Thursday, August 28, 2003

Friday, 29 August, 2003

From William C. Placher’s “Narratives of a Vulnerable God”

Similarly, in individual relations, the impulse to dominate others rests in large part on feeling a need to protect oneself. In Reinhold Niebuhr’s eloquent phrase, “there is no level of greatness and power in which the lash of fear is not at least one strand in the whip of ambition.” Even with those we love most, as when parents love their children, love resists risking freedom, wants to keep in control. Human beings seek power because they are afraid of weakness, afraid of what might happen should they be vulnerable, and so the drive for power that looks like the purest expression of freedom proves in significant degree inspired by an enslaving fear that dares not risk vulnerability.

Afraid of weakness…afraid of what will happen if we or those closest to us would be vulnerable – therefore we look to dominate, be on top, control the situation so that we can push that fear and anxiety out of sight. But…it never goes away; it is only painted or decorated – disguised. This is also a very typical way of entering relationship…or a good excuse not to enter them. If we hold back, if we do not risk the utter vulnerability needed to become intimate with another person, we can maintain that distance that is like a protective bubble. Unfortunately, all bubbles break…sometime. We turn to the story of Jesus not for its adventures in overwhelming power. Rather, we turn to a story of a vulnerable God who is not afraid to touch and be touched. We turn to a God whose love does not create distance between us and them…it bridges the divides that so often try to hide our fears by pushing other away.

Connection: Homework for the day may involve the task of finding that “lash of fear” that is within the whip of ambition within our lives. What is it that keeps us from being vulnerable with others?

Thanks be to you, O God, for in the frailty of human form you demonstrated how we become human within your Reign. Inspire us to withstand the power of our fears and anxieties that attempt to rule us and lead us into lives that are quite contrary to your will. Amen.

Wednesday, August 27, 2003

Thursday, 28 August, 2003

From William C. Placher’s “Narratives of a Vulnerable God”

…it may be worth reflecting on how paradoxical is the way our society tends to think about power – a celebration of the sort of power that rests on a kind of weakness and insecurity. Nations proclaim their military power, but only enemy threat justifies the vast expenditures and potential loss of life, and so the power turns out to rest on fear. No matter how great the power of an armed nation-state, Augustine wrote of that of Rome, “the happiness arising from such conditions is a thing of glass, of mere glittering brittleness. One can never shake off the horrible dread that it may suddenly shiver into fragments.”

Today and in Friday’s devotion, Placher presents us with how fear drives our need for more power. If you have not seen the movie “Bowling for Columbine,” it is worth seeing simply for the cartoon about fear in America that Michael Moore sticks into the film. It is funny…it is extremely sad…it is who we are. But more importantly, I think it begins to point us to a level of our idolatry. I don’t think Moore meant to go there. He was not making a religious film…but he exposes the roots of a religious dedication to a cycle of violence and fear. Yes, we may be safe as long as we have the weapons to keep that which we fear away from us, but what is the price of safety…who is willing to stand up and expose its frail and brittle promises. In a post 9/11 world, the power of the love of God is still more powerful than all the security of a focus on the homeland and all the machinations of a Patriot Act. But as is always is, the love of God looks foolish to a world bent on saving itself.

Connection: Can God’s vulnerable love – that is a part of God’s beloved children – make a difference in this world? I suppose we need only walk its ways to find out what it brings to the world and to our part in the world.

By the strength of your arm, O God, you have promised to deliver you people into the promised land of your blessed Reign. Too often, we do not trust the power of your loving embrace and so we run to fend for ourselves. Inspire us by your Holy Spirit that we may stay still long enough to have a sense of the life of peace that prevail within you alone. Amen.

Tuesday, August 26, 2003

Wednesday, 27 August, 2003

From William C. Placher’s “Narratives of a Vulnerable God”

…God is the one who loves in freedom. It is love freely given that defines God, and that love then implies a certain kind of power. Whereas, if it is power that defines God, then at best one could hope it will be tempered by mercy – but then again, maybe not. Christian talk about God ought to start with love, not power, and introduce the language of power only in the context of love and only in a way that keeps challenging and subverting it by way of reminder of how easily it might be misunderstood.

What a wonderful base line for the beginning of the Reign of God: It is love freely given that defines God. And then to go on to say that the power of God is power that comes from that love. Within all the nit picking that goes on in churches about who can or cannot be a part of us or…how one must live to be a part of us, there is this power within the Church that comes only from God’s love – a love that is freely extended…no conditions…no qualifications to meet ahead of time…no promise of meeting any, eventually. Love…FREELY given. Having said that, what do we – the beloved – become within the embrace of such action by our God? We rest within a power that has no equal in the world as we know it. This is the strange and alien place in which we live as the beloved of God. For now…we are free – also – to love as the one who loves us without end.

Connection: It is this radical “being loved” by God that is the power of our life available to us today. O my, how will that shape us? How will that turn our heads from one place to another? How will the path of this day not follow merely what is…but seek out an adventure of new life?

Thanks be to you O God, for in your loving you create new life and by your love you empower us to step forward into that life. There are so many ways we are pulled within our world and yet you continue to call us down one path – your unbounded and radical love. Pull us by your Holy Spirit along your way. Amen.

Monday, August 25, 2003

Tuesday, 26 August, 2003

From William C. Placher’s “Narratives of a Vulnerable God”

…the God we learn about in Mark’s Gospel is not a God defined first of all in terms of power. “For responsible Christian usage of the word ‘God,’” Eberhard Jungel has written, “the Crucified One is virtually the real definition of what is meant with the word ‘God.’” If we take the Gospel of Mark as one trajectory toward understanding the God whose self-revealed identity it narrates, then we encounter a God defined by perfect love and perfect freedom. Love means a willingness to take risks, to care for the other in a way that causes the other’s fate to affect one’s own, to give to the other at real cost to oneself, to chance rejection.

"Love means a willingness to take risks, to care for the other in a way that causes the other’s fate to affect one’s own, to give to the other at real cost to oneself, to chance rejection.” This is yet another good way to look at what it means to love as followers of Jesus. This is God-type-of-love…Jesus love. It takes us out of what can be the status quo of self-centered love that is the prevailing wind of life in our society. Self-love is important…and yet it is the beginning point of God’s love for us. Self- love is magnified as we are told of God’s love for us – God…the Creator of all things, loves me! Then, that love…loves. God’s love for us is always a love that moves through us. We are loved and God’s love transforms us into the love that God creates. God creates “Jesus Love” – self-giving, sacrificial, life building, and life liberating. We are invited into such a power…of love.

Connection: Sometimes it is important for each of us to come at an event or a moment in our day…again. Look at it again…step into it again…review it again. Then, we may be able to see the avenue of God’s love upon which we can walk.

Lord of Love, it is by your Spirit that our hearts long for the reuniting of all your people. That reuniting power is a love that will not stand by to watch the world as it is. Touch us with that Spirit of Love and transform our lives into your Holy image. Amen.

Monday, 25 August, 2003

From William C. Placher’s “Narratives of a Vulnerable God”

In obediently surrendering his freedom, Jesus becomes more and more identified with God, who has complete freedom, and in that freedom takes all the risks of vulnerability. The pattern of the story thus shows…both something about being human and something about God. In this story Jesus shows what it is to be most human, most like what a human being is supposed to be, living in full obedience to God. Such obedience turns out to mean the truest kind of freedom, in which one has chosen the life that meaningfully fulfills one’s destiny. And in this story God is most God, for in coming vulnerably into creation God is not giving up the characteristics of divinity but most fully manifesting them. God is not essentially impassible and omnipotent, so that divine self-revelation in the vulnerable Jesus would be utterly paradoxical, but God is fundamentally of all…the one who loves freedom, the one whose essence these stories reveals.

It is so vital to the story of Jesus to see that our God is utterly available to us. The God “unknown” and “distant” is now so very near that we see God in the same condition of our humanity. God’s freedom to be with us – to become broken and lost with us – shows us a God that will be within the depth of our days to stand with us and lead us through whatever may try to oppress us. Rather than the God far away, God comes so close – freely with us to reveal who God really is. In many ways, our coming closer to one another is part of the life of God’s children…free to be present in all our humanity with and for others.

Connection: What is the destiny of this day for you? What is it that will reveal you most fully as a unique child of God as that identity is made know in and through the story of Jesus?

By you grace, O God, you choose to walk with us and you invite us to see your glory through the common life of this day. Pull us into that glorious life where we are free to be vulnerable and, in that, whole. Amen.

Friday, August 22, 2003

Friday, 22 August, 2003

From William C. Placher’s “Narratives of a Vulnerable God”

The cross…does not just represent a painful way to die. It is the humiliating penalty assigned to the lowest of criminals, the fate of the rankest of outsiders, full of shame and perhaps – although here the historical evidence is ambiguous…- subject to curse in Jewish tradition.

A few chapters earlier (in Mark’s Gospel), when Jesus talked most vividly of times of crisis ahead, he had said it would be imposters claiming to be messiahs who would work signs and wonders, while disciples would suffer floggings and arrest, betrayal and hatred. In that context, as bystanders call on him to work a miracle and come down from the cross, it is his silent suffering that paradoxically confirms his identity as the true Messiah.

“It is his silent suffering that paradoxically confirms his identity as the true Messiah.” This is a suffering for and with…this is living with those who do not add up to much in the world. In fact, here is the Messiah completely shut out of the positions and places of power and removed from the circle of influential types who like to make sure everyone knows they are influential. There is in this story no hint of one’s need to “make it” to a certain level of sophistication or enlightenment in order to be included in God’s Reign. Our God is vulnerable even to the point of being so associated with what may be called the “underbelly” of society that he is tossed out and discredited just as they are. The Messiah is not raised up among the people by following along the popular paradigm of success and the dominant values of the culture – that would be nothing different from the status quo that brings limited and biased life. The Messiah, brings power for life even where we have been told there is no power or worth.

Connection: A simple refrain is always good to keep on hand during the days of our lives. “And I will raise you up, I will raise you up. I will raise you up on the last day.” Our source of hope and strength and new life is given to us as a promise not something we are able to muster together by our attitudes or actions.

It is by your eternal presence with all your people, without condition, that we are encouraged to be a new people with a power handed to us no matter where we might be. Inspire us to live each day as though we are concerned for the welfare of all and willing to use our lives to be advocates for those who are forgotten or throw away within our society. Praise to you Gracious Lord. Amen.

Wednesday, August 20, 2003

Thursday, 21 August, 2003

From William C. Placher’s “Narratives of a Vulnerable God”

In speaking of Jesus:

Mark uses every strategy to say two things at once: yes, this is the Messiah, the greatest of miracle workers, the Son of God, but, no, that does not mean at all what you thought it meant. Irony is the rhetorical device best suited for saying, “Yes, but no,” and the ironies grow as the story progresses. Jesus enters Jerusalem on a little colt: it is at once a humble and slightly silly ride and the fulfillment of a messianic prophecy. He is anointed as were the kings of old, as the Messiah ought to be, but by an unnamed woman, and in a context where the act only generates controversy and presages his death. Through most of the Gospel, Mark has presented wonders in ways that undercut our expectations. Now the irony reverses, and he presents tragedy in a way that hints at wonder. Jesus sorrowfully ascends the Mount of Olives, accompanied by three followers who protest their loyalty, only to be betrayed by a trusted associate. It is a story of defeat, but it exactly parallels the story of David at the time of Absalom’s rebellion – David the greatest king, the source of so much messianic imagery.

Right when we think we have it…no…not quite like that. I am particularly taken by the use of the story of the “unnamed woman” who anoints Jesus. Not only is there no name to call upon as the story is told, the mere action is offensive to those present. The offense is again one that comes at the sight of the Messiah not on site as one would want the Messiah to be present. In a success driven society and religious culture of today, how can we begin to see again the wonder of such a story that turns our expectations on their heads…and hands us a whole new vision?

Connection: “Yes, but no.” This is a tension that must be with us as we continue to be called followers of Jesus. Release the tension and we miss the unique and always new vision of God’s Reign.

In the events of this day that seem like no event at all, you are present and waiting for us to trust in your life of love and mercy and hopefulness. Be our encouragement and sustain us by your grace, O Lord. Amen.

WEdnesdy, 20 August, 2003

From William C. Placher’s “Narratives of a Vulnerable God”

Jesus acts of healing.

…this Jesus heals and performs other miracles, but he silences those he has healed almost as if the act were one of shame… In the act of healing, moreover, he touches lepers (Mk 1:41) and spits on the tongue of a deaf man (Mk 7:33) – the very forms of his healing would have been, to his contemporaries, both ritually polluting and physically disgusting. When the leader of the synagogue asks for his help in curing his daughter, Jesus makes Jarius wait while he tends to a woman who has been suffering from menstrual hemorrhaging. For the business of wonder-making, this gets every priority wrong: Jesus postpones raising a child from the dead for a comparatively trivial cure whose results both their physical character and the cultural taboos of the time would have kept invisible; he turns from the socially important male to heal a nameless woman; and he responds to the woman’s polluting touch with praise of her faith. Then he turns to the really dramatic miracle and nearly renders it into a farce, insisting, in the face of all the evidence, that the child is not dead but merely sleeping, so that onlookers burst into laughter (Mk 5:40).

If we are looking for a God who will break into the world and awe everyone with great power and able to command the attention of everyone, the gospels tell us of Jesus who comes in through the back door and leaves the power plays out in the market place. The stories (actually it is two stories wrapped together as one narrative) that Placher uses from Mark give us that vulnerable God in the flesh. This God-in-the-flesh is not on a pedestal or lifted up onto a mountain separate from the masses. Here there is touch where touch is forbidden and an acknowledgement of great faith in a person who would usually be pushed off to the fringe of the religious community. This adventure into the heart of such actions by Jesus makes this picture of God quite out of the ordinary…in the god making business.

Connection: We culturally turn our backs to much of the world around us. We tend to look to the clean…the orderly…the well-groomed…the large and the influential – and that is not merely in regard to what we like in the world around us. This is a picture of the God we long for. Today, can you see our God around you in another form…waiting to be encountered?

Precious Lord, you offer us a balm to heal our wounds. You not only offer us a balm, you come and touch and hold and enter into the pain and suffering of life so that no one will ever be left along and isolated. Hold us up so that we too may have eyes for the healing ways of your reign within this day. Amen.

Tuesday, August 19, 2003

Tuesday, 19 August, 2003

From William C. Placher’s “Narratives of a Vulnerable God”

Such images of God (separate, omnipotent, powerful…) comport well with many of the values that contemporary society still hold. We admire success and strength and being number one. “To possess power,” as Carter Heyward puts it, “is to be on top – of someone else…It is to be above the common folk – to flex the muscles of our brains, bodies, or ideologies – and to win.”

As Eberhard Jungel has written, “This is the earthly way of thinking of a lord: first he has all power and then perhaps he can be merciful – but then again, perhaps not.” This is the sort of God to whom speakers at political conventions appeal or pray to bless America, victor in the cold war. For theologians who begin with such a picture of God, Christology (study of Christ Jesus) can only take the form of a series of radical paradoxes, because a God so described has little in common with the crucified Jesus.

After reading this piece I thought of the strong movement by some elements of the Christian Right who are financially and politically supporting Israel in the hopes that Israel’s establishment of power in the middle east will bring about the second coming of Christ. Quite frankly, it is a frightening picture and though they have the television stations to push this kind of theology, it stinks. More than that, the vulnerable, crucified Lord, is given over to a futuristic war-lord that had little in common with the Jesus we teach about from the gospels. Sometimes fundamentalism loves to make their Lords into super-powers cast onto a world stage in order to make their side the victor. I find this “power” god has nothing to do with Good Friday and the Jesus we are called to follow.

Connection: Listen to the language of religious people. It is filled with an agenda that goes deep to the heart of news that is more out of the mouths of the powers of this world than from the prince of Peace.

Lord of the New Creation, continue to bring us to the merciful and peaceful reign of your beloved, Jesus, that we may enter our lives encouraged by your love assured of your presence as we walk along your way to the cross. Amen.

Monday, August 18, 2003

Monday, 18 August, 2003

From William C. Placher’s “Narratives of a Vulnerable God”

The assumption that God means, first of all, power runs throughout much of history, and it carries a great deal of accompanying baggage. God can do anything to anyone, but no one can cause pain to God – such an account of omnipotence often seems central to the very definition of deity. God is perfect, and, if we want to be perfect, it follows that we ought to try to be a powerful as possible. The Christian gospel, however, proclaims the God self-revealed in Jesus Christ, and that God is very different – a God, in Leonardo Boff’s phrase, “weak in power but strong in love,” a God willing to be vulnerable to pain in the freedom of love.

The upside-down nature of the Good News comes out dramatically in the phrase “weak in power but strong in love.” God’s Reign is outside the picture. We can look all around at how the world is run and even how the Church is run and we will see honor, status, and prestige given to those who are able to grasp the power of the moment. And yet, those who turn and walk to the cross in order that God’s love might be incarnate among us will find the road rocky and long in our everyday world. Such a love as this – this cross love…this vulnerable love – is the leading edge into a whole new orientation to all that transpires around us. God leads us into a profound and yet simple love that knows no other way to walk within this day. People who like to hold God wars…matching my God against your God to see which God will win it all, miss the story that we continue to call Good News.

Connection: Weak in power but strong in love – something to jot on a piece of paper and recycle it in our minds.

Lord of Life, you make yourself know in the common and ordinary aspects of our day because that is where we are. You are the God who stands with us, walks with us, suffers for us and with us, and takes a hit for us for that we might come to see with our heart’s eye the profound nature of your love – a love that brings a new creation to light in every day. Praise be to you. Amen.

Friday, August 15, 2003

Friday, 15 August, 2003

We continue a brief walk with some material on reconciliation by Walter Wink.

The American nonviolent activist Gene Knudsen Hoffman observes that in every conflict she has observed, all parties to the conflict had been wounded, and that the unhealed wound was at the heart of their violence.

When there is no reconciliation, there is no end to our willingness to fight against one another. When a wound has not been healed, it is much easier to draw on its painfulness in order to return to our conflicts and warring ways. I’m sure we all know of people who have been wounded and make sure that the wound never heals. They help to keep the wound open or tender so that it doesn’t take much to build up an excuse to strike out or simply punish the one time enemy. I’m sure that the person we know may even be ourselves.

Connection: We are called to be healers within God’s Reign. There are so many ways and opportunities within our lives to work for healing and to care for our wounds so that we can turn back at our lives with a fresh face and life.

By your grace, O God, we expect to care for the wounds of the world that so easily separate us. Bless us this day with a healing balm that brings peace and new life to our world. Amen.

Wednesday, August 13, 2003

Thursday, 14 August, 2003

We continue a brief walk with some material on reconciliation by Walter Wink.

Stories of genuine reconciliation are flashes of the divine in the world’s darkness. They are testimonies of the living presence of God in the lives of people who have refused to let their sufferings dehumanize them.

We do not see reconciliation very often but it is there. Sometimes we may see glimpses or the pathway begin to unfold within our lives…but too often, reconciliation does not follow through to completion. It is a hard road – very necessary for the well being of our life together in the Reign of God. Through reconciliation, that flash of new life streaks through our community and it turns heads…and people begin to wonder if something more than the same-old, same-old might indeed be possible among us.

Connection: Work it…Work it gracefully. Let’s see what can become.

Lord of the Flash Dance of Reconciliation; move us by your Holy Spirit to press on with the loving kindness, justice, peace and mercy that are elements of your reconciling love in action. Amen

Tuesday, August 12, 2003

Wednesday, 13 August, 2003

We continue a brief walk with some material on reconciliation by Walter Wink.

True reconciliation can be subverted by a government propaganda apparatus that equates reconciliation with compromise, the toleration of injustice, and obedience to the higher power… Reconciliation can be even more grossly perverted when religious leaders in a revolutionary situation call for “peace,” meaning that the oppressed should not disturb the false tranquility of a society built on violence...

“The duty of the churches is to be agents of reconciliation. That means we must avoid taking sides and be neutral.”

When church leaders preach reconciliation without having unequivocally committed themselves to struggle on the side of the oppressed for justice, they are caught straddling a pseudoneutrality made of nothing but thin air.

To hear about reconciliation on a national or international level may seem to be quite removed from our everyday lives. It is not. First of all, we can reduce what Wink puts forward here and apply it to the actions within this day. In place of the “church”…let’s put ourselves. Do we act as agents of reconciliation when we see and hear of the injustice that so often takes place within our own lives? Are we able to “avoid taking sides and be neutral”…and yet work for justice for all? Then, do we settle for a “peace” that is simply a false tranquility within our lives, but is really no peace at all? When we look at the world and national scene we are called to be a people who side with the oppressed and seek justice so that the status quo does not simply push on with a life agenda that is assumed and beneficial to only to some. It is only a small step to apply the same discipline to our daily lives.

Connection: In the midst of name calling it can be difficult to press for reconciliation and peace that actually brings warring parties together for the sake of the healing of all people. It is worth pausing during this day to see when and where such peace making can guide our ordinary lives.

Healing Lord, you long for the establishment of Your peace in the world. Make us instruments of your peace so that justice and peace may kiss and your Reign shines through our lives so that we are a witness to your new world. Amen.

Monday, August 11, 2003

Tuesday, 12 August, 2003

We continue a brief walk with some material on reconciliation by Walter Wink.

Wink goes into a discussion on true and false reconciliation. He does that by showing how government powers use their influence to make things look like there has been reconciliation while the victim is victimized even more through what was to be “reconciliation.”

Nevertheless, reconciliation is central to the gospel. God’s domination-free order requires that we transcend hatred in the very process of liberation, for the means become the end. Reconciliation after cessation of conflict is made infinitely easier if the conflict has been waged all along with an eye to ultimate reconciliation. As Ghandi saw so clearly, “Each single step on the way to the realization of a worthy objective must be a worthy objective in itself. Means have a way of inserting and integrating themselves into ends and of determining their ultimate pattern.”

Keeping the process clear of its intent makes each step clear of the debris of hatred and brokenness. And yet, this is not easy to do…it takes a deliberate act of courage to say, we cannot get there from here by doing what we are doing! We must follow the road of the cross…the road of self-giving love that will not be bought out by any power –that of others or our own. Each time I read another piece of Ghandi’s work, it amazes me how focused he could be and how much he demanded of himself and others as they practiced the way of truth-power. It does not take much to tempt us into the ways of the world when we want to change things into the way we want them to go. That is why warfare and corruption run rampant among even those who want to be change agents.

Connection: With each step we shape what will come. Do not be afraid to step boldly…but have others who will be for you a good sounding board so that we can each keep our eyes on the vision of God’s Reign in this day.

Lord, we seek the ways of your justice and peace so that your world may live in peace. We pray that we may each find the way to honor others so that we continue to engage one another in the peace-making life of your Reign. Guide us, O Lord. Amen

Monday, 11 August, 2003

We continue a brief walk with some material on reconciliation by Walter Wink.

Wink quotes Sheila Cassady on forgiveness.

I know what it is like to be powerless to forgive. That is why I would never say to someone, “You must forgive.” I would not dare. Who am I to tell a woman whose father abused her or mother whose daughter has been raped that she must forgive? I can only say: however much we have been wronged, however justified our hatred, if we cherish it, it will poison us. Hatred is a devil to be cast out, and we must pray for the power to forgive, for it is in forgiving our enemies that we are healed.

The notion of cherishing hatred startled me. I suppose that is because I know I do that…but to have it actually written and said was shocking. This is another one of those hard sayings that lays out a pathway to new life but it is not always easy to walk along such a path. Cassady does us a favor in making her words and images so shocking. They cause me to reevaluate my motives to see why it is I am doing what I am doing. They remind me that I am called to live within the domain of God’s grace and that it is easy to jump into another arena where there will be little that is similar to the love, peace, justice and mercy promised within God’s Reign.

Connection: Hatred is a devil to be cast out. Now that is an interesting project within the regular events of this day.

Gracious God, by the power of the Holy Spirit you pull us into the realm of your forgiveness and invite us to make it our home. Teach us to forgive so that we may be an active part of the healing of our world and our own hearts. Amen.

Friday, August 8, 2003

Friday, 08 August, 2003

We continue a brief walk with some material on reconciliation by Walter Wink.

We are enabled to forgive because we ourselves have been the enemies of God and yet know ourselves to be forgiven. We are enabled to forgive finally, because we cannot forgive, and throw ourselves on God’s mercy. Yes, forgiveness is impossible, and yes, God does the impossible. It is a matter of faith for me that the Holy Spirit can empower us to forgive anyone.

Wink also notes that “when God tells us to forgive our enemies, God gives, along with the command, the power to do so.” We can say that about all things. When God tells us to love neighbors and enemies and self…God gives us the power to do that. We may not use that power, but it is available to us. We see the availability of God’s power to heal, to rescue, to forgive, and to love in the stories of the person Jesus. In fact, it was the desire of Jesus that his followers would indeed continue to live within the power of life that is available from our God. In that way, Jesus’ followers would change the world – be a light for all.

Connection: Now we are invited to trust what God has done, can do, and will do among us. That is definitely the power to make something else out of this day.

Lord take us and use us. Remind us that you are the power for new life and we are free to let that power shape the way we live together. Thanks be to you, O God. Amen

Wednesday, August 6, 2003

Thursday, 06 August, 2003

We continue a brief walk with some material on reconciliation by Walter Wink.

Forgiveness exists in tension with judgment…

The gospel affirms that God forgives all sins, however heinous. Reconciliation, however, hinges on whether the victims are able to forgive or not, and whether a society, for its own health, must bring charges against at least some who are criminally guilty.

So if we are ministers of reconciliation by the very fact that we are followers of Jesus, we definitely do not say “forgive and forget.” Rather, we are called to walk down the long muddy roads of our relationships so that peace and justice might prevail. It is along such a road as this that we must deal with the everyday implications of forgiveness from ourselves and/or the need to press on to make sure justice prevail even as we know God forgives all people. Victims are too often told to “suck it up” or “get over it” but they must not when injustice prevails and perpetrators continue to laugh at the system of justice because they know they can “beat it” for they have done it already. A ministry to the perpetrator may be to have him/her stopped so that the justice of God’s Reign may accompany the forgiveness that is already handed out freely.

Connection: This is another reason why we must bring other followers of Jesus into our dialogues about justice and forgiveness and reconciliation. We must daily work for that balance that considers more than my situation. We must be a part of the justice and peace making that is already a part of the vision of God’s Reign and we usually need help seeing its fullness.

Walk with us Lord for the day can be filled with the heaviness of the pains and travails of life. Walk with us that we may live within the land of your gracious forgiveness and trust that you inspire us to seek justice and work for the shalom of our world. Amen

Tuesday, August 5, 2003

Wednesday, 05 August, 2003

We continue a brief walk with some material on reconciliation by Walter Wink.

A second misapprehension (about forgiveness) is that forgiveness is sentimental, that it overlooks crimes and indulges wrongdoers. There are some wonderful stories about people who have refused to bring charges against those who have criminally wronged them. There are instances; however, when such forgiveness is itself criminal, releasing on society a sociopath who will simply continue to victimize others.

Wink goes on to tell of a car accident in which one driver was driving a truck on the wrong side of the road. That driver was uninjured but the other driver was severely injured and impaired for life. The driver of the first car begged the wife of the victim not to press criminal charges – he was a Vietnam veteran, had a wife with two kids and was about to be hired as a school bus driver – the first permanent job in four years. The injured man and his wife decided to forego the legal suit. Several days later the wife of the truck driver came to the hospital and told the couple that her husband went on drinking bouts several times a week and these were accompanied by bouts of acute depression to which her husband would drive down the wrong side of back roads to scare other drivers or forcing them off the road. As poor as they were, she hoped that this event would stop him but she knew it wouldn’t. On this new information the couple pressed charges and they promised to help him find counseling and search for a new job. Forgiveness does not dismiss accountability and responsibility for ones actions.

Connection: We are not doormats. We are agents of forgiveness and reconciliation and therefore we are to be wise and seek after the truth so that true healing and new life can emerge. That is an important aspect of our life together.

Lead us Lord as we attempt to put your love to action within our lives. In our loving, keep us ever mindful of the welfare of all people as we live within the domain of your everlasting forgiveness. Amen.

Monday, August 4, 2003

Tuesday, 05 August, 2003

We continue a brief walk with some material on reconciliation by Walter Wink.

…there are gross misunderstandings about forgiveness that block the path to reconciliation. One is the old adage, “Forgive and forget.” How this perverse piece of advice ever gained currency is beyond understanding. No one can consciously “forget” anything. The very attempt to “forget” something places it in the center of conscious attention. We should never try to forget our life’s most painful experiences anyway. Forgiveness is offered with full knowledge of the offense. We must never forget the ways we have hurt others, lest we pretend to be better than we are, and we must never forget the ways others have hurt us, if for no other reason that to protect ourselves against its repetition.

I have always found this advice, “Forgive and forget,” to be quite odd and mostly unhelpful so I was glad Wink brought it up for us. I know that I have said “I forgive you” to people and yet I know that I did not forget the offense. In fact, I know that when I do “not forget it” I then feel guilty for remembering it…as though I really didn’t forgive. But as Wink notes, we must never forget the ways we have hurt others or the ways others have hurt us. It is in the midst of our pain and the work of reconciliation and forgiveness that we begin to see the power and dynamics of God’s Reign. Here in the reality of our wounds, we are invited to recall the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Forgiveness and new life for all…in all situations! We are invited into that circle of life knowing that we are acting contrary to the world and contrary to how we ourselves would like to act.

Connection: We walk into this day simultaneously carrying the hopes for the day and baggage from yesterday and the Good News. The Good News is the power to keep our whole lives with us and to see them in a new light. That new light is what begins to change this day into one of hopefulness.

As you walk with us Lord, be our light within the shadows of our lives when we can so easily lose sight of the wealth of your forgiveness that you offer to us as power for living and loving with those around us. Amen.

Monday, 4 August, 2003

We continue a brief walk with some material on reconciliation by Walter Wink.

Those who are in Christ, (the Apostle Paul says), are a new creation, because God has take the initiative, through Christ, to reconcile us. “In Christ, God was reconciling the world to Godself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us” (2 Corinthians 5:19, author’s translation). As Jan Milic Lochman notes, katalassein (to reconcile) here is used only of God, katallagenai (to be reconciled) only of humanity. God is not reconciled. We are. All we contribute is our response, by becoming ambassadors of reconciliation. That means that we must initiate the reconciliatory process, not wait for the former oppressor to take the first step. Such acts of reconciliation cannot, however, be demanded of anyone; they can only be initiated by the parties involved, responding, consciously or unconsciously, to the promptings of the Holy Spirit.

Everything has the opportunity to be new…in Christ. We are called a new creation because the power of the Holy Spirit makes all things new. Therefore, the way we would expect to act…is no longer an expectation. We act in the way of the new creation in which all are reconciled by God and become agents of reconciliation. The tough part about being an agent or ambassador of reconciliation is that we cannot simply talk about it…we are it! That’s why we say we follow the way of the cross. For being agents of reconciliation means we may just find ourselves left out to dry in the hot sun on a bloody cross for the welfare of others…even our enemies. And yet, there is a promise of new life beyond our imagination within the reconciling responses of the followers of Jesus.

Connection: Live. Live within the power of that reconciliation that changes the course of all things.

Lord of New Life, you bring us into this day and we are called to face life as though you live through us. As the body of Christ in the world, lead us into this new life and the concrete actions of your loving Reign. Amen