Monday, January 31, 2005

1 February 2005

Today Jurgen Moltmann quotes John Calvin as the theologian of hope among the Reformers.

To us is promised eternal life - but to us, the dead. We are preached a blessed resurrection - but in the meantime we are surrounded by corruption. We are called just - and yet what dwells in us is sin. We hear of inexpressible blessedness - but in the meantime we are bowed down under unending misery. We are promised a superfluity of all good things - yet we are rich only in hunger and thirst. What would become of us if we did not obstinately cling to hope, and if our minds did not hasten along the paths lit up for us by God's Word and Spirit right through the darkness, beyond this world?

Calvin's opening line sounds much like Episcopal priest, Robert Farrar Capon. We begin the end...with nothing to count on our behalf. And then, to that hopeless place comes the water of baptism...the promise of new life...the wind of the Spirit...and life unlike anything we are able to bring to ourselves. It is very easy to dismiss what is promised and to hang on to the way we would like the world to go if we were the ones in charge of how things were to go. But the creative power of our God to make life out of nothing at all is quite in amazing grace.

Connection: Some mornings are less than hopeful. Some days look more like the remnant of death than a pool of new life. Today may be one of those days. Don't be afraid to seek out people who will help you to look beyond what is into what is promised. That could be enough to turn, as the psalmist notes, mourning into dancing.

Lord of All Hopefulness, delight us with your power to renew and create and pull life from what we cannot see. For by your gracious power, we are able to taste what we do not know within our everyday life and then, we hunger for it again and again. Amen.

31 January 2005

More words on hope from "In the End - The Beginning" by Jurgen Moltmann

The present and the future, experience and hope, initially clash in Christian faith. Between them is the remembrance of Christ crucified by the powers of this world. It is only beyond the cross that we can see the first daybreak colours of God's new world. This means that Christian hope is a 'hope against hope', or a hope where there is nothing else left to hope for.

So, does this mean that 'hope against hope' leaves us without hope - ever. Since it is the hope where there is nothing else left to hope mean we are left with hope. We are left with those begining colors that we can use to paint the day as God hands it to us. We can face the abyss as though it is a canvas that is begging us to throw some color onto its "nothingness" and begin to make something happen in the midst of nothing at all. That may be a difficult thing to do. And yet, we are promised an advocate who will stand with us and help us get the painting on it way. Amen Come, Holy Spirit.

Connection: The present is never easy to move through. That is why promises are tough to deal with when we cannot see proof of what is to come. That's why we have others. Go ahead and reach out and help or let yourself be helped into what is to come.

How wonderful are the many ways you urge us to move into your future, O God. It is as though you have a patience that will truly never give up on us and you also have the power to spark our imagination so that we will move with you into today. Thanks be to you. Amen.

Friday, January 28, 2005

28 January 2005

Let's end the week with more words of hope.

Propositions count as true if they correspond to the reality which can be checked. But hope's assertions of promise often enough stand in contradiction to the reality of present experience. The assertions are not the outcome of past experiences they are an invitation to new ones. Their aim is not to illuminate the reality that already exists; they want to explore the possibilities ahead. Unlike every other perception of reality, they do not aim to be reality's train-bearers; they want to run ahead with the torch.

Hope leans forward. There may be many things that can be proven to be true but hope does not settle for what can be shown to be true, it leans forward and pulls us into what is not yet. Within religious communities this may be one way to check and see what it is that holds the life of the community. Is it the Lord of the future who is arriving today with new life or is it the Lord of yesterday who leans backward on what was and what has some history to it. I find that living in hope takes what was and what is but is able stretch out into what is yet to be and there we find an openness for life that is beyond our expectation but always within the vision of Reign of God.

Connection: We know what can move us through this day because we know routines and patterns and what will pass as life. But now...lean forward and live a new life.

Lord of the Day to Come, you are the rock upon which we stand and the rock from which we leap into your future. Encourage us to leap for you will be our rock in every time even when we cannot see clearly into what will be. Amen

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

27 January 2005

We pick up today with a quote from Jurgen Moltmann that was started yesterday.

If we talk about 'the second coming' of Christ, the present is empty, and all that is left to us is to wait for some far-off, final Judgement. But if we talk about 'Christ's coming', then he is already in the process of coming, and in the power of hope we open ourselves today with all our senses for the experiences of his arrival. By arrival we mean a future which is already present, yet without ceasing to be future. 'Jesus is in the process of coming'.

With Christ's coming in progress, so is the judgment. Do be frightened. The judgment is that we are beloved of God through Christ, Jesus. That is Good News that cannot be overcome by any power...not even our own. This judgment that is in our favor is the power for life to take a new direction in the face of any or all of the opinions of the day. The future will not change. The end of the story is known and secure. What changes the light of what we trust is true about the end.

Connection: Keep in mind the gift of God's love that is eternally for us. Now, what does that love have the ability to do within this day in which God has placed us? Go ahead let your imagination roam.

We come to you, O Lord, with the anxieties of this day even though we know that the end of all things are securely embraced by you. Fix our eyes on your coming so that we are not moved by other stories that try to own us and claim us. Amen.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

26 January 2005

I find this piece by Moltmann one that invites much we will use two days. Here's part one

...according to the Apostles' Creed, it would seem as if since the ascension Christ has disappeared from the earth, is now sitting at a particular place in heaven, and is waiting for a time when he will all at once 'come again' to judge the living and the dead. That is the picture behind the saying about Christ's hoped-for parousia - 'maranatha, come Lord Jesus' (Revelation 22:20) - is translated into Latin as adventus Christi, and that means his 'coming' in the sense of something coming to meet us out of the future (as we speak of a 'coming' event).

In this picture of the Christ after the ascension, there comes the grand temptation that the Christ is still out there...somewhere. With that type of vision, it is easy to think that we must somehow...get there...and how do we do that! But what is coming is coming. It is not static. It is not like a pond waiting for someone to take a leap into its refreshing water. It is coming like a river flowing toward us. Yes, it is to come, and yet it is coming already to sweep us up in its refreshing flow of life. So, in the meantime, we prepare for the swim...we act like we are doing everything that needs to be so that as the water cascades over us in time...real time...we will swim or paddle on our inflatable rafts and enjoy the day full of grace that encompasses this time.

Connection: How does one begin to prepare - within the ordinary stuff of this day - for the outpouring of God's promises that bring life - even now? This is a good lense through which we must look at the relationships we enter and the way we follow through with what we would call the love of God alive today. We are always at the edge of promise and stepping into its domain.

Lord of the Day to Come, it is by grace alone that our lives are shaped with a sense of what is to come and what is now grasping us and taking us into a new life. We give you thanks for the many ways you take hold of us and lead us and encourage us as we stumble and bumble along in these days. Amen.

Monday, January 24, 2005

25 January 2005

More to do with Hope - Jurgen Moltmann.

...the remembrance of Christ, for its part, throws open the wide horizons of the Christian hope. If the crucified Christ, on the foundation of his resurrection, has a future with God, then this means, conversely, that everything that is said about Christ says not only who he was and who he is, but must also say who he will be. With the familiar titles we give to Christ - Son of God, Son of man, Lord, Saviour, Redeemer - we are not merely expressing what he means for us; we are also saying what we expect of him. All the titles given to Christ are statements of hope.

It is this expectation that empowers us to face whatever will come for we will not be alone and the one who will be with us is the one who can take us through all things even to the end of all things. We do not know how things will end or when...we only know that the one who is call Saviour will save us - even if we do not know what that means in detail. It is our prayer that the one we call Lord will indeed rule in the way that is promised and no other power will preside over our life. That is why we continue to speak of peace beyond our understanding, love that binds all people together, justice that raises up the lowly and brings the mighty down a few notches, and mercy that gathers us in...all of us. We hope for the day when the vision of God's Reign comes.

Connection: As hard as it is to bring forth the life within God's Reign, remember that it comes and is coming and we are being swept up in its glory. Therefore, to be a part of that hopeful future is to be a part of today in just such a hope filled way. This may take courage and it may take the prayerfulness of a whole community together.

Lord of the New Day, as we move through all that will come upon us this day keep our eyes on the vision of your blessed Reign so that already...this day will shine with the light of your love. Amen.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

24 January 2005

Again we begin with the writing of Jurgen Moltmann.

(Christian hope) based on the remembrance of the coming, the death and the resurrection of Christ, and proclaims the coming of the One who is risen. Consequently for every Christian doctrine of hope, the justification of all expectations of the future in the person and history of Christ is the touchstone of all the utopian and apocalyptic spirits. Christian hope is based once and for all on the remembrance of Christ.

Christ show the way into the realm of hope by being the hopefulness of God incarnate. That is, by being the fullness of the day so that the day is complete and yet has so much more that can and will fill up tomorrow with more life than we have ever lived. By remembering the Christ, we remember how the future is to be shaped and the fact that we have a place in that future because of the distance Jesus already has gone for us...and now with us...and will go. Looking back to look forward becomes two simple gestures that create an avenue into new life.

Connection: Sometimes we have to remember the gift given in order to grasp the gift that awaits us. This day will host many opportunities to celebrate what is to come and what has been given to us in Christ. Wait and see.

Lord, you fill us up with the power of your love and that love carries us beyond any of our expectations. We thank you for lifting up our eyes to see you ways of gracious love and for standing with us as we begin to follow the ways of your Beloved. Amen.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

21 January 2005

From "In the End - The Beginning" by Jurgen Moltmann

But how can we talk about a future which isn't yet there, and tell about events which no one has yet seen? Is this just wishful thinking? Are these nightmares or speculations which no one can check?

But the the Christian hope doesn't talk about the future per se and all by itself, as an empty end towards which possible changes steer. It starts from a particular historical reality, and announces the future of that reality, its power over the future, and its consummation. The Christian doctrine of hope talks about Jesus Christ and his future. It is only in this name that hope is Christian.

We are talking about the future that moves out from the cross and the grave and the empty tomb. It is a future that has a shape to it that quite grounded in real life but at the same time, it shines forth into the future we have yet to touch. We do not wait for some fanciful future that will bring about a grand surprise. We talk about a future that is shaped by the Christ of God who humbled himself and became obedient unto death. It is a future with a past and a future that pulls us into the triumph of the resurrection. We hope for life that is known through Christ, Jesus, and a life we have yet to experience in its fullest.

Connection: Standing in the middle of the way things are, it can be very difficult to see anything other than what is. And yet, we are invited to look back and look ahead...and then, know that there is a way to live through this day as though it is the beginning of a promise...Hope filled.

Lord, bring us home and keep our eyes on how you have moved before us and promise to move with us into the days to come. Amen.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

20 January 2005

Hope continues to shape us through Jurgen Moltmann's reflections on the faith.

It is in the creative expectation of Christ's coming that our everyday experiences of life take place. We wait and hasten, we hope and endure, we pray and watch, we are both patient and curious. That makes the Christian life exciting and alive. The faith that 'another world is possible' makes Christians enduringly capable of future.

We are left within 'all there is to be.' We are being ushered into that which is not yet and therefore we do not need to settle for what we can only see with our own eyes. God keeps calling us into a future alive with promises and full of new ways of being the Beloved of God. I know that I like to have a good handle on how my day will go. Then again, when I am so intent on controlling the direction of things, I miss out on much and I am stuck with myself as lord of the Day. Not a promising place to be. We have a tomorrow outside of our reach and yet it is handed to us as we walk into it.

Connection: What about this day will be exciting and alive? That is a question to consider as the day begins and then, at the end of the day, we can ask it from there: What about this day was exciting and alive as we look back at the whole day?

Remind us, O God of All Time, of what it is to watch for your coming within this day. Encourage us when we grow weary of the many turns in the day that bring our lives little resolution and often more challenges. Abide with us through it all. Amen.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

19 January 2005

Hope is on the screen again - from, "In the End - The Beginning."

Christianity is wholly and entirely confident hope, a stretching out to what is ahead, and a readiness for a fresh start. Future is not just something or other to do with Christianity. It is the essential element of the faith which is specifically Christian: the keynote of all its hymns, the dawn colouring of the new day in which everything is bathed. For faith is Christian faith when it is Easter faith. Faith means living in the presence of the risen Christ, and stretching out to the coming kingdom of God.

The "fresh start" can be a simple as a fresh start for me. A fresh start when there seems to be no place to go or no one who will have me. The fresh start of God's Reign cannot be dismissed for it awaits our entrance. But we don't always want to go there. Sometimes it is better to stay in the past and wallow in defeat and discouragement...but that is really never true. It is never better for our life today to stay grounded in the debris of yesterday. God promises a future and we are invited into a confident place in which God defines us and we have nothing to say about it except, of course, "Yes God." The future is a gift and it contains the life that has been waiting for us...we need only follow the power of the Holy Spirit that keeps trying to pull us into God's promised Reign.

Connection: Take a bath in the power of God's Reign that is yanking at us and making room for us. What a way to wake up and walk through what can be a pretty sorry day sometimes.

Hand us this day as you have always promised, O God. We are too often tired of the ways things have been but then, we do not have the energy to even trust that you - the Creator of all that is and will be - will sustain us and bring us into new life. Feed us with you Bread of life today. Amen.

Monday, January 17, 2005

18 January 2005

On with hope and the future...with Jurgen Moltmann.

...God comes to meet men and women out of (God's) future, and in their history reveals to them new, open horizons, which entice them to set forth into the unknown and invite them to the beginning of the new.

What an image to remember! In the middle of this day God greets us from the future and in the present we are given an opportunity to take part in a promise that will take us beyond what we are able to see and hold. Today comes to us as that invitation to open up our lives and move into the life that has been promised to us. Therefore, we can walk into a reality called justice, mercy, kindness, love, forgiveness & reconciliation even if it is not where we intended to go when we stepped out of bed today. God is meeting us with new ways too walk all through this day.

Connection: Fear not and begin to live in ways that may take you just out of the way you know so well. Fear not because God is present with us...just as promised.

Lord, we do not know where we will go today but we know that you will hold us and shape us. Empower us to trust the way you will call us as we step forward into your Reign. Amen.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

17 January 2005

An ongoing look at hope - Jurgen Moltmann.

'May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope', writes Paul to the congregation in Rome (Romans 15:13).

This is unique. Nowhere else in the world of the religions is God associated with human hope for the future. God is the one who is Eternally Present, the deity is the Wholly Other, what is divine is Timelessly Eternal: all that is common coin. God is 'above us' as the Almighty, or God is 'within us' as the ground of our being: that is familiar. But a God of hope, who is in front of us, and goes ahead of us in history?

This is the God who suffers death right to its end without anything being withheld. This is the God who goes through death and invites us to follow. There is no lecture on how to rise above the pains and sorrows of the day...there is no systematic way of understanding our human predicament and mastering it. Our God faces death and walk through it and walks out the other side and bids us to follow. We do not "get out" of the death we all fear. We go right into it because that is what it is to be human. But we follow the one who has "been there and done that" and promises something for all who do not turn away from death. Therefore, our God pulls us from where God is - the future & waiting for us to arrive - and is simultaneously with us along the way. In this way, we will never be alone as we reach out into the fullness of God's love that keeps unfolding for us.

Connection: I think it take a committee of people to keep ourselves filled with hope. I don't mean a formal committee...I mean a bunch of folk - maybe only two or three - who will help us lift up our eyes to that which is not seen so clearly - just yet. Do you have those kind of people around you?

Bring us out of the slavery of these days and set us up within the grace-filled Reign of your love, O God. For within the bounds of your love is a future we cannot see on our own...and yet we long to be there...even now. Amen.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

14 January 2005

Jurgen Moltmann comments on the healing power of Jesus.

Sinner are, in the gospels often defined as people who are sick.

Out of the darkness into which they have been banished, so that no one is forced to see them, they come into the light of Jesus and seek the healing power of his physical presence.

...These healings are always associated with the expulsion of 'unclean spirits', demons. this is a way of saying that Jesus' vital power was to an extraordinary degree infectious life: it was vita vivificans - life that gives life. When Jesus comes, life comes into a sick and frightened world.

Unclean spirits is not just a way to refer to people who have a physical sickness. We would to well to see unclean spirits as that which grabs a persons heart and life and changes it from being beloved and thus loving into something else. Therefore, we could even say that when Jesus expels an unclean spirit it could be that the person suffered from "meanness" that was so deep that no one was able to come near the person. Could it be that that someone was so "full of themselves" so self-absorbed that no one else in their life really mattered much at all, that they lacked the wonderful gift of the living presence of God's love and were therefore possessed by an unclean spirit? When Jesus comes into their life and heal them, they begin to live a life filled with love and with life actions reflective of such love. That's a real healing event.

Connection: Old biblical words can really seem foreign. Then again, if we look around as the absence of the love of God as put to life in Jesus, some of them are not odd at all. Look around. There are many ways the healing love of our God is needed all around us.

Bless us with your power to heal, O God, so that our ways may give way to the life-giving will that brings healing into our broken world. Amen.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

13 January 2005

We continue with words from Jurgen Moltmann.

For people who believe in God for Christ's sake, God's righteousness and justice can be perceived, not from the law of the cosmos or the course of history, but from the life, self-surrender and resurrection of Christ, his presence and future.

What is it we see in the life of Jesus. Let's not look at some theory about his life. Let's look at his life and the vulnerability that creates life within a vicious and judging world. Let's look at how intimate he was with those who were to be kept at arms length or just outside of shouting distance. Let's talk about justice and love not as a hypothetical notion about which we can debate until there is no action taken, but let's talk about the life that defines justice and love and let's reflect on how it is a life that is available to us. We too can offer ourselves as vulnerable lovers of others because we are first loved and filled with worth that needs no self-inflation. Present and to the Christ among us.

Connection: No time like the present to walk out of our box and encounter the world with the love and sense of justice that moved Jesus through his days.

Give us vision, Lord of Mercy and all Hopefulness, so that as we move through this day we may see it fresh through the lenses of your grace and love. Amen.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

12 January 2005

We continue with the vision of Justice in "In the End - The Beginning."

...God is also already present where injustice is suffered. If God brings about justice for those who suffer violence, then he also identifies himself with the victims of violence, putting himself on their side. What is done to the poor and helpless is indirectly done to him too. His justice-creating righteousness is intensified through his Real Presence among the victims.

This is one of the hidden realities of our world unless we trust that the God of scripture is really still with us even as we move into this day. It is the reality that can and does create hope among those who are victimized in many and various ways because in the middle of everything that should not happen, we are told is the God who never leaves the side of the victim and oppressed. The scriptures are filled with those kind of stories. They are not meant to be mere entertainment. They are to remind us of our God when the day comes in our lives when injustice reigns and its brutality will not stop. It is here that this "justice-creating righteousness" comes to life and people today become the stories told tomorrow of victims embraced by our God in the most evil of days.

Connection: There are many poetic ways of talking about God's power and grace coming upon us within the dark days of our lives. Sometimes, that reminder will come to others in our words and our presence and our simple, encouraging touch.

Be present in this day, O God, for we are in constant need of your Reign of peace when we are threatened and overwhelmed by the powers around us. Remind us again that you do indeed come to be with us...even us. Amen.

12 January 2005

We continue with the vision of Justice in "In the End - The Beginning."

...God is also already present where injustice is suffered. If God brings about justice for those who suffer violence, then he also identifies himself with the victims of violence, putting himself on their side. What is done to the poor and helpless is indirectly done to him too. His justice-creating righteousness is intensified thorugh his Real Presence among the victims.

Monday, January 10, 2005

11 January 2005

We continue in "In the End - The Beginning"

According to the Old Testament, God's righteousness is his creative faithfulness to the community he shares, in the covenant with his people and in the covenant with his creation. According to the First Commandment, the God of Israel is the God who has freed the prisoners from their enslavement. So it is right to expect him to 'execute (create) justice for the oppressed' (Psalm 14:7; 103:6). God brings about justice for widows and orphans (Deuteronomy 10:18; Psalms 82:3; Isaiah 1:17) and is present among people who are forsaken and lost. He cares for the the 'strangers.' That is why anyone who cries out for God can cry with Psalm 31:1: 'In thy righteousness deliver me!'

The character of our God shapes our expectations of how our God will be with us. Moltmann's expression "creative faithfulness to the community" is brimful with possibilities. And yet, the possibilities of our lives will have a face on them that will be very distinct and above all, inclusive. For example, if there is no justice for the poor and no liberation for the oppressed, then we cannot talk as though God's people are raised up and delivered. Then again, it is what we can expect and it is a life we can presently walk into even if there is no evidence that God is bringing it about at this time. Why? Because liberation and care and support of the poor is promised. Unfortunately, how often do we go for it...reach out as though it is coming into the midst of our lives. Usually I think it is something for which I am to wait...and yet, God uses God's people to fulfill promises. If I remember well, something like two brothers names Aaron and Moses were right in the middle of the liberation of Israel from the once strong arm of Pharaoh.

Connection: Yes, we've heard it before. Justice and mercy begins the midst of all of us. Who knows what that will mean today...I'm sure we will get a few hints.

Faithful Lord, as your blessed Reign continues to be established, inspire us to be workers within your gracious power and to look for the many ways you seek to bring abundant life to all. Amen.

Sunday, January 9, 2005

10 January 2005

We continue with "In the End - The Beginning" by Jurgen Moltmann

'May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope', writes Paul to the congregation in Rome (Romans 15:13).

This is unique. Nowhere else in the world of the religions is God associated with human hope for the future. God is the one who is Eternally Present, the deity is the Wholly Other, what is divine is Timelessly Eternal: all that is common coin. God is 'above us' as the Almighty, or God is 'within us' as the ground of our being: that is familiar. But a God of hope, who is in front of us, and goes ahead of us in history?

If this is indeed the case, I suppose we will start to take a look at how such a view of God has an impact on us. In the text from Romans, there is already a glimpse at what it means to have hope for the future - it is present today. Hope abounds today because we are taught that there is a future in which God already presides. When hope in the future abounds today, today becomes a day filled with life. In that sense, as we shall see over the next week, we are intimately tied to the end of all things because they already make an impact on who we are and what we do today. With a vision of what is to come, we do not simply live within this day and count on what the day will make of us. We can walk through what the day will make of us but we will hang our lives on what we know will be the outcome of history - sometimes we use language like a banquet. In this way, there is life today that cannot be contained by the limits of today. You may say I'm defeated, but I know I am already a part of the victory.

Connection: We are free to be very involved in the events of today and we bring to this day all the life that is promised for the very end of time. How will that shape the day?

O Lord, from the end of time, you rush into this day to remind us of what is to come and to walk with us through the day that awaits us. As we live among our neighbors, remind us of the neighborliness of your Blessed Reign that we will be free to join your saints in just such a life now. Amen.

Friday, January 7, 2005

7 January 2005

We start again with Jurgen Moltmann's "In The End - The Beginning."

The theology of the early Church said that in this event (Christmas) God 'became man' - became human. But the mystery really begins with God's becoming a child. The great, all-comprehensive rule of God begins as this child's rule of peace. The gospel of Christ is profoundly engraved by the gospel about children: 'Whoever receives a child receives me' and : 'Unless you become like a children...', for the kingdom of God is theirs.

How would it fit to say that the incarnation and the coming of God in the form of a child has something to do with "Unless you become you." That is, unless you see the worth in being human in your own shoes without any privilege beyond the fact that you are will miss the power and simplicity of the Reign of God. Last night I told some of our young people that when we baptize, we say the child's name: first name, middle name, but no last name. There is to be no last name because the child's identity is to be as one clothed in Christ and not shielded or known to everyone by the influence and status of the family. In Baptism, God blesses and saves me...the infant child...the one who has no power and no real identity. The same thing is going to happen at my death. No matter how rich or famous...or poor and despised I may become, the casket is covered with the funeral pall so that my casket will look like all others. And when it is time to put me into the ground or taken to the crematory, they will say only the name Frank Allan - stilled beloved of God.

Connection: We have the God of Creation on our side and with us throughout all that takes place today. That doesn't make us superhuman nor does it mean that we will be protected from all the bad stuff in the world. It means we can be fully human...just who we are...and it is all that is needed to begin to walk within the image of God.

Take us and hold us as we face the events of this day, O Lord of Creation. Send us off again, with the assurance of your love that is the power to heal the brokenness around us and in us. Lift up our eyes so that we can see the fullness of this day you have created for all your children. Amen.

Wednesday, January 5, 2005

6 January 2005

We will start from "In the End, The Beginning"

'In every child the messiah can be born', says a Jewish proverb. So every child deserves respect. It is encompassed by the magic of the messianic hope. At Christmas, Christians celebrate the festival of the birth of the Redeemer in 'the child in the manger' in Bethlehem. What are we really doing then? We are celebrating the encounter with the almighty God in the weak and helpless child Jesus. But this presupposes a tremendous proceeding: the Creator of heaven and earth, whom even the heaven of heavens cannot contain, becomes so humble and small that in this child Jesus he is beside us and lives among us.

Becoming humble and small seems like something we all try to avoid at times. We do that by making too much of ourselves or making too little of ourselves. God becomes human. God becomes the a part of the fullness of humanity in all its glory so that God would be known not as something or someone out there...but here...right where you are. For me, becoming humble and small means that I think enough of myself to let go and take the risk to come and know you no matter what it might mean for me. That is a dangerous proposition because in coming to know you and be known by you, things may change for me and you...and we can never tell what that change will be. When we look at the Jesus story, it is always with the view of what we learn about God through hearing about Jesus. Sometimes I like to think that God had to learn a whole bunch about what it is to be...not to create - but to be...human. We can only imagine what that learning was.

Connection: What would it take to come to know someone more than we might know that person right now? What might we gain...what might we lose?

Lord of the Nativity, by breaking into our lives you break open what it is to live in the presence of the Reign of God taking up residence in our place and time. Turn us so that we will face those around us and thus find in them another way to be like the Christ who comes into all of our humanity. Amen.

Tuesday, January 4, 2005

5 January 2005

We continue with "In The End - The Beginning by Jurgen Moltmann

'To us a child is born', proclaims the prophet Isaiah to his people who are 'walking in darkness' (Isaiah 9:6, 9:2). The destruction of their country, the expulsion from their homeland, forced labour in Babylon: a black eclipse of God had fallen on God's people.

...So 'the child of promise' becomes the symbol for the future of life, in contrast to the sufferings of the present. And in this way it also becomes the pledge of God's faithfulness: he will find his forsaken people and bring them home.

This is an image we see quite a bit at the change of one year to the next. The baby 2005 replaces the old man 2004. The child is future - what can be. This symbol of potential life is especially important for all of us when we face what can be a brutal, disappointing, and fear-filled situation in our lives. I'm always amazed when people say they would never want to bring a child into a world like ours. It is a sad statement that reflects an inability to trust that our God is a God for every age and this God calls each age and every generation into life beyond our present expectations. We could say that the more hopeless a day looks is precisely the time to consider the "child born to us" and how God will indeed be with us so that hope blooms before us.

Connection: It is easy to be defeated by the circumstances of our day. It is easy to fall prey to discouragement and failure. It is also critical for us to remind one another how God will keep giving birth to new life no matter how down and out we may feel today.

Lord of New Year and the New Day, take us with you into the vision of your blessed Reign that will begin today and will move us into the time that is to come. Ignite within us a yearning for the possibilities that you place within our lives. Amen.

Monday, January 3, 2005

4 January 2005

From Jurgen Moltmann's "In the end, the beginning."

In writing about God's promises and our trust of those promises Moltmann writes:

Abraham and Sarah offer the primal image of this kind of trust, for according to Genesis 12 they left everything in response to God's promise that he would make of them a great people and a blessing for all generations of human beings. The departure of Abraham and Sarah from their home country, and the wanderings that followed, show that a divine promise doesn't just point forward to some far-off future, which we have to wait for; the promised future is already present in the promise itself, and mobilizes the people concerned through the hope it awakens.

The promise brings life that is able to see beyond today and to see how today is a part of what is to come. The promise is not based on our gifts and our talents. We are not asked to trust in our skills or our knowledge and then "pull ourselves up" into a better day. The promise is all about what our God plans to do and will begin doing with us right now. There is no promise that God will make me successful in the world...or keep me safe from harm. The promise is that God will take as me...and create a life of faithfulness that will be unlike anything that is already in place around me. Abraham and Sarah were not invited into the promised future of God because they were "somebody." They were quite the opposite - nobody at all. God takes just such people and builds new life for them and, as you might expect, others.

Connection: Trusting that we are beloved of God and called into the life that new status gives us can make more of a claim on today than we might ever imagine. That's why we are always being called to live within that promise. Come and see what this life will be for you.

Lord, we do not know what it means to trust your gift of life and your invitation to follow. In Christ, Jesus, you show a way to move into this day. In Sarah and Abraham you flash before us lives that took seriously your promise for life as they left their home to live within your Reign. Encourage us to step forward and trust whose we are and what life we are given. Amen.

Sunday, January 2, 2005

3 January 2005

We start a series featuring "In the End-the Beginning" by Jurgen Moltmann.

"There is a magic in every beginning", wrote Hermann Hesse. What does this mean, if we think about the beginning of every human life? In order to grasp this more clearly, let us look at the biblical concept of promise. A divine promise is the promise of future which God is going to bring about. When God promises something he is bound to keep his promise, for his own sake and for the sake of his glory. His whole being is faithfulness. That is why we human beings can trust him and can believe what he promises.

At least we must realize that promise within our faith story has to do with "future which God is going to bring about." This is not about what I want to see take place. I am called to trust in what God promises. There is a whole book filled with how God goes about bringing the promises that point to the way of the future into the events of the day. Many times though, it is much easier for me, and I take it for you also, to trust what we each may have planned for ourselves and others in our lives. But when we venture to say we are God's people, we are letting go of the plans we can so precisely make and we are boldly invited to set out into God's future. Sometimes we use the word vision to lay out such a planned journey. But again, it is the vision of God's future that we learn from the one who stretches it out before us. The magic (if that's one way we choose to call it) of a beginning is that we cannot know its full content. Absolutely anything can step into the pathway we walk and therefore we cannot predict how the promise will unfold. When God promises to be with us -Emmanuel- that sounds great...but what in the world will that mean for us by the end of this day or the next week or as I am about to decide between this or that "life" decision. There is always something strange, challenging, and...hopeful in hearing that God is and will being bringing something about in our lives.

Connection: Hang on and be ready for a how today may be an ordinary day but within its many turns and straight-aways, we may find something divine in the air and it blow across our faces turning our lives into something more than we could expect.

Wind of Life, you pull us forward into your future. Sometimes we pull away and run as fast as we can in another direction and sometime we are swept up into your presence and find our lives changing again. Refresh us again so that we will be ready to walk in your ways. Amen.