Monday, July 30, 2007

Tuesday 31 July 2007

Working on a sermon last week I found a wonderful piece on contemplation. Walter Burghardt makes some comments about how to realize the capacity to discover the Holy - for contemplation. Here is another one.

...develop a feeling for festivity. Festivity...resides in activity that is meaningful in itself - not tied to goals. It calls for renunciation: you must take usable time and withdraw it from utility - and this out of love, whose expression is joy. Festivity is a yes to the world, to the reality of things, to the existence of woman and man, to the world's Creator.

I think the idea of taking "usable time" and removing it from utility is quite a vision. It take time as simple time and gives it back to us as a gift. No longer is a bit of time monitored for the sake of production. It is a gift. It may meant that all of the time in our day can be available to a bit of celebration. That doesn't mean something is not getting done. It simply means the time at hand is open to so much more than the price tag people put on it or the market rate that is available for such time. It would do all of us well if -in the middle of all the stuff that fills this day and tugs at us- we were able to see the festive as it is quite real and present in the everydayishness by which we so often run. I often find that it is difficult to pause and take hold of this "yes" when I am on my way from here to there - trying to get something done. time taken to look again...and take another breath...and honor that which is all around us.

Connection: Well...join the festivities of the day!

For all the many ways life is a celebration of what is and what will be and what has been, O God we give you thanks. Amen.

Monday 30 July 2007

Working on a sermon last week I found a wonderful piece on contemplation. Walter Burghardt makes some comments about how to realize the capacity to discover the Holy - for contemplation.

First, some sort of desert experience. Not necessarily the physical desert that runs through the Bible, through salvation history, through the desert fathers. Rather that the process can best be initiated by the experience that even with the powers of life and death beyond your control where the values of life are presented in clear, stark terms. And experience that evokes your capacity for initiative, exploration, evaluation; interrupts your ordinary pattern of lie; intercepts routine piety. You know yourself, not a statistically polled image of yourself. You know God, not abstractions about God, not even a theology of God, but the much more mysterious and might God of theology.

How important it is to hear such an description of desert. Sometimes the biblical world seems so far away because of images of people going out into the desert or wilderness and there having some kind of experience that enables them to be pulled beyond themselves by this God who is always inviting us into new life. Well, the desert and the wilderness were not really that far away in many of those biblical days. Take a walk and there you are! Well, for the many of us who live in the middle of urban areas, we need to be reminded that this experience is a close by as the day through which we walk. It is the experience that pulls us and begins to help us look again at the world around us and the life that is right in front of us and the God who is always pouring forth a love that can renew all things. There may be great desert fathers that have written many things about spirituality and contemplation and prayer. And yet, the desert places around us are enough to help us see the presence of our God and increase our capacity to wonder and imagine and dream and go about living within the Reign of God as it is already unfolding...on the streets and neighborhoods and work places of our lives.

Connection: To notice the desert, we must open our eyes. The opportunity for taking a new look at our God and the life that God invites us to enter is already at hand - look around.

Lord of the Day, inspire us to stop and to listen and to look at what we so often run by during the day. In the middle of that exercise of daily life, you promise that you are with us and leading us and inviting us into the expansive life of your Reign. We praise you, O God. Amen.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Friday 27 July 2007

Walter Brueggemann notes that in the North American church, "worship that is spirit-led imagination is powerfully over and against dominant reality." He calls this other reality a "sub-version.

This delicate tension between dominant version and sub-version, I believe, is the true character of worship. The claim made in the sub-version, claims such as "Christ is risen," are a deeply felt, eagerly offered truth. And yet in its very utterance the community at worship knows that the facts on the ground, the data at hand, contradict this and give evidence that the odor of death, is still very much in play. It will not do for the church to become cynical and give in to the dominant vision. But also will not do for the church to become excessively romantic about its sub-version and so to imagine dominance. Rather, I believe that the worshiping community must live knowingly and elusively in this tension, not cynical , not romantic, but wise and innocent (Matthew 10:16) always engaged in negotiation between sub-claim and the world the way we find it.

When we worship, we reveal who we are. We are part of a story as real as life and death. We are a part of a Reign that is deeply a part of everyday life, and yet it may not look and sound like the way the world whips around us. Unlike the so called Christian Right or Dominionists or Theocrats, who long for the power of this world to be their power so that they can rule as they see fit according to their world view, we are a part of this sub-version of everyday life. We enter into the way of the cross as a life that is filled with hope and meaning not just for one side of the world or one side of the story - but for all. "Christ is Risen" is an announcement to remind us of how contrary we are to what is deemed right and good by any of the powers of this world. We will stand for and with all and yet we must do so with the understanding that when that take place...when we take such a stand...there may be no place for us in the halls of power. And yet, we continue to announce, "Christ is Risen" and we go along the way as though it is indeed the truth...the way...the life.

Connection: We are people who live with a sense of announcement. That is...a sense of knowing a truth that is outside the norm and yet very real. Today is another opportunity to walk within the daring adventure of resurrection. It is real. It is not always a welcome path. It is a gift that we are able to take to all the world no matter what power attempts to rule us.

When we walk in your blessed ways, O God, we are often walking with a gait of promise that is not recognized by the world. It can appear to be out of touch and our of step. And yet, when we walk within the realm of your Spirit, we prayerfully consider whose we are and how your love is the power that shapes us. No other powers rule. No other powers control us. Blessed are you, O Lord of Life. Amen

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Thursday 26 July 2007

On we go with this walk through some material dealing with Spirit-Led Imagination from "Mandate to Difference by Walter Brueggemann. Here I simply add to the quote from yesterday:

Having said that worship features our humanly constructed acts of imagination designed to advocate a perspective, we inescapably must ask if it is all "made up," for the term "imagination" is a tricky one. But of course in the community of faith, to "imagine" does not mean to "make up." It means, rather, to receive, entertain, and host images of reality that are outside the accepted given. If, however, we say "receive" images, then we may ask, "receive from whom?" Or "receive for whom?" The answer we give is that what the Psalmists and liturgists imagine and shape and offer is given by God's spirit, for it is the spirit who bears witness. It is the spirit that has given Israel freedom to recognize and acknowledge YHWH as savior from slavery. It is the spirit that gives us eyes to see and selves to notice the recurring and constant fidelity of God. It is the spirit that cries out with us that lets us cry out and receive God's rescue. It is the spirit that moves in the faith of the community and in the artistry of the poet to give voice to the odd truth of our common life.

This spirit will take us wherever the spirit will take us. Often we resist and want to settle for what we have and what we think we have been able to master. But the spirit - the breath - the wind, keeps blowing on us in an attempt to have us look down a different path or stumble over and view the world from a perspective we may have never let ourselves enter. The imagination of the community at worship is something empowered by more than the "plan" of how things will go...and yet, it very much tied into all the parts as they come together in and around a community coming to life in worship. I often find myself simply listening to the lesson or a hymn and watching our ASL interpreter move to the beat of the words and make the gestures that spell out the vision that is a part of the spoken word. This interpretation is something we planned to be a part of the liturgy, but it is also a moment that disarms me. I may be going in one direction with my thoughts and wanderings...but then watching the word made flesh in that interpretation simply knocks me over and helps me breath a sign of hopefulness and thanksgiving. This spirit gives us all a new way to see what is so ordinary and routine and simply a part of what we have seen as the pattern of things as they are.

Connection: The expectation among us is that the spirit will whip through our lives. That means today! But how...when?!? Well, let's take a look and see.

Spirit of the Living Lord, mix us up and fix our eyes on the Reign of God that is unfolding all around us. Shake us and turn us as we stumble through what we expect the day to be so that we are awakened by how your gracious Reign brings new expectations and a grand imagination to your people. Amen.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Wednesday 25 July 2007

On we go with this walk through some material dealing with Spirit-Led Imagination from "Mandate to Difference by Walter Brueggemann.

Having said that worship features our humanly constructed acts of imagination designed to advocate a perspective, we inescapably must ask if it is all "made up," for the term "imagination" is a tricky one. But of course in the community of faith, to "imagine" does not mean to "make up." It means, rather, to receive, entertain, and host images of reality that are outside the accepted given. If, however, we say "receive" images, then we may ask, "receive from whome?" Or "receive for whom?" The answer we give is that what the Psalmists and liturgists imagine and shape and offer is given by God's spirit, for it is the spirit who bears witness.

Walter Brueggemann is able to give expression to that which I am so unable to express. I treasure this imagination that is able to shake me and cause me to look again at what has always been just the way it has been. This imagination - spirit led - is the beginning of the way that takes people out of Egypt and then out of Babylon and then throught the empty tomb to life again and more full then ever. I really do think that our worship is the place for that to happen. I also trust that it is as we give ourselves away to the singing of the hymns and and the read word and the prayers and the sermon, we are given many images from which we are able to construct, or at least view - that which can be...and, quite possibly, must be. When we enter into the monthly liturgy that features the Rite of Healing during the distribution of Holy Communion, the room is whipped up in a sense of peace and patience and love that gives room to a reality that is not out in the everyday world in which we live. We are all invited to reside there. It may be in private prayer. It may be in song. It may be as one who asks for prayer or one who prays for others. It also may be in that spontaneous moment when we sit back down and then are moved to go to a prayer station and let someone take us under her/his hands and pray. Imagine all the week that follows. Nothing is made up. It is as real as letting go and holding on and not being afraid to do either and to do both at the same time. The expecation of a community of imagination is that something new will take place - and we cannot control it.

Connection: Receiving isn't always an easy thing to do. Often we have no control over what is being handed to us. Well, it may be good for us to imagine that God brings into our lives so much that all we can do is receive and let the control we often want to loosened.

Lord of a New Reign and New Life, we need this Spirit of Life to take hold of us and guide us to life we do not yet see and have among us. Help us to imagine what it within your grasp and what you long to share with us as we follow you. Amen.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Tuesday 24 July 2007

This week we will walk through some material dealing with Spirit-Led Imagination from "Mandate to Difference by Walter Brueggemann.

After working through several biblical texts that show this grand sense of poetic imagination he writes:

I have deliberately used the term "imagination" because I want to insist that such stylized narrative account is indeed a human construction. The poets put the words together in this particular way. The poets utilized this pattern of worship in order to reiterate and reenact this advocacy. It happens over and over; every time a pastor and a choir director get together to pick hymns, the work is one of constructive imagination designed to lead the congregation in turn to imagine the world in a certain way. Much worship is informed by tradition and conventional practice, but those who construct such worship must each time commit an act of imagination in order to determine what is to be accented and to adapt the advocacy to the specificity of context.

I sent this piece out to our worship committee. For us to begin to look at worship as an act of imagination takes us out of the arena of merely dealing with nuts and bolts within worship. Now, we are actually invited to do something with those nuts and bolts that will take the whole community at worship into a whole new way of approaching our everyday world. For example, I am always amazed at the little things that are thrown into the music of the church. I've been to places in which the small accents to hymns - the additional sounds and voices with the music - the simplicity of continuous chant during the distribution of Holy Communion, have all taken me beyond myself and added a open doorway into a vision of what the "whole" church is all about in the world. At Redeemer we have been trying to pull the whole year together under the banner of a unifying theme. I have found that it can be limiting. I have also found that having a vision that gives just a bit of direction for the year forces me to let myself go beyond a week to week "got to get it done." In some ways, the planning pulls me out to become more inventive and take a few more chances with what might go this week...or that week.

Connection: Each day is lived under the grand banner of God's love for us...all of us. So, under such a banner, imagine what kind of day this can be for us all.

Lord God, you promise to take us beyond ourselves and introduce us to the grand vision of your eternal Reign. When we worship encourage us to let go and become lost in the many ways your Word invites us to envision the newness of your life. Amen.

Monday 23 July 2007

This week we will walk through some material dealing with Spirit-Led Imagination from "Mandate to Difference by Walter Brueggemann.

Worship is an act of poetic imagination that aims to reconstrue the world. It is an act of imagination , by which I mean it presents lived reality in images, figures, and metaphors that defy our conventional structures of plausibility and that host alternative scenarios of reality that cut beyond our conventional perceptual field. This act of imagination that offers an alternative world is, perforce, a poetic act; that is, it is given us in playful trances and hints that come at us sideways and that do not conform to any of our usual categories of understanding and explanation. The practice of such poetic imagination that invites us playfully to alternative reality is deeply rooted in old texts, old memories, and old practices; it nonetheless requires contemporary, disciplined, informed imagination to sustain alternative vision.

So, in worship we take things apart and re-view them. This is not necessarily in a logical and analytical manner. Rather, it is with the stories of and adventures of the faithful of the past brought into the present through lesson, hymns, songs, silence, the meal, and all the other movements and world and actions that make worship - worship. Here it is called a "poetic act." I so agree with this statement because it leaves open the possibility for life being found or encountered or tripping us up even when we come to the liturgy carrying all the baggage of the day. In worship we are invited to let go and look beyond what is right in front of us and let our lives journey outside of what has become our routine or pattern. Worship - within its order and predictable nature - is a surprise ready to happen. Like an image that turns up as we move from one line of hymn to another, our hearts and minds are invited to expand and be renewed. This all comes into our worship from voices of the past but within settings that can be quite a part of today's life. In our new Evangelical Lutheran Worship hymnal, I like the fact that the musical styles of the liturgies bring us such a variety. Of course, the variety can be greater than what is presented...but it helps ordinary folk see the discipline and pattern of worship in ways that make us re-view them. When that can happen in worship - when the old and new can blend to pull us into a new perspective of life within the Reign of God - we are all blessed.

Connection: Some days we all simply need to let go and take what is to it comes. Let the day surprise us. Let it tickle us with what is not yet a part of who we plan to be.

Come, Lord of Grand Hopes and Grand Imagination, come and lift up our eyes and our hearts so that we will risk walking in new ways and letting our heart roam through this day as your Spirit it nudges us and pulls us and offers us alternative ways to see and live within this day. Amen.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Friday 20 July 2007

Today we jump into a new chapter of Walter Brueggemann's "Mandate to Difference." The focus will be on imagination...but that involves life and worship and more.

The practice of faithful worship is more odd than we often take it to be, familiar as it is to us. In recent time much of that oddness has been relinquished in the church, in a seductive attempt to be current, popular, alternative, or entertaining. It is, I submit, a major task of the church to receive, acknowledge, and respond to the oddness of our odd holy partner.

This oddness does not seem to mean that we are to keep things in worship "old and familiar" and therefore never being contexual and relevant. Rather, the whole story telling that goes on in worship is a part of an odd adventure. We are called into a odd life as it stands alongside and within the life of the world that has it own gods and longs for life from those gods. Worship can take place in the midst of popular sounding music - but we must not lose what the music brings to us and how that music is a part of the essential shaping of an odd people. I find that it can be those practices within worship that are quite odd and old and out of the patterns of our day, that make me remember and focus and appreciate the contrary nature of the full vision of the Reign of God. More and more, there seems to be a great need in the church for our worship to be more like our world. At times, that need to blend in overrules our call to venture within the odd realm of God's contrary Reign that has never "fit in." In some ways, when I think back to the worship of God in the wilderness and then in the temple, there was something different happening there. Some of those very well-defined ways of worship were meant to bring a vision to the people who were being invited and then nutured to live out their days as something quite different from the prevailing cultures. In worship, the beginning of something contrary to the world is brought into focus and we need to keep elements of that oddness in view.

Connection: I don't think we need to "put up" with worship. By that, I mean we need to be involved in worship that is vitally alive. How does that happen? By though it is really the source of something new...something that will offer us a contrary way to move into the world. It is always worth the adventure.

Lord, as you lead us into and through the days of our lives, we long for you to deliver us into the realm of your glorious life that is the power that transforms all things. In the middle of ordinary people at worship, take our hearts and minds and make something new of us. Amen.

Thursday 19 July 2007

This week we will consider four aspects of the practice of hope...hope from the God of life, hope toward the neighbor - as Walter Brueggemann says it. Today is the fouth and final part.

The singers generated songs. The songs become text. And the text was to be read and reread, heard and reheard, interpreted and reinterpreted. It is a community of equilibrium that can confine texts to one meaning. By contrast a community of hope has texts that always "mean" afresh; hopers engaged inescapably in the juggling act of interpretation that defiantly moves between acquiescence to present arrangements and risk that open through many layers of imagination and polyvalence. Such layered interpretation refuses closure, for the closure of the text would only bespeak the closure of the empire and, before that, the closure of the brickyards.

Within the community of hope we sing old songs in new days. In doing that, we bring up the stories of our God who has done great things among God's people. But today, those song are sung and from the singing of those songs, new things come to life. We do not simple reenact - like Christmas and Good Friday "reenactments" - we reinterpret the song for the living of these days. I remember singing a wonderful protest song in the late 70s and early 80s as part of protests against nuclear arms. "We shall not, we shall not be moved. We shall not, we shall not be moved. Just like a tree planted by the river, we shall not be moved." The images reach back into scripture and back to a specific community. But the song was now moving a new community into a place of resistance in this new day. I then used it in a sermon one day and an old union worker told me that they would sing that at strike sites. The song seems to be something that helps us keep in mind the vision of more that what is. It has the power to rally and resist and redefine how we will enter the day.

Connection: When we sing we risk everything because as we sing, our hearts are not left in one place. We are lifted up to imagine how the God of our past becomes the songs of our emerging present and future. So...let yourself sing a bit today.

Loving Lord, you present us with so many ways to remember how you abide with us and move us into your new life as times come and go. By your Spirit, enliven our singing and our vision and keep us ever hopeful as we continue to imagine your life expanding among us. Amen.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Wednesday 18 July 2007

This week we will consider four aspects of the practice of hope...hope from the God of life, hope toward the neighbor - as Walter Brueggemann says it. Today is part three.

The God of Hope did indeed accompany the hopers. The signs of that accompaniment were fire and cloud and name and glory and ark. If however, we think of praxis, we may imagine that the presence was in singing, singing that eventually became text, and thus the God of textual presence. Singing as praxis is the way hopers regularly defy Pharaonic power, even when frightened and anxious.

When we look back at resistance movements, there have always been songs. Even some simple one line chants. Most often, people sing songs filled with vision and promise. These are the ways the greatest powers of the day can be faced again and again with a sense of renewal and life that is not under the control of the powers of oppression and control. In fact, in song, we can gather alongside others who anticipate the coming of God's Reign even when there is no evidence that it is or will be at hand anytime soon. When we sing and pass along the images of hope, we do not do that in order to block out the reality all around us. Rather we sing to help us walk within a new reality even as the existing situations dominates. In the singing and in the corporate expression of hopefulness, the joys and the tears of the ancestors of the faith are joined with ours and there is that experience of hope that cannot be boxed is simply present and we become much more alive for whatever it is we are to face. Celebration must take place when we are being push down by the many powers in our lives that attempt to keep us despairing and hopeless. Celebration through singing begins to show all who sing that the foundations of the powers really do shake under the vibrant life of faithful song.

Connection: Take note of how singing - even listening to singing within a group - seems to allow for something more than the words to whip around us. There is life in those melodies and words and images!

O Lord of the Dance, it is with a song in our hearts that we are able to face this day. We sing with all the saints for it is a simple gift that becomes our weapon of nonviolent resistance and the salve to heal our wounds. We give you thanks for such an ordinary and powerful gift. Amen.

Tuesday 17 July 2007

This week we will consider four aspects of the practice of hope...hope from the God of life, hope toward the neighbor - as Walter Brueggemann says it. Today is part two.

The divine disclosure sets in motion a community on the way. Indeed, the purpose of the divine self-disclosure is to be on the way to a new place and to a new history. The word that counters Pharaonic decree is a generative, emancipatory word that moves the community along from slavery to well-being, and eventually from exile back to the land. To be sure, there is each time a rear-guard action of despair; the "National SecurityState" of Pharaoh and then of Nebuchadnezzar has a deep grip upon Israel's imagination. Thus in Exodus 16, just after the departure from Egypt, some want to return to oppressive security. And in Babylon, some shrank from departure from the Babylonian empire... Such timid collusion, of course, will not prevail in the community of hope, for the God of Hope comes to occupy the life of the hopers.

The God who "will cause to be what will be" keeps moving even when we may not have the courage to press on. Too often, I want to have things in place. I want to have markers down and some point of reference available to me to show that things will be alright. Unfortunately, "alright" means "as it was once before." No matter how much I try to convince myself that I know what is best and I know the way I am to go, this God of hope will not let my limited vision rule me. For each of us that means we must listen again to Scripture and to others who are moving along the way. We must keep in mind who is the Lord of Life even as we attempt to pursue our own limited goals that often keep us bound up and paying homage to the cheap and hope-less gods that have ruled over us time and time again. One of the beautiful things about the God who pulled Israel out into the wilderness is that as the people were being overwhelmed by despair, this God gave them the guide of the covenant. Sure God is going to take them to a place and time they have not yet experienced. But...along the way, there would be this guide that will help to keep them (and all of us) within the realm of hope that is always pushing the edges. Out in the wilderness at Sinai and then again when the exiles returned from Babylon, they were able to put there hand onto something from which they would push off into the future of God's Reign. Those laws were not meant to be the future...they guided the people into the unbounded hope of God's unfolding nature.

Connection: It may be so comforting to stay put or pull back in any of the areas of our lives. If that is where you find yourself today, look around to see who God is sending into your life to help you take a fresh look at what is to be and a fresh step in your way.

God of Hope, when you abide with us you do not let us retreat into the life that robs of life simply because we are unssure of what is to take place next. When you call us and walk with us and promise to abide with us, we are continually being invited into your expansive and creative Reign. Amen.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Monday 16 July 2007

This week we will consider four aspects of the practice of hope...hope from the God of life, hope toward the neighbor - as Walter Brueggemann says it.

...the classic text on hope is in the enigmatic formulation of Exodus 3:14, that is translated something like, "I will be who I will be," or "I will cause to be that which will be." The enigmatic quality of the statement in YHWH's mouth is to be reckoned as crucial, for the God of hope is profoundly elusive. This is an elusiveness that resists precise, idolatrous formulation. The God who speaks to Moses is the God of the ancestors who long ago made promises...

What counts the most, of course, is that the name of the promise maker who speaks here is disclosed amidst Pharaonic slavery. The disclosure is a counter to Pharaonic presence that was as oppressive as it was palpable in the slave community. The declaration of YHWH's presence has an emancipatory intention, providing a better future for a community that is on the move.

When we are in the days of our lives when all seems lost and there appears to be an oppressive end crashing in on us, we remember the name of our God and how that name is more than what we can see and hear and know. For hope to blossom, there must be that power - that reality - that promise that can and will take us beyond this day and begin to create things anew. Within this name calling, we are pulled into what is not yet and we are not left behind ever again. The God of this name...this reality...this power...and this intention for our well-being becomes our hope. Brueggemann shares a bit of what Martin Buber once wrote. This promise is given unconditional validity in the first part of the statement: "I shall be present", not merely, as previously and subsequently, "with you, with your mouth", but absolutely, "I shall be present." No longer are we left to hang out and dry up. For all who call upon this name, there is a future. We cannot wrap our minds around it all and contain it - as some religious and political people try to do. We can only trust that it is the whole story - a story that will unfold as God unfolds it among us. To trust like that is to be empowered by the one who promises because too often, the promise is so beyond us, we cannot imagine how to walk within its domain.

Connection: It would do us well to practice a simply exercise - say the name in the middle of all that is going on round about us..."I will cause to be that which will be." We have a whole book filled with stories of people like us who did just that...called out that name...and started to live again.

Come, O Future, O Hope, O Promise. Come and give us the courage to call out to you and make this day into something out of our control but filled with intention and purpose. Come, O God, and continue to pull us into your blessed Reign. Amen.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Friday 13 July 2007

Here is a closing thought to this week - again from "Mandate to Difference" by Walter Brueggemann.

...the faithful are called before the authorities to give an alternative account of reality, an alternative consisting in imaginative leaps beyond the given, imaginative leaps that at best are gifts of God's own spirit.

This is where we come off being a bit odd. We are called, and thus able, to "leap beyond the given" and be within that marvelous story of God people being led by God's own spirit. That Spirit is one that continues to invite us and encourage us to enter into this vision for life that upholds the life of all God's people. That becomes a part of a dramatic leap when we begin to consider how slow the church is willing to be in regard to taking a leap. We would sooner stay put. We would sooner stay back even if it means we leave people out of the gathering of saints. That action sounds to me like resisting the expansive nature of the Spirit. Leaping means we have a direction in mind. The direction or the landing place is along that road that is a part of the journey within God's ever-unfolding Reign. When we leap, we are - for a while - out of control. We throw ourselves out beyond what is into what is not yet - but what bids us to come. I like to think of the running broad jump. The jumper is looking out over that sand...always looking to go out beyond where the jumper has already been. The leap is with the whole body (have you ever tried it). The leap means to go to a new place. Sometimes it works...sometimes it falls short...sometimes it is an effort that earns a penalty. But in all those attempts to leap, there is that air-walking, body stretching leap that almost looks as though it is trying to defy gravity. Ah...defy gravity. Maybe that is what the faithful are called to as though nothing can hold us as though no rule can rule us by God's saving Reign.

Connection: Try it - leap...let deliberate about imagining what is before us.

By your promises, O God, we do leap out from the places of our lives and we do take the risk to fly off into a place we have not yet experienced. And yet, we are only setting a pattern for our living. Once you have encouraged us to leap into your way, we are then encouraged to leap again and find out what else is a part of your glorious Reign. We give you thanks for your call to leap and live again - anew. Amen.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Thursday 12 July 2007

Today we tie up the focus of the devotions from the past five days. Walter Brueggemann opens up our eyes to what is being created in our culture as we know it today.

The primary commitments of our culture to security, ideology, technology, certitude, and commodity constitute a system of hopelessness. But is was ever thus, from Pharaoh to Nebuchadnezzar to Caesar and on until now. Dominant culture - even with its myth of progress - is characteristically a culture of despair. It becomes so, because it regards itself as ultimate and can countenance no suggestion of its own penultimacy. It becomes so, because it banishes the power of the holy and in an imitation of the holy cannot recognize it owns profanation. It becomes so, because it lives by control and can entertain no openness for gift. And so despair yields a culture of death...and violence...and brutality that is mostly unnoticed by the shoppers, attended only by an occasional poet who is either misunderstood or dismissed as a celebrity.

I may repeat this tomorrow and tag on the next few lines from the book. For today, this is enough. We have often come back to the notion of control and the need for people (you - me - the dominant culture) to seek to have some kind of control over our own lives and the lives of others. But as we should all see from the reading of Scripture, that journey of control has resulted in the gift of God's Reign being bypassed or overlooked or even rejected. When our culture attempts to sell itself as the ultimate right or the ultimate power, we become fools. At this point in our self-absorbing lives, we lose sight of the many gifts that are available to us. We begin to push people away...push ideas away...push creativity away...push adventure away...and, in all that pushing, we push ourselves into a box of contentment that is really an illusion of security. Brueggeman's comment about the poet being misunderstood or dismissed as a celebrity is brilliant. There are so many times when we can hear people talk about "common sense" and "prudent action." At those points it can become so easy to leave the images of poets in the closet and reject their visions and dreams. It is at those times that we really must open up and seriously consider their words and images so we do not settle for life that is under control and we like it.

Connection: Listen to a attention to a dreamer. Today.

Lord of Great Imagination and Hope, it is by your love that we are pulled beyond our own ways and begin to take on the journey of life that is the way of our Lord, Jesus. Inspire us to leap into your ever present life that becomes the way of transformation and all hopefulness. Amen.

Wednesday 11 July 2007

Today we will continue to look at components for the practice of hope. Walter Brueggeman shares his consideration about the particular shape of despair in dominant Western society. To this despair, we must respond in transformative ways.

"The surface antidote to such undeniable anxiety is that we do our best to remain smitten by commodities, for commodities not only keep the economy growing in ways that fund the technology, but soothe the human spirit into "happiness." The consequence, of course, is that as the security system leaves us insecure, so the happiness system leaves us unhappy.

Much like people who turn to drugs and alchohol and sex as ways to deal with the anxiety of our age, here we see how this is all clumped together under the category of commodities. It is as though we find benefit from being consumers who are just sure that the next thing we buy will make our lives just a bit more 'happy.' It may work. Unfortunately, it works only for a moment. It works like band-aid - it covers the hurt. Over the long haul, though, we spin into the same old abyss and become unable to sustain this 'happiness.' Maybe it is not that we cannot sustain the 'happiness' but rather that we cannot make the anxiety go away or be held back. Anxiety keeps pressing in on us. There is no magic to make it stop. We can face it. That is a beginning. We can simply help one another face the way we pursue happiness to simply push away our anxiety. We can help one another deal with life when we are unhappy and anxious - both quite normal life situations in which we all find ourselves at times. The church is to be a people who stand alongside one another during anxious times so that we come to understand the true experience of being happy - joy-filled and at peace. Otherwise, it is so easy to fall for this temptation of being smitten by commodities.

Connection: We do have options today when we are facing anxious times. Sometimes it is as close as sharing these times with others who are willing to be there with us. I still say this is what it is to be followers of Jesus - to be with one another through all times.

Come, Loving Lord, and enrich our days with the presence of you saints who are your agents of joy and celebration within a world that is so often an experience of anxiety, fear, and trembling. In the midst of your Spirit of new life, we will be upheld through all things. Amen.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Tuesday 10 July 2007

Today we will continue to look at components for the practice of hope. Walter Brueggeman shares his consideration about the particular shape of despair in dominant Western society. To this despair, we must respond in transformative ways.

The convergence of ideology and technology produces a shameless kind of certitude that closes off the future and shrivels the human spirit. It is clear, nonetheless, that such shameless certitude is only a veneer that conceals depths of anxiety that feed back into a quest for greater certitude... Thus, the system of security makes us even more insecure.

Shame-less, what a great way to speak of such an aura of certitude. Nothing can and will get in the way of this sense of certitude that attempts to make everyone agree or fall in line with the line of thinking and believing that comes when ideology and technology join forces to turn the world into their vision for life. Unfortunately, this shame-less endeavor is a sham. This sham piles up victims in its attempt to create its own world. The victims are judged to be a part of what it takes to make way for a self-proclaimed righteousness that fits a certain mold. When there is a push to stuff everyone into this path of self-proclaimed righteousness, there is no room to grow...there is no space for the Spirit to move us beyond ourselves...there is no word of life that can oppose the rigid word of certitude. Brueggemann says it well when he notes that it closes off the future. Fear and anxiety want nothing to do with an unfolding future that brings life beyond our expectations and continues to make things new. Instead such systems of security are systems that are so anxious about what could happen, they rope off possible roads to new life so that life-as-it-must-be can be forced upon everyone. What is most amazing about this kind of certitude is how fear-filled it is. Anything and everything outside this shameless kind of certitude is condemned or denounced or turned into a demon or scape goat. Insecurity does reign in such despairing times.

Connection: Some of the great movements of non-violent resistance have insisted on moving a people to a place in which they are shamed into action to change life as it is. In India under the guidance of Gandhi and in the U.S. under the guidance of King and others in the civil rights era, there was a way of holding up the truth so that those powers that were in control would eventually see how they had fallen away from their own roots and become something of a demon. Truth-telling is so important for all of us.

Lord God, we need to be encouraged to ask questions and seek the truth and resist the many ways that we are being driven to follow the crowd into a sense of certitude that is quite demonic and unable to witness to the truth. Be our courage and our truth. Amen.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Monday 9 July 2007

Today we will continue to look at components for the practice of hope. Walter Brueggeman shares his consideration about the particular shape of despair in dominant Western society. To this despair, we must respond in transformative ways.

One tool for...self-securing that is legitimated by a closed ideology in the name of the holy is uncriticized technology that would seem to deliver a capacity for limitless power and control. The practical cost of such technology in terms of human infrastructure is characteristically unrecognized and kept invisible, so that huge investments in technologies of control are made to seem both normal and moral, as well as inescapable.

"We're doing the right thing...We are working with evil powers that must be overcome...We must give up some freedoms so that those who are evil will not prevail over us." Well, this kind of fear mongering, especially when there is a "good verse evil" or "our faith verses another faith," is the gateway to utter control. This is well used method of totalitarianism. This becomes all the more pervasive due to the many ways the media and technology is used among us. It is so easy to spread fear and to shape stories that fit one side over and against another. I must say that this is again the way both the political and religious right and left are working in our day. One casts itself as righteous by using the voices available through the many avenues of technology that we are both blessed and cursed to have these days. We must be very alert to the "uncriticized" technology that is so often seen as "truth." Someone said to me that a close relative has been quite naive in her compassion for others until this relative started using the internet for information. Well the resources of the internet, if used without a critical eye, can lead us to a hell of a vision for life and make it sound like heaven. In the midst of a community of hope, we must develop and ear and an

eye for truthfulness. That again must come from those age old tools call dialogue and critical thinking and truth-seeking.

Connection: Don't buy it all - even this devotion. Questioning for the purpose of coming to understand something from another point of view is vital to our life together.

You have gifted us with many ways to find how your will is to be manifest among us, O God. Now we need the wisdom to use those gifts appropriately and use them to bring your people closer to one another. Encourage us to use the wisdom you have given to all of us. Amen.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Friday, 6 July, 2007

We have looked at components for the practice of hope so now we will let Walter Brueggeman share his consideration about the particular shape of despair in dominant Western society. This is the despair that our hope-filled communities must respond transformative ways.

#2 The silencing of dissent in the interest of security requires a closed ideology that depends upon a cooperative, accommodating religion for legitimacy. The closed ideology that is offered in the name of the holy through policies of exploitative violence is incapable of self-criticisim, incapable of moral reflection, and incapable of entertaining any alternative to present power arrangements. The only project that remains is to ensure that present power arrangements are sustained and made even more absolute, and thus in the name of the holy.

Today I was about to let this piece simply stand. It smells too much like what we are facing in the good old U.S. of A. as it is presently being courted by too many religious establishments. I was going to say simply the religious right is involved in such blessing of the status quo, but I do think that the left is trying to do the same - to some degree. What is most frightening about the work of the Christian Right and the Christian Nationalist and the Dominionists is that they are convinced they are the blessed ones of God and they aim to do this gods business - no matter what. If you want to hear words of fear and threat and anxiety at its highest, listen to the ones who use their preaching to turn people into simple-minded and non-dialogical citizens and people of faith. This is such a dangerous movement in our day. seems to be working for them. That is not a surprise at all. Totalitarianism is often best supported by a good religious foundation - of some sort.

Connection: Listen...listen...listen.

Lord of all Hopefulness, it is by your will alone that we are invited to be a part of your gracious Reign and what we have grasped by your love is that the invitation is open to all and in that wide open rule, comes the birth of a new day and a break from the powers that attempt to win the day and secure it for themselves. Amen.

Thursday 5 July 2007

We have looked at components for the practice of hope so now we will let Walter Brueggeman share his consideration about the particular shape of despair in dominant Western society. This is the despair that our hope-filled communities must respond transformative ways.

#1 The maintenance of a "national security state" creates an environment that is inimical to dissent and that be lives that all questions can be solved by power and control. Such an environment leads to a sense of self-sufficiency that relies on the capacity to control the global economy, and consequently a readiness to engage in violence and an equal readiness to collude in the violence of others, all in the self-justifying name of security.

When we are unable to dissent and questions are ignored and the "powers that be" are able to go ahead with their patterns of maintaining control, people despair. Most often, I would suggest, we don't know that we are living in despair. One way of gaging that is to take note in how often we see resistance move us to a new place and how often we see ourselves not participating in movements of resistance...because it will do no good or it will rock the boat. Just look at what we have come to be since we entered into the fear-filled and anxious state of life following the attacks of 9/11. There has been such a movement to control and use force that we are literally out on a limb. We talk of security, but in that talk comes the great insecurity that comes with our actions of domination, control, and violence. When security rules, we fall into a state of ruin and that state can never make for a new world in which all people begin to have some breathing space to think about living cooperatively with each other.

Connection: Try to take note of how many times in this day you feel secure or insecure. Maybe also take note of what it is that brings about those feelings. To maintain a security state, there needs to be the constant food of fear and anxiety and threat. Where are you tasting such food in your day?

Lord and Master of Life, though we attempt, in many ways, to secure ourselves and make sure that we will "make it" through all things. You alone are the Power of Life that brings the new day and promises to carry us home into that day with you. Amen.

Wednesday 4 July 2007

Walter Brueggeman notes four necessary components for the practice of hope shared by Jews and Christians. Today we look at #4.

...hope requires a community of interpretation that is emancipated, emancipatory, generative, and daring in its interpretation.... These communities (Jewish and Christian) at the same time, however, have found ways to resist the generative force of interpretation, whether by fundamentalist reductionism or by critical explanation, for both reductionism and explanation inescapably curb the dangerous subversive force of a text that witnesses to hidden holy mystery.

So...both sides of these two faiths can be forces of resistance to new and strange ways of hearing the text and finding in them life that carries us beyond ourselves and into that holy space of God's Reign. We must be able to keep listening to voices of interpretation within our community. It is within the dialogue of these voices that we begin to hear how daring the life of faith is for all of us who call ourselves God's Children - beloved. In some ways, I think we are all a bit frightened by the notion of a holy mystery in life. It is as though we think it will be a slippery slope down which we will slip and tumble into a place and life that is quite unlike the life we presently try to hold. Well, there is some truth to that possible movement and pull into a new life. And yet, isn't that what we are presented in Scripture. Time and time again, the community of God's people slip into this holy mystery of God's Reign and it has little to do with what the people did. It is all about the God who takes hold of us and pulls us into God's mysterious Reign of grace.

Connection: Don't limit what you read in the texts that come from our faith traditions. Rather, re-view them and question and dream and imagine. In that process and with a willingness to share those notions in a safe community of inquiry and learning and prayer, we might become something new even as we step off into this day.

Enlighten us, O God, so that as we come together as your people, we will be bold in how we share the way your Word transforms us and allows us to question even when there are no answers to the questions we ask. Grand us peace in your living Word. Amen.

Tuesday 3 July 2007

Walter Brueggeman notes four necessary components for the practice of hope shared by Jews and Christians. Today we look at #3.

Hope requires a text that mediates between holy generativity and communal obedience. Jews and Christians share such a text that is grounded in oracular assurances and that provides an account of narrative possibility that continues to be available amid the vagaries of lived reality. This mediating text is...always "strange and new." Over time, there are many strategies to try to make manageable what is strange and make commonplace what is new; such strategies, however, cannot in the long run succeed, because of the character of the text itself and because of the Character who occupies the text. That is why, on the one hand, the interpretive protagonists agree in a rough way that the text is revelatory, offering glimpses of that which remains hidden from us.

From the text, we are given something beyond our control. It is the vehicle that makes the "strange and new" available to us so that we are not afraid to encounter and enter either one. I enjoy Brueggemann's insight in regard to what is so often attempted by those who read these "strange and new" texts. He writes: there are many strategies to try and make manageable what is strange and make commonplace what is new. What is not realized by so many is that these texts - right when we think we have "managed" to "get it" and then made them "commonplace" is that they then blow wide open our lives with new strangeness and newness. It is so easy to turn these texts into weapons of oppression and I would even say death. But that does not work and it never will. The text is able to keep churning us up. If not right now and right here, then soon and very soon and yes, even right here among us. When our lives are collapsing into the legalism of the day that often brings with it nothing more than despair, a rereading of the texts we have can open doors to that which we have not considered and to a place we were not planning on entering.

Connection: Sometimes, this day needs another vision. It may come out of texts we know so well and thing we have under our belts. And yet, those kind of texts are the exact ones that will surprise us and offer us another opportunity to hope and live in joy.

From within your Word, O God, the saints of old remind us of how your Reign really does provide your people with new space to live and new eyes to see our mundane lives. When we are left alone with nothing else but the texts of the faithful community, help us to read them with new eyes so that we can see your ever unfolding new life. Amen.

Monday 2 July 2007

Walter Brueggeman notes four necessary components for the practice of hope shared by Jews and Christians. Today we look at #2.

Hope requires a community of faith and action that is open to newness that will be given as a gift. Hope is indeed a communal activity, for none can fully hope alone. The intention of Holy Agency is to form communities of obedient action that rely upon and respond to divine intention. The formation and maintenance of such a community is always problematic because the many narratives of despair are, on the face of it, more impressive and more reassuring than the narratives of hope.

When we hope, we are taken into a new life. And yet, we are also surrounded by the reality of the day that is filled with these "narratives of despair." In order to move along through this despair and begin to walk in the way of hope always means for me the presence of others. It is good to hear Brueggemann say that hope requires a community of faith and action. To be alone is to spin around within a context of despair that can very easily pull us into that despair in one shape or another. To hope alongside others who hope enables us to act within that gift of hope that sees beyond what is and is not afraid to move into that which is hoped for. At the same time, I think it is important to note that what is hoped for...changes. As it changes, there is all the more need for the community of hope to be present. It is there in the conversations of these people that we are given the courage to act and the humility to act in ways that may not be my own. Hope burst into this gathering of faithful people. Sometimes it is not within the shape we have imagined. All the more reason to have others with us. Those others, become for us the encouragement to move from despair into a new reality not yet visible completely.

Connection: We would do ourselves well to stay connected and not go off and attempt to be all that there is. Dialogue with other people of hope can be the power to change the day.

Come, O Hope, come and take us by the hand and introduce us to those who would hope for new life with us. By the power of your Spirit of life, lift us up from our own self-serving vision of what is and carry us into your vision of a day that is yet to be revealed fully for all. Amen.