Friday, February 28, 2003

Friday, 28 February, 2003

We continue with selections from The Justification Reader by Thomas C. Oden.

Believers receive grace from Christ (John 1:16). The faithful are what they are by grace (1 Corinthians 15:10).

In receiving grace we give God glory (1 Peter 5:10,11).

"It is ultimately the role of the Father and of the Son to proclaim the mystery of faith, because the glory and power belong to them, although they condescend to make use of us and of our preaching."

We receive grace and we come into existence as children of God. I think that is a powerful statement because it means there is always the possibility for "being" something new. It is not like we once came into existence as children of God, it is an ongoing reality. God's grace continues to establish us as God's beloved and no power can overcome God's action on our behalf. We become a part of this grace-filled activity as we are guided by God's Spirit to make sure we hear this word each and every day. You may call it preaching...but it is more like simply passing on the blessed assurance that in all things and all times, God's grace is made known and the Glory of God shines forth among us.

Connection: Faith is indeed a mystery. And yet, God reveals that mystery in, with, and under the lives of those around us...and also, through us. When we see faithfulness in others, they become for us a word of encouragement and when people see us trusting the promises of God, a witness is brought forth and others are encouraged to live within the mystery of faith.

Giver of the Gift of Life, empower us to take hold of this gift of life that brings together your people as one. Encourage us to trust in you and be a living word of your grace to one another. Amen

Wednesday, February 26, 2003

Thursday, 27 February, 2003

We continue with selections from The Justification Reader by Thomas C. Oden.

God is the Giver of grace (Psalms 84:11). God's throne is the throne of grace (Hebrews 4:16). The riches of grace are exhibited in God's kindness through Christ (Ephesians 2:7). The glory of grace is manifest when we receive the gifts offered by God in Christ (Ephesians 1:6). "So that our love for him may become more fervent," says Chrysostom, "he(God) desire nothing from us except our salvation. He does not need our service or anything else but does everything for this end. One who openly expresses praise and wonder at God's grace will be more eager and zealous."

"God desires nothing from us except our salvation," which...God provides for...completely. So, we must remember that God expects us to take hold of what is offered to us by God...offered to us with no strings and no payment. We are God's people because God calls us that...God provides for that...God would not have it any other way! No other word or game or declaration holds any ground next to this eternal embrace by our God who will not let us fall to the side...forgotten or abandoned. I think this is the most powerful truth that can be handed to us. I also know that it is too often forgotten...or...we choose to accept another story as more right and proper and true. And yet, to be a child of God...that is...a child, beloved by the very center of all the creative power that has been and will be, is to have a potential for life that is beyond what we may be able to imagine. But imagine we do...imagine a promise that is as real as the day we enter and the people around us and the blankets we toss to the side as we step out to begin this day.

Connection: What is this amazing grace that can shape us when we think we are completely whipped and without shape and substance!?! We must encourage one another to keep God's promise for life as the very energy for life within this day.

Giver of Grace, change us within the twinkling of an eye so that we may be filled with hope and ready to enter into whatever this day may bring. Change us, Life Giving Lord, from trusting in what we are able to do, to trusting what you have given and will give to us at all Amen

Wednesday, 26 February, 2003

We continue with selections from The Justification Reader by Thomas C. Oden.

God not only gives himself, but actively enables the Gift to be received. The Gift is given with the intent of being fully and freely received. So intimately tied are the terms "grace" and "Spirit" that they flow together as if virtually interchangeable (Acts 6:5,8). In classic Christianity the Spirit was often called simply the Gift.

Before we begin our life of faith, we are given the Gift that is faith...the gift that puts us on the journey and enables us to continue on its way. By the power of the Holy Spirit, we leap off the edge of the way we want to take control and rule our lives and we begin to imagine the life into which God calls us. I think that "imagination" is the power of the Spirit to help us see beyond our ways of running the world and our lives. This Gift is one that promises new life and then...all along the life does, indeed, arrive and pull us into the action.

Connection: We are given this Gift of life that is beyond us. It is a part of the very breath we take as we move along as the followers of Jesus. Therefore, breathe deeply today.

Breath of Life, lead us here and there. Take us and pull us into the domain of your love and hopefulness that we may take part in the blessed community that is filled with your beloved people of peace and wholeness. Amen

Tuesday, February 25, 2003

Tuesday, 25 February, 2003

We continue with selections from The Justification Reader by Thomas C. Oden.

The accounting metaphor accords believers the standing of uprightness which they do not reach by their own willing or acting. The believer is dealt with in debt-accounting as if s/he actually had a clear account, due to God's gracious intervention. One cannot on one's own achieve an adequate righteousness. God has mercifully provided it.

This is why one's own moral actions and self-justifications are not the basis for gaining any standing whatever in God's presence. Only in the cross is it possible to see that sin is forgiven without offending God's own righteousness.

I do not think can ever over hear the message about our inability to gain a "standing" before God by our moral actions and self justifications. The work has been done. We are a people given a gift...a status...a place in which we can stand and it is offered to us by the Creator of all that is and ever will be. Sometimes I wonder if I am a bit dense because this makes so much sense...and yet, we can act so contrary to this gracious action by God. This is especially the case within the church...the place and community in which this gracious vision is to be our way, our truth and our life.

Connection: Okay, what would it mean to see ourselves as God sees us!?! This is like beating a drum...but I know that I need to have the drummer never stop the rhythm of life that comes as our God opens the doors of our future for us as we begin to walk within God's gracious domain. What will come of us today when we walk to such a drum beat? How will the cadence of our life today be altered? Go for it!

Merciful Lord, you replenish our hearts with the sweet words of your love for us. It is through your reaching into our hearts that we are truly grasped and then shaped for the living of this day. Thanks be to you for always reaching in even as we attempt to run from you. Amen

Monday, February 24, 2003

Monday, 24 February, 2003

We continue with selections from The Justification Reader by Thomas C. Oden.

The New Testament makes frequent use of the bookkeeping analogy: imputing or crediting something to another's account. To "impute" is to account debt or credit to one person as coming from another.

Here the metaphorical arena shifts from the court to the accounting office. What happens in the courtroom has to be registered in the court records.

That is what is meant by imputation: One's debt may be charged to another. Or someone's plus balance may be credited to another.

The analogy of imputations is embedded decisively in all biblical teaching of justifying grace. This is seen in Paul's crucial phrase: "Faith is credited as righteousness" (Romans 4:5). My sins are charged to Christ! Christ's obedience is offered for my account.

I am not an accountant. I don't think I do very well keeping things as organized and up to date as need to be done to do any kind of accounting work well. I do know that if I do not put something in my checking account as I go about writing checks, the bank will notify me of my debt. I'm the only one who puts funds into that account to cover my debts. I cannot count on anyone else to do that. Even when the bank may accidentally drop money into my account, you can bet they will notify me ASAP and it will soon be taken back. For our God there is another kind of accounting that is always "for us." Trusting that our God in Christ is "for us" - no matter what the situation in our life might be - is like having our God credit us with a "full account." For in God's reality, the debt is paid. God is for us even when the ledger shows a great debt...for our God see our lives through the Christ who stand with us covering all our debts. I know the language is odd...but it is to be a word of utter assurance of our worth before God even when we may not 'feel' worth much or are told that we are not "worth" much by others. Already, the bookkeeping is in our favor...eternally.

Connection: I am always relieved when I put money in my checking account. It is an assurance that my bills will be covered. Imagine the power for life that is handed to us each day as we remember our baptism and prayerfully consider how "clear of debt" we are as we take part in the living of this day.

Just and Gracious God, we give you thanks for the love that does not let us go and the mercy that continue to embrace us even as we stumble again....and again. Praise to you for lifting us and giving us new life when we would expect there to be nothing but the way things have been. Amen.

Friday, February 21, 2003

Friday, 21 February, 2003

We continue with selections from The Justification Reader by Thomas C. Oden.

It is divine mercy that pardons. It is divine justice that justifies. To pardon is to waive the execution of the penalties of the law. To justify is to declare that the demands of the law are truly and justly satisfied, not ignored or waived.

When a pardon is granted to one who is guilty, it is not strictly speaking according to the law, but in a way that transcends the law through grace. Grace mercifully covers the demands of the law without ceasing to be just.

Only mercy and justice together with a single voice can justify. Justification is that key moment in the history of salvation in which the righteousness of God is declared in relation to the history of sin, yet without offence to the justice of God. One who is justified is declared just on the basis of the pardon through which guilt is mercifully and justly remitted.

In some ways, I wanted to extend this quote over two days because it can have the feel of nit picking...and yet it is not. It is so hard for people to hear the Good News and to walk into the day trusting that before God they are whole and beloved - no matter what has happened...good or bad. Once and for all, God declares sin null and void...God pardons us completely...and it is within God's power and authority to do that as the judge. This merciful judge has done and is doing something contrary to how we would hold court and judge the world. That is where we could go back to John 3:16 (without the football game & goal posts) "God so love the world"....that the judge has taken action on the side of the beloved that fits within the realm of the task of judge but also frees you and I from the burden of guilt and despair that is often carried around and limits the vitality of our lives.

Connection: Today is the beginning of the history that is handed to us by our God whose love commands the day. Let us be glad and rejoice in it.

Merciful God, inspire us to trust what you bring into our lives by grace alone. For in your actions in Christ, Jesus, you have given us a vision of what can unfold within this day for we know what will unfold at the end of time as our Lord sit as victorious Lord of all, merciful, graceful and longing to have us at peace. Amen.

Wednesday, February 19, 2003

Thursday, 20 February, 2003

We continue with selections from The Justification Reader by Thomas C. Oden.

It is divine mercy that pardons. It is divine justice that justifies. To pardon is to waive the execution of the penalties of the law. To justify is to declare that the demands of the law are truly and justly satisfied, not ignored or waived.

When a pardon is granted to one who is guilty, it is not strictly speaking according to the law, but in a way that transcends the law through grace. Grace mercifully covers the demands of the law without ceasing to be just.

For tomorrow, I will include the above printed piece with the sentences that follow. It is too much to digest at one time.

There is something important about the phrase "transcends the law through grace." When we are justified...when we are pardoned, it does not fit in with the way of the law. Instead, God acts outside the bounds of the law and by God's mercy - something new is created. Out of that which has previously been called guilty comes life that is boldly set though there is nothing about which we need be called guilty again. We are pardoned. It is over. That which has ruled our lives and turned us away from God is mercifully let is abolished without record...and...we are called the children of God....beloved.

Connection: So, what does that do to our hearts? What does that do to how we see ourselves...others...and the interactions in which we enter throughout this day? God takes us in...insists that - what could destroy us and our relationships... has no power over us anymore. That is the beginning of something new. That is today.

O Lord, your mercy is beyond our comprehension and yet you call us to be a part of your merciful reign so that all might know the power of your love. Grant us courage to face this day as though we trust what you have done and continue to do for us in Christ, Jesus. Amen!

Tuesday, February 18, 2003

Wednesday, 19 February, 2003

We continue with selections from The Justification Reader by Thomas C. Oden.

Forgiveness and pardon are related metaphors belonging to very different arenas of analogy.

Pardoning is an action that takes place in a courtroom.

Forgiveness is an act that occurs within primary face-to-face relationships, especially in the family and sustained friendships.

...These are different ways of looking at the same event: The sinner is being forgiven through the mercy of God in Christ, which enables the sinner to be declared by God the judge as justified, since the sinner is united with Christ's righteousness, so that one's sins are covered over. Each verb amplifies the meaning of the other: God gives, forgives, justifies, pardons, remits, covers sin, and reckons faith for righteousness. These are not different events, but differing language for the same event. One is declared justified because of the pardon.

The relational aspect of forgiveness must never be ignored. It is by way of God love for us that all this action by God is done for us. We are not mere objects moved through a system of "pardon." We are always within the relationship God has made with us. Even when we see ourselves walking away from this relationship or see others who seem to be walking away from God , God never lets down and gives up on the relationship. God's love for us takes over from any other power or opinions or rules that may try to rule us. This loving relationship is the beginning of all new life...without exception.

Connection: Christ stands with us so that we may stand up and be counted as one of God's beloved today. That is the power that comes to us each and every day and gives us our character in all the situations of this day. No one can take that place/relationship away from us.

Comforting Lord, you will never leave us alone to stand on our own works. You alone have promised to be our rock, our foundation, and the very substance of our lives. To you we give thanks and praise. Amen.

Monday, February 17, 2003

Tuesday, 18 February, 2003

We continue with selections from The Justification Reader by Thomas C. Oden.

Four related metaphors flow together in the biblical teaching of justification:

the offender is forgiven

the accused is pardoned

the offense is remitted

the lost child is welcomed home

In these four arenas of analogy, God's justifying grace shows forth a spectacular cohesion of unified divine gifts. The pivotal turning from repentance to faith is symbolized in four ways as:

an act of forgiveness that encourages

an acquittal that frees from condemnation

a new mode of crediting moral accounts that crosses out the penalty

a divine-human reconciliation and restoration to favor that embraces the wayward child

Many times I find that people have the most difficulty with the legal images. Though they are powerful and complete in their witness to the one-sided nature of God's Grace, they can seem a courtroom...duh. It is the last image that grabs me most. I am most moved by the image of a place...a base that is always open to me. The image of home can be powerful. Repentance is not so much a "stop doing that," as it is a "you may come home and be a peace." Nothing can separate us from our God who longs to have us home...with God...eternally...always within the embrace of God's love for us...even when we cannot picture ourselves as being worthy of being there. Our opinions do not count. God, like the loving father in the story of the prodigal son runs out to greet us and make a fuss over us before we can spit out our excuses or our words of repentance.

Connection: It is always our starting other way is the way...always we stand and move within the gracious embrace of our God...even today!!

Welcoming Lord, you keep us close and you pursue us throughout our lives so that we may be a part of the life within your gracious reign. What love you show us and what love is promised to each of us as we stumble through this day or try to make the day our own. You are present and we give you thanks for your steadfast love. Amen.

Monday, 17 February, 2003

We continue with selections from The Justification Reader by Thomas C. Oden.

The way of grace is sharply contrasted with the way of works, by which we are prone to seek to achieve merit: "And if by grace, then it is no longer by works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace" (Romans 11:6).

These ways are contrasted: "Grace shows the love for (humankind) of the one who gives it, but works demand compensation according to what they are worth" (Diodore of Tarsus)... The deep motive of God's saving action is simply stated: "He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy" (Titus 3:5).

I know there are many things within our lives that "go over the limit" of what we can accept. At times it has to do with having our world fall within the borders of "the way it must be." Like the world being flat. Don't try to tell me the world isn't is insanity to think that the world isn't flat. If it was round, we'd all fall off...wouldn't we!?!

Our God invites us to let go of all the ways we think we must make things stack up...or make sure that others make everything stack up - just so. God gives love to us...God takes us and holds us...beseeches us to rest in God for us and is on our side so that there is no work left for us to do. We stand within our relationship with God because of God's graciousness and eternal mercy. This is where I life is to begin...again and again...each and every day.

Connection: It can be so easy to fall for other stories that try to spell out our worth. We can literally kill ourselves trying to live up to one storyline or another. In Christ, we are not called to live up to any story but the one that begins and ends with God eternally for us. In everyday terms, that may not seem like much...until that is...the power of the Holy Spirit encourages us to trust God's grace and be lifted up to live.

How wonderful it is to be within reach of your gracious announcement of new life that you shower over us each of our days. Gracious Lord, shape us by your love and nurture in us the expectation that your love is always waiting for us and continues to grow from day to day. Amen.

Thursday, February 13, 2003

Friday, 14 February, 2003

We continue with selections from The Justification Reader by Thomas C. Oden.

Life can only be received. Life is offered as sheer gift... Apart from grace one cannot even pray for or hope for a reborn relationship to God. No one can simply grasp, claim, or seize the new birth of faith, hope, and love. They are gifts of the Spirit which until given, the unawakened sinner cannot manipulate into conception, birth, or growth. Like Incarnation and Resurrection, the new birth comes on God's own initiative...

We can choose by God's grace to put ourselves in those places and times where God promises to be present. We can avail ourselves of the means of grace
(baptism & holy communion & the Word), but not so as to control them. They remain precisely grace - sheer gift. The teaching of grace stands as a penetrating challenge to all pretensions of self-sufficiency.

The "new birth comes on God's own initiative" and the Good News is all about God's initiative on our behalf. God's reaching in and touching...God's sitting with us and walking with us and eating with us as friend - intimate friend. God acts and beckons us to follow what God promises to put into place. That is why we can indeed choose, by God's grace, to put ourselves within the domain of God's promises. We can indeed seek justice in our world and make for peace even when there is no peace. But then, we act as ones always resting on God's gracious embrace and power. As God gives us life as a gift, we become a part of the gift that is passed on to others. God makes us a gift...part of the reality that is God's reign here and now. No, we can't make sense of it all or claim to have it all...we trust that our God - each day - creates something within our lives that is beyond our abilities and comprehension and yet it is ours to enter as ones gifted by the Spirit.

Connection: It is Friday. It is not the end of the week. It is Friday, the day the Lord has made. It is Friday and the beginning of something new...a gift that we are being handed by the one who reaches in and creates everyday. So, why not enter into this Friday as though it truly is the Lord's day....wrapped up like a heart...a valentine. You are God's beloved.

Loving Lord, you have gifted many people who have become for us a witness to your love that will not let us go. Continue to nudge us and move us so that in the many ways we encounter this day we may touch those around us with the gift of life you promise for all. Amen.

Wednesday, February 12, 2003

Thursday, 13 February, 2003

We continue with selections from The Justification Reader by Thomas C. Oden.

So intimately tied are the terms "grace" and "Spirit" that they flow together as if virtually interchangeable (Acts 6:5,8). God's Spirit is called "the Spirit of Grace (Hebrews 10:29) since it is through the Spirit that the Father confers the grace of the Son upon the celebrating community. From the fullness of this saving event we continue to receive grace upon grace in a persevering series of divine gifts to humanity (John 1:16,17).

I always return to that power that makes it all happen. That is, I find that God provides all that is necessary to trust what God is announcing to us. For me the conversation goes back to Luther's comment on the third article of the Apostles' Creed ( on the Spirit). "I believe that by my own reason or strength I cannot believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to him. But the Holy Spirit has called me through the Gospel, enlightened me with his Gifts, and sanctified and preserved me in true faith..." The Grace of God is as one with the Spirit that brings that nurtures the promise of our God within our lives as we have seen it come to life in the stories of Jesus. I can easily fall for other fact I often do. But then...the Holy Spirit keeps reminding me (and you) of God's grace. Within that reminder...everyday...every moment, the Good News of God's gracious reign does indeed break in and bring new ways of seeing and hearing all things.

Connection: Over and over again, there is the promise that within this day - no matter how it is going for us - the Spirit of God will never stop trying to "woo" us to trust what God has done - is doing - and will do forever...and ever.

Precious Lord, you are the one who takes and makes this day your own. Strengthen us so that we may lean on your promises and the movement of your Spirit to bring us along the gracious journey that will unfold before us. Praise be to you as you lift us and empower us even before we notice that you have been active within this day. Amen.

Tuesday, February 11, 2003

Wednesday, 12 February, 2003

We continue with selections from The Justification Reader by Thomas C. Oden.

We call people "gracious" when their personal gifts make their behavior beautiful or desirable.

The Spirit actively seeks out the beloved and offers gifts. This is why grace has rightly come to be associated with attractive and winsome aesthetic qualities. To receive a blow with grace is to do so with wit, good temper, charm, and style. To hit a ball like Sammy Sosa or dance like Cyd Charisse is to do so gracefully, not clumsily, ineptly, awkwardly. To fumble a ball or dance ungracefully is to do so clumsily, ineptly, awkwardly.

Even the cross is made beautiful by grace. When one says" grace before meals," the one who is receiving splendid gifts feels "graced" or blessed and hence "grateful."

Offering a helping hand to someone is a part of that beautiful and desirable behavior. This is at least the case for us. A grace-filled act is one not simply noted for its "polish" or "smoothness." It is know for its complete lack of strings or conditions. It is given...completely. what makes for the beauty of the cross. The ugliness of Roman torture and death is gracefully redeemed for it is an instrument used for the well being of all. We are given the opportunity to honor the presence of others when they are around us. I find that to be a powerful act of grace when one person hands or places a banner of welcome or acknowledgement upon others. It is as though the cycle of being self-centered is broken for a moment in time....and grace prevails among us.

Connection: If we were to go through this day gracefully, how would it change the day? To make it more applicable and concrete, pick a part of the day that may need the greatest transformation...and there begin a journey in gracefulness. Where will it end up?

Grace us with your presence O Lord and inspire us to be open to the wonderful life that is possible within this day. Remind us of the beauty that is available to us within our own live as we are wooed to follow your loving ways. Amen.

Monday, February 10, 2003

Tuesday, 11 February, 2003

We continue with selections from The Justification Reader by Thomas C. Oden.

The engaging and comely act of wooing and giving gifts is an intrinsic aspect of the demeanor of grace. God the Spirit actively seeks out the beloved and offers gifts. God woos humanity with the most comely means: the beauty of creation, the gifts of covenant sexuality, the restorative power of friendships. When the gifts of men and women dispose them toward behaviors that are admirable, gratifying, beautiful, or desirable, they are rightly called gracious. God wills to work in God's own way in our hearts, through our choices and actions, amid our families, nations, and social processes. It is by grace that God's self-giving love for humanity is communicated.

One of my favorite words to describe what our God does through the Holy spirit is "woo." In traditional language we usually say that the devil "tempts" us to go this way and that way...all of which are counter to our God. Then, as we go that way of the evil one, we find that we are given...nothing...but death and the burden of work as though it can "get us somewhere." But when God acts, it is through a great love for great that God gives all in order to have us come and enter the life of promise and hope and love that is a part of the gift of God's reign. God...woos us! Wow! In many and various ways God is after each and everyone of bring us encourage us to trust the life that is available to us through Christ. Woo...Woo...Woo!

Connection: Yes, you. It is within the many and great stories of scripture and the life of God's people that we again and again are reminded of our place within the very heart of God's love for creation.

Lord of All Life we are drawn to you by the power of your Spirit. Let this day be rich with the life you have promised and guide us as we learn to walk trusting in you alone, O God of Love and Grace. Amen

Monday, 10 February, 2003

We continue with selections from The Justification Reader by Thomas C. Oden.

Grace is a divine attribute revealing the heart of God. The disposition of God is most clearly revealed as unmerited good will, unearned favor even toward the ungodly (Romans 5:15-21)... By Grace the sovereign God freely moves toward sinners to offer reconciling forgiveness, a new birth of freedom, and adoption into the family of God... The underlying motive of God's saving action is simply stated: "He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy" (Titus 3:5).

It is too much to even think about the "heart of God." And yet, that is how we begin to put some kind of words to God graciousness. It is more than love. It is more than acceptance. It is more a gift that has no equal and cannot be contained or expressed in a single action and yet it is an attempt to summarize just how much our God is "for us" and how our God bestows gifts upon us for the sake of our lives. By the grace of God we are given the fullness of this day and the power to begin again. It means rest for our restless hearts for from this grace, this gift, we are truly justified and made new.

Connection: Walk, O Favored ones, through this day as though our God is establishing each of our steps within a promise that will keep us ready for new life and pull us into the comforting embrace of God's peace.

Most Blessed God it is by your grace that we find a refuge and thus a place to begin again. As you have rescued your people in the past, you promise to stand with us and make us a people gifted by your love and compassion. We give you thanks for your gracious reign. Amen

Friday, February 7, 2003

Friday, 7 February, 2003

We continue with selections from The Justification Reader by Thomas C. Oden.

At the end of the week, we begin what will be an adventure into the meaning of "grace."

Grace is the favor shown by God to sinners. Grace is a pivotal word in all biblical and classic Christian teaching. It embraces all the blessings of salvation. It encompasses all the gifts by which God communicates (God's) own self-giving.

As the unmerited favor of God, grace may point to:

an era of history in which God's mercy is shown to transcend the law; or

an encompassing relation of reconciliation of humanity with God; or

a special gift that enables one to perform a distinctive service by God's help.

Oden also notes that "Grace is the divine good will offered to those who do not deserve it and can never earn it. Sometime, the words "unconditional love" are substituted for the word "grace." The reason given is that people today don't really understand "grace" means. Unfortunately, I don't think we really know what "unconditional love" really means. We quite naturally put conditions on all of our loving. That is part of that "turned-in-on-self" that keeps us and our kind as the center of the universe and often against "them." In addition to that minor point is the more dramatic one for me. Unconditional love does not catch the great expanse of God's grace. If you were able to offer me two things -unconditional love or the grace of God- I wouldn't even look twice at unconditional love. The is already in the package included in grace. Unconditional love is one of the dramatic colors in a painting of grace but...there is so much more action and color and depth to God's grace. I hope we will take a more in depth look at this many faceted gift to us.

Connection: By grace we enter this day and we are given the opportunity to look and hear and touch the world around us trusting that our God will be with us to shape any and all the moments of our lives. What does it mean for us when we can rise in the morning and then slide into bed at night knowing that our God if forever with us and will continue to be the power of life that leads to wholeness and peace, mercy and kindness, love and forgiveness? I would submit it mean an whole new world.

Lord God, you bless us and bring us into the freedom and life of your gracious reign. In you we find the possibility for life that transcends the life we attempt to make for ourselves. As we walk through this day, remind us of your gracious presence that makes for peace in the midst of our warring world. Amen.

Wednesday, February 5, 2003

Thursday, 5 February, 2003

We continue with selections from The Justification Reader by Thomas C. Oden.

The power of his resurrection is known faith. "Knowledge therefore comes through faith, and without faith there is no knowledge. How so? It is only through faith that we know the power of the resurrection. For what reasoning could demonstrate the resurrection to us? None, but it is through faith. And if the resurrection of Christ in the flesh is known through faith, how can the nativity of the Word be comprehended by reason?" (Chrysostom)

We trust that God's word that is eternally for indeed true. Therefore we are invited to act in accordance to that Word. Now, can I prove to you...can I make a reasonable argument that God is eternally for us? Some may not care to hear it. Some may say "So what." Some may wonder if we are a bit lost in our grasp of reality. And yet, we say we are brought into new life everyday by the God who raised Jesus from the dead. We have stories we can tell of people who have lived their lives within the promise of that Good News. We can witness to our own faith in such a resounding Word of life. And yet, the knowledge we have of the promise of the Reign of God among us is a part of what I like to call faithful imagination. That does not make it less real. That does not make it anti-knowledge. Instead, the world - as it is - becomes transformed by people and powers that trust that the power of new life in the resurrection does indeed move mountains and shake foundations. That's the truth.

Connection: Stay the course. Walk in faith. Trust what has been, is being, and will be the Word of life for us. My what a day is at hand.

Comforting Lord, you sweep us up within the broad movement of your grace. How wonderful it is that we are grasped by your Spirit and made to stand tall and walk along the way of your beloved, Jesus. Thanks and praise to you this day. Amen.

Wednesday, 5 February, 2003

We continue with selections from The Justification Reader by Thomas C. Oden.

The Christian's righteousness is not his own, based on law. "Now What does (Paul) mean, 'not having my own righteousness' (Philippians 3:9a), when that law was not his but God's? He can only have called it his own righteousness because, although it was from the law, he used to think that he could fulfill it without the aid of the grace that is through Christ".

In a discussion during our last confirmation class (7 middle school youth and me) we moved into the discussion about heaven and several of the students started asking about what if...we did this or that...would we still "get in?" I was a bit obnoxious. I would not let them finish the question. I kept saying you are in. You are beloved. Beginning and end of story...that's it. To which I received a number of "but...But what if...But...but...! I wouldn't even let them speculate or try to come up with situations that might "keep one out." God does it. We say in Christ, Jesus, God does it once and for all....once and for all...once and for all. Once and for all there is a righteousness that is handed to us and it is ours. Beginning and end of story. In the meantime, I tried to move them in the direction of thinking about what that kind of unconditional announcement can and does do for the living of these days not just the time after death. We are watching the movie "Ghandi" as part of a biblical section on prophets...and living within the Reign of God...even part of a promise. We don't "have our own righteousness." It is handed to us free for all...once and for all.

Connection: So, what does such a word of affirmation and love do to the living of this day? Today is the perfect day to find out a bit about the power in that love.

Living Lord, you rule and preside over the many ways of our lives. As you walk with us, by the power of your Spirit, continue to remind us of this love that has been a part of your loving presence since the beginning of time and will be with us beyond all the time we can imagine. Praise be to you O God Most High. Amen.

Monday, February 3, 2003

Tuesday, 4 February, 2003

We continue with selections from The Justification Reader by Thomas C. Oden.

"Indeed I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as refuse in order that I may gain Christ" (Philippians 3:8). Theodoret argues that "'refuse' means the denser and harder part of the chaff. It carries the grain but is discarded once the grain has been collected."

The grain...the Good News...the Gospel of the Reign of God, is the life that is promised by the God who gave to Israel the law. The law was not and is not bad. It is that wonderful protective covering that holds the vision of the Good News. Now that the Christ of God, Jesus, has come, the grain has been revealed in its fullness and the chaff the good as the law not the way of righteousness. Rather, we have this one who has made us righteous - made us the beloved community...before we are even able to do a thing to deserve it...for we cannot! The beloved of God in Christ are given our place and our world and our life...handed to us. The life is that which we see unfolded in the one we call Lord, Jesus. Yes, we fumble around and do not seem to match up to the vision in all of its glory, and yet, we are picked up and place within the vision again and again - for Christ's sake.

Connection: I am one who holds the 10 commandments as a focal point - a devotional point - as a follower of Jesus. Today, remind yourself or remind others, that our status before God is a gift to us. Therefore, we are free to look at the beauty of the life that is contained within the 10 commandments and the command to love God and love neighbor.

Forgiving God whose compassion is the overwhelming power of our lives, this moment in time is as fresh as the very first moment of time created by your Word. Remind us of the beauty of life that is available to us as your beloved children. Amen.

Monday, 3 February, 2003

We continue with selections from The Justification Reader by Thomas C. Oden.

"There is only one God, who is Lord of all, both Jew and Gentile," argued Chrysostom. "Even in ancient times the blessing of providence were shared by both, although in different ways. The Jews had the written law, and the Gentiles had the natural law, but in this they lacked nothing, because if they tried hard enough, they could always surpass the Jews in their observance...If there was no difference then, much less is there any now, and this Paul establishes even more firmly by demonstrating that both alike stand in equal need of faith."

The turning point at which Paul parted way with the Pharisaic Judaism of his day was his recognition of the grace that allowed him to trust in Christ alone for righteousness. What amazed him was stubborn resistance to receiving this good news. The choice to be made is whether we will cling to our own righteousness, or that of Christ's.

As much as we can talk and preach about the unconditional love of God that is a part of God's gracious reign, there is that "stubborn resistance to receiving this good news." There are so many ways of saying, "Yeh, but" that the word of Christ's saving action is made another conditional piece of the massive system of religious "things that have to be done in order to be God's people." It is as though we must make every person - who is not like the status quo of the day within the Church - go through a period in which s/he will be denied entrance and acceptance under a "Yeh, but" clause. Quite like, "Yeh, but don't they have to....(fill in the appropriate "Yeh, but")." Every time we do this, we once again turn our backs on the word of life that is for all through Christ, Jesus.

Connection: There is no "Yeh, but." Not for you or the people around you. We believe that the power of the Good News is the only power necessary to make a people, God's People. Let yourself engage this day as though you are hearing God whisper God's empowering love for all people every time you are tempted to treat yourself or others as though life has to add up to something before God will shower us with God's love.

Lord of New Life, you bring into our day the peace that comes from the assurance of your never failing love for us. From this love we are given the opportunity to see all things in a new light and in that light we can walk in new ways and joyfully engage our world. Amen.