Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Wednesday 30 December 2009

This will be the final devotion of the year. It is a good ending to a new beginning.

Tutu...makes theological claims of how the community forms the individual.
"We must not try to be too clever. We do not need to be too clever. We must just be receptive, open, appreciative, to smell the fragrance of the flowers, to feel the cold splash of the rain, to catch the familiar odor of damp soil, to see the ragged mother dandling her malnourished baby in rags. And maybe to be moved to cry, to pray, to be silent, and to let the Spirit inside us pray with groanings that cannot be put into words. To marvel at the fact that poor, hungry people can laugh, can love, can be caring, can share, can nurture, can embrace, can cry, can whimper, can crawl over and die - that these tattered rags of humanity are Jesus Christ: 'Inasmuch as you did it to the least of these my sisters and brothers.' They are God's stand-ins, created in his image. They are precious, they have their names engraved on God's palms, the hairs of their heads are numbered, and God knows them, these nonentities, these anonymous ones who are killed and nobody seems to care."

Connection: Maybe the only thing we need is to remember this piece as we walk into a New year as a beloved people and consider the many opportunities we have to share life with the rest of God's beloved - our sisters and brothers...all of them.

Come, Lord God and stir up our lives with this love that will not end. It is by your power that we begin to reach over the divisions that we let divide us. When we are ready to make war of any kind, remind us of your loving image that is made known to us through the community of your saints.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Tuesday 29 December 2009

More of the Christian Theology of Ubuntu - by Michael Battle.

...a spirituality of Ubuntu is more about participation in the process of becoming lovable persons. Because God's love is what defines humanity, persons are liberated from the desire to achieve, to impress, and - most of all - to turn human persons into things or objects. Tutu states, "We are the children of the divine love and nothing can change that fundamental fact about us." The deduction that God has made us lovable persons in Christ encourages a Christian spirituality in which all of life becomes interdependent.

So we are invited into a process that is the realization of what is already the situation - we are beloved of God - "children of the divine love." That is the power that shapes our day. Just as Jesus was the Word made Flesh, so too are we. As the beloved of God - a word already in the mix about us - there is nothing we are to do to be the lovable children of God. It is already our character. We now step into is all. This changes how we see and interact with everyone. No longer is there a need to be some "other" that we fear or hate. Rather, they, like us, are "children of the divine love." Some folks would say, "Yeah, but they don't know it." Well, it is my thought that we don't always live as though we know it either. The great freedom in being beloved is that we are much more easily tied to others - because we have a common foundation for life.

Connection: No need to impress others...we need only share what we are - beloved. It may just change the whole day.

Lord of Love, as you continue to knit us together as your one people, remind us of the love that draws us all to you and to one another. This is not always a path we choose to follow and yet it is the truth of your Reign. Lead us. Amen.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Monday 28 December 2009

Once again I think this is a good piece around the Nativity of our Lord - by Michael Battle.

Through a theological Ubuntu, the christian concedes the need to be transformed to a new identity, a new perspective that fully encompasses the truth which Tutu states: "God does not love us because we are lovable, but we are lovable precisely because God loves us. God's love is what gives us our worth." And yet, as Tutu's Ubuntu theology unfolds access to a new identity for South Africans, it also appeals to ancient African concepts of the harmony between individual and community which Kenyan theologian John Mbiti summarizes as: "I am because we are, and since we are, therefore I am."

I was thinking that this is even the case for our God. God is because we are. What I mean by that is the very important move of our God to become one in full communion with us. God is made known among us - in Jesus. Without the community being a place of recognition and revelation, what would we know about the character of our God and the depth of love that is the God we praise. So, as we saw from this Sunday's gospel, the 'tribe' from Nazareth went down to Jerusalem for Passover. It was a 'we' event not meant for loners. In the middle of that group was the God Incarnate making sense of what it is to be so human and so intertwined in community and yet so vitally involved in the transformation of community. Even for Jesus, "God's love is what gives us our worth." it is a love that sets the foundation for each of God's beloved and for the whole bunch of us when we live alongside one another.

Connection: Built into the community of Christ is the face of our God that continues to remind us of a love that transforms us. That face comes to us through all people - even enemies who attempt to assert themselves or belittle others. The face is present even when we do not remember to look up and see its hopeful character.

Blessed are you, O God. Blessed is the fruit of your Reign that is life abounding in hopefulness and love. Grant us a full measure of this blessed presence. Amen.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Thursday 24 December 2009

This is a good piece for Christmas Eve.

Instead of perpetuating the system of apartheid, Tutu believes that Ubuntu means personhood forms ultimately through the church as the church witnesses to the world that God is the one who love human identities into being before individuals ever conceived of rights or developed perceptions of tyranny. In other words. God's love is prevenient - it is there before everything else and calls all justifications for control of life. To gain the vision to negotiate how to be in the world is to access the life of grace in God. any claim of control or power is delusory and foolish. "Jesus gave a new, a very important responsibility to Peter. He said, 'Feed my sheep.' It's almost like asking a thief to become your treasurer."

The Christmas story lets us in on this God whose love is there "before everything else." It has always been there and always will be. It is the power and reality that brings the shepherds down from the hillside into the town of Bethlehem to see the babe. No power can take away that love and the power for life that come with it. Many may try to take it away and many may be willing to enter into it just as it is. That does not limit the power nor does it leave anyone out.

Connection: Sometimes it is good to live as though we know this love that is for us and for others and it is the rule of the day - Go tell it on the Mountain...

When division rules, O God, remind us of your love - a love that brings life so that we may be a part of the power that continues to bridge the separation that attempts to define us. Let your love define us. Amen.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Wednesday 23 December 2009

Just as we are about to break for a few days of Christmas, Battles continues with A Christian Theology of Ubuntu.

Most explicit for Tutu's context, the beatitude fo Ubuntu is that it provides an alternative to vengeance. Tutu states, "I saw it in Zimbabwe yet again last week. It is what has allowed Mr. Smith to survive in a post-independence Zimbabwe." South Africa - black and white - can be human together and will defy tyranny only by first living together. Again, perspective determines actions and Ubuntu provides an invaluable perspective in which white and black people may see themselves as more than racial rivals. "When you look at someone with eyes of love," Tutu believes, "you see a reality differently from that of someone who looks at the same person without love, without hatred or even just indifference."

"Only by living together." Most pressing within the ELCA community these days is the reality of how there are some in the church who will not allow this to take place. The fear of living together with people not like me is amazing. For us in the ELCA, we are watching a number of people panic because the doors have been opened to saints whose sexual identity does not fit into a heterosexual model. Often folks will say that it is not biblical to welcome such people into the full life of the church. I would have to say that we read what we want to read. Enough people have stepped forward to say end the divisions - cease the warfare - stop the badgering...and let's start being the church of Jesus, the Messiah of God. That church is one in which we look at the other "with eyes of love." To do that demands that we let go of the lenses we like to use to see differences and then to make those differences into reasons for their to be divisions and reasons for judgments to be made. Living together is tough - yet is it necessary or the world will never see glimpses of the Reign of God that will erupt, as always, out of the ordinary mix of life into which the Christ-child was born. "Only by living together" do we begin to step within the land of forgiveness and reconciliation and peace. When we walk away from what potentially might divide us, we most certainly walk away from the God who is always seeking to bridge the divide through a life together. Tutu's Ubuntu is a word we need to use in the ELCA. If we are going to turn to the African church as reason for dividing, we need to turn to the African church of Bishop Tutu and see the miraculous power of the Christ who makes all things new - even within a world that knows only how to live divided. The new world of the Christ is one in which even the most powerful forces for division are overcome - all of them...without exception.

Connection: Let's get on with being the Church of Christ, Jesus - Lord of All.

Come Lord, Jesus. Come and pull together all the parts that attempt to go alone with each other and without you. Grant us the wisdom to walk in your peace and love even as we would rather choose to arm ourselves for warfare. Amen.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Wednesday 23 December 2009

Just as we are about to break for a few days of Christmas,

Tuesday 22 December 2009

Sometimes Tutu's words really disarm me. Again from Ubuntu by Michael Battle.

Unlike many Western forces that seek to "establish" who a person or a community is, Tutu's Ubuntu excludes Western tendencies of grasping competitiveness. The beauty of Ubuntu is that instead of warring factions, when one lives in Ubuntu, instead of being manipulative and self-seeking that person is "more willing to make excuses for others" and even discover new meaning in the other persons. Therefore Ubuntu is an attribute that distinguishes humans from being mere animals; as Tutu concludes, "If you throw a bone to a group of dogs you won't hear them say: "After you!"

There is, what appears to be, a waiting and a watching that takes place before we jump into making evaluative judgments of others. Most often, it is that quickness of judgment and placement that gets all of us wound up in the many faces of warfare. Then again, it is not easy to hear this willingness to "make excuses for others." It sounds soft. And yet, it is just a matter of breathing and waiting and not jumping. The only excuse is simply the excuse to give us time to get to know the other and their wants and intentions and needs before making judgments. Dogs won't do that...get the bone....quick!!! What an image. This kind of Ubuntu thinking and acting is not at all what we usually hear from the world powers. I don't think it is merely a Western thing. I think it is more a human thing - a thought out thing that attempts to lord it over others....put others in the places we think they should be.

Connection: Again and again, I use the image of breathing. Tutu seems to want us all to breath and not make judgments in that time - but observe, listen, learn, understand. Again...not easy to do - but always worth it.

Lord of Liberation, you bring us into your world of new life through pulling us out of ourselves to be present with those who are other than us. In that time, your Spirit liberates us from ourselves and all the ways we would rule the world. Thanks be to you, O God. Amen.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Monday 21 December 2009

I think today's piece from Michael Battle is good for these days prior to Christmas.

Tutu's life and thought appeal for his society to move beyond racial distinctions as determinative of human identity. Through his emphasis upon the church's life of worship, in which human identity is elevated as persons find communion with others and God, Ubuntu makes sense of how South Africans should then proceed to operate on the basis of more that racial identity. In other words, people need not kill each other because they are black or white, but should instead rejoice in how God has created persons differently so that new meanings and identities are always possible.

It is such a wonderful leap that is made here. Not only are those who are usually at opposites sides brought together (some might say they are willing to 'tolerate' each other), but they are encouraged to rejoice in our differences and what a gift the other brings - a gift that may possibly change us all. We all know that it is not easy to walk over that bridge to those who are not like us. If it was an easy bridge to cross, the many divisions that shape our societies would not have the power they now hold over us. I like Tutu's turn to what is so essential to the Christian community in order to bring some sense to this move toward others. Some may not like the liturgy of the Church, but I find that it is a part of the bridge that helps to move us to the other side. This brief note about communion is where it really takes root. The lines that come forward are to be lines filled with the likes of all God's beloved. Even when the Church has a hard time bring us all together, the liturgy is set in place with just such a vision in mind. Too often, we forget just what we are walking into when we come to worship and share in the Meal. It is an amazing grace.

Connection: In the middle of arguments about what kind of worship is the best or even 'right,' there is the liturgy that always works to shape the character of the gathered communion. Listen to the words we use and the actions that are a part of the liturgy and thus our own work in the world.

Just as your beloved, Jesus, walked among us and shared in all the life that ties us together, O God, teach us again how to walk that walk within your living Reign. Remind us of the character of our lives as we follow our Lord, Jesus. Amen.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Friday 18 December 2009

It is later than usual for a Friday post and I would like to move away (just for today) from the recent pieces by Michael Battle on Ubuntu.

Today I had another one of those moments as a pastor that I cherish. We had a baby born in our congregation and I simply love waiting until the mother and child are settled a bit and then go in and make a short visit. Today's visit was a bit different. Before I left for the hospital, I finished my sermon for the 4th Sunday of Advent. The text from Luke includes the Magnificat. I realized what an amazing thing is said to Mary by Elizabeth when Mary comes to visit. "Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb." But it is not only amazing because it is about Jesus' birth to come. When I went into the mother's room at the hospital I said I needed to share these words: Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb." Isn't that what all mothers need to hear? Doesn't that say to them that the world is about to change and from them will come a part of the changing of the next generation? I also thought that we all need to see one another as blessed - rather than as just another person who can be lost in the crowd. Bless is the mother...blessed is her daughter...bless are all who walk around as the sons and daughters of our God. Sometimes we don't remind each other of that fact that is announced to us as part of the Good News. I knew I was going to say that to them as I was going into the room. When it came time, I almost lost it. I said it in a matter of fact way - really meant it...really felt it...and wow, what a bright spot in the day.

Connection: How blessed we are...all of us - and filled with the likes of a blessed people, the day becomes one full of blessings for all.

Author of All Life, you stir up a love that is deep and wide. You remind us of the worth of each child and the wonder that comes to life when the world is faced with new life blessed by you. Thanks be to you, O God. Amen.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Thursday 17 December 2009

Once again we look at personhood as seen through Bishop Tutu's theology.

Tutu believes that human persons are especially born as potentiality. If human beings would grow up individually among wolves they would not know how to communicates as human beings. There would not be human posture or human ways of eating, sitting, and walking. Therefore, human beings become persons only by living in an environment conducive to the interaction of diverse personalities and cultures. If there is no such environment, personhood does not survive.

In South Africa during Apartheid, he would say that both sides suffered a loss of personhood. The whites because of their oppressive ways - denied themselves the opportunity to become fully human. They denied knowing more of what God had created as humanity - and they were ways were see (over time) as demonic. The Africans were denied basic access to education and food and health care and thus were also not able to fulfill their personhood. In this case it was because they were outright denied a fuller life. So both ended up being less than they could be. When the Apartheid system was torn down, the long journey toward personhood started. Before this time, the people like Mandela and Tutu were some of the few who did not let themselves be denied of the fullness of this personhood. They stepped over lines, continued to engage the other side, never settled for what was given them. When people do that, they become martyrs...some still alive and some long gone.

Connection: The more we move away from the reality and fullness of life around us, we all continue to be stunted. This is one of the reasons I find it so necessary for people in urban areas of our country to do mission work at home - work that helps us reach across and find the person in the other rather than the "trips" that often do not give us the time to learn - only to serve.

Within the rich diversity of your beloved people, O God, you invite us to journey out beyond what is so known to us. It is not easy and it can be frightening. It is then that we ask that your Holy Spirit move along with us - urging us to move and live to the fullest. Amen.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Wednesday 16 December 2009

More from "A Christian theology of Ubuntu" by Michael Battle.

For Tutu, persons must always be seen as ends in themselves, and they must discover who they are through others. For example, a person does not know she is beautiful unless there is another person who can make beauty intelligible to her. In short, the telos (or purpose) of persons must always remain a mystery, otherwise, constricting definitions of persons, such as the racial classifications of apartheid, inevitably lead to dehumanizing forces. These forces often ran rampant and unchecked in the apartheid era.

When the purpose of a person is a mystery, there is always the possibility for change and new life. If a person's whole being can be like a stamp, it is static and it will not change. It is then that it can become so easy to put people into boxes. But that is not what people are. We are a mystery. Sometimes even to ourselves - as we are sometimes finding ourselves amazed when we are not acting as we though we might act. Repentance is one way in which we are free to live outside the box. Forgiveness gives us a doorway into the mystery of life that God places before all of us. Without forgiveness, we easily lock ourselves and others into roles that only continue to keep things as they are.

Connection: It doesn't take much for us to be brutal people. The moment we have drawn a line and will not cross it or let anyone come over to our side, we suffer the loss of the life that comes within the power of the Holy Spirit.

Come, O Spirit of Life. Come and push us out of our ways and into the way of others. Let those meeting times bring a breath of fresh air to all we see and do. Amen.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Tuesday 15 December 2009

These remarks follow directly from the piece used yesterday - again from Michael Battle's "Ubuntu."

God has created us for interdependence as God has created us in his image - the image of a divine fellowship of the holy and blessed Trinity. The self-sufficient human being is a contradiction in terms, is subhuman. God has created us to be different in order that we can realize our need for one another. There is an African idiom: "A person is a person through other persons." I learn how to be human through association with other human beings.

Strong words. We have a long history of talking about the 'self-made person." It is part of the rugged, individualism that we say is part of the foundation of our country. And yet, Tutu is quite strong about how he sees these notion of self-sufficiency. He uses the word subhuman. Wow. That's a biting critique. I think this is where Ubuntu gets it right. This notion of interdependence is not a mere emotional or cognitive reality. It is to be a living reality. The image of God is not some notion that floats in the air - something we can come to know like another fact or feeling. God's Image is found when we gather together - when our strengths and weaknesses are observed and become a part of bring the life out of us. Remember, Luther's image of sin is "turned-in-on-self." Ubuntu calls us out of ourselves so that our eyes see others and through others, we begin to ourselves. It is at that communal moment that we have the opportunity to enter into the wholeness that is the Reign of God.

Connection: We are gift to one another. We thus are handed a gift of life each day as we move out to engage others...the different from us...those beyond us.

Lord God of All Life, you continue to call us together. Though we choose to be with people just like us, all of our neighbors offer us a piece of life that makes us into your image. Sometimes that image is not what we want. Liberate our thinking and our living. Amen.

Monday 14 December 2009

Once again, Battle turns to Bishop Tutu's words about spirituality and Ubuntu.

Tutu thinks:
We are each a God-carrier, a tabernacle of the Holy Spirit, indwelt by God the holy and most blessed Trinity. To treat one such as less than this is not just wrong....It is veritably blasphemous and sacrilegious. It is to spit in the face of God. Consequently injustice, racism, exploitation, oppression are to be opposed not as a political task but as a response to a religious, a spiritual imperative. Not to oppose these manifestations of evil would be tantamount to disobeying God.

This sounds quite like some of the Finnish Luther theologians who talk about he indwelling of Christ as being a part of Luther's thinking. The theological term from the Eastern Church is "Theosis." In so many ways it really put in front of all of us a wonderful reality that is no so easy to appreciate. To see the "other" as one who is also a part of the divine can be disturbing. It is disturbing because if we see the divine in them (or if we simply say this is so), when we pull away from that other, we are pulling away from the God we want to be near. I don't know about you, but when it comes to American politics, I find it easy to run to one side and not what anything to do with the other. And yet, that cannot be. Not only am I incomplete without them, they too are incomplete without me. Therefore, it is necessary to become vulnerable in order to open ourselves up to the gift in the "other." Not easy...not easy at all!

Connection: All this reminds me to keep God "close at hand." In that way, the reminder to be open to the other is like an alarm that warns us to look out at the world around us with new eyes.

When we find so many way to say separated from other or to call them evil or wrong, we call on your Spirit of new life, O God. Your Spirit is ceaselessly working to bridge the gap between us and make way for the coming of the Lord among us. Let you Spirit rest among us. Amen.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Friday 11 December 2009

I find these to be radical ideas about power from Tutu - by Michael Battle.

Underlying Tutu's examination of power is the presupposition that Ubuntu, as an African concept, provides the basis for a particular theology in which Tutu is able to conclude:
"We will grow in the knowledge that they [white people] too are God's children, even though they may be our oppressors, though they may be our enemies. Paradoxically, and more truly, they are really our sisters and our brothers, because we have dared, and have the privilege to call God 'Abba,' Our Father. Therefore, they belong together with us in the family of God, and their humanity is caught up in our humanity, as ours is caught up in theirs."

The whole story of this day and how it unfolds begins with the truth that we all - with all of our differences that cause us to hate one another, go to war with one another, despise one another - are brothers and sisters because we all are God's beloved. This "all" is amazing because it can never be altered by us. The "all" will always be "all." Even when we do not want those others to be included in the "all," we must remember that in our stinking thinking...we too are a part of the "all" even when other would not want us to be included. In the meantime, comes the everyday dynamics of the relationships we enter with one another. We are encouraged and empowered to live a daring life in which we reach across the divide and never let the power of division be the power that runs our life. We are the beloved of God - we are not like the ways of the world. Yikes! This living within the Reign of God is more than I can handle. Therefore in the season of Advent we continually pray, Stir up our hearts, O God.

Connection: Usually enemies are the ones we simply do not invite to the table. I can identify with that. And yet, as followers of Jesus, there must be ways that we will open ourselves to such adventures. It is not easy - for anyone.

Stir up our hearts, O God, and Come with your power of life into all that we do. Bring you love into our lives that we will continue to seek the end of the separation that makes us a violent people even as we claim to be the followers of the Prince of Peace. Amen.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Thursday 10 December 2009

More on Ubuntu theology.

The concept of interdependence defines and informs Tutu's Ubuntu theology. The definition of Ubuntu and how Tutu's theological interpretation of it counters the theological narrative of apartheid have to do with how the imago dei is made intelligible in South Africa. Tutu summarizes the problem this way, "It is absolutely necessary for us to share certain values. Otherwise discourse between us would be impossible for we would be without common points of reference." I stress the intelligibility of the concept of Ubuntu because the environment in which Tutu forged his synthesis had been corrupted by ideologies of power totally contrary to the concept of Ubuntu. Tutu's Ubuntu theology seeks to understand these tendencies of power.

Ubuntu theology demands that we start over again. We do this in the present space and time of our existence - so that no side is left out. There must be an understanding of the other in order to build something new. Otherwise, we would find it so easy to tumble into ways of living that will simply follow the old powers of division and warfare. Ubuntu theology demands that we look around and take in all that is us...all that is human - without cutting anyone off. Once people are cut off or fear being cut off, we all know that we begin to flex our strength and our might in order to hold on to what we have and what we want to keep in our grasp. This is the way of war. This is the way of racism. This is the way of class divisions that create more and more reasons to stay separated rather than to move together.

Connection: It is not an easy road to walk when we insist on seeing all those who walk with us and around us. And yet, it is the way of Reign of God - the way of promise.

Lord of Life, teach us to love our neighbors - the ones we have learned to enjoy and the ones we have learned to hate. Encourage us to be open to surprising adventures that reveal your Reign even when we are afraid to step forward. Amen.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Wednesday 9 December 2009

Today we will continue Tutu's teaching about holding on together - from Michael Battle.

Two significant factors shaped this view. The first was Tutu's Anglican heritage, with its Eucharistic understanding of community, and then second was the long process by which South Africa renounced apartheid... Tutu's response was that human identity cannot be confined to racial classification. His theology also sought a remedy to the perception that history has yet "to produce an example of people giving up power voluntarily without external coercion."

We now know this movement in Sought Africa as something "out of this world." Even though it is not a perfect journey, it has made all of us look again at how we will face our differences and begin the never-ending journey of healing and becoming human - in the image of God. Giving up power, voluntarily, is what Jesus teaches as he washes the feet of his friends and teaches them (and us) about the meaning of love as it comes to life within the Reign of God that is breaking in all around us. One of the reasons I love to hear what Bishop Tutu has to say is that he does such a good job of bringing out the full meaning of our liturgy. It is life on parade. It is the Reign of God within a short period of time that enables us all to go out and walk and live as people of the Reign of God everywhere we go. In a previous book, I simply held on to Tutu's wonderful images of the liturgy and the life that each part opens up to us as we venture through them.

Connection: We need images to lead us beyond ourselves. We need to be lifted up to see from a new perspective and we need to see that newness coming to life here and there. So often that life begins here - not out there away from us.

Your love, O God, is as real as the next breath we take. Inspire us to continue to breath in that power of life that makes your love a part of every breath. Amen.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Tuesday 8 December 2009

We continue the theology of Ubuntu - Michael Battle.

For Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Ubuntu recognizes that human beings are called to be persons in community because we are made in the image of the triune God. Drawing an analogy to music, Tutu concludes that the music would be good even if it were just the contribution of one person, but, "it is glorious when it is a harmony, a harmony of different voices....God says, it is precisely our diversity that makes for our unity. It is precisely because you are you and I am me that [God] says, 'You hold on together.'"

One person can do so much good. One voice can lift up a community to new heights. But that one voice - without a community - is just a voice crying in the wilderness. In this season of Advent, we hear the voice of one crying in the wilderness. John is a strong voice for the new way of life within the Reign of God. And yet, he points to the Reign of God alive within the mix of humanity - Jesus. It will be Jesus in the mix...Jesus connecting with others...Jesus alive as one wrestling with other voices and other lives so that the image of God might be seen more clearly. From Jesus comes - the community - the followers of Jesus in Acts...the formation of a new identity for humanity. This is an identity that must be seen within the context of people mixing it up and being transformed in the meantime.

Connection: Sometimes it takes one voice to begin bringing together others who long to hear of a new way and then see it come to life. For the life of the community, we may need one voice to inspire the voices of others. The when the voices are lifted up together - wow.

When you pull us into your sacred community, O God, we arrive there as we meet and greet one another. For there in the midst of the "us" you are visible all around the room. Continue to treat us to such times as these. Amen.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Monday 7 December 2009

This week we will be looking at "A Christian Theology of Ubuntu" - again with Michael Battle.

Ubuntu gives us the insight that human life is meant to be shared. For Christians, Ubuntu resonates with the imperatives of our biblical faith to realize our relationality as God's children. It bids us to contemplate the mystery of persons, both as expressed in the triune God and in creation. Ubuntu theology is formed around the fact that there is so much about another person which cannot be known without community.

I was caught up by the expression "the mystery of persons." We are always at the edge of seeing, hearing, and being something new when we encounter others and are willing to be vulnerable as we come together with those other than us. In many ways, we cannot control what will take place - thus it is a mystery. We can try to be in control and limit who we encounter and on what grounds we encounter one another...but mystery is not something we meet when we are unwilling or unable to give up our control of the life we are entering. Think of the day at hand. The greatest mysteries we will run into will be those that cause us to meet and greet and work with others. Even the most predictable friends continue to be friends because they also offer us a new look at the world - a look we did not anticipate. Hearing how another sees and hears the world...may be the grandest surprise and the opening of our world view.

Connection: Be ready to enter into the mystery of this day - and spend some time making it a part of what will be with us.

Lord of Life, you expand our views and you guide our living. When we receive the gift of another person's wisdom and life, we are pulled to see how broad is your Reigning presence. Continue, O God, to stretch us. Amen.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Friday 4 December 2009

Michael Battle writes more on the healthy person of Ubuntu.

What is a communal self? In this book I want to answer this question through the concept of Ubuntu which shapes the vision for how the relationship between persons creates a third entity. In other words, Ubuntu helps us see the complementarity between the individual and community - that one is unintelligible without the other. Ubuntu helps us guard against the unfortunate tendency of approaching relationships as what one person can get out of the other, thereby killing the opportunity for the third life to be born - the life of community.

I find that there is a traditional word within the church for this life that comes to be when individuals enter into community and we share of ourselves and receive back from others. It is the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is alive between us. It is the life-action that bridges the separation and pulls us beyond our turned-in-on-self. When that pulling takes place, the result is a community that we in the church call the body of Christ - a gathering of self-differentiated individuals who share a life together that is shaped within the vision of the Christ and the life within the Reign of God. Ubuntu seems to carry that meaning.

Connection: It is not always easy to bridge the gap between one another. And yet, for the growth and well-being of all of us, it is necessary.

Spirit of Life lead us toward others and encourage us to see the great gift that awaits us as we share our lives with others. It is not what we always want but you know that the restoration of our relationships brings about a new day for everyone - a day within your loving Reign. Amen.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Thursday 3 December 2009

Today we look a bit more at Ubuntu - Michael Battle.

To become a healthy person we must be fully human both as a person in community and as a self-differentiated person. My argument, however, is that the very act of self-differentiation is itself the beauty of Ubuntu. You cannot know you are unique or beautiful or intelligent without the reference point of a community in which such attributes become intelligible. We need to become communal selves.

A healthy person also means a healthy community because the two are to be so tied together. This sounds very much like family systems. A healthy community is able to have individual who offer their gifts and yet do not attempt to destroy the integrity of the other. We become more fully human as we interact and the interactions are honest, caring, deliberate, and truthful. When that is the case, we can count on others to help us on our journey - no matter where we are going. We also become a part of the making of other's journeys. Within the community, each individual cannot collapse him/her self into the the image of the community. Rather, we must each become the individuals we must be - unique and valuable and coming into the community with gifts that can and will be of benefit to the rest even as the community is a benefit to the individual. We we simply become enmeshed in the community we can easily lose ourselves and that...can look like a cult. Ubuntu seems to avoid such cult making.

Connection: Though each of us is a vital part of the whole, the community (or family) in which we live must be a living organism that weighs in to nurture each person. Sometime, that means being able to say yes and no.

Stir up our hearts, O God, and come among us to shape a people who are eager to embrace all who long to be a part of the creative image of your Reign. Remind us of the wonder that comes as we expand our lives within the wideness of your community of saints. Amen.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Wednesday 2 December 2009

I find this piece on competition to be a good reminder - Michael Battle on Ubuntu.

Our planet cannot survive if we define our identity only through competition. If I know myself as strong only because someone else is weak, if I know myself as a black person only because someone else is white, then my identity depends on a perpetual competition that only leaves losers. If I know myself as a man by dominating women, if I know myself as a Christian only because someone else is going to hell, then both my masculinity and my Christianity are devoid of content.

I'm embarrassed to say this piece is like holding up a mirror and taking a look at that which I do not want to see - but it is as real as can be. I don't consider myself a competitive person....but then - I know when my heart races - I know when I am sitting at the edge of my chair - I know what it feels like to be in a tight game (watching or playing) or even a tight election. This side and that side always seem to exist in my world. It is one of the battles that must be resolved. The battle may only be resolved with I let go of the need for a battle in the first place. I is goo to let go. It is good to stand in a vulnerable position in order to receive a new view of the other person. Otherwise, I will view other from behind my walls and armaments. In the end...I lose. We all do. That's ugly.

Connection: So, in the meantime, who will we be with will we be with others? It may shape the whole day as we face these two questions.

Lord, as we look at the image in which we have been created, it is the fullness of your love. That fullness is expressed through all of us. We are exposed to that fullness as we are exposed to those around us and those who walk with us through all that will come our way. Amen.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Tuesday 1 December 2009

Here is a part of the testing of Ubuntu that is quite necessary.

On a social scale, Ubuntu implies more than just a non-racial, non-sexist, and non-exploitative society. Rather it is a touchstone by which the quality of a society has to be continually tested, no matter what ideology is reigning. Ubuntu must be incorporated not only in the society of the future but also in the process of the struggle toward the future.

Here is a bit of what is vital to Ubuntu - "a society has to be continually tested, no matter what ideology is reigning." It is in that testing that we come to see how we have this grand propensity to turn-in-on-ourselves and think grand things about our group - our community - our nation. That is the very foundation of sin. To avoid such turning-in-on-self, we must continue to welcome the stranger and risk losing our notion of what is. That is not easy. That can be quite threatening. And yet, if this is not the way we move into the future, the future will just as the past was. To "struggle toward the future" is to be engaged in the present and the tension that exists when we do not simple go our own way but rather remain open to new ways. We must listen. We must speak the truth. We must bend. We must stand firm. We must be open to the gift of the other even as we hold onto the many gifts already at hand.

Connection: Could a possible questions for us simply be: how can who your are and what you bring with you be the beginning of a new life for both of us? Easier put down on this screen that done. Yet always within our grasp.

We walk into your future, O God, and yet we attempt to keep today just as we want it and have been able to make it up until now. Grant us courage to step into your pathway and find life in new forms as your future reaches into this day. Amen.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Monday 30 November 2009

This first week of the Advent season will be filled with more about Ubuntu by Michael Battle.

Ubuntu is the interdependence of persons for the exercise, development, and fulfillment of their potential to be both individuals and community. This is why extended family is so important in African societies. Through extended family, an individual becomes capable of living a larger life, not only through those related by blood, kinship, or marriage but through humanity itself, conceived as a family one joins at birth and in which no one is a stranger.

What a good image of community. Then again, this could be also the worst part of community. What if the larger life that is connected with others is only a connection to some. It may be a village. It may be a tribe....a extended family. If we do not have the ability to extend ourselves beyond our group or larger extended family, it seems to me that it can become quite demonic. On community of close-knit people can become the ones who threaten and go to war with another community. Ubuntu seems to rest on the understanding that this connectedness is to run throughout humanity. No one is outside. No one is beyond our relationships. We can and must be one and refuse to have any issue or cause or action separate us or call us stranger. When we cannot be that expansive, we will become like a cult - speaking good words about community but speaking them with little respect toward those not "with us."

Connection: There are simply too many ways to come up with reasons to divide. It takes courage to reach across the lines of our own separation.

Lord of Creation, when you make us in your image, it is within the beauty of our differences that you see this image and it is handed to us as our own. Continue to make us bold and uncover the many facets of our humanity that help to build bridges to new life. Amen.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Wednesday 25 November 2009

Have a blessed Thanksgiving - more on Ubuntu.

...relying only on a literal interpretation of the word as human being does not satisfy Ubuntu's deeper meanings. To the Bantu-speaking peoples, a phrase, such as "Mary has Ubuntu," would mean Mary is known to be a caring, concerned person who abides faithfully in all social obligations. Mary is conscious not only of her personal rights but also of her duties to her neighbor. In fact, Mary is conscious of her personal rights only in relationship with the rights of others. Mary does not know she is beautiful, or intelligent, or humorous, without Ubuntu. Mary has come to understand her own identity only in relationship to other persons.

I find this to be scary stuff - in a way. It demands that the community is always looking after the welfare of the other. Imagine counting on your self-perception in a community that ridiculed you...or degraded you...or abused you...or counted you as nothing at all. That, from what I have read here would be a demonic community - one not able to be truly human. But, when others can be a blessing - a word of encouragement and truthfulness - a wellspring of honor and respect, then this communal humanity can be the very ground beneath the lives of everyone. The character of each would then begin to reflect the character of the whole and we would see dramatic expressions of humanity at its best.

Connection: Can we be so afraid of others that we will not allow ourselves to be in communion with them? And yet, at the very center of our life together as Christians is the common meal that shapes our identity.

Knit us together, O God. Help us to see how our humanity is so enriched by our contact with others and the way we mix together to see the beauty of the whole. Amen.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Tuesday 24 November 2009

As noted yesterday, Ubuntu by Michael Battle.

Tutu's more specific connotation of the term (Ubuntu)...derives from a Xhosa concept. Generally, this proverbial expression means that each individual's humanity is ideally expressed in relationship with others, and, in turn, individuality is truly expressed. A person depends on other persons to be a person. This is certainly the understanding Christians have of God as Trinity in which the three persons of God are so interdependent that all three persons of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have one nature.

I like where he is going. The whole matrix of God and humanity is creatively nourished within relationship. In fact, God, in whose image we are created, is just as we would be - a community with many faces that expresses the very center of being that makes us whole. We are wholly human and in that mix of being communal, we find our individuality and we find that we are not ever without brother and sisters. We are never alone. We are never abandoned. We are forever laced together with other and in that reality we continue to evolved into the wonder of our humanity.

Connection: Is this why Hindus bow to acknowledge the God that is present in the other? Just wondering. We would do well to consider such a thought as we face those around us.

Liberating Lord, you free us to be vulnerable with one another so that we may find ourselves within the wide embrace of your love that creates new life among us from day to day. Continue to liberate our lives and expand our vision of our own humanity. Amen.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Monday 23 November 2009

For the three days prior to Thanksgiving, we are returning to Ubuntu by Michael Battle.

The word Ubuntu comes from the linguistic group of Sub-Saharan languages known as Bantu. Both words Ubuntu and Bantu can be recognized by the common root of -ntu (human). the prefix ba- denotes the plural form for humanity. In short, Ubuntu means personhood. A further etymological foundation for -ntu can be translated as being, that is, human being. In the spirituality common to Sub-Sarharan Africa, there is a direct relationship between human being and God's being. Ubuntu, therefore, also includes a theological understanding in which all beings are known through the category of personhood.

All are see as persons. If that were the case, then there would be no reason to treat men or women differently. Nor would there be any reason to treat any human differently simply based on who they are. Actually, we would need to assume that I am only more human as I treat the other as human. It is in that time of sharing that we begin to experience the great wonder about our humanity. Thus, we begin to see the fullness of humanity that we often limit. We honor the human being. In that way we begin the daily journey of following the truly human one. Some may say that is the Christ of God, Jesus. Others may call this the "son of Man." In either case, it presses us to see the fullness of who we can be and by seeing the expansiveness of our being, we are also exposed to how limited we really let ourselves become.

Connection: Can you see in the other person the humanity that will allow you to stretch your understanding of what it is to be human? Then can you see where that might lead us?

Lord of Creation, in your image we are created. Humanity - the whole of our being - the wideness of our experience - the mystery of our being, is created by you. It is in this created form that the simple 'me' comes to see how life is really brought to it defining moments when we see in the communal 'we' the life of humanity created in your image. We bless you for moments of insight and the grand texture of your being that becomes us. Amen.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Friday 20 November 2009

Today will be a longer piece by Michael Battle in order to further define Ubuntu.

Ubuntu is an African concept of personhood in which the identity of the self is understood to be formed interdependently through community. This is a difficult worldview for many Westerners who tend to understand self as over and against others - or as in competition with others. In a Western world-view, interdependence may be easily confused with codependence, a pathological condition in which people share a dependence on something that is not life-giving, such as alcohol or drugs. Ubuntu, however, is about symbiotic and cooperative relationships - neither the parasitic and destructive relationship of codependence nor the draining and alienating relationships of competition. Perhaps Desmond Tutu...but it best when he said:
"A person with Ubuntu is open and available to others affirming of others, does not feel threatened that others are able and good, for he or she has a proper self assurance that comes from knowing that he or she belongs in a greater whole and is diminished when others are humiliated or diminished, when others are tortured or oppressed."

I wanted to include the piece by Bishop Tutu because it shows that not everyone has this character of Ubuntu. It is a character that is treasured and pointed to within Africa. I would have to submit though, that it is a positive and wonderful community character, it must not be assumed to be universal. If it was, there would not be, like in the west, the senseless bloodshed and misery that goes along with so many people living together. I would argue that this notion of Ubuntu is a gift. It is one that we can nurture and one that must be nurtured communally - that merely fits with the definition of the word. Can we say that one country or continent knows more about this experience? Or must we remember that we are all saint-sinners who will quite easily reject such a creative and loving way to live together. It would be good to look at other concepts from other places that attempt to hold the same values as primary.

Connection: Without being connected, we lose a sense of who we are and who we can become. What makes us utterly human in the best way possible today!

Creating God, you knit us together as your beloved people. You continue to call us into relationship with one another and your love becomes the power that bridges the gaps between us. Continue to open our eyes to see the wealth of life that comes to everyone when we love one another and that love becomes the foundation of our life together. Amen.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Thursday 19 November 2009

I have neglected to send out devotions this week due to a bad back. Strange how such a thing as that can alter how things get done and when things get done and if things get done. Sorry about that. I would like to make a switch to a book by Michael Battle "Ubuntu." Several years ago I used one of his writings and find him to be a real lift.

Westerners may find Ubunto - an African concept of personhood - a strange word with perhaps an even stranger meaning. Emphasizing the communal and spiritual dimensions of human identity, the concept of Ubuntu (oo-BOON-too) of necessity poses a challenge to persons accustomed to thinking of themselves as individuals. Imagine a fish trying to understand what it means to be wet, when all it has ever known is life in the water. Or imagine the desperation of an earthling landing on Mars without an oxygen tank. Becoming conscious of what we take for granted can be a strange, difficult - even painful - experience. Yet the winds of change that greet us as we begin the twenty-first century guarantee that Westerners will encounter non-Western assumptions about what it means to be human. The interconnection of identity on the personal, communal, and global levels is inescapable.

Just last evening in bible study we touched briefly on this notion of the individual. We often read scripture as though it is about and and God. And yet, it is about the whole of us - all of us together. It is about the Reign of God that is the radical new way of being humanity. The vision of that humanity is as old as the bible - and yet it is as new as the shaping of the church today. We are human. Yes, I am one of those human beings - but I am on the one and only one. When we are blessed to see that we are one of of a whole that has been created in God's image, the borders we put up to separate and divide really have not power and no reason. The Reign of God is about the interconnection that does not abide by borders and wall and boundaries. Rather, we are a part of the beginning of becoming the one humanity in God's image. That will change everything about us. It will mean listening and speaking and arguing and tossing around possibilities and using our imaginations much more than we have ever let ourselves do that before now.

Connection: Imagine what being interconnected means as the day begins to unfold before us. Sometimes it really does take a great imagination.

When you invite us to love our enemies, O God, you are inviting us to be the humanity you created. Without that love and connection to others, we are not the people you intended us to become. You insist on peace - you insist on our whole humanity. Blessed are you. Amen.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Friday 13 November 2009

With love comes accountability - so Willimon continues.

love is not love that is irresponsible. Unresponsiveness is the death of a relationship. Love is not love that is unwilling to take time with the beloved. A lover who expects nothing of the the beloved, who does not want the best for the beloved is not really in love. Once again the story that Jesus told of extravagant beneficence (Matthew 25:14-30), his so-called parable of the talents: A man summoned his slaves and gave them everything he had, lavishing huge sums of money upon them in varying degrees. the master leaves them holding everything he owns, every cent, with no instructions on how they are to invest in so much treasure. "After a long time" he returns and "settled accounts with them" (v.19). There is graciousness and lavish gift, but there is also definitive accounting.

So what are we doing with this love that has been wrapped around us as an unending promise? Is it alive among it something that is visible in our individual lives...has it become us? I immediately thought of the hymn "this little light of mine" and the refrain "let it shine, let it shine, let it shine." A good question in our make-believe judgment day scenario would be the simple question that all the beloved are asked: "did you let it shine?" Or maybe God would simply say, "tell me what my love did in your life - how was it made into you?" Great gift - great opportunity...gracious gift - gracious life.

Connection: At the end of the day ask what took place that day that brought the loving and gracious face of God alive through us...just one little thing would be enough.

You make us a gift to the world, O God, by your love for us. When we are loved by you, we are a part of life that is shaped by you. We give you thanks for turning us loose on the world as recipients of your love. Amen.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Thursday 12 November 2009

Thinking some more about judgment - Willimon.

To be made to stand before the mirror of truth, even though it may take an eternity to face the facts about ourselves, is an aspect of God's faith in us. Though we don't believe that we have the resources to live truthfully, God believes in us more than we believe in ourselves. God is willing to take time with us. And if anyone is ever able to stand before that judging, redeeming mirror and face the facts, it is only in response to something that God enacts, not at the product of our own will or intellect. If we are able to love, it is because we have first been loved (1 John 4:19). We did not choose God, God in Christ chose us (John 15:16). Grace alone separates the lost from the found, the redeemed from those yet awaiting the full communion that God desires for all.

Facing the mirror of truth and facing the facts about ourselves is enough to make anyone want to turn away. It is not a pleasant task. That is why we are constantly trying to build our own world in which we are just fine and we have things under control. But our God waits. Even when the world we try to create and the images we attempt to make build begin to fall apart - God waits. The whole time - through all of our ego-building and life-managing "expertise" - God waits. The mirror is always there - the truth. Our God in Christ is not concerned with what we see and how we would judge what we see. We are already embraced. In some ways I have the image of our Lord standing with us as we look at that mirror "bracing" us as we take each blow of truthfulness. Bracing us with a love that is able to heal all that is revealed so that our lives will be ready to live from a new sense of being.....being the beloved of God.

Connection: It is good to have clear and honest mirrors. It is the way we come to realize the power that is greater than our own judgments and rules.

Embrace us again this day, O God. As long as we continue to run from you, we will not allow ourselves to rest in your promises. Inspire our peace brought to us by your eternal presence. Amen.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Wednesday 11 November 2009

Again salvation is looked at as taking time - Willimon.

Is Christ's judgment of us a sign of Christ's faith in us? The parable of the talents - in which the master lavishes such great sums upon the servants - is not only a story of God's judgment but also of God's incredible faith in the servants. The one who judges Israel is first the one who has elected Israel. From this perspective our "damnation" is not so much a work of God but rather our arrogant refusal, our steadfast determination not to be engaged by the work of God in our salvation.

First there is that incredible faith in us. Amazing grace! It is not easy to remember that. Too often we see ourselves and others at a distance from God. And yet, God is the power for life before we even begin to make bets on what we can or cannot do. God calls Israel and the Church - to be the beloved that God has already called us. Unfortunately, we participate in a history of running in the opposite direction in an attempt to be what we would be - damn it! So...the judgment is one we make against the reality in which God places us. It then becomes the way we look at the world around us. We attempt to be judge and refuse to hear the word of God speaking to the world with words of endearment meant to bring us into a life we so often resist.

Connection: Live it. Live within the reality that God see around us and in us.

Your faith in us, O God, is like the manna that keeps alive those who cannot trust but are in great need of being fed. You continue to provide for your love endures forever. We thank you. Amen.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Tuesday 10 November 2009

More about salvation taking time - William Willimon.

In another parable, when the servants propose uprooting the weeds from the wheat, the master again postpones justifiable judgment, saying that he will sort it all out, but in his own good time (Matthew 13:25). Judgment is promised, but not now. How long will the forbearing master wait? And what might we, just recipients of judgment, do in the meantime?

In God's own time. We don't even know the timeline and it is none of our business. In fact, we don't even know much about the judgment - except that our God in Christ, Jesus, will judge in favor of us. That favor will be life changing and creative and cleansing - and still called judging. I like to remember that it is the promise of this judgment that is meant to bring us alive...bring us into new life...set us on us up to the future of our God without having to have a controlling say in what will be. This is already God's own time...but it is God's time to move us and shape us and send us and deliver us and make surprising news among us.

Connection: When we wait, we give ourselves the opportunity to listen and look out at the world and our own lives with new eyes. That can become a great gift.

In the meantime, O God, save us all and make us into a saving people who rest in you alone. Amen.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Monday 9 November 2009

Today we will be moving into a section of "Who will be Saved?" called - Salvation takes time - from William Willimon.

Jesus told the one about the unproductive fig tree (Luke 13:6-9). Three years, no figs. The master orders the servant, "Cut it down" (vs.7). Time's up. But the servant pleads with the master's justifiable judgment, saying "[allow me] to dig around it and put manure on it [and see what happens]" (v.8). The master mercifully relents and the unproductive tree is given more time to bear fruit. Are we hearing a conversation in the heart of the Trinity between the justifiable judgments of God the Father with the pleading mercy of God the Son? God judges but does so in the mercy of God's own good time. (There's no way any self-respecting farmer would leave alone an unproductive tree for three years. The farmer in Jesus' parable is remarkable for his disinterest in productivity.)

I know I like to know the timeline. I like to know when the ax will fall or when the "get out of jail free" card will be used. That's me...doing any little thing that will help me have a bit of control - even if it is only an illusion. But in all the waiting and watching and attempting to put an end to the story in a way that might fit the way I would have the story end, God does not let my notion of waiting and timing rule. God rules. God allows for time....foolish amounts of time....awkward amounts of time....time that would draw criticism - even rejection. In the meantime, the manure is piled on for our benefit. We are given the simple task of simply flourishing...coming to life...being who we were meant to be...a fig tree...or you....or me.

Connection: We need not waste the day wondering about what we will become. It is enough to be the beloved ones God sees in us. That is the foundation that makes life spring forth in all its fullness.

Patient God, as you call us to enter into your living Reign, it is as though you are able to wait for us as we go about everything else in our world we think will be a better way. And yet, you wait as we come to see how we stray and leave again and resist all that your are. And then, you are with us no matter where we have wandered. Praise to you, O God. Amen.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Friday 6 November 2009

Here is an interesting difference Willimon sees between Christianity and Islam in regard to heaven and hell.

One of the ways that Christian Scripture differs from that of Islam is that we are not permitted to know as much as Islam knows about heaven or hell. Christ's judgment is not his judgment if we presume to know the outcome beforehand. We must resist premature conclusion or synthesis. We are not permitted too despair, nor are we permitted to be presumptuous; that which we presume is not a gift, and despair doubts that Christ is able to accomplish his purposes. Humility is required.

To be quite honest, I'm sure this is an accurate portrayal of Islam. Having said that, I thought it best to comment on our side of this discussion. Often I will use language like "we know the end of the story" or "the judgment is for us by the Lord who is for us." Is that being presumptuous? I don't think so. We say such things as a way of saying "now what"...." what is life to be now"...."how do we begin to live the gift of life God has given us in Christ, Jesus" - as though it is raining down upon us already. In such a way, we are not "betting on what will be" or holding onto it as a prize we can rub in the faces of others. Rather, it becomes part of the promise that is to empower us to serve others more fully - even to the point of risking our lives for them the their welfare.

Connection: Living within the realm of the humility of the Reign of God can be a risky life. And yet, with us each step of the way is the Lord of Life who promises to always be our guide and strength.

Lord lift us up this day and continue to let your promises feed us and send us. Amen.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Thursday 5 November 2009

Willimon again brings a curious look at this whole notion of damned and saved.

Confidence is not necessarily untroubling certainty. After all, the more closely we grow toward Christ, and the more we know of Christ (and by implication the more we know of ourselves) usually the more convinced we become of how far we are from Christ, how little we know of Christ, and how poorly we fulfill his will. Sometimes to be close to Jesus increases our uneasiness with Jesus. We know not only the one who is able to say "depart from me into the eternal fire...into eternal punishment" (Matthew 25:41-46) and, "I never knew you (Matt. 7:23). We also know the one who gave himself as a ransom for all (1 Timothy 2:1-6), the one who promised that he would "draw all people to [him]self" (John 12:32). We know that in Adam all have sinned, but now we know that the grace of Christ takes precedence over the sin of Adam (Romans 5:12-21). Or, as Barth preached so eloquently, "God has imprisoned all in disobedience, so that he may be merciful to all" (Rom. 11:32). All.

Yesterday as I was preparing for the weekly bible study that features a video with John Dominic Crossan and Marcus Borg, I realized that the journey with Jesus within the Reign of God never stops unfolding and presenting new ways of seeing and understanding alongside that which was already seen. Right now, it is all living together quite well. And yet, I know that I have been moved to a new place. I know less now about this Reign of God and the mercy that weaves its way into our hearts to turn us into a merciful people who reflect the glory of this Reign even as we go about the things at hand. To be quite frank, I look out at the divisions within the ELCA in regard to human sexuality (though some will say it is about Scripture - which I too can buy), and I wonder about the outrageous "all" that is to ring like a bell to remind us all to come and eat and drink and walk within the ways of God's Reign that turns over the powers of the world. I really do think we have lost some of the dynamic vision of Christ, Jesus - vision that is also about the day-in and day-out life of all God's people....not some...not only within certain conditions...but all. Yes, we are all standing in the room together with the Judge taking in all of us with a mercy that we cannot "get." So in the meantime, we all attempt to send some to a life of less...because that is the way broken people live within the world of power and empires and sin. Rather than opening our doors and standing together and dreaming about what God will do with us all...we too often never let that scene open.

Connection: What image of God will win the day for you and those around you.

Within the wide reach of your mercy, O God, you begin the day for us. Remind us again of your presence and your rule. Amen.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Wednesday 4 November 2009

Another short one for hump-day...Willimon.

Even though we know we shall be judged and even though we do not know with certainty the outcome of that judgment, we can have confidence and hope, because we know the Judge. If we "abide in him" we will have confidence at the day of his coming (1 John 2:28). In him "we have boldness before God" (1 John 3:21). The judge is the Christ who has gone to such extraordinary lengths to seek us and to bear the sins of all.

So we go forward in confidence. Living in the confidence that God seeks us and bears all things with us and therefore is the power for life - our lives - to be changed and made into new life. We also go forward in confidence to face that which is beyond the events of this day. When we know this Judge who is eternally for us, we need not fear...we can enter with a sense of being drawn into a healing wholeness that remains creative beyond our expectations.

Connection: It is not always to see ourselves "abiding in Christ." We have so many other ways pulling at us and promising is too...too easy to long to abide among other powers. And yet, through our baptism, we abide in this grand vision and life.

Come, take us within your grasp, O God, and continue to speak you words of truthfulness that will eternally remind us of whose we are and the power of your word of truth. Amen.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Tuesday 3 November 2009

A brief note from "Who will be Saved."

We affirm the Creed, "He shall come to judge the quick (the living) and the dead." All. The judge is Christ, and none of us is above his assize. And none of us has advanced knowledge of the outcome. As Paul told a contentious congregation that tried to judge his worthiness as an apostle, "It is the Lord who judges me" (1 Corinthians 4:4).

The use of the word "all" is amazing. Too...too often, it seems to give Christians the notion that everyone who is not one of us is "going to get it." Too often, we want to have a hand in that final outcome - or at least claim to know what it will be so that we can move people to live in the world as we would have them live. What an odd need for power and influence! Christ will judge as Christ would judge - no like me or anyone who tries to convince you that they somehow know who will or will not be within God's embrace. Having said that, I'm willing to say God will embrace all. In the midst of that embrace will be a judgment that carries the blessing of new life - promise - all hopefulness.

Connection: Hold off on the need to be judge. It is not always easy. Therefore we are given the moment at hand to begin to see things with new eyes...not always easy.

Within your loving embrace, O God, we find our place and are encouraged to be the ones you have placed within the time and place as your sons and daughters. This is therefore, an amazing time. Thanks be to you, O God. Amen.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Monday 2 November 2009

Here's the first piece to start the week - William Willimon.

...Barth believed that salvation is not the removal of the threat of judgment but the accentuation and fulfillment of divine judgment. Salvation is to be face-to-face with the loving God whom we have so grievously wronged, which begins to sound somewhat like hell. I'm thinking here of Jesus' parable of the talents in which the master returns and simply asks, "What have you done with what you have been given?" (Matthew 25:14-30). The thought of that question being put to me by Jesus sends shivers down my spine.

Oh my. It would not be just another person asking this question. It would now be Jesus - the one we say we follow. He is asking about our journey and who we have been along the way. Well, what do we say..? We've been stumbling quite a bit...we've been turning this way and that way....we've seen opportunities to serve but had other things get in the way. Now what!?! After writing this I wondered about how important it is to be truthful. We do not make excuses - we tell the truth. That shows that we know a bit of the Reign of God and how we fall short. I also wonder about the Judge. The Judge is the one with us even when we are not with the Lord...even when we turn and walk away. So there when asked that question we are not there to save ourselves...we are there to be the ones Jesus saves and the ones unafraid of truthfulness - no matter what it might say about us.

Connection: In each of our lives, we are handed times in which we become judge. It would be good if we too made sure that truthfulness would be respected and honored even as we had to correct and re-train or re-envision the path.

When you promise to judge all, O God, it is different from the ways we would judge one another. Therefore it is easy to try to come up with ways to justify ourselves. And yet, you long for truthfulness for in that action by your community the day may open up in new ways. Amen.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Friday 30 October 2009

I wanted to share this wonderful thought of Willimon's as we end this week - just prior to All Saints Sunday.

Note that we affirm in the Apostles' Creed that "he shall come to judge." In the end, as at the beginning, we do not come to Jesus; he comes to us. Christ the Judge is not like our judges - sitting back and dispassionately pronouncing judgment. God the seeking shepherd, the searching woman, comes to us, this time as the Judge who draws near to set things right between us and God, loving us enough to judge us. In all of Scripture, God's anticipated judgment is celebrated as a joyful event, a time when God at last actively overcomes the injustice and inequity of the world and gives evil what it deserves.

Remember within the creation of humankind God steps back to look at everything and "it is good...very good." This is the way we are in the eyes of our God. The final judgment is a liberation from all that would grab us and steal us and twist us and steer us away from such a vision for life. Could this judgment be a once and for all - welcome home my beloved...let us now - all of us in every place and time - dance in the midst of God's love and be shaped by God alone.

Connection: I also like to dream and wonder and imagine.

Be for us, O God, the one you have always promised to be - our loving God who is our foundation and resting place. Amen.