Thursday, December 30, 2004

31 December 2004

For the last day of 2004 - from William Sloane Coffin.

Let Christians challenge the rest of the nation, not try to resemble the rest of the nation. Let them proclaim the biblical norms for justice that give primary emphasis not to accomplishment, but to need. There is no reason why the well-to-do should begrudge the checks that allow the elderly and the disabled to live better. Why should a nation resent the free medical care that allows poor mothers and their children to see doctors more often?

In our country there is ownership and private property and there will be the rich and the poor. But now, Christians can lift up a voice that doesn't simply fall in line with the status quo of the country. No matter what we have, we have the ability and the responsibility to take care of creation - the whole thing. That means the poor and those without and ourselves. We can do all of that if we, the rich (I use that in a very wide sense), would stop complaining about how much it costs to bring some basic services to the least and the lowest. At the same time, we too must fight for a proper and upright administration of the wealth that is passed on to help others who are in need. Justice begins in our sharing and in the caring for that which is shared so that what is shared will reach those whose lives long for enough. I think we have heard enough from Christian groups who try to make a crusade about "the ten commandments in public places," prayer in schools, gay rights, and only one way of looking at being pro-life. None of these issues touch on justice for the most needy. In fact they ignore feeding the hungry, medical assistance for those in greatest need, care for the elderly, adequate housing, and caring for children who are already here and in great need. We're being told people voted "values" in this last election. I agree...people voted for what had a value for "me and my own kind." All of which can make a very sweet and sentimental sound but we will not hear within it a cry for justice and peace for all.

Connection: When you see a picture or read something or hear something from an elected official and all s/he seems to be dealing with are issues that do not seek the care and welfare of those who are in greatest need among us you are allowed to write or call them and say their actions and words are nothing more than "baloney" and you would like something substantive to flow from their office and their actions.

Lord, we are rich and yet we attempt to keep what we have. We call ourselves the followers of your Son and yet we would rather follow every word of those who would dare not go where Jesus went in his life. Make us bold and continue to call us down the way of our Lord. Amen.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

30 December 2004

Beginning again with William Sloane Coffin in "A Passion for the Possible."

Churchgoers have often heard the psalmist's contention that "the earth is the Lord's and all that is in it," and readers of Job will recall God's informing him that "whatever is under the whole heaven is mine." In other words, from a religious point of view, God is the landlord of ultimate title. It was understanding that led Pope Paul VI to say: "Private property does not constitute for anyone an absolute and unconditional right. No one is justified in keeping for his exclusive use what he does not need, when other lack necessities." If I read him correctly, the pope is saying that sharing our surplus is an act of justice rather than an act of benevolence.

One of the problems that may sneak up on all of us is trying to put some sense to what we need because we must also be willing to look at what we do not need. Maybe in a society that is quite focused on private property it would do us well to examine how our "private property" can best be used to serve others. It would be as though we viewed what we have as God's...and then...what do we do with the property that is not completely self-indulgent. How can the property that is God's...that we like to call private (meaning mine), be used to serve others and help to bring a piece of God's healing presence to others? This can be no willy nilly deconstruction of private property or premature jump into a domain in which we do not know how to live. We must be willing to discuss what are the possibilities open to us and others as we consider the just use of what we call "ours."

Connection: Maybe all that is needed today is to think and discuss ways that we can quite literally be connected to others in ways we have never thought possible in a world where mine is mine and yours is yours.

Giver of all things, keep our eyes open to the needs around us and keep our hearts open so that we will be able to find the ways within our lives to reach out to care for others and share what you have given us. Amen.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

29 December 2004

We'll ride William Sloane Coffin in "A Passion for the Possible" right to the end of 2004.

One of the attributes of power is that it gives those who have it the ability to define reality and the power to make others believe in their definition. Thus it is that private property in America had come to be considered all but sacred. Obviously this makes its redistribution difficult, even through taxation.

I'll continue with the rest of this quote tomorrow. What really grabbed me here is that Coffin is grabbing me here...and maybe all of us. We may all have our issues that take top priority in our lives. We may even be willing to fight for them or at least raise a voice here and there. But don't mess with my property! All of the sudden, lines are not merely drawn in the sand, they are drawn with walls, and lawyers, and fences, and security systems, and...and...yes, military might. We may find many people against the war in Iraq, but let someone try to take my property and I'm ready for war to start...right here. We may be people who want to serve others and try to eliminate injustice in our own country but just try and raise taxes....that's my money...that's my property. It is embarrassing to me to face up to the fact that I want to be on the side that is able to do some of the defining of the way things are to be. For when that is the case, I can at least feel as though I'm able to keep a bit of what is "mine." But that is such a business of idolatry that it can only spin us deeper and deeper into division, isolation, and yes, a hatred of anyone who may appear to be after my goods. It is no wonder the Jubilee year and redistribution of property probably never took place. Good idea...until we have something and we think it is our to keep and the more we have gives us the right to keep even more.

Connection: How in the world - I mean that quite literally - do we help one another become free of the illusion that the more we can claim to have the more power we have and the safer we will be? It is a demonic force that haunts us and yet, there is that promise that says it cannot defeat us. It's worth talking about some day soon.

Lord of the Day, all that is comes from you and yet I continue to try and claim it as my own. Heal me from such a lust for power and bring me into fellowship with those around me who may be just as stuck as me and yet yearn for a time of healing and wholeness. Amen.

Monday, December 27, 2004

28 December 2004

We continue with the section "Beyond Charity" in William Sloane Coffin's book A Passion for the Possible.

It is very hard to convert the heart, mind, and purse. It is very hard to have possessions and not become possessive, to be completely dependent upon God and independent of everything else. So, a prophetic concern for the poor shoudl be matched by a pastoral concern for the rich. As I read the Bible, judgment against the rich spells mercy not only for the poor, but finally for the rich as well. It suggests that just as the poor should not be left at the mercy of their poverty, so the rich should not be left at the mercy of their wealth.

What a wonderful way to open up the meaning of mercy! In the end and in the beginning mercy, mercy, mercy. As for right now, let's talk and let's deal with the injustice so that a new beginning can indeed break in upon us as in Bethlehem. I've seen and heard so-called justice organizations that are so high strung on whipping the rich or the powerful that there appears to be no openness for the pastoral directives that speak mercy again and again as justice is the daily focus. The Good News is not an "us verses them" story. At times it may look like that but it continues to be and will never abandon the grace and mercy that brings all God's children to the banquet table. I think one of the greatest fears we have about the banquet table is that "they" will be there also...and we all know who "they" are. Without mercy the rich and the poor will refuse to take a seat at the table.

Connection: Let's be firm about our commitment to justice within an unjust world, but let us also be so full of mercy that people are transformed already...right now, today, by God's mercy.

Merciful Lord, as one year comes to an end and another begins make our beginnings and endings a time that reflects your mercy without end. Amen.

Sunday, December 26, 2004

27 December 2004

Our look at "A Passion for the Possible" continues

In the New Testament, wealthy people like Zacchaeus, Lazarus, and Joseph of Arimathea receive sympathetic treatment. Still Jesus doesn't hesitate to generalize that it is harder for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven than for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle. To quote Helda Camara again, "I used to think when I was a child that Christ might have been exaggerating when he warned about the dangers of wealth. Today I know better. I know how hard it is to be rich and still keep the milk of human kindness. Money has a dangerous way of freezing people's hands, eyes, lips, and hearts."

At times, it can be easy for some folks to bash the rich. Coffin doesn't do that here. In fact, with the quote by Camara, there is more of a deep concern for the rich and the what the rich miss in life when they are consumed by their wealth. Jesus may have had more to say about the dangers of being rich than any other condition among us...but he had can be such a monster in our lives. When I reach Camara's quote about losing the "milk of human kindness," I thought of the play "A Christmas Carol" and what a sad character Scrooge was...when he lacked the ability and the desire to be compassionate and kind. What is so unfortunate is that today we lack Jesus' firm approach and words to the rich. Instead, the overall policy toward the rich seems to be: don't disturb them, let's try to do what they will want, or let's play the way they want to play. In the end, our endowment fund might grow a bit and a few programs here and there may receive more money, but do we usually help them deepen their lives so that they are not merely known as the rich?

Connection: In our prayers today it would be good to include those who we know are rich. We don't have to say what we would like for them - that's a bit self-centered. We need only lift them up to God's care and power.

Benevolent Lord, for all the people of our world, the rich and the poor, let your Spirit be a guide into a life of creativity and compassion that makes them rich with the vision of your Reign. Amen.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

23 December 2004

Due to a big ice storm in Columbus and no electricity all over the place - this post is a bit late.

Right before Christmas it is good to begin again with "A Passion for the Possible."

When I was a boy in public school I was told that in America we have rich people and poor people, and there was no connection between them. Years later, in New Your City, I often heard well-to-do people say that while New York was the adrenaline capital of the world, the most exciting city with the best of everything, "we also have problems - a lot of poor people." Reading the Bible, I found the problem defined differently. In the Bible, it's always the rich who are a problem to the poor, never the other way around. There are poor people because there are rich people, a connection Oscar Romero, the martyred Roman Catholic leader of El Salvador, never failed to make by calling the many poor in his country not los pobres but los apobrecidos "the impoverished," those "made poor."

Isn't it amazing how insightful the Bible can be. That could be the reason why many folks simply use a verse here and a verse there to point out what they consider to be the problems of the world. For if we read the whole story we would encounter again and again the kind of brokenness that is not a problem "out there" or "with them" but rather one that is as close to home as...well my home and my kind. Yesterday I heard that the stock market hit a high that hasn't been reached since early in 2003. It was an announcement of Good News to a world that lives by what we have and to hell with the real Good News of the Reign of God that seeks to liberate and make whole all of God's beloved.

Connection: Remember that Bishop Oscar Romero was once a bishop for the rich...then he was changed by the Good News and he, like Jesus, sided with the poor and stood up to the rich. Then one day in the middle of the mass - he was executed...and it wasn't some crazy poor person. To be a living witness to the domain of God's Rule will always be an adventure that cuts across what people around us want and expect.

Lift us up, O God, so that we can see how your love is the power that makes us free and liberates all who are thrown down as though they are nothing at all. Grant us courage to walk in your ways Amen.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

22 December 2004

Another beginning piece from "A Passion for the Possible" by William Sloane Coffin.

Obviously the churches have to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and shelter the homeless. But they have also to remember that the answer to homelessness is homes, not shelters. What the poor and the downtrodden need is not piecemeal charity, but justice. And to show how charity can actually impede the progress of justice, Karl Marx once said to a group of church folk: "You Christians have a vested interest in unjust structures which produce victims, to whom you then can our out your hearts in charity." His insight, of course, was biblical before it was Marxist, for biblical justice asks not only that we alleviate the effects of injustice, but that we eradicate the causes of it.

This piece comes after our congregation has completed the clothing, feeding and giving toys to over 3000 people at what is call Project Help. These are hard words to hear from Marx, and yet, deep down his critique of our work is right on target. I just don't know what to How do we enter into the work that goes on beyond charity and at the same time make sure that some very basic needs are met in the meantime? How do we help keep ourselves focused and on task with seeking justice for all and in that, in the healing of all.

Connection: I know it is not easy to question what we do...especially when we can do such a good job at something - like being charitable. Once again it may mean that we ask others for help in keeping our minds and hearts open to ways the Reign of God opens up a whole new way of going about the care of others and the use of our resources.

Thank you, Lord for opening our eyes to see the way of justice in our world. Help us to push beyond the good works we do in order to provide for those in need so that some of our energy and gifts will be used to support efforts that change the structures of our society and rebuild the lives of people in need. Amen.

21 December 2004

Beginning again with William Sloane Coffin in "A Passion for the Possible."

The story of God and Moses and Pharaoh reminds us that compassion, for its implementation, demands confrontation. It also puts churches on notice to identify not with the structures of power but with the victims of power.

Confrontation is not easy for many people. When we put on top of that fact that our confrontation is not done simply for ourselves, but rather for those people with whom most of us would rather not associate (the poor, the outsider, all who are not a part of the power complex of a society), it is even harder to do. It is not ever going to be easy to be a compassionate friend of those not befriended by the powers that be. It is easy to be a compassionate conservative because you never have to side with the poor and simply side with the ones that will allow you to keep power in the hands of the powerful. Churches are called to be compassionate and to act according to that compassion even when it sets us on a side of the fence that someone like Pharoah (and his kind) would not appreciate.

Connection: There is much talk about issue of concern today. Listen to them. Pay attention to who may be beneficiaries of action. Too often, our so-called compassion has little to do with the welfare of those with no power.

Lord, God, you deliver us from the travails of this day by sending your people into this day with a word of love that is meant to set all people free. When we try to see the world only at it benefits us, remind us of the rest of your children who still call out to be set free from oppression in its many forms. Amen.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

20 December 2004

William Sloane Coffin again brings us our focus today.

While Christians certainly don't have to take positions on every issue, on matters of justice they have no choice. Said South African bishop Desmond Tutu, "When the elephant has his foot on the tail of the mouse, and you say you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.

And neither will God. Remember God's words to Moses: "I have seen the affliction of my people in Egypt; and I have heard their cry....Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt. When you stop to think about it, how can God be neutral? How can God do otherwise than side with the oppressed? If God sided with tyrants, God would be malevolent. If God sided with no one, God would be indifferent, which is to say again "malevolent," because God would be supporting tyranny by not protesting it.

I gave the beginning lines about Desmond Tutu to our Confirmation class so they could think about whether or not God could be neutral in world events. In January we are going to begin our study of the New Testament and I thought it would be interesting to see what they say as we begin to look at the life of Jesus - God in the flesh. God's lack of neutrality shows through strongly in that story of "God With Us." Jesus was no simple preacher who was able to disconnect and simply touch the surface of life. He was one who found it necessary to dig down deep into the situations of oppression and hatred and bigotry and put his life on the line in order to confront the powers that find many ways to keep the world just as it is...unjust.

Connection: Tyranny is not something that flows within the Reign of God. Tyranny comes in many shapes within our everyday life - it is not merely in political contexts. With an eye on the way of Jesus and and eye on what goes on around us today try to take note of the influence tryranny has among us...and what are our options as to how to engage it?

Liberating and Renewing Lord, wake us up and shake us up by opening our eyes to the power of your gracious Reign. And when we see your light shine, encourage us to walk within its ways of justice for all. Amen.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

17 December 2004

Beginning again with "A Passion for the Possible" by William Sloane Coffin.

And old saying holds that religion and politics don't mix. Probably it was first said by Pharaoh when he turned down Moses' plea to "let my people go." Generally what it means is, "Your religion doesn't mix with my politics." When the right-wing press of Latin America, for example, accused the progressive Brazilian bishop F. Helda Camara of mixing religion and politics, he replied, " When the Roman Catholic Church was everywhere in bed with military juntas, you never accused us of mixing religion with politics."

On issues of justice...that is, justice for all, we (religious folk) are definitely to be a political people. Political in the sense that we will not stop holding up the way of justice for all even when it means that we may lose something of our own as we stand alongside others. Presently in our country, the religious powers that are so aligned with the government are after their own well being. I was just invited to a clergy caucus that has to do with a House Bill that will deal with some sort of "house of worship" issues. It is so odd that Christians have become so inward looking that they have lost their sense of care for the outsider and the least among us. In fact, I think that much of what is seen as Christian interests in this country are so turned-in-on-self that it is embarrassing.

Connection: Never lose that ability to hear the voice of those in need. And then...continue to develop the heart that moves us all to respond to those voices.

Compassionate God, make us a charitable people but also ones who work for justice so that those who are least among the powers of our lives will never be forgotten and will always have a place at the table of life with us. Amen.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

16 December 2004

We begin with another piece from "A Passion for the Possible" by William Sloan Coffin.

More clearly than most other institutions, churches should see that it is our pride-swollen faces that close up our eyes, that no nation is well served by illusions of its righteousness. All nations make decisions based on self-interest and then defend them in the name of morality. Saint Augustine gave excellent advice not only to individuals but to nations as well wh he said, "Never fight evil as if it were something that arose totally outside of yourself." He was reflecting Saint Paul's "all have sinned and fallen short."

This brings up a odd situation that seems to be very prevalent in today's national scene. We have religious leaders in this country claiming that the U.S. is divinely ordained to carry out the will of God in today's world. Religious groups are using God language to prop up the illusions of national righteousness that rise quickly when powers want things to go their way. If we are the people who follow the one who would not let the illusions of Rome or Israel or the religious establishment have their way with God's people, then why do we let so-called religious voices bless and condone the actions of our government even when it has nothing to do with the vision of the Reign of God. When was the last time you heard those who claim to be our leaders, admit to our part in the brokenness of our planet. Rather, we will claim it is the fault of others...others who must be destroyed. Would peace come about in a more creative fashion if we used both our power and our humility to bring about radical new solutions to the deadly situations around us?

Connection: Don't settle for religious language that tries to justify the actions of government. Instead, take the time to look more deeply at what is being supported and take note as to who and what is benefiting from what is usually nothing more than self-justification.

Healer of our lives, in a world that seeks to keep up the dividing lines we have come to call normal, you call us to step over those lines and repent of the many ways we work desperately to create those lines and thus be a part of the evil of the world. Forgive us and encourage us to step out of the grasp of our grand illusions. Amen.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

15 December 2004

Once again we begin with "A Passion for the Possible" by William Sloan Coffin.

Coffin writes of temptations and used the second temptation in Luke in which the devil takes Jesus to a high place and offers him authority over everything if Jesus will worship him.

What is the temptation if not the ancient but timeless one of seeking status through power? The sin of Adam and Eve had nothing to do with sex, everything to do with power. True, their disobedient deed took place at the foot of the tree of knowledge, but it was hardly for the sake of knowledge that Adam and Eve took the apple. They wanted power; they wanted to know more, to have more, to be more. "You will be like God" (Genesis 3:5) tempted the serpent, and they jumped at the chance, as to this day does Adam and Eve in almost everyone of us. (If not literally true, the story is eternally true).

Power is something that quickly creeps into our being. The lust to be more than what I am...or to be more than you...or to be something other that what I am, is often too great to resist. It can all seem quite appropriate and we can justify our actions as we try to "be like God" (although we would never admit to doing that). Could it be that we tie the story of the fall to sex because we can more easily make that a 'sin' that we supposedly can avoid. Whereas the lust for power is something we will not even admit to or acknowledge. Because sometimes, the power we seek is as simple as exercising our gifts for our own benefit - "Look what a good boy/girl am I."

Connection: If we are, as individual, so easily swept up into the realm of power grabbing at our everyday level of life, imagine what it must be to be swept up into the realm of power that is promised to those who hold offices in government or agencies. Today may be a time to exercise our ability to pray and call forth strength of character for those in positions that would usually hold great power - may they be humble and seek too serve others.

Lord, teach us the ways of your peace, so that as we walk through the opportunities of this day we will not be seduced by their promises of power and well-being that often leaves the vision of your Reign behind us. Amen.

Monday, December 13, 2004

14 December 2004

Again we look take a look at war and peace from "A Passion for the Possible" by William Sloan Coffin.

Inveighing against false prophets who tell people only what they want to hear, not what they need to know, Jeremiah describes them as having "treated the wound of my people carelessly,/saying, 'Peace, peace,/when there is no peace. And Jesus said: "Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword." He could only have meant the sword of truth, the only sword to heal the wound it inflicts.

"The only sword to heal the wound it inflicts" - what an image. I would say that if we used this sword before we actually went into battle against our so-called enemies, we would likely not use the weapons of warfare as much as we presently do. Nations love to live behind the lies or the less-than truth (which is no truth at all) version of reality so therefore, warfare is often the only way to keep that world the way it is. But we don't have to simply stay on the level of national warfare to see what the lack of truth does to us. In our personal lives truth can be that healing instrument that cuts us deeply but then...after the truth has laid open our lives to one another, there is that opportunity to see to a grand mending that could not take place as long as we lived within a world of less than the truth. The good news of the peace of the Reign of God demands our life commitment to truth. Ghandi would talk about 'truth power" and how even the smallest person could stand up against the greatest empire with this weapon that could not be destroyed. Oh...the person who calls for truth and is willing to be truthful may not make it out alive, but nothing will be the same again. Peace will Reign...people and nations and relationships will be given a glimpse of the peaceable Reign and the potential for all to be ways we may not yet acknowledge or see.

Connection: It is much easier to gripe, tear into others, accuse, back bite, and carry a sword meant to kill off all opposition in our lives, but then...nothing changes and the ravages of war within our lives never changes. Today, by the power of the Holy Spirit, our lives can become a part of the prayerful truth-telling that dismantles evil's ways of winning the world. Christmas is a reminder of that way and that it really does begin with real lives like ours.

Bring to life in us, O God, your way of peace. Though we are often content to stay in the valley of death and wallow in its way and be controlled by its darkness, you promise light and life. Lift up our eyes to coming of your way of peace. Amen.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

13 December 2004

Yes, again with devotions based on William Sloan Coffin's "A Passion for the Possible"

In one of ast week's devotions, Coffin mentioned Michelangelo's Last Judgment and the notion that hell is truth seen too late. (He uses it again as a base from which he begins a discussion on war)

The primary reason for such blindness is that there is a basic unacceptablity about unpleasant truth. We shield ourselves from its wounding accuracy. and if this is so of individuals, it's even truer of nations. Recall the biblical priest Amaziah and how, 2,700 years ago, he said of Amos the prophet, "The land is not able to bear all his words."

Amaziah was no fool. He knew that none love you for being the enemy of their illusions. He knew that most people wanted peace at any price, as long as the peace is theirs and someone else pays the price.

In our bathroom, we have four light bulbs on either side of a mirror that is less than three feet wide. In other words, when I look at myself in the mirror, everything shows. I trimmed my beard to a very low setting when I went away for a portion of my sabbatical. Right away, I saw my age more than ever before. I now trim my beard to where I kept it previously...but I know what is under that beard - signs of age. Unpleasant truth is truth we don't often want to hear because it means change must come...or change has already happened and we need to deal with it - now. I live according to some illusions about myself and about you. You may suffer from the same reality. To have light shine on those illusions can become hard to face. Everyone would love to be known as kind and loving and accepting...but the truth is we stumble and fall and take part in the brokenness we would like to see conquered. To grow and to be able to grow with a community of people, that truth...that light...can be a great gift - necessary but still painful. But to keep myself and the communities I live in...just as I want them to be...often means I will not face the truth and I will even fabricate my world so that it can stay untouched by what I would call the bright light of God's Reign. Darkness can be so comforting to our own illusions.

Connection: We all can use a bit of that light in our lives. What helps to bring that light of God's Reign into you day...and...who around you helps you to face it and not run away?

Shine on us, O Light of Hope and New Life, for by your grace we need not fear the truth and we can celebrate what may now be awaiting us as we step within the great light of your Reign. Amen.

Thursday, December 9, 2004

10 December 2004

Another piece from "A Passion for the Possible" by William Sloan Coffin.

Human beings are fully human only when they find the universal in the particular, when they recognize that all people have more in common than they have in conflict, and that it is precisely when what they have in conflict seems overriding that what they have in common needs most to be affirmed. Human rights are more important than a politics of identity, and religious people should be notorious boundary crossers.

There is a powerful song that tells of "Flanders Field" and a battle scene that took place there in World War I. Germans were facing off against British forces in a bloody trench war filled with the brutal weapons of that era. But it was Christmas Eve...and in the silence of night time, hymns could be heard...then a white flag...then a soccer match in the field...then shared goods. But then, the universal had to be put aside again and the particular of nation against nation prevailed as the soldiers returned to their trenches and...prepared for the bloody mess of war even though both sides knew better than the ways of war. Now, the ones at the other end of a rifle site were ones that, just last night, were friends and neighbors. It is so easy to turn people into enemies and to demand their destruction or ruin but that is not the way of the followers of Jesus. We, as Coffin says, should be "notorious boundary crossers" because the world needs a vision other than the one that runs the world today.

Connection: Changing the vision of life begins for all of us today. Yes, we will be great at falling short of the vision...but we are invited to begin again and again and invite others to share in the vision for new life.

Lord God, as you created us in your image and it was indeed good, give us the vision to see that goodness even as it appears differently than what we would like or expect. Encourage us to reach out and move pass the trenches we place between us. Amen.

Wednesday, December 8, 2004

Some more pickings from "A Passion for the Possible" by William Sloan Coffin.

The challenge today is to seek a unity that celebrates diversity, to unite the particular with the universal, to recognize the need for roots while insisting that the point of roots is to put forth branches. What is intolerable is for differences to become idolatry. When absolutized, nationalism and ethnicity, race, and gender are reactionary impulses. They become pseudoreligions, brittle and small, without the power to make people great. No human being's identity is exhausted by his or her gender, race, ethnic origin, or national loyalty.

How quickly we can be seduced into trusting in something that is particular to us. This happens to the oppressors and to the oppressed in our world. This is truly why we need to celebrate our diversity and attempt to keep ourselves fully immersed in a community in which there is diversity. It is within the conversations we have with those who are different from us that we to do battle with the grand temptation to secure our position or our kind or our being the only way or the best way...or the one that must prevail over others. Every time we allow ourselves to be a part of a community that is open to the variety of people, it is like seeing another glimpse of the horizon that we have not yet seen and this new view make the whole horizon much more rich than what we were able to see previously.

Connection: Be patient. People who are different than us may drive us nuts - since our way - is so often - the way things are to be! Be patient and listen and question and become engaged so that our horizon of vision will open up and possibly surprise us all today.

Creator of this day and Creator of the many colors and textures of life around us, open our eyes again so that we may first see and then, by your grace, embrace...the gift of life you bring to us through those we encounter throughout the day. Amen.

Tuesday, December 7, 2004

8 December 2004

Some more pickings from "A Passion for the Possible" by William Sloan Coffin.

I believe the religious community has the saving vision. It is the ancient prophetic vision of human unity, now become an urgent, pragmatic necessity. According to this vision, we all belong one to another, every one of us five and a half billion people on this planet. That's the way God made us; from a Christian point of view, Christ died to keep us that way, which means that our sin is only and always that we put asunder what God has joined together. Human unity is not something we are called on to create, only to recognize and make manifest. Territorial discrimination has always been as evil as racial, as Pablo Casals recognized he asked: "To love one's country is a splendid thing, but why should love stop at the border?"

In these comments I was first caught off guard by Coffin's use of the phrase "put asunder what God has joined together." It sounds so much like what is often used in the rite of marriage. But here, it has to do with how we "put asunder" the realm of relationships we are given as human beings. God joins together human beings...even across borders, seas, great masses of land and issues of the day. And yet, we seem to find ways to divide and try to conquer. In the name of country and in the name of religion and in the name of economic or social preferences, we disassemble the wonderful gift of God's creation in which we are called into relationships that are meant to bring us together not tear us apart. In a time when fear continues to press all the right buttons that enables us to stay at war and create new ways to fight between us, we are still being called to be a people that live contrary to the prevailing winds of division in the name of self-preservation. What would happen if we would pursue the things that seek to preserve the well being of all people? I know, you may say I'm a dreamer.

Connection: When tempted to "put asunder" the relationships into which God continually calls us, we would do well to give a trusted friend a call to talk us back into relationships where love and unity prevail.

Healer of every ill and broken life, how often we turn from the way of love that seeks to reunite us and how often your Holy Spirit continues to call us back home to grow into our relationships with others and to nurture uniting relationships in others. Thanks be to God. Amen.

Monday, December 6, 2004

7 December 2004

Some pickings from “A Passion for the Possible” by William Sloan Coffin.

...the planet is at risk, and in an order of magnitude never previously even imagined. No longer is the survival unit a single nation or single anything; it is the entire human race plus the environment. Beyond saluting their flags, children in school should pledge allegiance “to the earth, and to the flora, fauna, and human life that it supports; one planet indivisible with clean air, soil, and water, economic justice, freedom, and peace for all.”

No one will win an election making suggestions like this. In fact, in many circles we enter every day this kind of wide open care for more than our own kind and our own place would be considered na├»ve, if not completely ridiculous. That being the case, it is important for the followers of Jesus to call forth that which sounds absurd to the air of division that seems so “normal in our world. Rather than go along with the same old turned-in-on-self that is a trademark of the brokenness of our humanity and is too often exemplified in national politics, why not speak up and never let “what is” be the only way the future is shaped. If all we can be is for “my corner of the world” or “our way of life” we not only will risk the well-being of all of us, we will miss out on the wonders of God’s gracious Reign because we are afraid of God’s glorious possibilities.

Connection: Do not be afraid of lifting your eyes so that you can see the beauty and worth of the whole of God’s creation. When we hear those self-centered voices, why don’t we lift a voice from the absurd Reign of God so that it too may be a part of the conversation. Yes, we may be discounted and ignored but in our speaking, we may strengthen one another to speak and act beyond the limited views of our world.

By the power of Your Holy Spirit direct us so that all your people may begin to the worth of those who may not be a reflection of my self and my world view. When you call your people a light to the nations continue to remind us of the life that this light reveals and encourage us to walk in the glow of its hopefulness. Amen.

6 December 2004

Some pickings from “A Passion for the Possible” by William Sloan Coffin.

Of all Michelangelo’s powerful figures, none is more poignant than the man in the Last Judgment being dragged down to hell by demons, one hand over one eye and in the other a look of dire recognition. He understood, but too late. It’s a familiar story, isn’t it? Rarely do we see the truth that stares us in the face until it is validated by disaster. Michelangelo was right: hell is truth seen too late.

Is this “hell” a place to which one goes or is it the realization of the journey one has and maybe is walking? I am more and more convinced that as our God calls us beloved, the life at hand and the life to come is an opportunity to be a beloved person in the presence of others. To be beloved is to have no fear of what may come because there is nothing that is able to erase what God calls us and how God creates us. But as we all know, we will trust almost anything…even the opinion of the day about an issue…rather than trust that I am beloved and that eternal status gives all of us the wonderful possibility to live a new life even when we are caught in what seems to be an endless cycle of death and all of its friends. Even the person in the painting who sees “truth too late” is not without hope. Yes, there is the painful recognition of missing out on a gift of life and having to face just how often we live according to the advice of the many gods of our lives, but this God who charges the day with the possibility of love abounding will remain that same God beyond our expectations and considerations. Even today, it is painful to recognize how often I allow myself to live contrary to the loving Reign of God…I do it without second thought. And yet, today begins a love that is able to transform us. From moment to moment -after we see ourselves living as though our status of being beloved by God is forgotten or we happen to forget that others also are brothers and sisters who status before God is just as life-giving and renewing- the truth presides over life and we are not outside its power. Remember, no other power can overwhelm the power of God’s love for us. Isn’t that a bit of the meaning of the incarnation?

Connection: We need to stand with one another and chant the vision of God’s loving-Reign. The chant may be heard within a touch…a glance…a sharing of some thoughts…a bold statement or action that is quite contrary to the prevailing winds of a conversation or an action. Chant the truth you who are beloved…for we all long to hear it in many and various ways for there is no need to waste a day…and there is always the need to be pulled back into God’s gracious possibilities for life.

Creating Lord, you wrap us up with your endless love and transform us into a compassionate people. Though we do not know what the day will bring we know that you will lead us and put into motion the marvelous wind of hopefulness that will sweep us up so that we can see the brilliant horizon of your gift of life. Amen.

Friday, December 3, 2004

Friday, 3 December, 2004

This week's devotions are written by Redeemer member bernice Stewart.

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9

As we take on new adventures and face challenges in life, we are constantly looking for answers. God's guidance isn't reserved for our "religious stuff". He's with us and there for us in any of our situations to guide us.

In his book "Doing Business by the Good Book" Dave Steward, founder and CEO of World Wide Technology states: "When people say, "I'm going with my gut instinct," they credit their decisiveness to a whim or impulse. Let's give credit where credit is due. What people call a gut feeling isn't what they think. I believe what we label an innate response is actually spiritually

inspired. The above verse, Joshua 1:9, confirms my belief that God is always with me; it is he who guides me, instructing me which way to turn and what to do. God does it through a voice that I hear within myself, even though it has no sound. I hear it because he is guiding me, and if you let him guide you, you will "hear" it and will prosper."

What is your response to the question raised by the Psalmist "Where does my help (guidance) come from?" Psalm 121:1b

In a workshop focused to help people with finding answers one of the speakers asked "Do you know what FAITH stands for??? . . . Finding Answers In The Heart"

Prayer: All Knowing God of our heart, we give thanks for Your guidance and continuous presence with us AMEN.