Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Tuesday 30 September 2008

As noted yesterday, we will continue with the piece from Stanley Hauerwas.

Jesus' death was not a mistake but what was to be expected of a violent world which does not believe that this is God's world. In effect Jesus is nothing less than the embodiment of God's sabbath as a reality for all people. Jesus proclaims peace as a real alternative, because he has made it possible to rest - to have confidence that our lives are in God's hands. No longer is the sabbath one day, but the form of life of a people on the move. God's kingdom, God's peace, is a movement of those who have found the confidence through the life of Jesus to make their lives a constant worship of God. We can rest in God because we are no longer driven by the assumption that we must be in control of history, that it is up to us to make things come out right.

At first it may look as though we are to be a group of passive folks who simply wait for God to act. Well...not. Our rest is the rest we have when we know that our God is and will be the beginning and end of all things...that the Reign of God comes in the midst of promise. Therefore, we can say that our lives are lives of promise. The promise in which we rest is that of shalom - the peace & healing & justice & mercy that is available to all who trust in God. We can go there. We can live there. We can walk within its promise of life even as it is not the life that is being lived all around us. Quite like the sabbath where the world goes about its business attempting to secure itself while the people of promise rest and do not try to take advantage of anyone or anything...they/we are invited to rest and worship our God.

Connection: How do you rest? How do you re-group or re-focus or re-commit? When are you best at doing that?

We long for your peace to reign among us, O God. And yet, we are so pulled by the powers of the day that we forget to pause and step back within the rest of this day that you have promised for all your children. Guide us into that place and time as we rush about this day trying to make a life for ourselves. Guide us into your peace. Amen

Monday, September 29, 2008

Monday 29 September 2008

Today we begin of section of Stanley Hauerwas' book "The Peaceable Kingdom" that focuses on the resurrection.

Jesus' death was not a mistake but what was to be expected of a violent world which does not believe that this is God's world. In effect Jesus is nothing less than the embodiment of God's sabbath as a reality for all people. Jesus proclaims peace as a real alternative, because he has made it possible to rest - to have confidence that our lives are in God's hands.

I will include this piece as the beginning of tomorrow's devotion as Hauerwas starts this section of his book with a power paragraph.
When Jesus is seen as the incarnation of our God whose Reign is one of peace, we can expect that the world will not get along with him. Nor will the world get along with the followers of Jesus when that Reign of peace guides us and leads us as we move through our daily lives. I really find the use of the image of sabbath powerful. We can rest and we can step back from the powers of war and violence because we are assured again and again that our "God Reign all contrary evidence notwithstanding" (Douglas John Hall). And yet, as we all know, it is one thing to speak those words of peace and talk about leaning on the everlasting arms and yet it is another to really rest...rest in God alone. We need to continue to carry this confidence with us and to speak those words so that it is the Good News being brought out in the middle of the bad news of the violence of the day - violence that can be in the shape of war, threat, economic crisis, etc.

Connection: I always go back to the simple action of breathing. It becomes a moment in time when we can face the fears and threats around us and be reminded of the Spirit that comes within the shalom of God's Reign. Breathe. I'm always telling myself to breathe.

As you open up your peaceable Reign, O God, you expect us to walk there and find the rest you have promised. Too often we pull back and attempt to secure our lives and then say we will walk with you. Inspire us to let go of all that we want to keep in place for ourselves and begin to enter into the domain of your promises. Amen.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Friday 26 September 2008

Today will be the last piece from Stanley Hauerwas on "Jesus and the Kingdom of God"...next week we look at the resurrection.

Jesus' cross...is not merely a general symbol of the moral significance of self-sacrifice. The cross is not the confirmation of the facile assumption that it is better to give than receive. Rather the cross is Jesus' ultimate dispossession through which God has conquered the powers of this world. The cross is not just a symbol of God's kingdom; it is that the kingdom has come. It is only by God's grace that we are enabled to accept the invitation to be part of that kingdom. Because we have confidence that God has raised this crucified man, we believe that forgiveness and love are alternatives to the coercion the world things necessary for existence. Thus, our true nature, our true end, is revealed in the story of this man in whose life, we believe, is to be found the truth.

The cross shows us that "the kingdom has come." Being embraced by the God who brings this story of Jesus alive among us is the power to become a part of that living story. Whenever we turn to this story and say that we are baptized in Christ, Jesus, we are telling ourselves that this way of peace and forgiveness and mercy and justice is the way of our lives. It is so easy to hold the story off at a distance and admire what it tells us - much like any great event in history that can teach us something. But this story of the way to the cross and through the cross and through death is meant to be a turning to us with an invitation. We are invited to live as the one who lived before us in the face of all the powers that attempt to defy the Reign of God. Jesus' life, death, and resurrection sets us up to see and be who we are when our God takes us home to be God's own. Therefore, now we can set up a place and life that demonstrates our full participation in a truthfulness in life that can be and will be a contrary adventure.

Connection: I don't know about you, but fear can mess with me - big time. Even when I am standing with others, fear can easily creep in and move me into a life that is not reflective of the peace within God's Reign. How is it that God's Reign is seen as something so far away when it is meant to be so close to us...especially when the powers of our day are attempting to pull us into their grip?!?

When you break into this day, O God, and invite us to be your own, pull on us so that we take a look at what in this world we are hanging onto that is so opposite of the life you are offering us. Heal us of our anxiety and fear so that we may rest in you alone. Amen.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Thursday 25 September 2008

An ongoing look at "Jesus and the Kingdom of God" by Stanley Hauerwas.

...our possessions are the source of our violence. Fearing that others desire what we have, or stung by the seldom acknowledged sense that what we have we do not deserve, we seek self-deceptive justifications that mire us in patterns of injustice which can be sustained only through coercion. And of course we believe our most precious possession to be the self we have created, that we have chosen. such a possession we do not lose - as we see clearly in the character of the disciples in the Gospels - simply by willing to give up all that we have. What Jesus offers is a journey, an adventure. Once undertaken, we discover that what we once held valuable, even the self, we no long count as anything.

Can we also say that by possessions we need to include our worldview...in the sense that how I see the world and how the world should be can be one of the great sources of the violence we are willing to enter? That world view or religious view or moral view can become something onto which we cling so strongly that we cannot hear or see the good news of the Reign of God. Instead, we fight to have our way become the way that is in possession of the power that gets things done in the world. At that moment, the shalom of the Reign of God is given over to the powers we choose to whip around our heads like a whip ready to strike those who act out in ways contrary to our view. Jesus' view of life was guided by the life with the promise of the Reign of God. That Reign of peace never comes among us through acts of violence. Rather, it is a way that will not - under any circumstances - become a partner in violence on behalf of any side. What may lead to peace is the inspiration to become -as noted yesterday - part of the dispossessed. That can appear to be frightening...but in that movement is a promise of new life.

Connection: Violence is just too easy to enter. The flip can be thrown with such ease that what appears to be a day of peace becomes one of violence on one level or another.

Lord of the Peaceable Reign, pull us into your domain and inspire us to live there as we move through this day. Remind us of the way of peace that was the life of our Lord, Jesus, and encourage us to follow. Amen.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Wednesday 24 September 2008

Now we look at who we are within this Reign of God - by Stanley Hauerwas.

Finally, the nature of God's kingdom is found also, and perhaps most particularly, in the calling of the disciples. Jesus calls his disciples to follow him, to leave all that they have, to leaving dead to bury dead, in a manner not dissimilar to what is required of those called to fight a holy war. They are to make a radical break with security and possessions, with the customs and habits of everyday life, for no other purpose than to share in his ministry of preaching the repentance needed to become part of the kingdom (Mark 3:13; Matt. 10:5ff). Discipleship is quite simply extended training in being dispossessed. To become followers of Jesus means that we must, like him, be dispossessed of all that we think gives us power over our own lives and the lives of others. Unless we learn to relinquish our presumption that we can ensure the significance of our lives, we are not capable of the peace of God's kingdom.

"Discipleship is quite simply extended training in being dispossessed." I read that line and had to sit with it awhile. I possess so much. And yet, this is not merely about what I possess, it is about how that which I possess, possesses me. Being dispossessed means the power that is given to that which can make the calls on my life - other than God's invitation to live within God's Reign - is to become powerless in my life. That is not an easy adventure. It is surely a daily one. Quite like rising in the morning and remembering that I am baptized and that is the foundational event that will shape the day - not the things and people I try to possess me or that I let possess me. We are already in our baptism children of God. That is enough. How can my life or your life be more significant than that. It is from that status that we move through the day as the dispossessed and the beloved of God. Our God given status and identity is the power to make us significantly alive within God's peace.

Connection: Sometimes it takes a bit of remembering to change around how we take the next step or action within this day. Remember...you are a beloved child of God.

Gracious Lord, as you bring us into your loving Reign and as we keep that reality close to our hearts, we are able to begin the journey through the cross and into the realm of your shalom. You give us a place to stand and a place to begin again and a place to leap out into this day as ones blessed and ready to rejoice in the life you hand us. We thank you, O God. Amen.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Tuesday 23 September 2008

Again we look at the "kingdom of God" as seen through Jesus.

The kind of kingdom that is present is also revealed in Jesus' relations with others. He makes no attempt to keep himself "pure," but enjoys meals with the poor and outcast. Moreover his meals are not tied to one time or place, but are spontaneous occasions of fellowship denoting the hospitality of God's kingdom. The celebration of such meals while Israel was under foreign rule with the (albeit indirect) agents of that rule also indicates the inherent political nature of the kingdom. For God's "Kingdom is not established only where other rulers have been overthrown; rather God's power erupts in the midst of oppression, forgiving and healing, and wherever that power is, there is cause for rejoicing. The world is not, that is to say, given over to Satan, or to Caesar, until God will restore his rule over, it by destroying the alien rulers. On the contrary, God is already present in this 'evil age', overcoming it with mercy.

The "kingdom" is present. It is revealed in Jesus and it continues to be revealed in the manner in which Jesus let it out! Within what is called evil there is unbounded mercy...again...and again...and again. It is the kind of action that creates hostility among those who do not want to see the work of mercy upset the very clear divisions between those who see themselves as good and those "others." It is also the kind of action that takes place in the most basic movements we can make within this day. The "hospitality of God's kingdom" is the life of those of us who claim to already we walking along the pathways of this Reign. Mercy flies in the face of the powers of our world. That doesn't mean that mercy will 'win the day.' In fact, we have seen over and over again that the powers of evil - the powers of the world as it is - have a winning record. They are able to destroy those who are relentless in their acts of mercy. Then again, there are always new witnesses - new followers - new martyrs - who, in the face of such violence and hatred, continue to walk in the ways of mercy and loving kindness so that no person is left out or forgotten.

Connection: This hospitality of God's Reign is so basic to who we are. Remember it is what takes place even in those passing glances and interactions that happen throughout the day...yes, even there is the Reign of God among us.

Within your blessed Reign, O God, we become the welcome and the touch and the listening ear and the helping hand that is available to all. Make us a courageous people who will risk being hospitable in your name. Amen.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Monday 22 September 2008

Jesus and the Kingdom of God continues to be our focus this week - again from Stanley Hauerwas.

The reality of that new age...is manifest through Jesus' healings and exorcism, where Jesus comes face to face with the demons that rule our lives and this world and decisively defeats them. Thus in Mark Jesus comes preaching, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the gospel" (1:15), but it is the demons and unclean spirits which recognize him as a threat (1:23; 1:34). Jesus' healing is not an end in itself, or simply a sign of compassion, but an indication of the power of the kingdom. He makes no attempt to cure all; rather he must go to the next towns to preach "for that is why I came out" (1:38).

Jesus comes "face to face with the demons that rule our lives and this world." Remember that this is not some strange supernatural battle against aliens who are trying to win us over. Rather, these are real sides of our world...of us. So many things try to rule us and pull us into a life that is contrary to the Reign of God. In that life...dis-ease is manifest and able to kill and devour us. In that life...war breaks out over the slightest difference or misunderstanding or need to have something that someone else has. These are demons around and within. Jesus comes to defeat them and bring us into a life where the shalom of the Reign of God grasps us and healing does take place on many levels. I think we need to also think of these demons as poverty and homelessness and economic oppression and military control. They are demons "out there" and they are demons cause war among us and in us. That is why even we do not like what Jesus brings when he confronts the demons and brings new life. We are often a part of the power of darkness that wants nothing to do with a new life in a new age.

Connection: Imagine thinking of this day as a cosmic battle in which we are invited to follow our Lord, Jesus, into a life of shalom where shalom is not honored. What would it be like!?!

Lord of All Peacefulness, you deliver us from the powers of death and lead us into the life that grows in the midst of your peace. It is not always a easy place to be. Peace is often resisted and new life often seems frightening because we are so used to the ways that already exist. Be our encouragement and hope. Amen.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Thursday 18 September 2008

We continue with Jesus' refusal to to be separated from those "outside" - again by Stanley Hauerwas.

Jesus issued this challenge not only through his teaching, but through his life. Indeed the very announcement of the reality of the kingdom, its presence here and now, is embodied in his life . In him we see that living a life of forgiveness and peace is not an impossible ideal but an opportunity now present. Thus Jesus' life is integral to the meaning, content, and possibility of the kingdom. For the announcement of the reality of this kingdom , of the possibility of living a life of forgiveness and peace with one's enemies, is based on our confidence that that kingdom has become a reality through the life and work of this man, Jesus of Nazareth. His life is the life of the end - this is the way the world is meant to be - and thus those who follow him become a people of the last times, the people of the new age.

"Those who follow him become the people of the last times." Usually when we hear this, it comes from folks who mean this say that the world is coming to an end. They try to predict when it will happen and how it will happen. Often they cling to literally taken images within few verses of Scripture or to images in apocalyptic writing. Here though, the last times is really the kind of life that is available for us to live today. Therefore the followers of Jesus are always living in the last times. That is, within the vision of the last days...in the vision of triumph...in the vision of the life that is demonstrated by Jesus of Nazareth. We are invited to live as in the last days that are already secure and in place and pulling us into the life that is at the end of all things. Life that is full and rich and healing and peaceful and merciful....

Connection: Last days...that is today and we have been given insight into the way followers of Jesus are invited to spend this day.

Come, Lord, Jesus, and walk with us in these day so that we may move as though the fullness of your Reign is at hand and we are your followers in all that comes. Amen.

Friday 19 September 2008

Just how real is this Reign of God to be!?! Hauerwas offers some words to us.

The nature and reality of the kingdom is manifest throughout Jesus' life and ministry. Like the prophets he called Israel back to obedience to the law - a law that appeared strenuous. But there is no indication the rigorous demands of the Sermon on the Mount were meant only as some unrealizable ideal. To believe so is to lose the exchatological context of Jesus' teaching. To be sure, Jesus' demand that we forgive our enemies challenges our normal assumptions about what is possible, but that is exactly what it is meant to do. We are not to accept the world with its hate and resentments as a given, but to recognize that we live in a new age which makes possible a new way of life.

As much as some folk would like to say that it is simply common sense to be a follower of Jesus, we need only turn to the Sermon on the Mount. This is not the way we would act as simply a matter of common sense. Common sense would have us forgive as we usually forgive - a little bit - conditionally - only when we are ready. Common sense would say there is a time when killing is necessary - in fact there are many times - in fact it would be nonsense not to be ready to kill in order to protect ourselves. But when Jesus teaches about the Reign of God and invites us to enter its life, who we become and what we are called to do may not make as much sense as we would like. Our inability to deal with the life within God's Reign does not mean that this life is not among us. It is available and it is ours for the living...even when we daily reject it for what we might consider would make more sense.

Connection: Today is going to be as surprising as a well-told parable. That is how life in the Reign of God greets us - Surprise. Just as we are ready to go one way...there is a voice that calls us home. We are invited to listen.

You draw us into your Reign, O God, and we often wait for another offer - one we think will be better for us. Continue to call us and remind us that we are held within your embrace even as we fear what is to come. Amen.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Wednesday 17 September 2008

We continue to turn to Jesus as we long to see the Reign of God and its character. Again - Stanley Hauerwas.

Through Jesus' life and teachings we see how the church came to understand that God's kingship and power consists not in coercion but in God's willingness to forgive and have mercy on us. God wills nothing less than that men and women should love their enemies and forgive one another; thus we will be perfect as God is perfect. Jesus challenged both the militaristic and ritualistic notions of what God's kingdom required - the former by denying the right of violence even if attacked, and the latter by his steadfast refusal to be separated from those "outside."

Here is the essential reason why we can, as followers of Jesus, say no to military service. This does not mean that we cannot be patriotic citizens as we can still be those who serve our neighbors and those who are not our neighbors in ways that are self-giving and risky and creative. The historic peace churches are automatically considered able to avoid mandatory military service during the times of a draft, simply because of who they claim to be. Their church practice as displayed everyday in a very public manner is evidence of their unwillingness to go to war and participate in the violence that we have come to expect of one another. Beyond military service, I would suggest that we are being invited into a life that is just as contrary to the flow of the life around us when we insist on forgiveness and are unwilling to be separated from others. Rather, we will continue to move toward the strangers and those who can so easily be cast as our enemies.

Connection: We are no longer mere readers of the story. This day we are once again invited to be a part of the story that displays this quite contrary life in the world.

Blessed Lord, take our hand and walk with us beyond our anger and fear and need for revenge. Walk with us and help us to see your way as a path we can claim and a path on which we too can walk through these days. Amen.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Monday/Tuesday 15 January 2008

More on "Jesus and the Kingdom of God" by Stanley Hauerwas. (sorry for not sending this on Monday...so...this is Tuesday's devotion)

Jesus' openness to the "unclean,"...is but one of the ways we see how his understanding of God's sovereignty was a challenge to that of the Pharisees. Such openness denotes that the community created by that kingdom cannot shield itself from the outsider. It must have confidence that God is present even in the unclean - a confidence that God is present even in the unclean - a community made possible only because the community itself was formed by the presence of the ultimate stranger, Jesus Christ.

The community of the followers of Jesus "must have confidence that God is present even in the unclean." Wow...that would change the whole image of the church in the world today. Just yesterday someone was telling me about how the church has such a negative view among so many people because we appear to be in the condemning business. Too often the "unclean" are noted and criticized and asked to leave in one way or another. This demonstrates the lack of confidence we are encouraged to have as part of God's Reign in which God is "present even in the unclean." Unfortunately, it is too easy to overlook the fact of God's presence because our plans and our opinions and our fears usually rule us. Thus, the church is caught up in the powers of brokenness that are not willing to hold up to the world the world a vision of God's Reign on the loose and available to all.

Connection: Somehow we have to get over the way we thrust others out of the Reign of God. We may not do it so abruptly...but we do it in many ways as we wander through the day.

Deliver us, O God, from the ways we would go to keep our world and our lives broken into compartments so that one part does not touch the other. We are so willing to judge and then we do not hear your judgement that those around us - just like us - are your beloved. Open our hearts to your Reign. Amen.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Friday 12 September 2008

We end the week with another look at "Jesus and the Kingdom of God."

Just as we cannot understand what it means to learn to follow Jesus without understanding what it means for Israel to be on a journey with the Lord, so we cannot understand the kingdom without understanding its role in Israel. The kingdom ideal that Jesus proclaimed is no new idea nor does he seem to have given it some startling new meaning. Rather he proclaims that the kingdom is present insofar as his life reveals the effective power of God to create a transformed people capable of living peaceably in a violent world.

It is so important to see the unfolding of God's Reign as part of a real transformation that takes place in the lives of ordinary people. The life of those people is the life of the peace of God's Reign within a world that does not share that peace. Our world - no matter who we look at - does not share that peace. We like pieces of it. We are attracted to some notions of peace. Then as we are reminded that the peace of God's Reign is demonstrated through the life of Jesus and we are invited to follow that life even as it goes to the cross, peace is often a way we do not choose to go. Israel was called to be a radically new people. A people whose shalom made the heads of the powers of this world to turn. That is...they were to be a light. The light was to be the justice, mercy, compassion, reconciliation, that flows from a people living within God's peaceable Reign.

Connection: I am often embarrassed "after the fact." For me that mean that "after the fact" or after some reflection on how I have acted, I realize that I have not acted within this Reign of peace. It is not a easy journey but it is one we are invited to enter and one in which we have someone to follow to show us the way....even through the ordinary of this day.

Compassionate God, your peace is a whole life knitted together by your love and nurtured by your mercy. Inspire us to a part of the tapestry of your Reign. Amen.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Thursday 11 September 2009

Jesus and the Kingdom of God....we're are still with Stanley Hauerwas.

Jesus directs our attention to the kingdom, but the early followers rightly recognized that to see what that kingdom entailed they must attend to his life, death, and resurrection, for his life reveals to us how God would be sovereign. Therefore to learn to see the world eschatologically requires that we learn to see the life of Jesus as decisive for the world's status as part of God's kingdom.

How does God work...How is the Reign of God revealed to us?....in the "life, death, and resurrection" of Jesus. From that point we begin to see how all things are meant to unfold. They will unfold within the loving, forgiving embrace of our God who invites us into a life that will follow that pattern of Jesus. Jesus goes before us and reveals the sovereign Reign of God and the fullness of its life. Now becomes the moment when the end of time take shape in the midst of the present. Now becomes more of the unveiling of God's future in, with, and under the life of the community of saints who turn to Jesus to hear and see the way into this future.

Connection: Even though we are faced with new situations each day, we face them within the story line of Jesus life, death, and resurrection. These events open up the meaning of future.

Lord of Life, your promise invites life from us and we are encouraged to leap into all that you have ready for us as we live each day within the tension of the present and your future meeting among us. Grant us the wisdom to keep the life of our Lord, Jesus, in view. Amen.

Wednesday 10 September 2008

...continuing with Stanley Hauerwas on "Jesus and the Kingdom of God.

The kingdom is not simply some cipher that we can fill in with our ideas about what a good society ought to look like. Nor is it merely a way of reemphasizing the eternal sovereignty of God, though this is certainly part of what the proclamation of the kingdom entails. Rather the proclamation of the coming kingdom of God, its presence, and its future coming is a claim about how God rules and the establishment of that rule through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Thus the Gospels portray Jesus not only offering the possibility of achieving what were heretofore thought to be impossible ethical ideals. He actually proclaims and embodies a way of life that God has made possible here and now.

This "how God rules" is the part of the vision that reminds me that no political party will and can take on this responsibility. We all fall short and no matter how we wish and pray that some good "religious" person will be put in power (and for so many in the U.S. this means a Christian) God's rule will always point to the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Politicians won't go there because of the central action in this last sentence - death. The need to be in control and be called the saving power and defeat whatever it is that we would define as evil (out there) will never let us accept death in any form because we are afraid of it. Within the Reign of God, death has no power and therefore, we can face it, enter the grip it attempts to have on us, and we can - as necessary - die in order to be lifted up to new life. That kind of dynamic is a regular movement in God's Reign. It is the dialogical pattern that opens up our lives to the future already in place - then end that is already secured for eternity.

Connection: So when we "lose" what we long for, we are invited to look again at how God will work among us in ways we did not anticipate.

Come, Lord of the Future, lead us and guide us along your way - again and again. Amen.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Tuesday 9 September 2009

More on "Jesus and the Kingdom of God" by Stanley Hauerwas.

To begin to understand Jesus' announcement of the kingdom we must first rid ourselves of the notion that the world we experience will exist indefinitely. We must learn to see the world as Israel had learned to understand it - that is, eschatologically. Though it sounds powerful and intimidating, in fact it is quite simple, for to view the world eschatologically is to see it in terms of a story, with a beginning, a continuing drama, and an end. And "a story needs an ending. A point must be reached at which one can feel that certain issues are resolved, a certain finality has been achieved. In this respect a story departs from real life. In reality there never is an end.... But the story-teller cannot accept this.... The story-teller needs finality, a closed sequence of events such that a judgment can be passed." It is against this background that Jesus' announcement of the kingdom must be seen, for he came to announce an end that, while not yet final, nonetheless provided a necessary perspective for our continuing life in the world.

We are in the midst of the drama. In our story-telling, we say we know the end of the story. It has not come to its completeness and yet the story has been told about what is to come...how the end is full of the love of God who rescues and blesses and restores all things. In the meantime - in the midst of the drama - the end informs our life. The power of evil and brokenness and terror and threat and fear is not the prevailing power. So...in the meantime, we can live as though evil does not have that power within this story-telling that it seems to have. In Israel's story-telling, there was the constant threat of the powers all around them - great powers - greater than anything Israel could muster. And yet, who is around today...Israel...even though the story is not over...the story-tellers continue to live through time. We, as followers of Jesus, are within this kind of story line. When Jesus announces the kingdom, it is a story - a vision - into which we are invited to walk despite all the evidence that evil is prevailing and will prevail. It is this story-telling that brings to the faithful - life that is not overwhelmed by circumstances. Rather, we keep stepping into the story of promise that has already unveiled the end into which we walk with all our lives.

Connection: Some times, this doesn't seem right. Some days, knowing the end of the story is not enough to face the brokenness of the day. And yet, the promise is still out there for us and we must remind one another of this story line even when we do not feel as though it is real for us.

Lord of the End of Time, when you judge us as blessed and throw your net over all people it is an action we can count on no matter what other stories are told among us. We are blessed by what you have already done and what you have announced and invited us to announce even today in words and acts in your name. Praise be to you, O God. Amen.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Monday 8 August 2008

Today we move into a section called "Jesus and the Kingdom of God" by Stanley Hauerwas.

...we must remember that for Israel to imitate god or for Christians to imitate Jesus is not an end in itself. Such an imitation is to put one in the position of being part of a kingdom. As we have already noted, Jesus as portrayed in the synoptic Gospels does not call attention to himself. He comes to announce the kingdom as a present reality. To what extent he understood then how his life would be chosen by God to be the means by which that kingdom would be made a reality to all people, we have no way of knowing. What is significant is not what Jesus may or may not have thought about himself, though he certainly acted as one having authority (Matt.12:28), but that he was obedient to his calling and therefore is the sign and the form of the reality of God's kingship then and now.

What strikes me in my reading of this piece is that this proclamation of Jesus - this announcement that the kingdom is a present reality - is the beginning of it becoming a living reality. Jesus announces its present reality and he is walking within its bounds. It is a action that not all of us do. Often, announcements are made but the life they announce does not become a reality. When we look to Jesus in the gospels, we see a life and yet we are not given any perspective on how he thought of himself or how he planned out his day. Rather we are given the story of his life. This story as we look at it though, gives us a living example of the Reign of God coming to life. Could it be that our announcement of God's Reign presently around us is the way we move into its life? We announce its reality and in that announcement, we already begin to be pulled into its life. All the more reason to never stop announcing.

Connection: Sometimes it is not easy to announce the presence of God's Reign. It can come off as a strange kind of presentation. Then again, this Reign is all about real life stuff that is a part of each day we enter. Therefore, it need not be so strange.

Lord of the New Day within God's Reign, encourage us to step into the many opportunities of life within your Reign as we move along through the may dynamics of the day. Often we simply need the eyes to see them and then the heart to enter them. Amen.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Friday 5 September 2008

Jesus' way was the way of the Reign of God that Stanley Hauerwas notes is the imitation of God.

...Jesus serves those he would help and those he must confront. In response to people's faith he heals, crediting not his own authority but the person's faith and God's power as the source of healing. He does not seek out those to heal, for he came out to preach, but he heals those who come to him. Moreover, he serves the authorities by confronting them. "Jesus confronts the authorities with the nature of God's rule and with the seriousness of their offenses against it, but he does not impose his authority on them. After each confrontation, he moves on, leaving the authorities to choose their response. He is not a military messiah who uses a sword or manipulated the crowds to impose his authority. He does not even fight to defend himself, and he endures the consequences of his opponent's scorn."

Jesus lives as though he is the life of the Reign of God. He does not push it on people. He does not impose it. He does not insist on his way as the way all people must walk. Rather, he lives within the power of that Reign and people come to him...people are moved by the reality in which he walks...people come to the power of God's Reign that is the power of Jesus' life. I find that the church today is losing its willingness to be the power of this Reign. Rather, too many want there to be a confrontational faith in which people must choose to be on the right side and if a person is not with us, just as we have defined it, they must be defeated or rebuked. Isn't our witness to be one that comes to life and turns people's heads because they see something that no power in our world can offer?!? Isn't our witness to be one of confrontation when we talk in the midst of the powers of the world?!? We don't pick "parties" or candidates to carry our banner. Rather, in the power of the resurrection, we flat out live within the promise and vision of the new age and that life will, by its very nature, confront all and any sides of our world's politics.

Connection: Let's think of ourselves as people who walk through this day as one's who live in the Reign of God. That is not a pushy position. Rather, it is one that is humble and direct and willing to be put out to dry when we speak or act up in such a way.

Let you Reign encircle us, O God, and as we come to life within your gracious love be our support and encouragement for it is so easy for us to turn away from your domain. Amen.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Thursday 4 September 2008

In a world in love with coercive power Stanley Hauerwas offers something to consider.

...Jesus' whole life, as narratively depicted in the Gospels, is a life of power that is possible only for one possessed by the power of God. But such a power, exactly because it is a genuine and truthful power, does not serve by forcing itself on others. thus he "calls" the disciples and teaches them to be faithful, but he does not try to control their responses. He knows that the form of power which results from our being dispossessed of the powers currently holding our lives can come only as we freely give up those things and goods that possess us. But we do not dispossess ourselves just by our willing, but by being offered a way of selfless power. Thus Jesus finally goes to his death not knowing what the future behavior of the disciples might be or their ultimate fate. He dies out of obedience and entrusts the future to God.

What an important word to hear about Jesus: "he does not try to control (the disciples) response." Too often religious leaders and religious communities do try to control. Too often we are being told that you must do this or be like that in order to be one of the 'really' faithful ones. What Jesus does is what we are invited to do, move forward with the vision of God's Reign within us in such a way that it directs our lives without there having to be rigid controls that force people into boxes...which has nothing to do with being faithful. The power of the resurrection is a power that frees us from all the powers that attempt to control us - even religious power. The power of God is a power that makes things new. Thus we use words like new creation. The future is already waiting us to begin to live within it and we are encouraged to let go and live.

Connection: How does this life of power that comes from our God inform our servanthood and our willingness to leap into God's future? I think it is in the most basic elements of our lives.

Within you Reign, O God, you have opened up a life that is full of possibilities that invite us to leave behind what we want the world to be and grasp hold of what you have promised in Jesus. Grant us the power that opens us that life. Amen.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Wednesday 3 September 2008

Today we continue with Hauerwas' comments about the Lord and followers as servant.

In this way of service we learn of the kind of God we are to love and to whom we are called to obedience. For Jesus' life is the life of God insofar as he serves others as God serves us.
"His first allegiance is to God; then he loves the neighbor as himself. So he has no need to lord over out of fear or to get others to serve him; and his commitment to serve is courageous, for he loses his life by so doing. So Jesus' idea of service does not become a matter of doing what others want him to do except insofar as it remains consonant with his understanding of God's will. He will heal others who request it, like Bartimaeus, but he will not grant the request of James and John who want power and glory. Strong-willed and independent, Jesus has a a clear sense of his own mission, and neither traditions nor laws nor public pressure nor fear of indictment prevent him from speaking and acting."

This is not a Lord who gives us what we want...simply because we want it. That would bring about the same old world we live in everyday. That would bring us war...that would bring us greed...that would bring us self-centered living. This Lord, Jesus, carries the vision of God's Reign...what God would have grow and come to life among us. The quote used above is very useful. The healing of the blind man was a part of the vision of wholeness and shalom of the Reign of God. The placement of individuals in places of power is probably going to move everything off the road to the cross and into the realm of all the other powers of the world. So, there must be a "no" and there must be a "yes" as we look to how we will be the servants of the Lord.

Connection: We do not have to be afraid to say 'yes' or 'no.' In fact, it is just fine to be willing to openly wrestle with yes/no...maybe so. As long as we keep one another focused on God's peaceable Reign.

Lord of Peace, bring us together to look again at the way of your Reign. It is so easy for us to turn from servant to ones who long to be served. Keep us steadfast in your way. Amen.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Tuesday 2 September 2008

Thomas Merton again writing on being disciples of Jesus.

...one becomes a disciple by following the way of God, which is the way of renunciation: "If any man would come after me let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me" (Mark 8:34). Moreover, such a renunciation is not merely an existential giving up of the self, but the surrender of family life and affection (Matt.10:37), and perhaps even the giving up of life itself (Mark 10:45). But it is also a life of humility:
"You know that those who are supposed to rule over the Gentiles lord it over them and their great men exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you; but whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave to all. For the Son of man also came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." (Mark 10:42-45)

All of this speaks of a willingness to step back from the ways that we know so well in the world. For the moment we step forward with our own agendas, we begin to forget about the necessity to be a community. When we forget that, we attempt to make others into objects. When we do that, we make of ourselves 'gods' that we claim have a right to lord over others....because others are not like us. The way of servanthood that is taken on as a discipline is a way that brings us into a new way of seeing all things. It is in this position that we are constantly reminded of the worth of the other person because we are not so consumed by our self-interests. Humility gives us the opportunity to no only see another person with new eyes...we also begin to see ourselves with new eyes as our relationships with others actually become...relationships.

Connection: Some times it is necessary to step back and re-view our place among others. It is during those times of this day that we begin to be open to the in breaking of God's Reign.

Lord of Life, we are not always ones who follow the way of your beloved, Jesus. To walk in his way is not what we would have for ourselves. And yet, your Spirit continues to pull us into the humility of his life and the renewal of all life as we enter his way. Amen.