Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Wednesday, 27 September, 2006

Text: James 2:1-7

My brothers and sisters, do you with your acts of favoritism really believe in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ? For if a person with gold rings and in fine clothes comes into your assembly, and if a poor person in dirty clothes also comes in, and if you take notice of the one wearing the fine clothes and say, "Have a seat here, please," while to the one who is poor you say, "Stand there," or "Sit at my feet," have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts? LIsten, my beloved brothers and sisters. Has not God chosen the poor in the world to be rich in faith and to be heirs of the kingdom that he has promised to those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who oppress you? Is it not they who drag you into court? Is it not they who blaspheme the excellent name that was invoked over you?

One commentator who wrote about he several texts from James that have been read during the past month in worship made an interesting comment. She wrote that we did not include texts like this one. We did not touch the texts that had to do with a sharp and critical word to the rich. Too close to home! I know I was just caught by it in the typing out of the text. I think of people who come on Sunday morning in order to be given some money - for whatever. Sometimes I know that they are at times scamming - I know that because I've seen them before and know their stories and the stories they have told other pastors around town. But then, I just realized that that need not matter. Rather than tell them to come back later or the next day, I need to invited them into worship just as I would invite someone who comes through the doors looking like me and wanting to worship. Once again, it is important to remember the personal character that is given to us as daughters and sons of God - and open our lives and hearts so that we do not show the partiality that often builds walls between us. It is interesting how money and the mere show of wealth can seduce us to act contrary of the Reign of God.

Connection: Just watch how we act. Take note of partiality...take note of how our biases can be lessened and we can encounter the people around us with new eyes.

Blessed Lord of both the great and the small, how wonderful is your love and your gift of life to each of us. Lead us into the ways of hopefulness and mercy and kindness. AMEN

Monday, September 25, 2006

Devotions - 25 September, 2006

Text: James 1: 26-27

If any think they are religious, and do not bridle their tongues but deceive their hearheir religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.

From yesterday we need to remember that we are encouraged to be doers of the word. Today we must define that "doing." There is to be a character that will come through in our doing. James lists several things. Self-control - especially in regard to our tongues because, if you are like me, that it the toughest muscle to keep under control...and it is one that bites and attacks more quickly than I would like...and's out there. We must also keep in mind and in our actions those who are the weakest and those who would usually be left off. So, we act on behalf of other...we act with those sisters and brothers in mind...we shape our doing as though there is an impact on them as we act. Finally, stand against evil. This last portion of the text does not mean that we must, as Christians, isolate ourselves from the world (which is quite a popular thought these days). Rather, we must remember who and whose we are and that our identity as God's beloved in Christ Jesus will put us in a contrary position to the ways of the world. At those times, we stay who we are! We do not take on the words and actions of the world when they are contrary to the loving kindness, mercy and justice that is a part of our character.

Connection: With eyes wide open - take to this day as God's beloved. With eyes wide open - watch for the ways we can put the word of God to life and in doing that, we remember some basic ways of being doers. There is a time to share our lives and a way to share our lives. But do go ahead and share lives with others and for others...don't simply let it remain a word.

Compassionate God of all, as we look up from our daily concerns, we pray that we would look up with your eyes so that we will see those around us who are in need. We pray that we will be a grace-filled presence in this day so that your love will be see in us. Remind us also of the way we are to stand within your Reign even as the world around us may attempt to woe us away from your mercy and justice and love. Amen

Thursday, September 21, 2006

22 September 2006

More notes on Luther and grace (costly and cheap) in "Discipleship" by Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

Luther's deed cannot be misunderstood more grievously than by thinking that through discovering the gospel of pure grace, Luther proclaimed a dispensation from obeying Jesus' commandments in the world. The Reformation's main discovery would then be the sanctification and justification of the world by grace's forgiving power. For Luther, on the contrary, a Christian's secular vocation is justified only in that one's protest against the world is thereby most sharply expressed. A Christian's secular vocation receives new recognition from the gospel only to the extent that it is carried on while following Jesus...
Costly grace was given as a gift to Luther. It was grace because it was water onto thirsty land, comfort for anxiety, liberation from the servitude of a self-chosen path, forgiveness of all sins. The grace was costly because it did not excuse one from the works. Instead, it endlessly sharpened the call to discipleship. But just wherein it was costly, that was wherein it was grace. And where it was grace, that was where it was costly. That was the secret of the Reformation gospel, and the secret of the justification of the sinner.

"...a Christian's secular vocation is justified only in that one's protest against the world is thereby most sharply expressed." This can sound like we work to be justified. It is quite the opposite. We follow Jesus - the one who justifies. We live out our lives in their many shapes and forms but we live them out as ones who follow Jesus - who has handed us a new life. We need to look at how we go on living within our secular vocation. This is all a part of this costly grace as we come to the realization that the way of Jesus is not quite appreciated in the world. We will go about the ordinary work of our lives as through we have been called into a new dimension of our lives that will now be a part of everything we do and all that we are. I wonder if where Bonhoeffer calls this the "secret of the Reformation gospel" and "the secret of the justification of the sinner" he is also referring to what is known as the "mystery of God" or the "mystery of Christ." It is an utter mystery to those who have not been grasped by and have not taken the leap into a life that is utterly free and yet, free for rather than free from. In a world in which we long to be free from this rule and that rule or this responsibility and that responsibility, we are free to take them on...and we take them on for the sake of others. Grace that is costly.

Connection: Sometimes, what we do in the everyday events of our lives as followers of Jesus may cause another person to take note or even ask "Why did you do that, you didn't have to do that?" Following Jesus will draw attention because so often, when we live for others, it is so contrary to the "normal" pattern of the day people will notice - some with a sense of respect - some with shock - some with disapproval - some with disgust. Keep following.

The life you give to us, O God, shines within this day as your Spirit touches and us pulls us into the very heart of your love so that we, in that place, will find it a part of the fabric of our day as we encounter others. We give you thanks for acting for us before we asked and we pray that we will walk into this day within that image of love and grace as we touch those around us. Amen.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

21 September 2006

Today grace is looked at through Luther's life and time as examined by Bonhoeffer in "Discipleship."

During the Reformation, God reawakened the gospel of pure, costly grace through God's servant Martin Luther by leading him through the monastery. Luther was a monk. He had left the everything and wanted to follow Christ in complete obedience...
It was God who caused Luther to fail on that path. God showed him through scripture that discipleship is not the meritorious achievement of individuals, but a divine commandment to all Christians. The humble work of discipleship had become in monasticism the meritorious work of the holy ones... Luther saw the monk's escape from the world as really a subtle love for the world. In this shattering of his last possibility to achieve a pious life, grace seized Luther. In the collapse of the monastic world, he saw God's saving hand reaching out in Christ. He seized it in the faith that "our deeds are in vain, even in the best life." It was a costly grace, which gave itself to him. It shattered his whole existence...
Luther had to leave the monastery and reenter the world, not because the world itself was good and holy, but because even the monastery was nothing else but the world.

"The monks escape from the world" was seen by Luther "as really a subtle love of the the world." The world doesn't know what grace is. It does not know it as gift for life and it does not know it as call to new life. Rather, the monastery was a place that allowed the same old person-based focus as the rest of the world. It simply would give a person a retreat place in which that love of the ways of the world could be contained and monitored with credits and debits just like the every day world. When the Word broke into Luther's heart, the system of rewards and punishment for what one did fell apart. There was no place to hide and no place that would be secure. Discipleship would mean living in a new way within the ordinary world - in the work place - in the home - in the many ways we interact within the world. Costly grace bids us to come and live within the bold statement of whose we are and the bold reality of the cross being taken up each and every day.

Connection: By grace we re-enter the world as though we are exactly who God tells us we are. Today is the time that we begin to live as though it is the truth. That will be costly - no matter who we are and what we are doing today. And yet, it is what is called faithfulness.

Lord God, help us to stay put and read into this day the graciousness of your Reign that grabs us and shapes us and gives us the eyes to see the life into which you call us. We may not want to follow therefore, we ask for your Spirit to lead us and pull us. Amen.

20 September 2006

Today the conversation about cheap and costly grace moves into a look at the times prior to the life of Martin Luther in "Discipleship" by Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

The expansion of Christianity and the increasing secularization of the church caused the awareness of costly grace to be gradually lost. The world was Christianized; grace became common property of a Christian world. It could be had cheaply.
Bonhoeffer then points out something quite positive about monastic life when it first emerged.
Here, on the boundary of the church, was the place where the awareness that grace is costly and that grace includes discipleship was preserved...Monastic life thus became a living protest against the secularization of Christianity, against the cheapening of grace.
To which he adds this comment about what became of monastic life.
But because the church tolerated this protest and did not permit it to build up to a final explosion, the church relativized it. It even gained from the protest a justification of its own secular life. For now monastic life became the extraordinary achievement of individuals, to which the majority of church members need not be obligated. The fateful limiting of the validity of Jesus' commandments to a certain group of especially qualified people led to differentiating between highest achievement and lowest performance in Christian obedience.

How interesting it is to see disciplines meant to keep a reforming edge on the the church become the edge of the whole system of religious life that needed to be reformed when we come to the life of Luther. I have never looked at this movement in monastic life quite like this. No longer is everyone called to follow. Following becomes the extraordinary path - not for everyone you know. And yet, Jesus calls all of us - all the ordinary people within the ordinary walks of life to embody the call of Jesus to follow. Monastic life might best serve the Church by being a temporary community that continually brings in ordinary people and spins them around and sends them back into their particular lives so as to be ordinary people living extraordinary lives within the context of every day. In such as case, it is more like a retreat house to which people go in order to return home again and follow Jesus every day. Setting apart a special community as a faithful group who are to be the example of following Jesus leaves room for others to simply turn the notion of following into a good story - heart warming - comforting for a while....but never transformative.
Grace is for all but following into the life of Jesus is just for some might be the way the church looks even today - but it is inconsistent with the call to be a follower of Jesus.

Connection: We are each an extraordinary gift to the world because our God has given all for lives that are so ordinary. So today we are called to take what is ordinary - these elements called our bodies - and begin to walk within the extraordinary life Jesus has walked before us.

Bind us together, O God, and empower your church to be a witness within the world that makes available the living Lord, Jesus, even as we each go about tasks of the day. Bind us together to be for one another the voice that calls us out to follow - so that we all may know of the life you have given us. Amen.

Monday, September 18, 2006

19 September 2006

We now return to excerpts from Dietrich Bonhoeffer on grace (cheap and costly) from "Discipleship."

Costly grace is grace as God's holy treasure that must be protected from the world and which must not be thrown to the dogs. Thus, it is grace as living word, word of God, which God speaks as God pleases. It comes to us as a gracious call to follow Jesus; it comes as a forgiving word to the fearful spirit and the broken heart. Grace is costly because it forces people under the yoke of following Jesus Christ; it is grace when Jesus says, "My yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

In Robert Farrar Capon's book "The Mystery of Christ"...and why we don't get it, he attempts to show what a treasure is this notion of costly grace. It is as though it is hidden from us...and is so available that it is unbelievable. It is too is beyond our comprehension.
Costly grace is this Word that "God speaks as God pleases" and in the hearing of that Word we come to life in a whole new way. No power and no person can change this Word into something other than a word of liberation, hope, and new life.
One great image of such a upside down notion of life is given in the gospel lesson for this Sunday. The disciples are arguing about who is greatest. Jesus upon hearing the discussion, brings a child (a nobody) into the center of the circle. The center of the circle is the place where someone is put when that person is about to be stoned. But there in the center of that circle, in a place that is thought to be a place of unholiness - blasphemy - Jesus takes the nobody into his arms and on his lap. It sounds like Lazarus in the bosom of Abraham - the rich man wouldn't give Lazarus the time of day or anything to see him through the day...but now look at what is real and eternal in God's Reign! Grace comes into the center and wraps us up and it is costly as it invites us to do likewise...walk into the unholy circle and be that presence for others - now.

Connection: What might be the unholy circle into which we will be invited to walk as this day unfolds and what will this grace of God bring to all who go there?

Wrap us up in your Love, O God. It is within your arms that we are given the strength and encouragement to extend your love to those around us. Your Spirit of Life takes us beyond the limits we imposes on ourselves when we are afraid to follow your way of new life and so we ask that your Spirit lead us now. Amen.

18 September 2006

Once again, this devotion will focus on a simple prayer before meals.
Come, Lord Jesus, be our guest and let these gifts to us be blessed. Amen.

Come, Lord Jesus, be our guest and let these gifts to us be blessed.

Let this gifts before us and the lives of those around the table be apart of what is to come. Within such a routine action of a meal, the Reign of God comes. Whenever God's people gather and call upon God to be present and the bless we are calling for our God bring forth the life that is a reflection of the Reign of God. This is a reminder to all who sit at the table and all who hear the prayer that we are taking God up on God's promise to be present and to empower us to become the blessing to the world that we are - as God's children. The food we eat...the food set apart for us...the food that comes to us in so many a part of the way our God intends to care for us. Already we are blessed - even when the meal is meager. And yet, we must remember that the food is but one gift at the table. The other gifts that we ask our God to bless - and we need to keep in mind for ourselves - are the individuals who sit to eat the meal. Gifts...all of to one another, let us be blessed so as to bring the face of God's Reign into the world. Our meals are so essential to us. From the table we go off with new energy to engage those around us. At the table we relax and converse and make plans for our lives. Blessed are we who gather to share the meal and again are reminded of whose we and how in the simple act of eating - we once again begin the journey of following our Lord, Jesus, through lives that have been given to us as a gift...blessed.

Connection: Blessed are you for the day at hand. The meals of the day may not be much or they may be taken on the run...but blessed are you who eat and remember who it is that calls forth a life from you that carries the image of God into the world.

Come, Lord Jesus, be our guest and let these gifts to us be blessed. Amen.

Friday, September 15, 2006

15 September 2006

Once again, this devotion will focus on a simple prayer before meals.
Come, Lord Jesus, be our guest and let these gifts to us be blessed. Amen.

Come, Lord Jesus, be our guest and let these gifts to us...

Not only does the Lord of Life come to be with us to share this meal that is set before us on the table, the meal itself is a gift from the one who is the guest. All good gifts around us are sent from heaven above is the way the line goes in Godspell. It may be the best pork, sauerkraut, and dumplings I can put together for a meal. And yet, it is a gift to all who gather and all who make the meal. No matter what is the dish, the people of God are ones who attempt to remember that we have been the recipients of a gift. At times it must be simple and at times the meal may be grand. We may go through times when the meal is so common and so regular we long for something else or dream of the food on other tables. Without the food that is so common and ordinary and regular, there would be no life - and so we are a gifted people sustained for now. When we can see the food before us as gift, we are able to begin the thinking about our lives being a gift also. When our lives are seen as a gift, it is something freely given and not something we have earned. The meal has nothing to do with privilege. Rather, we know that it is to be like manna from heaven - enough to sustain us. My wife does something that I find quite powerful. When we go out to eat and she takes a bag of leftover home, if there is a person wanting hand outs she asks if the person wants her leftovers. Without hesitation, they have been taken. To us it is a gift and it may always be a gift even when it is given to another. These gifts to us...are be shared.

Connection: A colleague says he keeps a box of granola bars (or the like) in his car and when he comes to a corner where someone comes to his car door asking for money for food, he gives them a direct meal. It is a gift of food in a world when we are all a bit concerned about giving hand outs to people on the street.

Come, Lord Jesus, be our guest and let these gifts to us, be blessed. Amen.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

14 September 2006

Once again, this devotion will focus on a simple prayer before meals.
Come, Lord Jesus, be our guest and let these gifts to us be blessed. Amen.

Come, Lord Jesus, be our guest...

However you may come, Lord Jesus, be our guest. This is acknowledging that we are already transformed into the followers of Jesus...that we will be people who will welcome the presence of guests. What if Jesus does not come as we would imagine? What if Jesus comes and it is not in the shape of the one we expect? We are saying that Jesus will be "our guest." When we sit at the table with people we would rather exclude, how are we to be with them? As though they are our guests. That is we honor them and hold them dear and in the true spirit of hospitality we engage them as a "thou" so that all at the table will be assured of their place no matter who it is that comes.
I'm sure the expectation in the prayer is that the Lord, Jesus, we know from the resurrection scenes will be with us. But what if the Lord, Jesus, who is outside the expected norms of the faith comes to eat with us? What if the Lord, Jesus, who finds the time to spend with others who we think do not deserve his time, comes to the table? What if the one who is ridiculed and push away and spoken of as one who tears down the fabric of our society comes to the table? Well, this one does and will come - that is the promise. So, when we call the Christ "our guest" it is as though we are inviting the world - quite like how we are guests at the Lord's Table. Could it be that we pray that the tables at which we sit will be as joyous and open and welcoming as that banquet to which we are invited each Sunday?

Connection: Let's make a fuss over the people in our lives today. Imagine seeing in the lives of those around us the Lord, Jesus, who is coming to dine with us. Be ready for who that will be!

Come, Lord Jesus, be our guest and let these gifts to us be blessed. Amen

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

13 September 2006

Once again, this devotion will focus on a simple prayer before meals.
Come, Lord Jesus, be our guest and let these gifts to us be blessed. Amen.

Come, Lord Jesus, be...

This might sound like a insignificant addition. We really need the "our guest" part don't we? And yet, what we really need is this Lord of Life to us - the Lord who creates out of nothing...making life when there appears to be no life at all. Really exist.
Yes, we know this Lord of Life is indeed with us - that is the promise - but we are sometimes lost in statements and proposition. What we need is that raw existence that is Jesus, Lord of the Dance, Lord of the Resurrection, Lord of even the depths of hell.
We are fed...we are made full - when this Lord, Jesus, is really present. No matter what is in the meal that is put before us on the table, it is a feast of love and transformation when this Lord of life with us. We can do little with mere words or a notion of goodness. And yet, we can be led into a new reality when the Lord, Jesus, is present completely - just as each of us at the table. I may have many ideas of what is the way of new life...but when the vision and the truth and the life is with us, the possibilities of life expand beyond our greatest imagination., Jesus, a promise kept forever.

Connection: Today will be as filled with the presence of our Lord as anyone could possibly imagine. Therefore, go ahead and imagine that presence that has a way of shaping our presence throughout the day.

Come, Lord Jesus, be our guest and let these gifts to us be blessed. Amen.

12 September 2006

Once again, this devotion will focus on a simple prayer before meals.
Come, Lord Jesus, be our guest and let these gifts to us be blessed. Amen.

Come, Lord Jesus...
When we invite Lord Jesus to the meal, we expose ourselves. Lord is not a word we use in our every day lives. Lord reveals who we expect to be the one who has power over us - much like the Lord of a land or district or even something as small as a farm. But in this case, because it is Lord, Jesus, we are inviting the one who is Lord for us. This is the Lord who does not merely come to the table, this is the Lord who has been and will be beside us and with us in and through all things. Even if we live within an oppressive system that uses people as instruments to gain more and more power, there is no Lord for us - except Jesus. We invite to the table the one who invites any and all people to share in the table of forgiveness and new life - the Lord's Supper. We invite the one who received invitations to come and eat and talk and live with those people who were not of much value to others - and yet, this Lord, went in and received and was received by those with whom most would not eat. In some ways, our whole meal changes when we say to Lord, Jesus, "Come." Now the table at which we sit becomes a "welcome table." It is no longer simply a table set for me and my own. As we throw open the doors to Lord, Jesus, we throw open the doors to the world. The Lord at the table is our Lord. We therefore reflect the rule or the power of that Lord. It is here - in this simple invitation - that the meal, the conversation, the life around the table, and then...the life we enter full from the meal takes it shape. In this invitation we show our hand to all who hear the prayer. At this table everyone can expect that the rule of our Lord will be the rule of our time together. Here at this table, it will not be of great concern which fork you use first. Rather, we will take great concern that all are fed and all are welcome. So...Come, Lord, Jesus...

Connection: The most simple disciplines can be a part of the building of the day. When we allow ourselves to focus - even for a short time - on the center of our lives, our lives may just reflect that center.

Come, Lord, Jesus, be our guest and let these gifts to us be blessed. Amen.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

11 September 2006

For awhile, this devotion will focus on a simple prayer before meals.

Come, Lord Jesus, be our guest and let these gifts to us be blessed. Amen.


This is a common prayer for many of us. It is not the prayer of my youth. The prayer I remember from the table in our home is the prayer used by most Roman Catholic families: "Bless us, O Lord, for these thy gifts..." My journey within the Lutheran movement of the church catholic brought a new prayer - a simple prayer. In many ways, it can roll off my lips without any thought. It is easily treated like a religious "Ready, Set, Go!"...pass the chicken...who wants beans...I need a fork...the plate his hot be careful!

The other night I was in bed not able to fall asleep within the regular bounds of my nightly routine - ,pillow under my knees, head on pillow, cover up....gone. On that night before I fell into my usual deep sleep I thought of this simple table prayer.

"Come" is the first word in the prayer, but it is not the first action or thought or gesture. Before the word is spoken, the meal has taken shape. It is a gift. There is no need to invite the Lord to the table...there is already the presence of the One who abides with us in all things - that is the promise. The Lord has been present in all that comes before the meal and all that makes the meal possible. Could it be that we say "Come" in order to put the whole meal in perspective. This meal is not simply an event in time or a necessary part of our daily routine or a time merely to satisfy our hunger. At the table we say "Come" and we acknowledge whose we are and how something as simple as a bagel or a small bowl of soup is a part of the long history of God's people. This is a people who stopped to eat not merely of the meal set before them...but the fellowship of all who are claimed as God's own. Therefore, even as I eat alone, I say "Come" to remember the fellowship that is unseen but present - the community - the Christ - the Spirit - the Creator.

God provides and nourishes. We are at the table to eat and yet for those who live within the strange world of promise, we are at the table as a people blessed by the gracious presence of our Lord, whose love feeds us before we utter any word of invitation or praise or prayer.

When we say "Come" we set our eyes on the expansive graciousness of our God. This is food before any other food will satisfy us. When we say "Come," it is really as much of an invitation to all who are gathered at the meal as it is an invitation to the Lord of Life - who is already present before the invitation - before our pause to remember - before we smell or see the meal that is to be for us another gift.

Connection: The mealtime prayer is already being uttered - even now. It is a part of every moment the Spirit reminds us of what it is to be a blessed people - prior to having any evidence of blessing.

Come, Lord Jesus, be our guest and let these gifts to us be blessed. Amen.

Thursday, September 7, 2006

8 September, 2006

Text: James 1:22-25

But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves. For if any are hearers of the word and not doers, they are like those who look at themselves in a mirror; for they look at themselves and, on going away, immediately forget what they were like. But those who look into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and persevere, being not hearers who forget but doers who act- they will be blessed in their doing.

Everyone hears the word - not everyone does something with what they hear. The emphasis again has to do with making the Good News a living news among us. With the strong emphasis there is on community life, it is no wonder James comes forward with such a call for congruence betwenn hearing and doing. I think it is important to note that the ones who are merely hearers, deceive themselves. In other words, we miss out on the life within the word of Good News when it is among us as word only...word as something we hear instead of word we enter as life. It is obvious that the community would miss out on the call to be God's beloved, but we as individuals miss out on an adventure that claims to be a life of shalom and wholeness. Remember also, that the "perfect law" was good. So to do the law was and is a creative "doing." Don't let the notion of law be merely a negative word that is in contrast to grace - for the law is a grace-filled gift for our living!

Connection: Doing the word does not take special attention nor does it take setting aside time to "do" it. Today we will find ourselves in many situations in which the word we know so well can be the word we live out and share. It could be that in the doing of the word, we will actually come into the place in our lives when we will indeed "find ourselves" as children of God - living as children whose lives praise and honor the one who blesses us. In the Holy Communion hymn, "Now the Silence," the moment at hand is full of opportunity and adventure and life. It ends with: Now the Father's blessing. Now. Now. Now.

O God, how sweet is the word that bathes us in your love. May it be like honey that sticks to us and gets all over everything we touch. May our lives drip with your love for us that becomes our love for the world around us. Empower us by your Holy Spirit that we may be alive with your word. Amen.

Wednesday, September 6, 2006

7 September, 2006

Text: James 1:19-21

You must understand this, my beloved; let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger; for your anger does not produce God's righteousness. Therefore rid yourselves of all sordidness and rank growth of wickedness, and welcome with meekness the implanted word that has the power to save your souls.

In defining the concept "sarvodaya" (the welfare of all...true democracy realized) Gandhi writes that "we would regard the humblest and lowest Indian as being equally the ruler of India with the tallest in the land." A wonderful paragraph follows and it ends with: "(S)He would be ready to lay down his(her) life when occasion demands it, never want to take another's life." The implanted word is said to be the word of our baptism. It is the word of affirmation about out true identity..and the identity of the "other." To begin there is to begin each moment in a creative and blessed manner. So before a situation "blows up," it would be good to pause and remember whose we are and the simple fact that we gain nothing by minimizing or destroying or being violent toward others in our lives. Rather, we have the opportunity to live according to the grace given to us in our baptism - as called and blessed children of God. Some may say "count to ten" before you act or speak. We may also want to say, "Remember you are baptized" and as we let that be the word that defines our character we have a way to live with the ones we may even call our enemies.

Connection: Today we continue to shape our character. Following Jesus is not simply a "spiritual exercise" that is done in solitude or on some personal journey with God. Our baptism in Christ, Jesus, informs our day...each part of it. What is the baptismal character we bring into the real life situations that we will encounter at work and school and play today? Character is made up of all the parts of our day - how are we followers of Jesus when no one is looking at us?

Word of Life, you designate us as you people and you grace our lives with your promise to abide with us. In all we do throughout this day, let you peace reign among us and let our lives reflect the love that you have for us. Ame.

6 September, 2006

Text: James 1:12
Blessed is anyone who endures temptation. Such a one has stood the test and will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him. No one, when tempted, should say, "I am being tempted by evil and he himself tempts no one. But one is tempted by one's own desire, being lured and enticed by it; then, when that desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and that sin, when it is fully grown, gives birth to death. Do not be deceived, my beloved.
Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. In fulfillment of his own purpose he gave us birth by the word of truth, so that we would become a kind of first fruits of his creatures.

James lays it on the line. Many folks asks why God tempts us with the things and actions of the world...others will say "the devil made me do it." And yet, "one is tempted by one's own desire, being lured and enticed by it..." This goes well with the piece on riches from yesterday. We have an opportunity in front of us - we are God's beloved people. At the same time, the day is filled with the many ways to forget that essential word for us. There are more temptations pulling us to be self-indulgent and self-concerned that we can come to believe that those temptations are the true way of life. Do not be fooled! And the temptations don't come from outside of us. Sure there is good marketing and subtle pressures to conform from many parts of our lives...but in the final analysis, we move one way or another - we take the steps within our lives. No one puts a gun to our head to make us do this or that. We act as we act. Blessed, therefore, are those who endure these temptations...they are real and they have power. Blessed are the people who can talk to one another and walk with each other in the midst of these temptations. It takes a willingness to be both vulnerable and available to one another.

Connection: How blessed is our God to bring us to the beginning of this day! How blessed are the opportunities of this day for in them we are given the grace and power to be God's beloved children! In the midst of our temptations, we need to remember the blessedness of this time ahead of us.

Lord of LIfe, you bring the word of truth among us and we are shaped by that word. We give you thanks for the many people around us whose lives touch ours when we are in the midst of temptation and the pulls of the world within us. Amen.