Thursday, April 28, 2005

29 April 2005

From "The Prophetic Imagination"

In Luke's presentation of the story of Lazarus and the Rich man, we see the contrast of the numbness of the rich man with the pain of Lazarus.
...the narrative suggests that the rich man who is numbed by his possessions and social status has no future; there is nothing but an end for him. By contrast, the poor man Lazarus, unencumbered either by possessions or by social status, is beset by grief and pain. And, says Jesus, this it the bearer of the future. The contrast, in the context of our discussion, concerns the numbed one who knows no future except more of the present, and the suffering one who receives from the Father.

The key for me in this comment by Brueggemann is that this story is the bearer of the future. This is not to say that the you must be poor the end...receive much. That would be a great opiate wouldn't it. Rather, the parable tries to pull us into the vision...the that all of us - the rich and the poor - may have a new life now. This is a life that is seen as a gift with each of us having the blessed opportunity to be a part of a people who are not numb to one another so that there can easily be division and strife between "classes" of people that have no existence in the Reign of God. The door of God's Reign is always open and we are being invited to share in what is promise and not try to live on what we can grab hold of for ourselves.

Connection: When we start grabbing in order to secure our present, we let the wonder and blessedness of God's Reign out of our hands for we are too consumed by our consuming and cannot see what life God promises. Again, I think we need one another to help us to reach out and take hold of what is promised for all of us.

Lift us up and carry us into the abundance of your promises, Precious Lord. We can become so attached to what is around us and the way it all seems to be that we forget to let go and watch how your Reign will fill us just as you always promise. Set us free, O God. Amen

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

28 April 2005

We continue with "The Prophetic Imagination."

If the groans (of the hurting ones) become audible, if they can be heard in the streets and markets and courts, then the consciousness of domination is already jeopardized. ...Jesus had the capacity to give voice to the very hurt that had been muted and therefore newness could come. Newness comes precisely from expressed pain. Suffering made audible and visible produces hope, articulated grief is the gate of newness, and the history of Jesus is the history of entering into the pain and giving it voice.

"Entering into the pain and giving it voice." This is not voice to my pain - a in a complaint about the conditions of my life that are not as I want them to be. This pain within the history of Jesus is the pain of those who have been left out and made into "nothing at all." To give voice to this pain and this side of the reality of life is dangerous because the dominant society would rather stay numb to that part of reality. Like Martin Luther King, Jr., Bishop Oscar Romero - when people rise up to give voice to the pain that has been ignored, the powers that have tried to stay numb will do whatever is necessary to stay numb. But as we have learned, those voices that lift up the pain of the world do not die. They give life again and again and from age to age to those who are the disinherited and those who have the courage to hear those voices and stand with them. The difference between this kind of prophetic voice and that which claims to be a righteous voice in much of American Christianity today is that these "Christian" voices are merely being the voice for those who have everything and want to keep it the way they have it. There is no threat to their lives - really. It is nothing more than anxious hearts that do not want to give voice to the real pain and suffering of our world. Instead they build on sentimental views that are easy to draw in people's hearts and money with fear-filled scenarios that are all self serving.

Connection: Be patient. The voice of the Lord of Life will be and there. It will never be the dominant voice...for if it becomes that, we can be sure it is not the Lord of is the Lord of the Life that is. Be patient and listen for the voice of the compassionate Lord who longs to awaken us all.

Come among us, O Breath of Life, so that we may be drawn into fellowship with those who long for the opportunity to live without the constant terror of hunger and illness and homelessness and oppression of all kinds. Pinch us so that we will not become numb to the pains of our world. Amen

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

27 April 2005

More of a look at Jesus from the viewpoint of "The Prophetic Imagination" by Walter Brueggemann.

Jesus is remembered and presented by the early church as the embodiment of an alternative consciousness. In his compassion he embodies the anguish of those rejected by the dominant culture, and as embodied anguish he as the authority to show the deathly end of the dominant culture. Quite clearly, the one thing the dominant culture cannot tolerate or co-opt is compassion, the ability to stand in solidarity with the victims of the present order. It can manage charity and good intentions, but it has no way to resist solidarity with pain or grief. ...The imperial consciousness lives by its capacity to still the groans and to go on with business as usual as though none were hurting and there were no groans.

Why is the embodiment of compassion such a force within our world? Could it be that it is so contrary to how our culture moves that is disarms us for a moment? By that I mean it creates a feeling within us. It stirs us up...even if just for a moment. The stirring may not be identified as a corresponding compassion because compassion is such an alien experience since we have been made numb to the reality of pain around us. Yes, we can be moved to stay in touch with and be moved by the "anguish" of those around us - and I would suggest that it is the Holy Spirit that moves us in that alien direction - or we can react to anything that opens up our eyes and ears and hearts. When we are reactive...when we try to keep things just as they are...even through acts of charity, the dominant culture or mood will prevail and as it does, we easily become numb once again to the life around us. Isn't that how wars start?

Connection: Would it be a good exercise to stop in the middle of our day and try to sense how or why there is a lack of compassion in what we are hearing and seeing in the news...from our our homes...from our churches? And then...what will we do?

Lord of New Life, you walk in our steps and you also bid us to come walk in yours. Open our hearts so that we will become aware of the pain in our world and not fear it or run from it but rather, like you enter into it and begin to dismantle its control over all of us. Amen.

Monday, April 25, 2005

26 April 2005

Walter Brueggemann in "The Prophetic Imagination" continues to address himself to need for compassion in an world that is overcome by numbness. He draws on the parables of the Good Samaritan and the Prodigal son by writing:

Both the Samaritan and the father are Jesus' peculiar articulation against the dominant culture, an so they stand as a radical threat. The Samaritan by his actions judges the dominant way by disregard of the marginal. The ones who pass by, obviously carriers of the dominant tradition, are numbed, indifferent, and do not notice. The Samaritan expresses a new way that displaces the old arrangements in which outcasts are simply out. The replacing of numbness with compassion, that is the end of cynical indifference and the beginning of noticed pain, signals of social revolution. In similar fashion the father by his ready embrace of his unacceptable son condemns the "righteousness of the law" by which society is currently ordered and by which social rejects are forever rejected.

The move to be engaged demands attention to that which we would usually walk right by as we go along "our" way. Compassion pulls us into engagement and when that begins, the present structures begin to fade as people feel and experience and touch what was previously untouchable or unloveable. The vision of the Reign of God pulls us...across the road into the ditch or running across town to embrace a real outcast. What arrives at that moment is something beyond our plans and, quite frankly, beyond our expectations. I often wonder about how difficult it is to go back to what once was after we have been pulled into a new life like these two parabolic characters. That must be the task of the keep us wondering about the life we enter through baptism and how that keeps pulling us beyond a world that is willing to settle for numbness.

Connection: Have you ever thought what you need to be the story or the action that would bring life into your numbness? We are all numb to the pain around some times more than at other times. Important for this day is trusting that we can be moved into something new and dynamic.

Lord of the Exodus, just as you delivered Israel from the grasp of the powers of Egypt, we expect that you will be with us today to pull us through your living water and into a promise land in which justice, mercy, peace, and compassion prevail among us. Amen.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

25 April 2005

We continue with Walter Brueggemann in "The Prophetic Imagination.

Brueggemann compares Marks notation of Jesus' compassion for the great throng on the shore with Matthew's similar story. But Matthew describes the people as "harassed and helpless."
Those words are polemical, for the people did not get helpless by themselves but were rendered helpless. And to speak of harassment is to suggest that some others are doing the harassing. Thus the Matthean version is much more direct and critical.

Sometimes it is easy to think that people just are as they are because of their own doing. That is the light in which the poor and minorities are cast by so many of us. And yet, their situation is cannot be simply something we say is their own doing. It is much bigger than that. To remember that Jesus is noted as calling them "harassed and helpless" may mean that this is the case due to their life situation but that "situation" includes the systemic "way of life" that tends to favor those who are in power and those who have...but also turns its back on those who are in need of the bare necessities of life. Not only that....those who do not have - those who are "disinherited" are then put through hell - harassed by those of us who have enough and more.

Connection: Can we walk with those who are helpless before we take that move to harass them in one way or another? We may then find that there is less and less for which we would even think to harass them. They may even become as a brother or sister to us.

Peacemaker and Healer of All Life, though it is so easy for us to create division or simply see to its continuation, you call us into relationship. You help us to see the humanity in the ones we attempt to turn into mere objects within our lives. Continue to let your light of holy insight guide us. Amen.

Friday, April 22, 2005

22 April 2005

More from Walter Brueggemann.

The characteristic word for compassion, splagchnoisomai, means to let one's innards embrace the feeling or situation of another. Thus Jesus embodies the hurt that the marginal ones know by taking it into his own person and his own story. Their hurt came from being declared outside the realm of the normal and Jesus engages with them in a situation of abnormality. Concretely, his criticism as embodied hurt is expressed toward the sick (Matt. 14:14)...the hungry (Mark 6:34, & 8:2)...the one who grieved the dead (Luke 7:12-13)...the whole range of human persons who are harassed and helpless (Matt. 9:35-36).

When Jesus embodies the hurt of these marginal ones it includes his moving in with them - to be with them and to take on whatever force may be overpowering them. Compassion is not displayed as a sermon or some well spoken word. Compassion is a life moving force that seeks the well being of another. This life moving force may mean that my life will be exposed to life situations I would never be in if I was not moved out of my path into the path of this other person. Someone is compassionate as someone is moved. The world and our communities begin to be healed and saved as we are moved out of our way to make sure that those out on the edge of life are embraced and by that, made whole just as the ones who show compassion. Both sides of compassionate lives are healed and what was once a reason to stay separate does not exist anymore.

Connection: There must be ways today to be a part of a compassionate journey. Sometimes it means facing that uncomfortable feeling in our "gut" and not turning to make it numb.

Creating Lord, your people are so diverse in many ways and yet we are all called your children. Train us up by your Holy Spirit to look after our brothers and sisters and give up our love affair with ourselves that so often keeps us locked up in our own worlds and ready to go to war with those not a part of the world we like. We know it will take transformation and death but we pray you will walk with us as you have always promised. Amen.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

21 April 2005

We continue to look at Jesus through the eyes of "The Prophetic Imagination" by Walter Brueggemann.

...the compassion of Jesus is to be understood not simply as a personal emotional reaction but as a public criticism in which he dares to act upon his concern against the entire numbness of his social context. Expires live by numbness. Empire, in their militarism, expect numbness about the human cost of war. Corporate economies expect blindness to the cost in terms of poverty and exploitation. Governments and societies of domination go to great lengths to keep the numbness intact. Jesus penetrates the numbness by his compassion and with his compassion takes the first step by making visible the odd abnormality that had become business as usual.

Unless we begin to see how our lives are meant to be connected, we will either construct walls to separate ourselves from others or we will simply turn our back and act as though we do not see the true condition of life around us. This is a part of the numbing that takes part in all of our lives. Being numb to the reality of life around us is to live as though the pain and suffer, joy and wonder of life is not as real as it is. The Good News never fears feeling, seeing, and touching the reality of life because it is all viewed as something less than the vision of what life is to be. Therefore, when there is brokenness, the Voice of the Resurrection is not afraid to step into it and be apart of a contrary existence in which we move more deeply into what is broken rather than run from it. When we are made numb to the world around us, we do not fear because we cannot be connected to the world. We stand away. When we live within the reality of the Good News, we do not fear because though we are afraid and anxious about the shape of the world, we stand with one another in the middle of all the dis-ease and continue to remind one another of another way to live.

Connection: Do not be afraid to face what is ugly and distorted and painful. Instead, be reminded that the one we call Lord, Jesus, is right there in the midst of it all and we can find life there - even in what seems to be something we would like to avoid. Compassion pulls us into the healing of our lives. Without it, we will be numb to our lives and the lives of others.

Lord of all Hopefulness, we are easily defeated and the potential for new life is often drained from us so that we dare not engage the world as your beloved people. Free us to see and feel and touch so that your Reign may be experienced by others. Amen.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

20 April 2005

We continue with words from "The Prophetic Imagination."

Jesus in his solidarity with the marginal ones is moved to compassion. Compassion constitutes a radical form of criticism, for it announces that the hurt is to be take seriously, that the hurt is not to be accepted as normal and natural but is an abnormal and unacceptable condition for humanness.

We can never have a "compassionate" society or government until we face the pain and sorrow of the marginal people within our boundary and then set ourselves up as a community that will not allow them to fall through the cracks. This takes more than words. This takes action. This takes someone like me...and maybe you...taking less so that those who have less than less will have more. Compassion involves sacrifice. To help those in need, I must set aside my grand vision for myself, my self-centered world view, and begin to enter into a dialogue with those who are often stumbling through this day. This is not an argument for charity - though charity may be a part of the action. It is a call for justice in which all are to be brought to the table to participate in something beyond our words. Too often, we hear only words from talking heads that really are trying to preserve the great divide between those who have and those who do not. They attempt to put a soft side to that divide, but it is always a brutal reality of division that comes to life.

Connection: How can we step across those lines and extend ourselves to others. Another way to say that might be: When the Holy Spirit pulls us into situations that demand compassion, how will we take part in them for the welfare of all who are pulled into just such an arena?

Lord God, just as Jesus' guts were "stirred up" at the sight of those who longed for healing and wholeness, stir us up and lead us into a living relationship with others so that we are not afraid to offer ourselves to one another even as it means we give up a piece of the pie so that others may join us for the banquet. Amen.

Monday, April 18, 2005

19 April 2005

A powerful word from Walter Brueggemann again in "The Prophetic Imagination."

...(Jesus') criticism of the "law" is not to be dismissed as an attack on "legalism" in any moralistic sense, as is sometimes done in reductionist Pauline interpretation. Rather, his critique concerns the fundamental social valuing of his society. In practice Jesus has seen, as Marx later made clear, that the law can be a social convention to protect the current distribution of economic and political power. Jesus, in the tradition of Jeremiah, dared to articulate the end of a consciousness that could not keep its promises but that in fact denied the very humanness it purported to give.

We can see it over and over again even as we take a glimpse around us at the political climate of our day. Those in power try to use the law to give to those in power...more power. That does not end. That is not a mere biblical picture. For example (and this just seems to be a very current issue), I hate filibusters. But they are essential to our form of government. If it was not for this extreme method of stopping the system spin on its merry way, the majority would always rule as the majority wants to rule. That is never good for the welfare of all. And yet, we can see that some powers like to make room for more and more power to be at ready at hand for those who want the world to go their way. Filibusters are not ideal...but they make us look again at how being in the seat of power can overwhelm anyone. If we are indeed concerned about the welfare of all the people how is it that we are afraid of such an odd piece of our governing system that lets any minority voice...have a voice greater than it usually would. Sometimes the minority - no matter what "side" it is - has more wisdom in the moment than the majority ever will.

Connection: Laws are only as good as the vision that writes them. If we have a limited vision, our laws will only lead us in a limited manner. If a family is unwilling to let itself imagine a better day, then there is a good chance that the children will never grow beyond the limits of past generations.

Come upon us, Holy Spirit, and set our anxious hearts to rest so that we are able to look into the gracious homeland of your blessed Reign. We anxiously search for ways to control our world but we need you to life up our eyes to see beyond our ways and into the very heart of your way and truth. Amen.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

18 April 2005

After a long break due to computer difficulties, we return to "The Prophetic Imagination" by Walter Brueggemann.

There are a number of representative actions that summarized Jesus' radical criticism of the order of the day:
His readiness to forgive sin...His ability to heal and his readiness to do it on the Sabbath...His willingness to eat with the outcast...His attitude toward the temple.
All these actions, together with Jesus' other violations of social convention, are a heavy criticism of the "righteousness of the law." The law had become in his day a way for the managers of society, religious even more than civil, to effectively control not only morality but the political-economic valuing that lay behind the morality.

Nothing is more powerful than the blending of religious language about "righteousness" with the powers of a civil power. Jesus was facing off with those who could and did control life and wanted to make sure that their control of life would be blessed by the religious laws that would then be used to sanction the rule of the controlling power of the day. We must be aware that there is just such a movement around us today that is set on making secure ties between political-economic values of our country and a limited, self-focused & self-centered morality that plans to fashion a new way to rule...a way that is well known in scripture...a way against which Jesus stood up and did not accept. Too many "people of faith" are as afraid of the grace and love of God's Reign today as the religious leaders who stood against Jesus in scripture.

Connection: Pay attention to the how smoothly religious language is being used for the benefit of the powers that be. Usually it is not for the benefit of all...usually it is for the benefit of some and there is a hint of things being quite conditional in the air...and that is never Good News.

Lord of New Life, pull us into your love and as we rise within your gracious arms remind us of the vision of your Reign that cannot be owned or directed by any power that tries to claim this day. Amen.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Wednesday, 13 April, 2005

Taken from 1 Peter 2:20-23
"…But if you endure when you do right and suffer for it, you have God's approval. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you should follow in his steps…. When he was abused, he did not return abuse; when he suffered, he did not threaten; but he entrusted himself to the one who judges justly."

Almost every system of morality for sale out there is either based on rewards or rules. "Be good, because you'll get a prize if you do." Or, "Do this (or don't do that), because that's what the rules say will give you value." And when it comes to having to suffer, those systems offer the same quick answers: "you should endure hardship because there's a pot of gold waiting at the end for you," or sometimes we hear, "you'll only suffer if you're breaking the rules-it's punishment for someplace you've crossed the line." How strange, then, to hear from 1 Peter that the reasons we have for living in a new way are about neither incentives nor injunctions. Our way of life comes from who God in Christ is revealed to be. We are called to turn the other cheek, not in order to win a heavenly lottery (although there is the unconditional promise of eternal life), but because of the Roman cross where God in human flesh turned the other cheek for us. We are called to love our enemies, not because following that rule will surely make the world a better place (although it might), but because while we were "enemies" of God (Romans 5:10), God loved us nevertheless. How radically different from all other voices clamoring for our attention-and how wonderfully freeing!

Connection: Before we stumble through the question, "What should I do?" in any given situation, and even before we ask the popular wristband's question, "What would Jesus do?", we first have to let the grace sink in that comes from the question, "What has Jesus done-already?"

Lord Jesus, teach us to find in the scars you still wear both the promise of your love for us, and the freedom to make it our love for others.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Tuesday, 12 April, 2005

1 Peter 2:9-10
"But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy."

There are lots of voices that try to tell us who we are and what we should think about ourselves. Nearly every television commercial tells us, at least implicitly, that our value as people is determined by the products we consume and the stuff we buy. If we want to be people of refined taste, we'll have Kohler faucets in the bathroom and a Lexus in the garage-or at least those are the things we'll want to have. And maybe we don't have to have a white picket fence anymore, but conventional wisdom still tells us that I'm only on the right track if I've got a romantic relationship, a lucrative job, and a well-developed portfolio to ensure my comfortable lifestyle into the future. Political voices tell us the same. If we want our opinion to count, our identities need to fit the molds presented to us with labels like "freedom-loving" and "patriotic" or "modern-thinking" and "progressive"-and then we have to buy into the agendas that go with them wholesale. And if we listen closely to those voices, they'll all tell us that we have to do something first and only then will we be people of status. My worth is then either grounded in my tenacity in getting the best for myself, or my ability to fall in line with what some other group calls "good."

The word from 1 Peter, and from the whole witness of Scripture, turns that whole logic on its head. Our worth and our identity do not rest in whether we have chosen the right things or come from the right category first. Rather, they are grounded in the God who has first chosen us and brought us into a new people. Our identity is given to us as a gift of grace, and our value comes from the unswerving declaration of God that we are loved. That faithful love redefines us-it says we are precious when conventional wisdom calls us damaged goods. And it gives purpose and meaning when television can only advise us to aimlessly acquire more and more stuff in the pursuit of happiness. It can almost be scary to live in the freedom of that love, since we no longer have a checklist of things to do or have in order to guarantee our status-only the simple promise of God that we are "God's people." But maybe-no, more than maybe-that promise is enough.

Connection: What might I freed from as I see that other claims do not have the final say on me? What might I be committed to as I let the claim of God take hold of all of who I am?

Gracious God, tell us who we are again-we forget so easily. Open our eyes to see that you have already brought us into you marvelous light, and let us see the possibilities of this new day.

Monday, 11 April, 2005

Our devotions for the first few days of this week will come from the second chapter of 1 Peter, which rather conveniently overlaps with the second lessons for the next two Sundays. Hurray for a theme, right?

1 Peter 2:2-3
"Like newborn infants, long for the pure, spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow into salvation-if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good."

The shoes were enormous. I must have been in third or fourth grade when my father bought me a pair of tennis shoes that was at least three sizes bigger than the ones I wore at the time. At first I thought he'd forgotten my size-or gotten me confused with a young Goliath-but he told me that he got them so big intentionally. They were for when my feet got bigger with age and I grew into them. All I could do was to grow into them by drinking enough milk (that's the standard parental prescription for developing children, right?) and by just being the boy I was. And in the mean time, there those tennis shoes would sit, a sort of signpost toward the future, a rubber-soled promise of who I would become. But while I waited, I didn't have to do anything to make those shoes my possession-they were already mine. All I could do was to grow into them.

I can't help but picture the same shoes when I read that line from 1 Peter about "growing into salvation." It's not that salvation is some fixed material reward handed to us in a cardboard box at the pearly gates on some distant day. No, just the opposite-God gives it to us even now, even before we have grown into it. Paul would put it to the Romans by saying that God's love came to us in Christ "while we were still weak." But the idea is the same here-salvation is given to us in the present, plain and simple, and all we can do is to grow into that gift, the gift we have already received. We use words like "salvation," "hope," and "redemption," as signposts pointing toward God's future, a future God is drawing us and all this hurting creation into. We use those words as shorthand for the promise that God has loved us now, even in our infant-like weakness, even in our childish self-centeredness, and that God will not rest until that love has had its way with us, taken root in us, and come to fruition. In the mean time, all we can do is to grow into that love.

Connection: Salvation is already ours as a gift from God. And because of that, in this day, we no longer need to stew over whether we're "in" or not in God's book. Instead, we can look hopefully to how we will be changed in this day and how the love of our God will take hold of us in surprising new ways.

Gracious God, let us drink you in deep and taste that you are good. Give us the freedom to trust that you are leading us and making us to grow into who we are-your very children. Amen.

Wednesday, April 6, 2005

Wednesday, 6 April, 2005

Text: Galatians 4:1-7

My point is this: heirs, as long as they are minors, are no better than slaves, though they are the owners of all the property; but they remain under guardians and trustees until the date set by the father. So with us; while we were minors, we were enslaved to the elemental spirits of the world. But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children. And because you are children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, "Abba! Father!" So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God.

Our status - has changed. Not because we have grown up...not because we have learned something new...not because we have become enlightened...not because we have achieved a greater level of consciousness, rather it has changed by God's action. The elemental spirits...can be literally translated as "what is put in a row" "what is put in order." The a nanny keeps us in line, teaches us the alphabet...the ways things must go. The elemental spirits can be the ordering of the stars...the charts that we can count on as we sail the seas. But...they do not give us our status for life. As heirs...adopted ones at that...we are children in an intimate and close relationship with God...because God says so. God has liberated us from the many ways we have tried to sustain ourselves and make something of our selves by "putting our ducks in a row" or "getting it right" or "following the letter of the law" with the expectation that it could save us. The law...the order...the nanny who helps and teaches - is good. But we are sons and daughters - heirs of the Reign of God...because our status is changed by God

Connection: Three cheers for rules and order. Thank God for adopting us...making us God's own - no conditions - completely & even today...even today.

O God you display the mastery of your creative power in the order of life tha surrounds us. You display the fullness of your grace by holding each of us as your beloved children. Remind us of our status within your Reign and remind us of the same status that is given to those we encounter along the way. Amen.

Tuesday, April 5, 2005

Tuesday, 5 April, 2005

Text: Galatians 3:23-29
Now before faith came, we were imprisoned and guarded under the law until faith would be revealed. Therefore the law was our disciplinarian until Christ came, so that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian, for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. AS many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greeek, there is no longer slave of free, there is no longer male and female, for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to the promise.
Our identity is in the fact that in our baptism we have clothed ourselves in Christ. It is an all new identity and character and community. How new...? Take a look at the abolishment of the "natural" distinctions that would send us off in different groups and with different lives. No longer Jew or Greek...slave or free...male or female. We are in Christ and with that status and new reality there is no need for the law as our nanny (disciplinarian) to make us act a certain way so as to see to our safe keeping. We live according to the promise as heirs by faith. I find it particularly important that Paul points out the complete lack of the distinctions that once were considered "second nature." They are no longer needed. Even when the law made sure that those distinctions were in place - no longer. No longer is the status of a person set in place by the law and how one fits into its definition of good and right. Now, we are one in Christ Jesus. We may want the distinctions to continue...we may even argue that they stay in place for any number of reasons...but as one in Christ...there is not longer.....
Connection: Paul's earliest letters are very inclusive - radical...right to the root of the gracious acts of God in Christ Jesus. Today, churches and congregation are often known for how well they can maintain distinctions. Homogeneous congregation have proved that they will grow....duh...of course they will...we long for like-minded, like-looking, like-economic status. And yet in Christ there is a new reality. Can we put names to our ongoing ways of drawing insiders and outsiders...and can we trust that our Lord will help us dismantle those distinctions and walk with us?!
O God of all humankind, how great is you word of truth and the life you offer to your beloved children through Jesus. May we see inn those around us this day the many ways you present yourself to us in the diversity of your creatures. Amen.

Monday, April 4, 2005

Monday, 4 April, 2005

Text: Galatians 3:19-22
Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring would come to whom the promise had been made; and it was ordained through angles by a mediator. Now a mediator involves more than one party; but God is one.
Is the law then opposed to the promises of God? Certainly not! For if a law had been given that could make alive, then righteousness would indeed come through the law. But the scripture has imprisoned all things under the power of sin, so that what was promised through faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.
Verses 19 & 20 raise up some considerations about the law that seem to make the argument for it secondary status. The comments end with the assertion that God is one - in contradiction to the what preceeded it. Then comes a bit of sarcasm that is particularly pointed. The questions "Is the law then opposed to the promises of God?" comes from voices that are confronting what has just been said by Paul. The forceful "Certainly not!" is Paul's quick response. But then he throws in the kicker. In essence he says that the law - has nothing to do with the promises of God. "For if a law had been given that could make alive, then righteousness would indeed come through the law." God's promise comes not through the law but by faith. The law doesn't bring us into the same place as the promise of God to be our God. The law has another function - not to save - not to make one right before God. The law has it's good place - useful - helpful for daily order and life and community development...but it does not make one alive.
Connection: So then, what is the impact on being made alive -today!? We all know the law is a great help to us in each of our days. All the fuss over the ten commandments being put up on the walls of schools is a sign of that truthfulness. We like and we need and we respect the law and what it does to shape our living. But now, what impact does the promise of God to be our God have on our lives - today!? Trustiing that - having faith in that...what does life become for us - today!?!
Blessed Lord of Life, we give you thanks for the place of the law within our lives and for the gracious embrace of your promise. Lead us into a prayerful appreciation of your never failing love for us. Amen