Friday, October 31, 2008

Friday 31 October 2008

The week and the month closes with a good word about Scripture - by Stanley Hauerwas.

...Scripture stands over the community exerting a critical function, but that it does so is an aspect of the community's self-understanding. Scripture is the means the church uses to constantly test its memory. That is why it can never be content with using just one part of the Scripture, but must struggle day in and day out with the full text. For the story the church must tell as well as embody is a many-sided tale which constantly calls us from complacency and conventions. Scripture has authority in the church, not because no one knows the truth, but because the truth is a conversation for which Scripture sets the agenda and boundaries. Those with authority are those who would serve by helping the church better hear and correspond to the stories of God as we find them in Scripture.

This way of looking at Scripture can drive a literalist to the breaking point. We can never be "content with using just one part of the Scripture." When we do that, we pick our own "sacred" pieces of Scripture that are considered "sacred" because we think they agree with where we are and what we believe. We must be a people who look at the whole book - the grand themes that penetrate time and link us with those who have gone before us holding onto these stories and those who will follow and turn to the same stories. We believe that the Spirit of the Church is the power that brings together all of the followers of Jesus so that we can discern what will be the path we follow in every place and time. The work of the Spirit includes the conversations we enter as we attempt to move into this day as a people who continue to look for the ways the Good News can be put to life among us. Scripture is our starting point and our guide in the midst of our conversations and wrestling with the day.

Connection: When someone says, "the bible says..." Listen to them, but also feel free to turn to the wider themes of Scripture that often overturn some of the interpretations of a passage here and a passage there. So...homework for all of us is to grasp those themes as gifts to our life.

Living Word, you guide us by the stories given to us by the faithful who have gone before us and the opportunity to listen to one another as we share those stories. In the midst of our conversation and prayer, lead us into new ways of seeing the fullness of your Reign. Amen.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Wednesday 29 October 2008

More on the tie between our story and the story that we tell in scripture.

"...the existence of Israel and the church are not accidentally related to the story but are necessary for our knowledge of God. You cannot tell the story of God without including within it the story of Israel and the church. So it is not so odd that as part of the creed we affirm that we believe in the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. We believe in the church in the sense that we know that it is not finally our creation, but exists only by God's calling of people. Moreover it is only through such a people that the world can know that our God is one who wills nothing else than our good. To be sure the church is often unfaithful, but God refuses to let that unfaithfulness be the last word. God creates and sustains a peaceable people in the world, generation after generation."

I find great comfort in the reminder that even in the unfaithfulness of the church "God refuses to let that unfaithfulness be the last word." Rather than let ourselves be overcome by what the church is "not," we can remind ourselves of what God intends to do with us. It can be very easy to think about giving up and moving away from the church because it is not and doesn't seem to want to be a part of the living vision of God's Reign. And yet, beyond our bits of wisdom is the living God who does not give up on what God will do in, with, and under the lives of God's people. That is refreshing to me - especially when I'm not feeling hopeful. This is another reason why our story telling is so important. We have been here before....! We are not the first ones to have to face our own un-faith and the predicament that is all around us. It is our history to fall short. It is also our history to have our God lift up a remnant and continue on the way. In the meantime, we can turn to one another and together be prepared to be surprised by what God can do with the likes of you and me.

Connection: Hope is never defeated no matter how hard we fight against it or try to deny it.

You, O God, are the rock upon which we can enter this day. Again and again you provide a safe place to begin the life into which you are always inviting us. We give you thanks - again. Amen.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Tuesday 28 October 2008

Following up on story and Christian ethics - from Stanley Hauerwas.

The fact that Christian ethics begins and ends with a story requires a corresponding community existing across time. The story of God as told through the experience of Israel and the church cannot be abstracted from those communities engaged in the telling and hearing. As a story it cannot exist without a historic people, for it requires telling and remembering if it is to exist at all. God has entrusted his presence to a historic and contingent community which can never rest on its past success, but must be renewed generation after generation. That is why the story is not merely told but embodied in a people's habits that form and are formed in worship, governance, and morality.

In some ways, the story telling of the community called the church is not a "once upon a time" tale that took place way back in time. Rather it is a community that is telling a story that has a past but it is also a story that continues to roll into and through the present making those of us who are followers of Jesus part of a grand storyline that has been and is and will be rooted in the history of real people. When we look back at the life of Jesus and the embodiment of the Reign of God in his life, we look back so as to inform us of how that story is to be interpreted in and through each of our lives as the community participates in the life of that Reign even now. In years to come, the followers of Jesus may refer back to these days and how the saints of old (yes, that will be us one day) passed on a life that they are now being invited to actualize in their day. It is important to remember that even if there is only a remnant of people living as the community of the resurrected Lord, Jesus, it is enough to make history...the history of the living Reign of God.

Connection: Sometimes it is helpful to see our ordinary day as a part of the grand history of the churches witness. There was no time as important as now - even if we consider some of our past days as the "glory" days. Today we begin again and make history.

Lord of All Time, remind us of the way you open up our lives to the adventures of new life that come as we follow in the way of our ancestors in the faith. Grant us the courage to walk boldly within this history of witness. Amen.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Monday 27 October 2008

Most of this week will be focusing on Stanley Hauerwas writing on "The Servant Community: Christian Social Ethics.

It is from the church that Christian ethics draws its ethical substance and it is to the church that Christian ethical reflection is first addressed. Christian ethics is not written for everyone, but for those people who have been formed by the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Jesus. Therefore Christian ethics can never be a minimalistic ethic for everyone, but must presuppose a sanctified people wanting to live more faithful to God's story.

We are what we have been called - named. We are the beloved. That can and does shape us. We hear that kind of message from the storytelling of the community. Before we are invited into a life that is the shape of the community, God has already acted and made us the people we claim to be. It is our status as daughters and sons of God within the story of God with us that we begin to find out what the shape of our lives is. We then, unfold along that vision. Christian ethics seems to insist on a life that has already been handed to us. We find out about that life within the story telling of the community - one that really does look back to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Jesus...and the parade of saints who walked into the story before us.

Connection: Maybe the connection for the day is to remember that we are already connected to a story that is more grand than our own lives. It is a story in which we are never lost - only found.

Bind us together, O God. Remind us that we are never abandoned or left alone to figure out how to live within your Reign. Rather, we follow a line of stories that introduce us to the life that is waiting to be ours. For this life we give you thanks. Amen.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Friday 24 October 2008

I find this to be a good way to bring the week to an end - again by Stanley Hauerwas.

The church is not the kingdom but the foretaste of the kingdom. For it is in the church that the narrative of God is lived in a way that makes the kingdom visible. The church must be the clear manifestation of a people who have learned to be a peace with themselves, one another, the stranger, and of course, most of all, God. There can be no sanctification of individuals without a sanctified people. We need examples and masters, and if we are without either, the church cannot exist as a people who are pledged to be different from the world.

We use the word "foretaste" quite a bit. Most often it is when we sing or speak of the "foretaste of the feast to come" as we consider our experience at the Lord's Table. Then again, we are not merely looking at this meal. We are considering in our singing and speaking the reality of a people whose life "together" is a living sign - an example - a vision of how our God is made manifest within our lives. It is always in the community that is gathered in worship and in the world. The life of the Reign of God is the life that we put a face to as we are led out into this day in the way our Lord moved on to Jerusalem and death and was raised with a resounding Easter "Yes!" The foretaste is not the full taste...but it is there always available...a taste. As is noted above, that taste comes as a peace that is alive and spreading in and through all things. The taste is the church as life.

Connection: Don't get upset with the stumbling we so often see in the church and in our individual lives. We are stumbling because we dare to be something new and we do not have that down perfectly. Rather today is a day to exercise whose we are...stumble a bit but always be a part of that "foretaste."

You, O God, abide with us through all our days and we are invited to dance to the music of your gracious Reign. Keep your songs of grace whipping around us so that we will in all the times of this day remember to dance within your Reign today. Amen.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Thursday 23 October 2008

More with "The Servant Community" by Stanley Hauerwas.

We have see that the content of Christian ethics involves claims about a kingdom. Therefore the first words about the Christian life are about a life together, not about the individual. This kingdom sets the standard for the life of the church, but the life of the kingdom is broader than even that of the church. For the church does not possess Christ; his presence is not confined to the church. Rather it is in the church that we learn to recognize Christ's presence outside the church.

It is very easy to stop short of pressing on within the vision of the Reign of God. This Reign or Kingdom is really what we preach and teach. It is not something unrelated to who we are and what we are becoming. It is quite the opposite. It is the shape of our relating...the shape of how we go through the day...the shape of how we set up life in, with, and under the world. Obviously it involves individual lives and individual actions. At the same time, it is always with the notion of community being central to how we go about the life within this Reign. I found the last line of this comment by Hauerwas to be important for us when we, as church, look again at what it means to follow Jesus: "it is in the church that we learn to recognize Christ's presence outside the church." Is it that this Christ is always the one who is pulling us beyond ourselves and into relationship so that we are constantly having to face the wideness of God' Reign? Is it that we can be so short-sighted we do not see our Lord out and about with those we would not claim to be one of us?

Connection: Life together...defines the Christ within us. So there within this day - and the life all around us - we are given the opportunity to enter into the life of the fullness of the body of Christ.

When you call us to follow, O God, you ask us to move out from the world's we like to create for ourselves so that we can experience the world as you have created it for all your beloved. Help us to lift up our eyes and re-view this day and those all around all things within the creative vision of your gracious Reign. Amen.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Tuesday/Wednesday 21/22 October 2008

The Servant Community - Stanley Haurwas. (unable to post on Tuesday)

At a general level there is much to be said for the contention that every ethic is a social ethic. The self is fundamentally a social self. We are not individuals who come into contact with others and then decide our various levels of social involvement. We are not "I's" who decide to identify with certain "we's"; we are first of all "we's" who discover our "I's" through learning to recognize the others as similar and different from ourselves. Our individuality is possible only because we are first of all social beings. After all, the "self" names not a thing, but a relationship. I know who I am only in relation to others, and, indeed, who I am is a relation with others.

When we attempt to "find ourselves" it is a bit odd that we pull away from others. The journey of self-understanding and self-renewal may be the journey into the depths of community. For some time I have thrown around the notion of an 'urban spirituality.' It is my way of saying stay put and be the beloved that we are. It is also my way of saying look around and appreciate what is a part of the matrix in which we live. It is taking note of this "we" and at the same time becoming much more in tune with the "I" that moves and breathes alongside others who are finding their "I" in the midst of the "we" that is shared within the everyday communities in which we live. We are this wonderful relational people and there is no place more important to be relational than in, with, and under the people who are all around us - even when we are within the common arenas of our lives. To think that we must go off to find self...may prevent us from coming back and being the most essential part of who we are as followers of Jesus - a "we." I know a person who so longs to be on retreat and in the midst of private solitude (which is a wonderful journey) but this person is unable to experience of the joy of being a "we."

Connection: Blessed are 'we' when it includes you and me. Blessed are you and me when there is a "we" that becomes us.

Lord of New Life, lead us into the paths of others so that as we long to see you more clearly we may find how close you are and that the vision needed to see your glory is vision that is already available to us - right here - right now. Amen.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Monday 20 October 2008

Today we will begin a new section in "The Peaceable Kingdom" by Stanley Hauerwas - The Servant Community.

...Christian ethics would be unintelligible if it did not presuppose the existence and recognizability of communities and corresponding institutions capable of carrying the story of God.
The most general name we give that community is church, but there are other names for it in the history of Christianity. It is "the way," the body of Christ, people of God, and a plethora of images that denote the social reality of being Christian and what it means to be a distinctive people formed by the narrative of God. We should remember that the name "church" is no less an image than "people of God." In fact, one of the issues in theology is which images of the church are primary or controlling of the others.

More and more I like the language that says "carrying the story of God" or something close to that. It gives me the freedom to hear how practical and real it is to be "people of God" or "the church" or followers of Jesus. The stories bring us into contact with life not merely some sort of theory. We may want to draw up theories about the life of a community but to hear their story...the story of who they are when they are out and about in the world..helps to make it all sound real. When it sounds real, it carries a life that I can enter. Stories of communities who call themselves "people of God" will sound like stories that say "this is who we are...this is what we do...this is what we have done...this is how we put things together." In that way, faith is opened up and we begin to see the life that emerges when we say we trust the stories of our God who is infinitely with us and for us.

Connection: No better way to say what we believe than to live the life that is formed when we we do trust our God who loves us...and loves again.

When you call us along the way within your Reign, O God, we hear stories of those who have move down the road ahead of us. When this takes place, we can be encouraged and awakened to life that often appears outside of the realm of our lives. Continue to call us and invite us to follow you and enter the life that comes when you are present with us. Amen.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Friday 17 October 2008

Today is a continuation of the piece from yesterday - again by Stanley Hauerwas.

The kingdom of peace initiated by Jesus is also the kingdom of love which is most clearly embodied in the Christian obligation to be hospitable. We are a community on principle standing ready to share our meal with the stranger. Moreover we must be a people who have hospitable selves - we must be ready to be stretched by what we know not. Friendship becomes our way of life as we learn to rejoice in the presence of others. Thus Jesus' kingdom is one that requires commitment to friends, for without them the journey that is the kingdom is impossible. We can only know where we walk as we walk with others.

"We must be ready to be stretched by what we know not." Hospitality is all about an availability that is not disturbed by the stranger or the extra one at the table. Personally that is not an easy for me. Add an extra person to the dinner table and my "plans" as to how things will go fall apart. Usually the falling apart does not last very long...but it is there. I'm out of control - and it may only be for moments or enough time to breathe a little bit - but I'm out of control. Hospitality is the gift we are given when we breathe through the tendency to control. I'm always amazed a people who are so gifted, they can move with the wind and never seem to hesitate when plans change and a new place is set at the table. They seem to just "go with it"....and go with it with open arms and hearts. What a gift! This is something that is within all our possibilities. The timing may be different with each of us....but the commitment we show to others in the actions of hospitality is so vital to making visible the peaceable Reign of God. We stand ready in worship at the table of the Lord's Supper. We sing "all are welcome" and nothing short of that will do. It is then from that table within that welcome that the rest of our lives become a gift of hospitality in a world that can be quite inhospitable to many people.

Connection: As I so often have to remind myself...breathe. In that breathing the Spirit of our Lord will open up our lives so that we can be stretched.

Move us beyond ourselves, O God. And when we are moved, help us to make room for those we have yet to encounter. For when we are ready and willing to make room for others, your Spirit begins to build community even when we are not looking for it. Surprise us. Amen.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Thursday 16 October 2008

The last section of Hauerwas' comments on resurrection will be split over today and tomorrow.

The kingdom of peace initiated by Jesus is also the kingdom of love which is most clearly embodied in the Christian obligation to be hospitable.

I stopped here because I found this link between peace and hospitality to be down to earth. Jesus goes into the homes of those who invited him - no matter who it was. Being open to the hospitality of others means that we will, at times, step over the boundaries we may have in place already. We do not refuse because of judgments made against our potential hosts - whether they are true or false. We go. We go and we enter into the intimacy of table fellowship. We have been invited. Our hosts have taken the risk to invite us and have taken the risk that we may not take them up on their invitation. Once we enter their home or their space, we have started the adventure that brings about peace between parties that may have once been separated. The same goes for our hospitality. We invite without limit. We invite so that we can be reminded of the wideness of God's Reign. We invite so that we can experience the very essential pieces of shalom. We invite to give those who are never invited the understanding that among us, they are welcome even if it is at a cost to us. Peace comes with a cost. Peace is an adventure in risk taking. Peace brings together sides that have been pushed apart by things done and things undone.

Connection: We don't have to throw a party to be a part of this hospitality of the Reign of God. It takes place many times and in many places within this day...and we are invited to initiate that presence in this day.

By your love for us, O God, we become people whose love begins to reflect the ways of your love that break down barriers that often keep us from being hospitable to all around us. Continue to draw us into your peace. Amen.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Wednesday 15 October 2008

The characteristic that comes with forgiveness in God's Reign - Stanley Hauerwas.

This love that is characteristic of God's kingdom is possible only for forgiven people - a people who have learned not to fear one another. For love is the nonviolent apprehension of the other as other. But to see the other as other is frightening, because to the extent others are the other they challenge my way of being. Only when my self - my character - has been formed by God's love, do I know I have no reason to fear the other.

Even though there are many reasons as to why we should fear one another, we are taught that this love of God for us - that is also the love in which we live - is the power to overcome our fears. When

those fears are overcome because we are people who are drenched in the reality of forgiveness, we are then able to enter into conversations and take the risk to initiate a dialogical process - even with those who are called our enemies. It is within this risk taking that we live as forgiven people who bring into the world the opportunities for peace making. This is so contrary to what we hear on the world stage. In the past few years we have heard people say that we must not and cannot open up conversations with those who we have call our enemies. What that says to me is that we have lost our ability to really think like peace makers. Instead we are willing to risk war rather than risk what may come from a conversation in which both sides are invited to dive into the differences that keep us apart. We cannot be at peace until we as forgiven people - forgive. For in that moment, their are others who experience the openness of seeing beyond our stereotypes that keep us in the trenches of our past.

Connection: It is not easy to enter into conversations that are open and free. We have too much history of warfare on so many levels of our lives. And yet, the Reign of God comes as we take the risk to trust what God has and will say about us...beloved of God.

As we face our fears, O God, we often pull back and remain in the places of our lives that are filled with terror and anxiety. Liberate us and set us free to dance within your space of peace and wholeness. Amen.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Tuesday 14 October 2008

Today we draw from Hauerwas's use of 1 John 4:13-21.

Because we Christians believe we worship a resurrected Lord, we can take the risk to love. Thus we are told in 1 John 4:13-21:
"By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his own spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his son as the Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. So we know and believe the love of God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. In this is love perfected with us, that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and he who fears is not perfected in love. We love, because he first loved us. If any one says, 'I love God,' and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love the brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him, that he who loves God should love his brother also."

First of all it is so important to never forget that love is a risk. When we love we step out beyond the safety (or at least our notion of safety) and give ourselves away to another so that the separation that is between us is lifted. No matter how or when we step out, it is not a secure place. There is always the threat that we will be destroyed - emotionally, socially, spiritually, financially, etc. Therefore, we often stay to ourselves and allow the separation between us to rule our actions. Alas, love is a foreign concept. To love is a risk in our world. From 1 John there are these wonderful words for us: "There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear." The lack of separation between one another and thus between us and God - that is love - places us within the promise of the Reign of God that we see as we look to the other side of resurrection. The life of Jesus as one who lived within that love (life without separation) was a risk-filled life but it was and is and always will be the life that is affirmed by our God forever. Therefore, we need not fear stepping forward into the promised land of the love we see in Jesus - the love of God that is our life.

Connection: Each time we move beyond the separation among us - and it can happen in more ways than we can imagine - we are taking part in the vision of God's love that is the life resurrected. This is real life stuff - not merely theory or religious words.

Come, Peacemaker and Liberator, Come and nurture a love that will take us beyond ourselves so that we can connect with others and no longer look for ways to remain separated from those we would even call our enemies. This is no easy adventure. And yet, we know that it is one that brings a fullness of life that is simply beyond our help us to imagine even more. Amen.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Monday 13 October 2008

The resurrection again see through the eyes of Stanley Hauerwas.

Only if our Lord is a risen Lord, therefore, can we have the confidence and the power to be a community of forgiveness. For on the basis of the resurrection we have the presumption to believe that God has made us agents in the history of the kingdom. the resurrection is not a symbol or myth through which we can interpret our individual and collective dyings and risings. Rather the resurrection of Jesus is the ultimate sign that our salvation comes only when we cease trying to interpret Jesus' story in the light of our history, and instead we interpret ourselves in the light of his. For this is no dead Lord we follow but the living God, who having dwelt among us as an individual, is now eternally present to us making possible our living as forgiven agents of God's new creation.

I like the suggestion that we are "agents in the history of the kingdom" because we are not left to be simply people who talk about the "kingdom" or wonder about a time when we will be in the "kingdom." We are how the kingdom is see - represented. We are a part of the living out of what kingdom is. The power that is at the very center of who we are as we live as agents of this living God is the power of forgiveness. It is a strange power in our world. It rarely is let loose as powerfully as it was in Jesus - God in the flesh. And yet we are called into its power within our everyday participation in the history of the kingdom. Forgiveness is always a game-changer. It changes the story line of so many of our ways of continuing along a road of war and bitterness and fear. From the resurrection, we are reminded that this life of Jesus is a life that is available and possible because we are never left alone to step forward into this life. We are people who have our God alongside and bidding us to not fear the path of forgiveness and the new life it brings.

Connection: Forgiveness is always available to us. It is the power of the Lord who promises to abide with us...even when we would rather not forgive.

When you walk with us, O God, we are encouraged to walk in the ways of your beloved, Jesus. At times, it is not the way we would choose to walk and yet you continue to call us forward and leap into the way of forgiveness. Sometimes leaping seems beyond our capabilities. And yet, you promise to be with us as we let go...and go. Amen.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Friday 10 October 2008

This week ends with the powerful word of forgiveness - by Stanley Hauerwas.

My sin is inexorably part of me, but I now no longer need to deny it. As I learn to locate my life within the kingdom of forgiveness found in Jesus' life, death, and resurrection, I acquire those virtues of humility and courage that are necessary to make my life my own. That we are only able to have a history, a self, through the forgiveness wrought by God means that the resurrection of Jesus is the absolute center of history. It is on the basis of the resurrection that we can have the confidence to remember the history of our sin. Through the resurrection, by being invited to recognize our victim as our hope, we are gifted with the powers to break the hold our our most determined oppressor - ourselves.

There is a power in this day that brings out the fullness of our lives - forgiveness. Within that power we need not deny any part of lives and we need not step back from leaping into whatever may be before us. How often are we each our own "most determined oppressor" who is able to gather up more than enough evidence to keep us imprisoned? In the face of such power of forgiveness - the powers that attempts to disable us - powers that works to corrupt us - powers that changes our character, are revealed as being powerless in the presence of the story of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus...a story that does not let the powers of death have their way among us even as we are so often the disciples of such death. The life of forgiveness is one that we do not expect. The life of forgiveness is one that demands that we step back and remember God standing with us in and through all things even when we are being dragged down by the brokenness of the world we have made for ourselves.

Connection: Life is open to a radical newness each time we are lifted up into the story of God unbounded love and forgiveness that creates in us unbounded love and forgiveness.

Come, Lord of New Life, Come and lead us into the fields of forgiveness that let us see clearly that which is behind us and that which is to be. You promise to be reality of hope that is available to us as we see all the rest of life around us. Walk with us in that hopefulness. Amen.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Thursday 9 October 2008

Was there a Wednesday this week? Sorry for the miss.

...the demand that we be holy is possible only because we find that we can rest within ourselves. When we exist as a forgiven people we are able to be at peace with our histories, so that now God's life determines our whole way of being - our character. We no longer need to deny our past, or tell ourselves false stories, as now we can accept what we have been without the knowledge of our sin destroying us.

Again, when we are able to see ourselves as forgiven, we have room to breathe - room to rest - room to begin again - room to enter the day without trying to cover up what we have been - room to dress for this day without carrying along the baggage from earlier days of our lives. We are a holy people because that is what our God calls us. In that name calling, is the word of forgiveness we are invited to hear and then make the center of our character. Without this character, we go on living our lives trying to make room for the brokenness of our lives by covering it over or trying to put dress it up as something it is not. We are free as forgiven people to enter the promise of the peace of God's Reign even when we have so many "good" reasons to remain just as we are.

Connection: It is always the right time to breath and rest in the promises of God's love for us - forgiveness even when we think it makes no sense.

Lord God, by the power of you Spirit of new life lift us up to see your Reign of promise even as we stay tied to the ways of our past that have created divisions and set up wall between us. Amen.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Tuesday 7 October 2008

This piece by Hauerwas really seems to speak to the present worldwide economic anxiety.

It is true, of course, that in a sense to be a "forgiven people" makes us lose control. to be forgiven means that I must face the fact that my life actually lies in the hands of others. I must learn to trust them as I have learned to trust God. thus it is not accidental that Jesus teaches us to pray for our daily bread. We cannot live to insure our ultimate security, but must learn to live on a day-to-day basis. Or, perhaps better, we must be a people who have learned not to fear surprises as a necessary means to sustain our lives. For, ironically, when we try to exclude surprise from our life, we are only more subject to the demonic. We become subject to those "necessities" that we are anxious about because without them we fear wee lack to control our lives.

Yesterday I received an e-mail from a friend who attached a piece by someone who suggested that people go to their banks and simply take out enough money to make it through the month and to do it before next week. Talk about trying to be helpful but really creating anxiety! And yet, none of us want to be surprised. We want or even need to be in some control of the life situations around us. In times that appear to be a crisis within the economy, attempting to gain control for oneself actually may bring with it more crisis. So, even if we "save" ourselves in the short term, we eventually cannot maintain that control. One thing that is clear - many are finding how the 'necessities' of our lives often rule us and create anxiety that can immobilize us. When we are told in this piece that "forgiveness means that we must face the fact that that my life actually lies in the hands of others," we are being encouraged to look beyond our individual lives and face the need for community. That again means giving up some of our control and beginning to look at the gift of others - gifts that may see us through all the surprises that come upon us.

Connection: It is amazing how well some people do in the middle of the turmoil of the day. What is stirring within us and beneath us when the days events create anxiety with us and around us? It is not always an easy thing to see and/or admit.

You promise to be our life and our light in the midst of all the days of our lives, O God. For us that does not mean you take away the reality of the situations around us. Rather, you continue to remind us how to be fully alive within your expectations of who we are within your Reign. We then can look around and see the possibilities within the anxieties of our lives. You are present and available even as we struggle through the day. We thank you, O God. Amen.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Monday 6 October 2008

This week starts with the resurrection and the the kingdom of peace and forgiveness - by Stanley Hauerwas.

It is crucial that we understand that such a peaceableness is possible only if we are also a forgiven people. We must remember that our first task is not to forgive, but to be the forgiven. Too often to be ready to forgive is a way of exerting control over another. We fear accepting forgiveness from another because such a gift makes us powerless - and we fear the loss of control involved. Yet we continue to pray, "Forgive our debts." Only by learning to accept God's forgiveness as we see it in the life and death of Jesus can we acquire the power that comes from learning to give up that control.

Hauerwas then directs us to Matthew 6:25-27 (not to be anxious about your life...)
"Such a gift (being forgiven) makes us powerless - and we fear the loss of control involved." To be forgiven means our hands are thrown up into the air and we no longer are able to pull strings or begin to demand things of others. We begin our next step within a new world. What has been becomes powerless over us - even the power we expected to carry over others. Being forgiven is to understand what it is to be on the bottom and yet to be completely embraced by our God who forgives without end. Being in such a position helps us to see others with new eyes. Therefore, the ones we thought we could stand over and be the controlling agent of forgiveness are no longer ones beneath us. Rather, we are standing eye-to-eye.

Connection: Do we walk differently through the day when we remember that we are a forgiven people?

When you forgive us, O God, it is as though we begin to see with new eyes. It is not always what we want to do but when we do it, we notice how clearly the world looks when it is uncluttered by our brokenness. Be our vision, O God. Amen.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Friday 3 October 2008

Ending the week on a note about resurrection is good - by Stanley Hauerwas.

The risk of so valuing life can only be taken on the basis of the resurrection of Jesus as God's decisive eschatological act. For through Jesus' resurrection we see God's peace as a present reality. Though we continue to live in a time when the world does not dwell in peace, when the wolf cannot dwell with the lamb and a child cannot play over the hole of the asp, we believe nonetheless that peace has been made possible by the resurrection. Through this crucified but resurrected savior we see that God offers to all the possibility of living in peace by the power of forgiveness.

It is no wonder people are so confounded by the lack of the peace of the Reign of God in the world around us. There is so much emphasis on the peace that will come some day...or the peace that will break in down the road...that we do not let ourselves be open to the peace that is possible as we walk in the way of Jesus today. That wonderful vision of peace from the prophet Isaiah brings into view the way the contrary images of the world are ones that can become a part of the wholeness of our lives when we do not let them remain adversaries or enemies. To do that, we look to the power of the resurrection...the power that breaks the warfare and brutality and fear of the world and presents an alternative - forgiveness that cannot be overcome by any power of death. It is in that reminder of the center of the Good News that we are now available to the world around us as good news every day. We are already a part of that news and we are encouraged to be the ones who risk to live in that life that does - at times - get people crucified.

Connection: If you fear crucifixion like I do...than join me in helping one another remember the promise of life that comes as death has been defeated and we need not fear what may be in our path.

Lead us and guide us O God. Lead us and guide us this day as though our hearts are set within peaceable Reign - already. Amen.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Thursday 2 October 2008

We continue reflecting on the resurrection and the Reign of God - again from Stanley Hauerwas.

...the Christian commitment to the protection of life is an eschatological commitment. Our concern to protect and enhance life is a sign of our confidence that in fact we live in a new age in which it is possible to see the other as God's creation. We do not value life as an end in itself - there is much worth dying for - rather all life is valued, even the lives of our enemies, because God has valued them.

It is vital for us to remember that "we live in a new age in which it is possible to see the other as God's creation." We may not be willing to do that...because we value ourselves and our ways and our own stuff more than the other ones. Then again, it is possible. It is possible to value the life of our enemies. It is possible to come to the table. It is possible to understand how God values all of us and we are invited to both see the other as valued...but also that we are valued. The value is not concerned with what we have done or left undone. It is because we are children of God within God's Reign. Obviously, things are not in a completed peaceable reign. Then again, as we trust in what is promised and what has been completed already in Christ, Jesus, we are free to live as part of the peaceable reign even though it is at odds with the way all the powers of the world live. We must be able to talk about valuing all human life in more ways than simply referring to the issue of abortion. When we value all life we cannot simply carry signs or sign petitions. We become active agents of new life that speak up for and walk along side of all whose lives are in jeopardy - even our enemies.

Connection: How do we learn to value the life of all God's beloved? It could start today by simply remembering that it is God who loves and that love is not shaped by our values...rather God's.

Guide us this day, O God, so that we may continually remember how much you love us and call us to live within that love - as though it is our own. Amen.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Wednesday 1 October 2008

We continue looking at the resurrection as the establishment of the kingdom of peace and forgiveness from Stanley Hauerwas.

As members of such a kingdom, (read Isaiah11:6-9) moreover, we are pledged to extend God's peace through the care and protection of his creation. We do not resist one who is evil, not because life is inherently sacred, but simply because it is God's. As (John Howard)Yoder reminds us, "the idea that human life is intrinsically sacred is not a specifically Christian thought. But the gospel itself, the message that Christ died for His enemies, is our reason for being ultimately responsible for the neighbor's - and especially the enemy's - life. We can only say this [to another] if we say to ourselves that we cannot dispose of him according to our own will."

The life of another person is God's. That is so easy for me to forget. When seen in that light, there must be another way to deal with that person as we are both in the same predicament - God's own children. This is easier to write than it is to live. Under this kind of vision, we must given much more thought to going to war or fighting among us. Doesn't that just drive you nuts to hear that!?!? It take judgment out of my takes the desire to seek retribution out of my hands. In other words, this Reign of God tears me away from my self-centered life and makes me look out for the welfare of all...even my enemies. I think that is so difficult. But then again, I know some of you have been the voice that has helped me "back off" and look again at what I am saying or doing. There is this way of peace that is a way we can walk together for the sake of the life of all God's beloved.

Connection: Hold fast to this promise that we are God's children together and let's see how it changes the face of the day we are entering.

Lord of Life, you hold us all within your grasp and invite us to see each other as you see us. When we long for the many ways of warfare among us, keep your Spirit tugging at our lives so we will look up to the way of our Lord, Jesus. Amen.