Thursday, March 31, 2005

Friday, 1 April, 2005

Text: Since we are headed into a few days that will deal with the law and how Paul sees it being used, I will again interject another reading so that several days needed to deal with the size of the Galatians text will be continuous. So...from Between Noon & Three by Robert Farrar Capon.
In a follow-up comment on the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32): Let me refine that a little. I said grace cannot prevail until law is dead, until moralizing is out of the game. The precise phrase shoud be, until our fatal love affair with the law is over - until, finally and for good, our lifelong certainty that someone is keeping score has run out of steam and collapsed. As long as we leave, in our dramatizations of grace, one single hope of a moral reckoning, one possible recourse to salvation by bookkeeping, our freedom-dreading hearts will clutch it to themselves. And even if we leave none at all, we will grub for ethics that are not there rather than face the liberty to which grace calls us. Give us the parable of the Prodigal Son, for example, and we will promptly lose its point by preaching ourselves sermons on Worthy and Unworthy Confession, or on the Sin of the Elder Brother.
The notion of "one single hope of moral reckoning" is always a temptation. It is always what we think will make things well. It is easier to be a proponent of "moral living" as the way of fixing our status before God than to trust that our status is set - by God alone. Of course, this does not mean the end of morality. On the contrary, it is much like the "law" that comes after the promise to Abraham and his seed (yesterday in Galatians). Morality helps to keep things in order...but that is not the final nor the first word. In fact, I would submit that it is the promise - taken and held onto as though it is our life (which it is!) that truly transforms our everyday lives to be that which we commonly call the life of the body of Christ. A grace-filled living that will be like nothing the law on its own can bring. Self-giving love that comes out of our understanding that we are dead and only alive by grace, cannot be legislated. It is a gift that cuts through the curtain of the law so that God is truly visible in the midst of us.
Connection: What power grace can have for the living of this day! We are free to be agents of graceful living even when there is no command to be such agents. We are free to give beyond the limit of the law or the demands of the law. We can be graceful even in our driving. Free to obey the orange barrels and free to give gifts of gracefulness to other drivers as we tool along the road in a day when road rage seems to rule. Ha!
O God of grace and orange barrels, lift up our hearts by your loving kindness and mercy. Show us the path of your beloved, Jesus, that we, in this day, may walk within that grace and love. Amen.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

30 March 2005

Jesus get a longer look in "The Prophetic Imagination" by Walter Brueggemann.

A fourth aspect of what Brueggemann says is a part of Jesus' radical criticism.
Jesus' attitude toward the temple (Mark 11:15-19; John 218-22 was finally the most ominous threat because there he spoke directly about the destruction. In so doing he of course voices the intent of the enemies of the church and the state. Moreover, in his speech about the temple he quotes from the temple sermon of Jeremiah (Jer. 7:11), thereby mobilizing that painful memory of dismantling criticism and the in fact radically replicating it here. In critiquing the temple, Jesus struck at the center of the doctrine of election...Thus Jesus advances the critical tradition of Jeremiah against the royal tradition reflected in Isaiah.

This kind of criticism that cuts to the very heart of the tradition and power that has built up a people and made great promises to them cannot be tolerated. It cannot be tolerated because there is still a corporate memory that recalls that this very center of the religious community can be wiped out. When there is great loss, there is often the attitude that we can never let it happen again...we must do everything we can to prevent such destruction and loss. This brings us to what is so human about all of us. When we dig in and become entrenched and say "never again," we often become the ones who oppress and restrict and make gods of the patterns and objects of our lives and we will serve them at all cost. I remember a speaker who insisted that a god is that to which we give our lives even if it means sacrificing our children and our own lives - everything. At that time, he was making reference to our worship of nuclear weapons and the military-industrial complex as a whole. We will secure ourselves even if it means we must destroy others by not taking care of the basic needs of most of the people. Jesus was holding up a mirror so that the religious and cultural leaders could see what was taking place. They could not and would not stand for such a clear portrayal of their world...and...they did not.

Connection: Always take another look at what is being served in our lives today. The gods of our lives try to stay hidden beneath the many causes and good order of the day...but they are there waiting to be served by us. It is not easy to stay out of their reach and hold on us.

You, O God, and the one true God who liberates and brings life. We are likely to forget that fact and therefore we call upon you Spirit of life to remind us of your place in our lives as Lord of All. Amen.

Monday, March 28, 2005

29 March 2005

We continue from "The Prophetic Imagination" by Walter Brueggemann.

A third aspect of what Brueggemann says is a part of Jesus' radical criticism.
Jesus was willing to eat with the outcasts (Mark 2:15-17), which threatened the fundamental morality of society. The outcasts were the product of a legal arrangement that determined what was acceptable and unacceptable, clean and unclean, right and wrong. Crossing over the barrier of right and wrong implied that in the dispensing of mercy the wrong were as entitled as were the right, and therefore all meaningful distinctions were obliterated.

This is not just a description of what was in the day of Jesus. It is what we have all around us today. Jesus went against the rule, both religious and - you could then say - legal, when he sat down with those with whom you were not to have such close and intimate contact. He did it. It was not right. It was not considered the proper religious thing to do. You could lose friends over this. You could lose your right to associate with some people. You could be push off a cliff and stoned. JUST FOR EATING WITH PEOPLE! But outcasts are outcasts and we need to keep that in mind, right!?! I don't know about you, but I keep wanting say, "I follow Jesus." I want to keep saying we have had too long of a history of trying to "keep clean," "keep ourselves to ourselves" and then even to use our children in the argument by saying what will happen to them if we associate with such people...what will we tell them!?! We tell them "we follow Jesus!" Nothing can be so powerful than to lead our children into the way of Jesus. It will not be easy. It is tough enough for adults to walk in the way of the Good News. It is tougher to be a parent and watch as your own children begin that walk...even when we will not. Don't talk about morality in our day unless you have spent some time eating and being friends and companions with those people the world would like to forget but our God always keeps close to God's bosom.

Connection: I'm not sure. Maybe this is too far for us to go. Maybe we will not follow Jesus today. Maybe there will be other ways that will be more popular with those around us. I'm not sure. What do you say?

Carry us, O God, into your promised land in which you preside over all the tables at the feast that is set within the realm of your glory. Though we would usually try to stay behind and settle for what we can make of the day for ourselves, you continue to hold up the banner of your love and stretch it out for all to see. We give you thanks for you bountiful grace. Amen.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

28 March 2005

We continue to hear from Walter Brueggemann.

A second aspect of what Brueggemann says is a part of Jesus' radical criticism.
Jesus' ability to heal and his readiness to do it on the Sabbath (Mark 3:1-6) evoked a conspiracy to kill him. The violation is concerned not with the healing but with the Sabbath. Already in (Mark) 2:23-28 he has raised the issue and obviously Jesus' understanding of the Sabbath is that it had become a way of enslavement. Predictably,the objection comes from those who managed the Sabbath and benefited from it.

It is not easy to draw into question what has been held up as a cornerstone of a people. But as Brueggemann says, when those primary aspects of a society become a way to keep people under the thumb of those who manage the systems then...something must happen to interrupt this flow. It is not easy to do and it may mean the interruption comes with a cost - even threats of death. We need cornerstones. They help us to begin to build new things. But sometimes, we are more in love with those cornerstone elements of our society -secular or religious - that their original purpose is distorted or even abandoned. We must be able to maintain that critical tension that is not afraid to speak up or act or call for new ways to build the future.

Connection: It is not easy to see how we benefit from pieces of the structure of our society or our religious community. Sometimes it would be good to stop and consider those who do not benefit from such things and ask why...and what needs to change.

O Breath of the Empty Tomb, what looks abandoned is not. By the power of the Holy Spirit you bring a new life through that which is old and that which is being created out of nothing at all. Take us by the hand and show us the way beyond what is. Amen.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

25 March 2005

With Good Friday at hand we continue with "The Prophetic Imagination" by Walter Brueggemann.

(Jesus') readiness to forgive sin (Mark 2:1-11), which evokes amazement, also appeared to be blasphemy, that is to say, a threat to the present religious sanctions. At one level the danger is that Jesus stood in the role of God and therefore claimed too much, but we should not miss the radical criticism of society contained in the act. Hannah Arendt had discerned that this was Jesus' most endangering actions because if society does not have an apparatus for forgiveness then its members are fated to live forever with the consequences of any violation. Thus the refusal to forgive sin amounts to enormous social control.

It is as though we cannot go forward into what is potentially fresh and new unless we are able to forgive. As Jesus encountered, the willingness to grasp forgiveness and extend it to others begins to take power away from those who claim to be the only conduit for forgiveness. The next thing you will know...everyone will be just forgiving everyone else. Have you ever heard of forgiveness being chaos. I haven't. And yet, the powers fear such a notion of forgiveness because it may lead us into utter chaos because it will not be controlled. I don't think anything has been able to control the power of the wind that blew out of the tomb on Easter. Yes, there may be chaos at times...but isn't there always. Forgiveness is a power that takes us beyond chaos into new life.

Connection: The journey into forgiveness never ends...nor does the journey into new life. It is also important to remember that both of these are the same...forgiveness is the journey and the journey is forgiveness. The real question today has to do with how we will embody this forgiveness in our lives and then personally enter the journey into new life.

Forgiving Lord, teach us your ways and remind us of the glorious life that is ours as we follow you into those adventures of forgiveness that make us turn around and come at life within a new perspective. Amen.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

24 March 2005

A look at the story of Jesus through "The Prophetic Imagination" by Walter Brueggemann.

...the Lukan account of the disclosure to the shepherds, the representative marginal ones, announces a newness that will displace the old regime. Appropriately the recipients of unexpected newness are filled with wonder and awe (Luke 2:17-20). The intrusion embodied in the birth of Jesus causes a radical inversion:
He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts,
he has put down the mighty from their thrones,
and exalted those of low degree;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent empty away. (Luke 1:51-53)
The birth of Jesus brings a harsh end to a Herodian reality that seemed ordained forever, and it created a new historical situation for marginal people that none in their despair could have anticipated.

We live in a world that does little for the marginalized. Is it that we do not care? Is it that we only like the poetic images of liberation and care for those on the margin? When our faith is merely an individualized one in which we care primarily for our own well-being, it is easy to see that we would - when pushed - side with the powers-that-be...since we are so often a part of them. Jesus and the images of the prophets attempt to bring another view into existence so that we will take the risk of moving toward its vision and making our lives walk within its sketches of how promises come to life. Those who are on the margin find food within these visions. Those of us who are more closely in line with the ways things are can find these visions a bit threatening because we are all be invited to open up our lives and find "the other" as one of us and not distant anymore.

Connection: As is said many times, we need to learn how to listen to those who are marginalized and we need to hear how the systems that run the world do not listen to any voice but their own. And then, we must add our voices to the call for liberation and loving kindness that may disrupt the usual flow of the day.

Your promises, O God, are for all your people. We often do not listen to how you side with those we tend to push to the side and to the back of the room. Help us, again, to listen to your vision for life that is so clearly spoken by the prophets and brought to life in Jesus. Amen.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

23 March 2005

We will continue with "The Prophetic Imagination" as we move into the life of Jesus.

As in ancient Israel, it is characteristic of kings to deny the end of the old order and in their blindness to take any steps to perpetuate what has in fact already ended. Thus Herod engages in self-deception and denial using his best talents, but they are not enough because the king cannot stop the end. In contrast to this is the pathos of Rachel, seen in Jeremiah. The raging of the king comes to an end in grief and lamentation. It is the work of the prophetic tradition to grieve the end, the very end which the king cannot face, cannot stop, and surely cannot grieve.

O how we hate to see the end of what is known to us and that which we we would have it. Imperialism is wonderful when we think we own the world and can run it as we like. But like any power that tries to be above all powers, we all fall down. That can be corporately, nationally, or even individually. We all fall down. What is so awkward is that we rarely will admit to falling and if we are told that we are falling or have fallen, we deny it or run away in silence so as to not face the notion that we are losing what we love to have and keep. In Matthew's gospel, Herod is King but as all kings know, there will come a time when new kings will rule. Then again, there comes a time when, though I am king, I am nothing more than a pawn in a grand game in time. Kings and Rulers and Powers of the Day rarely grieve - especially not in public. Rather they go to war to make others wail. It is as though it is a lotion that brings a sense of relief...but it does not and it cannot.

Connection: We all have our own little domains over which we like to rule and stay in command. What we would do well to add to our lives would be an ability to let go and grieve when things begin to fall down and then find others who will help us with that and stand with us during our pain.

You awaken us, O God, to a sense of wonder in which we are not content to let life stay as it is or work unto the death to keep things as is. You, O God, keep making things new and within that aura of newness, we are free to wonder at how brilliant and gracious is your Reign above all others who say they reign over us. Amen.

Monday, March 21, 2005

22 March 2005

Brueggemann spends some time looking at Jesus in "The Prophetic Imagination."

The birth of Jesus itself represents a decisive criticism of the dominant consciousness. The Lukan account of his solidarity with the poor and the Matthean presentation of his abrasive conflict with the powers that be (seen in the birth narratives) both point to the emergence of an alternative consciousness. No attempt, of course, needs to be made to harmonize the two versions as they move in different directions for different reasons and make different affirmations. Nevertheless, in completed form they are perfectly complementary in dismantling by criticism and in energizing by amazement.

Again, I am caught by Brueggemann's words. Can you or have you or are you able to imagine being in a situation that is energizing by amazement!?! First, as he notes, there is this dismantling by criticism that happen so very often in our world - and needs to happen. But that is not enough. That will not open our eyes and our lives to what is beyond criticism. We are being pulled into the experience of amazement...utter amazement. This kind of event does not settle for what we can already see and what we already know. We are surprised. We are shaken. We are perplexed and yet we find some amazing sense to the vision of Jesus within the gospels. Maybe that is the amazing grace about which we sing and for which we long each of our days until we are surprised by its availability.

Connection: What is it about the story of God's grace in Christ, Jesus, that energizes you? Then again, what is it about that Jesus life you see come to life today among those around you that energizes you? Where can we find such a source of energy and amazement for our lives?

You, O God, are always "for us" and yet we run from you as if we are afraid of your presence. Help us to find in that strange sense of amazement at your glory the graciousness of your promises that will not leave us behind but rather will lift us up to be with you. Amen.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

21 March 2005

Walter Brueggemann in "The Prophetic Imagination" now enters into the life of Jesus.

The Dominant Consciousness must be radically criticized and the dominant community must be finally dismantled. The purpose of an alternative community with an alternative consciousness is for the sake of that criticism and dismantling. ...If we are to understand prophetic criticism we must see that its characteristic idiom is anguish and not anger. The point of the idiom is to permit the community to engage its own anguish, which it prefers not to deny.

We must learn to feel the brokenness of the community - the way life is unbalanced - the way power is used to oppress and silence - the way those who have are never satisfied even if it means taking from those who have nothing. That image is one that must be felt. We must deal with the anguish rather than, as Brueggemann suggests, the anger. Anger will throw us into rebellion, warfare, terrorism, and unilateral actions against others. Anguish makes us face ourselves and the way our lives have become a part of this Dominant Consciousness that does little to bring new life to anyone. That is a very sad and disturbing realization. this alternative community deals with what is and literally lets itself weep at what is taking place rather than try to prop it up as though all things are just fine. The prophet knows how to weep and helps us see what all the weeping is about so that we can be a part of something quite different.

Connection: Have no fear even though we may see the powers doing what they please and not caring for the well being of all people. We have an opportunity today to refuse to go along with that view of life. Instead, we can let ourselves feel impact of what is happening and begin to find others with whom we can share our anguish and listen to a new vision.

Lord of Life, how often we find ourselves waiting for the world to be healed - for justice to prevail - for mercy to recreate what is. When your peace and healing and mercy is not alive among us, make us bold so that we will call for your Reign to come again among us. Amen.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

18 March 2005

Another word from Walter Brueggemann.

The newness from God is the only serious source of energy. ...The prophet must not underestimate his or her urgent calling, for there are no other sources of newness. I am aware that this runs dangerously close to passivity, as trust often does, and that it stands at the brink of cheap grace, as grace must always do. But that risk must be run because exiles must always learn that our hope is never generated among us but always given to us. And whenever it is given we are amazed.

Sometimes we can be so afraid of what might go wrong that we lose the courage to imagine what might go right. That is, what might be an amazing witness to the grace of God right in the middle of our lives. "We can't go there" needs to hear from "We are taking the leap" or "We have been there and it is unlike anything we ever knew." Trusting what love God has for all God's people will take us beyond ourselves and into the world of others. Once there - once we have taken the risk to trust God's power to create relationships out of nothing - we may never be the same and we may never stop changing and being made new and be filled with an energy for life that nurtures life all around us.

Connection: We know what "oldness" is. We know what yesterday could bring into our lives. Now, what about now?!? There is always the opportunity to be amazed by what God is about to do with us now and forever.

O Breath of Life and Creator of What is and What is to be, we count on you to hold us and to lead us. When we hold back and do not want to be led, shine your light of grace upon us that we may see beyond this day into the possibilities of your Blessed Reign. Amen.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

17 March 2005

We return to "The Prophetic Imagination" by Walter Brueggemann.

...prophets are not magicians. Their art and calling is only with words that evoke alternatives, and reshaped hardware will not overcome despair in any case.
... Remember not the former things, nor consider things of old.
Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
(Isaiah 43:18-19)

What is new within the Reign of God is new. Therefore we are never merely left with what is, even if that is all we want to have. The most difficult piece of this prophetic word is that it is not a concrete reality -- just yet. It pulls us in by drawing on our imagination that is shaped by the vision of God's Reign as the prophet lays out its beauty through words and images we have yet to experience. I cannot see the new thing...and yet, it is being proclaimed and there are glimpses of it that are not available to us in the shape of things as their are. do we leap into such a life?

Connection: Dream on and anticipate what is not even if it means taking steps across boundaries and through borders that have been set up to divide us. God continues to invite us into a new day. Unfortunately, it can be so easy to stay put. We really need some new eyes, even if they are the eyes of others who help us see beyond what is already familiar to us.

Come and take us along the way, O God, so that we may embrace what you promise and take the risk to leave behind what is known. This may not be an easy journey and yet, your promises are so bold they pull us into them. Help us to let go of today and fly off into your blessed Reign. Amen

17 March 2005

We return to "The Prophetic Imagination" by Walter Brueggemann.

...prophets are not magicians. Their art and calling is only with words that evoke alternatives, and reshaped hardware will not overcome despair in any case.
... Remember not the former things, nor consider things of old.
Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
(Isaiah 43:18-19)

What is new within the Reign of God is new. Therefore we are never merely left with what is, even if that is all we want to have. The most difficult piece of this prophetic word is that it is not a concrete reality -- just yet. It pulls us in by drawing on our imagination that is shaped by the vision of God's Reign as the prophet lays out its beauty through words and images we have yet to experience. I cannot see the new thing...and yet, it is being proclaimed and there are glimpses of it that are not available to us in the shape of things as their are. do we leap into such a life.

Connection: Dream on and anticipate what is not even if it means taking steps across boundaries and through borders that have been set up to divide us. God continues to invite us into a new day. Unfortunately, it can be so easy to stay put. We really need some new eyes, even if they are the eyes of others who help us see beyond what is already familiar to us.

Come and take us along the way, O God, so that we may embrace what you promise and take the risk to leave behind what is known. This may not be an easy journey and yet, your promises are so bold they pull us into them. Help us to let go of today and fly off into your blessed Reign. Amen

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Tuesday, 15 March, 2005

Text: Galatians 3:15-18
Brothers and sisters, I give an example from daily life: once a person's will has been ratified, no one adds to it or annuls it. Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring; it does not say, "And to offspings," as of many; but it says "And to your offspring." that is, to one person, who is Christ. My point is this; the law, which came four hundred thirty years later, does not annul a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to nullify the promise, For if the inheritance comes from the law, it no longer comes from the promise; but God granted it to Abraham through the promise.
I have always found this to be an interesting argument. Paul seems to make a major jump to put into the text about Abraham the notion of the Seed being Christ. But then, he makes no jump at all when he uses the legal example. The promise to Abraham was a one sided covenant. God will do this(period). God will make the people. God will bless. God will grant an inheritance to the seed of Abraham(period). That was followed in time by the "law" - another type of covenant that calls an agreement between two parties, in this case a "lord" and "lessers." The most important argument Paul is making is that since the Abrahamic covenant was first, it stands. The way we see the law is that it is given for the welfare of the "chosen" people. It is not the vehicle for salvation or making ones life right before God so as to be welcome before God. Paul is urging his friends to stay grounded in the promise he see coming through Abraham and now available to all people - even the traditiona outsiders - Gentiles.
Connection: God's promise - is everlasting. Nothing will come up in this day to say that it will no longer be the steadfast rule among us. We are surely called into a "holy" life today...but it is always in grateful response to the original promise of "God for us."
O God of promise and promise keeping, in Christ you sent your promise for life out into the whole world. We are recipients of that promise through Christ and we now live in the assurance of your gift of life. Let you Holy Spirit inspire us to see the people around as just such recipients of your grace. May our lives reflect the promise as we dance in this day in your name. Amen.

Monday, March 14, 2005

14 March 2005

Walter Brueggeman continues with the notion that Inversions begin in a change of language and he offers this second example:

The third image is that of nourishment. If you eat the bread of Babylon for very long you will be destroyed. There were some who liked the bread of Babylon and they became Babylonians, but Israelites who are exiles will not accommodate that imperial bread. so the poet in his statement about alternative bread dismantles the Babylonian bakery:
Ho, every one who thirsts, come to the waters:
and he who has no money, come, wine and milk without money and without price.
Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread,
and your labor for that which does not satisfy? (Isaiah 55:1-2)

Exiles are not a part of the "way things are" in any land. They live contrary to what is expected by the status quo. That means that they even question sharing in that which is so essential to life within a place like Babylon. Instead, they are told of the filling qualities of the promises of God that will be enough to sustain them in any place or time. That doesn't mean things are going to be fine and dandy. Rather it means that there will be all that is needed and there will be the possibility of a life that does not have to pay duty or homage to the powers that be. Instead, we will be free from all strings and we will feast on the grace of God alone.

Connection: It is always good to take a look at what we are counting on to get us through this day. It is also good to consider what nourishment is really needed to give us life as it is promised by our God.

Lord of the Banquet, we know that there are many ways to satisfy our hunger, and yet we know that some of the food offered to us is worthless for new life. Be for us the bread that can nourish and sustain and even, transform us. Amen

Friday, March 11, 2005

11 March 2005

Walter Brueggeman continues with the notion that Inversions begin in a change of language and he offers this second example:

The second image is birth to the barren one. Barrenness is a proper theme among us for it is more than television, which is a wasteland. Our society is filled with eunuchs of both sexes whose manhood and womanhood are taken by the corporation. There is no hope, no future, and therefore no children. There is not enough energy to bear or to beget, and who wants to birth new children for Babylon? Our history always begins with the barren, with Sarah, with Rebekah, with Rachel, and with Elizabeth. Among those as good as dead, the wondrous gift is given.

God even brings forth promises in the most unpromising of realities. Again, that is how we can be awakened to live today. All the grand living of the contemporary powers will not be able to stop God's Word from coming alive again and bringing into shape a people who do not live from the same roots as those who claim to have won the day. With nothing at all in hand and with the certainty of nothing to come, God takes hold of us and begins to shake loose life and unbind us so that we do not give up our lives to the culture or the voices that attempt to rule us and control us.

Connection: Keep watch and listen, for there is more to come than what we are being shown by the powers of the day. This "more" is all about life.

We give you thanks, O God, as we expect new life to spring up from among your faithful people so as to reveal a witness to the life you have promised us from the beginning of time. Amen.

Wednesday, March 9, 2005

10 March 2005

Again, Walter Brueggemann from "The Prophetic Imagination."

Inversions begin in a change of language and Brueggemann identifies a few. Here is one:
When the new king rules it is new song time (Isaiah 42:10)... The energy comes from the song that will sing Yahweh to his throne and Babylon to her grave. As Abraham Heschel has seen, only people in covenant can sing. New song time is when a new covenant that becomes the beginning for another way of reality is made.

God promises liberation and yet when we are in the middle of the oppressive powers of the day, it is difficult to hear that promise. But then, there is that song...that promise that turns our head. It is catches our attention because it comes from deep within the tradition of liberation that rests at the very heart of who we are as God's people. The song now begins to create a new beat and takes us into what we have not yet experienced. It is a promising note that tickles us and makes us stand up and take a listen and then...even begin to dance a new dance with the One who promises to made things...all things new.

Connection: I think there is a thrill to hearing a new reality break onto the scene. It can be frightening and yet it is the power to set us tapping to another tempo for the day at hand. Sometimes we need to remember that today may start us singing a new song - again.

Lord breeze into this day and let the wind of your renewing life lift us up and show us that which is beyond what is...and yet...within the possibilities of your blessed Reign. Amen.

Tuesday, March 8, 2005

9 March 2005

Again, Walter Brueggemann from "The Prophetic Imagination."

We continue with some comments about the guerilla warfare in which the poet fights on the side of the oppressed.
For example, witness the black churches and civil rights movements or the liberation resistance in Latin America. The cult may be a staging for the inversion that the kings think is not possible. It is the inversion that the grim royal middle class among us does not believe in and it is the inversion that surprises people who are powerless. Inversions are not easy, not without cost, and never neat and clear.

Remember that those who claim to hold power cannot see that anyone else is able to muster enough power -of any kind- to be a threat to the status quo. And yet, with the wealth of liberation language and imagery we have in the Church, there is a power that has been used against oppressive and controlling powers throughout the generations. It is interesting to see in our own country that religious language - specifically some elements of the Church - have been using, what I would call a holy poetic language, in order to be an part of the cohort of control and power. Somehow, we need more poets who remember back to how Isaiah and Jeremiah and Amos and Jesus, were so powerful in language that the powers seemed threatened to them - even to the point of wanting to get rid of them.

Connection: It is good to listen to the words of the powers that be through a bias. Think of it as merely tilting your head and asking "Who benefits from this?" For example, I just heard that the house and senate of the State of Ohio passed a campaign finance bill that allows individuals to now contribute up to $10,000.00 to a candidate (that's up by quite a bit). But even more amazing, is that it is for residents 7 years old and above. Tell me what 7 year old....but maybe parents...maybe parents with a lot of money...parents who want to use that money to have things go in their favor. Now tilt your head. Who is losing out here...who is winning - big time?!?

Liberating Lord, the day is too full of all the ways the powers of the day try to keep or gain more power for themselves even if it is at the expense of others. What are we to do? How are we to act? We need you liberating presence to lift up our minds and our voices to serve all people. Amen.

8 March 2005

From "The Prophetic Imagination."

The poet engages in the kind of guerrilla warfare that is always necessary on behalf of oppressed people. First, the hated one must be ridiculed and made reachable, for then she may be disobeyed and seen as a nobody who claims no allegiance and keeps no promises. The big house yields no real life, need not be feared, cannot be trusted, and must not be honored.

When Israel was in Babylon, it is interesting to hear the words of Isaiah and how the gods of that powerful nation were made into nothing. It was the beginning of a new way of seeing the power of God in the midst of a captive situation. Even today, it is important for us to take a look around at all the claims of greatness that are made by the powers that be and deny them their images of grandeur they love to enjoy at the expense of others. Prophets work at reminding us of how fallible and broken are those who claim to be in control of the world. They also encourage us to stop our adoration of the life the powers of this world try to feed us. Reality is, "we don't have to take this anymore." Our God gives us a vision for life that does not need to follow the unjust and warring ways of those who say they are in power. From that vision, there is a life full of hope into which we are always invited to come and begin to live...again.

Connection: Learn how to laugh at what is said by those who claim to rule the day. It may help us all to re-view where things in our day are going.

Lord of all that is, inspire us to see in the powers around us the many ways that we are led that are contrary to the life you promise within your blessed Reign. Turn us into critics who measure the world against your promises and not the promises of people who seek to rule for their own benefit. Amen.

Sunday, March 6, 2005

7 March 2005

More of prophets and poets from Walter Brueggemann.

Hope is created by speech and before that speech Israel is always hopeless. Indeed, are we not all? Before we are addressed we know no future and no possible newness. Where there is no speech we must live in despair. And exile is first of all where our speech has been silenced and God's speech has been banished. But the prophetic poet asserts hope precisely in exile.

Exile is a place and time when we do not consider what is possible. Instead, we are trapped in what is and we are consumed by what must be - for now. The poet does not convince us of an answer to the questions of our lives. The poet sketches out a line that allows us to move from one place to another before we really know - where we are going. Hope does not need to see the end. Hope is having that which - is not - raised up so that we can begin to see that something may, indeed, exist outside of the reality in which we have let ourselves be exiled. I need words as a place to begin to be somewhere other than the place in which I see myself.

Connection: Sometimes we need only point people to words of hope in order to save them from the sound of despair that can so quickly suck life from us. We can be those words.

By your Word you bring to us a refreshing drink that enable us to continue on through what is and into what will be. Thanks be to you, O God. Amen.

Thursday, March 3, 2005

4 March 2005

We end as we started the week - in "The Prophetic Imagination" by Walter Brueggemann.

It is likely that the only measure of faithfulness is that hope always comes after grief and that the speaker of this public expression must know and be a part of the anguish which permits hope. Hope expressed without knowledge of and participation in grief is likely to be false hope that does not reach despair. is precisely those who know the death most painfully who can speak the hope most vigorously.

When we talk of hope coming after grief it is a reminder that hope is not optimism. Optimism turns from grief and despair and sorrow and pretends to only see that which shines like a smile. Unfortunately, a good smile can shine enough to cover up the truth and keep us from seeing what has taken place and what must take place for life to really become new. There is a road between here and the promise of new life. New life is to come...but the journey on the road is beyond our control and like a birth of any kind, the road will be filled with pain and struggle...but The optimist negates the reality of the journey and thus loses the wealth of the struggle. In the struggle comes the character of promise.

Connection: Find someone or some people who will take on the journey with you. They are there and they will not simply try to make you smile...they will walk with you.

Lord, you come within the middle of the struggles that set us free. You call us right into the middle of them so that we will know the fullness of life as is comes to us. You hold onto us and urge us to hold onto one another so that as we walk into the promised land, we will have many who will join us in the celebration of new life. Thanks be to God. Amen.

3 March 2005

From "The Prophetic Imagination" by Walter Brueggemann.

...prophetic hope easily lends itself to distortion. It can be made so grandiose that it does not touch reality; it can be trivialized so that it does not impact reality; it can be "bread and circuses" so that it only supports and abets the general despair. But a prophet has another purpose in bringing hope to public expression, and that is to return the community to its single referent, the sovereign faithfulness of God.

This is the easiest piece of the reality of the Reign of God to forget - God's faithfulness! And yet, it is the rock and foundation of all things. The prophet is rarely heard because we so often do not want to hear merely that...that God is faithful. We want something more...something that we can put in our pockets to make us secure or well or better. We want to be able to sit in a seat that has a bit more control on life. Therefore, whatever the prophet will say can easily be taken by us and used to sooth us even if the word of the Lord is not meant to be taken that way. It is always good to have other faithful people listening in on the prophetic word of the day...because we often need more ears than our own to hear about the faithfulness of our God and what that brings to life.

Connection: In the mix of everything, the assurance of God's faithfulness is enough to generate life. There is no proof to this...there is only life in it.

Come Holy Spirit and grab hold of our hearts because we so quickly turn from the promises of our God and look for other ways to live. Unfortunately, nothing is working...we long for your promises to be our rest and foundation for life. Amen.

Tuesday, March 1, 2005

2 March 2005

From "The Prophetic Imagination" by Walter Brueggemann

Speech about hope cannot be explanatory and scientifically argumentative; rather, it must be lyrical in the sense that it touches the hopeless person at many different points. More than that, however, speech about hope must be primally theological, which is to say that it must be in the language of covenant between a personal God and a community.

For a hopeless person there will be no simple ways out of hopelessness. There will be no quick fix. There will be no answer that will bring meaning and purpose to life. When people are hopeless we must find many ways to speak of what is possible within God's vision for life and many ways must be offered by many people. I may be given many ways to respond to my hopelessness, but if I am still alone to respond, I may be no better off than before. The importance of others in our lives who can stand with us and help to point out the possibilities that are unseen cannot be overlooked.

Connection: One of the most important words that brings hope to those who are hopeless may simply be "you." The presence of another person speak much about what is promised even when no words are being spoken. It is a good starting point.

There are days, Comforting Lord, when nothing seems to be able to fit in place and all that is done gets nothing done and losses out weigh gains. Let you Holy Spirit reside with us in those days to be the arms to hold us and nurture us and send us out into the life you give. Amen.