Friday, December 10, 2010

Redeemer Devotions - 10 December, 2010

Adventures... in Hope - Redeemer Devotions 

When Israel regathers, it is with a life of obedience that has some shape to it.

As in every other aspect of its life with YHWH, Israel must use a variety of terms to express its new lease on life granted by YHWH.  We may mention four such usages, each of which bespeaks renewed Israel as the object of YHWH's powerful verbs
  • The most prominent verb is "Gather." ' I will take you from the nations, and gather you from all the countries, and bring you into your own land' (Ezekiel 36:24).
  • YHWH's rehabilitation of Israel is an act of "love", thus echoing the claims placed early in the tradition of Deuteronomy.  'I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.' (Jeremiah 31:3)
  • A third verb is "heal,"  - 'For I will restore health to you, and your wounds I will heal, says the Lord."  (Jeremiah 30:17)
  • YHWH finally overcomes the judgment of Israel by an act of free forgiveness: 'I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.' (Jeremiah 31:34) 
All of these verbs, and YHWH's actions to which they testify, mean that Israel is freed from all that had failed.  Israel is now completely unburdened by its past, including the past of the exile.

We must be aware of this kind of language and when it is spoken.  It is not a love because the people are loveable for what they do.  It is love that comes even as the people and nothing more than disobedient people.  It is healing even when the beloved people have cause their own injuries because of their turning from the one who loves them.  The forgiveness is free and liberating.  Too often, the words of a God who is going to get us or condemn us or kill us become the words about our God that are used to make people change their  ways.  And yet, so many times, it is the God who gathers and heals and loves and forgives who give the community the power to become just who God sees in us.   

Connection: What turns you to this God?  What do you hear that turns you away and what it is that grabs you and engages you and brings you home?
O God, who is forever acting for us, we give you thanks for never giving up on us and making sure that we continue to hear of your great and gracious acts.  Amen.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Redeemer Devotions - 9 December, 2010

Adventures... in Hope - Redeemer Devotions 

'YHWH's Fresh Turn toward Israel" is now viewed through the words of the prophets.

The three great exilic prophets make an effort to speak about the this dramatic reversal, on which everything for Israel's future depends.  Jeremiah employs the image of terminal illness as a way to speak about terminal judgment:  "For this says the Lord; your hurt is incurable, your would is grievous.  There is no one to uphold your cause, no medicine for your wound, no healing for you." (Jer. 30:12-13)  Then - YHWH reverses course: "Therefore all who devour you shall be devoured, and all your foes, everyone of them, shall go into captivity; those who plunder you shall be plundered...."
In Ezekiel, YHWH speaks of harsh judgement under the image of sexual infidelity, which must be punished.....  But then Ezekiel moves abruptly and without explanation or justification to "yet" - yet I will remember my covenant with you...."
In Isaiah of the exile, YHWH continues the metaphor of affronted marital love....the rejection is promptly countered by remembrance.
Up until it happen - up until the word of God's turning come - the people are forsaken and that is what the future looks to be.  And then, there is God's surprising word and action that reinforces the depths of God's love for the people.  Again this week I heard someone say that God does not change Gods' mind.  It had to do with how some people read the Scripture in regard to homosexuality.  This person said that God does not change God's mind.  And yet, Brueggemann shows here several places where God does indeed turn around and change what has been said and done.  Love - this unconditional covenantal love - was the first word and will be the last word.  Oh, there may be all kinds of hell between the first and the last word, but the promise never leaves.  Reality may show that we are as good as dead - and we may just be that - but, God prevails in God's love for God's people. That is the foundation of our hope in the middle of all that goes wrong and is broken.

Connection: It is so hard to hear this voice of our God reminding us of the love that is available even as we are facing the consequences of lives that have steered clear of the way of God.  Wow. 

O God, who turns to us in all times, you are like a breath of fresh air when our lives are stalled and dried up.  Thanks to you.  Amen.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Redeemer Devotions - 7 December, 2010

Adventures... in Hope - Redeemer Devotions 

'YHWH's Fresh Turn toward Israel" continues. 

....The debt to YHWH has been satisfied, so that YHWH can on move positively toward Israel.  Or it may be the hurt of exile reached deep into YHWH's pathos, touching and mobilizing unrecognized measures of love and unknown, unacknowledged depths  of compassion that heretofore have been completely unavailable to Israel, and perhaps to YHWH.  What is clear is that Israel's life after exile, and Israel's status as YHWH's partner after rejection, are made possible only by YHWH's inexplicable turn toward Israel.  Israel imagines that the new relationships to have as YHWH's partner is in full continuity with the past relationship; yet it is completely different, now rooted in YHWH's self-investment in Israel in quite fresh ways.  That is, whatever turn has occurred is a turn on the part of YHWH.
We are still hearing of the God who brings everything into being.  Even after broken covenants and broken hearts - God is renewed and renews the world.  Israel turns because God has already turned toward them.  There is in God's turning that pulls the faithful - even when in exile - to also turn.  It is like a light being turned on in the middle of darkness - it draws all things to it.  This is not a turn by God that can be regulated.  It is one that happens from the whirlwind that is God. Here in that inspiring action God makes old relationships - fresh and new.  Therefore, the position of exile it now a position of being found - rescued - so that the life of a people can be reflective of the love of the one who claims and nurtures them.  The turning is not done by God's beloved.  The turning is done by the God whose love claim the people - all of us - even when there appears to be nothing worth claiming.

Connection: This God remain such a God whose love continues to be transformed and transforming.  We are then moving within the realm of transformation we have not done on our own.

O God, who turns to us in all times, continue to pull us into your loving realm even as it looks and feels like something we have never experienced  Surprise us again.  Amen.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Redeemer Devotions - 6 December, 2010

Adventures... in Hope - Redeemer Devotions 

Today we will enter into a section called 'YHWH's Fresh Turn toward Israel.

....the drastic rejection of Israel by YHWH is a decisive and irreversible reality in Israel's self-discernment.  What Israel has been given by YHWH is now matched by what Israel has suffered at the hands of YHWH. 
Our theme now, however, is YHWH's reach toward Israel beyond the scattering.  It is an equally certain theological datum in Israel's self-understanding that at the depth of the exile, at the bottom of YHWH's rage toward and rejection of Israel, restoring Israel to full and valued partnership.  The turn in YHWH's inclination toward Israel is an extraordinary claim in Israel's faith.  In this turn Israel ponders the central mystery of its own existence, and its core wonderment and amazement about YHWH.
Once again the constancy of God's action with Israel is brought forth.  Yes, this is the God who sends into exile - but this is the God who is there in their exile.  And then out of nothing more than a love for this people, God rescues those who have been put out.  In the lives of the people in exile, it never feels as though things will change.  And yet, in the story telling of the people, time passes and God reestablishes his beloved. 
Connection: Reminds me of good parenting - always present - always available - in and through the tough love and right back into the warm welcome.
O God, who turns to us in all times, we do not come home easily.  Your love is the power that turns us around and makes us realize that you know the places in which we live - even as they are filled with terror and loneliness and despair.  We bless you.  Amen.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Redeemer Devotions - 3 December, 2010

Adventures... in Hope - Redeemer Devotions 

Another amazing insight on exile and God and hope - by Walter Brueggemann.

if this assessment of YHWH's decisive negativity toward Israel is correct, then one may draw a startling conclusion about Israel in exile.  As a scattered community, terminated by YHWH, Israel refused to accept the scattering as its final destiny.  Israel believed and insisted, in sadness and in protest but also in anticipation, that the God who scattered would also gather.  If this is correct, then we may say that Israel hoped beyond the hope or intention even of YHWH, who had no such hope or intention for Israel.  that is, Israel's courage and shrillness, its defiance of it present circumstances, talked YHWH into something YHWH had not yet entertained or imagined or intended.  In its argument with YHWH, Israel moved YHWH to a new place of gracious intentionality toward Israel.  Israel did so partly by appealing to its own need, partly by appealing to YHWH's sovereign fidelity, and partly by shaming YHWH as Moses had done long ago.  It its earlier history, YHWH had taken all the initiatives with and for Israel in creating, covenanting, and judging.  But now Israel in exile, in its abandonment and desperation, takes the initiative and evokes a turn in YHWH, creating a future for Israel where none had seemed possible.
I find so much of what is being here to be remarkable. Hoping beyond hope - sounds like stuff written by the apostle Paul and yet it is the living witness of Israel.  It is as though they really do know their God.  They know they have been put in a hopeless situation.  They can come up with all sorts of good reasons why they blew it and how they mocked God and how they turned to other gods to make a life for themselves.  And yet, they pick themselves up in exile and act as though God will revive them and the Spirit of the Lord will come.  For some it is probably too big of a step to hear that Israel could talk "YHWH into something YHWH had not yet entertained or imagined or intended."  Talk about hoping beyond hope!  The Most Blessed, The Most Holy, the Most Gracious God - gets to see what is possible without planning on doing anything.  God learns from a hopeful people in a hopeless situation.  That is probably why the prophets can bring words to such people that say: Comfort, Comfort, Ye my People.

Connection: I must say, this is one of those readings I did not expect.  It goes out to an edge that is refreshing and startling all at once.  It is for me a true encouragement to live within hope.  What a challenge.
O God, who watches how we turn away and follow other powers, be the power that keeps hope alive within us.  Teach us again of your never-failing presence.  Amen.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Redeemer Devotions - 2 December, 2010

Adventures... in Hope - Redeemer Devotions 

I found this piece to fit in with a discussion in bible study this week.  Does God bring about punishment - knowing that God will step back and love no matter what happens?

Hope belongs characteristically to Israel, and its most acute practice occurs in exile.  If we fully credit the articulations of judgement in the texts contemplating exile, we may believe that YHWH's intention is to end things with Israel, who is like a pot that 'can never be mended' (Jeremiah 19:11).  It is no credible, in my opinion, that the sovereign judgment of YHWH was a strategic ploy to be followed predictably by pathos-filled love.  The judgment is not for instruction or chastening or improvement.  It is simply judgment of a sovereign who will not be mocked.
It is not our job to decide why God has done what God has done.  Was the judgment to teach - no. Was the judgment to bring about improvement - no.  It was to show that the people of God cannot simply turn their God into whatever we would want God to be.  For when we do that, we -as Brueggemann notes - mock God.  When we mock God, we pretend to dismiss God and make ourselves into gods who have a strange way of changing everything.  Too often, religious people look to have their lives in control.  When that happens, we seem to be able to create a God that follows our lead.  What a tragedy.  God does not play games with us and we are not expected to play games with God.  In times that look and feel like judgment, it might be good to sit back and simply wonder how our lives might be mocking the God in whose image we are to be living. 

Connection: The simple reminder that God will not be mocked is instructional.  It makes me wonder how that happens and what happens to a people who claim to be beloved but do not follow in that light. 

O God, who watches how we turn away and follow other powers, when we walk away from you it is not with the understanding that we are mocking you.  And yet, as we look at ourselves, it is mocking.  Forgive us when that is who we become.  Amen.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Redeemer Devotions - 1 December, 2010

Adventures... in Hope - Redeemer Devotions 

the unfolding story of Israel is a story for all of us.  It offers so much to the way faithful people meet the day no matter where they might be or what the conditions of the day offer.  Bruggemann now writes of resilient hope for regathering.

What most strikes one about Israel in its scatteredness is its resilient refusal to accept the exile as the culmination of its destiny.  Thus the great promissory oracles of Israel in exile, in Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Isaiah, are surely oracles addressed to the exiles.  But they are also oracles and articulations of hope that arise out of exile.  Thus one of the characteristics of Israel in its scatteredness is the insistent hope for a gathering.  The oracles in exile, heard in the mouth of YHWH, insist that the scattered may soon be gathered:
Hear the word of the Lord, O nations, and declare it in the coastland far away; say, "He would scattered Israel will gather him, and will keep him as a shepherd a flock. (Jeremiah 31:10) 
One of the wonderful gifts God gives to the prophets is the ability to paint a picture that no one is able to see - just yet.  Even after long words that deal with how unfaithful the people had been, the prophet is able - at the right time - to speak of a new day.  It does not dismiss what is.  Rather, in the midst of what is, these words begin the journey back home - back into promise - back into the day-by-day faithfulness that is to be the norm among God's people.  Prophets offer us a bit of reality.  Uncovering the plight of our brokenness and then uncovering the power of God to heal and bring life back into the realm of a broken people.  Amazing grace.

Connection: A word of regathering is always a bit of good news when the world is showing itself to be filled with bad news and disrupted lives.  And yet, it can be difficult to hear such words of regathering until the power of separation has taken its toll on us.
O God, who watches how we turn away and follow other powers, we praise you for the many times you open your arms and re-create a home into which we are welcome and at rest.  Amen.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Redeemer Devotions - 30 November, 2010

Adventures... in Hope - Redeemer Devotions 

In the middle of grief and separation there is what Brueggemann calls 'presence in absence' - here's what he sees.

in the meantime, with Israel in exile, far from home and from Jerusalem and temple, we may imagine that along with a theology of repentance (which was essentially a demanding imperative in Deuteronomic texts), there was a priestly theology of presence that was affirmative and indicative.  The priestly disciplines and liturgies, testimonies that received normative form in exile, were strategies designed to help order an acutely disordered community and to assure Israel a mode of YHWH's presence in a venue of acute absence.  While the tabernacle may be in anticipation of the temple, it is also a movable temple, a mode of presence not only imagined prior to the temple of Solomon, but available after the temple of Solomon.  It is a mark of the inventiveness and courage of Israel in exile that it refused to settle for flat, angry, one-dimensional absence, and continued to address itself to the direction of YHWH in YHWH's hiddenness.  Thus in exile Israel is a people celebrating and practicing presence in absence. 
Each day is one in which we would all do well to realize God's "presence in the venue of acute absence."  When that can take place, we have a much better chance at embracing the day and all that it holds.  For now - with God present even as the day is flushed down the toilet, we are handed a vision that goes beyond what is.  There was a moment in the last Harry Potter movie when Harry and his mates had to flush themselves down the toilet in order to get into the 'ministry' complex.  It appears frightening  - and yet you must be able to trust that the beyond what is visible is a reality into which you have been call to enter.  Flush!  Worship became for Israel a way to celebrate that presence - that reality that was no so visible in exile.  I often need that kind of vision.  Many times in worship, though the words we hear and sing are filled with powerful images it is also the simple gathering that reminds me of the presence of God who is able to fills us with all hopefulness.  And yet, this gathering cannot be forced and turned into an obligation and then left to be merely that.  It is really an opportunity to move into the places of absence with the promise that God is involved and present with us.

Connection: I have only heard of stories of exile.  It must be rough.  I know what it is have a sense of being in exile on an emotional level but not a real everyday, every moment separation that seems like the only think left in life.

O God, who watches how we turn away and follow other powers, it is still you who comes and remains with us so that as we stumble along you are there to lift us up and make a community that serves as a constant reminder of how you are faithful.  We give you thanks.  Amen.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Redeemer Devotions - 29 November, 2010

Adventures... in Hope - Redeemer Devotions 

Today we continue with another look at the practice of grief in Israel - according to Walter Brueggemann. 

In this utterance of protest and grief that acknowledges present trouble, Israel refuses to accept present trouble as final destiny.  Even in this circumstance, Israel assumes YHWH's sovereignty, YHWH's capacity to override exile.  Israel makes appeal to YHWH's fidelity, which now, in exile, moves to pathos.  Israel believes that the sovereign God can be evoked and moved by petition.  Thus, while Israel's judgment is a function of YHWH's sovereignty, Israel's grief and protest are a complement to YHWH's faithfulness and pathos.  The grief and protest permit YHWH to move beyond sovereign anger and rage to rehabilitation and restoration.  It is evident, moreover, in the ongoing life of the exile of Israel, that grief as candor and protest as hopeful insistence are effective.  YHWH is indeed moved toward Israel in new, caring ways.

No matter what might be the conditions on the ground - Israel does not see this as the end.  This is not where things will cease to be.  Rather, Israel does what all of us are to do - we are to expect that our God will be the God who Reigns as the one and only God of love.  We remain faithful - we turn around - we do that with the understanding that our God is the waiting one who lets us go off the handle and quite near destroy ourselves - but, God remains tied to us, forever.  I love the reminder here about God's "capacity to override exile."  That is, God can override the worst of worse situations - even that which is being experienced as the ruthlessness of defeat and shame and death.  This is the God of resurrection power - that's how we put it.  Even death on the cross, decomposition in the grave, hopelessness and fear sucking he breath out of the people - and yet, God overrides this power and brings life.  

Connection: There is room for resurrection in our lives.  We can count on that. 

O God, who watches how we turn away and follow other powers, how wonderful it is that you remain faithful and expect that we will turn to you alone.  It is your love that we know so well that is the power within our turning.  Amen.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Redeemer Devotions - 24 November, 2010

Adventures... in Hope - Redeemer Devotions 

Before a Thanksgiving break, some words on the practice of Grief among the faithful.

....Israel is not to grow silent about its deserved plight.  Israel in exile is a community that grieves and protests.  Indeed, in exile the ancient social practice of lament and complaint becomes a crucial theological activity for Israel.  The practice of grief is an exercise in truth-telling.  It is, as evidenced in Psalm 137 and Lamentations, an exercise in massive sadness that acknowledges, with no denial or deception, where and how Israel is.  But this voiced grief is not resignation, for in the end faithful Israel is incapable of resignation.  Resignation would be to give up finally on YHWH and on YHWH's commitment to Israel.  This Israel will not do, even if YHWH gives hints of such abandonment.  This grief of Israel in exile spills over into protest against YHWH.  For all of its acknowledgment of its exilic utterances Israel moves stridently past its own failure to focus on YHWH, to protest YHWH's abandoning propensity and to invoke YHWH's new attentiveness to Israel.
Faithful people do not just get up and walk out.  We may bitch and gripe and dance around fed up with how things are going - but we do not walk out.  There is so much that can be done before one resigns oneself to one last reactions - exiting.  Israel grieves and that is like a person in a deep, deep relationship.  Things are bad and  maybe even over - but resignation is a huge step away and grieving maintains some connection.  In that connection is also the hope of a new day.  The new day cannot be like the days that preceded it.  Rather they must be days that come about through repentance - a turning back into the relationship with God (who, by the way, has never given up on the relationship).  It is here that we also see the necessity to protest - to state one's case and to speak up.  Resignation is a time of silence in which there is no more communication.  So, faithful people are also people who protest the way things are and long for new conditions - a new day - a return home.

Connection: Signs of a good relationship - communication even when it feels as though that is the last thing needed.

O God, who watches how we turn away and follow other powers, you continue to embrace us even as we come so close to giving up completely.  It is that embrace that becomes the power that keeps us returning to you.  Amen.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

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Redeemer Devotions - 23 November, 2010

Adventures... in Hope - Redeemer Devotions 

From the place of exile, come the life of repentance.

This theology of repentance is an extraordinary development in Israel's self-discernment.  One might have concluded, after Jeremiah and Ezekiel, that Israel had reached a point of no return with YHWH.  But now Israel is permitted a chance: "From there (from exile) you will seek the Lord you God, and you will find him if you search after him with all your heart and soul.  In your distress, when all these things [suffering displacement] have happened to your in time to come, you will return to the Lord your God and heed him" (Deuteronomy 4:29-30).  Thus repentance is an act of hope.  A return to YHWH, and to land and to well-being, is possible.  Any such return, however, will be on the terms of the sovereign God who waits to be merciful (Deut.4:31).  The repentance entails the very issues that were the causes of Israel's condemnation: remembrance, holiness, and justice.
Even when it all seems over - it is not over.  There is this way of coming home.  It is the simple act of turning around and returning to the one who is waiting always waiting and always loving.  Repentance is 'an act of hope.'  I usually do not hear this put quite like that.  I find that a beautiful way of speaking of repentance.  We can go home.  We can return.  We can be a remembering, holy, just people - because our God is always ready to shape us into just such a people.  What a gracious story to carry around with us so that our lives are actually influenced by such hopefulness.
Connection: This makes is seem as though we are always standing at the edge of hope and ready to enter into its life no matter what has happened.

O God, who watches how we turn away and follow other powers, you remain the one who waits for us and promises to abide on our side even as we run from you.  Inspire us to trust in your never-ending love.  Amen.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Redeemer Devotions - 22 November, 2010

Adventures... in Hope - Redeemer Devotions 

Today the week begins with Exile and being a recalcitrant people - from "An Unsettling God" - by Walter Brueggemann 

In the end, the exile is a theological datum concerning Israel's life with YHWH.  While one may quibble about how extensive the deportation was and what percentage of Israelites were removed from the land, such issues do not matter with exile as a theological datum.  In its relation to YHWH, Israel is nullified, and the displacement seemed destined to last in perpetuity.  In sovereign righteousness, YHWH acts in self-regard and is capable of sloughing off this partner who refuses partnership.   Thus it belongs to the fundamental marking of Israel that as a people summoned in love by YHWH and addressed by YHWH's command, Israel is a community scattered by none other than YHWH, the God of sovereign fidelity and faithful sovereignty, to the null point.  Israel can imagine YHWH's complete negation of Israel.  Israel has no guarantee of life in the world beyond the inclination of YHWH, and that inclination has now been exhausted.  Israel must, in perpetuity, ponder its scatteredness, out beyond the well-being intended by YHWH.
What do you do with a partner who refuses partnership?  In my faithful imagination, even as we read of Israel's travails at the hand of Babylonians and their exile, there is this God whose love is ceaseless and yet must - let them go the way they have chosen.  The chosen people have chosen to abide within the world of other gods.  That, unfortunately, is where they are taken - if not physically, their hearts and souls.  But then I turn to myself as a follower of Jesus and the many ways I refuse partnership - or the many ways the church refuses partnership.  Oh, we claim the name and demand some kind of goodies to go with that - but our partnerships tend to be with the powers of the day and the shape of the world as it is.  Not an easy thing to say to oneself.

Connection: Faithfulness calls for deliberate action and thoughtful responses to the world around us.  Too often, I know that I can be a scattered person who does not remain alongside the call to follow.  It can be too damn easy to step in other ways.

O God, who watches how we turn away and follow other powers, abide with us even as we find it so easy to turn from your love.  Amen.

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Friday, November 19, 2010

Redeemer Devotions - 19 November, 2010

Adventures... in Hope - Redeemer Devotions 

The indictment against Israel is thorough as they live their life outside of the gracious covenant with God - a recalcitrant people. 

YHWH's majestic governance over this recalcitrant partner, which had at the outset been marked by generosity, now comes as judgment.  The judgment is in fact the complete nullification of Israel, so that Israel ceases to be.  The historical mode of nullification is exile.  Israel is "scattered", a new term in Israel's Yahwistic vocabulary, of which YHWH is characteristically the active subject.  Israel is scattered to the winds, away from its promised place, and away from its resources for identity.  Exile is indeed the defeat, loss, and forfeiture of life with YHWH.  The exile is to be understood as an actual geopolitical event in the life of this community.  There were indeed displaced persons and refugee communities.  It is possible to give a geopolitical explanation for the exile: the displacement of the Jews from their homeland was an effect of Babylonian expansionism under Nebuchadnezzar.

If we are not what we say we are, what are we - something else.  This point about Israel being a 'recalcitrant' partner is the story of all of us who claim to be the sons and daughters of our God and yet we live as though we are not at all under the wing of our God.  One of the feared words when I was growing up as a Roman Catholic was the term excommunication.  It was used as something that was done to you by the larger church.  In reality, it is something that a person does to ones self.  The church does not push people out, people walk out the door and turn their back to the promise of life that is to be the church  and the church then simply names what they have done - left the communion.  I would then argue that there are many times when the church leaves behind what it is to be and individuals must point out that the church has left the way of Jesus.  When individuals do that, they are called prophets and often booted out.  For Israel, Exile meant they were cut off and, in essence, would have to deal with the world that they chose to live within rather than the life of God's Reigning power.  If you trust weapons - live within the world of weapons and lords and power transfers and famine and --- exile.

Connection: We must always be willing to go back to that call that has been given to us - that invitation to be God's beloved.  It is there that we face how far we have walked away and what it would mean to turn around and return to the God who waits for us 
O God, who watches how we turn away and follow other powers, keep us close to you and have your Spirit of life become our breath.  Amen.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Redeemer Devotions - 17 November, 2010

Adventures... in Hope - Redeemer Devotions 

Today I'm leaping a bit in Brueggemann's book. It is a section that deals with "Israel Recalcitrant and Scattered.  

Another facet of Israel's life with YHWH is that Israel did not respond to YHWH's goodness adequately or to YHWH's command faithfully; Israel thereby jeopardized its existence in the world.  Israel came into existence by the sovereign freedom of YHWH, and by that same sovereign freedom Israel would perish.  Thus the third dimension (or 'season') of Israel's life with YHWH is as a recalcitrant partner who stands under judgment and threat for its very life.
Just as we are to be the embodiment of Jesus in the world - a gift handed to us - Israel was to be the reflection of this life-giving God who acts for them in all times.  And yet, as the storytelling goes, Israel would not follow this God whose presence was known among them.  They, in many and various ways, fled from their God into the waiting arms of the ways and powers of the world.  In other words, they 'stand under judgment and threat for its very life."  This doesn't mean that God will zap them.  Rather, it means that they - in essence - zap themselves.  They leave the way of God's Reign.  They function within their everyday lives as people who do not partake in the beautiful presence of God.  Now, I may sound critical of Israel, but we must do that with a mirror in our hands because the followers of Jesus do quite the same.  We have this treasure in earthen vessels and we so often refuse to use our lives for the sake of the whole world - that all may know the face of God.

Connection: There is so much life to live and so many opportunities to have the beauty and power of God's Reign shine among us - we need only let it be the gift that it is and let is shine.
O God, who watches how we turn away and follow other powers, it is your love that will transform us.  And yet, we need to hold this love close that it may become us..  Amen.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Redeemer Devotions - 16 November, 2010

Adventures... in Hope - Redeemer Devotions 

The 'invitation to see and be holy in "An Unsettling God" by Walter Brueggemann is expressed in quite a literal seeing of the glory of God.

The testimony about this singular encounter at Sinai makes clear that it is a one-time encounter, to which only the leadership is invited.  It is nonetheless clear that this encounter obligates Israel not only to do justice for the neighbor, but also to be in the presence of God, to see, God, to submit to the unutterable overwhelmingness that is the very character of God.  It belongs to the life and character of Israel to be with and to be before this One to whom Israel is responding partner.  Israelite traditions, which are rooted in the Sinai encounter, attest to the ways in which this awesome moment of presence is made continually available in Israel's cultic practice.  It is clear in the development of this tradition of obligation that Israel has a keen aesthetic sensibility, suggesting that YHWH to whom Israel responds is not only righteous but also beautiful.  The encounter is conducted in an environment of beauty, which makes the communion possible and which is reflective of YHWH's own character. 
Sometimes we can be in the presence of something beautiful and it can seem like a holy place.  It makes sense, to a degree, that when the people of God want to within the presence of God - it would be a  beautiful place.  I suppose one could argue that the gathered community of God's people reaches into the very depths of the beauty of God exhibited to the world.  Rather than the expense of precious stones and fine fabrics and impressive structures, God is beautiful as God's people reflect that beauty when they gather.  The most simple structure can house the powerful and inspired people of God - and yet, when the faithful gather, there is something about the beauty of the space matching the beauty of God's people - and the God who builds the community.   So what happens when that which is considered beautiful - stones and gems and gold - is lost and taken away?  To what elements of God's beauty are the people drawn?  

Connection: I wonder what it would take for the people of God to be caught up into the beauty of the character of God's people - as it is the beautiful character of our God.  Seeing each person as a gem within the beautiful image of God.
O God, who abides with us, make your word the foundation of our life that is caught up in the beauty of your image and your arriving Reign.  Amen.