Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Friday 30 November 2007

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday 29 November 2007

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday 28 November 2007

Today we are simply continuing in the same line of thought as the past two days...more on the last word...by Brian Blount.

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

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

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

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

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Tuesday 27 November 2007

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

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

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

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

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

Monday 26 November 2007

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 16, 2007

Firday 23 November 2007

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday 21 November 2007

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Tuesday 20 November 2007

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

The spirit is constant.

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

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

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

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

Monday 19 November 2007

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

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

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

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

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

Friday 16 November 2007

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Thursday 15 November 2007

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday 14 November 2007

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday 13 November 2007

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 9, 2007

Monday 12 November 2007

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Friday 9 November 2007

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday 7 November 2007

Today we draw on another use of the "son of man" as we look at how it can be interpreted and how the way we see it informs us of our faith life that is before us. Again from Walter Wink.

Wink uses this passage as a starting point.

"And everyone who speaks a word against the son of man will be forgiven; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven. (Lk.12:10; Matt.12:31-32; Thomas 44)

Jesus' refusal to deny their charge (Jesus is having Beelzebul -working on his side) outright is astonishing. Does it mean that he is willing to acknowledge that he might have a malevolent element at work in him? If so, one might conclude that he saw the same sinister element at work in everyone...this vivid sense of the universality of sin could be the presupposition of his teaching about loving enemies. He is clear that, in the name of the Human Being, he can make wrong decisions. Decisions are fallible. Therefore one may speak against the Human Being, precisely because it is not identical with the Holy Spirit.

In reading this, I was reminded of the difference of being on the way and being the end. Along the way, the Human Being is "becoming." So, whether the Human Being is Jesus or all people, we are on the way. There will be times when what we do and how we do what we do will not be the way that was really intended or the way that brings the best situation to life. Therefore, we will stumble. Our brokenness will show - that is not all bad...it is just real. In the middle of such brokenness, we probably all need to be called out and face what we are doing and how what we are doing is the result of "wrong decisions." In our everyday adventures, we will be called upon to speak up and even speak against the Human Being as it comes alive around us. it is necessary because, again, we are on the way - in the journey and attempting to be who we are invited to be. I like the way Wink ties in Jesus' teaching on enemies. We do not condemn and do evil to our enemies - they are, like us, people who stumble and put forth the wrong goals and walk ways that our not in sync with the vision of God's Reign. We are a people who understand that we make space for the power of forgiveness to shape us more than the divisions that attempt to shape us. I will touch on the part of the Holy Spirit tomorrow.

Connection: It is vital to our growth as saints of the Most High to allow ourselves to be critical of what we are seeing. Even when things are covered with a veneer of "holiness." Today, the veneer might be fine...but in the long run, we need to be connected to more depth than that in all of us.

Lord of Transitions and New Journeys, as we move and trip, as we stumble and yet are able to get up and leap, we turn to you to be the power for life that takes enables us to have a wide vision and a critical view of all that we try to be. Continue, as always, to nurture our growth. Amen.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Wednesday 7 November 2007

More from Walter Wink as he continues to comment about the need of the Human Being to live from an interior center in the middle of a chaotic and violent world.

Whatever else it signifies, the Human Being represents the urge to actualize the self, inner and outer. The Powers are what prevent our becoming. The Human Being is the lure toward our becoming. The Reign of God - God's domination-free order - is the goal of our becoming. Becoming means fidelity to the uniqueness of our own selves. As Jung put it, "Personality is the supreme realization of the innate idiosyncrasy of a living being."

"To develop one's own personality is indeed an unpopular undertaking, a deviation that is highly uncongenial to the herd...To the (person) in the street it has always seemed miraculous that anyone should turn aside from the beaten track with it known destinations, and strike out on the steep and narrow path leading into the unknown. Hence it was always believed that such a (person), if not actually crazy, was possessed by a daemon or a god."

Were such persons crazy? Or were they merely stubborn seekers following the impulse of the Human Being, who has no place to lay its head.

We are each gifted with our lives. Sometimes it may look and feel like a curse, and yet, it is who we are. Now, how do we actualize ourselves when there can be so many other Powers attempting to turn us into something else...even with our consent?!? The goal of our becoming is that Reign of God...that new order...that coming to terms with whose we are and who we will become no matter what might be the cost or the impact as our lives, beloved by God, unfold. This is all so easy to say. Then...comes reality. Then...comes being me in the face of not being...of being rejected...of being left behind...of being forgotten...of being brutalized for not following the path being taking by most others. I don't like using the word "crazy" to describe the saints of God who are emerging as this Human Being because I think it is a more of a blessed sanity that always remembers the place we have in life before anyone tries to put us in a place that is not us.

Connection: Take a deep breath...and see how everything looks before we let everything rule us throughout the day.

What a gift you have given to us, O God. The gift is a simple one - our lives. When we forget that we are the gift of life you have placed into the world to be a gift to others, we need your Spirit to tickle us...remind us...make us bold and full of compassion. Amen.

Tuesday 6 November 2007

Today we're moving into another parable verse in Luke, Matthew, and the gospel of Thomas that uses the image of the son of Man. I'm jumping over a bunch of wonderful images about the way Cynics lived in Jesus day (because some like to draw a connection between Jesus and Cynics of the day) and pressing on to some of Walter Wink's thoughts.

"And Jesus said to him, Foxes have dens, and the birds of the sky have nests; but the son of Man has nowhere to lay his head."

Here again we see indications that the Human Being could denote Jesus and , at the same time, have a collective meaning that took in those following Jesus' way. He does not say, "I have no place to lay my head," nor "I the son of the man have no place to lay my head." Insofar as Jesus, and others, live the existential uncertainty of the Human Being, they have incarnated it. Such incarnation can be the realization that we can live out of an interior center, secure yet flexible, capable of enduring tension, with a tolerance for abiguity, anxiety, and conflict, traveling like turtles with our homes on our backs. Dogmatic religion exists to protect people from this anxious, insecure openness to the possibilities of the moment.

Whatever I heard about this passage, these ending thoughts really have grabbed me. It helps explain how Jesus is said to have noted that his "kingdom is not from this world" (John). It doesn't mean that the kingdom has nothing to do with this world. Rather it can mean that the power of this interior center is not at all involved in the games and positioning and powers that are best known in our world. The Human Being is capable of life that is not ruled by the prevailing winds of the culture and society. Wink draws a picture of a people who are able to live with abiquity, anxiety, conflict - wow, don't we need that kind of a sense of a center in the church today. It is no wonder why issues like homosexuality can dismantle the peace within the church - we do not know how to remain and live from that interior center. We do not know how to be a part of life of the Human Being with the gracious Reign of our God. We want answers, limits, "yes or no." We want a place to lay our heads so that we can cuddle up in our own lives and ignore the world in which the Human Being is to come fully alive. This brief note by Wink may make it into one of my "memorable" quotes. For someone who cannot quote very well, that means this is quite a important gift of wisdom from the author.

Connection: We can walk in the middle of anxious moments and we can embrace something more of our Humanity than we thought we could.

Lord of Open Spaces and New Life, there are many times when we tremble and are afraid. In those times, it is easy to turn from you and secure ourselves as best as we know. In these times, we need your Spirit of All Hopefulness to walk with us and remain at peace and begin to see things in a new and creative way. Thanks be to you, O God. Amen.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Monday 5 November 2007

Let's begin the week with one more comment by Walter Wink on the story of the healing of the paralytic and forgiveness of sins as it refers to the son of Man - the Human Being.

When the church ceased to read the reference to the Human Being here as universal empowerment to forgive sins, and took it instead as a christological title more or less equivalent to Christ and Son of God, the authority to declare people reconciled to God ceased to be the common property of the New Humanity established by Jesus. Instead, it became the sole perogative of Jesus and, through ordination, of those who continued to represent him as the official leaders of the chruch. With ordination, the rank-and-file members were stripped of the authority to declare others forgiven on behalf of God. The "laity" became passive recipients of grace and thus emptied themselves once again into transcendence.

It is so important for us to be able to forgive others. It is the beginning of the healing of all of us. This is not something that can be held off for someone else to do for us. When that it the case, some often go without hearing the word of forgiveness or speaking the word of forgiveness. The whole community suffers form that unwillingness to share in what I would consider the high-calling of our humanity. We have let go of this power for life. It has thus become something like a magical experience...only done at certain times, under certain situations, and by certain people. When Jesus heal and forgives that paralytic, is it a word to us to not shut up - but rather, speak the words and begin to experience what may come when our Humanity lives within the realm of forgiveness that is our inheritance. I think forgiveness is such a strange and wonder-filled act that we cannot even imagine what new life can come from our experience of being forgiven or offering forgiveness. I suppose the best way to enter into that part of our Humanity is to risk being a part of this power for new life.

Connection: There's something about forgiveness that calls us to let go. Letting go can be a challenge. So...today, begin to let go.

Forgiving Lord, lead us along the path that brings us into the land of forgiveness in which we are active parts of your Reign where new life is created and old wounds are healed. In that land where you pitch you tent, may we be there with you celebrating life that is within our reach as you bless us all. Amen.