Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Friday 2 November 2007

Today is more on the Human Being forgiving...just going ahead and forgiving...and then look what happens.

Why then does Jesus say that the Human Being forgives, instead of God forgiving (as his entire tradition would lead us to expect)? Apparently the Human Being is authorized to act on God's behalf. Jesus does not contemplate a God outside the universe intervening to heal the paralytic, but as a power that can be evoked in suffering human beings themselves. That power is put into action by faith-acts: take up your bed and walk! What Jesus says arouses the Human Being in the other. Jesus knows that the Human Being has its locus in himself, but it also has its locus in the paralytic. The Human Being seems to function as the mediator of God's intent for our becoming whole.

The power for healing is already present. Interesting. Wink is not claiming that it is a power outside of God. Rather, it is the way the power of God, that makes the creation whole, enters into the everyday events that transpire around us. The healer is not all there is. Those who are healed make up the whole event. In, with, and under the healer and the paralytic is the power of God that comes to life in their lives - held together for the welfare of each. Both Jesus and the paralytic enter the power of the healing Lord, God, and it becomes what is. We may not see this kind of healing in our own lives, but we may. Then again, we are invited to see healing through us and with others. There will be many ways that this can happen. It is not the focus of our life as followers of Jesus and yet, along the way, we inspired to trust that healing will take place...wholeness will come to be and we may not know what that means unless we let ourselves be the "mediator of God intent for our becoming whole."

Connection: Being a part of the world being made whole...quite a day is at hand.

Healer of our Lives, in many and various ways, you use us to be the power of healing and too often, we do not trust that such power is given to us. Be the encouragement that we need to be a gift of healing and wholeness in this day. Amen.

Thursday 1 November 2007

Today we go back to the story of the healing of the paralytic and what Jesus does during that act and the conversation with the religious leaders. Again from "the Human Being" by Walter Wink.

The story of the paralytic furthers the sense of sovereign authority that we found in the account of plucking the grain on the sabbath. Surprisingly, in contrast to Ezekiel, Jesus never appeals to God's authority to authenticate his mission. He never says, "Thus says the Lord." In Mark 11:27-33, a conflict narrative of highest authenticity, Jesus is depicted as refusing to claim divine authority for his mission. This attitude is counter to the trend of the developing church. He clearly implies that his authority is "from heaven," but will not say so, indicating only that it has the same source as John's.... There was no reason for such reticence by Jesus; the long history of prophets in Israel had more than adequately prepared Jews to take seriously a person who claimed to speak on behalf of God, saying "thus says the Lord." That Jesus never appealed to God's authority for anything he said or did is as remarkable as the divine authority that clearly shines through his words and deeds... He refused to stake the truth of his ministry on external authority, even God's. He spoke, as Mark reports people saying, with authority, and not as the scribes (1:22). The scribes worked from texts, exegetically - like Christians! They appealed to Scripture to buttress their arguments - like Christians!... But Jesus simply spoke with authority. And he taught his disciples to do the same.

I know it was a long excerpt. I wanted to simply tumble down to the last sentence, "he taught his disciples to do the same" but felt we needed the whole context. The "same" is to be authentic and act with the authority that comes from being the followers of Jesus - the Human Being. In many ways, this emphasizes our place in the midst of God's Reign with Jesus as Lord. This is a living and vital Reign that brings us into its power for life that is a power to heal and forgive and suffer for the welfare of others. Our living is not done by fighting over words and what they mean. It is about coming alive as the ones we have been called to be and with the power of the Spirit that makes us what we noted a few days ago "saints of the Most High." How many times today do hear people back up and support and legitimate what they do by "calling up" the name of God or a particular piece of scripture in order to authenticate our actions. Are we too anxious about simply making available the rich life of the Reign of God....therefore, we do nothing or fall for less of a life?

Connection: When we go through the day unafraid to live as though we really are empowered to be the body of the be the Human Being, and all that life means for all people, this could really be the beginning of a transforming life...and yes, that can be frightening.

Lord God, remain with us in and through this day. As we walk forward within your Reign, continue to inspire our hearts so we will begin to see how your grace becomes the source of the authority out of which we act with and on behalf of others. Amen.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Wednesday 31 October 2007

Again, more from Walter Wink and the "son of Man" or the "Human Being." Wink again draws on T.W. Manson.

When Jesus speaks of the suffering of the Human Being...he means something in which he and his followers would share (Mark 8:34-35). "By dying Jesus has brought the Son of Man into existence, given to that dream-figure a body, a local habitation, and a name. It is the Church, his own body, of which he is the head."

This is quite like the material on "indwelling" that was used several weeks ago. There is a real close bond - a sharing - a life so is one life. So the community becomes the body that leads us into the day. The Human Being and the suffering of that one is not isolated to Jesus. Jesus is for us the ground of the image and the life but it now becomes us...all of us. There is to be nothing other-worldly about this image. Rather, because we know of this life and suffering in the shape of the one we call Lord, Jesus, we come to see and understand how this Human Being takes shape among us. I would say that we are pulled into Jesus' presence and the Holy Spirit begins to make us into such a Humankind. In the meantime, we retell the stories of Jesus in order to see again the life we are handed in his name. Church is not a building - as the song goes - it is the people who are alive in the shape of the one who is alive and down to earth in all those stories of healing and compassion and, yes, suffering.

Connection: Stepping into the life of the Human Being is always an adventure because it is always unfolding in new ways within the contexts of our lives. We are able to look back at how Jesus was this Human Being in his his way. We, on the other hand, are still within the story of our lives and today is part of that journey.

Come again, O God, and help us to remember the gift we have been given and the gift of life we bring to the world as we are empowered by your Spirit. For now, we await the ongoing transformation that is a part of your eternal renewal. Amen.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Tuesday 30 October 2007

Today we are drawing from a resource Wink uses to write about the identity of "the son of Man."

T.W. Manson...suggested a "communal interpretation" of the Human Being. the "son of the man" is "an ideal figure and stands for the manifestation of the Kingdom of God on earth in a people wholly devoted to their heavenly King." Jesus' mission was to create the kingdom of the saints of the Most High - a fully human community that honored the integrity and uniqueness of all people. Jesus and his disciples together " should be the Son of Man, the Remnant that saves by service and self-sacrifice, the organ of God's redemptive purpose in the world." He and they together, so long as they adhere to him, constitute the 'Son of Man'...'Son of Man' should be read throughout and understood to connote 'the people of the saints of the Most High' and to denote Jesus and his disciples"

This is not a community that "gets it right." It is a community of saints who are what they are - the beloved of God and participants in this Reign or Kingdom even now. Within this Reign, there is a participation in the vision and the life of the one who brings God's Reign to life. We look to Jesus as that one who leads us and has already brought this life. When we then read of this image of the 'son of Man' we are being led to the vision and the reality of this contrary figure who bring the fullness of humanity out in the open and into an expressive concrete reality that engages our world with the life that comes when humanity becomes just what we are: beloved creatures with the creative universe of God's Reign. In some ways, when we look at the use of this title like this, we are more fully drawn into the storytelling for it is now not only a story of Jesus back is the story of the whole faithful community of saints of the Most High.

Connection: We walk today within the simplicity of our humanity. And yet, that simplicity is revolutionary for we are being drawn into a bold new life even as we are simply the ordinary folk we are - humanity breaking out into the life God has invited us to live. That's a powerful way to view our involvement in the mundane aspects of this day.

Lead us, O God. Lead us into the unfolding of your gracious Reign so that as it opens up around us we will know that we have a place within is grand embrace and, in fact, we are a part of that embrace as we move along the way. Amen.l

Monday 29 October 2007

Today we begin a run through Walter Wink's book "the Human Being." I used pieces of it in 2004 and find myself returning to his understanding of the biblical image of "the son of Man" as being the truly human one.

Wink uses the story of the healing of the paralytic (Mark 2:1-12; Matt. 9:1-8; Luke 5:17-26) to give us a look at this "son of Man." It is also the only connection of the title to forgiveness.

According to Matthew... "the son of the man" in this narrative is not limited to Jesus, but indicates any person who "knows" God's will regarding forgiveness, indeed, who knows God's very nature, that God is, at the core, forgiving. this forgiveness is not attained or earned. One does not, as in both Jewish and Christian liturgies, need to repent first before receiving words of absolution. Jesus does not offer forgiveness to those who repent and promise to do works of restitution. He declares people forgiven before they repent, as in this story. There were, in that society, people who were by trade or ill fortune categorically incapable of doing works of restitution (toll collectors, prostitutes, shepherds, attendants at bathhouses, weavers, tanners, robbers), who were regarded as sinners because of their occupations. To these he declares: Your sins are forgiven (Luke 18:9-14)! Now you can repent!... Repentance is possible because God has drawn near in the proclamation of Jesus.

So this forgiveness is up front. It is, in some ways, a clue that the presence of God's Reign is at hand. It is in the shape of Jesus present in the story. And, it is present in the followers of Jesus who let this action in real life - lead the way. This is the kind of humanity that makes for transformation and is not at all coersive. There is no "first you do this and then you will be." Rather this word of forgiveness comes first and it is a power for life that heals and restores and move us all closer and into a deeper relationship with one another for now, there is nothing that separates us from one another. The Human Being is a power for life that helps us all see the possibility of life that is for all of us. It takes a bit of imagination to see ourselves in the shoes of this kind of healing presence. Most often, we think others can heal...others can restore...others must be given the power to be involvedy in such a community-making act. Then again, what is to hold us back from such acts of compassion and community? The community of the followers of Jesus take part in the fullness of the potential of our humanity when we act within the power for life that is given to all of us. It can appear quite frightening when we have never seen ourselves with such a vision...but such transformative life is always out there beyond our edge of comfort.

Connection: Forgiveness - it may seem too may seem too difficult...and yet, it is a vital part of what it is to be fully human.

Forgiving Lord, it is by your gracious presence in our lives that we are liberated to extend our hand of forgiveness and healing to others. We become the power for new life as we are called forward to act in your name. Praise to you. Amen.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Friday 26 October 2007

Okay the week ends with a longer quote from Richard Rohr in "The Enneagram."

The voices of the ego will always be totally for or totally against because they are tine and insecure voices. The voices of the superego will always sound like Mom, Dad, teachers, and church because they are archetypal, too large voices. But the sound of the Indwelling Voice, which many of us call the Holy Spirit, will invariably sound different, unpredictable, scarily new, and often with unexpected demands. To hear this Voice often feels like an obedience to another (obedio, to give ear to). If we are not trained in responding to others, if we are trapped inside of our own control issues, we will seldom be able to hear this Voice. Our supposed sense of conscience will be largely self-serving, and our sense of duty and religion will be the carping voice of the critical superego. Our hearing must get better, and there is much historical evidence that it is getting better: Human rights seem to finally have a chance on this earth. Human dignity has its protectors in every culture. But the protecting of human life, or any life, has not been impressive up to now, even in the church.

Again, I know that this Indwelling Voice must be heard around the room of the faithful. By that, I mean that I cannot simply say...I heard it...this is a divine word. Rather, I must be willing to engage in the risk-taking discipline of conversation. Damn that can be hard! And yet, it is so necessary. The greatest gift we give to one another is to help us listen and help us act when this Spirited voice begins to move us within our lives. Our hearing gets better when there are more of us sharing the task of listening and interpreting. This doesn't mean we are given the task of coming up with a word that is a compromise. That kind of word is rarely the way that brings forth the truly new life. Sharing the listening and interpreting means there will and must be challenge and encouragement. Challenge serves to clarify. Encouragement serves to move us into life. When we are able to help one another hear that "Indwelling Voice" it seems apparent to me that the indwelling of God begins to walk with us along the way of the cross.

Connection: Practice ear to others...and lifting a voice for others.

Spirit of Life, we give you thanks for lifting us up to hear and see more of the way of our Lord and the life into which we are invited to walk. By your power you take us out beyond our ways and drop us down in the midst of life that is now residing in the possibility of your Reign among us. Amen.

Thursday 25 October 2007

We continue with the way we follow our Lord and the life into which we are drawn.

As Peter Dumitriu so perfectly said, "Jesus is always on the side of the crucified ones, and I believe he changes sides in the twinkling of an eye. He is not loyal to the person, or even less the group; Jesus is loyal to suffering." If that is not the true "third way," the true seeing , I do not know what it is. None of us want it, myself included. I would sooner be right about something. Back in control, back on top, smug, satisfied, and "saved." Surely not changing sides to be with the pain. Yet, that is the only truth that will save us, and in this marvelous sense Jesus surely is the Savior of the world. No other path will get us through the accumulated suffering of history now.

What an interesting image, :Jesus is always on the side of the crucified ones and...he changes sides in the twinkling of an eye." And yet...what an vital aspect of this one called the crucified God. No side becomes "the side." We all know what that does. We all know of instances when the crucified ones have become the ones willing to crucify. the twinkling of an eye, we find ourselves always being asked to draw ourselves into question. This is not the kind of questioning that causes folks to be paralyzed and therefore not act. Rather this is a prayerful questioning that keeps us turning back to the way of the cross and how we are invited to walk with others along that way and never turning it into something else. In the twinkling of an much can change within our hearts.

Connection: This is another reminder to have others who can "in a twinkling of an eye" help us to see who we are becoming in contrast to whose we are and who we are called to be.

Lord of the Way of Life, again and again we long for you to touch us and guide us and yet we also need you to inspire us to follow you when we would like to go another way. Breathe your way of life upon us. Amen.

Wednesday 25 October 2007

More from Richard Rohr on the place of suffering and prayer in our life journeys.

We cannot be timid about this clear teaching of Jesus after centuries of Christians fighting over their formulations and rituals while unable or unwilling to see God in one another, in other races, in other religions, in the poor, in the earth, in the weak in every form. We cannot be timid about this clear teaching of Jesus after centuries of Christians unable to hear God in the pain of their enemies, in the suffering of the other, in the "paganism" of those whom they colonized and killed in the name of God.

It seems like we use the name of Jesus as a way to help us disconnect from others. If we are so focused on our own lives...our own salvation...having other people become like us - even have our "faith," we will never hear how fully God calls out to us from the lives of those who are not like us. When this notion of following Jesus becomes nothing more than a self-satisfying, self-preserving trip, how do we begin to enjoy and experience the vast expanse of God's Reign that is beyond our attempts to control it all? It seems as though we are so fixed on digging up differences - especially those that we can label as damnable - that we miss the glory and the blessedness within those differences that open our eyes to God's Reign and open our ears to the various ways God speaks word of new life to us. I can be and in need of control or order as I like it, that I don't take the time to breath and relax and listen again - prayerfully - to the other side and the other voices of God's living Reign.

Connection: Some times it is good to simply give it up...and go along with another side for awhile. Yes, it may be painful...but it may also be a blessing that opens up our lives.

Lord of Life, continue to be the wind that takes away our breath and enables us to take in your Spirit of life. Amen.

Tuesday 23 October 2007

A bit more of a look at suffering and prayer in life.

It is not that we have a message and then suffer for it. It is much more the opposite: We suffer, come through it transformed, and then we have a message! This is the clear Jesus pattern and why he trained his disciples in the necessary path of suffering. There is something, it seems, that we can know in no other way. We hope to bypass such suffering by being moral, by being orthodox, by being ritualistic, but his words remain the same to us: "The cup I must drink, you must also drink" (Mark 10:39). Enlightenment, conversion, seeing the truth is a journey of transformation, not membership in the right group or reciting the correct formulas or even practicing the right morality. ...only God's Spirit of love can transform you.

Isn't this what has become so popular in the cultural religious experience of our day. We side step the suffering of life that becomes the path of transformation for something that can be reached now held onto as though we have made the journey and we are now new. I heard someone last week say that people don't need to be reminded of the cross and our sin and the life that we are invited to enter with and on behalf of others. Rather, being a Christian becomes all about me...what I want...what I my pain can be taken from my political agenda can be met. I especially see this in how strongly religious groups in the U.S. claim that they are to claim and own and shape the great power of our country. Unfortunately, those without power are often left out of that vision. The only way you become one of those on the side of the power is to join in their way of success (that is often disguised as being blessed) and call upon the gods of their way. We will find no cross in life among such groups.

Connection: Sometime during the day, attempt to see the world from the perspective of those who really have no power. It may being as a simple exercise - maybe even painful. Then again, it may be the beginning of a whole new way of seeing and living.

Lord of the Day, you make us new and we are transformed by how your love becomes our love. Thanks be to you. Amen.

Monday 22 October 2007

This will be the last week with material from Richard Rohr in "The Enneagram."

When the first disciples of Jesus wanted to make the whole process (of suffering and prayer) into right rituals and right roles, and by implication right belief systems (common to all religions), Jesus told them, "You do not know what your are asking. Until you drink of the cup that I must drink, and be baptized with the baptism that I will be immersed in" (Mark 10:38), you basically do not know what I am talking about. You have nothing to say.

It really is about a life. It is a journey. This following Jesus is really a following...a participation in the life in which Jesus participated. This is as real and necessary as anything else. Sure, devotional stuff - even like this discipline I enter each weekday with you - is fine and good. But it is really only a piece of the way we are move ourselves into the life where prayer becomes life and life becomes a way of suffering as we encounter our humanity and the blessedness that is given to each of us as followers of the Christ of God. I enjoy Chris Matthews on MSNBC and he recently came out with a book called "Life is a Campaign." As much as I like him, I had to work with that title. If it means we must always we putting a spin on things and trying to sell ourselves and our lives - no thanks. If it means we must be willing to dive into the issues and face ourselves as we come to understand what it is that moves us and gives us meaning and purpose, then I'm willing to list some more. We are promised life. We are encouraged and inspired to live in and through all things. That is going to be a road of suffering that demands a prayerfulness that keeps us attentive to the matter what is thrown in our way or the way of others.

Connection: We are not called to suffer for suffering sake. When we honestly engage this day, we will be drawn into life that will stretch us...and at times...stretch us to the point of suffering for and with and alongside addition to suffering as we change our ways.

Loving Lord, inspire us as we face this day. Amen.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Friday 19 October 2007

Today we continue with Richard Rohr commenting on how we are able to live with a certain degree of anxiety and holding a very real amount of tension - that is...with faith.

We have to be trained how to do this. the only two things that are strong enough to accomplish this training are suffering and prayer. These two golden paths lead to a different shape of meaning, a different sized universe, a different set of securities and goals, and always a different Center. Only suffering and prayer are strong enough to decentralize both the ego and the superego. The practice of prayer we can choose to do ourselves; the suffering is done to us. But we have to be ready to learn from it when it happens and not waste time looking for someone to blame for our unnecessary suffering. That takes some good and strong teaching too. As I love to say on the road, "It is the things that you cannot do anything about and the things that you cannot do anything with that do something with you."

This is no call into a life of self-imposed suffering. Rather, as we take part in this adventure of faith that leads us into and through the anxiety and tension that is a part of stepping out into that which do not yet know or control, we will face stuff we do not readily want to face...and we will be invited to go through it all. To be engaged like that...again and again...takes a life of prayer. In a life of prayer, we learn to face what is unknown and frightening and we continue to remind ourselves of whose we are no matter what turns up to frighten or discourage us. There is no magic here. This will be a steadfast walk...a journey we enter even though there is no evidence that we will be able to control what happens or will be able to know how the other side looks. We are invited to move and fear not. Yes, that will involve facing changes we never may have anticipated. And yet, in the process of having something done to us along the way, we will be the beloved of God and that will be our rock and our place of rest.

Connection: We are often invited to move against the tide we have come to anticipate and expect. This new movement will bring new experiences and be the beginning of new life. Think of it...that all begins today.

You, O God, have already gone before us into that which is unknown and that which is able to threaten us. And yet, you continue to bid us to come and follow. Your place before us is the source of our hope and it becomes the power for life that will see us through all that we must face as we continue to come to life in you. Amen.

Thursday 18 October 2007

Today we continue on with a look at how parables and instruments like the Enneagram, serve to subvert our reality.

This subversive rearrangement of reality is called "conversion" and biblically has nothing to do with joining a denomination or accepting a new religious set of practices. I am personally convinced that this transfigured universe is the only thing that Jesus means by "the Truth." This is the only Truth big enough to "set you free," which any little doctrinal or moral certitudes about anything cannot do. If we are unwilling to live askew for a while, to be set off balance, to wait on the ever spacious threshold, we remain in the same old room for all our lives. If we will not balance knowing with the kind of open ended not knowing - nothing new seems to happen. Thus it is called "faith" and demands living with a certain degree of anxiety and holding a very real amount of tension.

I find this to be a dynamic explanation of conversion. So often, we hear about conversion being a movement from one position to another position - as though a person is now "got it." The unfortunate piece of this picture is that we create more and more people who become more and more inflexible. At this point, people are often ready to convert others...whether they want it or not. Thus we come upon actions like the crusades or jihad or...door-to-door evangelists. But Rohr pushes us to see conversion as being within something new...something that introduces us to more than we can handle and therefore we are standing in the presence of possibilities. We might want to call that the "Truth" or the presence of God. Both work for me...especially when I realized that in the presence of all this, my life is, as he writes, one that I live "askew for a while." It is there at that point where everything is not clear and in place that I must wrestle with the new and be thrown off balance...maybe have my hip knocked out of place like Jacob at the Jabbock.

Connection: Live the day askew for a while and learn to simply walk there without the fear or anxiety that the world will collapse. It may really just begin to blossom anew.

Lord of the New Day, encourage us to be open to how life changes and how we are invited to step off our our self-assured plots of land and begin to take steps out into the vast domain of your gracious Reign. This is not something we do very move us...draw us into your presence and open our hearts to the life you offer that is not yet ours completely. Amen.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Wednesday 17 October 2007

Parable become a common tool used by Jesus to help all of us look again and look more closely at who we are. Again from "The Enneagram" by Richard Rohr.

I suspect Jesus was pointing to the same transformation in seeing and hearing when he said that it took "parables" to subvert our unconscious worldview - and thereby expose its illusions, even to us. Parables should make us a bit uncomfortable if we are really "hearing" them. If we fit them nicely into our business-as-usual world, parables have not served their purpose. A parable is supposed to change our operative worldview and unlock it from the inside - so that we can see and hear reality correctly. New and full context allows us to read text truthfully. All religions have tried to do the same thing with riddles and koans and mythic stories. Our whole universe has to be arranged truthfully before individual teachings can be heard correctly. What we have done for centuries in the West is to give people new moral and doctrinal teaching without rearranging their mythic worldview. It does not work. It leads nowhere new - or nowhere truly old for that matter. It creates legalists, ritualists, minimalists, and literalists, who always kill the spirit of a thing. The Enneagram I would like to suggest, is a parabolic form of teaching. It subverts our unconscious and truly "mythical" worldview so that God can get in . That was the precise function of most of Jesus' parables.

When was the last time you heard a parable and you saw something new about the world...about you...about life? Well, it may mean we need to hear more parable...more stories and images that peel back our skin a bit and cause us to look at what is right beneath the surface of the day-to-day actions and movements that attempt to define us. When I read the words "legalists, ritualists, minimalists, and literalists" I saw a box. If I'm honest with myself, I'm in those boxes at various times of my life. I think we all are. It is an easy place to make home. It appears secure and final and settled and right. And yet, we need stories and people and images that keep holding up a mirror that helps us see ourselves more honestly. Then again, we need to look more deeply than our superficial lives. We need an instrument or a community that is willing to take us deeper and look at that which tries to control us and rule us without letting us experience the fullness of life that comes to us when we step outside these boxes.

Connection: When we look truthfully at ourselves, it may be painful. But that really is the beginning of really is. We need not fear that.

Lord, teach us to rejoice and sing even when we must face ourselves and the dark side of our lives. For as we face our whole lives, we begin to walk within the domain of your grace and it is there that we will be made whole even as we appear to be breaking apart. Praise the Lord of Life. Amen.

Tuesday 16 October 2007

We can all use some help in seeing and growing and being transformed - having faith. Today we start with a quote by Eric Hoffer, the street philosopher:

"In times of great change [which is always], learners inherit the earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped for a world that no longer exists." Faith itself, like the discernment of spirits, is actually a way to keep us learning, growing, and being transformed into God - not just a securing blanket of doctrinal statements and moral principles. The Enneagram (of spiritual types) is much more demanding and much more dangerous than believing things. It is more about "unbelieving" the disguise that we all are. Ernest Becker called it "our vital lie." Merton called it the false self. The Enneagram gets right to the point and calls it our sin.

Let me begin with a simple FYI. The Enneagram is an ancient system that is used to help people face themselves and the world around them with a bit of honesty and therefore it allows for great potential for life-giving growth. As for this quote for today, it is vital for all of us to realize that "unbelieving" things in our lives will be more difficult that repeating that which we want to believe. We are very good at putting up masks and showing the world just what we would like to show them. Unfortunately, we also fool ourselves...or lie to ourselves. In many ways, we each become painfully turned-in on ourselves and are not able to see either others or ourselves very clearly. When that is the case, unfortunately, we settle for what fit the vision we want to have. When this takes place, we fall for that "vital lie." This does not only happen to individuals. It also happens to groups and, I would say, countries. We live in one of the most powerful and benevolent countries in the world. And yet, we too often let ourselves we run through the day building up and living within a vital lie about ourselves. As this happens, we continue to be nothing more than a warring nation that is so consumed by our consumption, we are blind to the needs of the world and what could be a path of healing and wholeness for all. Only when countries and individual are able and willing to look at the core of our brokenness and how that brokenness takes on different shapes in different people, we will never become a part of the healing of our souls and our world.

Connection: When we can find those times in the day when we are exposes to might be good to simply face it...face it and weep...face it and begin to say "now what." It is then that we move forward trusting some power other than the ones that have had their way with us.

Come, Lord of Transformation, and be with us as we face the gifts and sin of our lives. It is not always easy to see ourselves and then accept all that we see with a vitality for life that is always open to learning new ways to be your children. Guide us and lead us, O God. Amen.

Monday 15 October 2007

Today we will continue with some ideas by Michael Polanyi, in Richard Rohr's book, "The Enneagram."

Polanyi...said all truthful knowing had to acknowledge a tacit knowing (which is what religion means by faith, according to Polanyi), and this tacit knowing has something to do with trusting it, allowing it, believeing in it and not stating with fear, suspicion, rejection. In other words, only those who love rightly see rightly! Only those who are situated correctly in the correct universe can read the situation with freedom and grandeur. Text plus full context equals genius. Only the true believer is at a cosmic level of peacefulness: reality is good, the world is coherent, it is all going somewhere. That allows the believer to move ahead without a rejecting or superior attitude. such people are constantly learning and always teachable and will likely do good things. A secular name for faith, I am sure.

There is such a need to let things unfold so that we can begin to hear and see what is really at hand. We live in such an anxious time, though, it is quite difficult to give ourselves the breathing room to trust what will come. Unfaith - wants And yet, there are no answers when we really need to learn how to look and hear and abide within the contexts of our lives before we press on with our own agendas. I find that I often do not give myself the time to "allow" or to "trust." But that is such an important place to go if I am going to be able to see the gift of a situation and/or the people in those situations. When I will not go there, that by within a unafraid of what presents itself, I'm reactive and easily won over by less than the truth. On the other hand, there is a great opportunity waiting for all of us when we start our relationship and our day with an openness to a context larger than the one I try to build and maintain on my own.

Connection: I return to an often used exercise. Breathe...and then again. Listening and looking and allowing things to take place without needed to control them as we would have them go...can be a wonderful way to walk through this day. Breathe.

The grandeur of you Reign, O God, is beyond our seeing. And yet, it is there in front of us and all around. We need your Spirit of Life to rest upon us so that we will give ourselves the time to breathe in your life and take time to walk into your arriving Reign. Amen.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Friday 12 October 2007

Let's end the week by hearing more about the need to listen and open our eyes and see...again. From Richard Rohr's "The Enneagram."

According to the chemist-turned-philosopher Michael Polanyi, all knowing of truth can happen only inside a previous "tacit knowing" that is silent, unconscious, and unspoken - even to us. Text is always untrue or at least incomplete outside of context... We are all partial knowers; all verbalizations are filled with biography, preference, genius, and past hurts. We are always invested in our knowing. We are all wading in Heraclitus's ever-moving stream. This leads us to a necessary humility and to a very unsettling sense of certitude that we all want and need. It seems we must somehow "kneel" to hear and see correctly. Polanyi said to his fellow scientists that the great geniuses had something more than detached, cold objectivity. They also had an ability "to dwell inside of things" that was more art than science, more poetry than prose, more spirit than rational control of the data. And more letting go than holding on.

Again, it sounds a bit like the "indwelling" that we used in the past weeks to speak of the Christ in us all. No longer something objective "out there" but something really quite close - quite a part of each of us. Sometimes we really do need to "kneel" to hear and see correctly. Often times, that means we must be willing to do that even as we look at ourselves and the relationship we say we have entered as people within the church. This is not always easy to do. There can be so many many things that must be done immediately, that we do not take the time to "kneel" an look and contemplate and dream and wonder and imagine how the holy is present and how we are in the midst of it all. It is good to hear a scientist speak in such "mystical" sounding terms. Then again, I'm sure this kind of talk from an "objective" scientist is not so comforting to some others. Personally, I like the blended picture - it seems a bit organic...and the only way to see how it all goes together is to stop and listen and look again...and breath.

Connection: Maybe even the 'science' of relationships would benefit from the importance of an "indwelling" that means we take the time today to wonder a bit more about who we are and who we are with each other...and how it works and breaks down and is constantly becoming a part of a discovery taking place all around us.

By your gracious love, O God, you throw us all together and in the mix of things we are given the opportunity to see you face - shining on us. Without that context of community, we might be so consumed by ourselves that we do not pause for long enough to see you living within this great gathering of your beloved. Praise to you, O God. Amen.

Thursday 11 October 2007

"Then Enneagram" attempts to help us face ourselves - the whole thing. Richard Rohr makes some comments about church that are biting but so important for us to hear.

...the church, strange as it seems has always been a bit uncomfortable with saints and mystics; it is content just to have people "in the pews." Let's be honest, we would sooner have control than real conversion; we would sooner have well-oiled church societies than transformed people. Cosmetic piety takes away our anxiety about God and about ourselves, but it does not address the real and subtle ways that we "lose our soul." Cosmetic piety never asks the hard questions of itself or of the church structures. Jesus challenged both - constantly.

What we really need to be able to do is to face those times when we are losing our souls. When that can happen, there need not be the manufacturing of facades that are used to keep us hidden from ourselves. There is a real darkness that must be acknowledged in each of us. If it is hidden or covered over by this "cosmetic piety" it will be the death of us and there can be no rebirth and resurrection to new life. Rather, we sink within this hole and hope that we never will never have to face the person we have become. This hole or hiding place is deadly for each of us as individuals and also for every expression of community. When we enter into an honest journey in which we face that which we would love to avoid and the pitfalls that trip us up, we will find a life that is available to us that is beyond the many boxes into which we have been trying to hide. The church needs to face its corporate darkness and the gifts that are so often used against transformation rather than for it.

Connection: How is it that I do things like this...rather than that? How is it that you enter a situation in a very different way from how I would do it...what can we learn from one another when we are able to see our differences and the gifts and sins brought along the way with us?

Lord of the New Day, as we move into what is now before us, remind us to stop and listen to whose we are and how we can be free to face the person we have tried to make ourselves. Within that freedom, we can then become more in touch with the gifted one you have created us to be. Amen.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Wednesday 10 October 2007

Pushing off from yesterday's image, Richard Rohr quotes Thomas Merton from 1956 in "Living Bread."

The great tragedy of our age is the fact, if one may dare to say it, that there are so many godless Christians - Christians, that is whose religion is a matter of pure conformism and expediency. Their "faith" is little more than a permanent evasion of reality - a compromise with life. In order to avoid admitting the uncomfortable truth that they no longer have any real need for God or any vital faith in Him, they conform to the outward conduct of others like themselves. And these "believers" cling together, offering one another an apparent justification for lives that are essentially the same as the lives of their materialistic neighbours whose horizons are purely those of the world and its transient values.

I was first struck by the term "godless Christians." We once heard godless attached to communist. In fact, that was so much the case that we attached "under God" to the Pledge of Allegiance in the early 1950's so that we would be seen as people on God's side. At the sound of such a description, I really had to hesitate and take a look at what is godless about what is so often considered Christian. It is painful to see that as I attempt to look at that, I'm looking in the mirror some of the time....maybe most of the time. So, how do we let go of that image of Christ that is really not the Christ but more like our own image or the image of life we love. Sounds like we are often involved in an idolatrous relationship rather than in a relationship with the God who beckons us to come and see the wonder and life of God's Reign - unmanipulated by us. I've been struck lately by the importance of seeing things anew. That is a painful journey because we must begin to see ourselves without the well-crafted facades that rule us and our religiosity. We must remember that this is a journey that many have take on and therefore we can be encouraged as we begin and we can be hopeful that life will become a place to rest and act and live as we have never done previously.

Connection: This is another one of the reasons it is vital to find other people with whom we can begin to take this walk and begin this life.

Be for us, O God, the constant invitation to trust in how you become alive within us so that we maCheck Spellingy all blossom into the individuals who are made in your image. We are already busy making ourselves into our own image and we need to take a rest and find how you are present among us and with us and for us. Release us from our pursuit of ourselves. Amen.

Tuesday 9 October 2007

Richard Rohr continues to discuss discernment - how to see, how to hear - in the book "The Enneagram."

Much of what is called Christianity has more to do with disguising the ego behind the screen of religion and culture than any real movement toward a God beyond the small self, and a new self in God. Much of our work feels like cosmetic piety, and often shame or fear-based at that, rather an any real transformation of the ego self, or what the Eastern churches rightly call "divinization." Much of the present attraction to other religions is quite simply because Christianity has not succeeded in naming the real evils well.... There are few confessors who would not agree that the vast majority of Catholic confessions have to do with pragmatic problem solving and supposed "sins" that divert our attention from the real evils that are destroying Western society.

I'm ashamed to admit that I run away from the notion of transformation - my own that is. I would rather have the world be transformed into what I think it needs to be. Unfortunately, as one writer noted, we are always only seeing ourselves as the world...we don't really see that which is around us except as it looks like us. To see see with the vision of the Reign of God as it comes to life is the Christ, Jesus, is to take part in the release of self and begin the transformation that takes place as we enter into a union with Christ that is here called "divinization." We don't need to be frightened by that word. Rather, we it would be good for our soul to face such a reality and in that, face the evil within us that is constantly steering us away from such unity of vision and life with the Christ. Too often, our spirituality becomes nothing more than a band-aid...a fix it...a make me feel better. And yet, feeling better about ourselves is not what brings us the peace and wholeness of the Reign of God. We are invited into a journey - I like to say adventure - in which we will face the dark side of our lives and even begin to see how the light of our lives can become the dark power that drives us.

Connection: The journey to see who we are and to face what that means for how and why we do what we do is no quick walk through the day. On the other hand, today is always a good time to begin seeing with new eyes and beginning to face our own transformation and the transformation of the world.

Lord of New Life, we long for the peace of your Reign. When we are lost within our own story and are unable to see the world with new eyes, we need your Spirit of life to move us and coax us and lift us up to a place in which we are able to rest in your love and deal with who we are becoming. Amen.

Monday 8 October 2007

This week we will be looking at material from "The Enneagram" by Richard Rohr.

"They look without seeing, they listen without hearing or understanding, so I must teach them in a parabolic way. (Matthew 13"13)
All the Christian churches are being forced to an inevitable, honest, and somewhat humiliating conclusion. The vast majority of Christian ministry has been concerned with "churching" people into symbolic, restful, and usually ethnic belonging systems rather than any real spiritual transformation into the mystery of God. ...I am convinced that most of our ministries have legitimated the autonomous self and even fortified it with all kinds of religious armour. Religious people are even harder to transform because they don't think they need it.

One description of the Enneagram notes that it is an ancient personality-type system. Many have thought it has Sufi roots but other take not that it goes back to the "desert fathers" of early Christianity. Having said that as a brief word of introduction, once again I am finding that the Enneagram doesn't let us escape an in-depth look at who we are. After sharing material from Tuomo Mannermaa's study of Luther's theology - especially the material that speaks of a full participation in Christ and how we are in union with Christ I started reading Rohr's book and saw that he finds in the Enneagram a way of helping people enter into the fullness of this union with Christ. we will see...we must take a journey through the "dark side" of our humanity and the "gifted side" - both of which are very close together and can also be mistaken for one another. It is through facing our personality type that we are able to begin taking down and removing some of the "religious armour" that we have used to keep ourselves hidden from ourselves and from others.

Connection: It is vital for all of us to come to some understanding as to how and why we do (or do not do) the things we do as we move through each day. This is not so much based on what we know...but what we are able to see. When we can see a broader perspective of our self, we begin to understand how we each have a depth of life that we are not facing and therefore not able to take part in any real life transformation that is more than moving the furniture of our lives around.

Gracious God, you have given us lives of great worth and depth. Too often all we see is the surface or we let ourselves play only with a portion of the life we have been handed by you. Grant us the peace and patience and the courage to take another look at ourselves and our world so that we can begin an ongoing adventure within the realm of your loving Reign. Amen.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Friday 5 October 2007

This section about the law ends with this paragraph from Tuomo Mannermaa.

According to Luther, justification, when considered from the viewpoint of the work and person of Christ, happens "outside" human beings (even though it "is" also within them), and is imputed to them... When participating in Christ, the believer shares in an ontological and real manner in what is "death to death" (i.e., life), "sin to sin" (i.e., righteousness), and "law to the law" (i.e., freedom). This "realistic" notion of Christ also constitutes the basis for a concept which is very interesting from the viewpoint of this study and it theme: according to the Reformer, the union between the believer and Christ is so completed that these two become "one person."

There is something about our "being" that is new when we are "in Christ." It is a gift and it is a reality for us. Rather than seeing ourselves as people "trying to be like Christ," we are people who are already "one person" with the Christ. That is at the core of our identity as the baptized in Christ, Jesus. Therefore, as the day unfolds before us, we walk into it remembering whose we are and how the real presence of our Lord, like at the meal on Sunday, is among us as we move through the day. We are now a part of that presence - even before we lift our hand or move out of bed. It is that "being" already that creates the life into which we are called to participate. Obviously, we might be a bit befuddled at the difference between how we act and how we perceive the Christ. Then again, that does not erase the union with Christ. Rather we are always present at a new starting point within the living presence of our Lord among us.

Connection: In our weekly study of Genesis, we read about the "two becoming one" in the second chapter. Rather than have it mean a "sexual" thing, we must remember that the "two becoming one person" through Christ is the same kind of oneness. Today is again a time to participate more fully in the realization of this oneness with others.

Bind us together, Lord God. Bind us together so that as we walk out into the world we continue to see your life and your love and you presence in, with, and under all the relationships we enter throughout the day. Grant us the vision of your unfolding Reign. Amen.

Thursday 4 October 2007

Here's another look at a side of the law and its function among the followers of Christ - from Tuomo Mannermaa.

Even though the law belongs, in principle, in the "world" and not in "heaven," it has, however, an important task in the believer's life. Although the law "brings death" when acting in the conscience, that is, when exercising dominion in a human being's relationship with God, it is nevertheless good "in itself" (cf. Romans 7:12-13). When the law exercises its ministry of death, its most important spiritual function is to reveal the human being's "true face" behind the masks, and disclose his or her bare faced sinfulness.

Nothing like a mirror to show us who we are. The law can do this. We can quickly tell which side of the law we are on simply with its presence. Yesterday morning, I went through a construction zone and the speed changed from 65 to 55. The law says 55...I'm going 62. I can try to say that I was just moving with the flow of traffic...or...I'm really alert...or...the work crews were not out yet. But, the law says 55. I'm driving out of bounds. I need to know that. At that moment, I have to face me "gotta get there" self-centered self and the request to abide by the law that is set for the welfare of all. There's not much flexibility in a law that is as simple as a number on my speedometer. But the law does hold up that mirror and makes me look at how I fall short and miss the mark of being a law-abiding person within the community. The law is able to show us how often we are ruled by our turned-in-on-self that is always seeking to do the best it can for me and my own. We don't often want to face that "true face." We may follow many laws, but even when we bend or break the least of these, the whole tower of our decency begins to fall flat and we are witnesses to our own brokenness...otherwise called sin.

Connection: It is quite important to remember that our abiding by the law has nothing to do with our relationship with our God who already is on our side and for us. Nothing can bring us into a "deeper" relationship than the one God has already set up for us. So....every moment is an opportunity to be a part of a transforming people who are able to see the law as an instrument of joy within the community.

Lord God, by your loving compassion we are welcome into a relationship with you that cannot be ruled by laws and limits and boundaries. You are the source of our life of joy and freedom and renewal. By your grace we are bless and become a blessing to others as we enter into this day. Amen.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Wednesday 3 October 2007

Let's look again at life in the land of our relationship with Christ and with our neighbors.

...Luther emphasizes that in relation to one's neighbors and to one's own flesh, i.e., the "old Adam [Eve]" - that is, outside the domain of conscience - the law "must be made God." There in fact, one cannot speak of it "with sufficient respect." In the conscience, however - that is, before God - the law is a "devil that bring death with it."

Don't throw out the law! It is so vital to how we live together with one another. Those ten commandments from Mt. Sinai make up an important part of how we are to get along with one another. The "old Adam or Eve" really knows how to control things and turn a situation into a self-centered mess. Therefore, we need these laws and must listen to them as though they are the way the day is held together for life. You know how important the law must be when we hear Luther say that it "must be made God." If we do not hold it is such a primary spot in our life together, it is so easy for chaos to reign. And yet, as this is the case with the law, it is also primary that we keep it out of our relationship with God as we stand in relationship with our Lord and Creator. My terrible driving may make me a fool to my neighbor and even cause an accident - therefore, good laws help all of us stay safe....But this, has nothing to do with how I am before God. I would submit that it is the "eternal nature" of this primary relationship that has be power to shape who we are even in a world ruled by laws.

Connection: So...abide by the law - it does us all well.

From age to age, O God, you bring us the gifts of your Reign. It is by your love that we learn to love and we become citizens within your Reign and within the daily life of the world around us. We give you thanks for the wisdom of the law and the way we are allowed to live in relationship to our neighbors even when each of us is reckless and unruly. Praise be to you. Amen.

Tuesday 2 October 2007

More from Luther on "faith, conscience, and Christ" by Tuomo Mannermaa.

The Reformer says that the conscience is like a bridal chamber, in which the bride (the believer) and the bridegroom (Christ) are left alone, and no servants (works) are allowed to be present.

The servant (works) belong in the kitchen and the rest of the house, where the happy bride serves her neighbors.

Immediately, if "the devil brings works into the conscience: (that is, makes the Christian believe that works of the law are a precondition for salvation), joy dies, life vanishes, and the believer becomes weak, losing his or her strength.

At first, it seems like an odd image. After reading it a few times, is shows how close the relationship is between the believer and Christ. There is no "work" to be done in the relationship between the believer and Christ. It is an intimate and close relationship where love rules without any stipulations. It is complete and it is a relationship that cannot be disturbed by anything in the world. The "works" are what goes on outside of this relationship. Sure we serve other...sure we do good deeds...sure we act as neighbor and care for one another. But in that bridal chamber (our conscience) there is a freedom and a loving relationship that needs no law has any rule in that relationship. I find it to be quite a strong statement for Luther to note that the "devil" brings such notions into this intimate and complete relationship. I was most struck by the simple note that joy dies. Wow. And yet, that is really the case. Just yesterday, I was watching a TV evangelist and the whole way he described the "relationship" believers have with Christ was nothing but "works" and yet he kept talking about the grace of our Lord. It was sad. I could really see the joy leaving...and people were being duped into trusting that if that did this or that (send in $100.00 to support a missionary trip to Africa) the relationship with Jesus would be strengthend. Ahhhhhh!

Connection: We are each secure within that chamber. There will be many things we will do today that is all a part of the way "good" folk treat one another. Like driving with a bit of courtesy. It is the vision of that chamber that the love and commitment not only is a safe place, it also begins to spill out and shape our relationship with others.

Come, Lord of Life, and continue to remind us that we are your beloved in all times - without exception. Within that eternal promise, we are able to understand what it is to be joy-filled. From there, who knows how your promises will spill out into the world among all of us. Amen.