deception and Autobiography" by Stanley Hauerwas

This is a longer selection but an important word.

Some of our self-deceptions...have more destructive results than others. Auschwitz stands as a symbol of one extreme to which our self-deception can lead. For the complicity of Christians with Auschwitz did not begin with their failure to object to the first slightly anti-Semitic laws and actions. It rather began when Christians assumed that they could be the heirs and carriers of the symbols of the faith without sacrifice and suffering. It began when the very language of revelation became an expression of status rather than an instrument for bringing our lives gradually under the sway of "the love that moves the sun and the other stars." ...So Christians allowed their language to idle without turning the engines of the soul, and in recompense, their lives were seized by powers that they no longer had the ability to know, much less to combat.

I'm caught by the phrase: "So Christians allowed their language to idle without turning the engines of the soul..." In other words, some other language...the language of another story, seized the lives of those who claimed "in words alone" to be followers of Jesus. I would contend that this is what happens every time the language of the state is intermingled with the words of the faith. "Christian nation" is a good example. In reality, the two words never belong together. The word Christian is about a reign of servants who love one another even unto death. The word nation represents a people whose self interest is a priority over and against others. What happens when we blend the words is that the "nation" part of this word couplet wins the day...and always will. The "Christian" part becomes nothing more than a agent of blessing that which the "nation" want to do. Remember, the churches of Germany went along with the ways of the Nazi regime for it was the "fatherland" and it needed "living space" and it was a blessed "race" of people... We are aliens in all lands. We honor the governing powers but resist them when they live by a standard contrary to the way of the cross.

Connection: Watch out for the many ways the words of the faith and the name of the followers of Jesus (Christian) are tied into the themes and actions of the country. It is often used with guise that we are building morality. In reality we are letting the powers take their language and push it as ours.

Lord God, you alone are God. You make us a people and you promise to bring us new life. Keep us forever within your word of promise that we may be shaped by it and live within the power of your word and life therein. Amen.

Friday, November 8, 2002

Friday, 8 November, 2002

From " Self Deception and Autobiography" by Stanley Hauerwas

Hauerwas notes that the argument within this how our ability to know what we are up to and live authentically depends on our capacity to avoid self-deception. We cannot hope to avoid an inveterate tendency to self-deception, however, unless we work at developing the skills required to articulate the shape of our individual social engagements, or forms of life. At the heart of such skills lies a practiced eye and ear for the basic images and stories that provide our actions with direction and our lives with a sense.

As Christians, we have stories that guide us and lead us. It is necessary, though, that we have an eye and an ear for such stories as we hear them and as they are brought to life within the lives of the people around us. Everything about the story of the cross and death and resurrection of Jesus resists self-deception. But it is a story we must be able to carry with us within the very heart of our being. Otherwise, we will do all we can to fit in and do whatever we must do...even the small things of the shape our character in one way or another. The story of our faith, gives us a way to shape our own stories and be authentic people as we engage our world. Then again, the story means nothing to the shaping of our lives if we cannot keep that story before us as we move through the day. That is, as Hauerwas might say, a skill that must be used and brought into play so that we can resist that powerful temptation to deceive ourselves. Maybe that is why the church is always a community and not merely an individual. We need more people who know the story to help us hear and see it for our own living.

Connection: We all linger in the world of self-deception too long and too often. That is why in everything we do we must seek out others who will be for us a mirror and a storyteller for us. One helps us see ourselves. The other reminds us of the way of authentic life that is available to us. Find some people who will help you on the journey of faithfulness.

Almighty God, you pull us forward with the vision of your risen Son, Jesus. As your body of Christ in the world, keep us united to one another that we may all walk into the light of that vision as a beloved community of saints. Amen.

Wednesday, November 6, 2002

Thursday, 7 November, 2002

The editors of The Hauerwas Reader introduce the chapter "Self-Deception and Autobiography" using these images about the stories we tell about ourselves and the stories that inform our own life story.

Inadequate stories cannot help but foster self-deception, whereas true stories are those with power adequate to check the endemic tendency toward self-deception. The saving narrative of the Christian gospel trains us to accept the limits of our own abilities to be truthful, and thus it must be a story that is continually discomforting. It is a hard and painful discipline, but it cannot be avoided if Christians wish to live lives free of self-deception.

Within the Good News is also the "bad news" about who we think we are. It is "discomforting" to come to the realization that we all have limits to our ability to be truthful. No matter how well we think we pursue truthfulness, we will shelter ourselves with images of life that are quite self-deceptive so that we can protect our egos and the lives we try so hard to build for ourselves. When we are hearing stories that divide the world, our lives, or the issues of the day, into nothing more than "us verses them," we need to help one another raise up red flags and wave them with gusto. Too often we all are caught up into "inadequate stories" in which there is little truth but much opinion. The story, the narrative, of the gospel never lets us stay at ease and comfortable within our own stories. We are constantly being drawn out. This is especially the case as we continue to be within a community in which we talk and differ and prayerfully stand alongside one another to listen to the presence of the Spirit of Truth among us.

Connection: We all cut corners and alter the image of ourselves and become masters of rationalization even when it is only concerning the minor things of our lives. Today continues to give us the opportunity to seek truthfulness as individuals and as people in community.

Precious Lord, your word of life calls us to be bearers of your love who seek to make for a world in which truth and justice and mercy become the characteristics of our lives. Inspire us and hold us up so that we will see your way of unbounded love. Amen

Tuesday, November 5, 2002

Wednesday, 6 November, 2002

In Pulpit Resource by William Willimon, he reflects on the parable of the ten maidens in Matthew.

Question: Have we stopped journeying, ceased searching? Are we so content with present arrangements in our lives that we...have no expectation of conversion, of meeting, of being swept up in the great purposes of God? Perhaps those five maidens who neglected to acquire oil for their lamps simply stopped imaging that the promised party would ever begin.

Don't stop imaging the party! Yes, it is an absurd vision onto which we are called to hold in our hearts, but it is the beginning of possibilities for the life the we never would give ourselves when we count only on what we can see and touch. Being convince...trusting that the party will begin at any moment...even now...shapes us for the living of the day at hand. Some do not want to trust in the party...and therefore they endlessly look for something else to trust and give them life. But, alas, everything else fades and cannot sustain the winds of time. Don't stop imaging the party and your presence at the party with a reserved seat!

Connection: There are many voices in our day that do not want to acknowledge that life can come into this day as we trust in what is not yet. Too often, we live and learn to live by what we have in hand and how we conform to what is around us. Don't conform. Be ready for the party!

Lord of the Feast, inspire us with the vision of your gracious reign that is and will be the truth of our days. Praise be to you. Amen.

Monday, November 4, 2002

Tuesday, 5 November, 2002

On All Saints Sunday, the gospel lesson for the day is Matthew 5:1-12. We know it as the Beatitudes.

In each of the "blessings," a particular group of people is designated. In the final blessing it is directed to "you."

Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.

When we trust what God has said about us and for us in Christ, Jesus, we will be living according to a Word that others may not have about us. In addition, if we trust that this Word of love is for us...the "us" cannot be contained by an "us" that is limited to who it is we may want to be a part of the "us." The "for us" is for all God's beloved. God's beloved is defined by God. Last week I quoted 1 John where the author writes, "See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are." That is the "us." It is the Word we trust as our foundation and the very breath we breathe for life. Blessed are you...who trust that defining Word. For when we live according to that Word...when we define our world according to that Word...when we are shaped according to the Word, that is a radical departure from the ways of the world and the ways of many "religious" folks who want nothing to do with the grace of God and what life it brings. Therefore, we may not be talked about with the most kind words and treated with the best intentions.

Connection: Blessed are you. Blessed are you. Blessed are you. It is and it always will be enough. Blessed are you, O children of the Most High God.

Most High God, you come to us as a word for life that is as filling and life giving as fresh bread broken and shared among hungry people. We long for this living bread so that we may be sustained by your grace alone. Amen.

P.S. It is election day. Vote!

Monday, 4 November, 2002

Alan E. Lewis in Between Cross & Resurrection

What faith hears in the Easter narrative, and passes on to a skeptical and mocking world, is that justice, forgiveness, and reconciliation are not ideals or dreams but realities, facts embodied in a person who lives now, who with his words has already been restored to life and reigns in victory. The Risen Christ is what he promises and offers: he is our peace, our justification, and our hope. For itself and for the world, the Easter community which lives with and in him asks for a renewal already given, prays for a peace already accomplished, struggles for freedom already guaranteed.

The reality of the life behind the Risen Christ give substance to the power and reality of the Risen Christ for our lives today. That is why the message - the Good News - is an invitation. When God raised Jesus from the dead, God was restoring everything that the powers of the world had tried to end. That is the victory of the cross that leads to new life for those who are called the followers of Jesus. We are invited into a reality that is not dream life or dreamed up. We don't need to ask "what would Jesus do," for in our baptism, we are already a part of "what Jesus did do" and we can share in the justice, reconciliation and forgiveness that is already ours for life.

Connection: We continue to go back to the story to gain insight into how our lives are to unfold. Obviously we do not want to go back in time to ancient Palestine, but we do want to share in the life of our Lord even now in what we will encounter today. The bold themes of life spelled out in today's quote are already the building blocks of this day.

Lead us Lord along the path you have already walked. Remind us of the glorious life that is yours within the mundane and common events of this day. Amen

Friday, November 1, 2002

Friday, 1 November, 2002

Pastor Al is out of town today, so we are re-posting a devotion from June, 2000. He will return on Monday.

Text: Matthew 5:43-48

You have heard that it was said, "You shall love your neighbor and hate youre enemy" But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing that others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as you heavenly Father is perfect.

That you may be children of God. I use the children of God language quite a bit to remind us of this neverending always filling love of God for us. Here, the fullness of that love is exposed. This is the more unpleasant part of this neverending and always filling love of God. As unconditionally and as universally as God Each time we put conditions on our loving ( and we all do ) we take the world as our model. Sure it is love...but not as the children of God are invited to love. Our infatuation with "family values" always comes into this discussion of love - at least for me. It remains my opinion that family values are not some kind of life saving discipline. Why? When we hold our "family" as our center and the defining aspect of our lives it does not always bring "God-like" loving into the world. It is too often limited and my own kind. Though teaching children the values one holds as a family is good, remember that it is often family values that create tyrants and oppressive regimes. Adolf Hitler loved the Arian race and would do anything to build it and anything to remove any threat to that family system. On all people the rain falls and the sun shines - on all. Much easier said that done. Any yet, this radical call to love is enough to turn our heads...our order to consider another way.

Connection: Just once today can we embrace the "other side" in some shape or form. Not in a "point getting" someone earning a badge. More like how can God' love make a difference in this moment in the life of one of "God's beloved children" - both the giver and the receiver.

Loving God. What can we say - be present at our table present at our working present in our loving present in our conficts present and shape us into your Children. Teach us the values of your Reign and they life they cause to unfold before us. Amen.