Tuesday, September 30, 2003

Wednesday, 1 October, 2003

From “The Cross in our Context” by Douglas John Hall

Dietrich Bonhoeffer…wrote that while “Man’s (sic) religiosity makes (him) look in (his) distress to the power of God in the world…the Bible directs (man) to God’s powerlessness and suffering.” And he added from the depths of his own suffering, “Only the suffering God can help.”

It is within the dialogue of our brokenness that we find among us the Christ who did not walk away from our brokenness. It is within our suffering that we come in contact with the God whose being is made more fully alive among us as we are who we are. From the brokenness of our lives, God lifts us up because God is ever present and will not let us be alone and forgotten. God is great and mighty for God does not fear complete participation in life that can be as brutal as the cross and as compassionate as forgiveness when no one would think forgiveness has a place. It is quite amazing to see the bonds that our made through the suffering we share with one another – and our God is in the midst of it all.

Connection: We are never alone in the unsettling times of our lives. Today may once again be an unsettling time in which we see a glimpse of God with us.

In this day, O Lord, treat us to the fullness of your blessed Reign so that we may find in one another the opportunity to be your saints in light. Amen.

Monday, September 29, 2003

Monday, 29 September, 2003

From “The Cross in our Context” by Douglas John Hall

...if Christians confess that the Christ, the divine Son, “suffered,” they cannot turn about and claim that suffering is impossible where God the Father is concerned. So that, for instance, when the author of Philippians declares that the Christ, though, “in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant…humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross” (2:5f.), this must be taken as an indirect statement about God in the totality of God’s being, and not merely as a statement about Jesus. In other words, the “emptying” or “kenosis” of the incarnation and the cross must be understood to apply to God in God’s indivisibility.

Luther called the death of Jesus on the cross the “crucified God” because on the cross all of God is given up and rejected and a part of all the rejection of the world. God hold nothing back. God holds nothing back in order to be completely with us. God freely enters into such identification for us so that we will never find ourselves outside of the bounds of God’s embrace. Never…not one of us…none of us. We start this day with our God so for us and with us that we are free to be whom we have been created to be. That’s call grace and that is the power for new life.

Connection: Trust the depth of God’s love…and the completeness of that love…once and for all.

Lord empower us to trust your never failing love that embraces us in all things and for all times. Amen

Tuesday, September 30, 2003

From “The Cross in our Context” by Douglas John Hall

If Jesus Christ is the Revealer of God and not merely a subordinate who, finally, submits to the will of his superior (the Father Almighty), then the cross must be understood to apply to God’s own being and acting and not only to that of the Christ.

It was with that assumption in mind that C.S. Dinsmore at the turn of the twentieth century penned the illuminating sentence, “There was a cross in the heart of God before there was one planted on the green hill outside Jerusalem.” It would be impossible to read the Scriptures of Israel without concluding, long before one had reached the end of them, that there is indeed “a cross in the heart” of Israel’s God.

I repeat from yesterday, the whole of God is for us. We do not and cannot compartmentalize God’s being. This is a point that must be made even when we speak of the Holy Spirit. For as the Spirit is the power that moves and shapes the children of God in every age, that Spirit is with us in the completeness of God. The love into which the Spirit pulls us…the peace into which the Spirit moves us…the forgiveness that is a gift to us to share with the world, are not mere suggestions. They constitute the vision and life of the whole of God that is available to us…now. God on the cross is God for everyday –without exception.

Connection: The Spirit is sometimes feared for it moves people in the direction of the vision of God’s reign here and now. When that power moves you today, do not fear!

Lord of life that is beyond our imagination; strengthen us for all that life in your name may bring within this day. Guide us to prayerfully consider what is before us ready for us to enter. Amen.

Thursday, September 25, 2003

Friday, 26 September, 2003

From “The Cross in our Context” by Douglas John Hall

Continuing with the notion of God’s “self-imposed” weakness:

Against Nietzsche, the pastor’s son who complained so bitterly about the “feminine” weakness of the Christian God and his Christ, Niebuhr recognizes here that God’s apparent weakness is the sign and consequence of a strength that is greater than mere brawn: it is the strength that is demanded of those who voluntarily forfeit their strength in order to be strong for the other.

What a wonderful statement about God’s strength: “it is the strength that is demanded of those who voluntarily forfeit their strength in order to be strong for the other.” We are not a people who live by showing our force and making sure that we are as secure as can be. Rather, we are a people who are willing to stand in for those who have no power or strength. That may be why our God is repeatedly called the God of the oppressed. That is why Jesus is one who continuously go along with those who are the least, the lowest, and the little. It is there as we let go of the power we think we have that we begin to see the strength that is available through the God whose action of solidarity with us was a voluntary forfeit of strength and a supreme show of God’s power for life.

Connection: We are called to be servants for all…even those for whom no one would ever offer the time of day. And yet, we give them the day by joining in it with them. How will we serve today?

Lord God, your love brings us the opportunity to share our lives with one another. In that sharing, you give us eyes to see new life and then you teach us to walk hand in hand with others into your blessed Reign. Thanks be to you. Amen.

Wednesday, September 24, 2003

Thursday, 25 September, 2003

From “The Cross in our Context” by Douglas John Hall

Christianity makes the astonishing claim that God, who is preeminent in the only unqualified sense of that word, for the sake of the creature’s shalom suffered – suffers – the loss precisely of that preeminence. In the words of Reinhold Niebuhr, “The crux of the cross is its revelation of the fact that the final power of God over (humanity) is derived from the self-imposed weakness of his love.” Not incidentally, Niebuhr’s qualifying adjective is tremendously important here: “self-imposed weakness.”

Giving it all up for the sake of another…this does not mean that the least give it up for one more worthy. Actually it does mean that…also. But the power of the story of the cross is that the one who is worth more than anyone can imagine, gives it all up for you…me…the ones considered worth-less than any of us. Then we must add on to that the notion of the suffering and loss is “self imposed.” For you God chooses to risk all things in order to bring to us…a new life here and now and forever. That risk taken for us…shapes the new life in its own form. That shape is traditionally called the Church…so let us be.

Connection: Be the Church today! For you all things are made new and through you all things are made new. Therefore, today is always the most exciting and adventurous time to be alive.

Lord God, lead us through this day by the power of your self-sacrificing love so that such love may come to life in us. Amen.

Tuesday, September 23, 2003

Wednesday, 24 September, 2003

From “The Cross in our Context” by Douglas John Hall

Even in human love, when our love approaches something greater than erotic or the filial, a certain sacrifice of self, of our natural superbia, is required and most of the problems clustered around our human struggle to love come down to the immense difficulty we all have in letting go of self and the demand of self for preeminence.

Somewhere in the midst of loving relationships, is that wonderful give-and-take in which people seem so willing to offer themselves to the other(s). I intentionally use the phase “give-and-take” because it is one complete action. If all we do is give…If all we do is take, we are not left with much of a relationship. Not only that, we are not left with much of the wonder of our humanity. The beauty of human love is that we have the capacity to become more human as we are more intimately connected to one another. We are more intimately connected to one another when we are more vulnerable. We are vulnerable when we do not let our fear of letting go of our power and sharing who we are with others prevent us from doing just that. We are also more vulnerable when we do not let our fear stop us from taking what others offer to us. Somewhere in the middle of that give-and-take love becomes defined more fully than is ever possible with mere words.

Connection: Give-and-take. It may demand some boldness and some humility. It may just change who we are with one another.

We praise you, O God Most High, for your Love is able to transform us. We praise you for within that blessed transformation, we are given the gift of our humanity as our lives become ones filled with love for one another. Shape us this day with your love. Amen.

Tuesday, 23 September, 2003

From “The Cross in our Context” by Douglas John Hall

Love, as Paul declares in the beautiful hymn of 1 Corinthians 13, “does not insist on its way… (but) bears all things, believes all things, endures all things.” We hear this scripture, usually, as divine imperative under which we should live, and that is right. But we ought to hear it first as a description of the love that God manifests, voluntarily; for that is the presupposition of any such love that we might here and there, now and then, manage to live out. And what it makes very clear is that, wherever love is the objective and motive of the act, the act necessarily involves relinquishment of the impulse to pure power.

We must always look to the foundation – the rock. Our God love before us and therefore shows us the way of love. The cross is a “way” one loves in this world and we say that Jesus was the love of God incarnate – really present – among us. But even the way of Jesus is shaped in the way of God’s love that is before us and after us. I’ve never looked at this Corinthian text as a description of the love God manifests voluntarily. So often, as Hall notes, I read it as the calling or the imperative for my loving. Yes, it is that but…it is always a love that comes from that bedrock of God’s love that is sacrificial without the “impulse to pure power.”

Connection: To be reminded of the depth of God’s love can shape our day. Who do you have that will remind you of that love? Sometimes it can be the look in a child’s eye, the voice of someone you trust, the beauty of the world around you, or a deliberate voice spoken as a reminder. Good News comes into our day in many ways.

Your love, O Lord, is the energy of our day. For when we are reminded of how you pull for us and never leave us alone, we are made alive. Let your Holy Spirit continue to tickle us with your promises. Amen.

Monday, September 22, 2003

Monday, 22 September, 2003

From “The Cross in our Context” by Douglas John Hall

Those who wield the sword perish by the sword – a motto, surely, that applies to divinity as much as to humanity. A god who rules with the sword will not survive the revenge of his victims, however long it may be in coming. If God’s object is proximity to us (“I will be your God and you will be my people”), if God wills to transform us through the power of “suffering love,” then no application of power in the usual sense could possibly attain this object.

Like oil and water – power by the sword and power by suffering love cannot be mixed into one. Our God is one whose power is in suffering love. That is why it is so often called a “thin tradition” – no many go there and not many choose to be there. Power by the sword – power as it is best known in our world – does not have a place for the bending and bowing in which one side honors the other side even to the point that we will not raise arms against the other even if it means we will have to suffer for our patience and our love of neighbor. The moment we play the game of the power of this world, we are in it and the only way out is to turn around, repent, grab hold of the way of the cross – but that…is a radical move for all of us. And yet, the Spirit is a part of the promise to move us into the way of peace and radical love.

Connection: Try to take note of how many time in this day you fall in line to the ways of the powers of this world. Sometimes it is a simple as the things we say behind someone’s back. We think no damage done, but we have damaged all of us.

Lord God, your peace reaches out to touch us and convert us and your love reminds us of how you seek to bind together all your children. Bless us this day with your love and peace. Amen

Friday, September 19, 2003

Friday, 19 September, 2003

From “The Cross in our Context” by Douglas John Hall

“My power is made perfect in weakness”- a statement that Paul puts into the mouth of God because he meant it not only as comfort in the face of his personal struggle but as a description of the God he served. Paul’s God does not lack power. As Jesus is reported to have said to those who came to the Mount of Olives to arrest him, God could, if God would, send a whole legion of angels to defend God’s anointed one (Matt.26:53). But then the very object of God’s power, namely, to reach down into the soul of the creature and judge it, cleanse it, befriend it, would have been forfeited in an instant.

So, as children of God, our power is made manifest in our serving – our loving that is not limited. To have our character shaped like this will always bring us into deeper contact with those around us – even our enemies. Therefore, just as our God’s beloved Son come for the welfare of all, without exception, so to do we risk all for all – without conditions. That is always a stumbling block for as we see everyday, we long for conditions to be in place so as to distinguish us from them. And yet, Jesus is hung out on the cross to die when he could have been rescued for his own good…but he was not…and that is the point for our living in his name today.

Connection: Will we ever let this day see the brilliance of a vulnerable love that serves not me…but serves others without qualification? Today is always a good day to try it out.

By your love, O God, you send us into this day as your children and you promise to hold us no matter what may take place. We need to feel the touch of your hand to assure us of your presence for at times we are overwhelmed by the winds of this day that have a way of beating at us. Grant us the peace that comes with your abiding presence. Amen.

Wednesday, September 17, 2003

Thursday, 18 September, 2003

From “The Cross in our Context” by Douglas John Hall

God, power, religion, politics and love

When religion is brought into the center of political power and caused to serve as the spiritual guarantor and cultic legitimator of the powers-that-are, the natural or psychic propensity to link God with power is given a new and subtle twist. God, then, is no longer merely the transcendent force behind the ever-changing scene of existence but an eternal sovereignty reflected in and radiating from the throne of earthly might and authority. Christian monarchies as well as ecclesiastical hierarchies have had vested interests in sustaining an image of God informed by power and a concomitant hesitancy about Theologies that draw upon love, justice, compassion, and other attributes that necessarily qualify the power motif. To say as the liberationists do that “God has a preferential option for the poor” is to suggest a Theology that is bound to be threatening to the rich and powerful.

My first read through of this was quite matter-of-fact. On my second reading, I was greatly saddened. We – the people who call ourselves followers of Jesus – are very quickly drawn up into the establishment of the “powers-that-are” every time we do not stand on the ground of the God who is love for all. It happens so quickly and so naturally that most often, I don’t think we can even see the seam that sews religious images and power to the ways of empires and politics. But as Hall suggests, when/if we speak of the God of our history whose love never ceases to stand with those who are so easily forgotten in our world of power, the words of our mouth and the meditations of our hearts will not be welcome. We must remember that as followers of Jesus, we are aliens in every land and we must maintain that tension so as to never lose sight of the vision of the God whose love will even sacrifice God’s Beloved.

Connection: It takes finely tuned ears to hear the way religion and the “powers-that-are” avoid the God who calls all creation Beloved. It takes sharp eyes to spot the allegiances that keep the world broken and divided. But everyday we must help one another stay finely tuned and sharp for the welfare of all.

Lord, walk with us and let your hand touch us and guide our path as we take part in the events of this day. Amen.

Wednesday, 17 September, 2003

From “The Cross in our Context” by Douglas John Hall

Hall writes about love:

If we loved our spouses or our children in the way that many of us say we love God, the unfortunate human objects of our love would quite rightly flee from us forthwith! For a love that involves no dialectic, no yes and no, no familiarity with hate, no suffering, no darkness but only light – such love is not the New Testament’s agape.

As Bonhoeffer stated the matter with his usual clarity, in the sentence “God is Love” the emphasis is upon the first word. Love, as usually conceived, does not define God; God defines love. And if the cross of Jesus Christ is the apex of God’s definition of love, then the divine love has very little to do with the “luv” that is passed around so liberally in our contemporary context.

God…defines love. It cannot be said more powerfully. We are not called to love as we would love. If that was the case, nothing would be different from the way the world is. Hitler would still come to power in many and various forms and genocide would be the rule of the day. Love as we love is one of the greatest reasons to hate others. But at the name of the Most High God…something new is born. Love no longer is ruled by us. Love becomes the unbounded action of God that bridges all brokenness. It doesn’t avoid the brokenness…it faces it and makes a way through it so that our broken ideas about love may not prevail among us and create more discord. For too long, we in the Church have settled for love that is too much like sweet syrup that does not trust the self-sacrificial love of the one we call Lord, Jesus.

Connection: How do we stay in touch with this God who is love - when it is so easy to be wooed away to love as we want it? Again and again, we must seek out others who know of the love of God in the cross and there…hold on to one another…be free to ask questions and trust that we need never be afraid that we are alone when we continue to search for the unbounded love that is our God available to us…today.

Most High God, be for us the love that transforms our lives. When we are anxious and wanting the world to be just as we would want it, let your Spirit calm us and empower us to rest in God (love) alone. Amen.

Tuesday, September 16, 2003

Tuesday, 16 September, 2003

From “The Cross in our Context” by Douglas John Hall

… Where deity is concerned, is our foundational assumption that of “power” or that of “love”? In homely terms, when we think of “God,” do we think the last word in sheer might, authority, supremacy, potency? Or do we think compassion, mercy, identification, grace, benevolence – agape?

… I am really asking for first thoughts. What does the word “God” (or its linguistic equivalents) first suggest to you? What come nearly unbidden to your mind?

The two need not be so separate. Recently in writings for this devotion by William Placher, we heard about the power that is within the love that is associated with our God. And yet, it is realistic to note that we do have an immediate picture in our minds. Sometimes that picture is the one that wins the day with us even if we do not think we agree with it. It takes some intentional reflection to make the image of the loving, graceful God the God that leads us. The importance of some devotion or some discipline helps to move us in that direction more readily but still…it is so easy to lean to the God of power and might before we learn to focus on the agape rule of God.

Connection: What does it take to stay focused on the God who overwhelms all things with love? Then, what impact does it have on our life throughout the day?

Almighty and Loving God, continue to invite us into the life you have secured for us – a life that is free to love and free to risk and free to follow our Lord, Jesus. Help us to trust that you have set a place for us no matter what the powers of this world may try to say against us. Amen.

Monday, September 15, 2003

Monday, 15 September, 2003

From “The Cross in our Context” by Douglas John Hall

It is easy enough to claim belief in God. But the question that must always to be put to all such claim is, simply, Which God? What is your image of this God in whom you claim belief? What kind of company does your God keep? What does your God ask of you – if anything? And the real challenge, where belief in God is concerned, surely, is whether such belief can be held without presupposing or leading to a subtle yet entirely effective disbelief in the ultimate worth and meaning of life, creaturely life. So much religion is rooted in an implicit despair of creaturehood.

Most folks say they believe in God. It’s almost as though that puts us all on the same page…as long as you believe in God… But Hall makes a point we must take very seriously – Which God!?! It’s the same way he deals with a question by a student in one of his books. The student says he doesn’t believe in God. Hall doesn’t try to argue with him or persuade him to believe in God. Rather, he asks the student to tell him about the God he doesn’t believe in. When the student is done, Hall agrees and says “I don’t believe in that God either.” So often our references to God are like references to pain medication in a drug store. There are all kinds and then there are knock offs of every kind. And yet, we tend to refer to them as though they are the same. But they are not! Our God is not a generic God. Our God commits to our humanity and life in this world. Our God is one who pulls our attention down to earth so that we may see what God has in store for us here and now and forever more.

Connection: What does your God ask of you…anything? I think this is a good way to enter into this day. The questions demand a living answer but it also demand that we know a bit about the God who is asking…what kind of life does God call forth from us?

Lord, lead us into the many mundane tasks of this day as though each one is an opportunity to share in the abundant life you bring to all your children. When we want to flee from the life around us, remind us of your presence within this day and within the activities of our lives. Amen.

Friday, September 12, 2003

Friday, 12 September, 2003

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

Can we be sure that a free God will not turn away from creatures and stop loving? Can we be sure that God will not be engulfed, overpowered by vulnerability? If God is with us in love today but perhaps not tomorrow or the next day, then God cannot be, in the words of the Scots Confession, the one “ whom only we must worship, and in whom alone we must put our trust.” It is therefore important that the God encountered in the biblical narratives remains trustworthy loving, even amid the risks of vulnerability.

“The grass withers, the flower fades; but the word of our God will stand forever. (Isaiah 40:8)

There’s that promise that will have no end. It not only sits there, this promise brings life to those who are lifted up by the mere mention of God’s enduring word. People have stepped into a whole new way of life trusting that God keeps God’s promise and never fails. God’s promise to be the love that will sustain us invites us to trust and to love within our own lives. It is a word that calls forth acts of vulnerability with the assurance that God will never be far from us and therefore we will always be upheld and empowered.

Connection: It is not easy to trust something we cannot see. And yet, we are invited to live a new life today by a spoken promise. So…

By your Word of life we stand within this day, O God, trusting that you will be with us in all things and that your love for us will be our life forever and ever. Amen.

Wednesday, September 10, 2003

Thursday, 11 September, 2003

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

Only a God “weak in power but strong in love” can be strong enough to take on all the world’s pain and die on a cross. Trust in such a God can give human beings the strength to risk following on the path of compassion and vulnerability, to think what it means to live lives whose first priority is love. In a broken and complex world, we Christians may sometimes find ourselves driven to force and even violence in spite of our best intentions, but we need to acknowledge that to choose such alternatives is always to admit a failure of imagination, a concession to weakness, always to have betrayed the image of the power of love we have encountered in the powerless Jesus on the cross.

I was not sure what to do on this anniversary of the crashing of four jets and the devastation of so many lives in so many places on September 11, 2001. This just happened to be the next piece from Placher’s book. “Only a God ‘weak in power but strong in love’ can be strong enough to take on all the world’s pain and die on a cross.” We are not a people who move through the horror and brutality of our world by responding in just such violence and hatred. By the power of the Holy Spirit we are always led into the pathway of peace. Yes, that will mean great lamentation and unbearable grief and loneliness that rips at our hearts, but it also means there is no end…never an end…to God’s loving presence that will shape new life. Unfortunately, when we are being consumed by the pain of the day, we do not often let ourselves follow the way of peace for it demands our whole life and it demands that we let go of our desire to destroy or hurt or harm those who would take our lives from us. Love is a dynamic that is not well known among us. And yet, our God abides in love and calls us to rest in God alone.

Connection: In place of the brutality of the world that comes through both words and actions, how can there be a space and time in this day in which we can abide in God’s love put to life? There are ways.

Compassionate Lord, you know what it is to suffer loss and be left out alone to endure the acts of a fear-filled world. Be with all those who are in the grip of the pains and dangers of our world. Be the resting place and the comforting moment that brings healing and wholeness. Amen.

Wednesday, 10 September, 2003

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

Force and power are, in (Hannah) Arendt’s terms, the alternatives to real power, they are where one turns when one is too weak to dare risking vulnerability. In that sense, it is the “powers and principalities” that seem to dominate our world that lack the real power and the vulnerable God encountered in the biblical narratives who most manifests it. In the Fourth Gospel, Jesus wins his argument with Pilate about power; Pilate is so important that all he can do is turn to the violence of crucifixion.

Striking our, physically or verbally, keeps the distance between one and the other. To bridge that distance, we must be vulnerable, that is, be willing to take the step out over what appears to be an abyss. And yet, the promise is that the abyss cannot consume us. In fact, it is the way to wholeness. It is just as we use the image of the wilderness. Why would one venture out across the wilderness…what good can come from there? Well…life. Often the risk of taking off and going out beyond what has been our safe ground brings life unlike anything we have experienced before our adventure started. We all know what we are like now…what our relationships are like now…but what about after we take the risk to walk more deeply into our relationships…what will it be like then? Not knowing what will be is not an excuse to stay put.

Connection: Take the next step…it may be the first step…but it is only the next step in a journey of divine vulnerability.

By the power of your Holy Spirit, lead us more deeply into our experience of life within your blessed Reign. We can be afraid and anxious to move beyond what is and yet beyond what is…is the promise of life in you. Let it come to blossom among us. Amen.

Tuesday, September 9, 2003

Tuesday, 9 September, 20003

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

If God will be with us in our suffering, and God’s love sustains us, however, then we can dare to love and live the risks entailed in the realm between heaven and hell where we dwell and to which God freely came. The kinds of risk that the security of knowing god’s love permits, therefore, are not just a kind of bonus but part of what it means to be fully human, just as the capacity for vulnerable love without limit is part of what it means to be God.

I find this to be a profound way of talking about being fully human. We are on a daring adventure and we are able to enter that adventure of love because we can always be assured that God’s love for us will never be taken from us…it will be our rock and foundation even as we must endure the realities that come to us as loving people in or warring world.

Connection: Hey, if this day feels as though it is some place between heaven and hell remember that it is just the place to begin loving our neighbor and our enemy. For that is what makes us truly God’s humanity – beloved.

By your love your sustain us, O God. And within the freedom of our lives you walk with us through the ways of your love that may be of risk to us as we go along your way. Always send your Spirit to hold us up and move us more deeply into your loving presence. Amen.

Monday, September 8, 2003

Monday, 8 September, 2003

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

“To love at all,” C.S. Lewis once wrote, “is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one….It will be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, and irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell.”

…for in Hell, we find the perfect place to maintain our separation from one another. When we can stay separate from one another, we do not risk the pains that come when we share ourselves. When we share ourselves with others, there is going to be time of brokenness, sadness, and pain that come with the times of joy, celebration and healing. A loving relationship means that we are brought into the whole life story of another person. The whole life story will be filled with every emotion on the spectrum. And yet, to give up giving ourselves away to others (loving others) will leave us with little life at all. In fact, that kind of separation or isolation does indeed have the making of Hell within it. And yet, when we pull away from other because we fear being vulnerable, we do not see the Hell that is coming by our refusal to enter deeply into relationship with others.

Connection: Never isolate…it is deadly for those around us and it is deadly for ourselves. The healthiest people tend to be those who have multiple relationships and are not afraid to give themselves away. Go for it.

O Lord, pull our lives into the domain of your love so that we may be a part of the beauty of your loving Reign that comes to life as we share ourselves with those around us. Encourage us to risk our lives in loving relationships even when we know the possibility of pain and sorrow that will be a part of our life together. Amen.

Friday, September 5, 2003

Friday, 5 September, 2003

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

Placher makes the point that he has been writing about God’s vulnerability, not God’s suffering.

It seemed important to resist the claim that suffering is good… The freedom to love is good, and that freedom risks suffering and, in a sinful world full of violence and injustice, will always encounter it sooner or later. Love does not regret the price it pays for making itself vulnerable, but to speak of paying a price is in itself to acknowledge that the suffering itself is an evil. Vulnerability, on the other hand, is a perfection of loving freedom.

That openness that allows us to give of ourselves is a gift that is given freely because we are connect…because we love. Love helps us bridge the gap between one another. “Love reunited the separated” one author writes. To “bridge” and to “reunite” takes place within an action of vulnerability. God bridges the gap between God and humanity in the life, death, & resurrection of Jesus. We bridge the gaps within our broken lives by loving…by risking harm and possibly paying a price for loving when loving seems so unless in a violent and broken world as ours. And yet, we are encouraged to love as we have been loved by God. Risk being vulnerable!

Connection: Step in and love. And if we need some help with the loving, we are encouraged to seek out another one of God’s beloved children to be of some encouragement. We are also told that the Holy Spirit will be our encouragement…the power to love today.

Send your Holy Spirit into this day as the power to move us beyond the limits of life and loving we have set for ourselves so that we may experience the life that is a part of your promised Reign. Healing Lord, as you once gave so lovingly to the world that we may be healed and made whole, give us this day the life of your love so that it will shine through us for all we meet. Amen.

Wednesday, September 3, 2003

Thursday, 4 September, 2003

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

“God has a heart. (God) can feel, and be affected. (God) is not impassible. (God) cannot be moved from outside by an extraneous power. But this does not mean that (God) is not capable of moving (God’s self). No, God is moved and stirred, yet not like ourselves in powerlessness, but in (God’s) own free power, in (God’s) innermost being.” - Karl Barth

Love and the unexpected moment can catch us into risking vulnerability almost in spite of ourselves, but God does not need to be pushed into the full consequences of living out love, for in freely loving, God is most of all who God is, most exemplifying the kind of power God has.

In many ways I suppose we teach that God can be moved…but God is actually moved to simply be God. We do not pray to manipulate God to be our kind of God…a servant of our wants and greeds. We pray that our God will be for us…the God of promise. That God always is one that demonstrates power through love for that it as Barth writes, God’s “innermost being.” That’s God! God will be loving – no pushing needed. God will love and in the utter freedom of that loving, God creates new hearts in God’s people so that we too may be free to love.

Connection: We would do well to pray for God’s loving presence in this day so that we may enter into that loving and become a part of its power within the many interactions we will face.

Lord God, take us by the hand and lead us along the pathway of the power of your love. Show us what is created within this day as your love springs to life to engage our world with compassion and loving kindness that is often unheard of in our world. Amen.

Tuesday, September 2, 2003

Wednesday, 3 September, 2003

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

Sheer power, Barth says, “is not merely neutral. Power in itself is evil. It is nothing less than freedom from restraint and suppression.” Sheer power in that sense is not the adult’s thoughtful command of the situation but the infant’s worst willfulness grown beyond restraint, mad Caligula made emperor of Rome. “It is blasphemy to ascribe this kind of power to God.” But God’s power is the power of love, which does not seek to dominate, which does not act arbitrarily…but acts consistently in love which authentically concerns itself for others.

Love shapes the power of the Reign of God. It therefore is the shaping force behind the power that ignites our very being as children of God. How we move…how we face our neighbor and our enemy…how we enter into discussions and dig into the life concerns of our world – are all touched by the hand of our God who…loves. To fight and lash out and yell and destroy are met with an embrace that reminds us of the possibilities for life that are unleashed when God’s love leads us and guides us. God’s love takes us on an adventure hardly popular…but profoundly joy filled.

Connection: How will our day be seasoned with “authentic concern for others” which is at the heart of the love that is given to us by our God?

Loving Lord, wrap us up with your loving kindness that we may spin out into this day with the memory of what it is like to be empowered by a love that is far beyond the life we would lead on our own. O Prince of Peace, be our way of love and our power to stand within this day as your beloved. Amen.

Tuesday, 2 September, 2003

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

How can a suffering God help? ...a suffering God can help, first of all, by being, in Alfred Nor Whitehead’s famous phrase, “the fellow-sufferer who understands.” To know in the midst of isolation that rejection and suffering often generate that someone always understands is in itself to be significantly empowered “to bear the pain, to resist the humiliation, to overcome the guilt.” Beyond that, God suffers because God is vulnerable, and God is vulnerable because God loves – and it is love, not suffering or even vulnerability, that is finally the point. God can help because God acts out of love, and love risks suffering. A God defined in terms of power is precisely not a reliable rescuer, because power provides no guarantee of concern, and power, in the way most cultures have most often used the word, too often grows out of a fear of vulnerability that makes really reaching out in love, with all the risks entailed, impossible.

God loves…and all the actions of creation begin. God loves…and that which…was not…or could not…or will not ever be…is. God comes to us and is with us without hesitation for God’s love bridges any and all separation…even when we try to create the separation and work to keep it in place. God’s love will risk all things in order to have us experience God with us…with us with no conditions. That is the truth of which we are assured in the Good News…the blessed assurance that can sustain and revive broken hearts or lives that have reached the end of all things.

Connection: To trust such a love is to live within the domain of the peace of God. We are each invited to venture into that realm of new life…today.

Your love, O God, is beyond our expectations and creates the possibilities in our lives that we would never let ourselves consider. Let your love be our love and let that love shape the very breath of our lives. Amen.