Saturday, September 29, 2007

Monday 1 October 2007

This week I'm taking material from a section of "Christ is Present in Faith" that falls under this subdivision: In faith "everything of the world and the law comes to an end, and the divine begins. This is by Tuomo Mannermaa.

...Luther's notion of the law is marked by the idea that the law belongs only in the "world." Thus, it applies to the "old Adam," or the "flesh." But, in contrast, it must not reign in "heaven," that is, in the Christian's conscience, in which not the law but Christ - the righteousness granted by God - is to sit on the thrown. He is the "law of the law," that is, freedom, and the "death of death," that is, eternal life and blessedness.

The law is good stuff. It is good stuff when we think about the rules of society and how they word to keep is good stuff. The law deals with keep us "in line" or even "on target" within the realmm of everyday life. But in our relationship with our God - the relationship that has the power to create a new being and does create the new being, the law has not power. I find the reminder that Christ (the saving - forgiving - reconciling one) sitting on the throne in the Christian's conscience as being quite powerful. We are already in the realm of "heaven." That is in the bag. That is the beginning and ending of the story. Before God, we are the beloved. Certainly that does not mean we do not abide by the law of the land - we all need to have that "old adam" brought into line so as to maintain the order and life of the community. But remember that we are citizens of a Reign that shapes and lifts us our character so that we are not playing games with our lives in an attempt to do good in order to be loved by God. When we are already citizens of that Reign, we are set free to live as though that is the only word among us.

Connection: Knowing what "knotheads" we can be to and with one another, we need to also know who is ruling our hearts and lives even as we stumble and fall. Such love for us is the power to stand up and face the rest of the day.

By your grace, O God, you set up the domain of your love and we are drawn into your presence. You become the power that shapes us and frees us in the middle of all that takes shape around us. Amen.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Friday 28 September 2007

Here's more Luther writing about being "justified by the Law." He really presses the point.

Luther uses many different and strong expressions when describing the "Sisyphus character" of the "righteousness of the law." For example:

" Trying to be justified by the Law is like counting money out of an empty purse, eating and drinking from an empty dish and cup, looking for strength and riches where there is nothing but weakness and poverty, laying a burden upon someone who is already oppressed to the point of collapse, trying to spend a hundred gold pieces and not having a pittance, taking clothing away from a naked man, imposing even greater weakness and poverty upon someone who is sick and needy, etc."

And yet, we try again and again. The word of life that announces to us that we are justified before God and we are free to begin again - just as we are...with nothing to do but be who we are (already) in the eyes of God. To live within such confidence and assurance and promise is a grand gift that is ours for the living! It seems to me that as we come to trust that word of life, we will begin to trust that we do not need to spin our lives trying to justify our existence to one another. Rather, we can be who we are. That doesn't mean "to hell with everyone else...I'll do what I want to do." I think it is more as though we are free to be a part of the whole. We need others and others need us. We are part of a community of hope and therefore, each of us helps to shape the life of grace and freedom by living such a life. We each stand within the whole as one who is to play his/her part in the life of the Reign of God.

Connection: Remember whose you is the beginning of a renewal that we have not yet experienced to its fullest.

Lord God, dress us up with your love. Remind us that it is within your blessed Reign that we are called to live and begin this day. Encourage us to walk within the freedom and blessedness that is already ours for the living. Amen.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Thursday 27 September 2007

In dealing with the topic of the law, here is an interesting quote by Martin Luther and the source of several of the comments from yesterday.

Anyone who wanted to grow rhetorical here could develop these words further: actively, passively, and neutrally. Actively: the Law is a weak and beggarly element because it makes (people) weaker and more beggarly. Passively: because it does not have of itself the power and ability to grant or confer righteousness. And neutrally: of itself it is weakness and poverty, which afflict and trouble the weak and the poor more and more all the time. Trying to be justified through the Law, therefore, is as though someone who is already weak and sick were to ask for some even greater trouble that would kill him completely but meanwhile were to say that he intends to cure his disease by this very means; or as though someone suffering from epilepsy were to catch the plague in addition; or as though a leper were to come to another leper, or a beggar to another beggar, with the aim of giving him assistance and making him rich. As the proverb says, one of these is milking a billy goat and the other is holding the sieve.

Luther does have a way of getting to the point and then pressing it...again...and again. The Law becomes double-trouble as we turn to it as a way to make us better and better. Rather, it brings more heart-ache and more of a disability into our lives. The Law cannot do what it promises. It falls short and when we fall for its promises, we fall down - again. I must admit, I chuckled when Luther notes how strange it is to seek to be justified through the law - "someone who is already weak and sick were to ask for some even greater trouble that would kill him completely but meanwhile were to say that he intends to cure his disease by this very means." And yet, it is such a temptation to cling to more law and more order in order to become the new being in Christ. It is as though we would sooner trust the imposition of law rather than venture into the land of radical mercy and hope and love that we are told is already in, with, and under all we are. We take part in the beginning of a new righteousness by trusting who we are "in Christ" already...not in what we hope we will be able to become by living by the Law - whether it is called a new law or an old one.

Connection: When you find yourself being the kind of person who insists on the way of Law to transform your life...I would suggest we all learn to giggle and smirk and simply call on our God to keep reminding us of whose we are already. It may make the day a bit more real and human and honest and compassionate.

You, O God, hand us a gift for new life and we are free to wander around throughout its entire reality so that we find moments of utter joy that surpass anything the world can offer us. Within that joy...the joy of the angels in really does begin to look and feel different - like hope in the midst of the power of despair. Amen.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Wednesday 26 September 2007

Let's hike up this notion the the law belongs to the "world" - Tuomo Mannermaa on Luther.

"Hypocrites," that is, those who want to become righteous through works, trouble themselves day and night, but "unskillfully," because "the law is not a source of either advice or refuge." Efforts to achieve salvation and find peace of conscience with help of the law - that is, through works demanded by the law - are works of "Sisyphus"... A hypocrite is "milking a billy goat" and "holding a sieve."

Isn't is something that so much of the face of the church is a face that is built, or a least attempts to build itself, on what it is able to do. We reject gays and lesbians because they "do not live and act like me." Odd. Some say they will not stay with a congregation or within a denomination if "those people" are given full life within the church. We literally say, "they must perform in a certain manner in order to be one of us." What an odd thought among us! More and more I think that we are a fear-filled community and when fear lead us and pulls us, we are not being pulled into the Reign of God. Rather, we are being pulled into the way of the world...the way of the law...that way that moves counter to the movement of the Lord of Life...who gives life away for the well-being of all...not some...not the good....not the righteous - for the Lord of Life is Lord of all...the Lord of the good the bad - the just and unjust...Lord of the unrighteous who are righteous only by way of the Lord who make us just like the Lord. What are we continuing to be? Yes, it is a club of well-wishers. Yes, it is a club of right-ones. Yes, it is a club of people who long to pat one another on the back and say "we are not like those people." And yet, the Lord of Life looks at the whole bunch of us...all of us...without exception...and the Lord of Life claims us and nothing separates us from that place within the Reign of God.

Connection: Whew! Don't limit the community. Keep it open and see what gift we will be handed by those we thought did not fit in with us.

Come, Spirit of the Living Lord, and release among us the power of your gracious Reign so that as we face the world, we will face it all with arms open - like yours...with lives made whole by the presence of the rest of your body that comes to us as our neighbor...strangers...outsiders...and the forgotten. Come, shape us into your living Reign. Amen.

Tuesday 25 September 2007

More from "the law belongs to the world."

The law cannot create this kind of "strong and powerful" life, nor does it make a human being a new creation. Only faith, that is, Christ alone, can give birth to a new human being.

There are always longs lists of things to do. We have all been raised up in the Church with such lists. Luther reminds us that it is all foolishness - even idolatry. Nothing brings us closer to God just as nothing can separate us from the love of God. It is God who acts and brings about this "birth to a new human being." I know I use the image of being pulled into the Reign of God quite a bit. I use it because I know a bit of me...and that bit that I know is not going to go along with the love of God that is the power to transform life and bring me into a life that I cannot even imagine at this time. I count on the Christ to take hold of me...mold me...and that is not anything I can plan to do on my own. For when I do the planning, it becomes so "me" focused, I'm simply trying to work my way into a life that is already handed to me - for free.

Connection: Don't ignore the pulling that is taking place today. It is real. It does become us. It will be a gift to us and then, also, to those around us.

Come, Lord of Life, take hold of us and when you pull, encourage us to follow and be shaped by your welcome. Amen.

Monday 24 September 2007

This week we will reflect on the "law." It begins with a section Tuomo Mannermaa labels The law belongs to the 'world.'

The first point Luther makes about law is his absolute denial of the law's capability to serve as a way to salvation. This means that works of love must not be required of human beings with the intention that they should achieve righteousness through such works. To regard love as the basis for one's salvation would be the primary source of corruption of faith. Contrary to this, God's wants, out of pure and sheer love, to grant God's forgiving righteousness - that is, Godself - to human beings and to be their "life and blessedness."

It is probably odd to hear that "works of love must not be required of human beings"...but keep reading for the next part of the sentence is vital... "with the intention that they should achieve righteousness through such work. To love...can become and often is...nothing more than something to do. This often with the intention of showing just how much we are followers of Jesus. And yet, it is not our love...but the Christ who takes us up into the fullness of Christ's beings that bring us within the domain of the righteousness of the Reign of God. No act - not even love - is a way into the Reign of God. We are brought in...we are pulled in...we are gifted and that is on the basis of God's action not anything - anything - that we do. Are we to love? We love as response to the gift we are given. It is a part of our being...not something we do to fit in.

Connection: We are set free to be the beloved of God who are claimed and shaped by God's action for us. Love is the life we are handed. How will that come to life for each of us today?

Love of our Life, you take hold of us and you make us into the loving community that is shaped into the Christ alive today. As you continue to transform our living into the life of your Reign, remind us of the great freedom we are handed and the great gift we become to the world. Amen.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Friday 21 September 2007

Though it is Friday, we will move into a new area of Tuomo Mannermaa's writing - faith formed by Christ.

...Luther holds that participation in the divine life in Christ takes place in faith. In order to analyze the Reformer's concept of faith, it is helpful to examine his criticism of scholastic interpretations of faith, which were familiar to him.
According to scholastic notion which Luther criticizes particularly sharply, faith means that something which is beyond the reach of rational knowledge is regarded as truth; thus, in this view, faith belongs to the domain of the intellect but is logically uncertain.
The relationships with God can be realized, however, with the help of the human being's basic tendency - namely, the will, or the e-motio, that is, love.

Let's just say that nothing...nothing brings us into relationship but the God who in Christ, comes to us and fully enters our lives. We do not love enough and in that love enter into a relationship with God. That would be as though we were saying that our faith is complete in our loving. Without that, there is always something needed. God does 90% and we add 10%. NOT. Manneraa stresses the point that for Luther, takes this notion of faith formed by love and replaces it with what he comes to call faith formed by Christ. It is that complete gift handed to us. Christ is the power in, with, and under our coming to faith. We believe in the one who creates a whole new reality that is not run by that which we can do on our own. This faith is a life that has its basis not in my thought or my love but in the mind and love and being of the Christ who is now present with me in faith.

Connection: Always first is the one who gives the gift...we live from that gift...we begin the day from that gift...this day of our lives is formed by the gift of Christ with us and for us. When things begin like that, we are free to be that gift.

Before the world becomes what we see, you, O God, already have been spinning things into a shape and a form that is your being alive in the world. It makes us alive and courageous and ready to face all things - for you have your hand in all that comes into being. Turn our heads to your active love for us and all creation. Amen.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Thursday 20 September 2007

Again, here are some thoughts on faith and what happens within that domain - by Tuomo Mannerma.

Faith communicates the divine attributes to the human being because Christ himself, who is a divine person, is present in faith. Therefore, the believer is given all the "good" (bona) of God in faith. It is easy to see that in Luther's theology the concept of justifying faith and the idea of the indwelling of Christ in faith cannot be separated...

It is precisely the Christ present in justifying faith who communicates God's saving attributes to the believer in the "happy exchange." God is righteous, and in faith the human being participates in righteousness; God is joy, and in faith the human being participates in joy. God is life, and in faith the human being participates in life; God is power, and in faith the human being participates in power, and so forth.

Maybe it is just the week that is at hand for me...but I find the use of these "being" verbs - that both give us a picture of God and, in that, a picture of each of us - to be a word of encouragement. I am wrapped up in what is so foundational to all of life. It is simply that way. Just as God is so am I. I may not "feel" that - but I am told it is the truth. Thank God this is not all left up to feelings or the evidence of the day. My emotions can swing like an uncontrollable pendulum that attempts to make me think that truth is known through how I feel. And yet, I know that is nuts. On the other hand, my mind often wants me to trust nothing but what I am able to touch and see. Today it hits me that seeing and feeling is not believing. The proclamation of what God is we are to trust. The word given already...from the beginning of all time and right on through the end. It does not is not swayed by influences of my life. It is what we each are invited to be.

Connection: Some days can be quite heavy and out of control and down right frightening. If today begins to be like that for you, remember the still, small voice of our God who is available for us and with us and in us.

Lord of All Time, you carry us around through this day by announcing your eternal presence. From there, we begin to move and see and hear all things in a new way. As we spin about in the stew of life, continue to be in the mix of all things and be our foundation for life. Amen.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Wednesday 19 September 2007

Today we make a little movement to what Mannerma notes as "faith and the communication of attributes" in Luther's work.

The notion that Christians are partakers of the "divine nature" means that they are "filled with all the fullness of God." God's righteousness makes Christians righteous; God's "life lives in them"; God's love makes them love, and so forth. Luther calls this event by various names, one of which is "happy exchange." As regards the content of this event, however, the most accurate expression might be the "communication of attributes."

Luther notes it like this:

And so we are filled with "all the fullness of God." This phrase, which follows a Hebrew manner of speaking, means that we are filled in all the ways in which He fills [a person]. We are filled with God, and He pours into us all His gifts and grace and fills us with His Spirit, who make us courageous.

There's more...but I was caught up with this last line...."fills us with His Spirit, who makes us courageous." It takes courage to be able to see ourselves as ones who partake in this gift and take on these attributes of the divine gift giver. Most likely, I know I fall back from this kind of talk. I do that because I know that I am not like that. But that is not to be our focus...we are to focus on the one who gives the gift and whose attributes become our attributes. There is, remember, no getting to that point. It has arrived and it is. The gift we could give to one another is to keep tickling each other with this blessed truth so that we are always being made aware of its reality among us. "Filled with all the fullness of God"....that is a big notion...a bit truth. Then again, our God is not one who has ever been known for pulling back on God's love for God's people. If this is what we to be given, it will be free and it will be extravagant and it will be without qualification. This kind of talk about this reality is what is meant to make us courageous in all things.

Connection: Be courageous today....shall we!!

By your Spirit, O God, you take us when we are so weak and you are able to make a bold people. We do not anticipate it...but you make us bold so that we can face this day as your beloved and thus the world is made aware of your love - up close and real. Praise be to you. Amen.

Tuesday 18 September 2007

Again, another Luther quote as Tuomo Mannerma attempts to unfold for us this notion of gift and favor and participation in Christ.

...Luther expresses his thoughts....with particular clarity:

This is one of those apposite, beautiful, and (as St. Peter says in 2 Peter 1) precious and very great promises given to us, poor miserable sinners: that we are to become participants in the divine nature and be exalted so highly in nobility that we are not only to become loved by God through Christ, and have His favor and grace as the highest and most precious shrine, but also to have Him the Lord Himself, dwelling in us in His fullness. Namely (he wants to say), His love is not to be limited to the removal of His wrath from upon us, and to having the fatherly heart which is merciful to us, but we are also to enjoy this love (otherwise it would be wasted and lost love, as it is said: "to love and not to enjoy..."), and gain great benefit and riches from it.

There is a significant "but: in this piece by Luther. He notes what we are to become as this gift is given to us. We are "not only...loved by God through Christ, and have His favor and grace...." ...but also to have Him the Lord Himself, dwelling in us in His Fullness. Quite a picture of each of us, isn't it. Remember, this is not something we are able to achieve...a status we earn. This is the reality of life that is given as a gift. This is Us. The fullness of Christ is us - each of us. Please do not think it is in others and not you. This is a thorough indwelling. Our God in Christ, is not known for doing limited things. This is complete - thorough - expansive - without end. We are already there in the midst of all its glory. This is what creates the new life. Not our thinking about what we must do next. Rather, what the Christ in us invites us to be next. I find this almost too wild to comprehend. Maybe that is because this gift is just plain wild...uncontainable...and yet present and fully available for our living today.

Connection: These high images of Christ's indwelling can be a bit overwhelming. That's just it. It is overwhelming and it will overwhelm. That is part of the promise. We become who we are today - each different and unique and blessed people - as we are set free by the Christ who opens the door for us.

As you dwell among us, O God, there is no place we can go to leave your presence. When you are present, the power of your love and grace begins again and again to restore us to life that the world so often tries to take from us in many shapes and forms. We thank you for your persistent love. Amen.

Monday 17 September 2007

This week begins on the same note we ended last week - with Tuomo Mannerma's look at Christ as Gift.

Luther develops his idea of Christ as a gift...

Therefore a Christian, properly defined, is free of all laws and is subject to nothing, internally or externally. But I purposely said, "to the extent that he is a Christian" (not "to the extent that he is a man or a woman"); that is, to the extent that he has his conscience trained, adorned, and enriched by this faith, this great and inestimable treasure, or, as Paul calls it, "this inexpressible gift" (2 Corinthians9:15), which cannot be exalted and praised enough, since it makes [people] sons [and daughters] and heirs of God. Thus a Christian is greater than the entire world. For in [one's] heart [one] has this seemingly small gift; yet the smallness of this gift and treasure, which [one] holds in faith, is greater than heaven and earth, because Christ, who is this gift, is greater.

This gift shapes us. Nothing else can define us in all the world. No matter how much pressure there might be...the Christ brings us into the fullness of our lives. We are no longer in need of becoming someone because of what we have been doing or who we know or the power that is given to us by the powers and movements of this world. We are the heirs of God's Reign. All else is considered nothing at all. When we are handed this freedom in Christ, it is within the blessed reality that the Christ is eternally for us and that makes us be able to resist all things in any time. Part of the reason for this is that we live within a community that is responsible for reminding us of this gift - this freedom. Therefore, each time we are reminded, we are liberated and we begin again to live within this "inexpressible gift." Life is then wide open and we are invited to be this gift that we have received...because we are in union with the gift. I think that means we become the gift that is now available to other in, with, and under our daily lives. This is a discipline of hope.

Connection: Why not live the day on the edge of giftedness? Take a look at who we are and then take a look at how we become more fully who we are today as we accept the gift of Christ who provides us with the ground upon which we can take on the day.

Come, Lord of all Hopefulness, and be with us as this day is transformed by your gracious gift to all your people. We give you thanks for how we each are invited into such a gifted life simply because you choose to abide with us and be in union with us through all things. Amen.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Firday 14 September 2007

Tuomo Mannerma keeps pressing us to consider this interesting image from Luther - being in union with Christ and what means for us.

The idea that Christ is both God's favor and God's gift permeates the entire theology of Luther. "Favor" signifies God's forgiveness and the removal of God's wrath. In other words, "favor" is the attitude toward the human being in the "subject" of God. Christ as a "gift," in turn, denotes the real self-giving of God to the human being. The presence of Christ in faith is real, and he is present in it with all his essential attributes, such as righteousness, blessing, life, power, peace, and so forth. Thus, the notion of Christ as a "gift" means that the believing subject becomes a participant in the "divine nature."

Today as I was driving past a church building the sign out front had this message: We love like Jesus Loves. My first thought was, "Yeh, sure." My second thought was, "Well, if Christ is really present with us in faith, I would expect this is right on target." Then I thought about how all of our congregations attempt to say we follow Jesus...just like the first disciples...but we usually turn around and go in another direction - especially when it looks like Jesus is headed for the cross. At the same time, Luther would have us understand that this "gift" is something we do not rule. We do not and cannot change it. The "gift" is a part of the whole adventure of faith. We participate in the "divine nature." Rather than hold everyone up to a litmus test, we are invited to trust this reality in our own lives. That becomes the way the gift is now present for others. We are the presence with and in and alongside the world in which we live. We don't work ourselves into that place/presence. This is who we are - so let the living begin again.

Connection: It can be so easy to judge others and ourselves when we do not meet up to some goals or ideals. And yet, we begin to be a part of this gift of God when we let this gift be who we are. Imagine how it changes the

Lord of forgiveness and presence and life, we are so aware of how we fall down. We are even more aware of how other fall down. But now, you come again to remind us of how we remain within the realm of your very being and how, in the midst of our falling, you abide in union with us. That becomes a reality that has a future of great possibility and hope. Amen.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Thursday 13 September 2007

Today we continue with the idea of faith as participation in Christ.

Because to Luther faith denotes a real union with the person of Christ, his understanding of faith is directly anchored in Christology. Christ and faith belong together "essentially."

...Hence, because faith means a real union with Christ, and because in Christ the Logos is of the same essence of God the Father, therefore the believer's participation in the essence of God is also real. This is what Luther means when he speaks of Christ as a "gift." Christ is not only the favor of God, that is forgiveness, but also, in a real manner, a "gift."

This Sunday the gospel will be two parables: the lost sheep and the lost coin. The focus of both is on the one who does the searching...the one who longs to find the lost. The lost are found. They do nothing. This is what our God does. Our God does all that can be done to bring us into God's embrace. What a gift! For now...even when we are the lost ones we always seem to be, we are in a real union with Christ. We are the found and we are a part of the real presence of the one who finds us. We do not do anything to be found. We are found. We are forgiven. We are brought into union with the Christ and in that, with God. Now, we are invited to live within this gift. It means nothing else needs to be added. It means we begin the day in the favor of our God and we have this great gift that is the ground and the way for life. There is no need to look back. We need only this gift and life is new. Yes, it is easy to keep thinking about what needs to be done...but all things have been done...we can live as though that is the truth for

Connection: I am easily swayed by many things within the day. It is so often because I lose focus...I suffer from amnesia. In other words, I suffer from un-faith. Today is always the beginning of the time of faithfulness for the gift is present.

You, O God, love us beyond our imagination. We need your Spirit to open our eyes to how real you are present with us and for us and ready to bring our life to its fullest. 'Come, Spirit, Come and take us up into your power of life. Amen.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Wednesday 12 September 2007

Again from "Christ Present in Faith" by Tuomo Mannerma.

Following up on yesterday's devotion - a quote from Luther:

Now that Christ reigns, there is in fact no more sin, death, or curse - this we confess everyday in the Apostles' Creed when we say: "I believe in the holy church." This is plainly nothing else than if we were to say: "I believe that there is no sin and no death in the church. For believers in Christ are not sinners and are not sentenced to death but are altogether holy and righteous, lords over sin and death who live eternally." But it is faith alone that discerns this, because we say: "I believe in the holy church." If you consult your reason and your eyes, you will judge differently. For in devout people you will see many things that offend you; you will see them fall now and again, see them sin, or be weak in faith, or be troubled by a bad temper, envy or other evil emotions. "Therefore the church is not holy." I deny the conclusion that you draw. If I look at my own person or at that of my neighbor, the church will never be holy. But if I look at Christ, who is the Propitiator and Cleanser of the Church, then it is completely holy; for He bore the sins of the entire world.

It really does matter what eyes we use to see the world and life around us. The church can really look like a holy mess if all we see is its brokenness. That is why I am so often overwhelmed by those people who are abused by the church and yet they remain faithful and are always finding the Christ present among us even in times of trial. What blessed eyes! When I read this piece from Luther, I thought of the recent material that has come out through some of Mother Theresa's writings. If I believed in the whole Roman Catholic process of "making saints"...I would vote for immediate elevation to sainthood. Here is a real woman...real in her troubled heart...real in her doubt...real in her anguish...real in her life in the flesh...real in her trusting what cannot be seen and yet is so present - the living Lord. This is one reason I love the way we refer to one another as saints. We all need to consider, in a truly prayerful manner, that label. When we see saints...yes, even the battered and fallen, the bloated and exhausted...we begin to know the real presence of our Lord with us...we begin to see, with new eyes, the holy church - alive and all around us.

Connection: Consider the way our Lord invites us to look again at all things with eyes that have been open to the vast expanse of God's Reign alive among us.

You, O God, encourage us to to view one another with an eye that sees you present in all things. We so easily are drawn into warfare and hatred when you bid us to look again and find the Christ who is our peace - our wholeness - our life. We give you thanks for such vision for this day. Amen.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Tueday 11 September 2007

I hope this stuff by Tuomo Mannerma make sense...rather...I hope my reflections on his stuff makes sense. As for now, we will continue with his writing on Luther.

The core of Luther's concept of (real) participation (in Christ) finds expression in the notion of "happy exchange," according to which Christ takes upon himself the sinful person of a human being and bestows his own righteous person upon him or her. What takes place here between Christ and the believer is a kind of communication of attributes: Christ, the divine righteousness, truth, peace, joy, love, power, and life, gives himself to the Christian. At the same time, Christ "absorbs" the believer's sin, death, and curse into himself. As Christians thus really participate in Christ, they have no sin or death.

This is not identity theft. Rather, it is more like identity enhancement. We do not lose our individual character. I am still the person I am in God's eyes. I am free to be me - a child of God. I do not have to carry around the baggage of my brokenness. I am out of the control of the sin that can so easily dominate life and crush it. Therefore, this day is as fresh of a day as was the day the water of baptism was poured over my head. Unfortunately, I can rarely hold onto that reality in Christ, Jesus. It is so easy to think that I must make something of myself or perform up to some standards that have I have taken on as a way to "make it" in the world. As that happens, I lose sight of that gift of Christ's presence and God's indwelling in my life. It is very important to remember that this Christ never leaves even as I walk out on this reality of being in union with Christ. Christ always abides. Christ is the hope of the day that unfolds around me. When that is the case, I am empowered to face any accuser and face all things that have been a part of my downfall. I need not let them control me because I have a reality I am to consider and trust to be my own. I find that this is particularly important for people in the the church who are often oppressed by the church. We have a way of pointing fingers at some and pointing out what we see as sin in them. Unfortunately for all of us, when this takes place we do not acknowledge the central core of others - the Christ. When that happens, there will be no dialogue...there will be no trusting of others...there will only be division...when in Christ, there is no division.

Connection: Look in the mirror. It will be the same old you...but remember it is also the same old you that is matter Christ. That's a building block of hope.

By your presence, O God, we can be lifted up to face all that this day will bring. We need only lift up our faces to see your face in ours and in our neighbor. Give us all the vision to see you more clearly. Amen.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Monday 10 September 2007

Let's start the week with a continuation of comments by Tuomo Mannerma as he writes about faith as participation in the person of Christ.

It is a central idea of Luther's theology that in faith human beings really participate in the person of Christ, and in the divine life and victory that comes with him. Or to say it the other way round: Christ gives his person to us through faith. "Faith" means participation in Christ, in whom there is not sin, death, or curse...

In Luther's view, faith is a victory precisely because it unites the believer with the person of Christ, who, in himself, is the victory.

Let the life begin! Already the victory is here and already we are a part of the life that comes within the realm of that, let the life begin. This is not a life merely measured by what we do. It is a life that is in the shape of the the one we call Lord because it is our Lord's life that comes alive in the midst of us - as us. I'm using a bit of "being" language here because the doing that comes to life within the church is merely a reflection of the being. If we, by faith, participate in the life of our Lord, it is present. In some ways, we not only are taught that Christ is really present in the Meal, we also teach that Christ is really present participating in our life. This becomes the life changing reality of the followers of Jesus. We are not left behind or left alone. We are living a life that is free from the power of death and sin because Christ has already conquered death and sin and we therefore are alive within a new world and within an identity that is the image of Christ - who participates in this life with us.

Connection: Who knows what this life will be for us? We simply can be assured that the Christ of God rules among us and that shaped everything in this day. We are invited to be a part of how the Christ takes shape since we participate in Christ through faith.

Beyond what makes sense to the workings of the world around us, You, O God, walk with us into a life that is in the shape of your beloved, Jesus. Continue to inspire us and nurture in us a faith that let's go of our need to control and is able to abide in the life of our Lord as we step into this day united with him. Amen.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Friday 7 September 2007

The week will end with the idea that Christ is the "greatest person" and the "only sinner." Tuomo Mannerma sees this as another foundational piece to understanding justification.

...Christ is a kind of "collective person," or, as the Reformer formulates it himself, the "greatest person," in whom the persons of all human beings are really united. Christ is every sinner.

Luther writes:

This is the most joyous of all doctrines and the one that contains the most comfort. It teaches that we have the indescribable and inestimable mercy and love of God. When the merciful Father saw that we were being oppressed through the Law, that we were being held under a curse, and that we could not be liberated from it by anythings. He sent His Son into the world, heaped all the sins of all (people) upon Him, and said to Him: "Be Peter the denier; Paul the persecutor, blasphemer, and assaulter; David the adulterer; the sinner who at the apple in paradise; the thief on the cross." In short, be the person of all men, the one who has committed the sins of all men.

No one is out of the reach of this God who loves all people through Christ. To make that certain, the Son becomes us - every sinner. What this comes to mean in regard to Christ is that there "is no sin at all anywhere else but in his person." Of course there is a list of people noted above that are all associated with some great sin that we hear in the pages of Scripture, but their sins are no longer their burden. Our God is a God of liberation and God liberate thoroughly. A part of the thoroughness of that liberation is that it is for all in all time. Christ becomes this "collective person" and therefore through his life, death and resurrection, we are all free from the sin that can be our master and control us and leave us branded forever. Instead, Christ conquers every bit of sin that controls us...reaching back and, I suppose, reaching forward...nothing is left and we are now set within a new life.

Connection: What would we be today if we were free from this power of sin that seems to be able to bully us into never trusting how God is eternally for us? I wonder how it would manifest itself in us just in regard to how we view and live with others.

Liberating Lord, you make this day an opportunity for life that is made rich by your love that brings you into all of our lives to take on and defeat the brokenness that is able to twist us and control us. Remind us this day of this gift and the life that comes as we are set free to live in you alone. Amen.

Thursday 6 September 2007

Today we look at another side of this notion of Christ as the "greatest sinner" by Tuomo Mannerma.

Here is what Mannerma notes in a text from Luther in which he is making apparent the realistic way in which Luther thinks of Christ's union with sinners.

"And so He is regarded as someone who is among thieves - even though He is innocent Himself, and even more so, because of HI\is own free will and by the will of the Father He wanted to communicate Himself to the body and blood of those who were thieves and sinners. Therefore He is immersed in all."

Mannerma notes that Luther is aware of the oddity of this thought and therefore he frequently defends his view (here's an example).

"But it is highly absurd and insulting to call the Son of God a sinner and a curse!" If you want to deny that He is a sinner and a curse, then deny also that He suffered, was crucified, and died. For it is no less absurd to say, as our Creed confesses and prays, that the Son of God was crucified and underwent the torments of sin and death than to say that He is a sinner or a curse.

So often we want to keep things so separate when it comes to Christ, Jesus, and the rest of humanity. Just how human can we let him be?!? At least at this point in the discussion, Mannerma is pushing for all the way. This is an "all the way" that is so intentional there will be no person left person to whom our God does not completely stand alongside in all the fullness of being human. As we will see over the next series of devotions, this notion of being the "greatest sinner" will also have an impact on who we are as we are people in union with this one who has faced the intensity of sin and all of its power and has overcome it. Where then, does sin stand in regard to all of us who are "in Christ." We need also note that as Christ is this "greatest sinner" who takes on the full load of the lives of theives and sinners, there is no room outside of that action. This is an intentional action on behalf of the whole bunch of us - for all time. Pressing that just a bit, it really means that thre is no missed mark. There is only this body of Christ that carries the identity of the one who acts for and with all.

Connection: I identity today does not start with starts in Christ. We each remain our individually gifted selves and broken selves, but we are people living within the power of life that is called Christ, Jesus. looking moping...just, life anew.

Come, Spirit of the Living God, and guide us in our living so that as we walk with you through this day we will walk in step to the freedom you bring to all your people. From that place, all things are possible. Amen.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Wednesday, 5 August 2007

Sorry for the computer problems yesterday. Today I will enter into a run with Tuomo Mannerma - a Finnish Luther scholar. I've quoted him some time ago. This is from another book: "Christ Present in Faith.

In Luther's view, the doctrine of incarnation, a dogma shared by the entire early church, is most closely connected with that of justification. The second person of the Trinity - the Logos, who is born in eternity - "did not regard it as something to be exploited" (Philippians 2:6) to be in the form of God but, out of sheer love, took the form of a slave by becoming a human being. According to Luther, however, the Logos did not take upon himself merely human nature, in a "neutral" form, but precisely the concrete and actual human nature. This really means that Christ really has and bears the sins of all human beings in the human nature he has assumed. Christ is the greatest sinner.

There is nothing that will separate us from the love of God. Nothing!?! Well, not even our humanity. This is a Lord of Life who takes every bit of life seriously. Nothing is left out. Nothing is beyond the justification of all things. The whole human story...that is your story...and the story of every other human, becomes the home of the Lord of Life. There is not distance between us. There is no God far away. There is no reasoning that says "we must do something in order to come closer to our Loving God." Our God, in the flesh, is with us all the way. It may sound odd to hear those words, "Christ is the greatest sinner," but if it is anything short of that, someone is left out and the curse of the law wins and will hound us to death. In the incarnation, we have a God who knows no distance between us. We have a God who doesn't come to test out the water and "get a feel for real human life." We have a God who in Christ, Jesus, is fully one of us - fully within the brokenness of our lives - fully involved in the wholeness of sin that includes all of us. Our God knows and is present in the whole mess and in the midst of that God blesses us - not from some place far away, but from the cold death of Easter Saturday when there is no hope...a place only one with us as us...can know.

Connection: Things can get frustrating...discouraging...hopeless....and yet, our God, never departs from us and our God never asks what more can you do to come closer to me. Rather, today in the middle of our complex and difficult lives, Christ is alive among us - forever - it is the promise.

You alone, O God, never leave our side. You alone, O God, walk with us in all things and you never turn away from us for you have seen and experienced all the corruption of life that so often seems to win the day. We thank you for this day filled with your real presence. Amen.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Monday, 4 September, 2007

After a long break due to computer difficulties, we return to "The Prophetic Imagination" by Walter Brueggemann.

There are a number of representative actions that summarized Jesus' radical criticism of the order of the day:
His readiness to forgive sin...His ability to heal and his readiness to do it on the Sabbath...His willingness to eat with the outcast...His attitude toward the temple.
All these actions, together with Jesus' other violations of social convention, are a heavy criticism of the "righteousness of the law." The law had become in his day a way for the managers of society, religious even more than civil, to effectively control not only morality but the political-economic valuing that lay behind the morality.

Nothing is more powerful than the blending of religious language about "righteousness" with the powers of a civil power. Jesus was facing off with those who could and did control life and wanted to make sure that their control of life would be blessed by the religious laws that would then be used to sanction the rule of the controlling power of the day. We must be aware that there is just such a movement around us today that is set on making secure ties between political-economic values of our country and a limited, self-focused & self-centered morality that plans to fashion a new way to rule...a way that is well known in scripture...a way against which Jesus stood up and did not accept. Too many "people of faith" are as afraid of the grace and love of God's Reign today as the religious leaders who stood against Jesus in scripture.

Connection: Pay attention to the how smoothly religious language is being used for the benefit of the powers that be. Usually it is not for the benefit of all...usually it is for the benefit of some and there is a hint of things being quite conditional in the air...and that is never Good News.

Lord of New Life, pull us into your love and as we rise within your gracious arms remind us of the vision of your Reign that cannot be owned or directed by any power that tries to claim this day. Amen.