Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Redeemer Devotions - 26 May, 2010

Adventures... in Hope - Redeemer Devotions 

 And so, when we do not trust this sabbath rest - where does that leave us.  From "Mandate to Difference" by Walter Brueggemann.
When we do not trust in guaranteed abundance, we must supply the deficiencies out of our own limited resources.  We scramble to move from our sense of scarcity to an abundance that we imagine that we ourselves can supply, all the while frantically anxious that we won't quite make it:
  • Not enough to be loved
  • Not enough to be well liked
  • Not enough to advance
  • Not enough to secure my family
  • Not enough members
  • Not enough dollars
  • Not enough published articles
  • Not enough new clothes, new cars, new houses
  • Not enough bombs
  • Not enough stocks and bonds
  • Not enough freedom
  • Not enough purity
  • Not enough of our kind of people
It is necessary to erode the holy time of sabbath for the sake of productivity, given our sense of scarcity grounded in distrust.
I look at this picture and I know that I am not able to supply my deficiencies - and never will.  Just the other day I thought about all the financial stuff that is happening around the world.  Instability for most people is "real life."  I wondered about what a real "crash" would do to someone like me - how would i deal with losing what has been a part of our plan to make ends meet in the future?!  I was struck with how I thought about me and what I was able to do or not do.  Even when we are told of a guaranteed abundance, it is not easy to send anxiety out of the room.  Here and there, I know that God's breath of life does bring rest.  And yet, when I am realistic, I know that I do not let myself go to that place of rest.  The "not enough" - whatever that may be for me - is a voice that is working 24/7 to convince me to stay within the illusion that i can be in control.  Sabbath is a part  of the discipline to break that voice and allow God's word of abundance to settle in - at least some of the time! 
Connection: Nothing will ever be enough.  As Lutherans, we use a phase that is helpful here.  It is simply "it is enough."  The Word and that little piece of bread with wine - is enough to bring life and hopefulness and rest. 
Come, Holy Spirit.  Come and hold our hands and walk with us when we are frantically trying to win the day.  Amen.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Redeemer Devotions - 25 May, 2010

Adventures... in Hope - Redeemer Devotions 

 Here is another interesting way to look at sabbath rest - and anxiety.  From "Mandate to Difference" by Walter Brueggemann.
The Creator promises and guarantees abundance, and sabbath is the day we luxuriate in that abundance as a gift which we do not need to perform or possess or acquire or achieve....because it is a gift!  But of course, we do not keep sabbath, and so violate the inviolate sabbath and so diminish and deplete our naphshim because we do not believe in, trust in, or count on god's abundance.  We do not think that creation is abundant, and we do not trust the guarantee of the Creator.  The outcome of such distrust, I propose, is a devouring anxiety....just as sabbath is a total antidote to anxiety.  For what remains of my comments, I juxtapose sabbath and anxiety.  Note well "anxiety" .....not "sin" or "guilt."
 Well it is obvious that we will be staying with this discussion of sabbath as we move into looking at sabbath and our anxiety.  That's good.  I need that.  Trusting in God is the foundation of who we say we are.  Even at the beginning of the words at Sinai, there is our trust in one God alone.  All things come from and grow within that reality.  It is a reality that is meant to shape the character of our lives.  Once we step away from that foundational word of hopefulness - "I am the Lord, YOUR God" - we step into piles of "stuff" that keep making our lives smell with misplaced trust and thus, anxiety over what may or may not happen to us.  I find that as I am anxious about what will happen in my life, I become less of a person shaped within the loving embrace of our God.  In many and various ways, I will step into action and begin to build the world as I want it and insist that it must be.  In other words, I run from the promises of our God and in response to my anxiety enter a living hell that is always being judged and under scrutiny.  That's sad.  Sabbath call me to rest in what God has promised and I so easily choose to spin within my anxieties - an utter waste of time - all time.
Connection: Are you able to catch yourself spinning within the grasp of anxious moments?  It can be so deadly. 
Come, Holy Spirit.  Come and open up our lives that we may see how you offer new life and when you offer life it is life given forever and ever.  When we are inspired to see that, we are handed a weapon with which we can face our anxieties.  Amen.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Redeemer Devotions - 24 May, 2010

Adventures... in Hope - Redeemer Devotions 

 Brueggeman comments about when the work of the tabernacle of the tent of meeting was finished and everything God commanded Moses was done.
It is finished!  it is constituted!  Holy zone where God dwells! Holy time where nephesh sets down!  Holy space and holy time, holy life devoted to the presence of God and healing, and a vision of God's glory come among us - full of grace and truth - God's glory which we are to practice and enjoy.  This space is unlike any other space.  This time is unlike any other time.  This life is unlike any other life.  It is this space and this time and this life that stand as the wellness center of creation.  There is no substitute, no reasonable facsimile, no adequate tradeoff or compensation.  An act of restful restoration engages the character of the Creator, even as it is engraved in the life of the creation; imagine, moreover, that we are made in that image to turn from busyness to restfulness and so back to full joyous creatureliness, the kind intended by the Creator, the kind intended by good parents by whom we were first fondled.  It is the truth of our life that we are meant for restful restoration.
Written into the very center of the community is the reality of being finished - set - refreshed.  This is not a time that will renew us so that we might never really be set in our ways - but available for the life that will come after we rest from what has been the labor of our lives.  I always appreciate when writers remind us of our creatureliness.  When we do not find that we can rest in God, it is so very easy to try and overstep our creatureliness and attempt to be something more.  But we are not something more.  We are what God created - and that is Good - very Good.  To be able to step back and let the promises of God hold us and support us and offer us rest is to be a part of the whole picture of life that comes into being by our 'Creator God.'  To be human is to be as much as that means - and no more.  When we trust God's commentary on our life, there comes a time in which we can breathe and sigh and rest so that we will each remember our place - our calling - our status for life.
Connection: Will there be a time in this day to be a part of "restful restoration"?  If not, when?
Encourage us to abide in you alone, O God.  Too often we are afraid of what will come of us if we do not try to control the world in which we live.  You alone can free us from that burden.  We must remember this power you hold for life.  Amen.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Redeemer Devotions - 21 May, 2010

Adventures... in Hope - Redeemer Devotions 

Like a week comes to an abrupt end, so too does creation - and it ends in rest. Again from "Mandate to Difference."
What a piece of literary architecture, that Exodus 25-31 imagines and construes a safe, ordered place where the holiness of God can touch down without pollution or disturbance.  Except that at the last moment, in the seventh speech, the promise of space, in characteristic Jewish fashion, is converted to a safe, ordered time for rehabilitation.  In this regard, the tabernacle-to-sabbath sequence is exactly parallel to Genesis 1 that ponders fruitful space for six days and at the last moment turns to holy time.
 What is holy time?  It is the realm of peace.  It is the day in which the fullness of God is available without restriction - therefore it is a time of complete rest.  All the work and all the planning and all the action and all the creation of that which is new and springing forth as though it is truly the gift that it is, is now at its end - for now.  Rest comes - breath comes - memories hold us deep within the promises of our God - the sabbath rest (that "cathedral in time") is where we can wander and wonder and prayerfully consider the gift of life that is handed to us all.  Where is this day to be honored?  I suppose without limit.  And yet it must have some intention about it.  Even if it is in the middle of the work within time that so often buries us with worry and agendas.  For even there, we must be a people who enter the rest that can be presented to us at any moment.  I find that at times, this time of rest sits down right alongside me and just stares at me and waits for me to notice what is not yet a part of my life. It is not a condemning presence.  It is a loving presence that seeks to keep me well and bring about refreshment.  It takes discipline to respect those moments when the world is asking us to press on.
Connection:  Are you able to enter that rest - that gift - even when your sense that your are being carried away by the day? 
Your touch, O God, nurtures us and guides us and reminds us that we are your beloved children.  In the face of all that must be done you continue to whisper a word of peace and well-being so that we will remember that you love us into restfulness.  Amen.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Redeemer Devotions - 20 May, 2010

Adventures... in Hope - Redeemer Devotions 

 Today, Brueggemann gives some insight on how to consider this notion of our nephesh.
For this day ponder you nephesh in its wholeness, its complexity, its social location, and imagine the voices and tasks that deplete and the voices and tasks that restore.  And rest!  If you need a guide for nephesh pondering, try Psalm 35:
  •  say to my soul, "I am your salvation" vs.3
  • then my soul shall rejoice in the Lord, exulting in his deliverance. All my bones shall say, "O Lord, who is like you?  You deliver the weak from those too strong for them, the weak and needy  from those who despoil them" vss 9-10
  • How long, O Lord, will you look on? Rescue me from their ravages, my life from the lions! vs. 17
(read life/soul as nephesh)
There are never-ending ways to rest when such words are handed to us.  There is the God - our God - who brings rest and who makes promises and is the eternal keeper of promises no matter what the day holds for us.  This is how we begin to rest.  This is how we take the time to step back and rest or step back and watch the unfolding joy of God's Reign take place all around us.  When we become so tied up and tied down to the events of the day we do not give time and space to rest and openness to the way God can and does surprise us with life that will take us beyond our limits and into a reality that come into simply through being re-nepheshed.
Connection: When you hear those words: "I am your salvation" and you know that it is a word of promise that shakes all creation with the one truthfulness that cannot be ripped from us, what does it do to your heart?  With the whole church and all creation, we pray that it will bring us rest and peace.
Come, Lord of the Wind and God of Creation.  Come and lift us up to see your promises even when we are being consumed by the events around us.  Amen.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Redeemer Devotions - 19 May, 2010

Adventures... in Hope - Redeemer Devotions 

 Let's continue with this notion of being re-nepheshed - from Mandate to Difference by Walter Brueggemann.
....sabbath is about recovered nephesh, and nephesh is not a "religious idea," no "soul," but self in all of its complex social existence.  That is why I entitled this presentation, "You Cannot Fool Your Nephesh."  We say often, "You cannot fool your body."  Of course not, but the nephesh more so, for nephesh is that intertwined complexity of all things, spiritual, moral, mental, bodily, and material, the whole self, the true self.  And it will not be lied to.  There are limits because we are in the image of the God who is limited to six days of energy.  We are often depleted like God and just like the ox and just like the donkey and just like a slave and just like and immigrant, we must pause.  Pushed beyond that limit, the nephesh evaporates and creation fails.  And so we must pause.
I suppose we could say that we are not fully human unless we rest.  It is there that the creativity of our humanity is renewed and ready to be a part of every day.  Without rest - without the time for refreshment - do we let ourselves look up to the beauty of the sky and the image of God in the faces of those around us?  I often write of taking a breath and letting that be the beginning of seeing thing new and even uncovering the joy that is always right alongside or even in front of us.  That breath is just a taste of what comes with rest that persists and interrupts everything we think we must do our finish or attain.  This refreshment is something that comes more readily when we have others who remind us of the gift that is ours.  For me, "remind" is a more graceful action than a list of regulations that are meant to put shape to the time of refreshment that is able to bring us into full life.  I need you to remind me of the gift of sabbath rest.  If you attempt to push me into rest, my mind never rests.  I enjoy invitation and I think I respond best to that.  This may even mean that this rest or refreshment may be something utterly spontaneous - but greatly needed.  Such rest may teach me what more rest is able to bring to life.
Connection:  Are you able to noticed that you are depleted?  I mean this as a question directed to each week - not the whole year.  If so, how and when are you refreshed?
Living water of life, you refresh us by our word of promise and your participation in all of creation and by leading us into the pathway of refreshment that opens us to new life again and again.  Tickle us with your promises that we will look up and find time to stop all that we attempt to do and let your gift of life come together in all its fullness. Amen.  

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Redeemer Devotions - 18 May, 2010

Adventures... in Hope - Redeemer Devotions 

 In Exodus 25-31 God speaks to Moses seven time (instructions about holy place and holy ordination).  Some say it is a play on the creation of Genesis 1. Brueggemann picks up on the seventh speech - holy time.  Again, in "Mandate to Difference" by Walter Brueggemann.
 This seventh speech culminates with references to the divine sabbath: "it is a sign forever between me and the people of Israel that in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested." (Exodus 31:17)  And then in a quirky conclusion, the text adds, no longer remembering that it is cast as God's own speech, "and was refreshed."
 This is a stunning theological statement!  The Hebrews uses the term nephesh, which occurs often in the Old Testament as a noun meaning "self" and often rendered as "soul," as in "bless the Lord O my soul."  But here the term nephesh is a verb in the reflexive niphal; YHWH "was nepheshed." .... Sabbath is a time for being re-nepheshed, for recovery of full self by withdrawal from all that drains and exhausts and depletes.  And so for God.  Because of God's own life and God's own time and God's own experience, God has ordered, in the very fabric of creation, that there are limits to the demands and expectations that are to be placed on our naphshim.
God is refreshed.  This is fresh for life.  Fresh to be again the one who creates.  That is also for us.  That we be a people whose acknowledge that our lives can and will be drained of our life essence.  Rest is the same as "was refreshed."  Makes me wonder how God is within this time of refreshment.  Then again, that is my need to figure that out.  I also think it is quite odd that we humans think we must define and legislate every second of this day of rest.  Are we afraid to rest without rules that really allow for the fullness of rest.  Can you imagine God piling on rules for how he can rest or what would be the best way to rest or what cannot take place within the domain of restfulness?  Can it be enough that we know that God was refreshed and we are invited into that experience of refreshment.  It must be enough to know that God rested.  It must be enough that we are trusted to rest also.  Otherwise, would God rest?!?!  And yet, we all know that we do not rest well (this is me speaking to me here).  So instead of mandates that can fill pages and pages of notes on how to rest, we are simply told to rest.  It is the way of our creative God - rest.  How? Rest.
Connection: Sometimes I find it strange that I am in the middle of restfulness even when it is not a designated time to rest (and vice versa).  So is it good for us to let those times expand and be noticed and appreciated in order that we can be refreshed.  I suppose being people of little discipline - setting aside a day and time to make us rest is good.  But to have to make that day another list of things to do and follow seems out of character for the day.
Come, O God of Refreshment, Come and help us rest in you alone.  Amen.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Redeemer Devotions - 17 May, 2010

Adventures... in Hope - Redeemer Devotions 

 We ended last week with the reminder that God rested.  Today we pick up with that thought.  Again, in "Mandate to Difference" by Walter Brueggemann.
This God rests!  this God so rests that Israel in its poetic imagination can entertain the thought of YHWH's dormancy.  Indeed Israel can issue a wake-up call to God: "Awake, awake, put on strength, O arm of the Lord!  Awake, as in days of old, the generation of long ago! Was it not you who cut Rahab in pieces, who pierced the dragon? (Isa. 51:9)   The summons in Isaiah 51 is to the creator God, the one who had in ancient times dealt with evil sea monsters.  God rests because the world will work, because the tasks of creation have been delegated, and because creation, blessed as it is, knows  the will and energy of the Creator and does not need constant attention.  God rests, because God engages in self-care and because there came a silence over heaven and earth and the radishes said to the porcupines, "Shhh - be quite because 'Himself' is resting, and we must tiptoe until Sunday morning  when we will arise after rest to new life."   The rest of the Creator causes serenity in creation.  The creatures, like the Creator, are competent and trusting and unhasting.  the world works and all is well.
 So, rest - the world will work.   Even when there is so much we are handed as caretakers of creation - it will work.  Rest is an essential part of all life. God rests as we are trusted to be a part of the ongoing generativity of creation.  As we all know, we don't seem to take the caretaker role very seriously.  Too often we have let ourselves think that "it will work" means that we don't have to keep our eyes on things.  When we do that, we are most likely to take even the little gifts of creation for granted and forget about how we must seek the well-being of all things.  God rests as God trusts what will be done by all of us as we enter into the role we have been given.  Our resting reminds us what God has put into action before us.  Our resting reminds us that we cannot control the working of the world no matter how we work.  In fact, it seems like the more we try to get done in our world, the more we seem to take advantage of creation and forget about keep things in good condition.  Getting things done often leads to putting our task as stewards on the shelf and going forward as we please.
 Connection: We are competent and trusting and unhasting - good reason to take our resting and our working as stewards seriously.
Creating God, as you rest you hand us the day and consider us to be the overseers of the creative process that continues to unfold around us.  Within such a blessing you have once again called us your own and we ask that you encourage this life of faithfulness.  Amen.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Redeemer Devotions - 13 May, 2010

Adventures... in Hope - Redeemer Devotions 

   From the story of creation, here is an interesting look at the Creator - again this is from the chapter, "You Cannot Fool Your Nephesh" in his book "Mandate to Difference."
And God rested!  God had done enough.  god was tired.  It was the weariness of a kingly ruler who had spent a week issuing orders and edicts.  It is a weariness of a caregiver who has been using energy to infuse creation with the energy of life.  The fatigue of God is replicated by Jesus in the narrative of the woman who has hemorrhaged for twelve years: "Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him, Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, 'Who touched my clothes?'  And his disciples said to him, 'You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, 'Who touched me?'  He looked all around to see who had done it.  But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth."  (Mark 5:30-33Being a healer is costly to the one who heals.   Being a creator is costly in the extension of blessing.  Being a caregiver is costly, as every caregiver notices, because it entails the transmission of the self to the other.
 In a conversation yesterday, a woman told me about the the healing that she experiences as being a healer.  Though we hear of this energy going out from God at creation and Jesus with this woman, what if there is energy that simply envelopes everyone.  This does not mean there is no need to rest, rather it is a reminder that healing involves the energy of the community.  Healing makes itself known on all who stand within the action of healing and making things new.  It is too easy to feel the presence of destruction and brutality and despair.  This is the way the world is too much of the time.  I think we get used to it so that we do not let it touch us as it needs to.  Then on the other hand, when we live in a world beat up and pushed around and neglected, it can be very, very difficult to sense the presence of healing.  Could this be why some intentional rest is so important.  In times of rest, we may give ourselves the time to look over the condition of our own lives and the life of the world.  We are given the opportunity to breathe and contemplate on the welfare of all.  Such an intentional time potentially lifts us out of our self-concern (that often leads to self-centered lives that can be quite uncreative) and enables us to see the healing that is taking place and the places that are in need of healing.  The rest prepares us for more healing as it helps us acknowledge the healing God has already brought to our lives.
 Connection:  Resting is a part of the week that is creative and healing and full of care.  It is part of the essential flow of life that is so easily experience within a few moments of paying attention to our own breathing.
Spirit of All Holiness, you bless your creation and invite us to be a part of that blessing that continues through time.  We are stewards who are the active presence of your blessing.  In and through all things of the day, your healing and creative power is upon us.  Help us to release and use that power for the well-being of life - all life.  Amen.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Redeemer Devotions - 12 May, 2010

Adventures... in Hope - Redeemer Devotions 

   Again this is from the chapter, "You Cannot Fool Your Nephesh" in his book "Mandate to Difference."
  The creator a God of blessing, capable of assigning life and well-being to every aspect of creation.  When the Creator had arrived on the scene, the already extant chaotic matter of "Tohu-wa-Bohu" was distinctively unblessed and incapable of life.  by word and by act, the creator God transposed that seething chaotic matter into an ordered, coherent life-support system.  The blessing-giving God transposes reality by three times blessing the creation:
  • The first blessing is toward sea monsters and winged creatures
  • The second blessing is toward the human couple
  • The third blessing is of the seventh day now made holy
The blessing, the infusion of the life force of God, is in turn to (a) non-human creatures, especially sea monsters - thus, a witness that God has ordered even chaotic waters; (b) humans as God's regents in the maintenance of an order of abundance; and (c) a day of rest intrinsic to the structure of the created order of fruitfulness.
 I was caught up in the blessing of the sea monsters.  If God can bless the sea monsters - those beasts from the deep that we cannot see but are always a threat to where we can go in life - and in that show God's dominion over such disorder and chaos, certainly God can handle and bless this day in which I can so easily be overcome by the beast who I envision are biting at my life.  Then again, what a place of responsibility we are bless to take on.  We are to maintain this order of abundance.  The abundance is a reality - we must make sure that it is managed so as to provide for life that is ordered and well - for all.  It is our responsibility to make sure that the produce gets to those whose need is at hand.  We do not have a good history of doing this.  In fact, too often we follow the lead of Pharaoh who makes sure there is surplus without making sure that all are well-fed and sustained. 
Connection: How do we - as individuals and as church and as community - make sure that the abundance is spread around?  How to we break the mighty cycle of self-indulgence and enter into the miracle of enough for all?
When you bless us, O God, we are handed the opportunity to shape our lives into the stewards you call us to be through this blessing.  Within this day continue to bless us and move our hearts.  Amen.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Redeemer Devotions - 11 May, 2010

Adventures... in Hope - Redeemer Devotions 

  Walter Brueggemann has a way of seeing within the stories of the Old Testament a way to address the day at hand and the vision of God's Reign for us today. Again this is from the chapter, "You Cannot Fool Your Nephesh" in his book "Mandate to Difference."
The memory of Israel that it repeats at Passover is of an irrepressible brick quota and an impossible production schedule.  And like any driven production system, the quotas keep increasing.  Every success generated more rigorous demands.  You may be sure that there was no work stoppage under Pharaoh because the production apparatus was at work 24/7.  You may be sure that there was not seventh day, no sabbath, no day blessed and made rich with vitality, no holy day devoted to YHWH, the Lord of the sabbath.  Seen in this way, the eagerness of Israel for the Sinai commands is easy to understand.  The Sinai offer was an alternative to the quota system of the empire.  Now the production system would be interrupted and shut down every seventh day.  Israel would rest as it never did in Egypt, because YHWH, unlike the Egyptian gods, is a God of restfulness.
 Our God is a God of restfulness.  This is not only to be applied to the "day" of rest.  We are also told that our lives can be ones that spring forth from a rest that is handed to us as promise.  We need not have our days be full of things that must be done in order that we can "be somebody."  We are people who are called beloved - from the get go.  That word is our place of rest. This is where our anxious lives are handed a way not to spin around endlessly and what may seem to be forever.  The God of liberation from Egypt liberates us from the hellishness of life that never stops demanding that we must be more, do more, and produce more.  This is not an invitation to slothfulness.  Rather it is the way we are invited to see the day.  How am I going to be the Beloved of God today.  What will come my way?  What gift can I share? Who will come by me and open up my vision? How will I rest and become refreshed in the middle of a world that is dedicated to following the gods of productivity and surplus?
Connection: How often do you feel at rest during the day - at rest in the sense that you are assured that you are beloved and thus can catch your breath by breathing in this promise from God?
O God, you invite us to rest in you alone.  It is not always easy.  We have our agendas and the lists of things that must get done and cannot be interrupted - less we fail at the game of life.  Continue to call to us and touch us and remind us to breathe in your refreshing Spirit of life.  Amen.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Redeemer Devotions - 10 May, 2010

Adventures... in Hope - Redeemer Devotions 

 The break from life under Pharaoh and life within the community of Sinai was quite a dramatic change.  Walter Brueggemann continues to write about the central place of sabbath in the life of God's people.
The meeting of Sinai culminates in Exodus 24:3,7 which are oaths of allegiance and obedience.
 "All that the Lord has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient." (Exodus 24:7) 
Israel signs on gladly and quickly and without reservation to the demands of YHWH.  The rabbis have long noticed that the sequence of verbs is "do and hear" (shema = obey).  We might expect the reverse, "hear and do," but Israel acts first and then knows what has been commanded.  Israel knew from the outset that the commands of YHWH are better than the commands of Pharaoh.
There was something already different about being out there in the wilderness under the domain of YHWH.  Yeah, they were complaining on the way but they were being supplied with enough as was need.  Israel was already into the life of promise - following.  Now was the time to be shaped - to obey the commands that would continue to make for a corporate life that would be like a light to all nations.  This "loving God and loving neighbor" is a radical adventure and yet before they can see it completely, they are jumping on board - it is that good - that full.  It is not easy to remember that God has acted already and we are in the middle of promise before we do a thing. It is then that God's words pull us into the vision of what is to come.
Connection: There is something about the sacredness of what God has done even when we were not yet able to put the story together and make sense of the way we were being led. 
Lead us onward, O Lord of Life.  As we walk into your future, keep us alert to the promise you have handed to us so that our walk will be bold and full of courage and hope.  Amen.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Redeemer Devotions - 7 May, 2010

Adventures... in Hope - Redeemer Devotions 

 Walter Brueggemann keeps us looking at the importance of the command to keep holy the sabbath.  This is again from "Mandate to Difference."
 This command stands at the center of the decalogue and dominates the horizon of commands at Sinai;
  • The seventh day is holy....requiring a disengagement from the way we devote our other days to ourselves
  • The seventh day is for work stoppage....
  • The requirement of work stoppage is comprehensive....
  • But it is the motivations for work stoppage that is important for us.  The grounding of this dramatic work stoppage is that creation itself culminated in work stoppage for the creator after six days of creation.  As a consequence, this day, which is unlike every other day, is blessed, invested with power of life and healing, devoted to the mystery of God's own life.
  • From the eternal foundation of the world, the reality of God is not invested in perpetually "continuing creation," and so the ones in God's image are not invested in perpetual productivity.  Work stoppage characterizes the way in which the creator relates to creation.
As I was reading through this, I realized that this day is also a day when there would be nothing to do.  This could mean no worship.  We worship and honor and obey our God by letting go of our control of the day and maybe - even how we think we are to "structure" the day.  Rest - do nothing - do not use it a day to complete a project or even one where people have to pick up responsibilities within what we call a worship "service."  What would that kind of thinking do to worship life.  Well, it might make worship something we do in the midst of all the other things of the week.  it might be that worship is the work of the people that orders our week.  That is work.  Then, another day - a day of rest - a time to let go of the pull to create the world as we would want it.  Productivity is our way of attempting to rule.  I have to hear this more than I have to write about it.  Then....I wonder if it is work to enter into something that brings a person joy and refreshment and a sense of community.  I don't think that is so. I suppose we simply need not make the whole command to rest something we think we must regulate so that even thinking about the day makes us work about how to keep it holy.
Connection: It has taken me years to let go of the ordering of the day into segments of work.  Some weeks, I do let go and rest even when I could be "doing something" or "getting something done."  I have also come to see being with friends a way to rest and enter into a sacred time of simple conversation, fun, and food...and whatever.
You bless this day, O God, and you hand us our lives and tell us to be full of life and then also to make sure that we are full of rest.  Guide us in our resting and stepping out of the currents of the day and simply sitting back and putting our feet into the refreshing movement of your river of life and rest in you alone.  Amen. 

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Redeemer Devotions - 6 May, 2010

Adventures... in Hope - Redeemer Devotions 

 Today we pick up from the words God spoke at Sinai.  Yesterday there were nine times that God spoke (love of God - love of Neighbor).  Brueggeman now writes of the ten time God speaks.
And then this emancipatory voice circled back and pressed the "insert" button on his computer; YHWH inserted between the three on love of God and six on love of neighbor, the longest of all commandments.  The command on sabbath occupies a central position, because it looks back to the first three and the God of restfulness and it looks forward to the last six concerning the neighbor who needs restfulness.  Right at the center of this charter for freedom, the great God of freedom has placed the central provision for freedom that rings always and now in the years of the faithful: Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy.
 Most often this command is associated with a "day of rest" - as though it is fulfilled when we stop everything and do absolutely nothing - and rest.  The rest is vital for our lives.  It is much to easy to keep on running until we run ourselves out of life.  And yet, I wonder if it is good for us to look beneath the day of rest.  In some ways, taking a day of rest can be like another bit of work we have been able to accomplish - "Look what a good boy am I!"  In reality though, the sabbath rest is given to us as a gift - not a work.  We rest because God has promised to be our God and save us in and through all the days of our lives - even when we think we must win the day and make something of ourselves.  Sabbath rest is an explosion of laughter - at all our ways of making things work out and all of our controls that we think will win the day.  The laughter is an unbounded joy in which we are invited to remember that covenant with our God.  It is for me whenever I am able to rest as I remember the mark on my forehead - no one else notices it  but it helps me breathe, laugh, rest, breathe again.
Connection: A good restful discipline is a wonderful gift to the world.  For the undisciplined (like me) we must be vigilant to enter that rest and honor our God whose word of promise is enough to sustain us and bring life.
Again and again, O God, come and be our rock and foundation upon which we will rest and smile and laugh and love and know that you alone grant us such peace and rest.  Praise to you, O God of New Life.  Amen.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Redeemer Devotions - 5 May, 2010

Adventures... in Hope - Redeemer Devotions 

 When Israel is at the mountain in Sinai - God speaks.
 As you know, this mountain God of freedom speaks ten times, only ten, and then not again at Sinai, for after that everything comes via Moses.  These ten utterances constitute the only direct speech of YHWH.  As he spoke ten times, he spoke three times about the love of God, "love" being a covenant word for honoring treaty commitments.  You know them no rival gods, no manufactured replicas as fetishes, and no words that reduce God to a means. A pause....and then he spoke six times about love of neighbor, "love" being a covenant word for honoring treaty commitments.  You know these six about parents and killing and committing adultery and stealing and giving false witness and coveting.  Three for God and six for neighbor - nine altogether, love of god and love of neighbor, the two great commands. 
 The two great commands that must really be spoken together - one close to the other.  These are to be so close they must never be allowed to stand alone.  In fact, we must argue that they cannot stand alone.  To love God is to love neighbor - to love neighbor is to love God.  To go about the day saying we love God and yet the way we live with our neighbors is in the way of warfare and abuse and oppression, we are not really a  people who "love" God - or enter into a covenant relationship with God.  We become a distant people separated from God and separated from our neighbors.  At Sinai the life of the new community is being shaped for life that will not only be a covenant among themselves, it will also be a witness to the world of what it is to be in a covenant relationship with this God and God's people.  The covenant is no coercive.  It is a gift just as the life that is held up in these "words" for the people.
Connection: We are always walking in the covenant.  It is for us - it is for our living - it is for our joy and our fullness of life.
You, O God, make us your own and we are given the opportunity to reflect your glory within the simplicity of this day - in how we live with one another.  Guide us to be for others the touch of your love.  Amen.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Redeemer Devotions - 4 May, 2010

Adventures... in Hope - Redeemer Devotions 

 Today we will continue in - Mandate to Difference and a chapter called, "You Cannot Fool Your Nephesh." In the midst of theire stay at Sinai: 
 ....then and only this one time, the God of the mountain spoke.  This was a strange God whom they did not know.  First off, this God tells his name.  this name, however we are to take it, is a set of consonants with ill-fitting vowels.  Christian scholars say "YHWH"; Jews refuse to say it.  The name is an enigma, except that utterance fills out the inscrutable name, "....who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage."  Surprise!  The God they had already known as their great advocate and emancipator turns out to the God of the mountain.  This is the God who, on their behalf, outmatched and outmuscled Pharaoh, terminated the brick quota, and ended the hot , demanding brickyards.  That is the God who speaks, who now offer a charter for an alternative existence outside the categories of Pharaoh.
 Tomorrow we will look at what God speaks.  Today it is all about the one who speaks.  In our faithful storytelling we need to know who it is that we are following.  This is the God who takes life so seriously that God claims people and liberates them - no matter what odds against them might be.  Even though they were complaining all along the way, here they were at Sinai and God helps them make the connection between their past and their future.  This life in the embrace of this God would not shaped around the expectations and rules and demands of Pharaoh's empire.  This is going to be new life that is (as we so often say) to be a light to all.  Brickyards and the lord of those never-ending hell holes will not be the pattern of life anymore.  Now God's people are being introduced to a future that will become the reason they will for generations - and even to this day - return to Sinai to remember whose they are and who they are to be.  This is so often how I see the Eucharist each Sunday.  It is the story that opens up the vision of who this God is that we say we follow.  It is the story that then becomes our next steps as we move out in God's name to be the body of the Christ of God in and through all things - "an alternative existence."
Connection: What are the brickyards from which our God liberates you?  And then, what is the life into which you are invited today?  It is to be a discipline of hope.
God of Liberation and Freedom, teach us how to live within your Reign and let your light shine among us throughout this day.  Amen.