Friday, October 31, 2003

Friday, 31 October, 2003

We begin with pieces from “Ethics” by Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

Already in the New Testament there is no single question put by (people) to Jesus which Jesus answers with an acceptance of the human either-or that every such question implies. Every one of Jesus’ answers, to the questions of His enemies and of His friends alike, leaves this either-or behind it in a way which shames the questioner. Jesus does not allow Himself to be invoked as an arbiter in vital questions: He refuses to be held by human alternatives. “Man, who made me judge or divider over you?” (Luke 12:14).

The bind of either-or places us all on an edge. It is often assumed that we must pick this side or that side. But why?!? Jesus is a good model for us when it comes to the games we all play with the categories of good and evil. The Reign of God does not come down on this side or that side of what we may want to designate as the appropriate ways to act. The Reign of God comes from the very origin of life before we started messing with what we think is good or evil. The wonderful imagery of the unity within God’s Reign or the unity we say is the essence of the Body of Christ does not let our need to judge all things according to our whim and study and analysis, prevail. God’s will for peace and justice and mercy and forgiveness and reconciliation and unity seem to be the prevailing winds of God’s Reign.

Connection: Let’s take note of the winds that are blowing around us today. That Spirit is still blowing as it has always blown…and we cannot control it even when we think we can.

Send us off, O God, into the ways of your blessed Reign. Yes we may want to have things go our way and we will even try to put your blessing on our will, but we still know that you are Lord of all and we need your Spirit’s power to awaken us to your light of new life. Amen.

Wednesday, October 29, 2003

Thursday, 30 October, 2003

We begin with pieces from “Ethics” by Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

Again note that I deliberately make the Pharisee male & female so that we are not merely speaking of the historical group of people but rather a broad type of people/thought.

Any distorted picture of the Pharisees robs Jesus’ argument with them of its gravity and its importance. The Pharisee is that extremely admirable (person) who subordinates his/her entire life to his/her knowledge of good and evil and is as severe a judge of him/her self as of his/her neighbor to the honor of God, whom s/he humbly thanks for this knowledge. For the Pharisee every moment of life becomes a situation of conflict in which s/he has to choose between good and evil. For the sake of avoiding any lapse his/her entire thought is strenuously devoted night and day to the anticipation of the whole immense range of possible conflicts, to the reaching of a decision in these conflicts, and to the determination of his own choice.

Most often when I refer to the Pharisees in stories within the gospels, I like to say that these are really good people who care greatly about the life of the people of God. What they do and say is not “bad.” Rather, it does draw into contrast the notion of living within the domain of the knowledge of good and evil and living within the boundaries of the will of God. As Bonhoeffer’s writing shows, there is this ever increasing need to “manage” good and evil…to watch it…to make judgments…to be the referee, and to set up the world in which such management is the goal and moving force in life. That is tragic. Jesus often seems saddened by such actions and voices from the Pharisees because the Reign of God does not demand that we are to be such gatekeepers. There is a vision for life that is shaped by God for us in Jesus that does not need gatekeepers to be judge and control our world.

Connection: So…what do we know about good and evil? I would say much. Then, it would be good for us to think about how much we know about the gracious story of God’s love as see in Jesus. What brings more life and joy and freedom and mercy into this day? It may be a good way to enter into the many moments of the day at hand.

Precious Lord, let your refreshing breath of life whip around us so that our every breath may be filled with the life you bring to all things. By the gift of your Spirit, we are lifted up to see the love of you Reign and in that love, re-view all things around us. Amen

Wednesday, 29 October, 2003

We begin with pieces from “Ethics” by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Attempts will be made to reduce the male imagery in the text.

In writing about “good and evil” Bonhoeffer moves into a section labeled “The Pharisee.”

It is in Jesus’ meeting with the Pharisee that the old and the new are most clearly contrasted. The correct understanding of this meeting is of the greatest significance for the understanding of the gospel as a whole. The Pharisee is not an adventitious historical phenomenon of a particular time. (The Pharisee) is the (person) to whom only the knowledge of good and evil has come to be of importance in his/her entire life; in other words, s/he is simply the human of disunity.

In this passage, I did not need to make the language inclusive. There were only male Pharisees. But the “Pharisee” stands for all of us when the knowledge of good and evil has taken over a primary role in the defining of life – our own and the lives of others. For now –when we are on the hunt for good and evil - we are known by our disunity. The vision of being one within God’s beloved reign becomes lost and when that happens, the wonder of our humanity that comes with creation is diminished. Attempting to define what is good and evil, we begin to hold everyone suspect and we do not let ourselves share in the joy and beauty of one another’s presence. In our longing to be like God…to judge what is good and evil…we find only disunity and sorrow.

Connection: Put on your Pharisee glasses today and see how many times they appear. Remember to keep them on when you look in the mirror too.

Creating God, you have given us a grand place within your Creation. By the power of your Holy Spirit, keep us from our many attempts to be more than what you have made us to be. Enlighten us so that we may be at peace within the gifted life you have given us and trust that you will bring us into abundant life as we trust in you alone. Amen.

Monday, October 27, 2003

Tuesday, 28 October, 2003

We begin with pieces from “Ethics” by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Attempts will be made to reduce the male imagery in the text.

In the knowledge of good and evil humanity does not understand itself in the reality of the destiny appointed in his/her origin, but rather in his/her own possibilities, his/her possibility of being good or evil. Humanity now knows itself as something apart from God, outside God, and this means that s/he now knows only her/his self and no longer knows God at all; for s/he can know God only if s/he knows only God. The knowledge of good and evil is therefore separation from God. Only against God can humanity know good and evil.

For in God there is “Good.” Isn’t that the creation banner word? In creation God sees and creates things that are good. But then, we take the step to make our own decisions about what is good and what is not…what deserves to be called evil and not. Very quickly, the relationship we have with our Creator and with one another…goes down the tubes. The possibility of being our own source of deciding between good and evil is powerful. The next thing we know, God’s vision for humanity becomes a secondary vision to the vision we would hold for ourselves…as though the world is ours to divide up and rule.

Connection: Our prayer in this day would be that we would continue to ask God to draw us ever more close to God’s unfolding reign and into dialogue with others so that “our way” does not become the idolatrous way it always will…without God’s Spirit leading us.

Creator who brings all things into existence, as we turn-in-on-ourselves and turn away from you, send your Holy Spirit to pull us back into your guiding and loving embrace that we may continue to see our life in new ways. Amen.

Monday, 27 October, 2003

We begin with pieces from “Ethics” by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Attempts will be made to soften the heavy male imagery.

Already in the possibility of the knowledge of good and evil Christian ethics discerns a falling away from the origin. (Humanity) in (its) origin knows only one thing: God. It is only in the unity of (humanity’s) knowledge of God that (one) knows of other (people), of things, and of one’s self. (Humanity) knows all things only in God, and God in all things. The knowledge of good and evil shows that (humanity) is no longer at one with this origin.

I will be spending a few days dealing with this notion of the “knowledge of good and evil” because it will form an interesting foundation for a look at the Reign of God in contrast to living simply a “good” life. In the beginning…at the origin of all things…we are told of a relationship with God in which we have a focus for life that flows from God. Therefore, there is a creative unity with God and one another. There is no competition to see who is best or who can out perform others or who is living in a “right” or “wrong” manner. Instead, our origin springs forth from the God who blesses and makes all things whole – united – one. When we begin to take our eyes off of that ground of creation and begin to test our ability to evaluate this and that…something becomes lost and there begins a never ending downward spiral where disunity reigns.

Connection: Good and Evil…how often during the day do we divide our world into such categories? But then, what are we using for our criteria for such division? Prayerfully we must wrestle with the vision that comes from before good and evil attempt to divide this day. We may begin by simple asking one another – who says this or that is good or evil…and why do we have to hold the same ideas?

Creator of All Things, bind us together within the vision of your shalom so that we may continue to re-view your blessed creation and the position in which you have placed us as your beloved children. Turn our hearts to you alone. Amen

Friday, October 24, 2003

Friday, 24 October, 2003

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

The truth that the cross of Christ embodies about us is certainly that we are loved by God, but that we are loved as prodigals, as problematic creatures, as beings whose alienation from God, from one another, from ourselves, and from the inarticulate creation is so great that we will accept love only on our terms, when it corresponds with our desire to be affirmed without asking of us that we become authentic and without requiring of us any depth of commitment comparable to the love that is being shown us.

The love of God that shines through the cross of Christ expects to see love created in its availability. Loved by God we are pierced by an arrow that deflates our egos that tend to rule us and guide us and cheapen our own loving. Such love –love from the cross -bids us to be authentic children of God whose lives reflect the love we have been shown unconditionally and eternally. The Good News is always news that sweeps us off our feet and then sets us down in a place that is the beginning of the Way of the cross…the Way of Jesus…the Way, the Truth, & the Life.

Connection: The cross is the first word for us as we step into this day. God for us, God with us, God sending us into this day with the gifts we have been given and with the courage to share them with the world – even unto death.

Lord, take us and make us wholly yours as we step into all the moments that we will enter within this day. Encourage us to make your love our loving. Amen.

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

Thursday, 23 October, 2003

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

The most successful churches on this continent are those that present Jesus and the divine kingdom as the most desirable sort of “product” that one could ever want to acquire. Where is the Good Friday – or, indeed, the East – motif? The Gospels record that upon the arrest and condemnation of Jesus, all his followers “forsook him and fled,” and the resurrection at least in the earliest account (that of Mark) produced in its first witnesses not Easter-lily jubilation but “terror and amazement” (Mark 16:8). How does it happen that the whole population of the United States of America manifests, according to the assumptions of megachurchianity, a strong compulsion to get as close to Jesus as possible? What a marvel!

I am always perplexed by what it means when we are called to follow Jesus. Sometimes I must admit that perplexed is a good English word to describe what was going on in Mary when the angel comes and tell her what is to be. Perplexed! It’s kind of like “okay…but what, how, when, are you sure?!?” The wide open arms of the Reign of God are the source of all comfort but also the source of the greatest times of perplexity. For with open arms comes more than I can imagine fitting into my vision and my grasp. The cross and the resurrection are frightening events. And yet, they pull us beyond ourselves into a vision for life that does not settle for what is always the status quo. That….has never has been an attractive vision in this world. We like success and measurable goals and standards that can be met and exceeded. How do we exceed death and resurrection? We cannot. To follow Jesus is to be brought down low and lifted up high through the sheer grace of God that beckons us to give our life within the loving of others. Sometimes I think it is better for us to grow in depth of “Reign of God” character than to spend our time thinking about what will sell in the marketplace.

Connection: What does it mean for you to get “really close to Jesus” today? What life will come from such a question? Here’s where we must use our faithful imaginations and go for it.

Lord of All Life, take us and hold us…shake us and move us…pull us into your blessed Reign and grant us the peace to be a part of your liberating Word. Amen.

Wednesday, 22 October, 2003

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

Israel itself, as the name suggests, “struggles with God,” “contends with the Unnamable” - and for the very understandable reason that its election is an election not to privilege but to a responsibility, a priestly and prophetic existence, that can never be devoid of pain. The late Paul E. Scherer, regarded by many as the greatest preacher of his era, used to point out that in the newer Testament the kingdom of heaven is customarily depicted, poetically, as a great feast, a bounteous banquet – from which, ironically, everyone wants to stay away. St. Paul himself, the most articulate and fervent apostle of the early church, could only be brought into the sphere of Christ’s lordship kicking and screaming and only remained within it because of a “necessity” (destiny) that, he said, “is laid upon me” (1 Corinthians 9:16).

In the margin of this piece I have simply written, “Whoa!” We are called to into the blessed struggle that is the way of Jesus. Why have we been working so hard to turn the church into a gathering of people we look to attract as though we have to offer them a gold ring…or at least something that will please them so that they will come back? No, I’m not against outreach and hospitality – but what about the cross…what about the call to be banquet people whose presence is dictated by the God who opens the doors and says, “Come in, my beloved.” Then from that banquet we are propelled out as the banquet people who carry out the dinner, you could say, to the world…free for all. But I know that this “free for all” part doesn’t settle well…never has. Remember that just because it doesn’t settle well…doesn’t mean that it is not the Way. Called to honor one another…to love one another…to sacrifice for one another – is a journey over which we struggle much.

Connection: Let’s keep struggling and standing with one another and awaiting the Holy Spirit as it whips us into the body of Christ again and again…even today.

Wrestling God, it is amazing that you come into our lives to make us a people because we can be so opposed to your ways. And yet, again and again, you come and you love and you nourish and you promise to carry us, if need be, into your promised Reign. Praise be to you! Amen.

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

Tuesday, 21 October, 2003

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

There is that in the humans, however it got there, that resists and rejects the god who is (to use Tillich’s well-known expression) “God-beyond-God” or in Martin Buber’s similar term the God who is “more than merely God,” that is, the God who transcends our idols, our imaginings, and (yes) our Theologies. Consistently and with great poetic skill, the Scriptures of both Testaments demonstrate that humankind from the mythic Adam of the first Garden to the historical Adam of the second Garden, Gethsemane, “cannot stand God.” Even Jesus…pleads with God to “remove the cup,” to take away the destiny that is his vocation. And between the two gardens every one of the prophets tries valiantly to resist his or her calling.

The resistance makes sense. It is resistance of the way of the cross. It is resistance of life that is concerned with the welfare of all and life that then acts in accordance with that concern. It is life shaped by sacrificial love. It makes sense that people would resist and even reject such life. This God of ours is the one who does not settle for isolation and separation. There will always be the pulling of the Spirit to make us one – and that means that we may have to give up some of what we have claimed is our way…our right way…so that whatever divides us may be removed and we may be bound together within the vision of God’s Reign.

Connection: Everyday, we enter the garden and ask not to be moved so far as to “really be” such followers of Jesus. Something like Jesus will do…but not all the way…to the cross. So, when will that garden scene take place today and how will we move within the garden?

Loving Lord, be our rock and the place upon which we can walk into your Reign this day as we are moved by you to enter and live a new life. When we are unsure and afraid of what is to come, remind us that you come along with us and have already gone before us to prepare the great banquet feast for all. Amen.

Monday, October 20, 2003

Monday, 20 October, 2003

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

The cross of Jesus Christ expresses a grave realism concerning human alienation. The crucified Christ represents (re-presents) the ultimate yes of God to the human creature, and therefore to creation as a whole. But the crucified Christ also represents the ultimate no of the human creature to its Creator, and therefore also to its own creature-hood… “Whatever else the cross may tell us,” wrote the late Hendrikus Berkhof, “it certainly proves that we cannot stand God and that (God) must be eliminated if he comes too close to us.”

As much as we turn to the cross of Christ as that “yes” of God…a “yes” that goes all the way into the pain and suffering and death of humankind…the cross of Christ does remind us of how humankind says “no” in the face of our God who is eternally for us. The grace of God is wonderful if it is kept at a distance, like something we can observe, contemplate or study. Then again, when God comes into our own shoes – calls us to walk within God’s Reign – invites us to partake in a life that is self-sacrificing for the welfare of others, we very often back off or run away. It is by the power of the Holy Spirit that this story of God for us in all things is a story that we can grasp and enter. Otherwise, we are quick to condemn it all. Grace is not something that fits well into the ways of our world…unless of course we simply want to write or talk about it.

Connection: Does your day ever bring you into a situation in which God has come too close to you? Can you come to grips with how we then have a way of avoiding or pushing away God’s gracious presence for another way to live?

O Lord, let your Spirit take hold of us so that we may be open to your gracious Reign and begin to walk within its life-giving power. When we are afraid of the way of the cross, encourage us as our Lord, Jesus, comes to walk with us into a new life now and forever. Amen.

Thursday, October 16, 2003

Friday, 17 October, 2003

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

…Golgotha does affirm (with Jesus’ earlier teaching) that “for mortals [what is asked of human life] is impossible,” but more strongly still it insists that “for God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26). And the cross of Jesus is above all God’s dispensatio (economy, stratagem), however much it may also be of humankind’s instrumentality. What it tells us of human capabilities is that we are capable of great evil. But what it (the cross) tells us of God’s capability for us – pro nobis – is that great good may come even out of our evil intentions and acts.

Through us God works amazing things. Yes, we may be a broken people capable of great evil in many ways, but we are also the instruments of God’s creative movement in the world…a movement marked with the cross of Christ forever. Yes, from common people like all of us, God breathes into creation a life that is self-sacrificing and wholly concerned with the peace making and healing of all. The cross excludes no one. How is it that Christians have become known as the great dividers and masters of exclusion? It is as though we are afraid of the God who come to be with us in the cross. Let us not be afraid to open our arms and make the evil powers of our world do what they will but we will not join them in their vision of division, hatred and exclusion. We do, live by grace alone, don’t we!?!?!

Connection: There will be bad things within our day….maybe even evil things. That is life within the human community. But then, God call us to be something new within the brew of creation. God will be with us all the way, so we can stand up against whatever will come our way.

Lord, encourage us to live within the merciful Reign of our Crucified Lord, Jesus. Amen.

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

Thursday, 16 October, 2003

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

Again, writing about humanity:

As Pascal put it, “(Humanity) is only a reed, the feeblest thing in nature; but (s/he) is a thinking reed.”

Gospel today, it seems to me must have something to do with the recovery of the high anthropology that is the presupposition of the cross of Jesus Christ. The Christian ethic…must surely accentuate human responsibility, under God, rather than the kind of moralism that feels constrained to warn humankind at every turn about the limitations and dangers of all its thoughts, words, and deeds.

It is very unfortunate that the Church is often seen as a bunch of moralists. As though that is what we are all about. We become moralists when we want to control the world around us and lack the faith in our God who makes us into responsible human beings who are gifted by the Holy Spirit to envision a life that springs forth from the promise God makes to us…to be our God!!! Yes, we must be ever aware of our capacity for evil…and less than good, but we are also capable of beauty and love and kindness and mercy that transforms life as we let go of our need to control and trust that God will do marvelous things through these “thinking reeds.” I find that we can be so anxious about what may come in our lives there is a great temptation to buy into any quick fix that may come our way and moralism frequently fits the bill but does not give us the life within God’s Reign….that is…always…a GIFT!

Connection: What is it that we hope to gain when we are tempted to trust in following some moralistic road rather than the Way of the cross of Jesus? It may be worth asking this when we see and hear the voices of moralism spring up in others and ourselves.

Lord, You lead us and you promise to make this day into another piece of the life within your glorious Reign. Empower us to be patient and trust in you alone as we walk through the events of this day. Amen.

Wednesday, 15 october, 2003

Note: Monday through Wednesday's devotions will be from the July 2000 archives

Text: Matthew 8:5-13

When he entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, appealing to him and saying, "Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, in terrible distress." And he said to Hime, " I will come and cure him." The centurion answered, " Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; but only speak the word, and my servant will be healed. For I also am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to one,'Go,' and he goes and to another, 'Come,' and he comes, and to my slave, 'Do this,' and the slave does it." When Jesus heard him, he was amazed and said to those who followed him, "truly I tell you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith. I tell you, many will come from east and west and will eat with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, while the heirs of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." And to the centurion Jesus said, "Go; let it be done for you according to your faith." And the servant was healed in that hour.

When I was growing up in the Roman Catholic church, one of the liturgical responses we would make right before the distribution of Holy Communionion was, "Lord I am not worthy that you should come under my roof, speak but the word and my soul shall be healed." Unfortunately, there were many who could not allowed to come to the meal even though they would speak those words. My father and mother were examples of those. Because my father's first wife divorced him while he was in the Pacific during WWII and then years later he married my mother, they were excluded from the table. In our gospel lesson for today, we are looking at quite another picture. Trusting Jesus' authority prompts Jesus to delcare the "beginning of God's rule and it will transcend all social and ethnic boundaries." Jesus is Lord of all...all. One group is not excluded or favored over another one. Rather, those who trust in God's Reign will come from all corners of the world and all people - trusting in God's gracious Reign and the power for new life is all that matters. Even a Gentile, Roman, pagan comes to the banquet of God's Reign. Trust alone in God.

Connection: Remember, we welcome all as the Spirit brings them to trust in the love of God as seen in Jesus. When we hear people talk about Jesus as Lord, is the Lordship of their Jesus one that shows him to be the Lord of God's unconditional love or is he Lord of something else. We have too many images of Jesus and the Good News as something you must "fit into." Not. It is an open door through which we, like this outsider, may enter and ask for life.

Precious Lord, take my hand, lead me home, help me stand...and bring your love and grace around us to encourage our trust in you and our love for all who count on you to make our lives whole. Amen.

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

Tuesday, 14 October, 2003

Text: Matthew 8:1-4

Note: Monday through Wednesday's devotions will be from the July 2000 archives

When Jesus had come down from the mountain, great crowds followed him; and there was a leper who came to him and knelt before him, saying, "Lord, if you choose, you can make me clean." He stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, " I do choose. Be made clean!" Immediatesly his leprosy was cleansed. Then Jesus said to him, ? See that you say nothing to anyone; but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, a s testimony to them."

Not only does Jesus have the leper healed, he chooses to be defiled - made unclean by touching the leper. He doesn't simply say "be clean" - he touches him! In essence, Jesus becomes like the leper. And yet, withing the Reign of God there are no lepers to be excluded. In fact, Jesus goes to touch him - even as he is still a leper. The leper's faith is amazing for he already expects that Jesus can make all things whole...if he chooses. The way thing were, there was just the pronouncement of his leprosy and his condition of being outcast...that's all the "religion" did for the leper. The religious action in the past was come back and we will check you to see if you ever get rid of this disorder. But with Jesus makes clean all people. Usually the unclean makes the clean - unclean. But for Jesus, it is reversed. The clean make the unclean - clean and once again a part of the whole people and not left out anymore.

Connection: We have the power as followers of Jesus to make those considered unclean - clean - welcome - whole. Notice the change in attitude when we see things like that. What an openness is available to us! Today, take note of what it is in your life that you consider unclean. ( One author notes that dirt - to use another idea around unclean - is simply matter out of place. Maybe it is our calling to make sure that which is "out of place" can have a place.

God of an ever-expanding love, encourage us to step forward and let the world know that we choose to make all people whole and that we will be instruments of the making of shalom (wholeness) in our world. Amen

Monday, October 13, 2003

Monday, 13 October, 2003

Text: Matthew 7:24-27

Note: Monday through Wednesday's devotions will be from the July 2000 archives.

Everyon then who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, becausse it had been founded on rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against the house, and it fell - and great was the fall.

You are the beloved of God. You...yes you. Now what difference does that make. Do we build our lives according to such news..such truth or do we not. And, in addition, do we live our lives as though that is the word about others or not. This text is for people who hear the word...that's us. The people who hear the Good News...all go through the same life storms...we are not "saved from" the storminess of everyday life just because we follow Jesus. And yet, do we go through the storms knowing something solid about ourselves...something that cannot be washed away by the trial of the day or are we swept away. I would be the first to say I can easily be swept away. Then again, in the midst of a community of others who have heard the word of God's grace, I can be encouraged and from there stand up to the storms.

Connection: Stand on the rock today. Stand on the one who say "you the one!" And then...go about the things of the day and seize it as a follower of Jesus.

O God of our foundation, keep us firmly grounded in your word of truth so that when the winds of life blow against us, we may be fortified by your presence and secure within your life-giving word. AMen.

Friday, October 10, 2003

Friday, 10 October, 2003

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

If the cross is understood as a statement about God, then it must also and therefore be seen as the most astonishing affirmation of the grandeur of the human creature of God… Biblical faith dares to claim that this creature is the beloved of Eternity itself-not, certainly, as a species above all the others, but as the priestly creature upon whose shalom the shalom of the whole is contingent.

It is interesting to note that as we speak of God’s activity – especially that of God on the cross – we are also hearing about our own humanity. Yes, we are simply creatures within the wonderful grandeur of creation, but as we hear and see how God affirms our place within creation we are invited to step into what we have come to call the Good News life. This is a life in which we dare to trust what God has done, is doing, and will do to affirm our part in the healing of all creation. In a warring world, that journey of healing or shalom seems almost impossible. And yet, this invitation to be a part of such a vision of shalom is really an invitation to be a part of what God has promised to do among us. We must dare to take God at God’s Word.

Connection: Today the healing of creation demands the prayerful attention of all of us. There is no magic wand. This is not an action that will be done by someone else. It is within this day that the shalom of the Reign of God begins to unfold as we dare to take part in its life journey.

Lord, take us by the hand and lead us into the way of peace for too often we do not believe that just one person is able to have an impact on the condition of life around us let alone the whole creation. And yet, we trust your living word and how you hold us up as your beloved and therefore empower us to bring your loving Reign into this day.

Make us instruments of your shalom in the many activities that come our way today. Amen.

Wednesday, October 8, 2003

Thursday, 9 October, 2003

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

…if there is a cross at the center of this faith it is because the God who is our human source and ground cares infinitely about the creation and , especially, about that creature that is the creation’s articulate center, steward, and representative. Whatever else Christianity may have to say about the human being, its foundational presupposition concerning humankind is irrefutably affirmative.

Hall says that this is a “crowning affirmation.” At the same time, I find that too often we do not consider the place in which God lets us dwell. What a wonderful word about humankind. Yes, we may well be broken and sinful and self-absorbed, but we are also that part of Creation to which God gives a high place and, you might say, great responsibility. The bottom line is the simple fact that we are beloved and that is where the whole story begins. The Word that creates out of nothing creates all things and you are held in the hands of the Creator within a never ending grasp of love, mercy and compassion. From this status, we are sent out to lift high the Reign of God in all we do and hold that Reign as the center of our very being.

Connection: Okay, so the day may not be going so well. But know this: God Reigns and that will always bring a word of affirmation into each of our lives. That…is a powerful place to start each moment.

Creator of all things great and small, in the midst of this world you lift us up to be your stewards and you endow us with gifts to help bring the creation into your realm of peace. We give you thanks for the possibilities for new life that will come within our reach this day. Amen.

Tuesday, October 7, 2003

Wednesday, 8 October, 2003

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

Continuing with a look at our human context (Tuesday’s reading is in regular print)

Faith…sees behind and beyond the brutality and ugliness of the crucifixion as such; it sees the glory (doxa) “hidden beneath it opposite” (Luther). The resurrectional-pentecostal perspective that is faith’s presupposition sees in this scene of ultimate human degradation the ultimate identification and solidarity of the Creator with the creature. From that perspective the cross, as we have seen, is the last step on the journey of the Representative of God toward the world. God would go so far as this to seek the lost sheep, the wayward son, the stranger fallen among thieves, the alienated covenant partner. This, not violence, not the wickedness, and not even the divine wrath against human violence and wickedness – this is the first thing and the last that must be said from the perspective of a theology that finds in the cross of Christ its critical point of vantage on the whole Christian account of life.

“God would go so far as this” to save…to rescue…to bring on home –all of humanity…all of us. This is (as Hall says here and I repeat over and over again) the first and the last word among us. This is the action and word that makes us who we are. This is the source of our identity before God. God sets it and God keeps it and God will not abandon God’s place among us and for us. In the rush to find all the things that are different among us or things that we can claim will separate us from one another, there is this Word of God that is the whole vital story – the only life-giving act for one and all.

Connection: Having a day that may not be the best? You will never be alone in it. Then again, do you know someone whose day is turning out like hell? Your movement into his/her life may be a sign of grace and thus a sign of the Presence of the Reign of God that has the power to knock down the gates of hell’s isolation and separation.

Lord continue to be with us and to make your beloved a part of your loving presence in all our days. Amen.

Monday, October 6, 2003

Tuesday, 7 October, 2003

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

Continuing with a look at our human context:

Faith…sees behind and beyond the brutality and ugliness of the crucifixion as such; it sees the glory (doxa) “hidden beneath it opposite” (Luther). The resurrectional-pentecostal perspective that is faith’s presupposition sees in this scene of ultimate human degradation the ultimate identification and solidarity of the Creator with the creature.

Faith is the starting point of this vision of the human context. Faith comes to us as gift by the power of the Holy Spirit. To see God in, with, & under a scene of “ultimate human degradation” is to see something not possible by simply seeing the event. In the Good News we are told of who is on the cross and who identifies with us – even under such circumstances. That One is the Creator of all things siding with us as creatures within this Creation. It is important to note that we are not made to be anything more than the creatures we are. That does not say little about us. In fact is says much for our God is willing to be “with us” in all of God’s glory right in the middle of everything that seems so mundane.

Connection: This may not be the best day for you in this week…but it is exactly where we are and God entrusts us to be a witness to the wonder and potential of our simple being. Don’t short change the world and this day by not giving it you all…your love…your gifts…your presence among others.

O Lord, out of dust you create humankind and make us co-creators with you in the middle of all the events of this day. Continue to walk with us and to show us the glory of your Reign that springs up around us as we trust in you. Amen

Monday, 6 October, 2003

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

In writing about the human condition, Hall centers his conversation on this thesis:

The cross of Jesus Christ represents simultaneously a high estimate of the human creature, a grave realism concerning human alienation, and the compassionate determination of God to bring humankind to the realization of its potentiality for authenticity.

This past Sunday the letter to the Hebrews described the human condition as “a little lower than angels.” God in Christ, Jesus, enters into our predicament and makes much of who we are. It is an utterly realistic adventure in which all of our humanity is exposed and we are invited to enter into every bit our humanity. We so often speak of our sinfulness and brokenness without getting to what is wonderful about who God creates us to be. To be authentically human is to be exactly who God fashions. Our place is still “lower than angels” but it is our place and in that place we unfold as God’s beloved. In the TV show “Joan of Arcadia,” God attempts to help Joan step into her potential by having her sign up for an AP class – something she would never consider on her own. She does. Her potential seems not to be that she is a smart as her brother, who is in the class also, but rather she is a catalyst for things to happen between people – a real gift of her personhood.

Connection: So in the run of things today, remember your place in God’s creation. Such remembering will bring us all into the wonder and grace and humility that is a part of our humanity.

Creating Lord, you fashion us into a unique people whose lives are meant to be connected so that we may begin to see the potential given to humanity as a whole and each of us as individuals within your grand creation. Remind us of the beauty of the place in which we live. Amen.

Friday, October 3, 2003

Friday, 3 October, 2003

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

Ironically, those who most complain of God’s failure to act godlike, that is, to exercise unmitigated power, are the very ones who are most affronted by any curtailment of their own freedom. They want the world to be what they want the world to be, and the only god they can abide is one whose will coincides perfectly with their own.

It is strange how we put together our own version of what God is to be. Maybe that is why the God of Grace that is thrown upon the cross does not fit for so many people. That God-on-the-cross is unlimited in power to love where so many people would really prefer a god who directs this power to some rather than all. The some are those who are able to live within a certain circle of behavior or trust in a god who is gracious in limited ways. The Crucified God is not molded to the will of the people. The Crucified God demonstrates a love that will not abandon us as we enter more fully into our humanity and the many predicaments of that journey…this God will not take away this journey and give us one of our own creations.

Connection: It would be an interesting exercise to try to identify the various gods that play into this day and when/how we use them. In the same way, it would be important to catch the moments when we are most at home with the God who is most fully revealed in Jesus.

Creator of all that is, we give you thanks for how your love continues to create an unbreakable bond with your people. Even as we go off and play with the gods of our own creating, your love continues to abide and call us home. This day, show us again the way to go home in you. Amen.

Wednesday, October 1, 2003

Thursday, 2 October, 2003

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

“One of Luther’s most profound insights was that God made (God’s) self small for us in Christ. In so doing, (God) left us our freedom and our humanity. (God) showed us (God’s) heart, so that our hearts could be won” [Paul Tillich]. The passage goes on to recognize that the human longing for a God of power and glory is very strong – which is of course why so much religion and so much political ideology can capitalize on it. We yearn for a God who sets everything to rights – indeed, who prevents wrong from occurring in the first place. But in such longings we overlook the fact that to have such a God we should have to relinquish our own freedom and become automatons who could only do right.

Language is wonderful when we are trying to communicate the wondrous love and grace of God. Luther’s “God made God’s self ‘small for us’ in Christ” captures some of very deliberate character of our God. God will be with us…even if God must work out a way to be with us in our smallness…nothing is impossible for God. To look at it another way, God’s greatness is made manifest and concrete in the smallness of our humanity. Our humanity becomes the vehicle for communicating the love and grace of God. Now what does that say about our humanity –yours and mine- when we today claim to be “in Christ, Jesus”?

Connection: Do worry about the smallness of this day. It is the place in which God is made known to the world. You are a part of that very human network of loving communication.

Liberating Lord, you come among us and stir up in our hearts a love that is the power to change the whole of creation. Just as the swirling gases at the beginning of time were transformed into this grand creation, you promise to take our lives and transform them into your gracious word alive for the welfare of all. Praise to you Creator and Spirit, Living Word and Eternal Companion. Amen.