Thursday, February 26, 2004

FRIDAY, 27 February, 2004

We will continue to base the devotions on “God for a Secular Culture” by Jurgen Moltmann.

If, in social life, like draws only to like, is the result in a society not total stultification? The rich for themselves, and the poor for themselves, the whites for themselves and the blacks for themselves, the men for themselves and the women for themselves, …and no one knows ‘the others’, for as Sartre said: ‘Hell – that is the others.’ This would be the total segregation-society of unrelated ghettos, and in every ghetto death through boredom would hold sway.

We need to remember that being in an unrelated ghetto is quite comfortable for some people. And yet, it is a part of the announcement of the Good News to make sure that the gracious Reign of God as inclusive of all (even if they are not of our kind) is heard in every corner of every community…even when the community wants nothing to do with such a gift of shared community. The gates of hell, we are told in scripture, cannot prevail against the new of God’s gracious Reign. Therefore, we could say that the comfortable ways we cut ourselves off from other because of their “otherness” will not prevail in God’ Reign. If we all want to see a vivid picture of such segregation in today’s world we need only turn to Israel and Palestine and see the rise of “the Wall”. It is like the great walls between communities in Germany after WW II and the walls between blacks and whites within apartheid South Africa.

Connection: Walls are there and they divide. And yet, we do not need to abide by the walls and the power they claim to have in deciding how life will be lived. Remember, we are residents of another place in which the power of walls has been defeated. That is where we still live even as we live here as aliens.

Maker of Peace, we ask again that you empower us to seek the healing of our world. Behind all the lines that are drawn to separate us there are people living in fear. Heal us of our fears and anxieties so that we can reach out again to those not like us. Amen.

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Thursday, 26 February, 2004

We will continue to base the devotions on “God for a Secular Culture” by Jurgen Moltmann.

If like is only known by like, why should it be known at all? Surely what is no different is, for the one who is no different, a matter of complete indifference? If I know only what is like me, or what already corresponds to me, then after all, I know only what I know already. The fascination of knowing is missing. The interest in knowing is paralyzed. When two people say the same thing, says a Russian proverb, one of them is superfluous.

The journeys of our lives that take us well beyond our domain need not be some grand journeys across the globe. Each day we have the opportunity to experience a world in which we will be shaped by that which is not us…and that journey will be within the regular movements of our “normal” day. Unfortunately, it is too tempting to ignore that which is not like me and simply walk where I have been before…talk about the stories I have heard before…greet the people I have greeted within a framework that provide nothing new…just that which is the same as me. I think that the Good News of the Reign of God stretches us beyond ourselves and that makes every day an adventure in which I will be invited outside of that which is like me…because all things are within that grand domain of God’s Reign. No one is superfluous because we do not know everything about any person and what we don’t know is an opportunity to widen our vision of life as it is and could be.

Connection: Sometimes we have to start out on a journey with those places/people that are closest to us…most known, already. We may be surprised at what is not known and what that discovery may do for us as we face our next journey.

Lord of the Journey; lead us into the fertile fields of the relationships that abound all around us. Keep us aware of the many gifts of life that come to us within the lives of those we do not know and those who are quite unlike what we would want and expect. In our journeys, Lord, remind us of your blessed gracefulness. Amen.

Wednesday, 25 February, 2004

We will continue to base the devotions on “God for a Secular Culture” by Jurgen Moltmann.

Ever since Aristotle, the principle of “knowledge” has been: ‘Like is only known by like.’

Ever since Aristotle, the principle of “community” has been: ‘Like draws to like.”

…But are they true? Do they contribute to the knowing of “the others’? Do they lead to living fellowship with others? Are we not ourselves ‘the others’ for other people?

I hope that this conversation that will take place within the next few weeks will not be as abstract as it may already appear. That, I suppose is my task in these reflections. I pray it works. The body of Christ includes more than we can see in our own congregations…the Reign of God contains a fullness that is beyond anything we can imagine. And yet, a piece of both are seen within the mirror we face each day. I must also say a piece of both is seen in those who are to our understanding and vision outside the possible boundaries of either the body of Christ or the Reign of God. ‘The other’ is not me. Sometimes, ‘the other’ is a bit of me and therefore I may find it easy to judge ‘the other’ – for I so often dislike who I am (just ask a parent what drives him/her nuts about the way their children act)! Sometimes, ‘the other’ is not at all like me…in any way that I am able to see or hear. They are so beyond my experience that there seems to be no point of reference and therefore I am able to simply walk by…dismiss them. In the Church, we live within a vision that is limitless in regard to time and space and the way people act out their lives. We drawn together by the One who declares eternal worth in each and every one of us – no matter how odd we may appear to others.

Connection: In the people you are able to be with today, people with whom you have some comfort or find something that draws you together, what is it that is like you in them? Can you see it? Don’t just look at what is positive or similar…sometimes opposites attract!

Like your promise to be with us forever and to care for your people no matter what the day may bring, we ask that the creative power of your Reign, O God, would be the power for life that transforms our vision to coincide with your gracious will. Amen.

Monday, February 23, 2004

Tuesday, 24 February, 2004

For awhile we will base the devotions on “God for a Secular Culture” by Jurgen Moltmann.

In both personal and political life, community depends quite essentially on whether we are able to perceive ‘the others’ and to know and acknowledge them; or whether in ‘the other’ we see only the reflection of our own selves, and embrace them in our own image, so as to subject them to our own ideas. On the one other hand, our perceptions and our ideas of ‘the others’ are always shaped by our social relationships to them, and by the public form our community with them takes. So we might say: without knowledge there is no community, and without community no knowledge.

Can we meet, greet and enjoy life together with ‘the other’ on terms that are based on embracing them only if they fit our own image? In communication, Rabbi Edwin Friedman notes that “people can only hear you when they are moving toward you.” If I am too ‘other’ I surely wouldn’t be moving toward you and therefore, the chance of us really getting to know one another for the person you or I may be is difficult. Then again, if what initially draws me to you is that which is like me, then there is the possibility that in time I may see what else is in you…and that may have an impact on what I now see as ‘other’ for the ‘other’ is now one like me…somewhat. It is unfortunate that too many people try to find reason upon reason not to face those who may not be enough like me. We want those who are ‘other’ to be not too much so, for we like the world just as we know it and see it.

Connection: One of the greatest journeys in this day is the one when we walk up to the mirror and find even in this familiar face changes...from new lines to less hair to…

For in seeing those signs of ‘otherness,’ we may be open to those around us who are truly ‘other.’

Lord, you are hidden and yet you are eternally available and present to us. Keep us open to the way your Spirit has the power to turn our heads so that we are given the opportunity to see life from a new perspective. Amen.

Monday, 23 February, 2004

For awhile we will base the devotions on “God for a Secular Culture” by Jurgen Moltmann.

Knowledge and community are mutually related. In order to arrive at community with one another we have to know one another, and in order to know one another we have to come closer to one another, make contact with one another, and form relationships.

This sounds quite simple, and yet, to “come closer” is not always an easy adventure to enter. We have a number of reasons to stay away from one another or at least keep our distance. There is no way to “come closer” than to give up some of our space and let the “other” enter…not as one of us…but as exactly as they are…the “other.” I have no doubt in my heart – that is in the very core of who I am – that the “other” is a must when it comes to a more complete understanding of the expansive nature of God’s reign. Too often these days, religious words from the so-called Christian communities are words that are intolerant of the “other.” I seems like we will only be available to those like us. Imagine if Jesus was available to only those who lived a certain way…a way that reflected what was considered “right & proper & religious”? There would have been no rejection, crucifixion…and therefore, no need for resurrection…for there would have been no “new life.”

Connection: Yes, it may be difficult to enter into the life of the “other.” I know it is for me! But there in that dialogue…that meeting…this day has the opportunity to be completely new. Spread that word today.

Lord, challenge us with your graciousness! Lift us up so that we can fly within the realm of your promised Reign and touch the very heart of the love within your gracious will. Amen.

Friday, February 20, 2004

Friday, 20 February, 2004

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

Braaten writes that a theology of the gospel can be developed only within a cluster of supporting concepts. This week will look at a few.

…even after the reception of forgiveness, the law enters as a threat. It tries to legalize the gospel. This happens when preachers announce: “You are saved by grace, but…” Grace is not grace if there are any ifs, ands, or buts about it. Grace is unconditional. There is no salvation based on works. The sinner is incapable of doing God-pleasing works. For the Christian it is nothing less than blasphemy to tie salvation to one’s own good works, for that detracts from the sufficiency of Christ and leads to boasting.

No “ifs, ands, or buts.” This is a hard thing to hear because we so often want to put some kind of conditions on the gospel…but, remember, grace is unconditional. I find it interesting that we so often love to hear the word of God’s grace but that is where we stay…we want to be hearers of the gospel, but then let’s leave it there. To trust that the gospel is the way of new life in Christ, Jesus, and step out into this day as though the gospel is the truth for our life seems to be something we would rather simply hear about, for then, we can keep it a matter of sentimentality rather than a reality that leads to the cross and then resurrection. When you hear that “but” in a sermon, you are free to walk out…or free to approach a preacher and ask why the “but” had to be there.

Connection: Take the grace of God – the gospel – to heart and don’t settle for any other word about how God actions among us and how we are offered life. But when we do that – take it to heart…make it the core of our purpose in life – there will be persecution. Be brave-hearted today.

Lord, walk with us and make us your ambassadors of grace and love within the world as we face it today. Amen.

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

Thursday, 19 February, 2004

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

Braaten writes that a theology of the gospel can be developed only within a cluster of supporting concepts. This week will look at a few.

The law tells people what they ought to do; the gospel declares what God does. The law demands and threatens; the gospel gives and forgives. But when a person hears the “thunder of Sinai,” several things can happen. The law can aggravate a person’s rebellion… Or the law can be taken seriously as a way of salvation and thus lead to the righteousness of works… But the law does more; it drives the self-reliant person into despair. It pulls the props out from under a person; it casts one into the slough of despondency, self-accusation, anxiety, and suicide. Thus the law prepares the way for the hearing of the good news of divine grace freely offered.

It is good to speak of what the law can do, for it can do much good in the way people live there lives. But find it vital to find one’s way to the last sentence of the above passage: “Thus the law prepares the way for the hearing of the good news of divine grace freely offered.” The gospel is a new word that cannot be opened up within the domain of the law…it is fresh and new…just like creation out of nothing. The law is good for us. The law points to what can be done and how we can act and live…but the gospel points to what God does…and that is what our faithful storytelling is all about – our God whose love for us pursues us without end…pursues us to love us even as we run through and in our rebellious days.

Connection: The law can be a great comfort for us. The commandments are a gift that helps broken people enter into the creativity of community. The gospel is the power to transform what can be by our own work into a reality and vision that pulls us beyond the law into the sacrificial love of life within the community of the good news that is indeed a part of the gift of this day.

Lord God, we give you thanks for the gift of the law and how it shapes us and reminds us of the orderliness of your creation. We give you thanks for the gospel steps in to nurture and create new life within us even as we stumble and fall under the demands of the law. By your grace you make us whole and heal us and guide us into the way of your beloved Son. Amen.

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Wednesday, 18 February, 2004

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

Braaten writes that a theology of the gospel can be developed only within a cluster of supporting concepts. This week will look at a few.

There are other alienating concepts that must be introduced to make the gospel qua gospel stand out. Not only the law but such negative symbols as sin and Satan, wrath and hell, in whatever modern idiom, must be preached to put starch into the gospel. The twin process of demythologizing and psychologizing has ferreted these terms out of common usage.

We hardly know how to speak of the realities to which they point. But this we can say: If the gospel is not placed in bold relief against the background of the demonic, sin, wrath, and hell, it degenerates into a sweet message of positive thinking.

We too quickly dismiss the reality of evil and the many shapes in which it comes into our lives. Maybe one way to stress its reality is to note that anything that is contrary to the love of God stands as some other reality…and is not the gospel. Right away I thought of the many ways some people attempt to sell the gospel as an instrument of fear and threat as though we can scare/frighten people into “believing in Jesus.” That, is a powerful example of something…a power…a way…that is contrary to the gospel. The way we know the gospel and its power and its vision is to place it next to the voice of a fear mongering evangelist that attempts to turn the gospel into something it is not. That attempt to turn the gospel into that which it is not (fear based rather than grace based) is to face the reality of hell in its most active and aggressive position. The gospel stands in direct contrast to such power.

Connection: Alright, I’ll say it. Those “Left Behind” books use gospel language to sell fear and turn the Reign of God into the same old us verses them…and “us” is right. The whole concept of the rapture with its built in fear mongering is anti-gospel. And we need to say it and see how it can help us see what the gospel really is.

Lord God, take us within your arms and shield us from the powers of evil that attempt to dress up in the words of faith as they sew seeds of fear and anxiety and division and try to make your word of grace something less than it is. Amen.

Tuesday, 17 February, 2004

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

Braaten writes that a theology of the gospel can be developed only within a cluster of supporting concepts. This week will look at a few.

The gospel is not the word of God apart from the law. Each has a different function. The law of God somehow meets every person through the voice of conscience and the natural orders of life in history and society. The law terrifies, accuses, condemns, denounces, punishes, and kills. If this is not true, then the gospel cannot comfort, strengthen, forgive, liberate and renew. In the religious life law and gospel are correlative.

The law of God is a gift…a good thing…a word of order and boundaries that creates an environment of justice that shows us the limits of life. Those limits are as simple as death itself…our mortality…and the many ways individual and groups overstep the boundaries of their lives to undercut or destroy or defame the lives of others. There is always a voice that presents the law to us. In the hearing of that word, there is the word that comes to us when the law overwhelms and begins to dominate and even destroy us…this word is the gospel. In the face of the law, the gospel provides an oasis of hope that brings life beyond the bounds of the law’s and within the realm of our God whose grace is sufficient to heal and hold and renew us. The tension between the law of God and the gospel is, in itself, a necessary reality.

Connection: The Law brings life but it can also destroy us and leave people living in fear and dread. With the announcement of the gospel, there is a promise of new life that will not be overwhelmed. Today, we can count on the gospel to bring peace to our hearts and to our lives when we are being hounded by the voice of the law.

In many and various ways, O Lord, you gift us with your voice of love that comes by way of the law and the gospel. Help us to always hear your voice of consolation that gives us a new breath of life and pulls us up when we stumble and seem to be defeated by the voice of the law. Amen.

Monday, February 16, 2004

Monday, 16 February, 2004

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

Braaten writes that a theology of the gospel can be developed only within a cluster of supporting concepts. This week will look at a few.

A common error in understanding the gospel is to isolate it from the entire sweep of reality from the beginning to end. We usually fail to reach far enough back or far enough forward. We restrict the gospel to the person and the work of Christ and assign to him a role solely in the realm of personal redemption, and thus lose his intrinsic connection with the creation of the world, the covenant with Israel, the mission of the church, and the future of the cosmos. The gospel reaches backwards and forwards all along the line from creation to consummation, because Christ is the eschatological revelation of God already at the beginning of things. The world was created through Christ, and all things will ultimately reach their end in him as judge and Lord. That is the biblical meaning of calling Christ the alpha and the omega.

The end already at the beginning…the beginning breaking into the end, which ever way we say it, we are beginning to reach into the depths of the gospel. How many times have you heard people say the gospel is in the Christian scriptures…as though some other word is in the Hebrew scriptures? And yet, the good news – the gospel is the word of new life that rings from the opening scene of Genesis and carries us through to each age within the life of God’s people…and then some. Of course the gospel rings out with news about how Christ is for us the redeemer…but the gospel is also about the renewing of all things and the reconciliation of that which is broken and separated. Too often we look at the gospel with blinders that do not let us see the complete panorama of God’s gracious Reign. “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end,” is meant to pull us beyond the wall and barriers and boundaries we attempt to set up as the final word for what is and what can be. Once we lift our eyes to that vast expanse that has no end, the gospel’s power for new life is magnified for all of us.

Connection: In the middle of our need to judge, our Lord expands the day to include that which we would not have previously entertained. Does that mean we let anything go, no…it means we are invited to enter life that is beyond our own expectations.

Lord of all time, it is within the vision of your gracious Reign that we tumble onto the scene of your loving kindness and begin to be open to the possibilities of love as we have yet to experience it. Lift us up that we may see that the horizon is the starting line of life beyond the place in which we reside and you will be there waiting for us to come to life. Amen.

Friday, February 13, 2004

Friday, 13 February, 2004

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

Four points about the reality known as “the gospel” will make up the rest of the week (today is 4 of 4).

Fourth, the gospel is a promise. …it is not a promise in a synergistic sense that if only you first do your part, God promises to reciprocate. The gospel is not only a promise of future hope, but also a proclamation of present grace. The gospel tells us that God both makes and keeps his promises for us and for Christ’s sake alone.

In the rite of Holy Baptism, this notion of promise comes through in several ways. One that is always powerful for me is when the presiding minister traces the sign of the cross on the forehead of the person who has been baptized. While doing that s/he says: “ _____ child of God, you have been sealed by the Holy Spirit and marked with the cross of Christ forever.” The gospel as promise is a “forever” promise. It is not determined by the life of the baptized. It is an action by God…a mark that will not and cannot be removed. We are claimed. We may live a life that is quite contrary to that claim but our life does not negate the fact that God keeps God’s promises for Christ’s sake alone.

Connection: Today is another day within that powerful and graceful time of God’s Reign. We are stepping out into that domain called the alpha and the omega – it always is and will be a time when God is for us…even unto death. That announcement can transform and renew any life at any time.

In hope we trust your word of grace, O Lord, for some days seem to look as though there is no grace and there is no sign of your everlasting Reign. Encourage us to rise up this day filled by your love. Amen.

Thursday, February 12, 2004

Thursday, 12 February, 2004

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

Four points about the reality known as “the gospel” will make up the rest of the week (today is 3 of 4).

Third, the existential focus of the gospel is no excuse for letting it slide into pure subjectivism. For the gospel which is heard is not grounded in me, but in Christ outside of me. The pro me of the gospel is based on God’s act in Christ. Away with individualism, but not with the personalizing thrust of the gospel!

The Good News is not a part of the passing fads of psychology-like authors and speakers that may appear on Oprah or hit the radio waves with tid-bits that guarantee one’s wellness. The gospel does not count on how I feel or how well I can understand or how well I can change the habits of my day. The gospel steps in and claims us! The “us” is quite important. It is a grasping of me…and of you. As individual we hear of this God who is eternally “for us” and as we look out at others -who may be completely different from our “personal” preferences and wants- we see other individuals to whom God comes for life. I find no better time to see this than in worship. We need only glance around the room and we are in the midst of a grand witness to God’s action…not mine. And there, in the sanctuary, we praise our God who is our sanctuary and our rock and the peace and hopefulness for our lives.

Connection: The gospel is a light load…it frees and it sets us into this day as God’s beloved – a power for life that nothing else can bring to us. No need to gaze into our navels this day…God raises our vision to the place given to us at the great banquet feast. Now walk into this day as though we truly believe that the invitation is given to us without qualification.

By your Grace, O Lord, we are guests within this day as your beloved children. You make us bold and you make us courageous so that in the middle of all that the world may say, your word alone feeds us and recreates us. Praise be to you, O God. Amen.

Monday, February 9, 2004

Monday, 9 February, 2004

After one week in the archives…We continue a devotional journey focused around portions of Carl E. Braaten’s book “Justification.”

…the verdict of justification is valid prior to the works of the regenerate heart and in spite of every human failure. Any qualification of this priority and this paradox leads to the synergistic heresy of the legalization of the gospel. Holding fast to the message of justification in all its stark forensic priority offers, furthermore, the only sure guarantee against boasting in ourselves, so that all our boasting may be in the Lord, by whom Christ has been made our righteousness.

This is a good word to hear as I come off of vacation. This is a reminder of what is at the very core of our trusting the Good News of the Reign of God. In a church in Hualtuco (sp), Mexico, the entire life of the congregation seemed to be built around the one of the appearances of Mary. “Being built around” literally means the whole building…the vast ceiling art work, statues, and even the greeting as one entered the building. Visually the message was one that said, “Here is another way to ‘get in’ and be a part of the church.” No. There is still one way…by grace alone we are justified….trust it…and trust that the power to trust is a gift that makes the whole new life in Christ, Jesus, a reality in the first place. Are we ready for such a word of grace? No. I mean…yes…but the truth is...this notions of justification by grace is such a bold word that is so contrary to all the strings we would like to place on such a gift, that we cannot by our own power trust such a statement…a declaration…a proclamation. And yet…we ask God to help and guide us…and we leap into the promise.

Connection: We begin today with one word that is the genesis of all the life that will flow through us and around us. God with us and for us…in all and through all – no matter what the day brings or what we put into it.

Lord of Love, anoint us with the promises of your gentle rule that we may resist the power of all who would take us another way. We have been upheld by your love and long to be ambassadors who lift up to those around us the simple and blessed word of your gracious love in Christ, Jesus. Amen.

Thursday, February 5, 2004

Friday, 6 February, 2004

Text: I thought I would send something else out today. Though it is not a scriptural quote, it does deal with portions of scripture that address themselves to purity and holiness. From Dirt, Greed & Sex by Wm. Countryman. I'm thinking about a transition into another book from scripture for these devotions. I originally said we would start with the sermon on the mount...we did. By next Monday I will have decided on the next series of daily readings. I may do this once in a while. Faithful people dealing with how we are to be faithful in our age have many good things to say to us!

Purity is thus a system with the human being at or near its center. Dirt is what lies outside the system, what is perceivedas not belonging in association with people of this particular society, whether as unfamiliar, irregular, unhealthy, or otherwise objectionable.

The enormous differences in purity systems from one culture to another show that humanity does not automatically attach the labels "clean" and "dirty" to the same objects or actions.

Perhaps it is easiest to see our purity rules at work in connection with food. "Dirt is mater out of place." Thus, the coffee in the cup is clean, but the pair of pants I just spilled it on is dirty. The very young child has no sense of food on clothes as constituting dirt; it is something learned.

I remember someone saying to me that most men who go into the public rest rooms walk out without washing our hands. A comment from a woman was - Yuk! She went on to say that she thought the practice of washing after using the toilet was universal. I must say, I rarely leave a rest room without washing my hands after that odd conversation. Then just in the last week, headlines said that we may be trying to be "too clean." The extensive use of antibacterial soaps and lotions potentially are doing us more harm than good. I was cleaning the screened in porch last week and as I was moving furniture I found various clutters of dead insect bodies underneath some well spun spider webs. Obviously I cleaned up the dead insects...but I continue to leave the spiders to their feast...and to the task of clearing my porch of small critters (this last practice of mine is thanks to words by Don Yehling about the goodness of spiders). In many ways, we each designate things "clean" or "good" or "wholesome" etc. In many ways, we even do that with people - they can "fit-in" or "make the grade" or "be respectable" etc. It is one way to designate people, clean and unclean...sort of. These designations are powerful stuff. They can ruin someone...they can make someone welcome...they can ignite something deep in our unconscious world that sends up past "red lights" that were etched into our psyche years ago. Amazing. Therefore, it may just take "Amazing Grace" in order to see things and people in a new saving light.

Connections: What do you consider dirty - unclean...and then clean? For example: I find it interesting that even though I don't buy into a formal code of "purity" or "cleanliness" when I have a piece of clothing that has a stain - even a little one (a blemish would be a biblical way to speak of it) I notice that I will take that article of clothing out of the circulation of things I wear for certain events and situations. Ha! What areas of your life do you find yourself labeling things like this? What do you or do you not do because of your labels?

O God who gathers in the least and those who are push away, remind us to question our rules of life....remind us to hold your gracious reign up as the measure of the life we will follow so that we too may become agents of grace...and amazing people. Amen

Wednesday, February 4, 2004

Thursday, 5 February, 2004

Text: Matthew 8:28-9:1

When he came to the other side to the country of the Gadarenes, two demoniacs coming out of the tombs met him. They were so fierce that no one could pass that way. Suddenly they shouted, "What have you to do with us, Son of God?" Have you come here to torment us before the time?" Now a loarge herd of swine was feeding at some distance from them. The demons begged him, "If you cast us out, send us into the herd of swine." And he said to them, "Go!" So they came out and entered the swine; and suddenly, the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the sea and perished in the water. The swineherds ran off, and on going into the town, they told the whole story about what had happened to the demoniacs. Then the whole town coame out to meet Jesus; and when they saw him they begged him to leave their neighborhood. And after getting into a boat he corssed the sea and came to his own town.

Sometimes, we would rather have things the way they are...even when it is as though a situation or relationship appears to be overwhelmed by evil/destructive powers. Jesus liberates the area around Gadara from the frightening rage of these spirits and sends them into the sea...the same sea Jesus was able to calm. Little do the demons know...but the "end"- or to say it another way, "the beginning of the Reign of God" has already started with Jesus' coming...oops - mistake on their part! But back to the towns people - they want things to be just the way there were before Jesus put an end to the demons. Rather than have life - abundantly - it is often the choice among us to have life under burdens and controls and powers that do not let us be free to be whole.

Connections: The call to come and live within the Reign of God with Jesus often means we need to put aside all the things and people in our lives that have not let us follow Jesus - that is live fully as a faithful person who trusts that God will be with us. It would be interesting to see how the people of Gadara lived before and after the swine went into the sea. Then again, how differently do we live now that God has declared - without condition - that God is on our side. What will you let rule your life in place of our God...what will you shed to free you to live the life of Jesus' follower - in peace.

Most Holy God, you pull us out from the many things and actions that can possess us. You remind us of the life into which you call us by encouraging us to step forward and live instead of retreating into our fears. Grant us courage this day. Amen

Tuesday, February 3, 2004

Wednesday, 4 February, 2004

Text: Matthew 8: 23-27

And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him. A windstorm arose on the sea, so great that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. And they went and woke him up, saying "Lord, save us! We are perishing!" And he said to them, " Why are you afraid, you of little faith?" Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a dead calm. They were amazed saying, "What sort of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him?"

Why are you afraid!?! Because we thought we were about to drown, that's why! In any of our days, it may start out like a little trip across the sea - no big deal. In fact, it can start out quite wonderful. Andy yet, at any moment, a windstorm can swoop into our lives and it can appear to the be death of us for sure! So many things can sets storms off in our lives. Some of them may not be apparent to others...they may be deep in our hearts - troubling our soul - breaking down our trust in God alone. Some storms may bowl us over so dramatically that everyone notices that a storm has hit...and hit hard. Why are we afraid!?! On this side of the strom, it is not possible to see to the other side. Trusting that Jesus is going through the storms of our lives with us - even though it appears as though the guy is asleep in the boat letting us get all unraveled - is the beginning of trust that can see beyond the storm and the blessed assurance that whatever happens - we will have a new beginning "over there" - beyond our immediate fears and unfaith. I am one who has a hard time seeing anything else but the storm as it bashes in on me. At those times, I don't need words that are meant to cheer me up or to help me focus on something else - I need words that will help me remember that God puts Jesus in our boat so that we will not be alone. Trust that that is enough - to face any storm.

Connection: Don't go off in the boat alone today! Remember, that in the midst of us - 2 or 3 or more - there is the Christ. It is in the community of the faithful that we are blessed to see the winds rebuked and the seas begin to settle down. Then, to make us really look at today in a new way...expect that once the sea is calm, Jesus is going to ask us to come out and walk on the water with there's a challenge for all of us.

Healer of every storm of our lives, keep us mindful of your presence alongside us. Remind us of your power for life even when we are being beat up and thrown around by the forces of the world around us. Be the rock when we seem to be sinking in the sand much faster than we thought was possible. Amen.

Monday, February 2, 2004

Tuesday, 3 February, 2004

Text: Matthew 8:18-22

Now when Jesus saw great crowds around him, he gave orders to go over to the other side. A scribe then approached him and said, "Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go." And Jesus said to him, "Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; buth the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head." Another of his disciples said to him, "Lord, first let me go and bury my father." But Jesus said to himm, "Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.

To be a follower of Jesus carries with it high demands. Usually that is the last thing we think when we think of ourselves in the life of the church. But the demand here is a demand for life. You can take that in two ways. 1. for the whole of life...for ever and ever, 2. for the newness brought in Jesus' name. For life!

Whatever it is the scribe wanted to join...following Jesus is not like anything you simply join. It is not merely a is going to be for a radically oriented life...back to the root...back to the Word of life that settles for nothing short of life and love and justice and mercy. There will be no monastic special detachment from the community. There may not even be a place to call "home" or a place to "sleep." It is important to note that Jesus even turns and rebukes on of his own disciples who wants to bury his father. Nothing...nothing will get in the way of the Reign of God breaking excuses.

Connection: What excuses do we throw out when we hear the call of Jesus to follow and live according to God's Reign. I always find it amazing how easily I let myself center on all sorts of "stuff" that has the capacity to steer me off to some other land and resting place than the loving domain of God's Reigning love. Hum...What about you?!

Praise be to you, O God, for you keep calling us out into your world as your children. Keep us steadfast and keep us fixed upon the ways of your loving. Remind us of the cost of following you and the life that it brings before us. Amen.

Sunday, February 1, 2004

Monday, 2 February, 2004

During this week, devotions from the July 2000 archives will be posted.

Text: Matthew 8:14-17

When Jesus entered Peter's house, he saw his mother-in-law lying in bed with a fever; he touched her hand, and the fever left her, and she got up and began to serve him. That evening they brought to him many who were possessed with demons; and he cast out the spirits with a word, and cured all who were sick. This was to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah, "He took our infirmities and bore our diseases.

One interesting note: In Matthew's gospel, Mark Powell writes, that only Peter's mother-in-law and an unnamed woman in chapter 26 serve Jesus. What caught my attention in the text was something that happens quite frequently with Jesus. He touches the woman and "the fever left her." It is like other cases when Jesus has contact with other with disease and those who are to be "untouchables." Their disease & their uncleanliness is not spread onto Jesus. He doesn't become diseased or unclean. But, at the same time those he touches actually become like him - well & clean. That's not the way the system (and nature) is supposed to work! But with in the Reign of God something new takes place. We can change the world when we are not afraid to touch that which is troubled by dis-ease and considerd untouchable. There is a promise that come in the touching...the compassionate involvement of one life with another.

Connection: How do we live today knowing that Jesus takes "our infirmities and bears our diseases!?" What then are we free to become in the days ahead of us? Even today.

Compassionate Lord and Healer of the World, when we are overcome by the day and become filled with dis-ease, touch us and make us whole that we might live wholly in you. AMEN