Tuesday, May 31, 2005

1 June 2005

We move a bit further into the third chapter of 1 Corinthians.

For when one says, "I belong to Paul," and another, "I belong to Apollos," are you not merely human.
What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you came to believe, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God who give the growth. The one who plants and the one who waters have a common purpose, and each will receive wages according to the labor of each. For we are God's servants, working together; you are God's field, God's building. (1 Cor. 3:4-9)

Division happen over what may appear to be the smallest things. And yet, these small cracks within the life of any community can result in its ruin. The problems at Corinth are good for us to see because it shows that along with our history of having the Holy Spirit shape us and mold us and a people, there is also that power that divides. Today, the Church is arguing over all sorts of issues and all of them cause division of one sort or another. From differences in opinion over how building or ministry matters are handled to differences over how we interpret scripture as it relates to the life of the present community of Christ, we tend to thrive on our divisiveness. And yet, that is never true...we never can thrive over our divisiveness. We are called to be a community of reconciliation and a people who know of our differences and yet we are inspired and shaped by the one Lord of the Church. This is all easier said than done.

Connection: How do we stay within the tension between conflicting interests? How do we continue to lean on the everylasting arms of our God who promises new life and wholeness and healing even as we are experiencing our brokenness? This is something for us to prayerfully consider again and again.

Master of the Resurrection, as we face our faults and see no way to resolve our conflicts, be the power for life that brings among us the vision of your gracious Reign and leads us along that adventure for life that we cannot quite see - now. Amen.

Monday, May 30, 2005

31 May 2005

This week we move into chapter three of 1 Corinthians.

And so, brothers and sisters, I could not speak to you as spiritual people, but rather as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for solid food. Even now you are still not ready, for you are still of the flesh. For as long as there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not of the flesh, and behaving according to human inclinations? (1 Cor. 3:1-3)

So Paul has been writing about how foolish the wisdom of God seems to be to those who are "unspiritual." As he now moves to write about what appears to be some divisions among the Corinthians, he backs up to acknowledge just how difficult it can be to take hold of this rich food called the gospel. The grace of God is something we often only can handle in story form - something that doesn't seem all that real - something that is off "over there" in another place or time. But we are invited to share in the life that comes with the Good News. We are invited to take this love of God in Christ, Jesus, and let it be the life of us. Paul experience within the realm of God's gracious action in Christ has enabled him to know that a life of graciousness can be a hard thing to swallow among us. It is much easier to keep focused on score keeping, comparisons, who's who...we all know that life. Paul will now bring to the Corinthians another level of community life that helps them move beyond what once was - life in the flesh (self-centered and self-concerned) - and into life in the Spirit (where the "community" life is a grand gift of the followers of Jesus).

Connection: Sometimes when the grace of God's Reign is heard, it sounds too free...too inclusive, and therefore limitless. To people who think we must pay a price, keep the group closed and not let the "word" reach out beyond our grasp in order to be good religious people, this unconditional love of God is always a bit confusing and strange. Keep looking into this strangeness.

Lord of the Banquet, you offer us the richest food of life, your boundless love. As we begin to feast upon this meal of new life, let it become our life and our loving. Amen.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

27 May 2005

We bring ourselves to the end of chapter 2 or 1 Corinthians.

Those who are unspiritual do not receive the gifts of God's Spirit, for they are foolishness to them, and they are unable to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. Those who are spiritual discern all things, and they are themselves subject to no one else's scrutiny. "For who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?" But we have the mind of Christ. (1 Cor. 2:14-16)

They don't receive them because they could care less about them...they don't want them. What good is mercy, kindness, reconciliation, graciousness and the like if it is not going to "get you someplace" in this world of ours. The gifts of God's Spirit is not the gift of national power or world power or religious power and therefore, they are foolishness. But then, the powers of the world like to pretend that they are gifted by God to do what they do in the way that they do it. No way! The way of the cross - the mind of Christ - is not something the powers of our day can discern. They see the life of the cross and they try to find another way that can sound like God talk but never comes close to the way of the cross. By the power of the Spirit of God we walk into this day assured that our God will teach us and lead us within the mind of Christ.

Connection: It is so important to breathe and take time to consider how contrary is the way of our God in Christ, Jesus, to that of the ways of the political and social powers of the day. Sometimes we need to be still, breathe, and look around with Jesus in mind.

You, O Life Giving Spirit, send us beyond our ways by opening up our eyes to see the gentle Reign of God as it comes to life around and and invites us to step within it borders. By you Power pull us alongside your gracious ways. Amen.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

26 May 2005

We pick up at verse 11 in 1 Corinthians chapter 2.

For what human being knows what is truly human except the human spirit that is within? So also no one comprehends what is truly God's except the Spirit of God. Now we have receive not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit that is from God, so that we may understand the gifts bestowed on us by God. And we speak of these things in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual things to those who are spiritual. (1 Cor. 2:11-13)

Let's be very clear that Paul is not talking about some "hocus pocus" that communicates something beyond what is real and everyday. The Spirit teaches us about the cross of Christ. The Spirit lets us in on the mystery of Christ and the life that is available for us now. We can figure out how humanity thinks and acts. We see examples of it everyday...and it is not always a wonderful thing to view...but we can count on humans knowing that kind of life. The Spirit takes us on a ride through a Reigning vision of new life that springs up among us by the power of God - the Good News. Yes, it will be a vision shaped by acts of kindness and humility that is often seen as being contrary to our ways of brashness and bravado that make people swoon but the disciples of Christ weep. The Spirit brings life - not make believe. The Spirit opens up our eye and ears to that life we cannot and will not see if left up to our own abilities.

Connection: As always, it takes more than me in the seclusion of my own life to come to see the life that the Spirit opens up for all of us. More and more, it is the dialogical power of community that sends us walking into the very depths of our humanity that is led by the Spirit of God.

Hold our hand, Spirit of New Life, and point us in the ways of God's wide open spaces of peace and hopefulness and joy. When we are left with nothing but our own ways, shake us up to behold the presence of your Reign and stir up our hearts as you have always promised you would. Amen.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

25 May 2005

Continuing with 1 Corinthians chapter two.

Yet among the mature we do speak wisdom, though it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to perish. (1 Cor. 2:6) But we speak God's wisdom, secret and hidden, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. None of the rulers of this age understood this; for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. (1 Cor.2:7-8)

Before anything was created...before age was age...there was the love of God that creates out of nothing. It is known among us. It is the foundation of how we live within the realm of God's power. It is also the power that the rulers of this age cannot allow to flourish because their power and their might - as they count power and might - would be dismantled and their rule would present itself in the image of God and not the image of the rulers of this world. Though many rulers try to pass themselves off as leading in the name of the God of Creation, just look at their actions - no peace - no justice - special interests that will not stoop to seek the welfare of all - mammon leading the decision of the day and trying to disguise its actions with religious language. Today, the powers - all of us - would still choose to drive those nails or flip the electrical switch in order to preserve what we have and who we want to be. Before the ages and even through this age, the crucified Lord still Reigns even when others claim to be in power.

Connection: Don't be fooled by sweet talking religious leaders who speak of values and morals but their discussion and action is limited to self-centered issues that will not touch the expanse of life that is called forth by Jesus.

O Ancient of Days, this is the day that you have made and we long for you to make us a bold witness to your gentle Reign. Teach us the wisdom of your ways. Amen.

Monday, May 23, 2005

24 May 2005

Due to problems of sending the devotions by e-mail last week please note that those devotions are posted on our website - www.RedeemerLuth.com
We continue with the second chapter of First Corinthians.

Yet among the mature we do speak wisdom, though it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to perish. (1 Cor. 2:6)

I really intended in going much more into the text than one verse but so much is laid at our feet. We live in a time when a number of religious people appear to be siding with the specific powers of the day. Let me say that this is a comment about segments of all religious peoples. In the case of Christians - especially Christians in this country as this is where I live - we seem to be living within a time when religious communities are openly blessing and anointing the direction and the policies of our government as though God has made a decree that certain policies and people within our government are divinely inspired. Whenever religious people put that kind of a stamp of approval on the actions and words of any government, the time at hand is a dangerous one for all of us. The way of the cross of Jesus is never the way that a government would choose to move. In fact, this cross-shaped wisdom of God and the life that springs from such self-sacrificing love will never rise to power in any country. That makes me wonder what word is leading some religious leaders in our country to walk hand in hand with and then simultaneously bless one group of politicians over another. When I look around, these leaders are not being led by a call to love all people or even a call to simply want justice for all or peace to prevail among us.

Connection: Simply ask, "Who will benefit by this action?" We are not called to ask, "How will I benefit by this action?" We are always invited to ask the "We" question with the "We" being the whole body of God's people without limits.

Be glorified, O God Most High. Be glorified within the ongoing incarnation of your wisdom as the cross of your Beloved continues to be the way of life that questions all life with the vision of your gracious Reign. Amen.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

23 May 2005

This week we move into chapter two of First Corinthians.

When I came to you, brothers and sisters, I did not come proclaiming the mystery of God to you in lofty words or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified. And I came to you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling. My speech and my proclamation were not with plausible words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God. (1 Cor. 2:1-5)

Conditional love (the way the powers of this world try to love) takes a lot of energy and a lot of work...and...it never reaches the reality of love as we hear and see it in the story of Christ crucified. The mystery of God is that God is completely revealed within the weakness, fear, and trembling of our humanity. Here, right here in the make up of the community, God promises to bring the power of creation and liberation and renewal to all people. There will be no list of proposition to which we must agree. There will be no hoop through which we must jump in order to show that we fit into a correct pattern or method or rule. Paul brought a story of a love that could not be shut up...and therefore he did not shut up. This love - this mysterious love of God - becomes for us the whole foundation upon which we offer ourselves to one another. Within that simple story all his teaching will find its beginning and its eternal rest. In other words, God's action for us will be enough and not another piece is needed to make this news - Good.

Connection: Listen up to what is being said through the lines of religious babble all around us. The freedom and new life promised through Christ, Jesus, most often sounds full of conditions and limits and promises that really only give us what we want - nothing new. Unfortunately, the language of condition is a beloved language to people who cannot trust what God hands over to us in Christ.

Lord Whose Love Stretches Beyond Our Sight, we are so content to live within the bounds of our limited lives. Stretch us and anoint us with your promises so that we will not fear that love you shower upon us in Jesus' name. Amen.

Monday, May 16, 2005

20 May 2005

Just whose are we as followers of Jesus as we stand at the end of this week.

Consider your own call brothers and sisters: not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are, so that no one might boast in the presence of God. He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God and righteousness and sanctification and redemption, in order that, as it is written, "Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord." (1 Cor. 1:26-31)

This sounds quite like the song sung by Mary in Luke's gospel. The song called the Magnificat. For in that song and these words by Paul, we can hear the grand reversal. We can hear how the way of Jesus, the way of God's will in the flesh, does not sit in the seat of the powers of our day. Rather, Jesus calls us - all of us - even someone like me who does not deserve a place, but is still called beloved without any qualification. From that identity, comes the power for new life. There are no other categories for boasting. In a day in which we hear crusade language rising up within religious communities (off all kinds) we are invited, once again, to settle within the blessed assurance of our status as it is given to us. We are living in a time when the description "Christian" is sounding like Crusader. When that takes place, there is only boasting that will rise among us. There will be no humility, no self-sacrificing love for those who we are told don't deserve it. And yet, we are invited to stand in opposition to such crusading images and recall the servant who call us to serve without condition.

Connection: There will be voices that will rise up to pull us into positions of power that are run by fear and promise new crusades to cleanse us all. Remember that we are already cleanse and nourished for a life that amazes the world with a strange reversal of power - called the love of God.

Lord of New Life, define our lives by your grace and pull us by your Holy Spirit into the realm of that graciousness within this world of division and power. Amen.

19 May 2005

Moving along in 1 Corinthians.

Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided through the foolishness of our proclamation , to save those who believe (1 Cor. 1:20-21). For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are the called both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For God's foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God's weakness is stronger than human strength. (1 Cor. 1:22-25)

I think it may help to drop off the word Jews and Greeks and use something like "religious" and "secular." In other words, the followers of Jesus are not going to considered in good light by any of the battling powers of the day. Religious people, who want the world to be run by rules and have a view of life that is restrictive to an "us and them" who can be clearly defined as a "Good and Bad." Secular folks simply dismiss anyone who speaks of a power that does not fit into the way things are run "in the real world." For example, some religious folks today have a limited definition of what it is to do God's will. These definitions rarely have a tolerance for the unlimited grace of God. Rather, they want things to be cut and dry...people to be either this or that. To not speak in their limited tongues is to be "unfaithful." On the other hand, I listen to some people in the media and they immediately write of anything that comes from a "religious" source. Not only do they turn off the limited view of religious legalists, they also look at the way of Jesus and find it quaint but not helpful. We have a news that is powerful and yet rejected by just about everyone. Unless of course the news has been changed to fit what the Religious and the Secular people want it to be.

Connection: How does your understanding of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus inform how you listen to the voices of our day? How do you speak up with this alien voice when it is such a minority vision? What would help you stand on that solid rock of God's grace?

Within the power of you love, O God, there is life that places us within a new avenue of life that will invite us to move in opposition to the many voices of our world. We ask that you continue to inspire us with words of hope and visions of life that is free within your gracious Reign. Amen.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

18 May 2005

We pick up at verse 20 in chapter one of 1 Corinthians.

Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided through the foolishness of our proclamation , to save those who believe.

Remember, the proclamation Paul mentions lifts high the crucified one - that is the one who entered into the pain and suffering of the world (all of it) as the way to make known the merciful Image of God. I find this most interesting to hear and see that there is a "Christian" movement in our country today that is filled with a lust for power and dominance. This movement covers itself with words of faith and - like propaganda that is aimed to win the day - claims to have God on its side and all of its actions are therefore, ordained by God. Sounds like the crusades, but no, I shouldn't say that...that would be too direct and pointed of a remark. The crusaders today have the gall to talk of being victims within our society and yet, they are well-groomed, well appointed, well endowed with wealth, and - as one might expect from crusaders of any faith - well fed with dreams like John and James wondering who will be at the right and left side of Jesus when he comes into his kingdom. Ah, but this is where the crusaders of our day reveal their god. It is a god who promises wealth and power and holy crowns that will separate them from the rabble. What these new crusaders forget, is that Jesus (Yes, the one they say is Lord...Not everyone who says "Lord..." never left the side of the rabble. Even at his death he was with them - by God - he was one of them. There is not anything much more foolish than Jesus' life. But, don't think that the new crusaders will follow this Lord, Jesus. They have another, wiser, more prudent, better suited lord to follow and they would like us all to join the parade.

Connection: Continue to read of the Christ, Jesus, of the Gospels and the one to whom Paul points when he is painting the gracious vision of the Reign of God. Continue to watch that small cadre of the followers of Jesus in the book of Acts who really were "run out of town" - not for the rules they wanted to impose on people - but the grace and mercy and love that set people free without condition. The story hasn't changed much.

Reigning Lord of All, it is so easy for us to turn to the wisdom of our world and its flashing ways of selling something that is not the truth and calling it the truth. Keep us forever focused on the way of the cross and the way we are called to serve other so that their well being will be the well being of us all. Amen.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

17 May 2005

Walking a little at a time into 1 Corinthians.

For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to those who are being saved it is the power of God. (1 Cor. 1:18)

Okay, I'm moving slowly through this letter. Having said that, we must remember that something very foundational is being said to us through the Apostle as he brings this word to the church in Corith. At the beginning of the letter to the Romans, Paul writes that the "power of God" is the gospel - that story of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. This story is good news because it shows the complete and unending way that God is for us - without hesitation - without waiting for our response - without getting anything right - without being deemed "morally" right. Paul begins and ends his counsel to the Corinthians in the Alpha & Omega of God's movement toward us and for us. Therefore, when we hear the foolishness of God for us - even when we want to resist its universal power and withhold its extravagant love just for those who with us and like us - it is still the power to pull us through the death of the day and it is our foundation for new life. Yes, always fools are we...fools who do not despair at our perishing...fools who are rescued for a life that is as foolish as the love of our God.

Connection: We do not need to stay quiet. We do not need to let this precious gift of life be silenced by those who are afraid of God's unbounded love alive among us. We need only prayerfully encourage one another to continue on with our foolishness and know that it will get us no where...because our end is already within the foolish grasp of our God.

Lord of New Life and Endless Foolishness, you have been for us beyond our ability to be for ourselves. Continue to lead us - continue to hold us - continue to take us through the cross into your promised land that is being unveiled each and every day. Amen.

16 May 2005

Bear with me for this ongoing journey into 1 Corinthians.

For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to those who are being saved it is the power of God. (1 Cor. 1:18)

The good news - is foolishness...Jesus dying on the cross as a sign of the beginning of life eternal - is foolish...the love of God for us before we know to ask for it or do anything to earn it - is foolish. It is foolish to the perishing because, from what I can see and know within myself, the perishing will do anything not to perish. We will hold onto any message, any power, any promise of life, that will stop us from perishing. We do not want to perish. We do not want our ideas to fall apart. I do not want the things I find so precious in life to be taken from me or me from them. The "perishing" ones, like me, will fight like hell to stay away from the vulnerability of the cross because the cross is death...the cross is out of our control...the cross doesn't let me win...the cross means i will perish - and that is a forbidden concept. We are so sold on victory that we do not know how to hear the word of the cross. Just listen to the way Christians are talking these days. We sound more like the powers of Rome and the Religious elite of Jesus' day than like followers of the one who gets nailed by those powers. The gracious love of God that takes us through the ugliness of our death no matter what the cause will always be considered foolish. The martyrs of the faith, remember, are those who walk out into the open living within the full expression of God's grace and as they are out there at play in the Reign of God, there are those who are perishing and fear resurrection live brought out of the power of death, and those powers - those perishing will do just about anything to silence the play of martyrs.

Connection: Help me with this! I'm not sure I am able to stand within the glory of such a gracious word without trying to turn it into something else...which would be anything less than an unconditional and unbounded love for all. I know it's foolish...but how do we, together, endure the rejection of others and ourselves when the Spirit of God grabs hold of us for the living of these days?

You promise us life, O God, well we need to be empowered for that life because we are too easily moved by those powers that claim that we are fools who do not understand the how we must live to be your beloved. Remind us that, already we are beloved, already we are yours, and already we can be free with you. Amen.

Saturday, May 7, 2005

13 May 2005

This week ends within the first chapter of 1 Corinthians.

Now I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you be in agreement and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same purpose. For it has been reported to me by Chloe's people that there are quarrels among you, my brothers and sisters. What I mean is that each of you says, "I belong to Paul," or "I belong to Apollos," or I belong to Cephas," or "I belong to Christ." Has Christ been divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?... For Christ did not send me to baptize but to proclaim the gospel, and not with eloquent wisdom, so that the cross of Christ might not be emptied of its power. (1 Cor. 1:10 -13, 17)

What is it about the different "camps" within a community that makes the word of grace different? Could it be that each side puts something a bit higher on the priority for life list? Could it be that fear somehow steers a person in another direction...and another person in yet another direction...and then another person in quite an opposite direction? Could it be that we are not content to let the Grace of God as it is know in Christ, Jesus, and throughout the scriptures? Could it be that we think we have something to lose if we do not have a side to represent...a side we can say is right when the other side is "off a bit"? We thank our God for a word so simple it is the power to dismantle the great wisdom of any of us. It is a word that does not settle for the power of what one side can say over and against the other side. It is a word that presses us beyond our wants and leads us into a very foolish position for life - gracious love and abundant peace.

Connection: I can probably find fault with others as well as you can. In fact, you can find fault with me and I can do the same with you. But in the midst of all this will we ever experience that peace that is promised to us - I doubt it. Only as we embody the graciousness of God's Reign will we begin to be surprised by its peace among us.

We move from side to side and yet you, Most Gracious Lord, side with all of us so that we will begin to see that the divisions between us have been made worthless by your love that is always reconciling and healing us and making us one in you. Amen.

12 May 2005

What is all this talk of agreement in the middle of division? We continue with 1 Corinthians.

Now I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you be in agreement and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same purpose. For it has been reported to me by Chloe's people that there are quarrels among you, my brothers and sisters. What I mean is that each of you says, "I belong to Paul," or "I belong to Apollos," or I belong to Cephas," or "I belong to Christ." Has Christ been divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?... For Christ did not send me to baptize but to proclaim the gospel, and not with eloquent wisdom, so that the cross of Christ might not be emptied of its power. (1 Cor. 1:10 -13, 17)

All we may touch on today is the urging that there be agreement and no divisions among the Corinthians. There will always be divisions among us...all of us in every place and time. Paul isn't talking about simple divisions. Rather, we will be in agreement about the Reign of God that comes through out Lord, Jesus. We will weigh all things with that vision among us. Our life together will always settle on the truth of the Good News. We will be of one mind about the faithfulness of our God and the grace of God that creates a people out of nothing at all. There will not be multiple ways to consider the love of God. It is one love - as seen in Jesus. It is one gracious love that carries us without end - and nothing will cause it to trip up...ever. So united we live and within that unifying truth we gather together to tackle the events of this day to which we usually give the power to control us.

Connection: When there is division in the church, would it be good if we asked one another, "What is it about the grace of God in Christ, Jesus, that we find less than true?" Then our discussions may bring us around to look at what it is that has authority for us in our lives. I think we will begin to see quite quickly how grace does or does not shape us & what else we are trusting to shape our community.

Bind us together by the love that is known through our Lord, Jesus. Even when we turn and follow other stories that cannot bring the fullness of life you promise, let your love continue to bring us to the table of prayerful discussion and revelation through your grace. Amen.

11 May 2005

Let's pick up with this introduction from 1 Corinthians and talk about the end of all things.

I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that has been given you in Christ Jesus, for in every way you have been enriched in him, in speech and knowledge of every kind - just as the testimony of Christ has been strengthened among you - so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ. He will also strengthen you to the end, so that you may be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful; by him you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. (1 Cor.1:4-9)

Here is the beginning of the power for new life - the promise. Whatever the day may have ready to hand us and whatever we may try to see beyond today, the story of new life is our story right through the end of all things. When we look out to the end - we are blameless because the end - just as the beginning - is owned by the Grace of God - our Lord Jesus. This is not a word of speculation or a promised based on a series of proposition that add up to Good News. This is the promise of a faithful God who invites us - calls us out - to share in the life that this promise brings forevermore. We are talking about the end being a forever reality - even now. Now is the faithfulness of God a reality and it will remain even when we turn and run the other way. Despite our actions, the grace of God, faithful through the end...continues to woo us into life along the way with Jesus.

You never let us go, O Lord of Life, and it is by your gracious embrace that we have life even when we stumble and fall short. You never let go of us and we are told that no other reality is set before us. Make this our strength and courage and hope in this day. Amen.

10 May 2005

Just as we continue to be shaped by the Spirit of God, the Corinthian church was being shaped by a vision of God's Reign that is beyond our rule.

I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that has been given you in Christ Jesus, for in every way you have been enriched in him, in speech and knowledge of every kind - just as the testimony of Christ has been strengthened among you - so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ. He will also strengthen you to the end, so that you may be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful; by him you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. (1 Cor.1:4-9)

Paul gives thanks for what has been given to the people. These are gifted people - just as we are. They have been given a word about the very center of God's love for us - just as we have. Not only this. We are given this gift so that the grace of God - revealed in Jesus - will become a revealing event among us. Paul gives thanks for he knows how the grace of God is, by its very definition, a gift that will never settle for any other word about God -- for there is no other word but the one that opens up its arms to reveal a love the world cannot produce nor does it really want to. Giving thanks for the Corinthians is a sign of hope. Like the closing of any generation, it is a blessed event to see that this love of God that knows no bounds continues to wrap itself around the people who are just now stepping out to live within the boundlessness of God's grace.

Connection: The powers of this world and the situations we encounter can be overwhelming to us. Fear and anxiety and the many forms these are manifest in the most simply and basic aspects of our day can easily dominate our every move. I hate being anxious...and yet I know that is all I will be if I do not have others who will, like Paul, keep my eyes fixed on this essential foundation for life that really does give us a life other than our anxious pursuits.

O God who walks with us when we are not sure of our next step, we need your hand to be a reminder of the peace you bring and the life you create so that we will not run away from your gracious Reign. Amen.

9 May 2005

With so many divisions in the Church I would like to return to 1 Corinthians and the graciousness of the Community of the followers of Jesus.

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Cor. 1:3)

I wanted to start with a simple notion. Grace and Peace comes into the mix of the community that is being shaped by the power of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit moves among us. The Spirit moves us beyond ourselves. The Spirit carries us into the living reality of the Grace of God that is always made known among the people who call Jesus, Lord and Christ. The Spirit creates - in the middle of this graciousness within the community - the Peace of God's Reign that, quite frankly, befuddles us. The Peace that abounds among is part of our character. Peace is always an interactive reality because a body/community cannot be at peace unless it is completely connected and has a sense of balance and unity. Paul will eventually talk about the body and unity and resolution of conflict within this letter to the Corinthians, but it all takes place as he stand on a foundation of the Grace of God that is and will be and makes for our Peace.

Connection: The more I listen to the divisiveness of the Church (which can even be heard outside the Church) the more I am convinced of our need to rest - breathe - and consider the Good News of the Reign of God. When we are about to fight or swear at the "other" side, how do we keep in mind the universal nature of the love of God that we can see so vividly in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus? This does not mean we do not stand tall. Rather it means we do not give up this Gracious foundation for anything less. In that stand is a Power that is beyond our capabilities and yet is a gift to us.

Open our eyes again, O Lord. Just as you always take our hand and lead us beyond the turmoil of this day be our guide that walks us within the domain of your gracious Reign when there is nothing but talk of division and hatred. Amen.

Friday, May 6, 2005

6 May 2005

The week ends with "The Prophetic Imagination" by Walter Brueggemann.

The cross is the ultimate metaphor of prophetic criticism because it means the end of the old consciousness that bring death to everyone... Without the cross, prophetic imagination will likely be as strident and as destructive as that which it criticizes. The cross is the assurance that effective prophetic criticism is done not by an outsider but always by one who must embrace the grief, enter into the death, and know the pain of the criticized one.

This makes me think about political elections. No matter who wins the day, the way things are run doesn't really change very much for those who do not have the kind of power that usually is in control of how the government will run. If we are to help change anything, we too must follow that way that leads to the cross. For on that life journey, we will be less likely to forgot those who have no power at all within our world - city - church. When we keep in mind all the people who make up the whole, the notion of love becomes an active style of life that will not let go of anyone. As you might expect, when do not let go of anyone, we can expect to see the cross in a very real and concrete manner.

Connection: Remember to look around the room - better yet - step outside and see who is not even allowed to be in the room. Then...then, we will have a better picture of who we are.

Gracious Lord, you set the table for all you people so that when we look down the table we experience the graciousness of your Reign simply by glancing at the those who are ready to take part in the feast you offer. We give you thanks for such a wide and all encompassing love. Amen.

Wednesday, May 4, 2005

5 May 2005

A look at the crucifixion from Walter Brueggemann in "The Prophetic Imagination."

The crucifixion...is...the full expression of dismantling that has been practiced and insisted upon in the prophetic tradition since Moses confronted Pharaoh. As with Moses, so Jesus' ministry and death opposed the politics of oppression with the politics of justice and compassion. As with Moses, so Jesus' ministry and death resisted the economics of affluence and called for the economics of shared humanity. As with Moses, so Jesus' ministry and death contradicted the religion of God's captivity with the freedom of God to bring life where he will, even in the face of death.

God brings freedom and brings it even when we would rather have things go the way they are going. Freedom, for all the many ways we say we love it, does not suit people who can only see one side of a coin or an issue or situation. To only see one side means the other side does not exist...since we can't see it. When that side does show its face, it is easy to reject it or try to put a stop to it. The Freedom that comes within the Good News of the Reign of God is much more than we ever hope to have. It is a freedom that truly sets us free from all the powers that want so much to have the world run in just one way...from one side...with one viewpoint. Sometimes, those who want to have a country or church or business run according to one side - even if it is a majority - do not realize how closely they come to being oppressive and really dismantle the whole notion of freedom.

Connection: Do not be afraid to see and hear what is on the other side of the coin. Most importantly, remember that though there will be different views and people different from us, they are still people who deserve to have a voice and be honored and not destroyed or discounted.

Liberating God, when we do not see the obvious works of oppression, we forget that oppression is most often subtle and yet very powerful in our lives. Liberate us and bring us leaders like Moses who needed as much help as you were able to give him to help lead Israel into the grand potential for life as a free people. Amen.

Tuesday, May 3, 2005

4 May 2005

We begin again with a piece from Walter Brueggemann.

Jesus' sayings on the cross as preserved in the various traditions are the voice of an alternative consciousness. His initial plea for forgiveness for his enemies is an act of criticism (Luke 23:34), for it asserts the insanity of the dominant culture. On behalf of that world which has now sentenced him, he enters a pleas of temporary insanity...
Second, his cry of despair (Mark 15:34) is an announcement of abandonment. The whole network of meaning has collapsed and a new dangerous situation of faith has emerged...
Third, the ultimate criticism ends in submission (Luke 23:46), the last thing possible in a world of competence and control. Thus in that very world of control Jesus presents a new way of faithfulness that completely subverts the dominant way.
And finally, his assertion of paradise (Luke 23:43) is a speech about the delegitimization of the world that killed him.

We are given some powerful ways to look at Jesus' voice in those final moments of his life on the cross. It shows that in the middle of what appears to be a position of complete despair and death, another reality exists and cannot be eliminated. In fact, Jesus speaks up right in the face of all the powers that should have been able to silence him. But...they did not...and cannot...and will not silence that criticism of one way to move through life and his affirmation of life that is available to us as a contrary existence. This is not something for which we are to wait, it is already here in his announcement and through the power of the resurrection.

Connection: Though the voices of the powers around us can be very strong and persuasive (even when those voices come in very familiar and related sources) we are assured that Jesus provide another way and the power of God will be with us as we step out of the power those voices try to have over us. That will happen in many and various ways today. Remember to listen, because in the middle of it all, God is calling us to freedom.

Liberating Lord, by your compassion you call us forth within this day to trust in you alone. You see the suffering and trouble within this day and you remind us that you will be our rock upon which we can rest and regroup and re-engage in this world in a new way. Thanks be to you. Amen.

Monday, May 2, 2005

3 April 2005

Again from "The Prophetic Imagination" by Walter Brueggemann.

That the passion saying of Jesus constitute the ultimate criticism of the royal consciousness is evident in the reaction of the faithful: First (Mark 8:32-33) Peter, on behalf of the church, rejects the criticism as too radical and he is roundly reprimanded. Second (9:32), the disciples did not understand and are afraid to ask. Third (10:35-37), they respond, indicating they understood nothing, by fresh dispute about their own power and authority. The criticism of Jesus is too radical, not only for the imperial managers but also for his own followers. None of us is prepared for such decisive criticism.'

None of us is prepared for the power and expansive reality that comes into being by grace alone. That is why we all resist it. Jesus' passion takes us through all of our "stuff" and all of our ways of holding onto something and reminds us that none of it can stand through the power of death. And yet, Jesus will and did and does. By grace we are called to follow the same path but too often we dare not follow. Instead, we come up with many and various ways of saying this gracious action of Jesus is too radical of a position to be taken seriously among us. It is a story for us but not a story of us. In reality, we are invited to make it our story. One teacher of mine would say, "Jesus does not die for us, Jesus dies before us." Death is the way we will go. Will it have power over us and make us run from it or will we hear that voice of Jesus calling us beyond the reality of death into the promise of what will be and already is unfolding around us?

Connection: I know it is difficult to follow the lead of our Gracious Lord. I know it is easy to pull back, maybe just a bit, so as to keep ourselves safe and secure. Unfortunately, our idea of safe and secure is neither safe or secure.

Forgiving God, as you invited us along the way of our Lord, Jesus, remind us that we are not alone. Remind us that the Spirit of Hopefulness will be rushing in to refresh us and renew us so that we will continue to walk with you each and every day. Amen.

2 May 2005

From "The Prophetic Imagination" by Walter Wink.

It is the crucifixion of Jesus that is the decisive criticism of the royal consciousness...the ultimate act of prophetic criticism in which Jesus announces the end of a world of death and takes that death into his own person. Therefore we say that the ultimate criticism is that God himself embraces the death that his people must die. The criticism consists not it standing over against but in standing with; the ultimate criticism is not one of triumphant indignation but one of passion and compassion that completely and irresistibly undermine the world of competence and competition. --this passionate man set in the midst of numbed Jerusalem. And only the passion can finally penetrate the numbness.

Jesus does not play the game as the game has been played. This does not mean that he is not involved. Rather, it means that he is completely involved and engaged within the world around him - much more than any of the "numb" systems that will never dare to be involved with most of the people. Because of a love for all people, Jesus move toward them and is constantly aware of their pain and the threat of death that surrounds them and he makes sure that he too fall prey to such a reality. Within his journey, he never lets the "numbness" of the system stay "numb" to his presence. By his compassion he brings the world that is ignored and pushed to the side onto center stage. This is center stage of the Reign of God - a place they have inherited. This action, as we know, is repulsive to the power-that-be because now "those" people are seen and heard and cannot be silenced.

Connection: The truth of the whole reality around us must be engaged. When it is not, we become afraid of what is not like our own world. It takes deliberate action to stay connected to those who are disconnected. And at the end of the day, everyone is more honored.

We give you thanks, O Lord of New Life, as we hear again how you lead us into the passionate ways of your Reign. When we find ourselves becoming numb to our world, help us to feel again so that we may not leave behind the rest of your children who you call beloved. Amen.