Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Wednesday, 31 December, 2003

This series of devotions are focused around Soren Kierkegaard’s “Christian Discourses etc.” The biblical text to consider during these devotions is: Matthew 6:24-34.

So the rich Christian has abundance but is ignorant of it, and that then is something he must have become. For it requires no art to be ignorant, but to become ignorant, and by becoming so, to be ignorant, that is the art. To this extent the Christian is different from the bird, for the bird is ignorant, but the Christian becomes ignorant; the bird begins with ignorance and ends with it, the Christian ends by being ignorant – and Christianly the question is never raised what a (person) s/he was, but what s/he became, not about the beginning, but about the end.

We teach the faith. We teach what it is to be a follower of Jesus. Yes, we are grabbed by the story. Yes, the Holy Spirit takes us and shakes us and wakes us and makes us into the followers of Jesus, but…in the meantime…in the everyday time from here to there, we teach the faith. We teach about what it is to trust in God alone in the midst of the push and pulls within our lives. In that teaching, you could say we become ignorant of the anxieties of abundance for we find out that there is much more to the precious gift of life within the Reign of God than the things we possess. We set our eyes to the promise of what will come…the gift that is ours already but will come it its fullest expression in the age to come – the great banquet feast! Therefore, the treasure at hand cannot match up with the promise of the treasure of what will be.

Connection: To learn what it is to be a follower of Jesus, we must let ourselves be with others who follow our Lord and do not let any allegiance to any power or object of affection pull us into trusting something other than the one who promises to bring us life both now and forever.

Take us by the hand, O God, and show us the way of your gentle rule so that we may not be anxious about what stand all around us. Encourage our living by setting our eyes on your gracious and loving Reign. Amen.

Monday, December 29, 2003

Tuesday, 30 December, 2003

This series of devotions are focused around Soren Kierkegaard’s “Christian Discourses etc.” The biblical text to consider during these devotions is: Matthew 6:24-34.

The Christian has not this anxiety of abundance. Is then the Christian poor? Certainly there are Christians who are poor; but about that we are not talking here, we are talking about the rich Christian who has riches and abundance, and we are saying that nevertheless s/he has not anxiety. For when one in abundance is without the anxiety of it…through ignorance, s/he is either a bird, or (in case s/he is human and yet like a bird) s/he is a Christian.

Rather than escalating upward - to have more and more - we are invited to rest within enough. This is not simply a matter of money or that which we are able to accumulate. There is also an anxiety about being more…in the sense of position or status. This is not to say that a person should not strive to use one’s gifts and by that rise to another level of expertise or community. Rather, it again has to do with the anxiety we place upon ourselves when we long to be something other than what we are…or to be in a place other than the place in which we stand right now. For when we long to be other than what we are…what a hell of a place is that! I would bet we have all see the discontent of those who long to be elsewhere…or those whose lives are being ruined because they, in a mad rush to be someone or someplace other greater than where they are, have bitten off more than they are able to handle…or more than is needed to satisfy and make them whole. Our abundance can be a place of freedom and joy and need not be a place of anxious preoccupation with where we will be next.

Connection: As you look out over this New Year and begin by looking out over today, know that our God will provide and we are to engage our world with the gifts we have as though we are a part of what brings enough into this day in the name of our God.

Lord of New Life, challenge us in this day by the many gifts you give to us. Help us to see that by your grace we are made to be participants in the wonders that unfold all around us each day. Give us eyes to see the fullness of your Reign as we enter it today. Amen.

Monday, 29 December, 2003

This series of devotions are focused around Soren Kierkegaard’s “Christian Discourses etc.” The biblical text to consider during these devotions is: Matthew 6:24-34.

How is it now that the bird is a teacher? Where is the point of contact in the instruction it imparts? Why! Naturally, it teaches us that surest way to avoid the anxiety of riches and abundance, namely, not to lay up riches and abundance – bearing in mind that one is a traveler; and in the second place, it teaches us…, in abundance to be ignorant of the fact that one has abundance – bearing in mind that one is a traveler… Ah, it is difficult, when one is beautiful, not to know it (a thing, however, which both the bird and the lily can do), still more difficult, when one has abundance, not to know it! But in abundance the bird is as ignorant of the fact that it has abundance as if it did not have it.

As I read this, I thought of the many images of the people who were taken off to the concentration camps by the Nazis. Naturally, people took very personal and important items from their homes as they did not know if they would be coming back to this place. They were right on one count. They would not come back. They were wrong on the other. What they took with them was taken from them by the Nazis. We all have things we hold close like treasure…things from which we would not want to part. But then, we are all set to face the time when no “thing” can be taken with us…no “thing” can define us or be the measure of who we are. The lilies of the field and the birds of the air teach us of the utter worth of our being. Followers of Jesus are told we have a worth before we have any “thing” within our lives. Therefore, our abundance, no matter how that is defined for us, is not of primary concern for us. We can consider the worth of our lives – just as our God has created us.

Connection: We are travelers through this day. What is necessary for us to travel faithfully within the many demands of this day that will be place on us or that we will pick up and take on as our own?

Teach us, O Lord, that you bring to us all that will make us your beloved children. From that point of reference, free us from that burden of our abundance so that we can find within this day the simple joy that comes to those who trust that you are with us and we will be held close to you. Amen.

Thursday, December 25, 2003

Friday, 26 December, 2003

This series of devotions are focused around Soren Kierkegaard’s “Christian Discourses etc.” The biblical text to consider during these devotions is: Matthew 6:24-34.

The measure which God employs in meting out food to the bird is the same measure, if I may say so, which the bird has in its mouth: (God) gives the bird ‘enough’, then the bird measures it and says, ‘It is enough.’ If the little bird quenches its thirst on a dew-drop, which is exactly enough, or if it drinks from the largest lake, it takes just as little, it does not require to have all that it sees, not to have the whole lake because it drinks from it, not to take the lake with it so that it may be secured for its whole life;… When the bird has eaten and drunken it never occurs to it to ask, Where am I to get something the next time? Therefore the poor bird is not poor after all, but it never occurs to it to ask what it shall do with the remainder, with the whole lake, with the immense provision of corn which remains over when the bird has take the three grains which were ‘enough’ – it has not, it does not possess, abundance, and has no the anxiety of it.

“It does not require to have all that it sees.” The anxiety of abundance, to which Kierkegaard directs himself here, is an amazing phenomenon among us. He writes in the middle of the 19th century and yet he could be writing for us today. In our abundance we look for more and more. Imagine what life would be if we would let ourselves push away from the lake and be content with a few drops that will indeed satisfy us?!? But then, there are always reasons to have more. Imagine, in the 19th century he was not having to deal with the parade of television commercials that make it appear as though we are always left with less than what we need. Today so many of us live with the anxiety that attempts to push us into stretching ourselves more and more…to have more and more…or produce more and more…or consume more and more. If we have less than more, then, we cannot be good enough…our children will be less than the best…our houses will not be as good as others…our cars will not be as fast or as safe. The anxiety of abundance becomes a never ending parade in which we lose touch with what it is to have enough…the enough promised by our God.

Connection: I know, it’s the day after Christmas…there are sales out there!! In our abundance, we would do well to consider the lilies of the field and the birds of the air. Who knows what such contemplation might bring to this day.

Benevolent God and Gracious Giver of life, you provide for us and you call us out of our self-centered ways so that more and more of your beloved people will have enough. When we long to stretch out for more, bless us with the eyes to see how we can be a gift to others by letting go of some of our great abundance. Amen

Wednesday, December 24, 2003

Wednesday, 24 December, 2003

This series of devotions are focused around Soren Kierkegaard’s “Christian Discourses etc.” The biblical text to consider during these devotions is: Matthew 6:24-34.

How then does the bird live? Well, it is God who every day metes out to the bird the definite measure, i.e. enough; but it never occurs to the bird that it has or might wish to have more than enough. What God gives every day is…enough. But the bird does not desire to have either more or less than enough.

I think it is quite unusual to be satisfied with enough. First of all, there are so many influences in our lives that try to tell us that enough is something more or something other than what we have and…what may be enough. Enough is not merely a personal concept. As Christians, we look to see what enough for us is as individuals and yet we also look to the larger human community. Enough extends to the community as we know it. Years ago that may have been our village. Some may only be able to see the need for enough for their family or their nation. And yet, as we become more and more of a global community we must contemplate what is to be considered enough for all. When we contemplate such a reality as “enough” we really must contemplate that in our own lives. We are called to be stewards and called to care for the world. And yet, our God is the one who provides enough for all…we are instruments within that system of hopefulness.

Connection: What difference does it make to give serious consideration to the notion of what may be enough and not too much in each of our lives?

Lord, you give us the bread of life and you call us to share our lives with those around us as though we are the bread that is being passed on to other so that all may have enough. Give us the vision to see the way of you blessed gifts to the world so that we may enter boldly into the ongoing care of all your children. Amen.

Tuesday, December 23, 2003

Tuesday, 23 December, 2003

This series of devotions are focused around Soren Kierkegaard’s “Christian Discourses etc.� The biblical text to consider during these devotions is: Matthew 6:24-34.

A person supposes, in fact, that riches and abundance should keep (the person) free from anxieties – also from anxiety for riches I should like to know! For riches and abundance come hypocritically clad in sheep’s clothing, pretending to be security against anxieties, and they become then the object of anxiety, of “the anxiety�; they secure (a person) against anxieties just about as well as the wolf which is put to tending the sheep secures them…against the wolf.

Many things pretend to be security. I remember someone speaking about the notion of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) in regard to the nuclear arms race with the then Soviet Union. We spent (and spend) so much money on the weapons that promise to make us secure and less anxious that we make for a world that is completely insecure and very anxious. For example, one of the greatest threats today is that someone is going to rip off a nuclear device and use it in an act of terror. Another example is the simple fact that we have given so much money to what we say is security that we do not even consider securing the basic aid to people – shelter, food, clothing, medical care. Are we any less anxious today than we were yesterday? The Wall is down. The Soviet Union is dismantled. Saddam is captured. And yet, we seem to live within a more anxious society today than I can ever remember.

Connection: Remember, security that demands all our time and effort in order to support it…isn’t a very good source of security. That is why we are told to trust in God alone – no need to support or uphold this One that promises life abundant.

Lord God, you bring in the fullness of your Reign by inviting us to trust in you. In you there is the promise of peace and the assurance of enough. We give you thanks as you continue to abide with us and hold us securely within you loving embrace. Amen.

Monday, December 22, 2003

Monday, 22 December, 2003

This series of devotions are focused around Soren Kierkegaard’s “Christian Discourses etc.� The biblical text to consider during these devotions is: Matthew 6:24-34.

To be without anxiety, yea, that is a difficult gait to go, almost like walking upon the water; but if thou art able to believe, it can nevertheless be done. It is true of all danger that the principal thing is to get away from the thought of it. Thou canst not get away from poverty, but thou canst get away from the thought of it by thinking constantly of God. So it is the Christian goes his/her gait; s/he turns her/his eyes upward, s/he looks away from danger, in poverty s/he without the anxiety of poverty. But s/he who desires to be rich – his thought is constantly upon the ground, with his anxiety about earthly things; s/he walks with bowed head, looking constantly before him/her, if perchance he might find riches.

Let’s face it, when we are people of plenty – as may be most people who are ready these devotions – we face the whole notion of poverty with quite a different eye than people who are literally on the edge of poverty – the edge that can mean life or death. For me and my kind, we must watch how quickly the anxiety of poverty attempts to seduce us into trusting something other than our God who promises to bring us life and with that life, daily bread. That must be a daily discipline. For many of the people who stood in line at our Project Help (clothes, food & toy) Give Away this weekend the discipline takes place as they endure the worst of physical situations. On Saturday I was simply taking hot chocolate and cookies out to the people waiting in line and my body was getting cold right down to my bones. These people were standing in line, little movement, some dress in less clothing than what I was wearing, in temperatures that never went above 29 degrees, for two to six hours. In thinking about poverty and anxiety, we must not linger within the isolation of our own lives where are notion of poverty is often a web within our thinking. No, we must make sure that we are always connected to others. For in that connection, we begin to see how God really takes care of people and we are blessed to see the various depths of faithfulness and hope when the situation at hand seems to offer no hope.

Connection: We must work for justice and the well being of all. Sometimes that begins as we offer what we have to others who are in need. It may help them, but it also helps us put our riches in proper perspective.

Lord, make us instruments of loving kindness so that we may lift our eyes to see the abundance of your creation and the many ways we can help to provide for those whose lives may not have enough to sustain them. Be our wisdom for the choices of this day as we look to you alone for life and hope. Amen.

Friday, December 19, 2003

Friday, 19 December, 2003

This series of devotions are focused around Soren Kierkegaard’s “Christian Discourses etc.� The biblical text to consider during these devotions is: Matthew 6:24-34.

The bird is in poverty without the anxiety of poverty – it keeps silent; the Christian is in poverty without the anxiety of poverty but s/he does not talk of his/her poverty, rather of his/her riches. The heathen has the anxiety of poverty. Instead of being in poverty without anxiety, s/he is…’without God in the world’ (Ephesians 2:12). Behold for this reason s/he has anxiety. S/he does not keep silent like the care-free bird, s/he does not talk like the Christian, who talks of his/her riches; s/he actually has and knows nothing to talk of except poverty and its anxiety. He asks, what shall I eat? and What shall I drink? – today, tomorrow, the day after, the coming winter, the following spring, when I am old, as for me and mine and the whole land, what shall we eat and drink?

Kierkegaard has us take a deep look at ourselves. What are we? Of course we are faithful followers of Jesus! And yet, look how anxious we can sound and appear to others. But to think of ourselves as “heathen,� that is, unbelievers, is a hard and harsh word. And yet, we are pushed to that point. This is not simple a discussion about considering the lilies and the birds, we must consider the heathen and in considering them, we may have to look in the mirror and see ourselves. I think it is a good harsh word…a reality check. I also think it is not about our hopelessness. Instead, I remember that we are simultaneously saint and sinner. Of course, I become anxious about the things of life. Then again, within the community of Christ, I pray with others that my life not be swallowed in such a mire of anxiety and that I trust our God for all things for – remember – I am child of God – a saint – in God’s hands.

Connection: Today is another day in which we are given the opportunity to mature a bit more as followers of Jesus. That may simply mean we know where to turn when we become the least bit anxious with our life in the world.

Be for us our foundation for new life as we step out into the turns and bends of this day that so often throw us or cause us to stumble. Lord, God, be for us a shelter that will renew us to continue on the way trusting in you alone. Amen.

Thursday, December 18, 2003

Thursday, 18 December, 2003

This series of devotions are focused around Soren Kierkegaard’s “Christian Discourses etc.� The biblical text to consider during these devotions is: Matthew 6:24-34.

The poor bird soars high aloft in the sky without being weighed down by the anxiety of poverty, but the Christian soars still higher; it is as though the bird were seeking God in its flight toward heaven, but the Christian finds (God); it is as though the bird were flying far, far away from God, but the Christian finds (God), and s/he finds God (oh, heavenly bliss!), s/he finds (God) upon earth; it is as though the bird were flying to heaven, yet heaven remains closed to it, only for the Christian does heaven open!

We find God upon earth. What a timely word to come as we are moving through the season of Advent and listening to the stories of the Reign of God breaking in again and again…in this time and this place. The followers of Jesus are not some folk flying far off to another place for our God has come to be among us. John once wrote “abide with us� in his gospel. God is in the midst of us…right in the thick of it. God is not lost…so there is no finding God. God walks into our lives and settles in to be with us for all time. This story of God upon the earth helps to make sense of Paul’s words “nothing can separate us from the love of God.� Why? Because it is among us and never leaves us. There is no flying up or going to another place….this love is here with us…without end.

Connection: Sometimes we can be so afraid of opening the door to a life that has been delivered into our hands. It is as though we must find it somewhere else like a bird soaring high in the sky. When will you let yourself open the door to take hold of the gift that is present for you today?

Lord of life, surprise us with you touch and pull us into your presence for we so often turn our back to you as we attempt to be looking for you but never able to find you. How wonderful it is that you come to us and promise to stay with us even when we go off on our own trusting in everything but you. Thanks be to you, O God. Amen.

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

Wednesday, 17 December, 2003

This series of devotions are focused around Soren Kierkegaard’s “Christian Discourses etc.” The biblical text to consider during these devotions is: Matthew 6:24-34.

Earthly riches always make a poor showing in relation to death. But the Christian who in poverty is without anxiety of poverty is also dead to the world and from the world. Hence (the Christian) lives. For the bird ceases to live by dying, but the Christian lives by dying. And therefore all the wealth of the world which suffices a (person) for a whole life makes so poor a showing in comparison with his/her…poverty, yea, or his/her riches. That a dead person needs no money, we all know; but the living person who really has no use for it must either be very rich – and then it well may be that /she needs much of it - or s/he must be a poor Christian.

What a great comment, “Earthly riches always make a poor showing in relation to death.” It is a great comment in regard to the status of one’s riches in the face of the finality and power of death. It is also a wonderful part of a vision. When we, as followers of Jesus, are dead to the values and priorities of a “turned-in-on-self” world, the power of riches loses it power over us…for we do not find our ultimate meaning and worth in those riches. Thus, we die to the world’s brokenness that is so typified in the riches we are able to take on for ourselves. Sharing freely is a concept that does not fit into the way riches want to control and hold us. Special Interests are not our interests and therefore they cannot rule us or direct us. Living by dying is such a contrary concept that we too often want to fly away from it all and not be just another part of all there is in the world.

Connection: Today is always a day of liberation and new life. Many powers and people may try to stand in the way of such Good News freedom but in the end they cannot for we know that in the end…they have no power. The victory has been won for all time.

Victorious Lord, you reach out to bring us into your glorious Reign and share the richness of the simplicity of your life. We give you thanks for making all the power of creation available to us as we walk through the events of this day so that we may always be pulled to you alone. Amen.

Monday, December 15, 2003

Tuesday, 16 December, 2003

This series of devotions are focused around Soren Kierkegaard’s “Christian Discourses etc.” The biblical text to consider during these devotions is: Matthew 6:24-34.

But then indeed the poor Christian is rich? Yes, certainly (the Christian) is rich, and thou shalt recognize him/her by the fact that s/he does not wish to talk about his/her earthly poverty, but rather of his/her riches – and hence no one can understand (the Christian)…except a Christian.

In a day when corporate wealth abounds and the rich continue to become richer and make sure that this will indeed be the continuing cycle of life within the daily events of our world, the Christian is invited to see all things with new eyes. The rich according to the world standards rarely know of the concept of “all people.” Instead, "we" is "me" and "my own." Security is for all that is mine or ours. But we, the followers of Jesus, are invited to turn and give thanks to our God for what is at hand and what is promised. Our wealth is beyond the experience of the wealthy for it cannot be counted or estimated or used as collateral to bring in more wealth. When we consider the lilies and birds we are given the opportunity to remind ourselves of a wealth that comes as our God says “I will be with you for all time…without condition…and without invitation.” The wealth of God’s grace cracks open our hearts and tickles us with the sweet reminder of the wealth of our essence – ah, children of God, beloved.

Connection: Sure we consider our wealth or lack of it. Sure we let it influence our living. But then again, the Good News - the incarnation of God’s gracious Reign – is a word that is meant to sustain us when all other wealth is proven to be like a mist in the air. Today, breathe in the abundance of God’s love for you.

Precious Lord, we lift up this day and offer you thanks for waking us up to the greatest gift of our lives – your never-failing love. When we fear the events of this day be our rock and when we seem to waiver within the anxiety within us, steady our hearts. Keep our minds fresh with your promises. Amen.

Monday, 15 December, 2003

This series of devotions are focused around Soren Kierkegaard’s “Christian Discourses etc.” The biblical text to consider during these devotions is: Matthew 6:24-34.

In speaking of the bird and it poverty – here's another take.

How poor not to be able to pray, how poor not to be able to give thanks, how poor to have to receive everything as with ingratitude, how poor to be as it were non-existent for its Benefactor to whom it owes life! For to be able to pray and to give thanks is precisely to be existent for God, who certainly did not once for all give (the bird) earthly riches, ah, no, (God) every day gives (the bird) daily bread. Every day!

The Christian is one who is able to understand that everyday God brings enough…and will do so each day. Therefore, our day is a day of praise and thanksgiving. The very breath of life that sustains us from the first light of day through all that we will encounter is a gift…how rich we are to trust that such a God as our God will be with us and for us like food to eat! The bird has enough every day…and yet…what can it do but merely eat. We are aware of the one who brings all good gifts to our hand. Not only that. Our God brings gifts to even our enemies and those we would rather forget or leave behind. What an amazing grace flows from this God who takes care of the birds of the air and the lilies and…all the children of God’s creation.

Connection: Praise God from whom all blessings flow…however that may be today.

Lord of Life, you provide enough for us to rise and shine and give glory to you for all we have been given. Make this day one in which we are reminded of the wonderful life of rejoicing in the Lord. Amen.

Friday, December 12, 2003

Friday, 12 December, 2003

This series of devotions are focused around Soren Kierkegaard’s “Christian Discourses etc.” The biblical text to consider during these devotions is: Matthew 6:24-34.

Therefore the Christian does not say merely that the daily bread is enough for him/her, in so far as it supplies his/her earthly want and need, but s/he speaks also of something else (and no bird and no heathen knows what it is s/he is talking about) when s/he says, ‘For me it is enough, it is from…God.” Like the simple wise man who talked constantly about food and drink, yet talked profoundly of the highest things, so does the poor Christian, when s/he talks about food, talk with simplicity of the highest things; for when s/he says, “the daily bread”, s/he is not thinking so much about food as of the fact that s/he receives it from God’s table. So also the bird does not live on the daily bread; it surely does not, like the heathen live to eat, it eats to live – and yet does it really live?

This understanding is vital for how we view all of life. To think that as we receive the food of the day – as simple as it might be – we connect ourselves to something greater than ourselves. This is no longer food…it is a gift. If the most mundane food…comfort food…soul food…everyday here’s-what-we-put-together-from-the-‘frig food is connected to God, what can that do to how we see other people…even our enemies. Everything and everyone is transformed when we consider its origin as being from the God from whom all blessings flow. That God is seen as the giver of our daily bread makes what is before us a banquet of grace no matter what it may be. In our society it would be good for us to consider the lilies and birds…consider what is enough…for we often are not pleased with abundance – we want more. In essence, you could say that we do not care for the God who we say gives us all things. We pick and choose and find satisfaction only in what we deem satisfying for us. What a far journey away from daily bread.

Connection: When we give what we have to others…share; we are a part of the giving of daily bread…a part of the way God gives to us all. Daily bread is like the stuff handed out at the feeding of the 5000, look what happens for everyone when we take a piece and pass it on to another – a feast for all!

Lord God, your abundant love graces us with the simple gifts of the day that sustain us and make us into faithful people who count on you for all things. Thanks be to you for all the gifts of this day that come to us either in scarcity or excess. Make us faithful stewards that we may life up our your gifts and use them for the well being of all for you call us your instrument of peace and healing of the world. Amen.

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Thursday, 11 December, 2003

This series of devotions are focused around Soren Kierkegaard’s “Christian Discourses etc.” The biblical text to consider during these devotions is: Matthew 6:24-34.

What then does the poor Christian live on? On the daily bread. There in s/he resembles the bird. But the bird, which true enough is not heathen, is yet not a Christian either – for the Christian prays for the daily bread. But then is s/he not even poorer than the bird, for the fact that s/he must pray for it, whereas the bird gets it without praying? Yes, so the heathen thinks. The Christian prays for daily bread, by praying for it s/he receives it, yet without having anything to keep over night; s/he prays for it, and by praying for it s/he keeps away the anxiety at night, while s/he sleeps soundly, to awaken the next day to the daily bread which s/he prays for. The Christian therefore does not live on the daily bread like the bird or like a character in a fairy-tale who takes it where he finds it; for the Christian finds it where s/he seeks it, and s/he seeks it by praying.

In prayer we envision the Reign of God. In that Reign, we are fed, nourished for the day, and reminded of the source of all that brings us life. Who knows what the day may bring but we do know that we can always enter this day with vision. The vision is that of God bending down to care for God’s beloved so that we are not anxious about what we would eat or drink or wear. We are not birds. We are children of God. We are children of promise who need not be anxious about life’s daily predicaments. But we need one another to keep bringing such a Word to us…for comfort and for the willingness to be daring within the day at hand.

Connection: Pray for daily bread and then…dig in.

Lord of that which is possible, but at times, beyond our seeing and hearing, lead us into the richness of your grace and the abundance of your love so we may enter this day without the grand anxieties that often cause us to turn away from you. Praise to you, O Lord. Amen.

Wednesday, 10 December, 2003

This series of devotions are focused around Soren Kierkegaard’s “Christian Discourses etc.” The biblical text to consider during these devotions is: Matthew 6:24-34.

Be not therefore anxious, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? – after all these things do the heathen seek; for the Christian does not have this anxiety. Is the Christian then rich? Well, perhaps it may well be that there is a Christian who is rich; but about that fact we are not talking, we are talking about the Christian who is poor, about the poor Christian. (This person) is poor, but has not this anxiety, so (this person) is poor and yet not poor. For when in poverty one is without the anxiety of poverty, one is poor and yet not poor, and then one is – if one is not a bird but a (human), and yet like a bird…then one is a Christian.

I’m in the church office this morning listening to 16th century music from the Lutheran Church. Its part of a pack of CDs from Thrivent Financial Services (Is this a commercial?). The point of mentioning this is simply that the “Gospel” being chanted is the Matthew passage we have been considering in these devotions. It is a good reminder that throughout the ages the followers of Jesus have wrestled with what it is to follow…to be a Christian…and that the way of the followers of Jesus might be quite unlike the ways and worries of the world. We may indeed be given the power for life that allows us to be at ease and without anxiety of poverty so that no matter what might be our case, we can be at rest. But not only that…we are not only at rest, we are invited to be involved in a benevolent rest in which we take what we have –much or little- and we share. Now, that could be called the definition of the incarnation of the grace of God…that is the Word made flesh…Christ Jesus. And we, we are Jesus’ followers – a rich people…sometimes poor but always rich in Christ, Jesus…always able to be a gift to the world as we ourselves have been gifted.

Connection: Today there will be many ways to share with others…to be a gift. No need to be anxious about when or where or with whom. We are free to be open to how the day unfolds so that we may begin to live within the wealth of our poverty.

Lord God your grace opens up the doors of our lives that lead us into the lives of others so that we can find in them the great beauty of your creation that continues to be unveiled all around us. How wealthy you make us when our lives are touched by your beloved children! Help us to offer ourselves to others and be for them a gift from you. Amen.

Tuesday, December 9, 2003

Tuesday, 9 December, 2003

This series of devotions are focused around Soren Kierkegaard’s “Christian Discourses etc.” The biblical text to consider during these devotions is: Matthew 6:24-34.

So then the daily bread is the bird’s living. The daily bread is the most scantily measured supply, it is exactly enough, but not the least bit more, it is that little which poverty needs. But then, indeed, the bird is poor. Instead of answering we will ask, Is the bird poor? No, the bird is not poor. Behold, here it appears that the bird is a teacher: it is in such a situation that, to judge by its outward condition, one must call it poor, and yet, it is not poor; it never could occur to any one to call it poor. And what does this mean? It means that its condition is that of poverty, but it has not the anxiety of poverty.

The daily bread is “exactly enough.” We don’t know what that amount is. What we do know is that it appears as though the bird is not anxious about what is its daily bread…what is exactly enough. But let’s say in our case we are told that what is exactly enough…or at least seems to be enough…is not. That is, what if we are continually told of more and the necessity for us to have more. Then, there could grow in us the anxiety of not having enough…of being poor. When we live “in comparison to others,’ there is always the opportunity for anxiety to be a leading force in our lives. So much so that we lose touch with what it is that is daily bread…what is enough. As followers of Jesus, we are encouraged to see all we have as a gift and not ours – as such. Therefore, in our abundance or in our “enough” there is always the possibility to use what is ours to be a gift to others and be a part of the enough that feeds and cares for all. But when we are focused on what may not be enough or…what could be “more” for us, we begin to walk in an anxious territory that does not build up the care for the body. Instead we leave it with less than enough.

Connection: What is it like to “come down in a place just right” as is a part of the Shaker hymn “Simple Gifts?” Do we know what is enough and what is more than enough? In a “place just right” there is the promise of peace. Something to consider in this culturally press time of spend & have more where wants sometimes are miraculously transformed into needs.

Be the peace of our days, O God, and take us by the hand so that we may see the delight in the simplicity of your grace that will always fill us with life, life abundant. Amen.

Monday, December 8, 2003

Monday, 8 December, 2003

This series of devotions are focused around Soren Kierkegaard’s “Christian Discourses etc.” The biblical text to consider during these devotions is: Matthew 6:24-34.

Kierkegaard looks at “the anxiety of poverty” by first looking at the life of the birds of the air.

What then does the bird live on? Surely not on what it gathers into barns, for it does not gather into barns – and really a (person)never lives on what (the person) has laid up in the barns. But what does the bird live on? The bird cannot give an account of itself; in case it were to be summoned, it would have to answer like the man born blind, who was interrogated about (God) who had given him his sight, and said, “I know not, but this I know, that I the blind man see.” So the bird must make answer, “I know not, but this I know, that I live.” On what does it live? The bird lives on the ‘daily bread’, this heavenly food which cannot be too long kept, this immense store of provision which is in such good custody that no one can steal it; for only that which is kept over the night can the thief steal, that which is used during the day no one can steal.

The bird lives on a gift. That is our lot. We the faithful enter into the understanding - the faithful imagination - that looks at all we have as a gift. The manna in the wilderness is a gift to the people. The sight to the blind man is a gift. It is here…now…it is for us. Our lives do not focus on what we can store up and count as our own. Our lives are lived as though life itself is a gift…a gift that we hold as precious today…for we do not know that this gift of life and the gifts within life will be here tomorrow. There is a great sense of freedom in knowing that we have been handed a gift…no matter what it is. The bird digs into what is given to it. The blind man who now sees is bathing in the sight of that which was previously without shape or color or depth. The followers of Jesus are handed this day and we are invited to see it as a gift and even to share this gift with others.

Connection: There is a wonderful life available to us as we begin to see this day as a gift and the wealth of this day as a gift and the people around us as a gift. Don’t miss the opportunity to dig into the richness of the simplicity of this day.

O Lord, open our eyes and fill us with the vision of your Reign so that we may be fed by your love that is the power for regeneration and hopefulness even when we find ourselves longing for nourishment. Teach us what it is to be full and live within the wealth of enough so that we may experience the freedom of life in this day. Amen

Friday, December 5, 2003

Friday, 5 December, 2003

This series of devotions are focused around Soren Kierkegaard’s “Christian Discourses etc.” The biblical text to consider during these devotions is: Matthew 6:24-34.

So then, by the aid of the lilies and the birds, we learn to know the anxieties of the heathen, what they are, such, namely, as the lilies and the birds do not have, notwithstanding they have the corresponding needs. One might, however, learn to know these anxieties in another way: by journeying to a heathen land and seeing how (people) live there, what they are anxious about. And finally in a third way: by journeying – but what am I saying? – why “journeying”? we are in fact living on the spot, in a Christian land where all are Christians, so that one might conclude that the anxieties which are found among us, notwithstanding that the corresponding needs and pressure are present, must be the anxieties of the heathen. …These anxieties are found amongst (people) in this land, ergo this Christian land is pagan.

We live in a day like many other days. People must have “sins” that they can point to in order to say to themselves and others, “Those are sins and we do not take part in such a life.” And yet, look how anxious we can be. Quite unlike the lilies and the birds we are. We have turned our notion of sin into something we can score on a card or put onto a scale (like 1 to 10) that will show us the worst and the least of our sins. But we forget that our sin is un-trust…unfaith. Unfaith can be seen not merely in what we would call the pagan or the unbeliever; it is also quite visible in the ones who are called followers of Jesus – Christians. Anxious hearts abound. Kierkegaard is crafty as he brings the Word of the Lord taught by the lilies and the birds right to our own front door. No longer are we ones who are to point out the shortcomings and unfaith in “those” people. We in our anxiety are indeed one of those and there is proof all around us. Therefore, as followers of Jesus we have to continue to bring the lessons of the lilies and the birds into our hearing and our conversations so that we may be of encouragement to one another when our unbelief begins to show through inn our times of anxiety and worry.

Connection: This is a time in the year when there seems to be so many demands on us we can become anxious as we are so absorbed in what “has to be done.” No. What has to be done has been done. We are given the gift of this day and in it, we can already be a gift to others. Go for it.

Lord, help us in our unbelief. Remind us of your power to bring new life when we are on top of the world or when we are deep in the pits of life. In our moments of doubt lead us to the rock that is our trust in you alone. Amen.

Wednesday, December 3, 2003

Thursday, 4 December, 2003

This series of devotions are focused around Soren Kierkegaard’s “Christian Discourses etc.” The biblical text to consider during these devotions is: Matthew 6:24-34.

So benevolent are these teachers (lilies and birds) towards the pupil, so benevolent, so humane, so worthy of their divine commission. If thou hast forgotten something, they are willing at once to repeat it to thee, and to repeat and repeat, so that at last thou mightest learn it; if thou doest learn nothing from them, they do not reproach thee, but merely continue with rare zeal to go on with the instruction, concerned only with teaching; and if thou dost learn something from them, they attribute it all to thee, act as if they had no part in it, as if it were not to them thou owest it They despair of no one, however indocile (one) may be, and they do not require slavish dependence upon them, even of (the one) who has learnt the most. Ah, ye marvelous teachers, if one were to learn from you nothing else; if only (one) learned to teach, how much (one) would have learnt!

To teach of the grace of God is to never give up…to again and again lay before others that grace which is beyond our imagination and yet is indeed, real and everlasting. The teaching becomes the message…never ending…always patient…giving and then giving again. When we share the vision of the Reign of God with one another, how can we not be reminded of its eternal word that knows no end? That is how our teaching is shaped. The lilies and the birds never stop being the message…it is their entire being and they can announce nothing but their very being…again and again and again. I know when I teach, I want to see some results…my results. And yet, our God lifts up a vision for us and we disregard it…or take only the part we like or can incorporate into our way of seeing the world. But our God never lets our reaction or lack of a reaction alter the message of the vision. The vision continues. The vision will always be available for us so that we can enter at any time…in any place. There is no “cut off” date for just when one might be set, the vision is spelled out again even when we thought there was no more opportunity to step within God’s Reign.

Connection: Over and over, our God calls to us to remind us of the vision that is laid out for us. Yes, we may choose to go different ways, but the voice of God never stops lifting up the vision and inviting us to see again…all things. Take a look.

Graceful Teacher and Patient Friend, it is by you persistence that we are pulled into the light of your blessed Reign. We give you thanks and ask that your Spirit of new life continue to open up doors that lead us to journeys along your gracious way. Amen.

Wednesday, 3 December, 2003

This series of devotions are focused around Soren Kierkegaard’s “Christian Discourses etc.” The biblical text to consider during these devotions is: Matthew 6:24-34.

In order to avoid a tone of condemnation the lilies and the birds are thrust in between; for the lilies and the birds condemn nobody – and as for thee, thou shalt not condemn the heathen, thou shalt learn from the lilies and the birds. Yes, it is a difficult task the lilies and the birds have, a difficult position they are in as instructors; there was nobody else could do it, every other teacher would so easily be tempted to accuse and condemn the heathen and praise the Christians (instead of imparting instruction), or mockingly to condemn the so called Christians who do not live as they ought. But the lilies and the birds, which are engaged solely in teaching and are absorbed in it, do not express any opinions, look neither to the right hand nor to the left, neither commend nor reprove, as teacher generally are wont to do.

There seems to be much anxiety in the air about “them” and “those” and “what they are doing” or “what they are thinking about doing.” Wouldn’t it be good for us to consider the lilies and the birds? In doing that, we would be more inclined to be gracious in the presence of others because we would be content with ourselves and not have the need to evaluate and judge others. But it is not easy to let go of our need to have an opinion about this and that…and the need to share it and make sure that others hear it…especially if it is about “them.” Good teacher are really good students…they listen, they come to see new things, they absorb, and they let the go of the need to have the world be like them or the way they expect it to be.

Connection: We would do well today to not insist on making the day go our way…or have others conform to our views and our patterns of life. Sometimes there can be great joy in listening to what makes other live, act, love, and abide they way they do.

Precious Lord, the wonders of your creation are beyond our comprehension. Continue to walk with us as we engage this day with a bit of contentment and a bit of amazement. Then we may find ourselves able to be at rest with others and find joy in the presence of others and ourselves. Amen.

Monday, December 1, 2003

Tuesday, 2 December, 2003

This series of devotions are focused around Soren Kierkegaard’s “Christian Discourses etc.” The biblical text to consider during these devotions is: Matthew 6:24-34.

Paganism stands in opposition to Christianity, but the lilies and the birds stand in no opposition to any of these contending parties; if one may say so, they play apart by themselves, keep shrewdly aloof from all oppositions. So then, the Gospel, in order not to condemn and denounce, uses the lilies and the birds to show what paganism is, but also at the same time to show what is required of Christians.

The lilies of the field and the birds of the air as used by Jesus in Matthew’s gospel are quite like a light. They reveal. They instruct not by bashing or pouncing or putting down. They instruct by being what they are. We are invited to consider them so that we may see the wealth within the life of those who follow Jesus. The Good News really is an adventure in which we are invited to consider a whole new life. It is not a method to condemn and limit life in an attempt to bring the right life to light. Isn’t it odd that we hold among us this Gospel that has become known in our society and world as more of a battering ram or a judgment/measuring stick than it is a life liberating word that evokes new life from those who consider its wealth, beauty and grace?!

Connection: So what can a lily and a bird bring into your day. We each are given many opportunities to consider such strange things within our work and play.

Gentle Lord, you hold up the simple gifts of your creation and from them you create a whole new way of leading us through life as the followers of your Beloved, Jesus. Guide us in this day so that we may be open to the wealth of your gracious Reign. Amen.

Monday, 1 December, 2003

This series of devotions are focused around Soren Kierkegaard’s “Christian Discourses etc.” The biblical text to consider during these devotions is: Matthew 6:24-34.

Kierkegaard has just written about the place of the birds of the air and the lilies of the field as assistant teachers of the Gospel.

How is this possible? Well, really, the thing is not so difficult. For the fact is that neither the lilies nor the birds are “heathen,” but neither are the lilies or the birds “Christians,” and just for this reason they could be especially helpful by way of giving instruction in Christianity. Consider the lilies and the birds, and then thou dost discover how the heathen live, for it is precisely not like the lilies and the birds that they live; if thou dost live like the lilies and the birds, thou art a Christian – which the lilies and birds neither are nor can become.

I have always found that Kierkegaard takes his readers on a unique trip and we need to be ready to see things in a way we may never have considered. In these days of the season of Advent – the weeks prior to the incarnation of our Lord – it will be especially good for us to contemplate the gift of the Good News within an over anxious world. Jesus used lilies and birds to open up the vitality that is at the center of our lives as followers of Jesus. It is not spelled out like a list of things to do and not do. Rather it is something for us to “consider”…as in considering what it is to live each day as though we trust the one who promises to give us life.

Connection: We live in a culture and society of great abundance and yet we seem to always want more and call for it with a voice that says we “must” have it. Like “Christmas” shoppers who seem to go mad with the desire to consume more and more, it may do us well today to consider what is needed and to thank God for every bit of life that is before us.

Creator of the many blessings within this day, you shower us with enough to make our lives full with opportunities to serve others and share our abundance. We give you thanks for the gifts you place before us and the call to consider the welfare of more than ourselves. Amen.