Monday, December 31, 2007

Thursday 3 January 2008

Continuing from yesterday from the introduction by Thomas Merton.

Call these values what you will, "natural religion" or "natural law," Christianity admits their existence at least as preambles to faith and grace, if not sometimes vastly more (Romans 2:14-15, Acts 17:22-31). These values are universal, and it is hard to see how there can be any "catholic-ity" (catho-holos means "all embracing") that even implicitly excludes them. One of the marks of catholicity is precisely that values which are everywhere natural to man are fulfilled on the highest level in the Law of the Spirit. and in Christian charity. A "charity" that excludes these values cannot claim the title of Christian love.

From yesterday I'd like to repeat something written by Merton so as to jump us into this piece. In talking about essential values he notes: "values without which he cannot live, values which are now in large measure lost to him so that unequipped to face life in a fully human manner, he now runs the risk of destroying himself entirely." We must at least be "up to" these values among us. It is not the greatest we can is the this least bit of living within a realm of basic values we show that we are at least human. That is a beginning, not an end. From our love or "charity" we begin the greatest journey that brings life to us and to those around us. From this love that is a grounding piece to our humanity, life becomes transformed and a transforming power. It is as we begin to unfold within the embrace of that value that we stretch ourselves beyond all of our expectations and beyond all that we can even imagine. Love takes us out of ourselves and helps us to enter into an other's life and in that conversation, what we all learn to value is the life of the other.

Connection: To start taking steps within the domain of the love we claim...grabs us...and the love we claim....moves us, is a dramatic way to reshape the day. It is not always easy - even in the smallest form...but it is vital to our life expression as humans.

When you stir up the hearts of your people, O God, we are never sure what will surface within our lives. Encourage us to be the instruments of your love whipped up for the sake of the world. Amen.

Wednesday 2 January 2008

Due to the fact that we took a week off even after starting a new series of devotions featuring Thomas Merton and the works of Mohandas Gandhi, I thought I should repeat the devotion from Monday, December 24.

Gandhi had the deepest respect for Christianity, for Christ and the Gospel. In following his way of satyagraha (holding on to truth) he believed he was following the Law of Christ, and it would be difficult to prove that this belief was entirely mistaken - or that it was in any degree insincere. One of the greatest lessons of Ganhdi's life remains this: through the spiritual traditions of the West he, an Indian, discovered his Indian heritage and with it his own "right mind." And in his fidelity to his own heritage and its spiritual sanity, he was able to show men of the West and of the whole world a way to recover their own "right mind" in their tradition, thus manifesting the fact that there are certain indisputable and essential values - religious, ethical, ascetic, spiritual, and philosophical - which man has everywhere needed and which he has in the past managed to acquire, values without which he cannot live, values which are now in large measure lost to him so that, unequipped to face life in a fully human manner, he now runs the risk of destroying himself entirely.

This may be enough to ponder on the Eve of the Nativity of our Lord, Jesus. We are always at the point of leaving behind such wisdom that allows us to look outside of our tradition and grow within our tradition because of the strength and power and beauty we see in another. Maybe the Shaker song is a good reminder to us to turn, turn, will be our delight, until turning, turning, we come down right.

Connection: Do not fear and do not be held back or put in place by powers that are afraid to let you enter into that "right mind."

Come, Spirit of New Life. Come and open our hearts to your word of peace and the experience of shalom as it takes place around us and as we enter into its living presence. Come, and walk with us. Amen.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Wednesday 26 December 2007

Devotions will be taking a holiday sabbatical until Wednesday morning, January 2, 2008.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Monday 24 December 2007

Christmas Eve seemed like a good time to begin a devotional look at some of the work by Mohandas Gandhi. We will begin with material about Gandhi by Thomas Merton and a few notes about a tie to Christianity.

Gandhi had the deepest respect for Christianity, for Christ and the Gospel. In following his way of satyagraha (holding on to truth) he believed he was following the Law of Christ, and it would be difficult to prove that this belief was entirely mistaken - or that it was in any degree insincere.

One of the greatest lessons of Ganhdi's life remains this: through the spiritual traditions of the West he, an Indian, discovered his Indian heritage and with it his own "right mind." And in his fidelity to his own heritage and its spiritual sanity, he was able to show men of the West and of the whole world a way to recover their own "right mind" in their tradition, thus manifesting the fact that there are certain indisputable and essential values - religious, ethical, ascetic, spiritual, and philosophical - which man has everywhere needed and which he has in the past managed to acquire, values without which he cannot live, values which are now in large measure lost to him so that, unequipped to face life in a fully human manner, he now runs the risk of destroying himself entirely.

This may be enough to ponder on the Eve of the Nativity of our Lord, Jesus. We are always at the point of leaving behind such wisdom that allows us to look outside of our tradition and grow within our tradition because of the strength and power and beauty we see in another. Maybe the Shaker song is a good reminder to us to turn, turn, will be our delight, until turning, turning, we come down right.

Connection: Do not fear and do not be held back or put in place by powers that are afraid to let you enter into that "right mind."

Come, Spirit of New Life. Come and open our hearts to your word of peace and the experience of shalom as it takes place around us and as we enter into its living presence. Come, and walk with us. Amen.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Friday 21 December 2007

Today will be the last piece from Brian Blount. It is a concluding remark about living with the Living Word.

Christian faith, and the biblical interpretation that goes along with it, supports it, directs it, is hard. Not everyone can do it; not everyone wants to do it. Many want the comfort of having someone just say forget about the contexts, forget about how the biblical writers were writing for their people in their time, forget about all that and just read all the words as the last word and do what they say, whatever they say. Even if I don't want to tell a slave to go back to his master; even if I don't want to tell a woman to sit down and keep quiet in church, and cover her head while she's at it; even if I don't want to tell someone politically oppressed to obey a government without protest when I think its wrong; and even if I don't want to tell a gay or lesbian couple that they are idolatrous, lusting, unnatural sinners whom I'll love even even though they have absolutely no business and no place in the kingdom of God, I'll do it anyway because it's easy. It's simple. And I long for a simple faith. I'll cry, but I won't do differently. I won't try to find a way to do differently because it's too hard.
It's supposed to be hard, stupid! Whoever would be my disciple must take up my hard cross and follow, follow daily follow tomorrow, where every word is a living word for people living where they are in their present and future, not in somebody else's past.

I think leaving Blount's comments alone for today will be enough of a devotional reflection.

Come, Lord, Jesus, be our guest and open up this day with the living word that bring us life and enables us to see the ongoing unfolding of your blessed Reign. Amen.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Thursday 20 December 2007

To prevent an extra long quote yesterday, I'm simply continuing the thought with today's piece by Brian Blount.

So the words his and him become just as important as the words justification and cross. Mess with either one and you're messing equally with the faith. So the words "slaves obey your masters" or "women be silent in church" must be equal to the words "Those who say, 'I love God,' and hate their brothers and sisters, are liars." So the words "their women exchanged natural intercourse for unnatural, and in the same way also the men, giving up natural intercourse with women, were consumed with passion for one another" become as important as "There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is not longer male or female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus". Every word, no matter how it's tied to its context, must be the last word, or faith itself is somehow challenged.

There must be a way to look at Scripture and make some decisions about what is now the living word among us. We must be able to take a look at the whole story of God's faithfulness and the life it created within a world like ours where divisions rule and there is always a scapegoat on which we can throw our problems and fears. We will still wrestle with some passages. In fact I would pray that we would wrestle. It is in the conversations and dialogues that we may be able to say we give more weight to one passage over another. As Blount suggests, there will be those words that are dead for us. Then again, there will those words that are living and because of that create new life within the realm of God's gracious Reign. Not every word is as important as another. The Scripture is not a book of potions that must be said correctly or it doesn't work for us. And yet, from those living words, people in every time are introduced to life beyond our wants and demands. A living word continues to crack us open to both receive this blessed story of our God in all God's faithfulness and then to have that living word come to life among us.

Connection: The next time you look at Scripture, what is the living word you can hear...what is the Good News that liberates, forgives, renews, recreates? Then again...what sounds and appears to be quite dead for us today.

Living Word, the breath of your Spirit shakes us. We hear it and we are encountered by life that is so rich it is like something new and grand and tremendously healing. Guide us so that we may be fed by this word that brings life. Amen.

Wednesday 19 December 2007

Brian Blount brings his discussion about interpretation to an end with a section call "Living with the Living Word." Referring back to what he wrote about the Scriptures and slave and homosexuality, he notes: "We can't be faithful and we can't get to God's truth if the biblical words don't live for us this this."

This is difficult, I know, because the words are biblical words, the words are the canon, and we find it hard to challenge them no matter their context because every word is supposed to be the last word. That's why inclusive language is often so difficult for many people to accept when they read the Bible. The words, the pronouns he, him, and his, have become THE WORD. A faith mathematics of of simple addition takes hold. All the words form an equation that equals faith. Just as in mathematics, we need every number if the total sum in a simple addition problem is going to be correct, so every word must be equally authoritative if simple faith is going to add up.

I find this use of "faith mathematics" to be a unique way of setting up a view of reading the Bible. You can't mess with numbers. If you do, the answer will not be "right." Well, we are not doing math and we are not trying to come up with "right." We are looking to the Word for life. We are looking to the Word to see the Reign of God breaking into our history - past, present, and to come. This will mean the words may carry different weight among us. That is probably unheard of in a simple addition problem. For example: the simply change made in the New Revised Standard Edition of the Bible makes a simple change from "men" to "men and women" if it is likely that the group that was gathered was inclusive. Some folks cannot and will not tolerate that change. Of course, there can be many other example that might get under any of our skin...

Connection: It would be interesting to listen to what people give 'weight.' I would suggest we even do that with our everyday imagery and speaking. It may help all of us to listen better and learn to ask for clarification so we know how close or far we are from one another.

Lord, your Word, is the power to change life and bring into being that which is not. Help us to listen for the truth within your Word as we make our way through the many words we use to help us catch a glimpse of your gracious Reign. Amen.

Tuesday 18 December 2007

One more look at Brian Blount's comments about homosexuality and the New Testament.

What I'm suggesting, of course, is that contextuality is not only important when we compare Paul to our time but also it is important - indeed, imperative - when we compare Paul to the Paul of his own time. When the contextual base of his theology shifts, so does the emphasis in his ethics. When the theology operates from the radical thing that God has done through Christ Jesus, then boundaries break down and people rise up and are brought together. This is Paul's living word, the one that continues into our own time and gives us hope for the way in which all people who have been created as God has created them, just as they are, might be treated equally and accepted faithfully together in the one body of faith.

Here that notion of living word is quite important. Even for Paul, the word brought life and was life and it created life...that was not yet the life of the blossoming community. In Christ, Jesus, Paul's world is shaken up...again and again. This living word is the one that then shakes us up. When that happens, it is a shaking that may rock our lives in ways not possible in Paul's context but very much a part of the radical word that continues to break into our day and bring life that will continue to reshape the community of the followers of Jesus. Part of our faithful journey with this word that continues to come alive among us is that we may well find ourselves surprised by the life it whips up for us. We do not simply go on our own merry way, we follow this Word and we take note of how it shakes the foundations upon which we want to shakes them otherwise this living may become nothing more than another dead word among us and within our context. It must be noted that we are the ones who make it that dead word...for this Word is to always and will always bring life.

Connection: Faithful people must deal with context. Today is always the right time to question how this Word will witness to the expansive grace of our God.

In this season of Advent, O God, stir us up by the power of your Spirit so that as we engage our world this day we will see how your Christ comes to be among us and how in the coming of the Christ, we are shaped to bring that Reigning life into the world with us. Amen.

Monday 17 December 2007

This week we will continue with two more days of material by Brian Blount on homosexuality and the New Testament.

In Paul's thought, God's doing is simultaneously the mandate for human living. The shattering of creation's boundaries that occurs with Jesus' death and resurrection is the gracious provocation of a new eschatological reality that enable human transgressions of the same kind. All people, regardless of gender, ethnicity, race, stature, or - dare I say it even though Paul does not - sexual preference, are equally acceptable in God's sight and therefore must be equally treated in human living.

Several pieces strike me as powerful - "God's doing is simultaneously the mandate for human living." This is a masterful way of taking a look at what is the life of the community that claims to be followers of Jesus! We would like to question more or restrict more or deny more. But when God acts, it defines us with a wide open doors - frightening but marvelous. Also, I was really taken when Blount writes that "Jesus' death and resurrection is the gracious provocation of a new eschatological reality that enable human transgressions of the same kind." The image of our lives being provoked by grace is disarming. Most often, we use the word provocation with a sense of fighting or paybacks. Here it is the reality of the Reign of God in Christ, Jesus, that....says "Come on...try this out for yourself." In all of this, there may be great fear - such equality in treatment can shake people. This can happen even to the point that we will want to run away from the living graciousness of God's Reign. We need more feet on the road that are being pulled by the Spirit into the midst of this gracious community.

Connection: So how will our feet hit the road today? Try to take note during the day of what it is that provokes your actions. Often, I don't even let grace in...unfortunately.

Lord of the Gracious Reign of New Life, it is by your actions that we have come to define ourselves. Inspire us to see that as you act, you empower us to act in just such a manner. It is by your acting in Christ, Jesus, that we are able to see the vividness of your invitation to new life. Thanks and praise to you, O God. Amen.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Friday 14 December 2007

This week ends with a provocative piece that may take the weekend to unpack. Brian Blount begins by quoting Wolfgang Schrage from "The Ethics of the New Testament" as he comments on Galatians 3:28.
I would like to apologize for the poor editing of yesterday's devotion. Sometimes my stream of consciousness....gets lost or I delete things that I should not!

"In the one body of Christ, all secular categories are transcended, even distinctions inherent in the created order."

This is a crucial point. Paul's understanding of God's actions in Christ lead him to the almost insane conclusion that even the categories that God established in the act of the creation have now been superseded. Even the biblical words of human creation are not the last words for human living. The boundaries standardized for all time at the very beginning of time have been eschatologically smashed down in the act of Jesus' coming, death, and resurrection.

This really does sound like a whole new creation. It may simply mean that creation is being expanded beyond the limits we were able to see. It may also mean that we cannot go into the new place without the power of the Holy Spirit - the power that moves over creation and brings into being all that is new and all that has never been...yet. This is not a new creation that says anything goes. Rather, it is a creation in which much more is able to thrive and live and come to the welcome feast and share in the life that is eternally given to us by our God. This is the God who creates all things and never stops being the creative power and hand behind the life of God's people even as we move through new times. What happens when boundaries are smashed down? Yes, there can appear to be nothing more than chaos. And yet, we are people who profess to live within a promise. Chaos cannot overcome promise. So...are we going to keep holding onto the promise or collapse under the power of chaos?!?

Connection: Keep on moving within the promise. It may not appear to be that sure or that strong...but...we've come this far by faith...just look back and see the witness of those who have endured and walked through chaos in order to bring life into a new age.

Lord God, you are our sanctuary. In and through all time, you are ready and available to lead and comfort and push us or pull us into you peace. We will often resist, but so need you to be that place of rest and refreshment so that we can keep on as your promises come into blossom around us. Amen.

Thursday 13 December 2007

Blount notes that Paul was one who was also able to break "beyond the boundaries of social expectation." He does this in Galatians right at the beginning of that letter when dealing with those who wanted to keep Jewish expectations of circumcision and diet in place - for all.

Paul, though is already on written record, in his correspondences to Thessalonica (2:12; 3:3; 4:7;5:9,24) and Corinth (1 Cor. 2:2), arguing that inclusion into the people of God is based on God's election through the gospel of Christ, specifically the gospel that records Christ's death on the cross. It is God's action, through Christ, that determines one's inclusion into the people of God, not ones adherence to and compliance with the Jewish Law. This means however, that if the Law is no longer the deciding factor, but God's act in Christ, then anyone and everyone who believed in that act could become a part of the people of God. It is this kind of radical thinking that provokes Paul when he makes his radical statement at Galatians 3:28:

"There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male or female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus"

This is fun. Paul really does come off as quite the radical. And yet, it is not Paul who is radical. It is the mighty act of God in Christ, Jesus - for all. Any limits on that word of life is to become someone who listens to another word...and that is not the Word of the Good News. Within the radical thinking that comes when one is overwhelmed by the gracious and loving action of God, what was considered impossible and out of place is given a place and become not merely the possible but the expectation of what life is to be within God's Reign already breaking in within the everyday stuff of our lives. To be quite frank, this radical word is too much for any of us to catch in its fullness. If we can be honoest with ourselves, we will put limits on it...our own limits...for our own keep some control within our lives - we can bet on that. And yet, the promise is there always pulling us into the life that can begin anew -- now...right now.

Connection: Sometimes, we need to remember to let go. Some would say leap...some would say repent. Whatever it is, there is a life bursting forth ready to be our

Come, O Lord, and stir up our hearts as you have always promised you would do. We know that we will resist you call and yet we need you to start bring change even when our hearts are hard and our minds are made up. Come, O Lord, and stir us up. Amen.

Wednesday 12 December 2007

Within the cultural day of Paul, there was an understanding about the natural way of being sexual. It "controlled not only the type but also the frequency of that intimacy." Blount continues:

One performed such acts not as a way of sharing intimacy but of procreating the human species or checking the fires and flames of passion between men and women. The contemporary understanding of intimate homosexual union that often expresses itself physically and celebrates passion within a a committed relationship was alien to Paul as Paul knew the possibility of a believer marrying a pagan was alien to Jesus. So Paul did what others in his Greco-Roman context were doing: He tied his understanding of sexuality to an understanding of sex acts that were properly condoned only when done according to the natural order designed for procreation or as a remedy for the burning passions of lust that apparently threatened the eruption of human bonfires all over the ancient world.

More and more we need to face the reality that our church includes faithful followers of Jesus who are homosexuals. This is already a part of the life of the community in which we worship our God and live as people living within God's Reign. At that point, we can begin to discuss how we all will live together and what we expect within our communities when it comes to our sexual intimacy. This will take work - even if we all would agree that all are welcome and homosexuality does not preclude one's place within the life church. Here is when the face to face conversations must bring us into a deeper sense of what it is to be faithful within a committed relationship that begins with expectations of a life together and the expectation that we will honor one another and keep us focused on whose we are and how that shapes all of our relationship - especially our intimate ones. We ask the community of faith to stand with a heterosexual couples as they are entering into marriage and to help keep them together in and through all things. That, takes work....but we really don't even do that well. Wouldn't it be good for the community to offer such a word of support to homosexual couples in the congregation. Then, in both cases, try to live up to our word to the couples. I don't need to know how a couple has sex to be a help to them in their life together. We want to encourage an intimacy that brings couples closer as they honor one another and then also turn out into the world and honor others.

Connection: Think about it...what is the next step the church needs to be taking rather than staying stuck in an argument that, in many ways, is all about a dead word.

Teach us all, O God, to find the ways of becoming fully human as we engage one another and form intimate relationship. As our humanity is expanded, may we bring good news to all so that your Reign encourages a life that honors others, respects the differences we see and do not understand, and then, is will to also speak a word of correction and admonition as is needed among all of us. Come, O Lord of All, and bless us with your Spirit of recreation. Amen.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Tuesday 11 December 2007

We continue with Brian Blount on homosexuality and the New Testament.

Other philosophers, such as Plutarch, argued that love between a man and woman was natural. Sexual activity between people of the same gender was considered dehumanizing because it was unnatural. By "unnatural" they meant, of course, that it had nothing to do with procreation, the condoned purpose of sexual activity between men and women. The two primary secular concerns with same-sex activity, then, were the unreasonable motivation of lust and the unnatural quality of the acts...

For Paul, sexual activity between persons of the same sex was a direct result of idolatry, the human acceptance of false gods or a false understanding of their own relationship before the gods. Paul was thinking of individual, separate actions as God's punishment for idolatry. He was not thinking, nor was he prepared to think, in terms of relationship. He was thinking what humans did and not what God had created, a person predisposed by reason of biology or social learning toward relationship with other persons of the same gender. For him the issue was one of controlling behavior, not running from or living out one's human identity.

Here we see again the focus on "what is done." There is no consideration of the relationship. There is no consideration to the fact that this is who these folks are, shall we nature. When we can begin to focus more on the relationship between homosexuals rather than individual sexual acts (for we don't focus on those acts among heterosexual who are in a loving relationship) we may be able to bring everyone into life relationships that are wholesome and full and responsible. We would do well to focus on good relationships...and building up faithfulness to partners...and building up the family of all people, rather than letting our fears about what is not like us be the power that leads us. We do well when we help one another live "out one's human identity" so that we are able to deal with one another truthfully and honestly and with respect. We would do well to ask how we all can walk together as followers of Jesus rather than picking up stones and being ready to discount and reject other's mere being. At that point, we then, all of us, can talk about the "life" into which we are all invited to enter as people who live within the Reign of God.

Connection: It is not easy to trust how someone else lives. When we are self-centered, we may not even be open to any type of conversation or dialogue. A good exercise may be to relax, remind ourselves that God Reigns, and then be available to entertain something more than our own perspectives and world view.

Just as you, out of love for us, call us into a deeper and deeper relationship with you and our neighbors, O God, we are to be a people who are empowered to enter into relationships that take work and respect and stay focused on the holy life of all your people who encompass more diversity than most of us are willing to accept. Remind us of your love and the love it brings to life among us. Amen.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Monday 10 December 2007

We start the week by continuing Brian Blount's comments on "The New Testament and Homosexual Behavior.

Paul was inspired by God's Word in a world where sexuality was understood in a radically different way from how it is understood today... No one talked in terms of a genetic predisposition or early social conditioning and learning, or a way of life, or a nurturing, caring partnership of two people... Paul was very much speaking from and with his surrounding culture in an accommodating rather than a prophetic way. Philosophers of the day, such as Seneca and Dio Chrysostom, considered same-sex activity to be driven by dehumanizing lust. They recognized, of course, that lust was not just a problem for same-sex activity but that it plagued relationships between men and women as well. To them because sexual activity was always motivated by lust, it therefore always had to be avoided.

It is important to note that when a new word or a new idea is brought into a group of people, it is often done slowly...without tipping the boat...without pushing something down the throats of people, and with some sense of what will fly and what must be "accommodated" in order for just the first edge of newness to be considered. Paul was bringing a new word to the world. Even to day - it blows the lid off of things when it is opened up to the fullness of its gracious presentation. The radical notion of the Reign of God doesn't make out well among us. We all need some "buffers." So, how do you talk about sex and sexuality within a culture that cannot go there...or is only able to go there in a particular way and within certain boundaries. Well, maybe you don't talk at all. Then again, maybe you touch on it as part of a greater argument. Then again...maybe you deal with it as only you know how...under the rules and guidelines, taboos and restrictions, and the understanding of the day that are a part of the culture. In that time, it may all be helpful to move into the domain of the graciousness of the Reign of God. But today, in our understanding of sexuality, rather than help to move us into that Reign, we are stuffed within a box...all of us. The sex wins out over the Word. Odd.

Connection: Maybe this is where we learn to listen. Like, "Tell me how you get to that understanding because that is not where I am and I need to listen to you." This is not easy - at least not for me. But it may be valuable in many ways throughout this day.

Open up our hearts, O God, and shake us up so that we can listen to others and yet also lift up our voices so that we may all interact with a bit of integrity even as we disagree...or agree. Amen.

Friday 7 December 2007

Today we move into a section of Blount's work that deals with biblical authority within a present day issue - homosexual behavior.

The New Testament's words on homosexual behavior are also clear. They are words of condemnation; I don't try to deny that. I don't think anyone should. But they are words out of a particular context. Our context is so significantly different that I don't think the words are any longer living, but are, rather, dead words if we try to read them without contextually understanding them today.

I think this is such a wise beginning to this discussion. We cannot deny that the words are there. Yes, the word "homosexuality" isn't actually used...but any of us know what the images are meant to portray - to a point. that is important. To a point...we know what the words portray. It carries a legitimate culture picture. But the picture is caught in time and does not move out of that time into our time quite as easily as some claim. We must be able and willing to engage in a conversation about the changes of context and the way that change helps us to determine if a word is alive or dead. If the conversation does not happen, we will remain locked in our corners and never meet up with one another. That may seem to bring some peace but it is really nothing more than avoidance...and that, is never peace. We must grapple with the notion that the text does say what is says...but...what is being said in the day it was written and what can it be saying in the day of you and me who are reading it now. In many ways, the conversation we are going to be having in the next week in these devotions will be quite in line with what Blount brought forth in regard to interpretation and contextualization among the African American slaves.

Connection: We must enter into conversation with those who do not read like us. We must remember that the word has life within the dialogical action of a community where each side is honored and yet there may be disagreements. That is not an easy place to be. But it is necessary.

Living Word, do not let us hinder your Spirit as we look to the Scriptures to find this Word that brings us rest and truth. For it is in the truthfulness of your life-giving word that we begin to take part in the new creation that we do not control. Come, Holy Spirit, come. Amen.

Thursday 6 December 2007

Today is the last piece in the section on the living word among African American slaves. Bount wants to make sure we heard that the scriptures were not simply dismissed when they spoke a word about slaves that was a dead word for them.

This doesn't mean that the New Testament text lost its sense of authority for the slaves. But it does mean that their perception of God in their midst was more authoritative. The text must be in line with God's being and God's agenda of liberation. Where it is not, the text, because of the frailty of the humans who composed it, must be challenged and, if need be, resisted as much as the system of slavery it was purported to support. In this way the slaves were perhaps the first biblical critics in America to read so aggressively from "in front of th text" that they could recognize the text for what it really was, the words first century human writers employed in their attempt to convey the Word of the eternal God.

The text stays vital and yet how it is read and how it is received comes into play so that it can be taken as a word that is either alive or dead at the time of the reading. If a passage is so out of tune with what is the context of the day of reading that it cannot be accepted within the realm of the great "agenda of liberation," then we need to look at it again and come to grips with how or if it is still able to speak to us. Again, we must remember that we are talking about specific texts becoming dead words - not all of Scripture. In fact, as we read here, the African American slaves knew the whole book...and what they read in the whole story that brought them life and hope and vision was not being heard in these texts that were locked in the slavery of the mindset of the day of writing. The powerful word of Scripture brings about a new world, and yet, we must continue to stay focused on what is the power that comes from this word...what makes it alive...what then, causes it to be quite dead and lost among us.

Connection: Remember that this way of looking at Scripture is not the way some would like to hear it. So, how do we talk about this faithful encounter with Scripture that is not willing to buy the message in each verse hook-line-and-sinker? Obviously there are folk out there who find it very difficult to question anything in the "book." And yet it is necessary.

Lord of the Living Word, we are fed by the Scriptures and we are encouraged for new life as we encounter the stories of your faithfulness through the ages in the lives of our ancestors. Today as we continue our faithful journeys we long to hear that life-giving word that will always be a word of life and liberation and a call to faithfulness. Amen.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Wednesday 5 December 2007

We continue with a living word from the perspective of the African American Slaves.

Professor Jacquelyn Grant is correct in her assessment of what is gong on here when she writes, "What we see here is perhaps more than a mere rejection of a White preacher's interpretation of the Bible, but an exercise in internal critique of the Bible." In other words, if the biblical words on slavery were the last word on slavery, they were too dead a word to keep living for them.

The Word "too dead to keep living for them." That is a powerful notion and can seem almost offensive. And yet, if the word destroys life, how can it be the Word? Such a word is and must be 'dead among us' for it is antithetical to what is known among us as the "Living Word" - Jesus in the flesh. I was just wondering - imagining - what this Living Word would be among us today. Part of that imagination is to settle for a Living Word that would be no different from that of biblical days. It would be a word radically alive and life-giving even if people were resisting the freedom with which this life is given away to all. Are we content with being a lynching people with a word that cannot bring life. Never! Never must we use the Word to create an atmosphere of death and fear and coercion! We must listen to the voices around us who continually call for the Living Word to really bring on the new life.

Connection: Listen for the offer of new life...listen for the voices that try to dismantle it. It is a discipline that is greatly needed among us.

Come, O Lord, and stir us up so that as we walk through this day we will come to know your voice as times change and your loving presence seeks to persist among us. Amen.

Tuesday 4 December 2007

Today we continue with how the African American slaves insisted on a living Word - from "The Last Word on Biblical Authority" by Brian Blount.

And then there was the group of slaves in Georgia, in 1833, who listened to a white preacher go on and on about Paul's text on Philemon: "...According to the report...half of the Negro group walked out with the point of the sermon became clear, and the rest stayed mostly for the purpose of telling that they were sure there was no such passage in the Bible."

Of course, it is in the Bible. It's your bible and my Bible, and it was in the slaves' Bible. but they contested it! They walked out on it! Why? Because theirs was the living Bible.

For those who long for the word of life that is a promise for new life, you cannot sell them or offer them a dead word. After awhile, they will leave...and so should any of us. It is quite common for me to talk on the phone to someone who cannot go back to church...or cannot go to churches where the preacher is so stuck in a context 'from of old,' that they will not and cannot begin to see and hear the word as a living and breathing reality from which communities are brought to this new life in Christ. When a community that gathers around the word is unwilling to listen again to the word that offers life to all, and they insist on reading for their own benefit and against others, it is time to walk out. Blessed are they who have been able to stay and have, because of their persistent faithfulness, transformed a congregation and helped them see the joyous life of a word alive for all.

Connection: We put our GLBT brothers and sisters through this kind of single-minded reading of the Bible. So few passages become such a focus to the life of a community that the doors are more likely to be shut than open. Imagine what would happen if we took the rich to task for our wealth as being quite contrary to following Jesus. Hmmm?

Your Word, O Life Giving Lord, continues to interrupt our world and pull us into new places so that as we engage our world we will be a part of a living word that really has the power to create new life. To you we give our thanks and praise and ask for your ongoing presence among us. Amen.

Monday 3 December 2007

Brian Blount continues to write about the last word on Biblical authority with a look at interpretation within the community of the African American Slave.

...they realized that human beings interpreted (God's) story and put God's holy Word into their own contextually influenced human words. So when the slave owners talked about the Bible saying that slaves ought to obey their masters, the slaves resisted not just the slave owners but the biblical words and the biblical authors themselves.

Here's a wonderful piece by Howard Thurman about his grandmother's outlook on scripture.

"My regular chore was to do all the reading for my grandmother - she could neither read nor write... With a feeling of great temerity I asked her one day why it was that she would not let me read any of the Pauline letters... 'During the days of slavery," she said, "the master's minister would occasionally hold services for the slaves....Always the white minister used as his text something from Paul. At least three or four times a year he used as a text: 'Slaves be obedient to them that are your masters..., as unto Christ.' Then he would go on to show how, if we were good and happy slaves, God would bless us. I promised my Make that if I ever learned to read and if freedom ever came, I would not read that part of the Bible."

Here is an illiterate woman who knows instinctively that a last word is too dead a word to keep living for her.

It seems as though we can come to the point when the word is not a living word. It is dead. It is meaningless. It is offensive. It is offensive not merely to the hearer, but to the essence of the Scripture. I would offer the comment that the Good News is not able to be heard because something other than the Good News is being offered up to the people. People can hear the absence of Good News. It is lifeless and it reflects the present life context rather than the expansiveness of the Reign of God. When this kind of word is given power over any of us, it does not create life. I would say that it resists new life - if not trying to completely kill it off. What is particularly powerful about the story of Thurman's grandmother is that the "word" served as a prostitute that could be owned by the master and therefore serve the master rather than create a community of the true Master of the Reign of God that continues to cause life - new life - to spring up even when the status quo attempts to rest on last words.

Connection: We have all heard these "last words" and we know how they halt life. We probably all have friends or relatives who have been slammed by such a word and have, like Thurman's grandmother, resisted its perpetuation. May we be so bold to walk through the day within such an empowering freedom.

By your Word, O God, we come to face our own lives with an openness that invites us to question what is being said. Within those questions, our conversations with you are allowed to blossom and grown because we are not merely individuals reciting the word rather than living it. For you Word, we give you thanks and ask for your encouraging Spirit to open our minds and hearts to you alone. Amen.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Friday 30 November 2007

Here's a good word to bring up at the end of the week - again from Brian Blount.

A last word tries to mask its own insecurity about its timelessness by forcing the present to live in the past. We often hear the criticism that the church ought not to adapt to the surrounding culture but speak to it. That's a powerfully correct assertion in my mind. But the church and its believers also ought not adapt to any past culture but, rather, speak to it! Speak from it, yes, but also speak to it in a way that values human living now, before God, just as human living before God was valued in the first century. And that valuing process may well mean that words that may have been valuable in the first century must no longer be equally valued today.

We must always ask, "how will we value those words?" Words once stressed may be given less weight among us. Words less stressed may be given great weight among us. This must happen within the context of a faithful community that is not afraid to have the word come alive and speak in new ways that may even be contrary to the way we have always learned to hold them. Isn't that how Jesus often lifted up the scriptures with those who were able and willing to wrestle with their meaning as the days changed among them. Good teachers were not afraid to wrestle and they were very willing to say "no" to words that did not bring new life. I often wrestle with how the church at large deals with the words from scripture that are often used as defining words about homosexuality. They are often used as last words - as though nothing else can be said. For me this is most troubling as I hear the differences between the US and European churches and churches in Africa and Asia. I find that we must listen to the way the word is coming to life from all areas of the church. Too often we don't listen to anything but churches from the northern hemisphere - that must stop and our hearing must be expanded so that we can be surprised and refreshed by a living word. But, this cannot mean that we accept all the words from any one people or area. Personally, I think some of the notions of a "last word" that is being pressed by church leaders in Africa and the US, for example, limit the expansiveness of the gracious Reign of God among us. The brutality surrounding the treatment of GLBT saints and women must be a word that is questioned prayerfully and consistently - or, we may not be able to value it at all.

Connection: The word really is a resting place. It really does bring comfort and it really does stir up new life. Today is always the time to let it be that living word among us.

Holy Word, bring us into life eternal and carry us through this day with lives that are open to how you shake us up with stories and words that help us see and hear all things through the lens of your promises. Amen.

Thursday 29 November 2007

Here's another short piece from Brian Blount on this notion of scripture being the "last word."

Making the biblical words the last word turns them into literary artifacts. Over time, any church working with such a word becomes fossilized into the past itself; it becomes an archaeological dig rather than a living faith community that celebrates seeing God say and do new things in new times.

For me the key to this piece comes at the end - the ability for a faithful people to see "God say and do new things in new times." The community remains faithful to the same promise from our God who keeps promises, but faithfulness is translated within each new context so that the promise still blows the day wide open with life that was not expected. Often I hear people quote a biblical passage as though it is a wand that must be waved to make things happen in the way they would like them to go. So we wave a "one-liner" in order to condemn things from ages ago without understanding what was being said then...and therefore not having any idea what we are condemning today. Even if the condemnation is the is it the same...and what is the sameness today. Many biblical images come to mind. Probably the least controversial would be the notion of Noah's ark. There are folk out there whose whole life is given to finding that though finding it...just as the book says...will make the word "true." But what life is this...lost in pages rather than found within life that continues to burst forth from the promise of that story of the ark. A dead word has a hard time expanding the boat to contain the present and lead us into the future. We are invited to walk into a promise not walk on something we can call a sure bet. If no ark is found, we are free to see those promises of God sail around us and blow us over rough seas and onto dry ground. A living word is the power to recreate when it would be so easy to stay put and die.

Connection: What is blowing in the wind today that is calling us to re-view and re-examine what we so often want to keep locked up and secure as though it will save us if we can simply manage that feat?

Lord of What Will Be and Has Been and Is Now, twirl us around again and again so that as we come to rest, we will see what is in front of us with eyes made new by your interpretive and hope-filled word. Remind us of the way your promises cannot be contained - ever. Amen.

Wednesday 28 November 2007

Today we are simply continuing in the same line of thought as the past two days...more on the last Brian Blount. far as biblical ethics are concerned, for the peasants Mesters was talking about, there is no last word on biblical authority. Why? Because the authoritative words are linked to the contexts in which they are uttered. And since we're always changing, and our contexts are always changing, the words that interpret the whisper of God's Spirit in our time must necessarily be changing as well. God, you remember Jesus saying, is a god of the living, not the dead. But a last word is necessarily a dead word. It stops listening. It stops learning. It stops living! It just wants to be repeated over and over without being informed by anything about anything that has happened between the time of its first utterance and its purported final utterance now.

This does not say that the biblical word cannot speak to us and that we cannot hear the new life or begin to dance in a place that has yet to be a part of the old, old story. Rather, the word speaks with a new fullness. It was full and alive once before our day...and it must be today...without having to keep the word as though it has spoken all it could speak back centuries ago. I do not think that Blount is advocating a "situational" ethics that allows us to do as we want and only hear the words we would like to hear to suit our situation as we would want it. That would be idolatrous. We are really being invited to listen with new ears so that the life within the word will be a word that stirs up our hearts and brings the life of the Reign of God right into our hearts and thus our lives. Too often, it is easy for a group of people to come to the last word and make that word something so etched in stone and therefore so rigid that the wind of the Spirit must blow extra hard just to help people bend and bow and move a bit off their beaten path. When we view the word as the last word, I do not see how we are able to let ourselves walk with the word and be taken to new place, new insights, new vitality, new creation...that never, ever ends.

Connection: Take a walk...wander a bit...let your story find a place to hear the words of the scripture and let those words engage your walk in a real dialogue that is ready to unfold anew.

Word of Life, Come! Enter into the hearts of your people and engage us so that our wondering and wandering may be brought to new depths of experience and understanding. As your word lives, we all begin to come to life. Amen.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Tuesday 27 November 2007

I find this quote to be a good follow-up to what Blount wrote in yesterday's devotion.

We're too often the not-yet-ready-for-prime-time pietists who equate faith with God to faith in the written words of human texts. Carlos Mesters makes the case provocatively when he talks about the poor Latin American peasants whose oppressed circumstances often motivate them to challenge the ethical exhortations of the biblical texts whenever those exhortations would perpetuate their oppression. So, Mesters writes, these "common people are putting the Bible in its proper place, the place where God intended it to be. They are putting it in second place. Life takes first place.

Therefore, God becomes flesh. That is not merely part of the storytelling. That is what God intends the word to be among us - alive. It become the life of the community. When that is the case, the text does not rule over us. We challenge it...just as we are challenged. Within that dialogue, words that are not life-giving will not be able to stand up within the conversation. That may be why words that are used to put people "in their place" are really words that are frightened to be a part of a dialogue. They are, in essence, afraid that they might be changed. A Good News word calls people out into the world to live boldly and not fear what might come when we bow and bend and lean and give up and give over and turn around and go forward and yet go backward. When the word brings life, we can never be sure where we will go prior to wrestling with the word as it is and how it is when we read it and share its fullness.

Connection: Life takes first place...and the word will be one help along the way to a life that is greater than what we anticipate. In the meantime, we struggle and share and keep living.

Living Word, when you challenge us with new life, it is so easy to run from that life by simply staying stuck within the words. We long for you to pull our lives from the page and set us leaping into a life that will shape this day. Amen.

Monday 26 November 2007

We are still walking through "The Last Word on Biblical Authority" by Brian Blount.

We're asking the question, How do we go about understanding which biblical words live today, and which don't?... People need some absolute, something hard and lasting, a last word on all things for all ethical situations for every ethical context imaginable. We are like Paul's babes in the faith; we need the suckling security of a milk bottle filled with authoritative assurances about what we should do and how we should live in any and every time for any and every circumstance. We don't want complexities because we're not spiritually grown up enough to handle them. We want it simple: simplified faith, simplified ethics in light of that faith. We want "do this" or "do that," "don't do this" or "don't do that." We're too often not ready for the meat of mature considerations about the words of texts that were often right for their own time twenty centuries ago but may well be wrong for our time.

It sounds like we must be able and willing to talk with texts. That is, not simply look to them for precise answers like those to a simple math test. Rather, we must be willing to hear the text and talk with it so that we can find out if the context of the written word can or does match up with the context in which we are reading the word and attempting to make sense of it for our day. I think we all have a tendency to listen to a text only as we want to hear it. In that exercise, I suppose we do not hear anything that will cause us to get up and wrestle with it. Instead we avoid any confrontation with the text by simply letting it speak as we want it to speak. There are many ways we can turn texts into "do this" and "do that" when the text really isn't that specific. What is really going on within our encounter with the text is that we will only hear what our filters let us hear - or are able to hear.

Connection: Maybe we can begin by keeping the opening question before us as we go through this day: "How do we go about understanding which biblical words live today, and which don't.? Already, we will begin to face the moment a bit differently.

Living Word, you change what is into what will be. From here to there, we will experience loss and we are overwhelmed by joy. We would ask that your Word would continue to pull us into life that we have yet to experience to the fullest. Amen.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Firday 23 November 2007

The week draws to an end with a bit more about the transformation of what we hear into what we have as written biblical texts.

That flesh (that is God's whisper) is the human word of the human disciples who have written our biblical texts. Like all flesh, it is limited, and often the ethical words they have written are also limited to their times and their places. This means that the words of those texts ought to be challenged when we find that they were influenced by their contexts in such a way that they are damaging, and not life affirming, in a contemporary circumstance.

These few sentences will not be received well by some. And yet, if this whispering God continues to whisper and we hear that Word in and through and with our context, it is quite obvious, that as the context changes, the Word will be heard differently. This does not mean that anything goes and we read as we want to read. Rather, we must be willing to listen and discuss and question and resolve to wrestle with what might be the written word in front of us and the Word as it is being whispered anew among us. Quite frankly, sometimes the word must be reviewed so that we can hear it again with new life that is still within the transforming power of God's living word of life. When the words of the past do not serve us by bring life, we really must question what is being said and how those words for another context need to be heard among us today.

Connection: Changing lives....changing voices....changing directions, all have the potential to frighten us. And yet, we can be the recipients of a great and powerful Word of God as the spirit moves us to bend and bow and continue to listen with a fresh mind and heart.

Come, Lord God, and tickle us with you Word so that we will not settle for anything less than a Word that affirms and lifts up life to it fullest among us. Amen.

Wednesday 21 November 2007

We continue to move into a look at biblical authority from the view point of Brian Blount.

God's voice, then, is like an inaudible whisper - sometimes gentle, sometimes fierce - that jangles the nerves of the human spirit until, tensed and alert, it attends to what it is that God wants to "say." That saying will be different according to the variable conditions in which the human spirits who encounter it find themselves. When that spiritual whisper grips the human spirits where they live, it becomes an incarnate Word taking up the cause of the people who encounter it in the situations of that encounter. It is in this way that God's eternal voice for all becomes a living Word exclusively for them. God's whisper takes on flesh.

The word of God becomes flesh. It always does. It cannot stay a word without life. And yet, that is what we do to the word. We make it just that...a word about life or a word about life as we want it to be. But when the word of God becomes flesh, it becomes a part of our character and our character serves to bring the Word alive. This seems to open up a variety of ways for the Word to be heard and to become alive. It is not bad for the Word to take on flesh that has various faces to it. In fact, we are invited to make such a Word vulnerable among us. To embrace such vulnerability simply means that as we hear one another stories that have been brought to life by God's Word, we will learn a bit about how this Word takes on different forms of flesh. It is here that we must deal with one another and find ways to honor the different ways this whisper of God pulls us into new life. This is not always an easy project. And yet, it carries the potential of being a situation of great insight and hope.

Connection: Listen for that whisper...listen for that life that starts up and begins to transform the day even when we are not ready for transformation.

By your love and grace, O God, we are stretched because your Word is life. When we listen, we hear best when what we hear becomes who we are as the day unfolds. Keep our ears open to your whispering presence. Amen.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Tuesday 20 November 2007

Today is a bit of a contrast between the spirit and the "human" in regard to hearing the voice of God's own Holy Spirit - continuing from our piece from yesterday (by Brian Blount).

The spirit is constant.

The "human" is not. Being human signals contingency, limitation, and context. Because they are human, our spirits always encounter God through the context in which god finds us and we find ourselves. This means that each one of us as individuals or in community always perceives God - and what it is that God wants from us - differently.

I'm sitting in a room with a variety of people around me. It would be interesting to see how each of them would interpret what Blount is writing here. I suppose some might say that because "being human signals contingency, limitation, and context," we need an outside word to make sure we are all hearing the word in the same way. The trouble with that notion is that we are place in the predicament of choosing which hearing we will all accept as an encounter with our God. Too often, some claim to hear and then proclaim that all must hear as they do. And yet, from outside of that closed hearing, there are often many who hear differently and the differences are often vitally important for the whole community to hear. It is not easy to listen to the different ways we hear and the different things we hear from this Spirit of God. And yet, within a community that hears differently, there is build a community that begins to grasp the wide open movement of the Spirit of God to change what is in place into something new.

Connection: To listen again to the voice of God as it is comes alive through others means we must honor the speaker. Without honoring the other, we lose some of the power of what they have heard. If we are each honored, who knows what we will be hearing together during this day.

We live within range of your Holy Voice, O God. Now we need the patience and the peace to listen even when it is not the voice we want or the voice we expect. Calm our hearts so we can be still and hear more than our own voices. Amen.

Monday 19 November 2007

Again, the voice of the Spirit that becomes the voice we are able to hear as a word for us and to us from our God. Brian Blount in "The Last Word on Biblical Authority."

The role of the spirit is a constant. Laced into the fabric of human beings is that part of us that reaches beyond the boundaries of our flesh and blood and touches the essential voice of God's own Holy Spirit. Did you ever hear someone say a room is wired for sound? We're wired for God, wired by God with a human spirit that despite its limitations can be touched by God's Holy Spirit. In every time, in every place, in every moment of history, the spirit plays this interlocutory role. It is how we "hear" God and through this hearing, when we are fortunate, hear each other. The spirit is a constant.

There are those among us who seem to be quite able to hear this voice of God's own Holy Spirit. It could be that we all hear it but only some hear it and in the hearing, they are changed or moved or transformed to the point of taking on the day in a new way. I love those moments when I can hear someone bring the voice of God's own Holy Spirit alive to me when I'm so consumed by the world around me that I'm not able to hear that voice myself. It may be that when this voice of God's own Holy Spirit is hear by someone, we have the benefit of seeing that this word is not merely becomes a living language so that what may sound vague and general becomes completely alive and stirring and real. The spirit moves within people's live so that we each are able to hear in one way or another. I often need to have that word be as real as the actions of someone near me. Otherwise, I miss the power and the blessing of God's Holy Spirit of life. When I can see that word and touch it or be touched by it, my hearing seems to improve.

Connection: What helps you hear that voice of God's own Holy Spirit? We all need a little help to hear that voice in a fresh way every day.

Spirit alive among us, come by here again so that we can hear of the way of life that will bring us hope and gladness and challenge. Do not let us shut down and refuse to listen. Surprise us with a voice that comes close to us and helps us hear your word of life...again. Amen.

Friday 16 November 2007

More about listening to the voice of God from Brian Blount.

...the human spirit is a kind of inner ear. It is the instrument upon which the reverberations of God's voice make their impact. It is the human spirit that translates what our eyes see, our fingers touch, our noses smell, our bodies experience, and our ears do not hear in the voice of God. That is why even though God does not talk in a way we are accustomed to hearing others talk, we are able to listen to God.

There is a hearing that is at the very heart of our lives. It is a hearing tuned to the vast and expansive grace of our God who is always bringing us home - all of us - forever and ever. I think this is that inner ear...that spirit. Unfortunately, there are so many ways we do not use this ear. Rather, there are other sounds that grab us before we can hear what is so vital to life within God's Reign. At the same time, this voice that grabs at our inner ear is never drowned out by the other voices around us. It continues to call out to us and woo us even when we are actively living according to other voices. This could be why we can find comfort in the middle of the worst days of our lives. For even as the powers of the day overwhelm us and make us deaf to any new word, this voice does not stop and this voice enters our souls beneath that which deafens us. The human spirit is aware of the voice of wholeness and peace and rest and justice and hope even when the voice is not audible...even when it appears to have been silenced. That is why in the middle of hopeless time, there are people who hear that voice and begin to offer it to others. Maybe that is what a prophet is - someone who hears it all and then...translates it into many other languages so that it touches those of us who have difficulty hearing. And yet, our spirit is available to the renewing and revolutionary words that God never stops offering to us.

Connection: Pay attention to that voice that may simple play with our hearts and lead us in a way we did not anticipate when the day started.

Spirit of the Living God, we continue to listen and yet we do not always hear you call to move and live and dance within your Reign. When we are caught up in the powers of the day, catch us up within your promises so that we can be refreshed by your Holy Wind. Amen.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Thursday 15 November 2007

More on contextual biblical authority from Brian Blount in "Struggling with Scripture."

...ethical biblical authority is contextual biblical authority. Now, what does that mean? Think of it this way: Loving God is in some ways like watching silent movies. There are kaleidoscopes of colorful emotion, juggernauts of reeling action, and narrative schemes of implied ethical direction. But there is not sound.

Yet, there is a voice. Every story, every power has its own voice, a way of viewing the world and being viewed by it that signals a message as much by how it "speaks" as by what it "says." Voice, though, does not necessarily require sound. It needs only an audience and a channel to reach it. The physical ear need not be involved.

Again, an interesting image for listening to the word offered to us in Scripture. When we each read the words...or hear them...we listen with our lives. The voice may be my own voice giving expression to what is presented as the Word. It speaks as I speak or as I hear. Even passages that seem to be quite straight forward can be words that are heard differently among us. So how do we deal with the voices we hear? It could be that we allow ourselves the opportunity to listen to what others hear. The voices may be quite different and therefore the beginning of some discussion that will enable us to faithfully hear God's Word among us. It is within that discussion around how differently we hear that we will be present among that lasting word that opens itself up to us in new ways even as this day breaks open before us.

Connection: What is the silent voice bringing into how you view your life of faith today and among others?

You are the voice that calls us into life, O God. Sometimes you sound so much like our own voices and at other times, we do not want to hear what you bring to us. Open us up to the many ways your voice will sound to us as we faithfully contemplate our life in your presence. Amen.

Wednesday 14 November 2007

Brian Blount continues to give voice to the way the Word can and does continue to engage us anew in discussion and debate...

This is because deep down we know that even the inspired biblical authors, when they applied God's prophetic and incarnate Word to their very human situations, allowed those situations to influence how they heard God and therefore how they talked to each other. ....slavery...women as inferior to men...the power of empire demanding allegiance.... are a testimony to the face that the biblical authors were themselves creatures of their contexts who, just as we do today, felt the inspiration of God and then translated the Word of God for their lives through those contexts.

Some folks would never let this sit. To give writers a say in how the Word is brought to the page and presented to, for some, just plain wrong...or denies God's hand in the writing of the biblical texts. Too often, we forget the real presence of our God within the lives of the faithful writers who attempted to make sense of who their were as God's people in a time that was as confusing and troubled and strange as our own. In reading some of the "pre-history" chapters at the beginning of Genesis, I am so often thanking our God for various faithful people (and groups of people) who took stories and made them fit into their time by honestly facing their life situations and trusting so much in their God that they made sure they were passing on stories to their children in their day by adding to the storyline a voice that would tie the present day with the faithfulness of the ancestors. This makes for a lasting word as it is shaped by the context in which faithful people were attempting to make sense of it all. Unfortunately, as we all know, the context of the day often left us with items (slavery and patriarchy) that has not served subsequent generations. Therefore, we must enter into dialogue with those times and those writers and be willing to bring to life this "lasting word" that does not rest.

Connection: Imagine how this "lasting word" comes to life today to inform us of whose we are and what that means as the day unfold.

Lord of Life, you challenge every generation to listen to your word of life and make it our own. Be with us in our wrestling and our debate and our conversations so that we will be a faithful generation who is waiting to hear your voice coming among us even now. Amen.

Tuesday 13 November 2007

Today we move to Brian Blount on "The Last Word on Biblical Authority."

Many people treat biblical words (like a person who has to have the "last word"), believing that those words, all of them, must always be the last words standing. Now in matters of faith - in matters of understanding our human relationship before God and God's move to nurture, develop, restructure, and refine that relationship through the prophetic and incarnate Word - most of Christendom, I think, agrees that those inspired words are lasting words. But in matters of the proper way to appropriate those words of faith ethically, there is and has always been considerable discussion and debate.

What a wonderful contrast - last word....lasting word. Just saying this is enough to make all of us stop and look again at the word that is being offered for our prayerful contemplation as we read the biblical words. It is my bias that as we attempt to use more and more words as the "last word" we are often left with less and less words to address the situations of the day. But this word we share is one that is lasting. It takes into consideration the day in which we live and it attempts to engage us in a dialogue with times past and times present and the way our God...lasts into all the ages and all of our lives. We probably all have those biblical words that we would consider the last word. I think that is fine. But, it is necessary to keep asking what is last about it...and how is it to be last...and why!?! And if it is considered the last word, can last words become more full for us...can they expand in time to say more or less as we continue to faithfully question and discuss and be shaped by those words?

Connection: Be ready to take another listen...another what is last and attempt to see it as first word addressed to this day by the God who calls us beloved.

Come, O Word of Life, and bend our ears so that we will listen again to how you call us anew in each day and offer us an adventure that we may have never expected. Amen.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Monday 12 November 2007

I find this to be an interesting distinction between the "son of Man" (or Human Being) and the Holy Spirit - from Walter Wink.

The Human Being pursues the will of God through trial and error and consequently is bound to make mistakes. Therefore the Human Being may be "spoken against," (Luke 12:10) even corrected or condemned.

The Holy Spirit, on the other hand, is the divine immanence urging us toward our full humanity. In this text, specifically, blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is consciously calling good evil. Sin is the opposite: calling evil good. Everyone does the latter, Say Elizabeth Howes, and this passage assures us that all such sins are forgiven. But to consciously recognize the good and to damn it as evil do devastates the moral sense that one may never recover. The architects of Nazism possessed a moral sense so atrophied that most of them later were unable to repent. Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit must be extremely rare. In blasphemy, one cuts off the possibility of forgiveness, because forgiveness flows from an interaction with the Source: blasphemy is calling the Source itself evil.

We will stumble in our actions and in our inactivity. We will also stumble as we point at one another and "speak evil" against them. And yet, we are nothing more than fallible beings who have as a way of our lives - stumbling...and falling...and missing the mark. To speak against others or have others speak against us is part of the process. It is part of what brings all of us into a new light so that we can see ourselves change and mature and come to new bits of growth. But when we take the step that begins to label the fullness of God's Reign - its Breath - its Spirit of Life, as less than it is, we claim to be above that creative and sustaining power. We make what has no evil into something that it is evil - or less than it is - or not at all true. I'm drawn to Wink's final words in this quote: blasphemy is calling the Source evil. Just in saying it out loud helps me hear the difference between what is sin and what is blasphemy...and then, I'm able to see how the Human Being (son of Man) is something quite different from the Spirit. The Spirit is the wholeness of life that draws us there into its embrace. Everything else along the way is blessed...but it is also life in the making with all of its flaws and shortcomings.

Connection: Forgiveness of others almost seems like a simple little daily exercise for all of us. We are free to exercise it because we are all on the journey and stumbling along together.

We pray, O God, that we will be shaped by your breath and sustained by your Spirit who is always lifting us up into the vision of your Reign. When we fall short, it is by your grace that we are able to get up and move again with your Spirit into an ever expanding fullness of your Reign. Amen.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Friday 9 November 2007

Using yesterday's material from Walter Wink's book "The Human Being," I'd like to continue.

"And everyone who speaks a word against the son of man will be forgiven; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven. (Lk. 12:10; Matt.12:31-32; Thomas 44)
Jesus' refusal to deny their charge (Jesus is having Beelzebul -working on his side) outright is astonishing. Does it mean that he is willing to acknowledge that he might have a malevolent element at work in him? If so, one might conclude that he saw the same sinister element at work in everyone...this vivid sense of the universality of sin could be the presupposition of his teaching about loving enemies. He is clear that, in the name of the Human Being, he can make wrong decisions. Decisions are fallible. Therefore one may speak against the Human Being, precisely because it is not identical with the Holy Spirit.

Vision is different from the actual. In some ways, to speak against the Human Being is so raise a voice against or in criticism of what is coming to life and may be coming to life in a way that is not the vision of what is to be. The Holy Spirit is the vision of what is to be. It is the very breath of God that whips up the beginning of all things and calls all things into being and moves all things to their fulfillment. We are not qualified to speak against that power. To do so would be a joke. To do so would be to attempt to turn the vision - which we are not able to see completely - into something we think might be the least for us. There is nothing spooky or scary about this Spirit. It is not like it will "get-cha." Rather, when we attempt to speak for this Spirit or raise our voice against the Spirit, it is as though we are playing the role in life that we have never been given nor shall we ever be given it. We are creatures of the Most High - saints...not God and God's Spirit. That Spirit is out of our realm and yet it is the only power that pulls us beyond our present place and enables us to change and dream and be transformed and forgiven so that we may see the brilliance of our Humanity when we are as one in peace.

Connection: Don't try to rule or control the power of our God. It is enough to learn to live with the power we have been granted for an expansive and blessed life together. Let's start there.

Holy Spirit and Wind of New Life, take us and lift us and send us along the way of your creative breath. In the meantime, help us to trust in you alone. Amen.