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.

Friday, November 3, 2006

3 November 2006

The week ends with another image of the Body of Christ from "Discipleship" by Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

The flesh borne by Christ was sinful flesh - yet borne without sin. Wherever his human body is, there all flesh is being accepted. "Surely he has borne our infirmities and carried our sorrows." Only be bearing all our infirmities and sorrows in his own body was Jesus able to heal the infirmities and sorrows of human nature. "He was wounded for our transgressions and crushed for our iniquities." He bore our sin, and was therefore able to forgive sin; for in his body our sinful flesh had been "accepted." This is why Jesus accepted sinners: he bore them in his own body. In Jesus the "acceptable year of the Lord" had dawned.

In just such a way that Jesus took on the sin of the world and "in his body our sinful flesh had been accepted," isn't that how we as the body of Christ in the world today bring this refreshing and liberating and forgiving word to all. We take in that which is sinful - all of us - and we accept it through a love for all that is the power of transformation and a part of the promised Reign of God. We live already in the midst of this "acceptable year of the Lord" and therefore we could argue that the church as the body of Christ has a life that is the life of the Christ - even now. In Christ, Jesus, once and for all the sins of the world have been defeated and we have been raised up with him to new life. The new life therefore is ours for the living - living that is, as the one who raised us up. It is within that life that the church really begins to be the followers of Jesus. As we all know, we (the church - all of us within it) rarely risk to go accept in the radical manner of our Lord. We would put conditions on the way we give our lives to others and what we expect back from other. We can call ourselves evangelical (good news) people until it means that we really do give ourselves away to other - freely and without condition.

Connection: What are the conditions we put on the Christ-like love that has been extended to us? What is necessary for us to become more bold in our expression of this love for others?

Come, Lord, Jesus, be our guest and teach us to bow and bend so that we are able to greet others with the boundless mercy and hopefulness of your Reign in which we already reside with the whole body of Christ. Let us be this living presence of your love for the world. Amen.

Wednesday, November 1, 2006

2 November 2006

More from Bonhoeffer on the "body of Christ" from "Discipleship."

God became human. This means God took on the whole of our sick and sinful human nature, the whole of humanity which had fallen away from God. It does not mean, however, that God took on the individual human being Jesus. The entire gospel message can be understood properly only in light of this crucial distinction. The body of Jesus Christ, in which we together with all of humanity are accepted by God, has now become the foundation of our salvation.

I must admit that I have read this through several times. Previously Bonhoeffer noted that out of God's mercy humanity is accepted as it is. In the above quote, my thinking has been stretched. Are we saying here that in the Body of Christ - that is the Church - all flesh is being accepted! That's how I read it. If it is read in that manner, then the life of the Body of Christ - the Church - has to be about some spirited and prayerful consideration of how we are present in the world today. Is the Christ, Jesus, seen through us? Is the face and words and touch of the Church one that assures the world around us that all are accepted by God? Are we a part of that wonderful saving power of our God? This goes along with a comment made by a teacher of mine who often would turn the phrase we are God's "saved people" into "saving people." One is static and self-focused and the other is calling forth action and life and focus on the one we follow. I find such a consideration interesting.

Connection: So how are we going to be a part of this saving life of the Body of Christ as we move through all the ordinary events of this day? Well...let's see.

You feed us with the bread of life, O God, and as we are fed, we become that bread for the world in the name of your beloved, Jesus. We are too often afraid to claim such a blessed position so we ask for you Spirit to help us discern how we will be a part of this living body in Christ, Jesus. Amen.

1 November 2006

The image of the "body of Christ" continues as our focus for reflection.

Bonhoeffer begins with commenting about how God's word was sent to the people in order to reconcile our lost humanity with God. Then then writes:
The the miracle of all miracles takes place. The Son of God becomes a human being. The Word became flesh.... He takes on humanity by taking on human qualities, human 'nature', "sinful flesh," human form. Now it is no longer only through the word of preaching that God accepts humanity, but also in the body of Christ... In the body of Jesus Christ humanity is now truly and bodily accepted; it is accepted as it is, out of God' mercy.

The emphasis on the body of Christ - the humanity of Jesus, the Christ - we are drawn to see the significance of what it means for the followers of Jesus to be called the body of Christ today and through all time. This is where God's mercy and love and saving power abides. This is one way to look at how life among us is to unfold. The whole body - not merely a piece of it - is now how humanity is accepted by God. And yet, having written that, it places on all of us a responsibility that is indeed quite beyond us. We are a part of this saving body. But are we?! Yes, we are and yet we are not always known as a body of mercy and grace and redemption. The temptation is great to put conditions on the body...who can be a part of its presence...who can benefit from its presence. But then, that would not be the body of Christ at all. How is it that something like "given and shed for you" can become a selective you rather than a you that is the whole of humanity?

Connection: Let mercy Reign among us today.

It is by your grace, O God, that we are renewed and sent out into the world to be a witness to your gracious Reign. As a witness, we may speak of you but we really are sent out to reflect you mercy and grace through our own humanity that is now a part of the body of Christ. We are always in need of the encouragement of the Holy Spirit and therefore we ask for that presence of new life today. Amen.