Friday, December 29, 2006

29 December 2006

After skipping a brief section about elders, we move into today's text. This will be the final devotion from 1 Peter.

Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you. Discipline yourselves, keep alert. Like a roaring lion your adversary the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour. Resist him, steadfast in your faith, for you know that your brothers and sisters in all the world are undergoing the same kinds of sufferings. And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, support, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the power forever and ever. Amen.

We are never out of the range of our God who is present to swoop us up even though we are experiencing the worst of time. The call to faithfulness is one that is not determined by what is going on around us. That is, we are called to remain faithful no matter what is happening around us. It is so easy to be pulled away from the path of grace. In fact, the 'roaring lion' is not simply frightening. Rather, it often has its way with us - to has the ability to control us simply by its roar. When that is the condition of our lives, we become convinced that the way of our Lord, Jesus, is not really the way for us. Therefore, we turn and live according to the roars of the world. Here we are simply being told to resist such a voice - a threat - a beast as this. In the middle of all things we are told of this God who will make things new and bring us life - just as is promised. This is the strength of our days.

Connection: There can be quite a bit of roaring going on in our world. It often does a good job at limiting our lives. Remember, today we are encouraged to go on living along the way of our Lord even when the room rumbles with threat.

We give you thanks, gracious Lord, for being alongside us through all things. It can be so easy to trust other power and other sounds of greatness - but you alone love us and remain with us in and through all things. Thanks be to God. Amen.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

28 December 2006

Today we will continue in chapter four of 1 Peter.

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that is taking place among you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you are sharing Christ's sufferings, so that you may also be glad and shout for joy when his glory is revealed. If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the spirit of glory which is the Spirit of God, is resting on you. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, a criminal, or even as a mischief maker. Yet if any of you suffers as a Christian, do not consider it a disgrace, but glorify God because you bear this name. For the time has come for judgment to begin with the household of God; if it begins with us, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God? (4:12-17)

It is quite important to make sure we are dealing with the right reason for the suffering that may come. It is because we follow the way of Jesus. It is because the vision of the Reign of God become flesh among us. It is because we risk loving beyond any barrier - no matter where we find a basis for the barrier. Today in our country, it doesn't take long to hear Christians talking about the suffering they must undergo. Unfortunately, it is what I would call middle-class comfort suffering. It takes place when someone at a department store doesn't say 'Merry Christmas' but rather substitutes 'Happy Holidays.' It is when a song is pulled off of a choral program list at a public school. It is when no time is offered for teacher led prayers or there can be no posting of the ten commandments in public buildings. None of this is the suffer referred to in this letter. In fact, if we think it is suffering, that thinking may be one of the greatest threats to the faith - trivialization! Today's text considers what might happen if the Christians followed the way of Jesus. It might not fly. It may be rejected. Those who would be persecuting would do so because of an intolerance for the way we demonstrate the life within God's Reign - already.

Connection: Some people try not to get caught up in the holiday rush of things. It would be just as good to not get caught up in the 'poor us' mentality that too often is heard from Christians today.

Lord, remind us of your loving ways and how we are each invited to take that love as the foundation upon which we can live and then to live from that love as though we are the ones who demonstrate this love in the world today. As you have promised, be with us when this love is not a welcome guest in the places we seek to stay. Amen.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

27 December 2006

With the Christmas weekend over and an extra day for a break, we go back into 1 Peter and pick up in the fourth chapter.

The end of all things is near; therefore be serious and discipline yourselves for the sake of your prayers. Above all, maintain constant love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without complaining. Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received. Whoever speaks must do so as one speaking the very words of God; whoever serves must do so with the strength that God supplies, so that God may be glorified in all things through Jesus Christ. To him belong the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen. (4:7-11)

Back in the days of the writer, folks probably thought the end was near. Yes, there were notions of Jesus coming back within the early life of the church. But then again, the end of life is always just moments away - who knows. To live as though we trust that the Lord will be with us and it is near to the end, is not to be a position of fear. It is an opportunity to live without fear. In fact, we are invited to live within the unending hospitality of the one we follow - now! This is not in order to get a reward nor is it in order to forgo some punishment. Rather, it is a reminder of what we have now and what kind of opportunity we are given for life that is usually forgotten or ignored. If we are near the end of all things, it is quite appropriate for stewards of the grace of the God to let the graciousness of the Reign of the Christ show through us. I would suggest that we are at the end of all things....every day. With that in mind - and just as much in our heart - the life that was demonstrated by Jesus is ours to share for it has been handed over to us and for us. Of course it isn't something we readily take on into this day. but this life of grace is there and...the serving...the love...the conversations of hope and care...the support for others...the strength to go beyond the limits we put on ourselves, awaits our participation. Do not fear!! Live!

Connection: The babble about end times that so often does nothing within our culture but cause fear...put lots of money in a few preachers pockets...turn mediocre writers into the writers of many books...and make people view others as mere things to conquer with faith. Well, it is the end of time with the special intent that we each become free form such lies and free for one another in an arena of love that has no conditions. What a way to go...what a way to begin.

This is your day, O God, you take our hands and you walk with us into the unknown and yet it is that which we face even now. Be our encouragement so that as we step off into your eternal Reign, it will already be the source of new life and hope. Amen.

Friday, December 22, 2006

22 December 2006

The week ends with more from 1 Peter.

Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same intention (for whoever has suffered in the flesh has finished with sin), so as to live for the rest of your earthly life no longer by human desires but by the will of God. You have already spent enough time in doing what the Gentiles like to do, living in licentiousness, passions, drunkenness, revels, carousing, and lawless idolatry. They are surprised that you no longer join them in the same excesses of dissipation, and so they blaspheme. But they will have to given an accounting to him who stands ready to judge the living and the dead. For this is the reason the gospel was proclaimed even to the dead so that, though they had been judged in the flesh as everyone is judged, they might live in the spirit as God does.

This is one of the passages I thought I would skip over. Alas, here we are. There is much about conduct here and some of it is directed to the separation that is being urged from what was the pattern of life that was once the Christian's and is still around them. Some of that had to do with the various guilds and clubs and the banquets and feasts associated with them. One thing is clear, there seems to be a separation from that kind of lifestyle and the Christians are going about things differently in life. But...I want to comment about that. Today, a number of Christians are trying to separate themselves from the general population by setting up systems of alternate education and social groups. It is as though there is a need for some today to live in a world of the "clean" and the "unclean" so as to protect themselves. One of my concerns about this is that they buy into the huge materialistic aspect of the culture and yet think nothing of that. Listen some time to the very "well known" preachers of the day. Very often, it is all about money. Yes, there are words about Jesus and the grace of God, but the lead message is how trusting God will make your rich...will give you all that you ask for in your life. just as much the blaspheme as is that life that is addressed in the text. But today, thrown into the hopper is how Jesus wills riches for us. This is a delusion. Wealth has nothing to do with the Reign of God...unless it is all used for the welfare of others. You won't hear that today. Too many churches fall into the same "me first" spirituality that makes feel people good...but it produces the same values as the culture.

Connection: Yes, there is a life that is contrary to the way of the world. And yet, it is much more broad than what we sometimes want to accept.

Come, Lord God, and strengthen us for the life of love and mercy and hope that turns us to one another and make us a community unlike any other - one ruled by your grace. Amen.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

21 December 2006

Yesterday 1 Peter worked on our suffering, today we pick up with Christ's suffering.

For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God. He was put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit, in which also he went and made a proclamation to the spirits in prison, who in former times did not obey, when God waited patiently in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were saved through water. And baptism, which is prefigured, now saves you - not as a removal of dirt from the body, but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God with angels, authorities, and powers made subject to him. (3:18-22)

So suffering for someone who we would never think we should suffer - one of of the bad of the dirty of the unrighteous. What a dynamic picture to remember. Once and for all. In that movement of suffering, we hear a whole new story for the world. It is not all about me or us or my people or a chosen is about all. Baptism doesn't safe guard us and it doesn't make us clean. Baptism brings new life that has its beginning and end in the way of Jesus - suffering for all and nothing less. We are brought into the new light and this new way of taking part in the life of the world. We announce -with the living of our lives- what God has done through Jesus and now continues to do through us. This is not so much about story telling as it is about story living...and the living...the standing with and for all of "those"...tells the story as it unfolds in ordinary lives in to the way of Jesus. We now live within the domain of the one who has lived contrary to the patterns of life and suffered for do that. That domain is not able to be controlled by any power and so we go on following our Lord through water and into new life.

Connection: This saving story is not all about me or is about all. And yet, this means it is most definitely about me...and you - all. Assured by such a word, how does that begin to shape things?!?

By your power, O Lord, you entered into our suffering humanity and endured all things as you unveiled your living Reign of Peace among us and for us. With the simple trickle of water, we are reminded of our welcome into this walk with you. Thanks be to God. Amen.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

20 December 2006

Today we will continue with the theme of suffering in 1 Peter.

Now who will harm you if you are eager to do what is good? But even if you do suffer for doing what is right, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear, and do not be intimidated, but in your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord. Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and reverence. Keep your conscience clear, so that , when you are maligned, those who abuse you for your conduct in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if suffering should be God's will, than to suffer for doing evil. (3:13-15)

We do what we are called to do - be the beloved of God as we know that life as it is made holy before our eyes in the life of Jesus. In knowing that life and being baptized into that life and then walking into that life - we will not always be greeted with open arms. Following our Lord does not mean that we will be spared suffering. Doing "what is good" - or living with the holy ways of our Lord, does not mean that we are trying to earn something. Rather, doing what is good is what happens when we prayerfully consider the way of Jesus. I'm amused by the phrase "an accounting for the hope that is in you." The hope of our God that comes to life already among us is a life that is not always appreciated. Remember justice and mercy and loving kindness and peace are not qualities that are always accepted and warmly greeted. It is actually quite the contrary in our world. But when we are rejected for loving beyond the bounds of what is considered acceptable we need only stay focused on the promise - on the hope of what can be done and will be done by our God. The hope that is in us is the story of promise. The story of promise pulls us into a life that will witness to the one who calls us and it will be the life that will get us into hot water whenever it is not a part of the status quo within our day.

Connection: Know that this day is filled with hope. In the middle of this hope, live as though it is a foundational piece to all that you do. Not many people live according to hope...they want the money...or something concrete or something immediate. But...go ahead and live within the promise.

Lord of Life, there are so many times when we hesitate or do not act within the domain of your blessed Reign. Instead we hold back and become anxious about how we might be received. In this day, encourage us so that we step along your way and follow again. Amen.

Monday, December 18, 2006

19 December 2006

More direction for life from 1 Peter.

Finally, all of you, have unity of spirit, sympathy, love for one another, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or abuse for abuse; but, on the contrary, repay with a blessing. It is for this that you were called - that you might inherit a blessing. (3:8-9)

This is what makes us the transformative community of the followers of Jesus. Above all else, we repay with a blessing. That is the revolutionary word. That is the word that is hard to swallow. That is the word that separates us from all who would want to repay with violence and retribution and war. And is hard to swallow because it is a hard word. We are called into such a contrary life that we do not fit into its dressing. That is why the Holy Spirit is continually called upon to shape us and lead us and equip us for the journey of life that is quite beyond what everyone in the world expects. How can we be a blessing to others if our lives are not filled with that sense of blessing in all we do? We become a light to all by being the light. I think this was the call presented to Israel and it is the same one presented to us. In Christ, Jesus, we are not given a magic wand...we are given a life that is concrete and demonstrated by the one we call Lord.

Connection: This hard word is hard because we are invited into its life everyday - everyday...and with everyone - everyone. It takes devotion...daily devotion.

You have called us into a life full of the grace of your Reign, O God. Within that life, we entertain one another with with love and compassion, humility and loving kindness. Inspire us to live in the light of your Christ in all of our days. Amen

Sunday, December 17, 2006

18 December 2006

After spending two days dealing with a text about slaves (1 Peter 2:18-25), today it is a must that we move into the text that flows out of that one - even though I find both painful to read.

Wives, in the same way, accept the authority of your husbands, so that, even if some of them do not obey the word, they may be won over without a word by their wives' conduct, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. Do not adorn yourselves outwardly by braiding your hair, and by wearing gold ornaments or fine clothing; rather let your adornment be the inner self with the lasting beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in God's sight. It was in this way long ago that the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves by accepting the authority of their husbands. thus Sarah obeyed Abraham and called him lord. You have become her daughter as long as you do what is good and never let fears alarm you.
Husbands, in the same way, show consideration for your wives in your life together, paying honor to the woman as the weaker sex, since they too are also heirs of the gracious gift of life - so that nothing may hinder your prayers.

This makes me want to be a bit like Thomas Jefferson and begin cutting out of scripture things I don't find helpful. From these two segments to wives and husbands, I would only want to keep a few part of sentences. The rest has no place in our conversation about the faith and the role of husbands and wives. Yes, we could go into the historical context of these passages and what was expected of people in marital relationships of that day...but it would bring us no good news. Some of the social pattern of another day must stay in another day. Some of the ways relationships were viewed need to be dismantled. This doesn't mean we dismantle the relationship of a husband and an wife, rather we make more of them now but within the context of our world. For example, in the first line to the husbands it says "show consideration for your wives in your life together, paying honor to the woman." I'd stop it right there. Don't continue with the rest for when we do, I think we lose the good news. We don't honor our wives because they are a "weaker sex." We honor them because they are whole people with gifts, talents, and the like. We honor them because they are simply there with us. No reason needed. We hold them as beloved - just as our God holds us. We treat them with the love we are asked to treat all neighbors...and more. As for the role of women, I would include the same advice to them about their husbands. Honor them as your gifted ones. We could do well to advise all of us to take care of our inner selves as a way of both partners revealing the beauty of personality that is a part of our whole being. Again, I would cut and paste here. Unfortunately, many people today are trying to make this kind of marital image the one that one must follow. Quite frankly, it honors no one.

Connection: We honor others because of the worth they already have in the eyes of God. Relationships grow when we see in the other their potential and help them reach into that reality.

Too many rules are placed into our way, O God, and we find ourselves unable to become people who see the beauty in the other person simply as a person you have created. Remind us how special it is to be in relationship and how our partners are to be honored and loved and we can expect to be held in just such a way. Bring us together in your love, O Lord. Amen.

Friday, December 15, 2006

15 December 2006

Today we will once again go at yesterday's text from 1 Peter.

Slaves, accept the authority of your masters with all deference, not only those who are kind and gentle but also those who are harsh. For it is a credit to you if, being aware of God, you endure pain while suffering unjustly. If you endure when you are beaten for doing wrong what credit is that? 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. (2:18-21)

With a text like this, it is no wonder that slavery was considered a God-given part of our world. In time, though, enough people were able to say no to this kind of world view. It was not to be like this anymore. There could be no reason for the followers of Jesus to support slavery within our societies. We would reject any attempt to justify slavery based on the view of Jesus suffering for others. This passage truly is something we must reconsider...and we must say that reconsidering such a world view is much more in line with the expansiveness of God's gracious Reign in which justice and loving kindness and mercy will prevail over any "order" or hierarchy of peoples. We have "reconsidered" these words and decided to announce that they are antithetical to the good news in our world. World views change and the good news stays constant. I find nothing of good news in this passage except the announcement of what Jesus has done. That announcement is good for all in all times. Therefore, the argument for slavery is lies outside what is acceptable for us. All in Christ have new life. The owners of slaves are the ones who need to be addressed and they may need to hear that following Jesus may mean they suffer for the welfare of those who are being used as objects for the benefit of a few.

Connection: When we follow Christ in this day, we follow along his way. We do not seek ways to have him "work for us." Rather, we pray that Christ will work through us for all.

Come, O Lord Most High, and bring all your people within the great embrace of your grace. And then, help us to turn around and meet and greet and treat all of them as though they are the brothers and sisters you have given to us in Christ, Jesus. Amen.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

14 December 2006

Today we continue in 1 Peter by moving into a troubling passage as to how Christians are to live within the society.

Slaves, accept the authority of your masters with all deference, not only those who are kind and gentle but also those who are harsh. For it is a credit to you if, being aware of God, you endure pain while suffering unjustly. If you endure when you are beaten for doing wrong what credit is that? 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. (2:18-21)

This is the kind of passage I would encourage our children to say "Baloney." I was not going to use it in this devotional run through 1 Peter but then knew I had to use it. I think it is an inappropriate text for our day and that day. Even though the context of slaves was much more broad then, these words are built on a false premise. It is the last sentence. "For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you and example, so that you should follow in his steps." Christ suffered for slavery, slaves suffer for no one. They suffer because of the socio-political-cultural rules of the day. They suffer because others want to use them for their own convenience and wealth. The suffer because people are not seen as being one. They suffer because some people are considered expendable. A Christian is called to suffer for the slaves who are being broken down. Christ would suffer for these slaves...just as the church should suffer for them by resisting such treatment of others. By doing that - by not participating in slave ownership - the Church would have truly been a contrary community - aliens in the most basic way. More tomorrow.

Connection: This is the kind of passage from scripture that needs to be ignored or else brought into the context of today. Even so, we must battle any use of scripture like this to create an argument for slavery or any form of treating one as less than others.

O Lord, let your living word of grace take us through the many ways we abuse one another. Remind us that when others suffer at our hands, there is little chance that we are walking within the domain of your love. Amen.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

13 December 2006

We continue in 1 Peter.

For the Lord's sake accept the authority of every human institution, whether of the emperor as supreme, or the governors, as sent by him to punish who do wrong and to praise those who do right. For it is God's will that by doing right you should silence the ignorance of the foolish. As servants of God live as free people, yet do not use your freedom as a pretext for evil. Honor everyone. Love the family of believers. Fear God. Honor the emperor.

We need to remember that this is being written to people who are to consider themselves aliens and exiles. So the existing system is not to be disturbed. And yet, the existing system will be disturbed by actions within the "family of believers" that is quite contrary to the ways of the authorities of the land. Now is this being said because this community in this age was being portrayed as being a problem? Remember that as we look at our own country today, we will see people who have been coming from Mexico and farther south for years. But now, to some people they are causing "problems" within the institutions of the U.S. When that happens, crack downs begin in order to cease their actions. In this text, it is not hard to appreciate the remarks by the writer if it is intended to nurture in the community of faith a way of upholding their alien life without pressing it upon others. Then again, if the system of authorities is unjust and we are to be a people whose alien nature is defined by a call to justice, do we simply go along with what is taking place. we become an alien community that embraces those who are unjustly treated by the governing powers. In that way, I can see the image of the Christ coming to life.

Connection: Sometimes we can do nothing about the powers of the day. And yet, we can always be a power that takes on our own agenda for life and begin to create something new.

Give us eyes to see the way of your Blessed Reign in this day. Even when we must act contrary to the world, help us to build up others rather than tear down. Amen.

Monday, December 11, 2006

12 December 2006

We continue in 1 Peter.

Beloved, I urge you as aliens and exiles to abstain from the desires of the flesh that wage war against the soul.. Conduct yourselves honorably among the Gentiles, so that though they malign you as evildoers, they may see your honorable deeds and glorify God when he comes to judge. (2:11-12)

Now we are talking about style. How is it that aliens will live within their society? We will live as ones blessed and called God's people. We will live under the gracious Reign of God as we have seen it put to life in Jesus. That grace will be a part of our encounters with others and that may make people look twice at us. They will look once because this love of God in Christ, Jesus, is an alien way of life. They will look at us again because it will either draw their attention and they will want to be a part of such a life - or - they will not want such a living form of grace to be alive within their communities. When we take this gracious alien life out into the streets of our lives, do not be fooled. It is not something that the world likes. The way of Jesus, that is alien to the world, is one that is often held off at arms length or rejected. Just think about all the ways the good news has invited people to welcome the outsider. Every time we move to welcome, the world and even elements of the church that want nothing to do with real grace will not want us to continue.

Connection: We are being urged to be those aliens right within the daily routine that can look so much like everyone else but we have been invited to share another journey through the day. Yes, it will be greeted and it will be rejected. We will never know how the way of Jesus will be greeted therefore we are those aliens who simply go about the life we know - no matter what.

Come, O God of Grace, and shape us again with your loving presence. It can be so easy to turn and walk along another way but it is your grace that has sustained us this far so we ask that your Spirit of encouragement continue to pull us within the life of your Reign. Amen.

11 December 2006

Today we continue to hear how the writer of 1 Peter continues to shape the identity and life of the community.

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 your have received mercy. (2:9-10)

In the face of all others, this is what we must remember. In the face of any power that attempts to pull us down, this is what we must remember. In addition, no matter how little we think of ourselves, this is what we must remember. I must also remind us that this is not merely a passage to make sure individuals are reminded of such a action by our God that brings about a new identity. The text talks about the community - the followers of Jesus - the whole body. We - are God's people and we have received mercy. This becomes our identity. We are being called into it. We are given the opportunity to witness through our lives to the one who places us within such a chosen place. The mercy extended to us...becomes the mercy we share. In that sharing, our lives become just what God intended - a holy people.

Connection: Once you were not a people - but now you are a people. This is a statement that describes us before we even act today. Now, we are invited to step into that identity that is our by grace.

O Lord, the gifting of Christmas has not begun and already your Word brings news of the gift of life you give to each of us. Sometimes it is enough to bring us peace and sometimes it is merely enough to help us remember just whose we are and in that remembering, the day does change around us. We give you thanks for calling us and claiming us as your own. Amen.

Friday, December 8, 2006

8 December 2006

Today we follow up yesterday's reading in chapter two of 1 Peter.

Come to him, a living stone, though rejected by mortals yet chosen and precious in God's sight, and like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it stands in scripture:
"See, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious
and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame."
To you then who believe, he is precious; but for those who do not believe,
"The stone that the builders rejected has become the very head of the the corner,"
"A stone that makes them stumble, and a rock that makes them fall."
They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.

Like the images of the living body that were used several weeks ago when we were using pieces written by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, here we have the image of a building going up. It is made up of all those who follow Jesus - who is the cornerstone. Like that first stone, we are called to match look fit in be a part of the whole life of faithfulness. In this building, it is important to know that this cornerstone is one that was not accepted. It was not going up in the fashion that was known by those who had much to say about how life was to be holy. It was rejected. And yet, we are being told that this cornerstone is the beginning of something new. In Christ, we are given a word of grace that makes us living stones to be used in the witness to the new age of God's grace alive among us. The invitation is not merely a simply yes or no - it is a life. The life is one that may be met the same way as the one we follow, Jesus...and that is rejection. But we are told that this way of new life will be a part of the pattern of life that will make a statement to the world of what is to come and is already at hand.

Connection: We are never left out there within this day alone. Living faithfully means that we live as people reminded of how we are connected to the one who has promised a new life within a new community. We need only begin living there.

Come, Lord Jesus, be our guest and with our lives make a community in which the presence of our God will be available to all people. When we are about to stumble, bring forward those around us who will be there as your Spirit's strength and love and guidance. Amen.

Wednesday, December 6, 2006

7 December 2006

Today we move into the second chapter of 1 Peter.

Rid yourselves, therefore, of all malice, and all guile, insincerity, envy, and all slander. 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. (2:1-3)

We are all invited to join in this turning. It is brought about from being fed with the grace of God as we know it in Christ, Jesus. The invitation to turn comes from having a taste of the vision of the Lord. If there was not already in place the promise and the call and the vision into which we are able to walk, there would be no turning. Why turn when the ways of the world seem to work...and if they don't, we are told that they will. Simply try harder - pull up your bootstraps - whatever!?! But if we work in the ways of the world, we will be folded into all the stuff in our lives of which we are to rid ourselves. When we are turned-in-on-ourselves (much like the world in all its brokenness), there will be the growing of envy and lust for more and bad talk toward others and insincere living and...a whole boat load of living examples of a life broken and full of the evidence of our sinfulness. I always like the image of the "tasting" of the Lord. It is like the hymn "taste and see." We are invited to become so much a part of this story of life that we can taste it and in that we begin to see how real it is and how real it becomes a part of our own lives.

Connection: We have so many things in our day that taste foul. Sometimes, we are the ones that cook them up. So, what are we to do? Find ways to return to that "milk" that nourishes us and brings about a fullness of life that we so often miss.

Blessed Lord, in your coming you invite us to follow and as we follow you encourage us to trust in your promises so that as we move through this day we will find a richness in our lives that keeps us filled to the brim with your life of hope and freedom. Help us to settle into that place within your promise. Amen.

Tuesday, December 5, 2006

6 December 2006

Pressing on in 1 Peter

Now you have purified your souls by your obedience to the truth so that you have genuine mutual love, love one another deeply from the heart. You have been born anew, not of perishable but of imperishable seed, through the living and enduring word of God. For "All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of the grass. The grass withers, and the flower fails, but the word of the Lord endures forever." The word is the good news announced to you. (1:22-25)

What God has said and done in Christ, Jesus, is for the welfare of the community. Now that we are born anew we are brought into this truth about life that is meant to be the truth about our life together. We love one another! Now that we are claimed by this word of truth...this everlasting word...this word that will not perish or fail, we are being instructed to live according to what has been done and said. Obedience to the truth may simply mean that when people see us they see the word alive and when we are a living witness to this love, it will be something that will turn heads because it is out of the ordinary kind of self-centered love.

Connection: Years ago Wendy's made a commercial with the elderly woman who looked at pitiful hamburger and yelled, "Where the beef!" Well, as we look out and see and then listen to the word being offered by the communities of Jesus' followers, be sure to ask "where's the love."

Come, O Lord of Love, and stir up in our hearts the blessed life of your Reign. For when you make your word known to us, we are shaken up to look again at who we are to be as your sons and daughter. Amen.

5 December 2006

Today we continue in 1 Peter.

If you invoke as Father the one who judges all people impartially according to their deeds, live in reverent fear during the time of your exile. You know that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your ancestors, not with perishable things like silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without defect or blemish. He was destined before the foundation of the world, but was revealed at the end of the ages for your sake. Through him you have come to trust in God who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are set on God. (1:17-21)

Once again, it is possible to move through this reading and come out thinking that our favor before God is due to what we do. But in the context of this entire piece, remember that everything is grounded on the action of God in Christ, Jesus. That action (the ransom) takes us out of the domain of the world and its power and its way of working and places us into another life that has been handed to us freely. This new life is a life. That is why the recipients of this letter are considered aliens and exiles - living on the edge of what is the acceptable norm of the world. The lives we live - that which we do - is done not in the face of fear (as in, you better watch it or you'll get it!) - but in the face of the one whose loving sacrifice produces utter awe (fear) when we are grasped by it. I often wonder why we continue to translate such a powerful word as awe as "fear." For the most part, fear doesn't move in my mind quickly to awe when I first see it. We stand in awe of what God has done and continues to do among us - what a gracious gift. We are drawn to that gift and it begins to transform us.

Connection: What will this God whose love is abundant and eternal cause to spring up within your life today?

By your grace, O God, you not only seek us out and claim us, you hold us and shape us and then send us out as your beloved who are able to gift the world around us with the living presence of that love. In this season of Advent, we long for your coming again and again so as to help us make this love available to all. Amen.

Monday, December 4, 2006

4 December 2006

Today we continue in 1 Peter in chapter one.

Therefore prepare your minds for action; discipline yourselves; set all your hope on the grace that Jesus Christ will bring you when he is revealed. Like obedient children, do not be conformed to the desires that you formerly had in ignorance. Instead, as he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in all your conduct; for it is written, "You shall be holy, for I am holy. " (1:14-16)

Remember, we have been hearing about being an alien people who live as though we are under the rule of the one we call Jesus, the Christ. Well, like any aliens there are things that distinguish them among the crowd. Sometimes it is their language or their food or their community traditions. Well, for the followers of Jesus, we are being reminded that our "differences" are one that are taken on. It is a discipline that begins to shape how we interact within our own congregations but it is also one that can be noticed by others as we live in the world around us. The notion of being "holy" should not frighten us off because it sounds "better than thou." It does not mean that. It is probably better to see it as being a people who are guided - who have the Lord of Life holding our hand and showing us the way of life that is shaped by the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. That kind of life will be different from the standard mode of operation of our world. We are invited to go along this way of Jesus - this set apart way - this unconformist way.

Connection: There are so many opportunities within one day to not conform to the way things are done around us. With that being the case, that means that there are many ways to walk into the domain of holiness. Think mercy, justice, loving kindness, forgiveness, reconciliation, self-sacrifice...because all of these are alien terms.

Blessed are you, O God, and holy is your name. Within the ordinary events of our lives, you call us to follow you alone. It is not always easy and it often means we must indeed live as aliens. When that is difficult for us, we ask that your Spirit of Life nurture us and sustain us in your ways. Amen.

Friday, December 1, 2006

Again from 1 Peter:

Therefore prepare your minds for action; discipline yourselves; set all your hope on the grace that Jesus Christ will bring you when he is revealed.

Since there is this living hope and we have been showered with the good news by the Holy Spirit - a news to which the prophets testified - there is no need to turn to any other power or news in order to live our lives. The grace that is our through Jesus is the reality we are invited to turn to in all things. But it takes discipline. We live in the midst of so many voices that attempt to win our hearts or simply use us for a while. These are voices that can easily persuade us and seem to never stop their chatter. Therefore, we must be ready for what will happen everyday and we must be ready with the promise in hand. Here we are in the first day of December and just a few days from the the season of Advent and we just happen to be given a short piece of scripture that calls us forth to be ready to live within a promise that has been handed down to us so that we can experience the power of the living word as we know it in Jesus. This is to be an everyday experience and one to which we must give our attention. We do not simply wait for the coming of the Lord, we take what has been revealed and we wait within it - full of new life - full of anticipation - full of the vision that brings all things into focus.

Connection: Within the clutter of seasonal expectations, it can be difficult to keep our minds on the one whose gift to us is a promise for life. And yet, when we do that - when we stay focused - the promise does continue to unfold around us.

By your Spirit, O God, sustain us by your grace and remind us of the way you have been the source of new life for those who have gone before us. Remind us that even in this day, we are encouraged to trust in you and to become a living witness to your abundant life. Amen.

1 December 2006

Again from 1 Peter:

Therefore prepare your minds for action; discipline yourselves; set all your hope on the grace that Jesus Christ will bring you when he is revealed.

Since there is this living hope and we have been showered with the good news by the Holy Spirit - a news to which the prophets testified - there is no need to turn to any other power or news in order to live our lives. The grace that is our through Jesus is the reality we are invited to turn to in all things. But it takes discipline. We live in the midst of so many voices that attempt to win our hearts or simply use us for a while. These are voices that can easily persuade us and seem to never stop their chatter. Therefore, we must be ready for what will happen everyday and we must be ready with the promise in hand. Here we are in the first day of December and just a few days from the the season of Advent and we just happen to be given a short piece of scripture that calls us forth to be ready to live within a promise that has been handed down to us so that we can experience the power of the living word as we know it in Jesus. This is to be an everyday experience and one to which we must give our attention. We do not simply wait for the coming of the Lord, we take what has been revealed and we wait within it - full of new life - full of anticipation - full of the vision that brings all things into focus.

Connection: Within the clutter of seasonal expectations, it can be difficult to keep our minds on the one whose gift to us is a promise for life. And yet, when we do that - when we stay focused - the promise does continue to unfold around us.

By your Spirit, O God, sustain us by your grace and remind us of the way you have been the source of new life for those who have gone before us. Remind us that even in this day, we are encouraged to trust in you and to become a living witness to your abundant life. Amen.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

30 November 2006

Today we continue in chapter one of 1 Peter.

Previously, the writer put forth the promise of God that brings living hope to all who trust what God has done through Jesus. Now we continue:
Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that was to be yours made careful search and inquiry, inquiring about the person or time that the Spirit of Christ within them indicated when it testified in advance to the sufferings destined for Christ and the subsequent glory. It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in regard to the things that have now been announced to you through those who brought you good news by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven - things into which angels long to look!

Something that bothers people about the tone of this passage is the notion that the prophets were pointing to Christ, Jesus. Too often, we look back at the Hebrew scriptures and read Jesus into every piece of witness to the Reign of God. Yes, when we put the words of the prophets alongside much of what we know of the Good News of Jesus as the Christ of God, we do come away with pictures that are quite similar. What is more important than that kind of "reading into" those texts is the simple thought that the vision of the prophets was one that was so aligned with the promises of God that as Jesus lives within those promises and faces what happens to those who live within that blessed domain, he will face exactly what he faced - persecution, rejection, death...and yes, glory. We rest within the good news because it is eternally true and valid for us. There is a new life and a way to move through the world that has the look of the Christ about it...or a look of the words of the prophets...or a look of God bringing all things into being. The only power that brings this life into view and then makes it a reality is the power of God...the Holy Spirit that moves us beyond ourselves and causes us to live in ways that may testify to a life that is not greatly accepted and yet is a part of the glory of God's Reign.

Connection: Today is a part of that long time word of hope and life that comes before us and then leads us into what will be. We begin by facing today as a gift and then being a part of the gift for others. This is a witness and a testimony and it comes in the shape of real life stuff that we make a part of this day.

Just as the prophets lifted up the eyes of the people of old, we long to have your Christ, lift up our eyes so that we may more clearly see the path of life that will unfold before us as the Holy Spirit grabs us and takes us beyond our imagination and right into the glory of your presence. Thanks to you, O God, and continue to shape our lives within the bold images of the prophets of old and the the Lord, Jesus. Amen.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

29 November 2006

Reflections on portions of the letter called 1 Peter. Often the day's piece of scripture will simple be added to the one that was used for the devotion from the day previous so as to give more context to the passage.

Blessed be the God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who are being protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
In this you rejoice, even if now for a little while you have had to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith - being more precious than gold that, though perishable, is tested by fire - may be found to result in praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Although you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, for you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

Too much is being said here. We rejoice in this great living hope we have in Christ, Jesus. To have God's promise of life on our side - without hesitation and without end - is enough to pull us through the times of our lives that can appear to be quite unbearable. I must admit, sometimes, this does not seem like enough. Sometimes the sting of our mortality and the pains of loss and disappointments can be beyond our ability to endure. And yet, what we hear in these words is a reminder of a truth that is able to see us through the worst that can and will be. Our God is not playing games with us...that is...setting us up with trials and great burdens in order to see if we will trust in God. Rather, these things will come - that is life. At the same time, it will be the time in which the gift of God's promise will be available for our benefit. We are promised that in Christ, Jesus, we will see the fullness of God's promise and we will be able to rejoice in it no matter what seems to prevail. Trusting in our God brings a life that is concrete and saves us from top to bottom...from inside to outside...both now and forever.

Connection: No present situation of pain or sorrow or distress is greeted with open arms. Today we may stumble into the presence of such situations. Today we must also be aware of how God will abide with us in all things. Today we must remember how God abides through the touch and presence of others who are also turning to our God to be all that God has promised.

In all that fades away, you, O God, remain our sure foundation. We give you thanks for how your steadfast love lingers so that we can sense how it wraps us up in many shapes and forms. How beautiful is the life of faith that knits together a community that shares a vision for life when life can seem so restricted and at an end. Again, we praise you for this day and the faithfulness of our Lord, Jesus, into which we are called to live. Amen.

Monday, November 27, 2006

28 November 2006

Reflections on portions of the letter called 1 Peter. Often the day's piece of scripture will simple be added to the one that was used for the devotion from the day previous so as to give more context to the passage.

Blessed be the God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who are being protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

God sets us up. Not only that...the writer praises God for such a set up! Note that all the action takes place from God who acts through Christ, Jesus. Who are we? We are the recipients of this great gift of God's unending love being handed over to us forever. Now, forever may simple carry the sound of time, but we must look at that again. We are a part of this inheritance. We are part of the promise that God makes with humanity and it is such an action by God that it is untouchable. By that, I simply mean that it cannot be denied to us because of what we cannot be suspended in front of us pending our appropriate actions or cannot be. Wait, maybe I should not use the word cannot. Rather let it be will not. The promise will not be pulled out from under us. It is and will be the foundation and the rock upon which we stand in any day and during any and all situations. That, is a living hope. Hope that abides with us and will be with us beyond what we we can imagine. Therefore, it is always the power for life. It is always life like it will be and yet it is available even now. What God has done let no one think they can put asunder.

Connection: Yes, everything is not in place. Yes, the day can become a stew pot of distress and frustrations. And yet, we have this treasure that is our wealth and our energy for new life. It is a promise today as much as in any other day past - present - and to come.

Blessed are you, O God whose promises feed us and sustain us. There can be too many ways that this day goes sour for us. And yet, we trust that your Holy Spirit is the power to move us to see things through the power of your hope-filled Reign. Praise to you, O God. Amen.

Friday, November 24, 2006

27 November 2006

Today begins a skip and shuffle through the letter given the name 1 Peter. It will be a reflective walk and will not hit upon every word and sentence.

Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, who have been chosen and destined by God the Father and sanctified by the Spirit to be obedient to Jesus Christ and to be sprinkled with his blood: May grace and peace be yours in abundance.

The letter begins with powerful images. When one is an exile, it can be in one's own backyard. When one begins to view life through a lens that is not being used by others, we literally see things - ordinary and everyday things - quite differently. To those who have been, as the text suggests: chosen...destined...sanctified...sprinkled, they are out there in the world living on the edge. The edge is on the frontier. The edge is away from the center where it is easier to be connected. Out there in those communities of the faithful followers of Jesus who are probably in the minority and living contrary to the prevailing life within these regions of what is now Turkey, there can be a great sense of being disconnected - forgotten. When one begins to trust this story of God for us - to the depths of Jesus' story - some of the ordinary ways of running our lives will be changed. Those changes can leave us at arm's length from family and neighbors and our enemies. We become strange...out of place...skipping to another beat - Aliens. When we are aliens and we live within a context in which our minority status will make us stand out, it can be an awful place to be. It is awful because I don't think anyone likes to be looked at as strange or out-of-step or walking out of line. The followers of Jesus who are receiving this letter from Peter are being connected. Yes, they are aliens and yes they are out on the edge...but they are actually quite connected. The God who brings all things into being is the God who has grasped those who live now in this strange situation. That purposeful connection to God is the beginning of the power that is able to sustain us whenever we look around and find ourselves utterly alone. For each of us in those places, the greeting is direct: May grace and peace be yours in abundance.

Connection: We may enter this day as aliens but we are to be reminded that we are anchored to a foundation that will be available to us no matter what storms hit or what life situations come whipping in to turn us over. I would suggest that we need to let others into our lives in order to experience that peace and grace that is so promised to all of us.

Lord of the Outsider and those who are Strangers within this day, be present with us to hold us up and encourage us when we are in those many places within our lives when we feel as though we are left out to dry...maybe abandoned...maybe simply forgotten...and alone. Come and be for us the peace that will quite our anxious hearts and give us space to see how your word comes alive for us no matter what the day brings. Amen.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

22 November 2006

Due to Thanksgiving Day, this will be the final devotion for the week and possibly the end of our work with Dietrich Bonhoeffer for now.

The church is one; it is the body of Christ. At the same time it is the multiplicity and community of its members. The body has many members, and each member, whether it be eye, hand, or foot, remains what it is...
The unity of the church-community gives identity and meaning to each individual and to the community as a whole, just as Christ and his body give identity and meaning to the church-community.

Bonhoeffer goes on to say that it is the Holy Spirit that does this creating of the community. Though we are so different and have so many gifts, it is the Holy Spirit that binds us together into the one body with Christ as the head. When we utter the words Lord, Jesus, we are making note of who it is that gives us a way to move through the world no matter what part of the body we may be. Therefore, anyone in the church-community has a place and a much needed purpose for the welfare of the whole. Yes, we are very different from one another. Yes, we are able to see the gifts of some and not the gifts of other. And yes, in the midst of the differences and our less than perfect sight, the Holy Spirit is that promise of everlasting creativity that keeps the church-community fresh and renewed and faithful and together!

Connection: You are who you are and so is your neighbor in Christ. Therefore, honor your neighbor and honor yourself. We are each a part of this new age of the Christ and we are in need of all the parts as we walk through this day together.

Come, Lord of New Life, and shape us into your whole body. When we doubt what part we each play within your blessed Reign, remind us of who leads us and who shapes each breath we take so that we together become the living witness to your gracious Reign. Amen.

21 November 2006

Bonhoeffer again on the unity of the body of Christ in "Discipleship."

The unity between the Christ and his body, the church, demands that we at the same time recognize Christ's lordship over his body. This is why Paul, in developing further the concept of the body, calls Christ the head of the body. The distinction is clearly preserved; Christ is the Lord. There are two events in salvation history, namely, Christ's ascension and his second coming, which make this distinction necessary; these events categorically rule out any idea of a mystical fusion between church-community and Christ. The same who is present in his church-community will return from heaven. In both cases it is the same Lord and it is the same church; in both cases it is the very same body of the one who is present here and now, and the one who will return in the clouds.

Luther may use the expression "little Christs" when referring to all who are baptized, but here we see how that is to be understood. Christ is always the head...always the one who rules over all...always the one from whom we receive the insights and direction for the life of the church-community. Yes, we participate in the real presence of our Lord in the world as we are a part of the church-community, but it is a participation in which we are informed of the way and we continue to turn to the Christ for direction and encouragement. Bonhoeffer wants to make sure that we hear the difference in how Christ is present here in the church-community and then there in the return of his complete presence. At both times Christ is Lord and yet at both times, the promise of the return is one that has not yet been seen quite as we see the Lord present in the life of the church-community right before our eyes.

Connection: In some ways, we must not demand that we see the Christ in place and fully and continually present as the church. Things are not that in place - perfect. And yet, within this day, we say that Christ is still the Lord - the one who directs...who takes care...who matter what the day brings.

Be present as the day move along through all the antics of our lives, O Lord. Too often we do not know what we are to do next and how we will manage to move through that which is on our plate already. Be for us the encouragement and word of hope that holds us up and moves us into and through all that will become the factors that shape this day. Amen.

Friday, November 17, 2006

20 November 2006

Again we will be using the writing of Dietrich Bonhoeffer to look at the body of Christ.

Through the Holy Spirit the crucified and risen Christ exists as the church-community, as the "new human being." For Christ truly is and eternally remains the incarnate one, and the new humanity is truly his body. Just as the fullness of the godhead became incarnate in him and dwelled in him, so are Christian believers filled with Christ (Colossians 2:9; Ephesians 3:19). Indeed, they themselves are that divine fullness by being his body, and yet it is Christ alone who fills all in all.

Being filled with Christ does bring about an image of Jesus being filled with the real presence of God in the flesh. I find that this is one way to consider ourselves - as the church-community - present for and in the world as if Christ was truly present in all that we become. That could be why words like "truly present" or "really present" are used when we speak of the Eucharist. We are not speaking of a mere symbol. We are speaking of the life that is available and is indeed opening up with a reality that is as real as the people around us. There is no symbolism in the meal. There is life that is as real as...well, just look around the next time you come to "take and eat - take and drink." The Christ is present and the people are shaped by the Christ who is in all humanity and "all that exists."

Connection: The week may not begin with much to see. And yet, we are invited to look again at how the week will begin as we are guided by the Christ who leads the body through new ways of being a part of the "new human being."

When you come to be with us, O God, you come bringing a whole new life. Unfortunately we do not always enter into that way and walk with you. And yet, even as we think about your presence, already your Spirit is pulling us into a grand participation in your body. May that life take shape within us and around us. Amen.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

17 November 2006

We continue with Bonhoeffer's words on the body of Christ and the "new human being."

No one can become a new human being except by being within the church, that is, through the body of Christ. Whoever seeks to become a new human being individually cannot succeed. To become a new human being means to come into the church, to become a member of Christ's body. The new human being is not the single individual who has been justified and sanctified; rather, the new human being is the church-community, the body of Christ, or Christ himself.

When I look at myself, I am so glad that the "new human being" is not the single individual and that it is really the church-community. I am glad because with and alongside others, we really can become something new for and in the world. We must therefore contemplate what shape that new human being is taking among us...and if it is actually coming alive through the body of Christ in which we see ourselves. Bonhoeffer's suggestion makes us look again at a personal piety that is primarily concerned about individual salvation. For one, salvation is is for all. Second, it becomes the shape of a community not a position held by a person. We are God's saving presence - the body of Christ - the new human being - right in the middle of all that is old and worn and stuck on itself. Christ is alive whenever and wherever the church-community gathers to share in the banquet of salvation.

Connection: So how is the Christ alive among us today. If you are not seeing that life just within your own life, then connect with others who claim to be a part of the many followers of Jesus. There we may all become a vision of encouragement and hope.

As the day moves along its way, O Lord, keep us mindful of your presence among us so that we will continue to look for you within the community that gathers under your name. Amen

16 November 2006

More on the "new human being" and the members of the body of Christ.

The relation of the individual believer to the "new human being" is described in terms of "putting on" the new human being. The "new human being" is like a garment made to cover the individual believers. They are to put on the image of God, that is, Christ and the church. In baptism we are putting on Christ (Galatians 3:27), which means we are being incorporated into his body, or into the one human being in whom their is neither Greek or Jew, neither free nor slave. Whoever is baptized is being incorporated into the church-community.

We are a part of this "new human being" because we are covered over by its reality. No longer are we to get along with what we can do for ourselves and what we have done that fall far short of what we could be, rather, we are now identified by the one who covers us. When Bonhoeffer notes that "They are to put on the image of God, that is, Christ and the church," I must say I was quite shaken up. I was shaken because it really does put our life together as the body of Christ into an amazing place. We are being called to unfold our lives within that dressing - that identity - that image...and the image is of see in the Christ and in, with, and under the Church - that's us! I find that to be a wake up call. This doesn't give us special privilege, it gives us a life into which we are to walk as if we were walking in the light of God. the witness of the church becomes for many the image of God. When you think about that, it is no wonder some people look to the church and say if this is what God is like...I'll skip it all. So, what is our witness? What is the image we present to the world? How is this "new human being" coming to life among us??

Connection: It is quite awesome to step into the call to be a follower of Jesus when that path is said to be one that reveals the image of God. And yet, it is something to prayerfully consider as we again face the day at hand.

Lord of New Life, we reflect the image of so many things within our world. And yet, we are called to reflect your image in all things. It is within that calling that we continue to ask that the power of the Holy Spirit take us into new depths of your being so that we too might shine with the light of your blessed Reign. Amen.

Monday, November 13, 2006

15 November 2006

More on the body of Christ and the new human being - Bonhoeffer.

The "new human being," which is the church, is "created according to the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness and truth" (Ephesians 4:24). The "new human being" is "being renewed in knowledge according to the image of its creator" (Colossians 3:10). It is none other than Christ himself who is described here as the image of God. Adam was the first human being bearing the image of the creator. But he lost this image when he fell. Now a "second human being," a "last Adam," is being created in the image of God - Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:47). The "new human being" is thus at the same time Christ and the church. Christ is the new humanity in the new human being. Christ is the Church.

The new human being is more than one person. In Christ, it is the Church - the whole body. Rather than a sit back and wait for the coming of the Lord at the end of time, this reality places us in the world as the one for whom the world is waiting. The body of Christ is placed into a situation in time that calls us to follow...not the structures of institutions...or the rules that attempt too keep order for the sake of fighting back fear and anxiety. We are called to live as the body of Christ. Therefore, the death he suffers becomes "the death of us" and the resurrection of the Lord becomes the order of the day as the body of Christ that now lives that new life as the "new human being." We are witnesses of a grand adventure and a gracious story and our witness is to be the life we are entering today. That kind of life will have an impact on the world today just as the one life of Jesus so long ago. This sounds like sweet talk but I do not mean it that way at all. We are being called forward into this body...and the call pulls us out of the way things are and the bumbling and stumbling that creates the brokenness of the world. In Christ we really are a part of this new life. Now, how will it take the shape of Christ for the world?

Connection: The daily exercise of the body of Christ begins with a focus and simple disciplines. Then within that humble beginning of each day, we stretch a bit more - like those who warm up prior to a sporting event. So, today, stretch a bit into the body of Christ and remember to stretch according to who you within the body of Christ and not according to others.

Lift us this day, O God, and bind us together that we will keep in sight the vision of the Christ and the vision of the life into which we are all called by your grace. Amen.

14 November 2006

The body of Christ as the new human being - Bonhoeffer.

The church is one. All who are baptized are "one in Christ" (Galatians 3:29; Romans 12:5; 1 Corinthians 10:17). The church is "the human being per se." It is the "new human being". As such, the church was created through Christ's death on the cross. Here the hostility between Jews and Gentiles which had torn humanity apart is abolished, "in order that he might create in himself one new human being in place of the two thus making peace" (Ephesians 2:15). The "new human being" is one, not many. Outside of the church, which is this new human being, there is only the old, internally divided human being.

The new human being is one, not many...the church is one. What is it that makes us one? We say the Christ of God, Jesus. In Christ we are one. Now, consider who is a part of the "one." All of us - even those who sit on the other side of the fence from us...the ones we don't want to deal with and the ones who want nothing to do with us. Therefore, we must continually give up our image of who we are as the church and always go back to the Christ. In a world and a church setting in which we fight over who cannot be a part of us it is as though we have abandoned the work of the Christ for our own agendas that include and exclude according to our own vision. Walter Wink writes of the 'son of man' and calls that biblical character/image the "new human being" or simply the "Human Being." When our humanity comes to its fullest as we see in the story of Jesus, the day of the Lord's coming is at hand and is already present. The church as the new human being takes the risk to live in the shape of the one we follow. This is for me a blended situation. It is blended in that it demands balance between the grace of God and the law. One helps to stretch us out to the vast openness of the Reign of God and the other is very realistic as to what we will do in such situations and therefore there will be guides that give us all some protection and some way to move as gracious people in a very ungracious world.

Connection: Into the body of Christ we have been pulled by the Holy Spirit. Just as the Holy Spirit pulled the followers of Jesus in the Book of Acts beyond the places in which they were settled, so to will this Spirit of our Lord pull us into new adventures today - that is meant to be a promise not a threat.

As you make us new, O God, make us bold and make us loving and make open to the the vision of your peace that allows your body to grow and flourish and be a witness to your Reign in all of our days. Amen.

13 November 2006

This week we will hear from Dietrich Bonhoeffer as he writes of the body of Christ as the 'new human being.'

Since the ascension, Jesus Christ's place on earth has been taken by his body, the church. The church is the present Christ himself. With this statement we are recovering an insight about the church which has been almost totally forgotten. While we are used to thinking of the church as an institution, we ought instead to think of it as a person with a body, although of course a person in a unique sense.

This is quite a statement about our life together. The church is called the body of Christ and that living sense of a body is to be received quite literally. As we all know, when we refer to the church as an institution it is just that - impersonal, self-perpetuating, unwilling to risk for fear of the break down of the institution. At some levels, the church may look like an institution but it is always to be the body of Christ. It is to be the living witness to the Reign of God in the way Jesus was that witness for we are now in his place. Again we must remember that 'we' are in his place. When we gather together in the name of Jesus, we become that bodily presence of Christ, Jesus. Yes, we are not quite up to that mark but we are to see ourselves as that body and then anticipate how that body lives from day to day.

Connection: What will this body be about today? How will each of us begin to live as though we are a part of the body of Christ in a real and present life.

Saving Lord, you call us to follow and then after your death and resurrection, you call us your body. Does this mean that our living is to be the life that will bring others to also follow? If it is, embolden us to live in the way of your beloved, Jesus. Inspire us and send us out into this day trusting in what you are making of this body in the middle of what will come. Amen.

Friday, November 10, 2006

10 November 2006

The week draws to an end with another reflection on Dietrich Bonhoeffer's thoughts on the Body of Christ in "Discipleship."

The body of Jesus Christ is identical with the new humanity which he has assumed. The body of Christ is his church-community. Jesus Christ at the same time is himself and his church-community (1 Corinthians 12:12). Since Pentecost Jesus Christ lives here on earth in the form of his body, the church-community. Here is his body crucified and risen, here is the humanity he assumed. To be baptized therefore means to become a member of the church-community, a member of the body of Christ (Galatians 3:28; 1 Corinthians 12:13). To be in Christ means to be in the church-community. But if we are in the church-community, then we are also truly and bodily in Jesus Christ. this insight reveals the full richness of meaning contained in the concept of the body of Christ.

In this excerpt, there is a German word that means "church-community." From that point on, the church is never quite used the same. It always has the longer form - "church-community." As I read it, I thought of the local congregation. I thought of the community in which I am a follower of Jesus. There is the genesis of the life that is in Christ. There are the people with whom the body of Christ comes alive for me. There is the mixture of humanity. We are the ones for whom the Lord is crucified and is raised to new life. We are the ones who are given the gifts of the Holy Spirit so that the Christ will be among us and through us and we will be in Christ. I don't find that this is meant to pressure us into acting a certain way as if we can only be a part of the body of Christ if we do this or that. Rather, as we are the body of Christ, that body is alive even now in the midst of us. That makes the present and the future a bit more interesting and surprising. The resurrection of our Lord is always a part of what is possible among us. When that is the case, we can expect to see the Christ among us for there is nothing (not even the community or individuals in it) that will preclude the living presence of Jesus among us. In such a church-community, we need only look around and see how there are so many faces and lives that make up this body of Christ. As we appreciate that, we all become enriched by one another's presence.

Connection: Sometimes it can be very difficult to see the Christ in others. Then again, the person next to me may be saying the same thing as s/he looks at me. One way to experience the day with a different flavor may be to imagine how many people it takes to bring the face of the Christ into our lives and then imagine how many people it takes to be the body of Christ. It may be the simple "two or three" that are gathered. Look around and enter the day of the Lord.

Within the church-community, O God, you plant us among your saints so that we will all gather in the name of your beloved, Jesus. Among us make the body of Christ a fellowship of peace and reconciliation and loving-kindness, mercy and justice. We know that we each may not be all of that within our own lives. But we know that you do not leave your communities of faith without such witness so that we will always have the opportunity to see the body of Christ alive. Keep us mindful of your gift of resurrected life. Amen.

Wednesday, November 8, 2006

9 November 2006

Today we will focus on baptism in the life of the Body of Christ - again by Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

Baptism makes us members of the body of Christ. We are "baptized into" Christ; we are "brought in to one body by baptism". In our death in baptism, the Holy Spirit thus appropriates to us personally what Christ in his body has gained for the whole of humanity. We receive the community of the body of Christ in the same way the disciples and followers of Jesus received it in the early days and this means that we are now "with Christ" and "in Christ," and that "Christ is in us." Once the body of Christ is properly understood the meaning of these expressions becomes perfectly clear.

The distance between our Lord becomes absorbed in the closeness of the Christ through our baptism. Sometimes I think we are afraid to think of the body of the followers of Jesus as Jesus' body here and now. And yet, the power of the work of Christ is meant to be about a life that is available for us even as we do not think that we are up to it or we think that it was only a real event back in time. The availability of the body of Christ takes place as we are overwhelmed by the Spirit of our baptism and begin to engage the world as the the Christ is in us - even when we cannot comprehend that amazing reality. Therefore, the body of Christ today takes on an understanding of itself (ourselves) that works to embody the Christ who calls us to with and in Christ's presence and life - now. That can be frightening to consider. Because of that, it is by the power of the Holy Spirit that we are able to engage that thought and have it become a new life among us. An ongoing theme for me is the community of saints who are to be that body. Alone, all this language about the body of Christ alive today is hard to grasp....and yet, when I look at the whole of the body, I can see it - at times - out of context - beyond what I would consider - moving along without me and yet calling me to be there in the middle of it all.

Connection: When you are wondering about how all of this is to come to life, do not be held back by what you may be able to do or what you are able to comprehend. Today may be an opportunity to walk into this life as you simply run across someone else living within that vision.

Come, Lord, grant us the many opportunities to be in the presence of your body as it is bursting in our world right in the middle of the everyday stuff that makes us our lives. Amen.

Tuesday, November 7, 2006

8 November 2006

The body of Christ and the sacraments as looked at by Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

Sacraments exist only because there is the body of Christ. There they begin and end. The word of proclamation alone is not sufficient to bring us into community with the body of Jesus Christ; the sacrament is necessary too. Baptism incorporates us as members into the unity of the body of Christ. The Lord's Supper keeps us in the community with Christ's body.

So, we are the body of Christ. Now what!?! Well, we look for the definition of our life to the sacraments. Here, in the visible and the concrete we are reminded of the life that comes from the word and is that which becomes a physical expression of that word. The body of Christ is always to be present in the world in the shape of gracious life of Jesus. The sacraments pull us into moments of remembrance so that we - as the body - become for the world the present incarnation of that gracious life. Every time we are witnesses to a baptism, we are reminded of the life into which we have been drawn and the death through which we will walk as that life is among us in flesh and blood. In addition, each week we come forward to receive the meal we can look around and see that as we all approach the table for the meal, we are participating in an "altar call" in which the Lord is really present and available for the transformation of our lives. The me becomes the wonder of the we of the body of Christ. Just look around - the baptized...together...being fed for the life into which Jesus calls us.

Connection: The body of Christ is meant to call us into a particular walk within our individual lives today - a walk that takes place within the wider vision of the whole body. Today, we are reminded to be the part that we are - nothing more.

There are so many ways that we can feel overwhelmed, O God. And yet, you never fail to call us the body of your Beloved, Jesus. Within that gracious welcome, you help us enter into our vulnerability so that even when we are overwhelmed, we will be reminded that we are never left to be alone. We give you thanks, O God. Amen.

Monday, November 6, 2006

7 November 2006

Today a simple devotional act would be to vote or help others to do so.

Sunday, November 5, 2006

6 November 2006

As we continue with Bonhoeffer's discussion of the Body of Christ, we come to look at the sacraments.

How then do we come to participate in this body of Christ who did all of this for us? For this much is certain: there is no community with Jesus Christ other than the community with his body! It is in this body alone that we are accepted and able to find salvation! The way we do gain a share in the community of the body of Christ is through the two sacraments of his body, that is baptism and the Lord's Supper.

We do not simply participate in the sacraments as events that take place within the liturgy of the church. Baptism and the Lord's Supper are not 'events' to which we go. The participation is one in which through these sacramental moments, all the moments of our lives are shaped. Through baptism we become a part of this living presence of Jesus that has a history of life that goes along with the adventure into which we are moving every day. Through the Lord's Supper, we are strengthen and encouraged as we participate in the life into which we are called. We must also remember that along with these sacraments, there is the word that informs us and also shapes us. Within both of these sacraments there is that word reminding us of the participation in the body that is now our lives. The 'event' and the 'action' within the context of the church at worship becomes the pattern of our participation - our life.

Connection: Daily we are called into this great fellowship that is the body of Christ. It is a journey into which we each are invited to walk and yet it is one in which we are a part of a much larger movement that is to become for us the encouragement of our lives. Imagine all the people coming forward to receive the Lord's Supper this Sunday. Now imagine them willing to be at your side to support, encourage, forgive, welcome, etc. Now imagine you are that for them also.

From the waters of our baptism, O God, you bring around us the blessed of your Church who invite us into the promised life that awaits us even within this day. Within the body of Christ you have given a place to begin and a place to end all things within the confidence of your love. Thanks be to you, O God. Amen.