Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Wednesday 26 November 2008

With thanksgiving at hand, this will be the final devotion for this work week. More from Cornel West.

Christianity itself comes out of prophetic Judaism. Persecuted early on, Jesus ended up on the cross. This unarmed truth and unconditional love in the face of catastrophic circumstances was seemingly crushed, but the love bounced back. That story is what has attracted black folk - and others.

I remember an African-American Lutheran theologian making the case for being a follower of Jesus in the midst of other religious traditions. After talking about Jesus life and the way he was treated for being who he was and after being executed and humiliated and being buried in a borrowed tomb...he came back. That's right. No leaving to a place where we might eventually enter. He came back - "love bounced back." We confess that our God is forever present among us. Love is not something we do in order to make it "up" to the presence of God. Love is the life that is full of God among us. So full, it still cannot be tolerated in a world that would rather keep divisions and prejudice and bigotry and injustice in place among us. Truthfulness may be something we talk about...but it is a road that is often closed for fear that things may change. And yet, truthfulness and love still abides and will abide and will find its way out into the open even when the gates of hell try to be reconstructed again and again. For this love and this truthfulness will always tear down those gates and make God's people indeed.

Connection: Bounce back again...go for it.

Come, Spirit of Life. Come and remind us of this way that is so often pushed to the back of our minds and hearts so that we forget the truth and the life and way. For as you way is made known among us, the light will attract all who long for new life and a deep reservoir of hopefulness. Amen.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Tuesday 25 November 2008

We continue with Cornel West.

Behold, that first century Palestinian Jew was born in a funky manger. He had some funky working-class parents sometimes dealing with unemployment and underemployment. He walked on some funky and dusty roads, didn't he? He brought together 12 funky folk.... He picked them right from around where he came from. It's so easy to forget the funk in Jesus' life because our church can become so easily deodorized. The funky gospel of funky Jesus can become so Americanized that it is reduced to marketplace spirituality, prosperity gospel, and Chamber of Commerce religion. No! We want to keep focused on the funk of Jesus, especially that funky blood on that funky cross.
If you don't find joy in serving others, if you don't understand the joy in loving people, then come back to the cross. Get down in that funky blood and understand what it means to be at that funky tomb that was empty when that prostitute Mary Magdalene showed up and had a message for the world. You can't be committed to that funky gospel if you're not willing to pay a price. You need to be willing to bear a burden. You need to cut against the grain.

I readily return to this turn of phrase: Jesus didn't die for us...Jesus dies before us. We are invited into a way. A way that is already blessed...a way that Jesus walked and then when it was rejected, beat up, brutalized, and hung out to dry on the cross...God said, "Yes!" This funky gospel has already made a place for us. It is a place that has been and will be judged as blessed - no matter how funky it looks or feels. I often use these words from the group Osibisa about the road we will travel as followers of Jesus (even though I know they are not singing about "church"): It will be long I know, and the road will be muddy and long, but we'll get there, heaven knows how we will get there, we know we will. The "there" is here already -and the fullness of someday- so we can cut against the grain and turn upside down to view things with a new lens for life.

Connection: This journey of following Jesus is all about life...our life together...all the way.

It is as we remember the cross and how funky this world can be that we begin to hear and seen and smeall and tough and feel that you are present eternally to be our God, our Savior, our Companion, our way in and through all time. We give you thanks. Amen.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Monday 24 November 2008

We continue with the piece from Friday from "Hope on a Tightrope" by Cornel West.

Behold, that first century Palestinian Jew was born in a funky manger. He had some funky working-class parents sometimes dealing with unemployment and underemployment. He walked on some funky and dusty roads, didn't he? He brought together 12 funky folk.... He picked them right from around where he came from. It's so easy to forget the funk in Jesus' life because our church can become so easily deodorized.
The funky gospel of funky Jesus can become so Americanized that it is reduced to marketplace spirituality, prosperity gospel, and Chamber of Commerce religion. No! We want to keep focused on the funk of Jesus, especially that funky blood on that funky cross.

So...part of this deodorizing has to do with sell-ability. What can the marketplace sustain...what will it permit...what can get by and connect with the consumer!?! If there is no money to be made or no immediate or self-gratifying pay-back for the consumer, we often look elsewhere. And yet, it is not the task of the followers of Jesus to market a message or a product. We are invited to point to the "funk of Jesus." The "funky blood on that funky cross" show how far our God goes to show the worth of humankind. By that, I would suggest God points us to a way of life that has great worth. The way - which may appear funky at times - stops at nothing to let itself be known. The blood and the cross demonstrate the distance we go as people made in the image of God for that is how far God goes with us. That is a dramatic move. The Gospel never pulls us away from the cross to some 'adventure in prosperity." The Gospel will pull us into the way of the cross so that the well-being of all the funky people -like me- will have room to dwell in the house of the Lord.

Connection: Don't worry about what will sell...consider what will bring people life in the midst of a whole community of others. Then, there will be peace in the land.

By the blood of your Beloved, O God, you lift us up and brush us off and make us your own and remind us that such a way of life is the Reign of God making itself known and present among us. Thanks be to you, O God. Amen.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Friday 21 November 2008

Here's a piece from Cornel West I offered as part of the devotion at church council last week. I will bring it here in three pieces that will run into next week.

Behold, that first century Palestinian Jew was born in a funky manger. He had some funky working-class parents sometimes dealing with unemployment and underemployment. He walked on some funky and dusty roads, didn't he? He brought together 12 funky folk.... He picked them right from around where he came from. It's so easy to forget the funk in Jesus' life because our church can become so easily deodorized.

I was going to put the whole reading here today but for some reason I was really struck by the comment that "our church can become so easily deodorized." It can. It does. I think our Lutheran theology tries hard to keep out the deodorizer. The Good News as grace unbounded, (as Robert Farrar Capon calls it- radical grace) really says that the whole community and that which is beyond it may be funky but it is one, big, household - an alien nation in which no one needs to find a way to fit in. Unfortunately as we all know, there are many ways we make sure that the funky-ness a of some is enough to keep them out. That happens when we do not listen to the profound and eternal word of God claiming us and never leaving our side - even if means God is crucified and left for dead. Remember, deodorant only lasts for awhile and when the day at hand demands that we be the image of God's love in the world, we are invited to act and love no matter how funky we may be or how funky those around us may appear.

Connection: We all spray too much deodorant around...we all want our folk to be like us. What would happen if we shared space and time unconditionally. That might be the Good News - alive.

You, O God, abide with us in all things. With you so close it is amazing that we try to push you so far away. Help us to see how you abide within that we have called the funky world around us. Amen.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Thursday 20 November 2008

Today I pushing on into a new book by Cornel West. Most everything I read of his is full and rich and evocative. In "Hope on a Tightrope," he offers bits of wisdom in many areas of life. We first will be wandering through he reflections on "Faith."

I stand fundamentally on the profoundly Christian notion that we are each made equal in the eyes of God. a single mom on welfare has the same status as a corporate CEO and they both have the same right to human flourishing regardless of race, regardless of religion, nation, or gender. It is a deep, spiritually based notion of equality.

This deep, spiritually based notion of equality is not merely something floating in the air. As Christians we find it based in the story or Jesus which we call the story of God in the flesh. Our status rests on the fact that God is with us and will never be outside of the room. And as long as our God is among us demonstrating what it is to live together in a love that will not let any of us go, then no one in the room is pushed to the back or pushed out. In fact, the depth of this love enables us to leave the room and be that love incarnate in the world. That sense of love cannot get any more deep than that...and it makes all people into recipients of the life that comes in the middle of such a rock-solid base to our lives. When we are beloved of God and as we see beyond ourselves to others and see others as beloved, we each exist in a realm of possibility that will bring about a fundamental shift in our communities and our world. As was noted when we were reading Stanley Hauerwas - we teach the world how to be the world. Among us, the world is not to be broken - it is to be a part of the healing of all things for we honor the other who is also beloved - even though they are nothing like us in other areas of our lives. When we honor...we protect...we support...we act and live on behalf of those who are our brothers and sisters in the eyes of God.

Connection: Quite a day is laid out before us...and to think we are invited to be walk around as ones beloved as we meet and greet the world around us.

Within your eyes, O God, each of us shine with your image. When we turn to see others, help us to see that shining image in all who join us in the adventure for life that will be in this day. Amen.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Wednesday 19 November 2008

This is a good way to leave Stanley Hauerwas' work for awhile - enjoy.

The church therefore is a polity like any other, but it is also unlike any other insofar as it is formed by a people who have no reason to fear the truth. They are able to exist in the world without resorting to coercion to maintain their presence. That they are such depends to a large extent on their willingness to move - they must be "a moveable feast." For it is certain that much of the world is bound to hate them for calling attention to what the world is. They cannot and should not wish to provoke the world's violence, but if it comes they must resist even if that resistance means the necessity of leaving one place for another. For as Christians we are at home in no nation. Our true home is the church itself, where we find those who, like us, have been formed by a savior who was necessarily always on the move.

When we, as the church, have no reason to fear the truth, we become an image given in the Quaker hymn "simple gifts." It goes like this: "When true simplicity is found - to bow and to bend we shall not be afraid - to turn, turn, will be our delight - til by turning, turning - we come down right." This hymn calls for quite a bit of movement. But it is the movement of clarification and communication and discernment so that the way of God's Reign will be the way in which we walk. It is a constant task and a constant gift. Some of that bowing and bending is done in order to create a new order. Some of it is done to listen more closely to the voices of others. Some of that bowing and bending is to give us space and time to welcome what is not a part of our own way. At that point, we are not people who are in allegiance to any power. Rather, we listen to find a place in which we can put life to the life of the one we follow within a world that has a history of not wanting to give a place to such a contrary life and voice.

Connection: Bow and bend and turn and let's see where we come down today.

Gentle and Persistent Lord, you bring us together under the blessed Reign of your grace. It is here that we are free to lift up our voices and begin to engage our world and one another. Within that grace, we become open to differences and expect to be surprised by the joy that comes when people once separated are finding that we are really quite bound to one another. We give you thanks. Amen.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Tuesday 18 November 2008

Let me start with the concluding part of yesterday's piece from Hauerwas and then....push on.

Christians are engaged in politics, but it is politics of the kingdom that reveals the insufficiency of all politics based on coercion and falsehood and finds the true source of power in servanthood rather than dominion.
This is not to imply that the church is any less a human community than other forms of association. Just as in other institutions, the church draws on and requires patterns of authority that derive from human needs for status, belonging, and direction. The question is not whether the church is a natural institution, as it surely is, but how it shapes that "nature" in accordance with its fundamental convictions. "Nature" provides the context for community but does not determine its character.

So like other communities, we will see that the church muddles around in that which is a part of the nature of every community. It is within that universal context that we bring the story that shapes us - the story that provides us with a character that begins to work with what we have by nature. That can be a revolutionary journey. Whenever the vision of the peaceable Reign is brought into the ways of any institution, it carries with it the danger of being utterly rejected in favor of those elements of human community that can so easily become that which feeds our egos and has the potential to tear apart the fabric of our institutions. This vision also carries with it the possibility of something new coming into being. That newness will be something distinguished from everyday business and goals that do not consider and act upon the life of God's Reign of which we are entrusted.

Connection: I had a friend who would always say that when two people get together politics is involved. That conversation was after I said I hate the politics in the church. Well, when we come together, there are always differences and that can be a blessing or a curse. It really depends on our character. It doesn't eliminate the politics - even in the church.

Lord of All Life, we long to carry into this day the imprint of your loving character on our lives. Too often we let it go for other things that grab us and influence us and give us what we think we want. We need the reminding presence of your Spirit to keep us within the vision of your Reign. Amen.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Monday 17 November 2008

A few more days from Stanley Hauerwas on "The Church is a Social Ethic."

...calling for the church to be the church is not a formula for a withdrawal ethic; nor is it a self-righteous attempt to flee from the world's problems; rather it is a call for the church to be a community which tries to develop the resources to stand within the world witnessing to the peaceable kingdom and thus rightly understanding the world. the gospel is a political gospel. Christians are engaged in politics, but it is politics of the kingdom that reveals the insufficiency of all politics based on coercion and falsehood and finds the true source of power in servanthood rather than dominion.

We really are not to be something other - that is a people who try to be separate from the world. The church being the church is to be right in the mix of things. By being there - as the church - we bring to light what the world is within the Reign of God. In that sense, we will always be turning heads simply by being who we are. The strangeness in our living will not be some strangeness that comes with being stuck in certain place in time and never changing our "look" or our worldview. Rather the strangeness is that we take on a path in the world that is a living witness to how the Christ is alive within the everyday movement of the world. That is a political movement because we will not be a people who go along with how the politics of the day and the mechanism of states and governments attempt to rule when they do so in ways that are contrary to the Reign of God. We are political because we continue to live within this world community with a strangeness that will ruffle feathers and witness to other ways to be the world.

Connection: This day awaits the presence of the church and how we will bring light and life to the world.

Within your Reign, O God, you are inviting the world to re-view itself and come to see the life you have set up within the power of our humanity. Within that life comes the possibility to re-shape how the world goes about living toward a vision of peace. Guide on on that life journey. Amen.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Friday 14 November 2008

Again we must wrestle with the church being church in the world - Stanley Hauerwas.

...the church serves the world by giving the world the means to see itself truthfully. The social ethic of the church is, first of all, an affair of understanding rather than doing. The first question we must ask is not "what should we do," but "what is going on?" Our interpretation will determine what we are to do. Our task as church is the demanding one of trying to understand rightly the world as world, to face realistically what the world is with its madness and irrationality.

Remember, we are called to be a light. We are not better than the world. We are the church. We are invited by the water of baptism to participate in the truth-telling that calls into question everything about the world in us that creates the great divides that make the blessedness of creation less than that blessedness. So, as we pause and look around we look around with an eye that looks through the lens of God's Reign. It gives us a perspective on "what is going on" and in that, we may find ourselves as witnesses to what is called the "madness and irrationality" of the world. It is then that we become a part of the world that lives in a contrary manner as it appears alongside the world as it is. When the world is content to discriminate and live within that madness and brutality, we -the church- live as though there is no partiality. That....has a biblical sound to it...but a sound that is also the life blood of a world living within the realm of shalom.

Connection: Don't forget to hold up that lens and be aware of the ordinary that may often times be a brew-pot of madness!!

Within you Reign, O God, we see the wonder and beauty of your creation. This is where we live and this is where we are invited to live within your image. We know we are not a people waiting to escape all this...but we need the reminder that we are able to be the image of your Reign now so that the world may know the ongoing wonder and beauty of your creation.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Thursday 13 November 2008

Stanley Hauerwas makes me spin around and see things with new eyes. Christians we may not only find that people who are not Christians manifest God's peace better than we ourselves, but we must demand that they exist. It is to be hoped that such people may provide the conditions for our ability to cooperate with others for securing justice in the world. Such cooperation, however, is not based on "natural law" legitimation of a generally shared "natural morality." Rather it is a testimony to the fact that God's kingdom is wide indeed. As the church we have no right to determine the boundaries of God's kingdom, for it is our happy task to acknowledge God's power to make his kingdom present in the most surprising places and ways.

"As the church we have not right to determine the boundaries of God's kingdom." Wow. And yet, that is how we are so often see by the people outside the church. We are too often a boundary-focused people. I think of proposition 8 in California. On many fronts I'm hearing that church folk played a big part in the banning of the right to marry among gay and lesbians - even though the right was already in place and practiced. Are we so afraid of being surprised by the presence of God among us that we will not and cannot rejoice in the unexpected ways in which God brings about new life. We need to give thanks for the many people outside the church who are inspired to act in ways that are meant to be the ways of God's Reign. In some fashion, we -the church- are given a glimpse of who we are to be when our life really does reflect the image of our God. The wideness of God's Reign must surprise us...otherwise we will think that we are the ones who are able to declare its borders and also guard them against all who are not one of us. Right when we attempt to do that...surprise...the grace of God's Reign show through and the vehicle of its embodiment is someone on the outside...surprise.

Connection: Take a look around, there are many ways God is making sure that we will be surprised by grace even when we demand to control the day.

Open our eyes, O God, to the many ways you show your glory among us. Amen.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Wednesday 12 November 2008

I find this ongoing note about church and world by Stanley Hauerwas to be insightful for all of us who follow Jesus.

Church and world are thus relational concepts - neither is intelligible without the other. They are companions on a journey that makes it impossible for one to survive without the other, though each constantly seeks to do so. They are thus more often enemies than friends, an enmity tragically arising from the church's attempt to deny its calling and service to the world - dismissing the world as irredeemable, or transforming its own servant status into a triumphalist subordination of the world. But God has in fact n redeemed the world, even if the world refuses to acknowledge its redemption. The church can never abandon the world to the hopelessness deriving from its rejection of God, but must be a people with a hope sufficiently fervid to sustain the world as well as itself.

Wow! The church must be "a people with a hope sufficiently fervid to sustain the world as well as itself." What an honor. To be such a people of hope...a people whose hope is so bold and concrete and open to all that comes our way, that the world may...may...turn and see something new...something that was previously out of sight. Hope is like that. It is not fully in sight and yet it attracts us and pulls us and opens up the day to a future we did not know was unfolding on the horizon. There is nothing pushy about such a hope. It simply comes to life. There is nothing threatening about such hope. It simply is revealed as we walk through the day. Therefore, we, the church, have a daily agenda. Walk in hope. Dance in hope. Be the hope that turns heads in a world that doesn't know it is going in the wrong direction until it sees the hope of a new day - the Reign of God - graciously coming to life...already.

Connection: Be for the world today...the church...the Reign of God at hand...the character of the new age...hope in the flesh.

Lord of all Hopefulness, sustain us and move us and encourage us to step forward into your promises in a world that may not see or hear you word but longs for the reality of your Reign. Amen.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Tuesday 11 November 2008

The world and the church...more angles and more comments. is particularly important to remember that the world consists of those, including ourselves, who have chosen not to make the story of God their story. The world in us refuses to affirm that this is God's world and that, as loving Lord, God's care for creation is greater than our illusion of control. The world is those aspects of our individual and social lives where we live untruthfully by continuing to rely on violence to bring order.

It drives me nuts and I am embarrassed and I simply shake my head when I catch myself in the act of relying on violence in any of its shapes or forms. This even includes the mean words that are meant bite and stereotype...words that are meant to control others under the illusion of my rule. I know the life of the church and yet, I am so much of the world it sometimes causes me to turn red at my own actions or inaction. Then again, the church is also a community of forgiveness that teaches just such forgiveness by forgiving. The most difficult task seems to be forgiving myself in order to turn to the promise that is already my as part of God's "good" creation. The wrestling match is a daily endeavor. To live within the truth of God's creation is to resist every attempt to control the world so that all things go my way...or at least close to my way.

Connection: It is so easy to fall into the natural way of division and attempt to keep the divisions of the world in place by insisting on maintaining control. Ease up...rise up...and enter into God's Reign with an open invitation to all with whom you gather this week.

When you hold our lives in your hand, O God, you shape us so that we will remember whose we are and how that identity is the ground upon which we set up our tents and take on the day. We do not remember well - be our guide. Amen.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Monday 10 November 2008

Here's more of Hauerwas' argument for the church to be the church.

...the first social task of the church - the people capable of remembering and telling the story of God we find in Jesus - is to be the church and thus help the world understand itself as world. That world, to be sure, is God's world, God's good creation, which is all the more distorted by sin because it still is bounded by God's goodness. For the church to be the church, therefore, it not anti-world, but rather an attempt to show what the world is meant to be as God's good creation.

He says this in a number of ways. I hear a strong message of stewardship here in this latest comment about the church. First, there is the reminder of what is God's - all that is! Therefore, when we are the church, we are not merely an "in house" gathering. Rather, the way we are out in the day-to-day world is a witness to the intention of creation as that which is God's and not ours. In other words, we help to bring clarity to what it is to be human within God's creation. It is good to be human. It is good to be in the world. The world is good...but it often refuses to claim the goodness in which it was and is created. Our message to the world is the life we live. The life we live is not one that demands that people must jump through a bunch of hoops in order to be one of us. It sounds like the way of our living is a constant invitation - without bounds - into a reality in which the daily character traits of the Reign of God are really the essence of the life of the world. There is no us and them in this. There is an eternal 'we'

Connection: Rather than try to teach the world what it must be...we are invited to be who we are when we claim to be followers of Jesus - the church.

Within this day, O God, continue to shape us and open up our lives to the spirit of your gracious Reign. Amen.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Friday 7 November 2008

So, when there is disunity in the church...what is the message we send to the world!?

The scandal of the disunity of the church is even more painful when we recognize this social task (pointing too the kingdom of God). For we who have been called to be the foretaste of the peaceable kingdom cannot, it seems, maintain unity among ourselves. As a result we abandon the world to its own devices. And the divisions I speak of in the church are not just those based on doctrine, history, or practices important though they are. No, the deep and most painful divisions afflicting the church are those based on class, race, and nationality that we have sinfully accepted as written into the nature of things.

The other night it was amazing to see the sea of people in Grant Park in Chicago. We are witnesses to something happening in the world that has everyone across the world quite literally looking at our country. That is a wonderful image. And yet, I want to remind us all that we, the church, have not been the leaders in such expansiveness - such openness - such vision - such boldness - such hope. We are to be just such a light simply as we step into our character as followers of Jesus. Can it be that we, the church, resist the daring notion that the divisions that are so easily drawn are not to be a part of who we say we are?! In many ways, we are pulled into new life by the world rather than, as Hauerwas noted in yesterday's devotion, the church is to "help the world understand what it means to be the world." Too many of aspects of our witness in the world are ones that show us to be a power of division and fear and anxiety. I don't think that is the kind of light that we are meant to be. So we need to keep reminding ourselves how we can walk together into the day as a people among whom war and violence that comes with division will not be the witness we offer to the world. Instead, we must pause again and again to re-vision who we are and what life comes with that new being that is the church.

Connection: We are the witnesses of a new world. The world needs us to be that witness and to applaud when the world acts within such newness.

Be our vision, O God, so that we may see the signs of your blessed Reign as we present our lives as living witnesses to the life that comes as we bear the name the church of Jesus, the Christ. Amen.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Thursday 6 November 2008

Part of today's piece from Stanley Hauerwas' work made it into my sermon a few weeks ago. It is really thought provoking (his piece that is).

By being that kind of community (that is the "church") we see that the church helps the world understand what it means to be the world. For the world has no way of knowing it is world without the church pointing to the reality of God's kingdom. How could the world ever recognize the arbitrariness of the divisions between people if it did not have a contrasting model in the unity of the church? Only against the church's universality can the world have the means to recognize the irrationality of the divisions resulting in violence and war, as one arbitrary unit of people seek to protect themselves against the knowledge of their arbitrariness.

When our witness is one that brings together the entire spectrum of people among us (think wider than wide and higher than high) the world begins to look out of touch with the wonder of God's gift of life that spread over all humanity. The church is the contrary vision that is alive. The church is the agent that pulls the world into a new light. Now...are we this church alive and pointing to the reality of God's Reign?! That is why we constantly pray: "your kingdom come, you will be done." We are being invited to be exactly who we are as ones who are called followers of Jesus - the church. As we can expect, this does not mean that people will understand or go along with the way we lead. And yet, we must lead...we must care for the world...we must let our light shine...we must be how the Reign of God is demonstrated in terms of real life within real communities that reflect the universality of God's image.

Connection: Wow...what a day we have before us as the church alive in this time!

Be for us our guide and strength, O God. Be for us our backbone and our confidence...our imagination and our practical embodiment of your Reign. Praise to you for this new day in the age of your coming Reign. Amen.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Tuesday 4 November 2008

Today's piece will be continued with an addition tomorrow - from "The Church is a Social Ethic, by Stanley Haurwas.

The church is where the stories of Israel and Jesus are told, enacted, and heard, and it is our conviction that as a Christian people there is literally nothing more important we can do. But the telling of that story requires that we be a particular kind of people if we and the world are to hear the story truthfully.

I find myself going back to the notion of us being a people who tell stories. In fact, in the Bible studies that are going on in the congregation I use the language "in the storytelling of Israel...or the early church" we are handed a great gift. The stories - whether we think of them as literal reporting or faithful accounts of an inspiring story - are what gives us something to offer a word of direction as we move through our day. Even when the story is dated and we do not "catch" all of the information that critical biblical study has handed down to us, the story is still a vehicle for powerful shaping of the character of a people. It is around these stories that our discussion must be free and open and never bound up by one way of looking at that story. The storytelling in scripture is like the storytelling we may offer within our own lives as we attempt to be just who we have been called - the church.

Connection: The story of the Church is being written even within this day...we are the story...imagine that.

Come, Lord Jesus, be our guest and let this day at hand be blessed. Amen.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Wednesday 5 November 2008

Here's the continuation of yesterday's piece.

The church is where the stories of Israel and Jesus are told, enacted, and heard, and it is our conviction that as a Christian people there is literally nothing more important we can do. But the telling of that story requires that we be a particular kind of people if we and the world are to hear the story truthfully. That means that the church must never cease from being a community of peace and truth in a world of mendacity and fear. The church does not let the world set its agenda about what constitutes a "social ethic," but a church of peace and justice must set its own agenda. It does this first by having the patience amid the injustice and violence of this world to care for the widow, the poor, and the orphan. such care, from the world's perspective, may seem to contribute little to the cause of justice, yet it is our conviction that unless we take the time for such care neither we nor the world can know what justice looks like.

What a day we have at hand. That is the perspective of everyday when we call ourselves followers of Jesus. We are called into life that is handed to us through the water of baptism. I heard a "evangelical" preacher say that poverty and war and economics are not as important to Christians as abortion. I disagree. We are not that limited in our concerns. Our character is one that finds its life within our movement toward peace and our movement toward economic justice and our movement toward justice for all. As we are involved in that movement, it is our care for the elderly and the orphaned and the poor that our character really hits the street and the lives of those around us. When we are caring for the least among us, we are the church and when we are the church, the world will turn its head and wonder why we live as we do... and why we care as we do. That turning of heads will be a witness to others that something among us is real.

Connection: Care for one another and then reach out and care for those beyond our own groups.

Lord of Love, shape us by your Spirit...move us into the caring domain of your rule...settle our hearts so we will be able to open them for those around us. Amen.

Monday 3 November 2008

Today we start a section of Hauerwas' book called: The Church is a Social Ethic.

Surely in social ethics we should downplay the distinctively Christian and emphasize that we are all people of good will as we seek to work for a more peaceable and just world for everyone.
Yet, that is exactly what I am suggesting we should not do. I am in fact challenging the very idea that Christian social ethics is primarily an attempt to make the world more peaceable and just. Put starkly, the first social ethical task of the church is to be the church - the servant community. Such a claim may well sound self-serving until we remember that what makes the church the church is its faithful manifestation of the peaceable kingdom in the world. As such the church does not have a social ethic; the church is a social ethic.

So often we wrestle with what we must do as Christians in the world. The "to do" list can grow quickly and it can become quite long...and it can become a source of guilt about what is not being done...or it can become a list we use to belt each other around for one reason or another (which doesn't sound very Christian to me). Rather than thinking in terms of "doing" we are first a people who claim an identity. We are the Church. Within that reality where we are claimed as beloved of God and baptized into a whole new life, we are handed a character that is vital for the life of the whole world. It is like Israel being a light to the nations. There are a light because that is what God says they are. Sure there are ways that this light is to shine brightly in the world but it all comes from the first word "I am the Lord , Your God..." That is the word now put in motion in the church. Through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, we are claimed (all of us) by this God how is eternally on our side and with us and continues to call us God's own. We are asked to be nothing more than the people who are beloved - that, being the church, is enough. And, I would add, more than we can ever imagine.

Connection: Claim who you are. That is what is expected of us today. From there, we can all be amazed at what comes to life.

Precious Lord, when you take our hand and lead us and guide us and call us your beloved, we too often hesitate and resist the life that is already ours through the power of your gracious love. It is as we remember the gift of life that is handed to us that we are being transformed within the ordinary events of this day. Amen.