Friday, April 30, 2010

Redeemer Devotions - 30 April, 2010

Adventures... in Hope - Redeemer Devotions 

 Today we continue in Brueggemann's chapter "The Scandal and Liberty of Particularity."  Following from yesterday we look at the second footnote about these totalizing superpowers. addition to the standard lineup of imperial powers, we may mention a prophetic concern about Tyre, especially in Isaiah 23:1-18 and Ezekiel 26-28.  What interests us is that Tyre's significance is not military and political, but economic.  Indeed, Isaiah suggests that Tyre is the epicenter of a world economy that features opulence, self-indulgence, and general social disregard, so that Tyre can be imagined as saying: "I am god; I sit in the seat of the gods, in the heart of the seas."  (Ezekiel 28:2)
 It is quite amazing how much power is contained in the ability to be an economic powerhouse.  It makes me think of the military-industrial complex.  It can, as Dwight Eisenhower warned, become a power that we will not be able to control.  Now we look around and see how this "industry" is able to map out what the government will do next.  In another way, simply look at Wall St.  It is an economic power that is able to rule not only our country but also weigh in to the economic powers of the world.  The market - something one would think has not power - becomes the one of the most powerful elements of the society.  This is to the point that the people able to do something about their power and their use of it are quite impotent - or frightened.  But let's not point fingers at others unless we  point them right back at ourselves.  We are the ones who buy (literally buy) into the prevailing whim of economic powers - what we say we "need" - what we want to have - where we must go - how much we want stored up for later.  As long as the economic powers of the day are allowed to go along making the rules of the day among us, we follow for we become a very part of this machine of the day.
Connection: So as we long to be free - we are a part of that which oppresses.  Again we must consider living within a discipline that helps us see how we are able to be a part of God's Reign in the midst of this reality.  How do we live contrary to the powers around us?
Lord of Life, you are the power that brings all life into its own.  By the power of your Spirit, guide us into your ways of new life in the middle of all that is old and oppressive.  We long to be filled with your hopeful Reign.  Amen.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Redeemer Devotions - 28 April, 2010

Adventures... in Hope - Redeemer Devotions 

 Today we continue in Brueggemann's chapter "The Scandal and Liberty of Particularity."  Now the discussion takes a look at Jerusalem as a "power" and what they do with it.
 We may register only two footnotes in this parade of totalizing superpowers.  First, in the early part of the monarchic period in Jerusalem, emerging in a brief pause from imperial interference, the Davidic-Solomonic regime was not beholden to any external power.  And yet the evidence we have, admittedly from a certain (Deuteronomic-prophetic) perspective, is that the Jerusalem regime practiced the same totalizing efforts, surely to be "like all the other nations."  Both the relentless prophetic critiques and perhaps especially the Rechabite alternative in Jeremiah 35 indicate that even this regime is no exception to the pattern of hegemonic rule.
 The oppressed also will become the oppressors if they do not keep fresh in mind the vision of liberty and hopefulness and justice and peace that is usually on their minds when oppressed.  This is not merely an observation concerning "powers."  It is also a comment about individuals.  Power has a way of making itself known through the lives of those who once had no power and now seem to "carry some weight" so to say.  Therefore, we must all be aware of the ways groups and individuals and corporate entities can and do so easily turn to the "dark" side and make sure that they keep whatever it is they have - or want to have.  We continue to return to Scripture to serve as a reminder of the vision of God's Shalom that is not oppressive and will never be oppressive.  And yet, we know that the Scriptures are used by many to shape their own vision of greatness and power.  
  We also have all seen how the argument that someone has been oppressed or was devastated by another group eventually becomes the argument that allows them to devastate others in order to make sure that they will never suffer under any other rule.  The problem is, this kind of thinking - even when it is attractive to other powers of the day - continues the cycle of oppression.  Even the once beaten down will beat down others to have life as they want it.
 Connection: The journey of the Reign of God is one that is meant to keep in our minds the fresh and liberating vision of God that does not seek to dominate or oppress or simply overcome others. It is a daily task for each of us in our ordinary days.
 Continue to abide with us, O God, as we cannot turn to you except by the power of your Spirit that will always attempt to pull us into your Reign even as we look to be secure in the face other powers all around us.  Amen.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Redeemer Devotions - 27 April, 2010

Adventures... in Hope - Redeemer Devotions 

 Today we continue in Brueggemann's chapter "The Scandal and Liberty of Particularity."
 ...these concentrations of power (Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia) tolerated little deviation in matters of importance to them.  To ensure compliance, moreover, the political-economic-military power of hegemony is matched, characteristically, with imperial myths and rituals, liturgic activities that legitimated power realities.  It is not too much to conclude that the interface of political and liturgical efforts intended to generate a totalizing environment outside of which there were permitted no political forays, and where effective, no deviant imagination.
 The rule under such power is handed down to the children of the powerful.  To be outside of that position of power pretty much means you must be watchful - or you will be branded an enemy of the "empire" - "country."  Being watchful means that we are to obey what the storytelling of the empire hands out as the truth.  I suppose this can even pertain to religious groups.  That is, go along with the storytelling as it is known in the dominant story line or face consequences.  I have started to look at some ideas around what is called the "American Civil Religion."  As I read Brueggemann's comments, he is not speaking of ancient days.  We have myths and rituals that go along with who we try to say we are in our own country.  To attempt to live outside of those myths or to question them can bring down the wrath of neighbors and friends and the "empire."  Imagine a president saying "no" to putting his or her hand on a bible when the oath of office is taken on Inauguration Day.  The ritual is a must.  Even to draw it into question brings criticism and charges of being "un-American."  So in this kind of a civil arena, the followers of Jesus are invited to be contrary to any rule that would have us pay homage to any other god.
Connection: I was given a list of examples of day-to-day aspects of our American Civil Religion.  I think it would be a good exercise to try and list how many aspects of our day are shaped by the myths and rituals of our American culture.
Lord, God, you are the one who promises to give us life in and through all times.  When we are being wooed by the powers of the day, keep us faithful to you alone.  Then, along the way grant us the vision to see how your Reign is to come alive among us.  Amen.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Redeemer Devotions - 26 April, 2010

Adventures... in Hope - Redeemer Devotions 

  This week I will be pulling from another piece written by Walter Brueggemann - "The Scandal and Liberty of Particularity."
It is only the dominant community, or those allied with and amenable to the dominant community, that does not need to work intensely or intentionally to socialize its young into its vision of reality....  "The ruling class" - those who govern the imagination, control the flow of images, and adjudicate what is worthy - so much control and legitimate the environment that their young inhale those assumptions and visions without effort.  The dominant community nurtures its young into the habits of privilege, certitude, and domination, and the young, wisely and without reflection, receive their inheritance of privilege, certitude, and domination. 
This introduction is difficult to walk through.  I know that Brueggemann will write about the empires that controlled the world of Israel and Judah and yet, he wants us to see into the present - that which is all around us and begin to see things with realistic eyes. 
Think about this one line: "The ruling class - those who govern the imagination, control the flow of images, and adjudicate what is worthy."  Quite a good description of any dominant culture.  I always go back to the infiltration of McDonalds as we - the empire of the late 20th century - into the world psyche.  With our entrance into foreign countries, we have been able to mess with the communities and their identities.  Just as our young "inhale" the assumptions of our dominant culture, those same notions are being inhaled by others.  So often, it makes it next to impossible to live in a way that is contrary to the dominant power.  So how do we help even our own children with in the American empire - not "inhale" too many of the habits of the "dominant community." On Sunday a young child was baptized into the life of the congregation.  There were circles of people who promised to raise her up in the way of Jesus.  Then again, even the church has a history of "inhaling" the life and patterns of the dominant culture.  My concern for the this child is that she will go ahead and be Jesus in the midst of us even if we are not showing her the way.  From her, we may learn.  We must be willing to stand up and offer another way to live together than the rule of those who are in positions of power and domination.
Connection: I like the simple words of the Lord's Prayer.  It becomes a simple base line for a community of hopefulness that can give us all a spark of direction.
God of All Hopefulness, let the image of you Reign be the power that gives us life when we are being so easily swayed to be nothing more than a reflection of the powers around us. We cannot resist alone - you are our rock and foundation for new life.  Amen. 

Friday, April 23, 2010

Redeemer Devotions - 23 April, 2010

Adventures... in Hope - Redeemer Devotions 

As Brueggemann will say, Israel is being made ready to be an odd community.
 Israel is free for life under the aegis of Yahweh, who wills well-beiing, justice, and homecoming.  This poet is a voice of hope to a community near despair, ready to give up on Yahweh.  Indeed, great oppressive regimes aim at despair, for the killing of a hope-filled future renders displaced people powerless and easy to administer.  Thus the poetic, lyrical, liturgical practice of hope is foundational for the sustenance of an odd community.  Such practices of course can easily become sloganeering self-deception, unless the community is able to point to signs in the actual course of affairs.  Poetic imagination in Isaiah was able to transpose observed public events into gifts Yahweh had performed for Israel. The emancipation of hopefulness engendered liturgical freedom that in turn produced ethical, and eventually, geographical freedom.
I must remember to hold onto this idea of "the emancipation of hopefulness."  Wow.  Hopefulness is so often held prisoner - put away so that it cannot have a voice and is not able to walk in the middle of God's people.  But when hopefulness is set free - wow!  Life begins to spring forth - the hills are made low - the valleys are raised up - the crooked ways are made straight.  The wonder-filled words of the prophets are meant to move us to live within that hopefulness and not simply find the language to be poetic and filled with nice images.  In the speaking of those words comes the life that those words call up among us.  This is not an easy path - but it is oh so necessary.
Connection: I find that words come easy.  I find that actions that rise up to the words are not so easy.  I also find that as I hear the words that draw us up into a living vision of hopefulness, life - real life - becomes stirred up.  That is vital.
Stir us up, O God, as you have done to your people throughout time.  We are faithful only as you Spirit pulls us into your vision of life that is placed before us.  Amen.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Redeemer Devotions - 22 April, 2010

Adventures... in Hope - Redeemer Devotions 

 Today we will continue with Walter Brueggemann look at the words of hope and encouragement for the exiles under the domination of Babylon.
....this sacramental practice of distinctiveness in the Priestly tradition has as its counterpoint a much more dynamic, promissory tradition in the poetry of Isaiah 40 - 55.  Whereas the Priestly material makes the case for distinctiveness in a rather static way, the Isaiah poetry calls Israel to enact a transformed life in the world.  Thus the gospel announcement of Yahweh's new governance surges in upon Israel, creating a new social possibility for homecoming and a new ground for communal joy: "O Jerusalem, herald of good tidings lift it up, do not fear; say to the cities of Judah, 'Here is your God." (Isaiah 40:9)  "How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the messenger who says to Zion, 'Your God reigns.'"  (Isaiah 52:7)  In these twin assertions , the power of Babylon is said to be broken.  Babylonian gods are defeated.  Babylonian power is overcome.  Babylonian futures are nullified.  Babylonian definitions of reality are overthrown.
Here we enter into a new ball game.  God's people are not just to be distinctive.  We are to be the beginning of a life that is not at all under the realm of the powers - in Isaiah's case, Babylon.  What is most interesting is that if you would look at a mapping of world history, Israel was still under the domination of the powers.  And yet, the encouragement is to live in an alternate reality in which God's people will live in a way that brings a new life right in the middle of all the rest of life around them.  Like these people of Israel, we are told another story - another picture is drawn of the way things are  going in the world - another path is put to light and we are invited to go there, be there, live there - Now!  Salvation is the life that comes alive in these kind of contexts.  We are redeemed and liberated even when the world thinks it has us by the throat.
Connection: This is not an easy way to go.  It is even more difficult when we try to do it alone.  It really does take being a part of a people in order to live within a vision.
Pull us into your Reign, O God.  It is so easy to think we are only to live as the world around us dictates.  Let your Spirit of life grab us and lead us.  Amen.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Redeemer Devotions - 21 April, 2010

Adventures... in Hope - Redeemer Devotions 

 Today continues off of yesterday's post that dealt with a self-conscious ethic passed on through the storytelling of the liturgy of Judah.
Moreover, "I have separated you from the peoples.  You shall therefore make a distinction between the clean animals and the unclean...." (Leviticus 20:24-25).  The practice of distinctiveness must pervade every aspect and dimension of Israel's life, down to the last small detail.
This practice of clean and unclean seems odd.  We often wonder how it was decided that these distinctions would be made.  What if it is simply to help the people "practice distinctiveness"?  Then there is no need to understand why this food and not that...why these people and not those.  Rather, it is all for the sake of keeping in mind who one is within the world - people of promise and covenant with God.  Yesterday in bible study we talked about the use of the Lord's Prayer.  It is a simple prayer and one that really would be good to pray daily - as a reminder of whose we are and the life into which we are invited to live even as that life (God's Reign) is not always appreciated in the world.  To have daily disciplines that touch even the most basic and essential parts of life can help a person stay on point.  Then again, these disciplines cannot be mandated as though they are how one becomes or even is seen as God's holy people.  It is for the benefit of the beloved people.  The disciplines have more to do with shaping the character of individuals and the holy community than making an impact on the people around us.  The life to which the disciplines point or remind us is what must show to the world.  Not eating a certain food is not the witness to God's Reign, but not eating a certain food may remind me throughout the day of the life of God's Reign that is to shine around me.
Connection: What do you do to remind you of whose you are and the life that is handed to you from our God as you move forward in this day?
Lord of Life, encourage us to seek your ways and to follow you.  Even as we are pulled to go here and there, remind us to come home to you and live within the spirit of your Reign.  Amen.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Redeemer Devotions - 20 April, 2010

Adventures... in Hope - Redeemer Devotions 

 Again we hear that the liturgy of Judah (and our own) shapes us in many ways that are necessary when we live in a culture dominated by other powers.
 In addition to order and presence, this tradition also insists on a self-conscious ethic commensurate with God's own holiness:  "You shall be holy, for I the Lord you God am holy" (Leviticus 19:2).  The commands of Leviticus, which often strike us as excessively punctilious, are an effort to assure the community of a distinctiveness that devotes its entire existence to the will and purpose of Yahweh.  This tradition quite clearly accepts a vocation of oddity: "You shall not do as they do in the land of Egypt, where you have lived, and you shall not do as they do in the land of Canaan, to which I am bringing you" (Lev. 18:3).  The text does not mention Babylon, for such a mention here would be anachronistic.  If, however the text is dated to the sixth century, then we may understand "Egypt" and "Canaan" as capable of extrapolation to Babylon. 
When the community gathers for worship and we hear the stories of old, we are putting ourselves into the midst of those stories.  So, as we see here, we are invited into a way of life - an ethic.  Though empire of days gone by are used to draw the pictures of the life we are to lead, the empire of the day is the one that is attempting to rule us.  Therefore the community at worship is being called to look around and find the way they are to be alive within that empire that attempts to take away our identity and the very center of our lives.  Within the faithful storytelling of God's people, we must be gracious about how the stories came to be what they are.  We have a gift given to us when the stories remind us of the God who will be our God in and through all times.  Now, if that story is told in one age - in order to create a faithful response/ethic among the people - and yet the references are to an age long ago, does that ruin the story or make it less "true?"  Of course it doesn't.  Rather, it show that the faithful community of the day (let's say the Priestly editors) is so concerned about the integrity and vitality and faithfulness of the community in trauma that it uses the flexibility of poetic imagination to make a point so that the people will "listen, O Israel."
 Connection: We have so many gifts handed to us through the stories within our Scriptures that are meant to empower us, encourage us, bring us into a life of hopefulness and creativity.  Sometimes it would do us well to listen to the story again and again - letting it speak to us as faithful people about to face the reality of the day.
 O God of Eternal Life, you are the ruler of all times and all places. Continue to bless us with faithful storytellers who are always a witness to your blessed Reign.  Amen.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Redeemer Devotions - 19 April, 2010

Adventures... in Hope - Redeemer Devotions 

 Walter Brueggemann continues to write about the importance of the liturgy in the life of the people of Judah who had to face life in exile under Babylonia.
We may imagine that this liturgy provided focus, coherence, and assurance that made the exiles less vulnerable to the threats  and to the seductions of Babylon.  This tradition, however, championed not only order, but also presence.  Thus the Priestly materials also provide the exactitude of authorizing (Exodus 25 -31) and construction (Exodus 35-40) of a tabernacle as a place suitable for God's dwelling in the midst of Israel.  With great care and attentiveness, according to this imaginative tradition, Israel is able to host the holiness of God, thereby acknowledging that even severe cultural dislocation cannot impede Israel's ready access to the God it love and serves.
If you remember the stories of the book of Exodus, this God was forever with them.  They could see - by the fire at night and the smoke by day - that God was on this adventure leading the people. God was to be ever available and with the people no matter where they might "bed down."  To the community that eventually is in Exile in Babylon - homeless in other words - the storytelling of God's presence among the people was a vital stream of thought that was needed to give the exiles that push to remember and to stay faithful and be courageous.  There in the midst of God's people is the God who sustains and nurtures and bring life.  Again, the liturgy and the presence of this "place for God" becomes the another way that the community marks itself with life even as the world around it works to dismantle it. 
Connection: For us, the liturgy and the gathering of people who are baptized in Christ, Jesus, are a part of what is meant to give us a look at life that is promised.  God is always present with us - and yet, we need to see signs of that presence in the life that is around us.
Gather us into your love, O God, and remind us of the shape of our day that begins and is fed by your presence as we come to listen to your Word and join in the fellowship of all your saints. Amen.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Redeemer Devotions - 16 April, 2010

Adventures... in Hope - Redeemer Devotions 

 Many of us know that there are parts of the liturgy that carry us over into the week.  Walter Brueggemann looks at the liturgical life of a people dominated by the power of Babylon.
 ....the liturgy itself intends to challenge and override the chaos of exilic social circumstance.  Among the features that provide liturgical stability are the following:
  • The assurance that God's powerful spirit is at work in the world, which is therefore an arena of blessing.  Generativity of life is assured there.
  • The process of ordering is articulated in separating elements of creation into their proper zones (Genesis 1:4, 6, 7, 14) and by assuring that all fruitfulness is "of every kind" (Gen. 1:21, 24-25).  this is a world in which nothing is out of place.
  • The ordering is repeatedly acknowledged to be "good," and finally "very good."  It is probably that "good" here means lovely, aesthetically pleasing.  This is a beautiful place in which to reside.
  • The liturgy culminates in sabbath rest, whereby the members of this community desist from production, and do so without anxiety.  They are sure that the world will hold, because it is authorized by the creator God.
The liturgy of these captives in Babylon becomes the way they stand up and become a people not under the rule of their captives.  They retell the story of whose they are.  There God brings life  - good life - very good life - into every place; simply because this is what God will do.  When we gather for worship, do we come away with such a powerful message?  I think so.  Listen to the words of our liturgy.  There is vision and an affirmation of God's gracious Reign.  In the face of any and all powers, we are given a vision of our God who, like the God of the Jews, sets us within a new world with a word of promise that cannot be taken from us no matte what the situation of our daily lives appears to be.  
 Connection: I often tell people that there is little more to any sermon I give than that which I share with the children in their lesson.  It is always interesting to see that as a child grows up - s/he appears to doubt that message of "God for you - always and in all places" because other cultural messages begin to pull at them.  The wonder of God's promises are meant to create even more and more wonder in our lives.
God of Creation, continue to inspire us with your promises and your great act of liberation.  Amen.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Redeemer Devotions - 15 April, 2010

Adventures... in Hope - Redeemer Devotions 

One of the "editors" of the Hebrew Scriptures are the "Priests."  Like other groups of editors, they attempted to hold things together and create an atmosphere that would bring to life the people of God in difficult times.  During the Exile in Babylon was one of those times - again, Walter Brueggemann. is conventional to locate the Priestly material of Genesis - Numbers in the exile, as a strategy for sustaining the sacramental sense of community. was aimed toward the maintenance of order in a social context of acute disorder and chaos.  The Jews in exile has no stable reference points (as with appeal to the temple), and so this tradition offers alternative practices in lieu of such supports.  In Genesis 1:1-2:4a, the tradition provides a litany that is presumably liturgical.... the liturgy itself intends to challenge and override the chaos of exilic social circumstances.
 Having a sense of order can bring comfort and a feeling of security.  When there is only chaos, it is time for storytelling.  Storytelling can take us from the face of what is and help us to see beyond it all.  This stories are not lies that are just made up, they are promises that are dressed up so that we can see how they are able to see us through what it at hand.  Even in the storytelling of our country, editors helped to hold up some stories and leave others out.  In that way, a large group of people can rally around a theme or story in the hope that we too may be such people.  When I was growing up I used to hear the cry "remember the Alamo."  I didn't really know what it meant until I hear the whole story.  It was like listening to the story of the 300 Spartans.  A small group can stand up against the powers and through their courageous acts, become an source of inspiration for others.  Our storytelling helps us build our character - that can be a plus or a minus depending on the stories that are handed to us.  The Priestly editors made sure there were stories of great worth - stories that could be repeated easily so that they would alter the view of the people and create an alternate reality that had the power to sustain and nurture life.
Connection: Do you have stories such as these? Can you identify them?  Where did you hear them?  What keeps drawing you back to hear them again?  What do they do to you when you hear them?
Within the stories of our life, O God, we turn to you to hear words of encouragement and truthfulness so that we will know of a way to live that is not overwhelmed by the powers of the day that seem to be able to smash us.  Pull us into those stories of your powerful love.  Amen.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Redeemer Devotions - 14 April, 2010

Adventures... in Hope - Redeemer Devotions 

Today we will begin some time looking at the influence Babylon had on the shaping of the distinctive community of Israel while it is in exile in Babylon.  For some, this way of looking at how scripture came to be will be new  - to others not so new.  And yet, Brueggemann always makes it something that we can bring into this day.
Because the exiles are now displaced from their homeland  and from all its sustaining institutional markers, the power of Babylonian culture to assimilate and the capacity of the Babylonian economy to substitute satiation for a faith identity are indeed an intense threat.  The intensity of the threat in turn evokes the most intentional efforts at community maintenance. 
This exile take place when the temple and the city of Jerusalem have been devastated.  The people are taken from their homeland and that means that all of the order within their lives is gone.  Not only have they been defeated by the Babylonian army, this ancient religious thinking also notes that the gods of the Babylonians have whipped the God of Israel.  Not the best conditions for raising up a faithful family or community.  Under a cloud of defeat, disgrace, and alienation we have a people who will now work to make a way to sustain themselves.  We must remember that this is what people of every faith must do in every age.  How do we sustain and build up the character of who we are within the storytelling of our tradition?  I have always found this period of the history of Israel to be a powerful one for them but also for we who call ourselves followers of Jesus.  There must be a way to nurture the life of a contrary community.  This is our task.  This is our hope.
Connection: I find that I am often a reflection of the society around me.  It is then that I need to hear another voice - I need a prophet calling out to me.  I need a contrary rule to follow that will be my guide as I attempt to resist what is.
 Lord of the Homeless and Defeated in every age, you are always close and ready to be our guide and our rock.  We are in need of the simple ability to look around and see you at our side.  It is then that we will be encouraged and look at the day with a sense of hopefulness.  Be present, O God.  Amen.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Redeemer Devotions - 13 April, 2010

Adventures... in Hope - Redeemer Devotions 

Here's a good summary about the three voices directed to Judah.
To be sure, the traditions of Isaiah (royal), Micah (peasant), and Deuteronomy (Mosaic-covenantal) give differing nuance to the life of Judah.  All are agreed, however, that in every sphere of its life, Judah must be a community of intentional resistance, refusing to let dominant, imperial definitions confiscate the life of Judah.  The community is enjoined to great vigilance, lest it lose its raison d'etre, which is as a Yahwistic, alternative mode of life in a world of acquisitive, exploitative power (compare Deuteronomy 8:1-20).
 When we wake in the morning, we wake into a world in which we are - as  followers of Jesus - stepping into the realm of resistance.  Luther would say that every morning we remember our baptism - same thing.  We remember whose we are and the mighty acts of God to hold us and never let us go and then we let that hand lead us and guide us even when the leading takes us in ways that are quite at odds with the world.  What is most difficult is to see to what degree we are at odds with the world around us.  We have all seen those who seem to take this call into a life of asceticism  or one of outright rebellion or one of such counter-cultural moves they are simply written off as complete oddballs.  Well...what makes up resistance and how much resistance is enough?!  I think we must not look at quantity.  We look at the situation at hand and  talk within a faithful community about what is needed.  Resistance doesn't always mean going directly against the powers of the world.  Resistance may also mean the simple movements that make us walk down another path.  There are many paths of resistance that can be a part of all of our lives.  It is quite important that we all keep talking to one another as we go along the way.
 Connection: Baptism puts us in the water of resistance and it doesn't matter how deep we are in it - we have already died in this water and come into new life.  What part of this new life will now begin to show?  That is resistance.
Lord of New Life, carry us into the promised land and show us the way to stand on you alone as we journey through this life and share in the abundance of your Reign.  Amen.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Redeemer Devotions - 12 April, 2010

Adventures... in Hope - Redeemer Devotions 

 The third literary voice that speaks to Israel when they are being dominated by Assyria is from Deuteronomy - again from Walter Brueggemann. He argues that this book is considered as being written quite later than originally thought.  In that, references to the "Canaanites" may well be the "Assyrians."
 It is widely recognized that covenant receives its definitive voicing in Deuteronomy, the covenant tradition par excellence.  "Covenant" is not to be understood as simply a religious slogan, nor as one model among many for Israel's faith.  Deuteronomy offers covenant as a radical and systematic alternative to the politics of autonomy, the economics of exploitation, and the theology of self-indulgence.  The model of social reality offered in Deuteronomy is that this community - in all its socioeconomic, political, and military aspects - is relational, with members taking responsibility for their neighbors.  This notion of social reality touches every phase of social interaction and every exercise of social power.  The pervasive disciplines to which Deuteronomy summons Israel is precisely to give up autonomy for the sake of committed, neighborly relatedness.
 Israel will be Israel only as it is what God has called it to be.  Otherwise, it will be nothing more than any other power in the world. The lose is both to Israel and to the whole world.  This covenant is the creation of an order that is inspired by the God who calls the people into this special relationship.  The relationship is not merely between God and God's chosen, relationship become the very essence of the community as it exists in the midst of the power of the Assyrians.  The covenant is a statement of being.  This is who we are.  We live in this kind of way.  We will concerned about the well-being of others in all the various realms of community life.  Such a covenant, transforms the entire life of the people.  By doing that, the rest of the world powers look on and wonder why it is they are like this.  That is the witness of such a covenant - the world takes not of another way of being a community.  This is as radical as anything we see in the life of the church.  In both cases, it is not meant to be a mere story that is not brought to life as the story of the day.
 Connection: I am always encouraged by Brueggemann's work because it makes me look at what can be and is real among us.  It also makes me remember that the Scriptures paint us a picture of a community in distress - just like ours.  From there, we walk by faith.
 God of Liberation and All Hopefulness, help us to reach out into the promise of your life.  Help us to step beyond what we call our own and become drenched in the water of new life that is your Reign.  Amen.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Redeemer Devotions - 8 April, 2010

Adventures... in Hope - Redeemer Devotions 

 Continuing from yesterday the second literary voice that speaks to Israel when they are being dominated by Assyria is from Micah - again from Walter Brueggemann.
 The devastating warning that such coveting will bring disaster is matched in the Micah tradition by two assurances.  In 5:2-6, it is anticipated that a new governing authority will reestablish Judah and give peace and security (5:4) and , if necessary, will defeat Assyria and occupy the land.  In the end, however, what is envisioned is not simply the defeat of the empire, but a great scenario of reconciliation, in which "peoples and nations" will submit to Yahweh's Torah in Zion and will decide for disarmament and peace (4:1-4; compare Isaiah 2:1-5).  What is so remarkable is that the commitment to Torah and peace is a peculiar vision of Judah against the military inclination of the empire.  In the imaginings of the poet, however, the peaceable Torah vision of Israel prevails, so that the "contrast community" of Yahweh offers the model and option of eventually embraced by all nations.  The Micah vision bespeaks the deep resolve and resilience of this alternative.  Holding to the vision itself is a discipline and a mark of this community, a long-term refusal to give in to a more accommodating but hopeless social practice.
 As noted yesterday, we never are able to see this "contrast community" and how it is able to defeat the Assyrians.  The vision never comes to be - real life.  And yet, we are always being offered the vision.  Even into this day, the vision of a community of reconciliation is a powerful word to hear.  Things can be transformed through ways not consumed by violence and the ways of empire.  This is to be our way - even as Christians.  The power of the resurrection is a power that does not go along with the patterns of the world that can so easily move us and sway us.  We are being pulled into more of a life that is willing to call into question what is and then to act contrary to what is when it is not a world of reconciliation and sharing and forgiving.  In all of our faithful storytelling, it is our God who enables us to walk in that way.  After the resurrection, we are encouraged to walk in the way of Jesus - God made visible among us.
 Connection: Have you ever thought that there are times within the day when you are a part of this "contrast community'?  If so, do you find it to be a good place - is it a place of peace?
When your peace reigns, O God, we are invited into a life in which we find ways to turn toward one another and not try to flee from the presence of the other.  Continue to pull us into this Reign of peace.  Amen.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Redeemer Devotions - 7 April, 2010

Adventures... in Hope - Redeemer Devotions 

 The second literary voice that speaks to Israel when they are being dominated by Assyria is from Micah - again from Walter Brueggemann.
...the poet castigates the greedy who "covet fields and seize houses" (2:21).  the ones who violate Yahwism's covenantalism is such a way will lose out when the land is redivided, perhaps by the Assyrians (v.4).  Thus the expectations of Yahweh that will secure the community concern economic covenantalism in which the claims of the neighbor are not disregarded.  Judah as a "contrast society" is premised on the elemental command, "Thou shalt not covet," which is here understood as broad social policy and practice.
The people of God are to be a "contrast society." This is not a simple suggestion.  This is the way life is to be among us.  Life within this kind of society attracts attention because of the way they live together.  When it becomes a society that is ruled by the same kind of powers and rules as the rest of the world, what makes it a light - what makes it a new life?  So, the prophets offer a warning.  I would say it is more than a warning.  It is a blessed reminder meant to turn the heads of the covenant people.  The prophet calls the people to re-consider who has given them their place and their life and what it means to carry the banner of this covenantal relationship.  We do not know what the Assyrians would have done had they come up against a society that reflected the covenant life that so wonderfully takes a road less traveled. 
Connection: This may be what we all need to consider.  What difference does it make in the world if we would live out of the promises of our God in a world that has its own way of running all things.?
Guide us again, O God.  There are so many ways we would choose to walk through our lives and yet you call us in a way that reflects your Reign.  Guide us along that way, O God.  Amen.