Thursday, January 29, 2004

Friday, January 30 2004

We continue a devotional journey focused around portions of Carl E. Braaten’s book “Justification.”

It is truly liberating to know that there is simply nothing in a person that can provide the basis for standing justified before God. Yet justification happens, received through faith alone and solely on account of Christ.

This is such a simple and yet profound statement. “Yet justification happens…” I immediately thought of the bumper sticker “shit happens” or another one “Grace happens.” Justification is all about God. Along with that, our response…the faith part…is even all about God. Only by the power of the Holy Spirit do we have the ability to trust what God does for us in the first place. Talk about a one sided action! Justification happens! When we turn our backs to it and insist on other ways to be somebody, justification still happens. We cannot make the action of God null and void. It happens! Sure, we can turn our backs to it…but that doesn’t do away with God’s action. We can also say it another way. Justification is not only directed toward me. It happens for “them.” Yes, “them.” You know who I’m referring to…them…him…her…that way of living…those who do that…dem dare folk who are like “dat.” However we may say it and want to make God’s justification a limited affair that will meet our expectations and view of what is to be, justification happens. And with that action by God, there is the beginning of a whole new reality…the old is no more…the new is shaped by God.

Connection: I judge too quickly and pick to readily. It is good to be able to weight the worth of ideas and opinions and actions of people…but when I move into the domain of judging the worth of a person, I step beyond what is given to me. God already has judged us…all of us…as beloved. My task this day is to be blessed with the insight by God to see that worth…that beloved ness in those around me…even…them.

Connect us Lord. Connect us to those from whom we would rather be separated. Connect us by the power of your Holy Spirit so that somehow…in a way beyond our understanding, we may be a part of you glorious and gracious Reign that keeps bringing to life that which is not yet. Amen.

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Thursday, 29 January, 2004

We continue a devotional journey focused around portions of Carl E. Braaten’s book “Justification.”

It (the gospel of justification) is not fight over words among squabbling theologians; it deals with matters that determine the standing of every person before God. Martin Chemnitz made the paradox of justification clear: it is sinners who are justified before God, prior to any change for the better in their sinful condition and always in spite of the fact that they can point to no inherent quality that puts them in the state of grace. The gospel of justification does not stand upon their virtues, change of heart, or good works.

When I work with the 7th and 8th graders in our confirmation class, I am always trying to help them see that this stuff we say in church is not just a bunch of words. Often I will turn to people who they know. I don’t always talk about what they did, but whose they are. The claim by God is a claim that is the power that makes people come to life…life everlasting…life that is no longer word but completely new. The claim God makes on us is one that is more powerful than any other opinion or rule or action. Last night we once again spoke of Martin Luther King, Jr. He did, with others, many great things. He was, and I believe this was foundational to what he did, a beloved child of God, and in being washed in that blessed assurance, his life was new and no one had that power to destroy it or make less of it…even when they killed him. His life was the new life that comes as we are justified by God and we trust that such an action by God defines and shapes our lives.

Connection: Whose are you? Who rules your life? Those are both questions but I would suggest that we all not consider it a question we cannot answer. We are encouraged to say that our lives are ruled and possessed by the God who creates life out of nothing. Today is another day to have that life count among us.

Creating God, from you alone we are given the gift of new life. You shape us and you call us and then, you guide us along the way of our Lord, Jesus, that we may trust that your word is not merely word but a word for life. Thank you for you loving and saving kindness and love. Amen.

I want to offer another word of thanks to all of you who help keep me focused at the beginning or end of each day. Yesterday turned out to be #800 of these weekday devotions. Christ’s Peace!

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Wednesday, 28 January, 2004

We continue a devotional journey focused around portions of Carl E. Braaten’s book “Justification.”

Here we touch on the essential difference between agape (love) and Eros (love). Eros is motivated by the value, beauty, and loveliness in the object of our desire. As such this type of love may be expressed to God, because God is absolutely good, true, and beautiful. Eros may also be expressed to human beings in a romantic or sexual way.

As was noted yesterday, agape love (God’s love) is for people “irrespective of their inherent value.” It is free…spontaneous…unmotivated. Eros love is wonderful but it is conditional and it comes from our needs and wants. Agape love is…it is…without the need to put value on things or to have things a certain way. God’s love breaks in to embrace all without any action or quality presented by the ones who are loved. As the body of Christ, the Church is gifted to be a physical presence of…an image of such agape love. As you all know, we fall far short of that love. And yet, the Holy Spirit continues to pull us into this loving relationship with our God and by that power we are also pulled into the possibility of such an adventure in love that goes beyond the limits and boundaries of Eros love.

Connection: It is easy to love our own kind or that which will give us something in return. That is love…on one level. The world knows this love. Today we are invited to consider a love that blows us out of the water of our baptism into a whole new relationship with the world around us. It may be the beginning of the end of the way things are and the beginning of a glimpse of what is to come.

Lord lead us into this day as though your love does indeed transform our vision and our lives. Amen.

Tuesday, 27 January, 2004

We continue a devotional journey focused around portions of Carl E. Braaten’s book “Justification.”

To say that God loves people irrespective of their inherent value does not mean that they have no value. Although God does not love human beings because of their worth, they do have value because God created them good out of (God’s) overflowing love. Christian respect for the immeasurable value of human life is grounded in the infinite love of God for humanity expressed in Jesus Christ. God’s love creates the capacity to love (God) in return and to love other with a selfless, sacrificial love. So far as our love to our fellow human beings conforms to the pattern of God’s love for us, we will express our love even to those whom we do not like.

This is said so well. When he writes, “…we will express our love even to those whom we do not like” it is quite overwhelming. It is overwhelming to me in the sense that the love we express is not merely the love we can muster in ourselves. It is the love of God that is made known to us…the love that first grasps us and does not let us go. That love is the love we express to even our enemies. Whoa. We each begin with an amazing affirmation that does not come from what we have done. It is the Power for new life…right now and always. Even as I write this, we must also be in touch with the fact that we may find this power for new life very difficult to put to use in our own lives because we are so wooed by human love and human ties and human ways of playing games…that our worth in God’s presence is painful to us as it dismantles all of our expectations and limits.

Connection: In the middle of everything we do today…remember that as followers of Jesus we are inspired to see “the immeasurable value of human life…grounded in the infinite love of God for humanity expressed in Jesus Christ.” To have a glimpse of that love, glance at the stories of Jesus.

Lord of Love, we are made into new creatures as we are upheld by your word of grace and love. Walk with us and remind us of the beauty you see within all who are your beloved…even when we see nothing in them to love. Help us lift the veil that inhibits us from seeing with eyes renewed by your Spirit. Amen.

Monday, January 26, 2004

Monday, 26 January, 2004

One day with Gerhard Forde from his “Justification by Grace.”

Quoting Robert Jensen & Eric Gritsch

“In terms of God, if the gospel-promise is unconditional and true, the will which is real in that promise must encompass every event whatever. Whether we like it or not, it is a strict implication of the doctrine of justification: whatever happens, happens by God’s will.”

Forde goes on to say that this would included even those “polemical exaggerations” which so offend us. You know how that goes. We proclaim the Good News promise and state how we are justified by God and there will be those questions…usually about Hitler or a serial killer and the like. “Do you mean…” Well…is this statement about our God unconditional & true & real for all time? We say a loud AMEN. For once we begin with our conditional statements and the many limits we would like to put on God’s actions and promises, nothing and no one can stand without being questioned and doubted…for life. This is at the core of what make the Good News foolish to the ears and eyes of the world.

Connection: Keep your ears open to hints of conditional grace in religious conversation…for…remember, that is no grace at all as we hear it within the promises of our God.

Before we act, O Lord, you grace us with your loving presence and embrace us for life. We give you thanks and pray that this day we may once again be free to live in your Reign as you have invited us to do all our lives. Amen.

Thursday, January 22, 2004

Friday, 23 January, 2004

We are now in a devotional journey focused around portions of Carl E. Braaten’s book “Justification.”

The free grace of God is a “spontaneous” and “unmotivated” love. God loves human beings because of (God’s) own inclination to do so. There are no love-worthy qualities within us that drive God to love us. God loves the unlovable. God even loves the ungodly, the enemies of religion and morality, the publicans and sinners of every age. God’s love is also “indifferent to value.” It shows no partiality to the righteous and the godly. “(God) makes (God’s) sun rise on the evil and on the good and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:45).

When we reside within the reality of this love of God, and we do…peace reigns. Not only does peace reign, the many “issues” that are created to tear one from another or to tear this group from that group become foolish. Within the Reign of God’s mercy and love, our limits and our way of seeing that which is all around us have no power. Unfortunately, by looking around us at our “culture wars” you can see how far we can be from the Reign of God that is continuously open to us. It is somewhat odd to me that religion in our country has become aligned with what I would say is mere morality. That is fine if the secular culture wants to weigh everyone on a meter that will judge one’s morality, but as people who claim to be aliens to this place and residents within the Reign of God, we do not settle for surface judgments…we count on the love of God to pull us without exception into a loving expression of God’s Reign for all. Jesus did not listen to the cultural or religious voices of his day when he stepped into the house of sinner and tax collectors and took part in their company and their hospitality and their humanity.

Connection: We must be residents of the New Age of God’s love. It is a daily leap into such a place and time and being. We will be tempted at every moment to follow other ways…for they seem to offer answers, control, and assurances of safety. Rather than fall for those stories, the Holy Spirit works to turn our hearts to this spontaneous and unmotivated love of God…always…always for us.

We pause, O God, to give you thanks and to praise you for the beginning of this day and all the days you will be with us…that is, forever and ever. Amen.

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Thursday, 22 January, 2004

We are now in a devotional journey focused around portions of Carl E. Braaten’s book “Justification.”

There are many synonyms of grace, words such as kindness, goodness, lovingkindness, mercy, favor, goodwill, and generosity. But the best attempt at defining grace has been made by focusing on the peculiar New Testament idea of love. The Greek word is agape. In fact, to distinguish the biblical concept of love from grace would be difficult. They both express God’s fundamental attitude revealed in the gospel narrative about Jesus of Nazareth.

This week I was working with the confirmation students on the second article of the Apostles’ Creed. It is all about Jesus. I was praying that we would come to some understanding of the fact that Jesus’ life was filled with acts of radical love…a love that really gives us a human eye view of the love of God…the grace of God. One of the most difficult things to grasp is the notion that when we say “he shall come to judge the living and the dead,” we must carry with us into the image of judging that of a Lord whose judging is ruled by a radical notion of love for us…it is not rational…it is in fact, to us, irrational. It is the love of God…the grace of God that bursts into the open throughout the stories of Jesus and throughout the stories of God’s radically, loving way of staying with people who keep turning their back on God’s never-failing love/grace. I may sound so simple to come down to the notion of love…but then again, to love unconditionally is so out of the norm and even out of our power, it demands the power of the Holy Spirit to make it come to life…and that is often through death first.

Connection: So, what does this notion of God’s love going to do to us today…and when will it do it…and with whom. This love stuff can get a bit risky…but it is always the way of peace.

Lord of Love, you bring us peace as you love overwhelms us and pulls us into your gracious domain. Encourage us to leap into the land of your promises and let our lives be shaped by them. Amen.

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

Wednesday, 21 January, 2004

We are now in a devotional journey focused around portions of Carl E. Braaten’s book “Justification.”

The Greek word for grace is charis. It did not originate in the Bible. In Greek philosophy and the Greek mystery religions, it meant favor, charm, kindness, beauty, and joy. It was such an attractive word that the New Testament writers, especially Paul, could use it to speak about the marvelous favor of God expressed in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Even where the word as such is not to be found, the New Testament portrays the grace of God in Jesus Christ. Passages that speak about the grace-event without using the word itself abound.

We use the language of our lives to bring into our consciousness the reality of the experiences of life. The experience of God’s grace abounds in many shapes and forms and yet, the word we have for the fullness of God’s self-giving love has been placed on this one word – grace. Therefore, it is no shock that we can hear of God’s gracefulness even before the event of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. The experience of God’s people with our loving God is the word in the flesh. Yes, we do turn to Jesus to see the living God and yes, we can see the image of the living God all around us as God’s grace comes to life within the gathering of God’s people. Grace may not be a word that is spoken, but when we see it…the event…the actions…the experience, we are aware of its presence among us.

Connection: Religious language is dead without a connection to life that is real. Be the Word alive among us this day…give people more to experience than just words…give them the flesh and blood of the word.

Renewing Lord, it is by your great love for us that we begin this day filled with the expectation that you will be with us in all things. We may be surprised by how you come to us so we pray that we may have eyes to see and ears to hear you when you are with us. Amen.

Monday, January 19, 2004

Tuesday, 20 January, 2004

We are now in a devotional journey focused around portions of Carl E. Braaten’s book “Justification.”

When our Reformation tradition speaks of “justification by grace alone,” it is encapsulating the entire biblical message of salvation history, beginning with the call of Abraham, including the election of Israel, the history of God with God’s covenant people, the inaugurating of the eschatological kingdom in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, and establishing the church as a communion of grace with a mission to the nations. “Justification by grace alone” is shorthand for the whole history and meaning of grace narrated by the biblical authors. We cannot understand the meaning of justification apart from the biblical concept of grace.

I often say to folks that as we work our way through the scriptures, we are hearing the same word over and over again…but we can never hear it enough because we…like the people of old…tend to reject it. We’d rather have God do it all…our way. And yet, what we receive from our God is another story of God being for us…even unto death…death on a cross. In that story…in that retelling…again and again, there is a power that pulls us into faith. The grace of God overwhelms us and drowns us in the waters of new life as that story of God’s grace from both the Hebrew and Christian scriptures burst forth to take hold of our hearts.

Connection: Listen for the gracious word that comes within the stories of the biblical message. If you take the opportunity to read from the scriptures today and if you are unable to hear that Word of Grace, ask for help…ask another person, “Do you hear any Grace in this story?!?” It may bring some insight. It will definitely bring some discussion and in that…whoa…watch how the grace of God is revealed.

Lord of the Story, you reign over our lives and you bring us into a relationship with those saints who have listened to your Word throughout the history of your beloved people. We give you thanks for those around and the many stories that are filled with a power for life that comes only through your love for us without condition. Amen.

Monday, 19 January, 2004

We are now in a devotional journey focused around portions of Carl E. Braaten’s book “Justification.”

Jesus’ admonition that we are to forgive, not seven times, but seventy times seven, is based on a concept of grace that goes against the grain of our natural human experience. We may use the word “paradox” to characterize the biblical notion of grace.

Such grace is beyond our understanding. I know that it is tough to forgive once…let alone…endlessly. But that is the way of our God…endlessly embracing us and welcoming us home…forgiven – new – beloved….again….and again…

It is “against the grain of our natural human experience” and this is why so many people like to theorize about it. The best way to avoid the greatest gift from the love of God is to try to turn it into something we can mess with. And yet, Jesus keeps bringing us back to what God does to make us new and free.

Connection: Forgiveness is odd and difficult…yet this is the perfect time to jump into its domain and be born anew.

Lord of New Life, how blessed are we that you have once and for all placed your power and glory on our side so that we may be inspired to turn to you alone for the power to move within this day. Amen

Friday, January 16, 2004

Friday, 16 January, 2004

We are now in a devotional journey focused around portions of Carl E. Braaten’s book “Justification.”

A large percentage of people are bored with their work, weary under the yoke of a job they hate. The Christian experience of the forgiveness of sins can transform a job into a calling. The prosaic present may be transformed into a sacred moment, when we experience the forgiveness of sins while doing our duty and meeting our obligations. We can praise and worship God in and through our work. We can give ourselves wholeheartedly to the work at hand, without expecting to derive our ultimate meaning and joy from the achievements of our labor.

Forgiveness frees us for the day at hand since we do not have to carry the baggage of the past with us into every activity and personal encounter of the day. I find that the focus of a meeting or an activity changes when I bring my unresolved issues with me into this day. Forgiveness calls for the bags to be dropped and my attention can be placed in this place and time. The notion of our jobs being transformed into a calling takes place because this present moment is new and what we enter is a moment in which we are free to engage those around us with a sense of wholeness and freedom – I do not need to use all my energy dragging myself and others into my unforgiving past and also try to attend to the events of this day.

Connection: It is so important to remind one another to step into the present - forgiven. Then we begin to be a part of the shape of a New day.

Grant us the peace of this day that comes from the renewal of our lives through the power of your forgiveness. By you grace we know of the possibility of new life and we need your Spirit to pull us into its reality. Amen.

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

Thursday, 15 January,2004

We are now in a devotional journey focused around portions of Carl E. Braaten’s book “Justification.”

When forgiveness happens, a person gains a new orientation in life, new possibilities of existence, and a new motivation to practice the way of forgiving love.

Forgiveness is a radical experience in life. It takes us right to the root of who we are as children of God because it invites us into the life that is fundamental among God’s beloved. No other power can prevail. Forgiveness has been depicted as a land that is foreign to our everyday lives. All of the sudden we are invited to see and experience the “new possibilities of existence” and therefore our vision for living is expanded with each step along the way. We are reminded that this is the way in which we are invited to start each day – forgiven. With such a reminder and such a truth handed to us, the day will look new and the manner in which we face the many dynamics within this day will contain the possibility to enter them as a new person – forgiven. Forgiveness does not simply change me…it changes the world in which I live.

Connection: We are invited to be a part of the reality of life that comes to us from our God and to take part in the parade of forgiveness that does indeed have the power to put love to life.

Forgiving Lord God, we ask that you lead us by your grace and mercy making our hearts vehicles of your loving presence in a bitter and harsh world. Walk with us in the land of forgiveness as we begin to envision the many possibilities in life that is shaped by your love. Amen.

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

Wednesday, 14 January, 2004

We are now in a devotional journey focused around portions of Carl E. Braaten’s book “Justification.”

The forgiveness of sins is the actualization of the divine presence of the living Christ in the midst of human beings who cannot on their own cross the bridge that leads to fellowship with God. Human feelings cannot build the bridge; they cannot cross the bridge. They stand on the one side of a grand canyon; every effort to leap across to the other side succeeds only in hurling them into the abyss below. Forgiveness of sins is God’s way of spanning the distance between the righteousness God demands The following piece was used yesterday. Today the focus is on the portion that is highlighted.and humanity’s unrelenting sin of self-assertiveness or self-abasement.

Very often, self-assertiveness falls into the image of boasting or asserting the self over and against others. In this way, such action contributes to the brokenness and separation that exists between us. Some may say that it has to do with thinking “to much” of ourselves. Not being content with being the creature God intended us to be…another way to say it would be to say we are trying to be like God. Therefore, we ask to be forgiven of such a picture of ourselves and of others. On the other hand, we must also be reminded that it is a part of our brokenness and our separation from others to think “less of ourselves.” God created me to be me…not you…not something other than me. Therefore, I am who I am…not less. The sin of self-abasement is not always seen as a part of our sinful nature. And yet it is. We are not doormats. We are not slaves to others. We are not of less worth than others in the room. We are not undeserving of God’s gracious reign. It is important to exercise the power of being given to each of us from our Creator.

Connection: When we walk side-by-side with others, we may be of different abilities and needs and gifts and flaws, but we are side-by-side as one people – baptized. May you see the worth of your being in the middle of our dance of life today.

Lord of a New Day, lift us up that we may see how wonderful your creation can be and how we each are a part of that wonder that fills the day with new life and hope and community. Amen.

Tuesday, 13 January 2004

We are now in a devotional journey focused around portions of Carl E. Braaten’s book “Justification.”

The forgiveness of sins is the actualization of the divine presence of the living Christ in the midst of human beings who cannot on their own cross the bridge that leads to fellowship with God. Human feelings cannot build the bridge; they cannot cross the bridge. They stand on the one side of a grand canyon; every effort to leap across to the other side succeeds only in hurling them into the abyss below. Forgiveness of sins is God’s way of spanning the distance between the righteousness God demands and humanity’s unrelenting sin of self-assertiveness or self-abasement.

I will use this piece for two days as it brings two reflections to mind. For today, it is important to note that as God spans the distance “between the righteousness God demands and humanity’s unrelenting sin…,” it is still important for us to leap. We leap out into the promise of what God has done. To leap across on our own power is fruitless, but to leap into the promise of our God is something that is inspired by the Holy Spirit. By the power of the Holy Spirit, we are taken across the abyss…we move to the other side of the stormy waters of life that can so often subdue us when there is no forgiveness.

Connection: So…take the leap into the promise of God’s forgiveness and then take a walk on the other side of life that is made new in Christ.

Forgiving God, lead us to the new land of forgiveness and you have promised. Inspire us to trust your action in Christ, Jesus, and thus begin to engage our world anew. Amen.

Monday, January 12, 2004

Monday, 12 January, 2004

We are now in a devotional journey focused around portions of Carl E. Braaten’s book “Justification.”

Of all the gifts which the living God gives to us, surely the greatest is expressed by the words, “forgiveness of sins,” because this gift touches us at the point of our greatest need. Our greatest human need is reconciliation with God from whom we are estranged. We need fellowship with God our Creator through Christ our Redeemer. Forgiveness of sins is God’s act in Christ…

In a world that is always running on the power of what we are able to do for ourselves…or what we are able to gain for ourselves, God invites us into a contrary existence – one that begins with God’s action on our behalf. There may all sorts of ways in which we are locked within our brokenness, but through the adventure of Christ, Jesus, we are placed within a free space and time in which no brokenness in our lives can have power over us. Therefore, our lives are created anew by our God who forgives us. In that new creation is the power to live a new life that comes into existence out of God’s gracious action not out of what we have been in the past. What a gift we are invited to trust!

Connection: Is there baggage from your past that is prohibiting you to be a new creation in Christ? If so, remember this gift and get ready to let go of the baggage.

Forgiving God it is by your mercy that our lives have a fresh point of reference each day. Keep us mindful of your love and the power that is ours within this day by way of your love. Amen.

Friday, January 9, 2004

Friday, 9 January, 2004

We are now in a devotional journey focused around portions of Carl E. Braaten’s book “Justification.”

It is important to acknowledge that the word “justification” is not the important thing. We refer to the same thing when we speak of “forgiveness of sins.” Einar Billing, a Swedish scholar, correctly stated that “anyone wishing to study Luther would indeed be in no peril of going astray were he to follow this simple rule: never believe that you have a correct understanding of a thought of Luther before you have succeeded in reducing it to a simple corollary of the thought of forgiveness of sins.”

I think this is an important point. The forgiveness of sins is the way we begin again. It is the new day no matter what has preceded it. It is the power to drop all the baggage we carry when we tag along with us that which has been done or left undone. Forgiveness of sins is that miracle of renewal that comes from the very center of our lives. But, even before there is the notion of sins, there is justification by grace. I know that is a hypothetical reality…for our estrangement from God is a part of our broken humanity…but it is necessary to state it because justification is a part of our God from before us and through the end of us. It is not dependent upon our actions…sin filled or righteous. We are justified by God…by God!

Connection: Imagine the power available to us in the act of forgiveness. It is hard to imagine because unless we forgive, we do not know what new day begins for us and the other person. Why try to imagine when the reality is available to us…now.

Lord God you are the Alpha and the Omega that will abide with us under the banner of your gracious gift of forgiveness. By your action to heal the brokenness in our relationship with you and one another, we are empowered to begin a life that was not previously ours to enter. Praise be to you. Amen.

Wednesday, January 7, 2004

Thursday, 8 January, 2004

We are now in a devotional journey focused around portions of Carl E. Braaten’s book “Justification.”

In essence this (justification by grace) was the message that turned things around for Luther and his followers. Justification by grace alone through faith alone on account of Christ alone is the absolute truth by which the church stands or falls. It is the truth that makes Christianity Christian and the church really the church, preserving it from idolatry, preventing its secularization, providing the charter of its career, and offering believers a solid basis and direction for their daily life. The doctrine of justification was the “doctrine of doctrines,” not one among many. It functioned as a critical principle, cleansing the church of everything that enters into contradiction with the evangelical basis and content of faith.

This is that “foolishness of the cross” that we hear about in 1 Corinthians. This is that power of God that is not about our power. This is that eternal welcome without having to earn a welcome. Without this doctrine…we are left to be like any religion in which people must somehow earn their way into the good favor and into a place before the deity. We take this foolishness seriously. It is vital to who we are and whose we are. Many churches will start with such a “word of grace” only to turn it into a journey of works. There will be a strong invitation into the presence of God’s mighty and gracious action on our behalf in Christ, Jesus, BUT then we are dropped back into the abyss of “getting it right” as though this action by God is something tentative…given BUT…you better act right in order to keep it. When the doctrine of justification is called the “doctrine of doctrines,” that is meant to stress its essential position. Nothing gets in its way…nothing is added or deleted…it is, as I like to say, the beginning and end of God with us. Fear not and do not be coerced into following some other gospel…for there is no other Gospel.

Connection: Many people will want to throw “yeh, buts” into conversations about justification by grace. “Yeh, buts” always seem to make sense. “Yeh, buts” pull out the morality card as though that is the center of the gospel…again…what we do. And yet, we say “to hell with the BUTS” we rest on God’s actions alone. That power will transform all things as it will transform all things. Never give way to any power for life for the Holy Spirit will be the power that transforms…and it is a sheer gift.

Lord by your Power and Love, you transform the shape of our lives and you alone become for us the ground upon which we walk and face this day. By the power of your Holy Spirit, keep our vision set on your gracious act in Christ, Jesus, for all creation. Amen.

Tuesday, January 6, 2004

Wednesday, 7 January, 2004

We are now in a devotional journey focused around portions of Carl E. Braaten’s book “Justification.”

Faith is the way that an individual person receives the righteousness of God in Christ, and therefore not on the basis of law and merit. The state of being righteous in the sight of God is radically a free gift of grace, never the result of human achievement. Faith itself comes of the Spirit of God. To say that faith is reckoned as righteousness apart from the works of the laws underscores the absolute gratuitousness of God’s generosity. God gives what (God) demand, both the righteousness and the faith by which it is grasped.

If faith is the way…that is if trusting what God has done and what God says about our lives…then, the whole story is a gift to us for as, Braaten notes, “faith itself comes of the Spirit of God.” To be a follower of Jesus and to walk within the domain of the Reign of God is to be who God calls us – beloved, in good standing before God. I used that last phrase because when we use the word righteous or righteousness I think many people become confused. We are righteous before our God is depicted as standing before God within the good graces of God. We stand before God, as if; we were indeed in good standing in God’s eyes. That position…that reality…is a gift. Not just a gift to come, but one that is today. The reality of such a gift bestowed on us today is the power for a new life…a God given and blessed life…a way to begin again – be born again…a saving power for life that takes the shape of God’s blessed reign…now!

Connection: With such Good News to proclaim and to proclaim in, with and under our lives, it is odd that we waste so much of our time playing the games of who is good and who isn’t…as though that is our life. Trust what our God has done for us once and for all and see how it can indeed direct our deeds and our days.

Lord by your gracious actions you bring to your children life beyond our expectations. Abide with us and free us from the many ways we resist the righteousness you have handed to us through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. Praise to you Merciful God. Amen.

Tuesday, 6 January, 2004

We are now in a devotional journey focused around portions of Carl E. Braaten’s book “Justification.”

The gospel declares that God acts to communicate (God’s) own righteousness that no effort on the part of human being can possibly attain. This happens at a particular place and time, namely, through the cross and resurrection of Jesus. This puts an end to the way of the law. God’s act in the death and resurrection of Jesus is the final and full revelation of God’s justice and mercy.

This is all about God. Our God acts on our behalf. The complete end of the way of the law as a way that people try to become a righteous people is gone. If it was the case, Jesus would not have been called righteous…for he lived, at times, contrary to what the religious people said was a righteous life. In the resurrection of Jesus God announces that the way of righteousness is the way of trusting what God does for us. That trust…that faith…is in what God has already done and what God foresees as being the rest of the story. God’s mercy is beyond our comprehension for it is beyond what we would call forth if it was our job to do that.

Connection: Listen to the stories that are told about our God. Many of the voices we will hear today come from story telling that does not know the way of the merciful and just God who raised Jesus from the dead. Instead, Jesus’ name is used to call for a life that must be led “in order to” receive the reward. It’s just plain faithless once again. Don’t stand for it.

Lord of New Life, you bring us into this day with the reminder that you are for us and in that position we need not fear what is around us. In trusting your word of grace and mercy in Christ, Jesus, we can break through the bonds of the religious game playing that keeps us all imprisoned and separated from your Reign. Amen.

Monday, January 5, 2004

Monday, 5 January, 2004

We are now in a devotional journey focused around portions of Carl E. Braaten’s book “Justification.”

The basic elements of Paul’s teaching are well known. The presupposition of Paul’s message is the Old Testament idea of God as the judge who calls for righteousness. Paul also holds that human beings are slaves of sin and stand guilty before God. He rejects the kind of optimism that believes it possible for people to fulfill the law of righteousness. On the other hand, only the righteous can enter into true fellowship with God. Only the gospel can break this impasse.

We are assured that our God is a merciful and gracious God who is always for us. Yes, we are called to be the children of God. Yes, that means it is a name given to us without any action on our side. Yes, it carries a life comes to blossom by the power of the Holy Spirit that is completely alive and active by Grace alone. The Good News, the Gospel, is that story, that truth of God for us…unconditionally and without end. We need not be optimistic in the sense that we can be God’s people. We live within a blessed assurance that is beyond optimism. It is hope. Hope cannot be disappointed.

Connection: Let nothing at all…no issue…no person…no family ties…no power of any kind, try to pull you into trusting any other word that God For Us…from beginning to end. That is the judgment our God offer us.

Grant us peace, O Lord, that we may be people who walk into this day trusting who you have made us through our Lord, Jesus. Amen.

Friday, January 2, 2004

Friday, 2 January, 2004

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 rich I must possess something until the morrow, etc., must be secured for the morrow; but to be rich I must also be assured of the morrow. Take away riches, and then no longer can I be called rich; but take away the morrow, and then too, alas, I no longer can be called rich. For to be rich I must possess something, but to be rich I must also surely be in existence. And this the rich (person) does not know, he does not know whether he will be alive on the morrow, or he knows that he does not know it.

It was this passage that brought me back into reading Kierkegaard in November. Preparing for a sermon for Thanksgiving I remembered some seminary reading and this is what I found as I was scrolling through marks in an older book in my library. What we have a Christians is the understanding that we are here today. Today we can be available to one another…live with one another…deal with life around us and use our lives to be instruments of God’s Reign. It doesn’t matter if one is rich or poor. In fact, for both people life might be a bit richer in its content and purpose when we let ourselves be especially available to others in the day at hand. For the rich it may mean that I would not have to spend so much energy trying to secure what I have. I am therefore freer to ignore my riches and be more loving and gracious…more of a follower of Jesus!

Connection: How many times during this day are we tied so much to what we have and making sure we keep it that way, that we do not share our lives with one another in an unconditional manner?

Gracious Lord, we give you thanks for the opening of this day and the opportunity to reflect on your gracious Reign and the life we are handed as residents in this holy time handed to us all. Help us to see the fullness of life that is present before us. Amen.