Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Wednesday 30 September 2009

Here is a a good look at Evangelism in the light of our God who is for us - all. Again, from William Willimon.

Christian salvation is another view of humanity that arises out of faith in a God who has chosen to be for us. Our lives are not the sum of our choices, but rather the results of the impact of God's grace upon us. Evangelism is an imaginative act that enables people to describe their lives in the light of the purpose of the world.

Our lives are "the results of the impact of God's grace upon us." I have not been good at stating how much imagination it takes to be an evangelist. We must be able to see a world that is not quite like the one in which we live...and yet...we must see it all and tell folks about it. When we are beloved - and that is our story that is handed to us before we have any opportunity to act - we must begin to imagine what life will be...right here...right within the next steps we take. We do not have control over it. Life within the grasp of a promise is life that offers surprises and new opportunities that we may not have thought could be a part of this cosmic and eternal life. Our lives are given greater purpose when we are are inspired to imagine God's gift of life as our own.

Connection: Imagine more people called beloved...imagine breaking all boundaries within the embrace of this love of God. This is the beginning of life within the beloved community.

You shape us, O God. You continue to remind us of your love that knows no end and this power of love becomes the power for a life that unfolds in ways we have not anticipated. Lead us on this journey to new life. Amen.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Tuesday 29 September 2009

Today's piece is a bit longer but it captures a picture of one aspect of the church in the U.S.

Although Ephesians 2:8 says, "this is not your own doing" but it is the "gift of God,
revivalism, beginning in the nineteenth century, put too much responsibility of salvation upon the shoulders of converts. When modern evangelicals beg people to "make a decision for Christ," I fear that they are playing in to the hands of consumeristic North American capitalism. Our country has become a vast supermarket of desire in which empty people rush to and fro attempting to grab as much as we can, hoping to choose that which would make our lives worth living. As we have noted, we love thinking of ourselves as fabricators of our lives through our astute choices and decisions. I am who I decide to be. Evangelicals who exalt human choice and personal decision are unwittingly continuing the worst tendencies of discredited liberalism - all truth is decided and chosen by the sovereign self and its allegedly "free" choices.

Although I usually travel in church circles that are not a part of what is known as decision theology, I would have to say that many see the church (all of us) as part of this experience. When I look at the new churches growing up all over the place, many have this basic idea of choice under the message for the day. It is good to hear Willimon's evaluation and the way he links this whole movement to the 'vast supermarket of desire' that has become so much of our culture. The language of decision and choice fits well for a society that has roots in a rugged individualism where all the power is put into my hands to do the best I can. Sure Christ is for us....but not until "I" decided or "I" took control of my life and chose Jesus...did my life turn around. This sounds like something more than I get what I want. It sounds more like I get what I want because it is the best choice and I made it.

Connection: What happens to our thinking when the choice is not there...and we have nothing but a gift freely handed to us - for all time? How can that change everything we go about doing today?

Your Good News, O God, open up our eyes to see that you have already made all things whole and we are invited to be a part of that gift of wholeness. But...we seem to always know of something better - something that cannot be wonderful unless we have a part of the action. Help us to simply accept what you have said for us and about us. Amen.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Monday 28 September 2009

Again this week is all about the "all" of salvation - from William Willimon.

We are therefore not to take smug consolation in our knowledge of salvation. Evangelism is driven by the engine of God's salvation that demands to be announced to all. We neither rest nor retreat until every corner of God's creation gets the news of God's salvation. One reason why the church flags in its evangelistic drive is its mediocre soteriology. When God's great "Yes" degenerates into a constrained "perhaps," there is little urgency to tell the world. What we have to say to the world is deflated into a message about just another technique alongside all the others that the world is busy pursuing already. This is not news. What's news is that in Jesus Christ God was reconciling the world to himself.

God's "Yes" is never a constrained "perhaps"! Never. And yet, isn't it odd that many people who look at the church hear a "perhaps." I would also say that too often too many churches offer nothing better than a "perhaps." That is because when we offer a "perhaps" we have power over people and we can make folks do whatever we would like. God's "Yes" rules. It may be frightening to us to trust that this "Yes" is always enough. It is frightening to some because the only power of the day is God's power for new life that is a gift. No one can say "yeah but..." and consider themselves a part of the delivery of the Good News. A "yeah but" or a "perhaps" leaves us without the Good News of the Reign of God. It gives pastors or congregation the notion that they can rule over others. Not. Just listen to the voices from within the wide expanse of the church. It can be a very conditional word...less than for all. It is also a word that sticks with people because it is as familiar as the rest of the world in which we live - conditional...and always needed more from us in order to make it.

Connection: Yes....yes...yes. Never settle for something less. It will help others see the life we have been promised.

When you bring us into this day, O God, you smile and say yes. Inspire us to see what you see as we look in the mirror and as we look at our neighbor and enemy. It will be then, wrapped up by your Good News, that we will see a glimpse of your Reign. Amen.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Friday 25 September 2009

More on "all" - sound funny to write.

Jesus Christ - the seeking shepherd, the waiting father, the searching woman, the persistent presence until the end of the age - is the majestic, all-powerful, sweeping generalization. He is the "Yes!" of God pronounced upon the whole broken world. Yet there is also our frail, responsive, small, but essential "yes." God's grand decision for us precedes our decisions for God. We can say "yes" only because God has said "Yes!" to us in Christ.

Again I love to spot new ways of having old and powerful images brought to me. "Jesus Christ - is the majestic, all-powerful, sweeping generalization." What an image! The Sweeping Generalization! Yes for all no matter who it may be. Yes when no one or no power is willing to say yes. Yes that is thrown out for any and all to grasp. I like to hear a word of love toss out to me as an individual...and it is. But it is tossed to me as it is tossed to those around me and far off...those like me and those who would have nothing to do with me. The Sweeping Generalization. I imagine some would not like that language at all. We don't talk about salvation in quite such terms as this. Our words have more religious history to them. Therefore, it is an image that blows open the world and hands us each a gift of life that is really the same old gift that God has been handing out through all time.

Connection: I often like to think of the creation story and let myself be at the receiving end of God's "Yes!" It is also a good way to look over at my neighbor. When God says "Yes!" it is a reality that is meant to be heard in our time and through all time.

Lord of Creation, you take us up into your creative hands and whisper a word of sheer delight. It is a word that inspires our vision, fills our hearts with new life, and but a beat into our movements. It is the beat of your Reign. Continue to grant us the ears to hear that "Yes!" and be ruled by it. Amen.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Thursday 24 September 2009

Using a bit more Scripture, Willimon continues to pursue the "all" of salvation.

Unlike Calvin, I hear only one side of "double predestination" in this passage of Paul:
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love. He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace that he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved (Ephesians 1:3-6)."
"Destined" sounds coercive, forced. Forced into what? Forced to be "adopted as children"? Sad, when Paul appears to have intended "predestination" as praise for the determination of Christ to be for us "in love," some interpret this to mean that some are locked out. I hear divine endurance and perseverance being stressed in Ephesians 1:3-6, not exclusion. Texts come to mind such as Paul's great hymn to the persistence of God's unifying intent: "[nothing] will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 8:39). Then there's Matthew's, "And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age" (Matthew 28:20).

Destined to be be be picked be found by our God to be beloved. This is the determination of our God. We are to be people washed up by this love that cannot be dismantled or destroyed. It will be a love for us even when we are not able to see how determined our God is about holding on to us in and through all things. What is it behind the need for so many to make sure that some are "locked out?" We are not a club - a dues paying club that is looking for good folk to come in and make the rest of us look respectable. We are the children of our God who makes us into those acceptable to simply loving us without condition and without end. it...we are destined to be God's beloved.

Connection: Well...what is that connection to you face all that will come into life around you?

Blessed are you, O God. When you create, you create us as your own. You not only call humanity "good," you also never abandon us when we do not trust what you say about us. We give you thanks for waiting us out...for keeping with your promise. Amen.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Wednesday 23 September 2009

We continue on with this notion of "all" - with William Willimon.

Martin Luther and John Wesley affirmed the universality and all-inclusiveness of the electing and reconciling work of God, though in different ways; it's all grace for all, though not all are for grace. As I have noted, Calvin taught "limited atonement"; it's all grace, but grace is not for all. Although I can appreciate Calvin's determination to guard God's sovereign freedom to say yes and to say no, I confess that I don't see where Calvin finds his "double predestination" (God predetermines some for salvation, some for damnation) in Scripture. I can understand the some for salvation and some for damnation, but it's the predetermination that seems an undue limitation upon the freedom of a sovereign, resourceful, and (in my experience) relentless Savior.

I'm often draw to a phrase in these bits of quotes from resource material. Today it was the simple note "not all are for grace." The grace is there and it is endless and it is the power to shape the day and move us into the future of God's gracious reigning will...but then...not all are for grace. Some want to be able to have a say about this saving power of God. Some want to be able to at least add a small percentage to the salvation equation (even if it is just 1%). But this "relentless Savior" remains relentless. That persistent character is the Good News that sends people out into the world with something outrageous to offer to folks. That love that will not let us go, shapes life. Love shapes love in life. Unconditional love cracks open the many ways our world cannot let go of conditions placed on all of life. There is no...if you do this or say this or walk this way, then you will be a part of the saving people. We are God's saving people - that is how the day begins and that is how it will end. Now, in the meantime, do we trust that reality or do we freely choose to follow another word about us. As you would expect, these things happen simultaneously...we are this saint/sinner. We are grasped by this love...but then again...we want to grasp onto what we think is the right way of life...even as God is holding on...relentlessly.

Connection: There is always this wonderful freedom to step into the life God has already promised and has already provided. Within that freedom is also the ability to step away. It kind of makes the day a real adventure for life.

As you hold us, O God, you continue to stand firmly on your promises...even as we turn away. Your presence is eternal and your love for us is the power to turn us around and re-view all of life. Continue to send your Spirit to be our guide and our foundation. Amen.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Tuesday 22 September 2009

A repeat of yesterday's quote from William Willimon and some further comments.

A Christian is not saved in order to be plucked out of the damned rabble of humanity, but rather is saved in order to be truly for humanity. the church is the community that lives ahead of time, the people who say now what may one day be said by all, once God gets what God wants - "Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven" (Matthew 6:10). Christians have been let in on an open secret, a secret that we are called to make public. If we pray for the salvation of all we pray on the basis of our hope for the reconciliation of all, for how is it possible to pray for what your don't hope?

I wanted to go at this brief quote again because it is quite full. I particularly like the reminder that the "church is the community that lives ahead of time." What a great way to get off of the notion that we are being saved for another time. For here, we are saying that we know the 'other time' and its life and its ethic and its completion of all things...and we are going to live there already. That's us folks...already the welcome is complete and the Christ of God rules and our lives are free to be given away to others as part of the liberation of the resurrection. It is not our job to serve as gatekeeper who think we must make sure who is able to get in. Rather, we announce the outcome of the Good News that is the fullness of the future and we bring it into the loving presence of the church now. There is no need to try to frighten folks into trusting this it is not a frightening adventure. Hope does not operate by way of threat. It is promise and that promise is the power that pulls at us so that we know the end and are empowered to live there as though it is our next step in life.

Connection: It is important to take note of how many times the life of the church is associated with threat. Condemnation is a way to turn people's heads, but it does not turn their heads to the Good News...but rather the same old news of oppressive religious life.

Lord of the Future, you already claim all time and you invite us to live within that claim. Be our encouragement to move and live and share in all that you have promised for all of your people. Amen.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Monday 21 September 2009

This week we move into a section of Willimon's "Who Will Be Saved?" simply called All.

A Christian is not saved in order to be plucked out of the damned rabble of humanity, but rather is saved in order to be truly for humanity. the church is the community that lives ahead of time, the people who say now what may one day be said by all, once God gets what God wants - "Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven" (Matthew 6:10). Christians have been let in on an open secret, a secret that we are called to make public. If we pray for the salvation of all we pray on the basis of our hope for the reconciliation of all, for how is it possible to pray for what your don't hope?

A short reading but I think it is packed with good comments to remember as we move along the way as followers of Jesus. We are, as Walt Bouman used to say, "a saving people." We are actively being a part of the Good News that brings with it a life that is a witness to the fullness of what God would have for us all. This also reminds me again of Walter Wink writing on how the "Son of man" is all about the "truly human one." Humanity that comes into its full character that is blessed to be a blessing to all. When the truly human one comes, all humanity will we embraced - without exception. That embrace will transform life for all. We are not people waiting for the bus...nicely cleaned up and ready to be pulled from the dirt of life around us. When we have our eyes on another place and time, it becomes quite easy to divorce ourselves from action here and now....or...our actions are always tied to the upcoming "trip." As we all know, this kind of "preaching and action" is laced with guilt-trips, threats, and actions only skin deep.

Connection: Pressing that word all...that one way to keep the vision present so that we actually act within it even now...even now....for all.

Come, Holy Spirit. Come and pull us into the day full of grace that is already waiting for us to participate in this life that brings a fullness to all God's beloved. We need that pulling power to take hold of us for it is so easy to divorce ourselves from the Reign that is at hand. Amen.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Friday 18 September 2009

A good word with which to end the week.

In Romans 5:12-21 the word all is repeated five times, as if it were a litany, as if Paul really wanted to stress that word all to people like us whose world is circumscribed within national boundaries. It is difficult to restrict the use of the word all to make it mean some or even many. When Christ tells us to "take courage," because he has "conquered the world" (John 16:33), does he really mean that we should take courage because he has conquered a great deal of the world?

What a great way to look at this notion of Christ Triumphant! Who cares if it is a "great deal" of the world. If it left there and not a complete all then the work is not done and the power of the Reign of God is not the ruling power in all places and through all times. We can "take courage" because there is no doubt about the who is welcome within the embrace of God's Reign and for whom the Christ, our Lord, Jesus, died. No one is left out...all come to feast because death - all of it has been defeated and now there is time for new into which all are welcome...all.

Connection: There is always another one to add. It can be so easy to think of how wide and welcoming we can be...and then...there is one to add...always one to add. The door is never shut and the welcome mat is so available, any who come by...who know us...who see our lives, will know that there really may be something to this "all" stuff.

Lord of Creation when you move over all that is and all that comes into being, your Spirit welcomes new life and begins to shape it and move it and encourage its freedom that is already a part of your Reign. We give you thanks for the vision of your Reign and all who are welcome to share in its life. Inspire us to be your living word of welcome to all. Amen.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Thursday 17 September 2009

This will be a challenge to is why I like reading William Willimon.

It would have been so much easier if Jesus had merely asked us to get along with our enemies. Tolerance is an Enlightenment virtue, the best that can be mustered by those who do not know a merciful God. Divine love is considerably more demanding than simple tolerance. Those whom we love, we quite naturally desire to be saved. As Christians, we are trying to love a God who desires to love all. We want what God wants; therefore, if we pray, "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven," then we ought to pray that God's will be done and that all will be saved. How seldom one hears a really good prayer for Osama bin Laden, despite Jesus' command and Paul's conviction that, in the end, Jesus shall not only triumph for the elect but shall also destroy "every ruler and every authority and power" handing over all earthly powers including Al-Qaeda, "to God the Father" (1 Corinthians 15:24).

Many folks in the church don't know what to do with this kind of radical salvation. It is as though Christ triumphs only for some...not all. Otherwise it is left up to us to buy into this saving act. When that is the case, we make little of the power of the Resurrection because it really needs us to say "yes" for it to be eternally available. This is one way of seeing the triumphant Christ that really makes the hair on the back of many necks stand on end. Is it that we are so afraid of the fullness of the Reign of God and its power to make things new, that we cannot and will not let ourselves begin to even talk about such a reality. Instead, we want to come up with a certain path upon which we expect all to walk before we can talk about love of neighbor or enemy. How wide is the Reign of God in Christ, Jesus...when does it begin to fall in place among us...who will be in the midst of its life and who will be brought back to life even when death seems to win the day? How do we talk about the Good News of the Reign of God if it is truly for all - freely for all - a gift that cannot be tossed out or refused...but always at hand...forever?!?

Connection: I think this is all about changing everything. That much change can overwhelm us. So, when you are drawn into wideness of God's Reign, who do you need to be there so you can hold hands and face the wideness - even when it looks like a great abyss?!?

Walk with us, O God. We are are moving along the way and yet we really don't want to go all the way into your Reign - unless of course we can change it to fit our ideas. We need to be encouraged, empowered, humbled, delivered, and made into a saving people in your name. Amen.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Wednesday 16 September 2009

When we start talking about "Christ Triumphant" it really is quite good to push it and ask how far it goes. I think Willimon begins to do this.

Knowing what we do of the loving eros of God in Christ, should we pray for the salvation of all? Jesus clearly commands us to love our neighbor, which might be reason enough to pray for the salvation of all. The astounding thing is that Jesus commanded us even to pray for our enemies. Jesus' demand that we pray for our enemies is a teaching that is virtually unknown in any other faith that is alternative to Christianity. Jesus' demand to love enemies and pray for those who persecute would, I suppose, included loving God's enemies and persecutors as well.

Willimon also includes that he is disappointed that so many churches pray for the health and wholeness of those within the congregation - but this is "a far cry from the church that is commanded to pray for our enemies." I really must have the Spirit of our Lord pour out the water of baptism on me when it comes to this. It is so hard to think well of my enemies - let alone lift up their voices and pray for them. And yet, it is in the lifting of the names and seeing them in my prayers that I start to be healed and made whole because they (enemies) become more than enemies. If I keep them in the box in which I place them, my world will be so much easier to handle - ha! It is always amazing to me to see how quickly I can jump into the fire that keeps maintaining enemy lines. It drives me nuts. It causes me to walk away wondering what has possessed me. For as liberal as I can be with my interpretation of images, I really do think I let my ego or other powers possess me. Why...?...I don't know! I wish I did. But even then, I cannot say that I would be able to stop setting fire to the world and making nothing new within the world.

Connection: What do you do when you see that you have a short fuse and it has already been lit? Are you able to put it out or do you let it go all the way and let the fireworks begin?

You, O God, are the one who brings us into the realm of your peace. And yet, we resist and we fight it and we choose to make war even as you bid us come and rest in you alone. Please, soften our hearts and prepare us for the journey of reconciliation and hope for we really do not want warfare. Amen.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Tuesday 15 September 2009

More from William Willimon on Christ Triumphant.

God has created us as relatively free beings who can make relatively free choices and decisions, including the choice to attempt to live our lives without God. Note that I say that we are "relatively free." Christians are relativists, believing that who we are and what we can do in life is related to a Jew from Nazareth. To reject that salvation that is offered in Jesus Christ would be a tragic decision, a slap in God's face. Yet it is hard to know just what such a human decision means, in the final scheme of things. Scripture is clear that our human decisions are relative to all the decisions that God is making for us. We made a tragic decision when we not only slapped the Son of God in the face but also crucified him on a cross. And yet that cruel stupidity on our part was challenged, defeated, and blocked by the raising of crucified Jesus from the dead.

It is as though our every move runs into our God who is so eternally for us that even when we attempt to run from God or refuse to live without God...there is God. This is the God who before us and after us remains our God. What happens in between this beinning and ending my look a bit stupid or out of place or unfaithful...but none of that changes who God is and the love that is the ruling power of our God. Again and again, the Scriptures show us ourselves. We are a people who are easily turned to abide in the presence of other powers. Not only do we abide there, we choose to be servants of such powers expecting to be more than who we are. And then ( that is an image of God...we do something, and then God makes things new), we find out that God is waiting to dress us up for a feast and a banquet of new life. Our bumbling and un-faith cannot overrule the life God has waitiing for us.

Connection: There is no time in this day in which God is waiting to act according to what we have done. God is consistently God - for us. We have to learn to deal with that truth.

Before all things, O God, your love was the source of creation and the power to sustain that which was created. Today, your love continues to open us up to your future where you Reign is our place of rest and peace. Amen.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Monday 14 August 2009

We carry on from last week with pieces Willimon places in the section called "Christ Triumphant."

The story "I once was lost but now am found" is the narrative that gives us a peculiar account of lost and found, a special responsibility to seek and to save the lost. If we want to come close to Jesus - and that's a good definition of a Christian, someone who wants to go where Jesus is - then we've got to go where he goes. Christians go to church in order never to forget that we were strangers and aliens out on the margins (Ephesians 2:19).

We are to never forget that there is not a line dividing us from them. Rather, we are those strangers at whom people point. Therefore, we are draw together to listen to the story of God's mighty acts on behalf of those pushed out to the margin. We were lost...and now found. Those who appear to us to be lost may be strangers, but that is where Jesus goes...and we - follow. When we worship, it is all about praising this God who abides with and welcomes home strangers and aliens so that no one will be left out and left alone. Worship is a gathering where the sign out front that says welcome is only the beginning of a welcome that does not end - ever. Our character is an active one. We are not saved as much as we are a part of a saving journey in which the one we follow becomes the life of those who follow.

Connection: When we abide in the margins and see ourselves as one of the marginalized, I wonder what that will do with how hospitable we let ourselves be?!

You find us, O God - and we are have our lives opened up to experiences we may have never entered. By your grace, we not only see ourselves with new eyes - we see all things anew. Continue to take us up into the welcoming vision of your Reign and to become the living welcome to others. Amen.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Friday 11 September 2009

Today we will move into a section of "Who Will Be Saved?" that is called "Christ Triumphant" - still with William Willimon.

One reason that Christians tend to move toward those on the boundaries, tend to feel responsibility for the hungry and the dispossessed is because we worship the sort of God who has moved toward us while we were famished and out on the boundaries. God looks upon us all, even us fortunate ones, as the hungry and dispossessed who need saving. This is just the sort of God who commands, "when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. And you will be blessed" (Luke 14:13-14). Here is God who, for some reason known only to the Trinity loves to work the margins inhabited by the poor, the orphaned, and the widowed; the alien and sojourner; the dead and the good as dead in the ditch. It is of the nature of this God not only to invite the poor and dispossessed but also to be poor and dispossessed, to come to the margins, thus making the marginalized the center of his realm. "Truly I tell you, just as you did it unto the least of did it unto me" (Matthew 25:40).

This is a story that is not only a part of the story of Jesus as the Messiah of God. It is the story of our God who will not stop making us a new people who keep moving into the creative image of God that cares for all and heals all and abides with all and welcomes all - so that all might have life and have it abundantly...that within the Reign of God's shalom. It is easy to build up a world that is meant to suit the well-to-do and the satisfied and the well-pleased. That is the norm of our culture and many others. But in such a well-made culture, we turn our backs on any and all who do not fit into the store-window world that has become the cultural lie about us. Jesus keeps us looking toward those who are just out of sight...just placed beyond reach...just far enough away that we don't have to see them or feel compelled to stand with them. More and more, I am finding this Jesus Reign to be disturbing. Maybe it is because it keeps tickling me with what can be among us. For me, that tickle is the presence of the Holy Spirit that will not stop trying to turn our heads and lift us up to see what is next along the way of God's call to enter the Reign and live within its fullness. I suppose that I am also caught up with is the price of seeing that Reign and stepping into it - even if I do take tiny, hesitant steps and continuously look for others to take them with me. I don't know what it is to be dispossessed - for I am so possessed by so many things that restrict me from expanding my vision and my actions. The tickling of the Holy Spirit is much needed to bring about life that is both beyond me and quite new.

Connection: Aliens and sojourners....know any?....see any? By the way...don't count yourself for we are invited to look to those out there even at the margins of our own lives.

God of All Times, you never change. You continue to love all and remember all. This is even when we find it so easy to make war, hate, and forget. And yet, you press on with your Spirit touching us and redirecting us...even when we run like crazy in the other direction. Continue to lead us to new life. Amen.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Wednesday 9 September 2009

09-09-09 Hmmm. In the middle of this hope, what are we to do - again, William Willimon.

...the church's task is to proclaim, in word and deed, the grand fact of our salvation. "But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light" (1 Peter 2:9). The benefits of Jesus' atoning work extend to all, though sadly, not all know the facts; therefore, we are called to preach the "mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light."

Not all know that it is finished...and a new day is available. There are still too many games we would rather play...too many religious act we think will make us God's beloved...too many voices we think we must obey. And yet, the fact remains - our salvation is "in the bag" and we are able to live as though it is the truth. In that living, we become the word and deeds that help others see the mighty acts of God who brings abundant life without our is

Connection: With this fresh in our minds, how will it play out as we continue the stroll through the highs and lows of this day?!

Be present with us, O God - present like wind that may change its appearance and its way of touching us...but is always bringing life....breath....wholeness and healing. In you we begin to find a way in the midst of all the other pathways that try to woo us. Blow upon us Spirit of God. Amen.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Tuesday 8 September 2009

Between me forgetting to post on Friday and Monday as a holiday, I hope coming back to Willimon on hope will not be too alien.

For humans to attempt to deny the work of Christ (and Barth seems unwilling to give such denial more than the status of an attempt) is a nonsensical, irrational act. But of course we do stupid things all the time. It is risky to swim against the tide of divine grace, but we often try. To attempt to will something that is against the will of God is to put one's puny little choices and pitiful little will against the desires of God, which is stupid. Whether rebellious, intransient, stupid human resistance to God's desires can go on forever, in the light of Barth's strong emphasis of the vitorious grace of God, is dubious. Still, we commit so many dubious self-destructive acts now, in this life, in this world, who can say for sure that we may not continue into whatever future is given?

I'm not much of a swimmer and I know that when I am at a beach attempthing to swim along the beach, I'm never able to move very far - most often I end up taken by the tide. Grace as a tide that cannot be overcome is a powerful image. I think of those small pools in which swimmers swim against a forced current. The pools can be small because no one can defeat that current rushing at them. It is meant to keep you in one place. In the case of divine grace, we cannot even stay in one place. Grace can and will alter everything - our whole life. God will not relinquish the gift and the grip upon us nor will God leave us thinking that we have been able to go it alone. For as long as we claim to be in control or able to resist God's invitation to rest and be at home, there will be our God outlasting our claims to be our own lord of life.

Connection: It is not at all easy to be reminded of God's will in the face of our own plans.

Lord of Life, when you remind us of our place within your gracious Reign, it can be too much for us to hear. We often want to hear and then speak a limited word. Then again, you prevail through all time so that your voice becomes the truth of our days. Amen.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Thursday 3 September 2009

More going on about hope - Willimon and Barth.

Barth's view of salvation is strongly "objective" - our feelings and responses have little to do with it. Barth means to say, in effect, Jesus Christ has accomplished your salvation. This is an undeniable, ultimately irresistible fact. Now live in the light of the fact - repent and believer the good news. We need not strive to be included in salvation; in Jesus Christ all are included as the gift of the miraculous love of god in Christ. By stressing this objective, accomplished quality of salvation, Barth hopes to defeat any modernist notion that salvation is just another personal preference, something that human beings fabricate.

What joy to simply hear this: our salvation is an "ultimately irresistible fact." Oh, we might run from it and try to put in conditions that will make us feel good or reject it outright and say it is something we don't really give a damn about. is still and always will be an irresistible fact always ready and available to be our ground and foundation and future. This is the kind of word that is able to lift one's head when despair and hopelessness is swirling around our lives. For then, we can ask what will be next? What is the day to become for those who rest in this fact? There is no magic and no everything will turn out as we want it. There is simply this announcement of what is...forever. I find that to be quite powerful and yet, at times, I continue to forget it or turn to some other power to sustain me. Unfortunately, nothing else really does.

Connection: What are the kind of facts that help to make the day for you? In the middle of all that can go wrong or turn this "ultimately irresistible fact" able to reach you?

Lord of the Day, you are the available power for life that is able to transform us and turn us into new directions and into experiences of your loving presence. Be for us again this day as you always promise. For in this day, we know there will be times when we are all too willing to run to other powers and other promises. Amen.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Wednesday 2 September 2009

Here is some stuff I often say...but I don't have the name as these two do.

Barth wants to eliminate any sense that God's love for us is somehow conditional upon or determined by us. Though the Reformers affirmed salvation by God's grace along, many of their heirs came to speak of salvation as a result of something we did, thought, or felt: "If you repent and believe, then you will be saved. If not, you will not be saved." We like that message because we live in a culture in which our subjectivity and our actions tend to be everything.

It is once again that "if you do...then you get...." It is still, as I tell the youngest followers of Jesus in our congregation "baloney!" What I really like about Willimon's comments here is his evaluation of our culture. One in which "our subjectivity and our actions tend to be everything." It fits the cultural Jesus stuff wonderfully. We say it is all about Jesus but we really want the light to shine on me and how I have done or what I have chosen or how I have "come around." In reality, we are pulled into the this new life that is repentance. We are pulled onto the train and told to hold on for the ride of our lives only to notice that our God has put a seat belt on this train. As we settle into this reality - this ride - it becomes us. That is, we begin to look like the ride and act as though we are a part of this journey through God's Reign. When asked how we got on the train...well...kicking and screaming....but what a ride it is becoming from day to day.

Connection: We do stand and walk through this day as the saving people of God. Already on board and already filled with life that we are invited to share as we go along the way.

You remember us, O God. That is the power that opens up even those days that are most covered over with threat and sadness and doubt. You remember us and you hold us up through all things. We are forever blessed because that is you promise despite all other words or actions or events that we face. Amen.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Tuesday 1 September 2009

Hope and faith....again Willimon uses Karl Barth.

Barth puts into perspective the much-praised Reformation principle of "justification by faith." "Faith" - our response to God - is not in itself saving. Roman Catholics have spoken of our faith as animated by love whereas Protestants stress that faith must be exclusively initiated and constantly sustained by its object, Christ. Barth reminds us that the quality or the quantity of our love or our or our believing is not that which saves. Faith is not that which is undertaken by us but rather that which we undergo when the fact of Christ's work floods in upon us with undeniable force. Faith is a gift, pure grace, which is to say that it is miraculous.

I love the image of Christ's work flooding in upon us with undeniable force. Lately I have been taking note of experiences in which I am simply hit with something - something unexpected - something that a glass of wine the dumps over on a table. It makes a mess. This is also the experience of this flood of Christ's work. We are caught up in its spilling out all over things and making us make sudden changes. We do not decide to change. This spilling moves us...often before we have the opportunity to think about it. Move! A gift that simply takes us out of our path and our plans and delivers us into another way of experiencing the rest of the moment...and the rest of our lives. That is takes over and overwhelms and miraculously brings about life that was not anticipated even a moment ago.

Connection: We are in the middle of this spilling and the Spirit will always nudge us to look again or

Come, Lord God, and stir up our lives with your strange visitation. Be the Spirit that will not let us go and will always find ways to turn our head and our lives so that we will be a part of the faithful living within your Reign . Amen.