Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Redeemer Devotions - June 29, 2011

Adventures... in Hope - Redeemer Devotions 

Continuing with Marcia W. Mount Shoop.
Dispositions of adventure do not so much feel compelled to draw lines, but seek first to clear spaces for the indwelling of God's effusive Spirit. Humility and confidence are the connective tissue of these dispositions. Such a disposition is humbled by God's elusiveness at the same time that it is emboldened by God's immanence. The body's ambiguity is not so much to be feared, but is to be accepted as part  of the mystery of life. Dispositions of adventure are not afraid to welcome those who stretch the ways we have always thought and done things. These dispositions are hospitable to difference and embrace its challenges At the same time, relativism is not the character of these dispositions. Dispositions of adventure stand firmly in the conviction of a living God who has reconciled us to that life-giving reality.
That simple act of 'clearing spaces for the indwelling of God effusive Spirit' can bring about a change in direction when our lives are being lived under the weight of all the other fires that try to consume us. Clearing spaces within all the running around - that may only be happening in our heads - provides the possibility for viewing what it common and ordinary as brilliantly alive and available. Unfortunately, we too often are not able to see the clear spaces and therefore we are not able to breath in the life that is able to grow there. Instead we spin around - going nowhere and afraid to step out of what has been keeping us spinning.  This disposition of adventure is part of a freedom march beyond the place in which we stand knowing that we may become someone new with each step we take on this adventure in life.


Connection:  Clearing spaces may be as simple as taking a breath or closing our eyes or acting a bit out of character.  In all of these actions, provide us with a way to re-view ourselves in the midst of a new day.


When you draw us into the faithful adventure of life, O God, keep open our hearts that we may be pulled out of old ways and begin to see you present among us taking us into all that you have promised that is not yet. Amen.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Redeemer Devotions - June 28, 2011

Adventures... in Hope - Redeemer Devotions 

Today Mount Shoop quotes Alfred North Whitehead - I think it is wonderful
Alfred North Whitehead asserts that without adventure civilization trivializes religion and will eventually perish from its fear of what might be. He describes the nature of religion as follows:
Religion is the vision of something which stands beyond, behind, and within, the passing flux of immediate things; something that is real, and yet waiting to be realized; something which is a remote possibility, and yet the greatest of present facts...something which is the ultimate ideal, and the hopeless quest.... The worship of God is not a rule of safety - it is an adventure of the spirit, a flight after the unattainable. The death of religion comes with the repression of the high hope of adventure.
Mount continues - Religion and piety are not the quest for control or certainty, but they are the embodied trust of holy mystery. Dispositions of adventure are open to the ambiguity of God's mystery.
This is as dynamic of a quote as is needed for this conversation on adventure. Adventure is to be 'in play' with the world as it is engaging us. Faithfulness is the backbone to such a willingness to move into that which is ambiguous and yet know for certain that what will unfold will be a part of the procession of faithfulness through time. I know that I am often one who wants to pin something down and say "this is it." And yet, that which I am trying to pin down is never 'it.' Rather, it may be a piece of what will unfold next. Too often, we can be led astray before that which is next is allowed to engage us and we to engage it. Fear and anxiety often find ways to rule us and turn us into idolatrous people set on security rather than faithfulness. Therefore, we need those people around us who continue to draw us into mystery so that questions never cease and faithfulness blossoms in ways we may have never anticipated.


Connection:  It never fails. Safety is allowed to rule even as God is drawing us out into the wilderness of what is not yet. If you are like me, do you find yourself stepping back or to the side rather than stepping forward into the realm of hopefulness that is not yet securely in place?


When you draw us into the faithful adventure of life, O God, draw us into that holy mystery that is the way of your Reigning power. Amen.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Redeemer Devotions - June 27, 2011

Adventures... in Hope - Redeemer Devotions 

This week is a continuation from "Let the Bones Dance" in a section named - Dispositions of Adventure: Embodying Ambiguity.
The discordant and melodious metaphors of the body's language are indeed cryptic. But dispositions of adventure take their obscurity as an invitation to seek not control, but surrender, humility, and hope. Dispositions of adventure are open and indeterminate. They trust God to help us live in the gray areas of both our sinfulness and our created goodness. Dispositions of adventure are not afraid of what God's mystery makes possible. These dispositions can spot idolatry and are ready to explode the hold it has on us. Dispositions of adventure have convictions, but avoid the stagnation of unbending dogmatism. 
When there can be so many voices of fear coming out of the church - though I never understand that action - it is so good to hear that 'dispositions of adventure are not afraid of what God's mystery makes possible.' We are the ones who live within the promise of our God who has walked with us in and through all things and then promises to be with us in and through all things that will come. We are not sure how this life will unfold and we will be tempted to be pulled off the way by many powers of the day that do not care about God's Reign or the healing of all things. Never can we be a people who must know anything more than our God will walk with us - even when the way we walk is not a clear path of good and bad. Within the choices of the day we must deal with those 'gray areas' and we must do that with a sense of how our God - in Christ - walked in the midst of just such a world. As this kind of adventurous folks, we learn what it is to hold on and what it is to let go. This simply means that we are free to bend - free to bow - free to stand up - free to say 'yes' or 'no' - free to give ourselves away in humble acts of service for the well-being of others.  Nothing to fear in that - only celebration upon celebration.


Connection:  When we enter an adventure, we do so with a purpose. If it is too rigid, we often enter into warfare with others. If it is too soft, we never put forth a vision. When we are open to inspiration that blows our way, we will find ourselves in new places with a sense of character and grace.


When you draw us into the faithful adventure of life, O God, inspire us to move within the hopefulness of your Reign. Amen.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Redeemer Devotions - June 24, 2011

Adventures... in Hope - Redeemer Devotions 

Once again, a phrase within Mount Shoop's writing bring out the depth of adventure that is the life of the body of Christ.
The ambiguity of the body has generally been something that the church has either ignored or feared. Moral purity is often left unbalanced by substantive attention to the body's fragmentation and the promise that fragmentation holds. Ambiguity, like holy mystery, has life-giving capacity and shows traces of God's image in us. Feeling shows us that ambiguity is part of the created genius of our bodies. Dispositions of adventure do not try to erase the ambiguity, but welcome it with the confidence of faith. Dispositions of adventure embrace the capacity of the body to be a helper in our spiritual journey, not simply a distraction or, worse yet, only a liability.
The phrase that grabbed me was simply the note about how we are to deal with ambiguity -welcome it with the confidence of faith. Too often religious people run away from ambiguity. It is as though there is something within these moments and times that will overwhelm us or conquer us. And yet, that is quite unbiblical. Never were the people of Israel or the disciples or the first followers of Jesus to be deterred by the stuff around them that seemed to be down right out of control and - at best - confusing. Rather, they walked with a confidence of faith. We must remember that. Walk with a confidence of faith. We do not need to be known as a people who seem to be afraid of the world around us or troubles that may be towering over us - but that is quite how the church is viewed by many people. We often look as though we are trying to control the world and control it in such a way that only one view of life is able to 'work.' We must remember that within days of chaos God's whirling wind of life makes a people - a simple, common people - into saints who boldly engage whatever is around us. We engage it all knowing that nothing - can separate us from the love of God.


Connection:  Ambiguity is not comfortable for many folks. Therefore our God promises to be present - with us - in and through all the messes that may spill over into the day. We may do best to trust that this is so and watch with open hearts for how God's Reign will open up around us.


When you draw us into the faithful adventure of life, O God, we have our ways of stuttering and moving slowly and often turning to run away. Continue to pull us and inspire us that we will walk with you through all things. Amen.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Redeemer Devotions - June 23, 2011

Adventures... in Hope - Redeemer Devotions 

I hope you find this next section from Mount Shoop (Dispositions of Adventure: Embodying Ambiguity) to be interesting - maternal images of church.
Maternal bodies, multiple mothers, and fragmented subjectivity are embodied metaphors for dispositions of adventure. Triviality and isolation are what we need to avoid, not ambiguity and indeterminacy. There is no way to tidy up the ambiguity of motherhood: and all of us live in that same embodied truth. Human embodied life is like that. We are deeply marked by our experiences. My body's capacity to function well is an idiosyncratic expression of relationships, experiences, feelings resistance, surrender, and embrace. Your body's capacity is the same. The church as Body of Christ is no different. The zest and connection of embodied mothering are like the rich texture of holy mystery, spiritual awakening, sacred attunement, and tenacious hope.
It is so easy to stay in the world of the trivial and never take on the adventure that dips us down into the depths of our world - personal and universal. And yet, to dig down deep or simply let ourselves become acquainted with that which is not as we are means that we will face those ambiguities that tend to frighten us or cause confusion. It is there that our lives are really expanded so that we can see just how wide and deep is the love of God that is at the very heart of our adventures in the church. As we risk to step our of our isolated worlds, we begin the journey of life that is intended for our humanity in the image of God. I am always interested in hearing how people have been pulled out of one way of seeing or hearing or living simply by letting themselves be exposed to what they do not know or cannot control. For in that place, we are invited to listen and share a bit of life that is common to all of us.


Connection:  Just think about how many times you have heard someone move from a position in which they look at "them" with suspicious if not fearful eyes. Then, in many and various ways, they come to find out that the ones who seen as them - the ones that could be side-stepped - are really very much like 'us.'  I love to see that freedom in the faces of those who are being transformed - born again.


When you draw us into the faithful adventure of life, O God, we do not know the path or the end or the manner in which we will move along the way. And yet, we ask that you continue to call us, draw us,pull us beyond ourselves and into your blessed Reign. Amen.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Redeemer Devotions - June 22, 2011

Adventures... in Hope - Redeemer Devotions 

I hope you find this next section from Mount Shoop (Dispositions of Adventure: Embodying Ambiguity) to be interesting.
Perhaps the most profound error of conventional Christian belief is that our faith brings with it certainty. This grasping for certainty has a variety of faces in the Body of Christ. Biblical literalism, moral rigidity, political polarization, church splits, and the condemnation of other faiths are just a few of these faces. Another face of this grasping is the unbalanced intellectualism in worship and theology in mainline Protestantism. Many Christians fear that living in ambiguity without finding some certainty is a slippery slope to moral relativism, structural chaos, and erosion of Christian identity. And many mainline Christians fear that living with ambiguity hastens a dumbing down of our Reformed heritage. These fears are often soothed with moral absolutes or bulletproof intellectual arguments. Motherhood models a different mode of living with ambiguity. Its proximity to the mess, muddle, stress, constant needs, wants, missteps, and steep learning curves of children steeps motherhood in ambiguity. But here indeterminacy and unknown find relevant and substantive expression not in certainty, not in relativism, but in adventure.
In the middle of this angle on motherhood comes a wonderful word of promise. The Church can make it through the messes that come up and spread out. We can and we will be able to "bend and bow" and not lose the life that is the organic body of Christ becoming new to the world each day. I'm hearing a sharp critique of all sides of the Church. Some I can see in others and then - wham - she's writing about me. And yet, it fits. At Redeemer we have used the expression 'an adventure for life' as one that will be the experience of the congregation as we come together to follow Jesus. I really find that this image of motherhood speaks to that statement and makes it much more accessible - I shall keep this image!


Connection:  Maybe this is finally the reason to call it "mother church" - ambiguity that has a living power to it all.


When you draw us into the faithful adventure of life, O God, be our guide so that we do not turn from you to the ways of the world that are afraid of the living ambiguity that is life.  Amen.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Redeemer Devotions - June 21, 2011

Adventures... in Hope - Redeemer Devotions 

A last piece from this section of "Let the Bones Dance" - Marcia W. Mount Shoop - in a section called 'Disposition of Interdependence: Embodying Relationality.'
Worship experiences that allow bodies to be awake to interconnection are centrifuges for dispositions of interdependence to be practiced and to spring from lived realities. Worship can be a place where churches learn to settle in to the labor pains that usher in new ways of being church.... We surrender too a power we share in. This kind of surrender brings with it expansive possibilities instead of a rigid set of standards. The power allows us to stretch a bit. It does no constrict. This kind of power releases us from the need to control with our consciousness or rationality: it allows us to live with contradictions and creative tension. Distortions are gently healed relational practices that pay attention to differences, to uniqueness, to strangers who cross our paths, and to strangers within ourselves. The idols of individualism and conformity that we tend to deify in church communities can give way to icons of active, ingenious, embodied relationship. The Spirit moves freely when the Body of Christ remains open to the interdependence of God's creative presence.
The fact that we come together as one body means that the individual must move away from what is mine and for me. Worship draws us into what is ours - what is given to us - the people of God - the body of Christ. Since I am up front each Sunday, I must say that I thoroughly enjoy the visuals. I enjoy seeing singles and couples and families all arranged in pews and in seats as they - as themselves - take part in the larger picture of worship. It is not always easy - but people work at it. There is the noisy child and the parent(s) who attempt to limit the disturbance - the very quiet soul who is often sitting with closed eyes - the many faces of people participating in the singing of a hymn - the person that does not sing - the person who does not say the creed - those who find delight in the enthusiasm of children being children in worship - the ones who are embracing fear and doubt - the sad and lonely, each one taking us beyond ourselves as we worship the one who claims each and every one in the boat. It is truly in such a space that the Spirit moves the church in new ways through new days. The Spirit brings all of us together in the hope that our relationships and companionships will bring life to the world.


Connection:  I find that the Holy Spirit is always expansive. Too often, I hear people talk about 'spirit-filled people' but when I look at them, their lives are filled with restrictions. I find the expansive wind of the Spirit to be life-giving and adventurous.


Gather us as one, O God, so that we may see the way you open yourself to the wide variety that makes us your beloved humanity. It will be then that we begin to see the other as sister or brother.  Amen.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Redeemer Devotions - June 20, 2011

Adventures... in Hope - Redeemer Devotions 

This week we pick up with "Let the Bones Dance" - Marcia W. Mount Shoop - in a section called 'Disposition of Interdependence: Embodying Relationality.'
The sacrament of the Lord's Supper is one of the most promising spaces for such body language. Breaking bread and drinking wine re-member our relational language. Dispositions of interdependence strive to give that reconnectional flesh. Liturgies for the Lord's Supper could allow participants to nurture responsiveness in how the meal is shared - face to face, hand to hand, voice to voice. The Lord's Supper could be emphasized for how it re-members Christ's body by putting broken relationships back together, by gathering in those who are estranged or dis-membered from the community of faith. Interdependence enables the Lord's Supper to embody what it is  - a joyful feast of relationship, reconciliation, and re-membering Christ's body.
The Lord's Supper is a moving time in worship. Moving in the sense that we literally get up and move - together. Even if someone is not able to move to the front to receive the meal, the meal is brought out to them. It is also moving in the sense that we get a glimpse of the community saying "yes."  The body moves together. Walter Bouman used to say that coming forward to take the meal was the Lutheran version of an altar call. We do come forward as part of our ongoing discipline of following Jesus. We do come forward as individuals longing for food to sustain our hearts and souls and as a community longing to have our life together made whole and faithful. One of the most meaningful parts of the liturgy for me as the presiding minister, is to offer the bread - face to face - to people of all ages and all backgrounds. How one takes the meal is not key - it is key that one does take part in this simple act of remembrance that is the power to transform our life together.


Connection:  This sharing of this simple meal is a time to re-member one another. It can be the visual reminder of who we are to be when we say that Jesus is Lord and that our lives follow within the domain of that gracious Reign.


Gather us as one, O God, as we walk together remembering your empowering love for life that takes on the servant life of your Beloved.  Amen.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Redeemer Devotions - June 17, 2011

Adventures... in Hope - Redeemer Devotions 

From "Let the Bones Dance" - Marcia W. Mount Shoop - in a section called 'Disposition of Interdependence: Embodying Relationality.'
Dispositions of interdependence adjust to the entangled nature of existence by embracing creativity with surrender and self-assertion like the birthing body. Dispositions of interdependence are receptive to how we are all conditioned by all else that is, as well as to how we impact all that is. Just as a mother giving birth needs support, affirmation of her strength, and people who see her and care for her, dispositions of interdependence practice such modes of connection within faith communities. How do we empower and affirm? How do we honor and trust? How do we surrender and assert?
This kind of interdependence is often missing in the church. It is as though each family or household is merely connected by being in attendance. And yet, the body calls for all of us to risk being a vital part of the whole body. That will come to mean that we do find ways in which others can be supported and held and healed. It also means that we allow ourselves to be supported and held and healed by others. It can become so easy for the church to simply mirror the communities of the world where each is to make it on their own. As we can see on the news, some communities rally around a household in distress. This is news! And yet, this is to be the everyday experience among the followers of Jesus. Is it?


Connection:  I'll simply repeat these questions: How do we empower and affirm? How do we honor and trust? How do we surrender and assert?


Gather us as one, O God, and remind us of the way you created us to be a people whose lives shine like your glory - forever abiding with each other in love - even at great risk. Amen.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Redeemer Devotions - June 16, 2011

Adventures... in Hope - Redeemer Devotions 

Sorry for the later send today - once again from "Let the Bones Dance" - Marcia W. Mount Shoop - in a section called 'Disposition of Interdependence: Embodying Relationality.'
Much like a placenta, which facilitates, mediates, and nourishes , those informed by interdependence are intimately tethered to entities with differing, even competing, needs. Dispositions of interdependence grow accustomed to engaging differences and contradictions. Creativity informs these dispositions of interdependence by giving flesh to how we share in the efficacy and delicacy of creation. Dispositions of interdependence strive to read the poetics of the body for how it speaks of all creation. These dispositions integrate the fact of cellular relationality with all the activities of life. Cellular interdependence calls for response-ability that does not limit itself to human life. Environmental care becomes a spiritual practice, not simply an ethical or moral choice. Power is not imposed, but shared.  In-formed by the wonder of how God self-emptied in the Christ event, human beings can empty self into relational experience. We need not fear that interdependence is the same as fusion. Our own particular uniqueness is actually more ennobled in this mode of relationship than it is in orientations that grasp for individuality or separation. In an interdependent world our uniqueness is a given, and severing ties is an impossibility.
It is not easy to engage 'differences and contradictions.' And yet, that is what is real and set before us each day. I like the image of poetry used here. When the body is engaged and available, there is a possibility for movement in life that does become a bit of beauty that has the complexity of a poet. When we are a body defined by the self-giving life of our God in Christ, we become attached to all things and can no longer isolate something as outside. This has much to say about who we become as a community of faithful ones and it has much to say with how we - as this community - respond to the world around us as though there is an intimate connection with that which is not us - even such things as the environment. Once again I hear in this writing something that has been a part of so many of the serious and faithful biblical and theological writers who are so good at bringing all things within the loving relationship of our God and the call for us all to be stewards of creation so that nothing can be set off as not us.


Connection:  It is good to ask - what are we doing here? This can apply to political decisions or personal decisions or church decisions.  What are we doing here - are we being this interdependent body that continually witnesses to the welfare of all?  Or are we living in accord to some other word? 


Gather us as one, O God, that as we are drawn into a life shaped by your self-emptying ways, we will fear no evil  - but only see your life become us. Amen

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Redeemer Devotions - June 15, 2011

Adventures... in Hope - Redeemer Devotions 

Once again from "Let the Bones Dance" - Marcia W. Mount Shoop - in a section called 'Disposition of Interdependence: Embodying Relationality.'
What if bodies refused to be invisible? What if they were given the space to tell the truth about our connections with all that is? What if we let models of relationship and interdependence like placentas, midwives, and bodies giving birth in-form our dispositions? The embodied embrace of this kind of truth and power could surely hasten the church's capacity to be response-able . The new creek bed in-formed by practice finds its path through the relationships and connections that intersect us all. We are tangled up with everything that is. Our connections with one another, and with God are cellular.
She is certainly asking for the body of Christ to be a vulnerable gathering of saints - and rightly so. We will not be able to be response-able if we do not see and hear and experience the truthfulness of the condition of life of those all around us. Such openness does leave us open to anything that may come our way and we will be handed the opportunity to step up and step in to see to the well-being of those within the community. In this way the whole is made more and more into one body that continues to reflect the way of the Christ among us. We will move forward - always. But along the way it will be the encounters that will give us depth and beauty and purpose and meaning.  From that - comes a well in-formed and response-able people. 


Connection:  Not everyone likes to be tied too tightly to others. Then again, when we are honest with one another, we can each learn to ask for more or less attention and to ask where and when we can be available to others.


Gather us as one, O God, making us this body of Christ that brings to life the compassion of our Lord so that our life in community is really a new life in the world. Amen.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Redeemer Devotions - June 14, 2011

Adventures... in Hope - Redeemer Devotions 

Once again from "Let the Bones Dance" - Marcia W. Mount Shoop
Christianity is a healing faith and our liturgy, music, and practices need to attend to bodies with more consistency and more depth. Redemption means we live in, and in hopes of, healing. The "already" gives way to the "not yet" when we practice what we preach. With intentional practices of compassion believers and the communities they inhabit will begin to see, feel, hear, and taste the good news in new ways. There is pain in human life; let the church be a space to express all that comes with that fact. Let the church be a space where redemption can find flesh in the power to be there and not be destroyed, in the power to suffer with indignation. Redeemed bodies accept that pain and suffering seep into the cells of our bodies.
Again this is more than something about my body - it is about the body called the Church. In attending to bodies, the body of the church is introduced to new life - life that is vulnerable and available. Through our willingness to be with others in and through the pains of their lives the whole community is transformed. We cannot always be sure of what that transformation will be - and yet, we will be changed. Whenever we are pulled into the life of those who are broken and forgotten and waiting to be healed, we are also pulled into the journey of becoming more than who we thought we were. Compassion is a strange characteristic. We will always find that we are stretched and made aware of how full life can become for everyone. Compassion is a two-way experience. We each walk away healed and more whole as human beings. Maybe it is simply because compassion is at the very core of what it means to human. The truly human one is compassionate - not will be or could be - is compassionate. Sometimes it just take us a long time to live out of that core.


Connection:  We do not have to go far to see a world in need of others - those who will connect and care and heal. Just take a look around you as you wander through this day.


Gather us as one, O God, and send us out into this day with your healing power among us so that as we encounter the pains of others we may see in then our own pains and then move to be with them - compassionate companions. Amen.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Redeemer Devotions - June 13, 2011

Adventures... in Hope - Redeemer Devotions 

We continue today with reflections on compassion.
Christian dispositions of compassion re-member the body by acknowledging, listening, and taking care of bodies who mourn. Dispositions of compassion allow for re-membering to be more than recollection. This healing work honors the body's complicated need to tell a story and to grieve. Compassion holds grieving bodies by laying hands, anointing with oil,  helping them to fall to their knees in prayer, or by simply breathing in and out (because there may be times when that is all a body can do). Compassion receives, accepts, and meanders as embodied stories ebb, flow, and even contradict themselves. 
This past week I have made multiple trips to the hospital to be with a man who is in the ICC unit. He has a vent in place and cannot communicate with anything more than his eyes and a gripping hand.  First, I have become so much more aware of how much a person can say through their touch and with their eyes. But here is also a case of someone who cannot even breath on his own. All his body can do is receive the touch and looks and voices of others. He must count on the breathing of a bedside machine - and yet there is a vitality of life that longs to be made whole. I have also learned again that though I am 'making the visit,'  he is offering some of his story - a vulnerable side that allows me in. Our stories intersect in that small room and in his eyes, I see love, hope, fear, power, and weakness. It has helped me re-member those who it is so easy to forget.


Connection:  Sometimes, touch is so important - and then the silence between breathes and word - and then the look into the face of another one of God's beloved children. In and through all of that we all take part in that wonder called compassion.


Gather us as one, O God, and help us breath with one another and learn more of that gentle Spirit that make us all whole.  Amen. 

Friday, June 10, 2011

Redeemer Devotions - June 10, 2011

Adventures... in Hope - Redeemer Devotions 

Mount Shoop just keeps coming with wonderful words about compassion.
Dispositions of compassion balance out the important descriptive power of sin by creating spaces for grief apart from judgment. Compassion does not exclude sin and judgment, but it locates them within a more complicated understanding of the human situation. Compassion suffers with, while working to understand the conditions that gave rise to the suffering in a broader sense. But it does not try to justify suffering. Compassion does not blame the victim; and it does not condemn the perpetrator without some sense of how those who are at fault also embody the tragic nature of human embodied life. Compassion is not afraid to love others enough to hold them to its own standards, but it does not demonize. It suffers with, but that is not all. Not letting suffering have the last word means making space for what needs to be better. Compassion sits with loss, and it hopes for better. It does not rush grief as a way to hurry though the pain. Compassion pushes toward a new quality of life in which we are able to live with loss honestly at the same time that it breaks through isolation and despair.
Once again it is one line, among many, that catches me. "Compassion is not afraid to love others enough to hold them to its own standards, but it does not demonize." As we live in a broken world, we are all in need of some re-formation. That is a life-long process in which we are willing to see all sides of things without having to destroy or cast the other down and out. That is when we will find ourselves in that 'space' that allows for things to be healed and get better.  That place is traditionally called salvation. It is a place in which we are able to see the wide bounds of God's gracious love without having to put our restrictions on it. When we are able to see the hopefulness of what is coming, we are empowered to move and change and come to a place that knows of our brokenness but also see that there is something more - something into which we really can move and live.  


Connection:  God makes us a compassionate people. It is by the power of such love for us that we become able to stand with and alongside anyone that may come alongside us and love them enough to simply care for them and help them move along the way. 


Gather us as one, O God, that all may see how your grace creates a new day as we make our way alongside the lives of others.. Amen. 

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Redeemer Devotions - June 9, 2011

Adventures... in Hope - Redeemer Devotions 

We are shaped by our compassion as it serves to shape our love .
Disposition of compassion name and in-form the kind of people we can become as practitioners of compassion. As Christians we are called to love one another as God loved us. God loves us with compassion - with a faithful presence, with the willingness to suffer with us, and with the refusal to let suffering have the last word. God's compassion was and is enfleshed in the life of Jesus Christ, who suffered as a body. In Christ, God suffers with us indignantly, and in every moment of our suffering God offers the unique power and promise of Beauty. This Beauty is the mysterious way that God always offers the possibility of life renewed. In God, nothing is lost; even the wreckage of life is reweaved back into who we can become. God's compassion offers the efficacy of Beauty, even as our pain and suffering are truly acknowledged. God's compassion is infinitely patient and uniquely powerful.
"In God nothing is lost." Wow. I must remember that for myself but also for the ones I see who can only see that they are left out or have done things that leave them out or are seen as people who must be left out simply because of who they are and what they have done. "In God nothing is lost." This is not another way of saying we can go about life as we would usually walk through it - turned-in-on-ourselves. Rather, God is always able to find us and secure us and hold us and make us into something more than the broken people we so readily become when we are filled with fear and anxiety. "In God nothing is lost." That is a gracious move - almost too much to absorb. And yet, that is where the Good News always takes us even when we try to turn it into something else. There is always "the possibility of life renewed" - always. Obviously, it doesn't sound like beauty. How can wreckage become beauty? Then I recall some pieces of art that are amazing because of the trauma or brokenness that preceded the end product - that is now wonderfully beautiful.


Connection:  Nothing is lost because the one who forms us from the beginning of time is still forming us and taking us and making us God's own. Some days that may seem completely impossible.


Gather us as one, O God, that we may see the beauty that you already see within the diversity of your people. Amen.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Redeemer Devotions - June 8, 2011

Adventures... in Hope - Redeemer Devotions 

I don't know anything about Shantideva - but here is another bit of input from this Buddhist.
According to Shantideva, practices of compassion must be a part of an intricate constellation of virtues and practices. Compassion is never isolated from a broader tapestry of virtues, which include patience and forbearance. For Shantideva, this constellation of virtues must also always rest on the axiom of conditionality. That all things arise from conditions and causes is the foundation of compassion's ability not to rush to judgment. Conditionality grounds every being in the shared tragic structure of existence. This understanding of conditions does not absolve individuals of responsibility, but it prevents the demonization of any one person. It also prevents any simplistic understanding of guilt and blame. The complicated fabric of compassion gives us latitude of vision. All of us become who we are in a tangled, complicated web of conditions and causes.
We become a compassionate people as we become more and more whole ourselves. When we see our light and dark sides and realize that all of us carry around such baggage we become more and more free to reach out and care for the other without letting all of the 'stuff' between us and in us keep us at a distance. I know that it can be too easy to demonize. I hate that about myself. To move through that temptation demands patience and forbearance (as noted above). It also demands that I listen to others who I prayerfully hope will help me see my biases so that compassion can become a part of my life. I don't find that as an easy task. But - it is essential. We will never be able to become untangled from all of our stuff. Maybe we can be helped along the way to untangle ourselves.  Then we will be free to be open to engaging the other no matter what we think they have done or what they deserve.


Connection:  There is a hymn that asks "bind us together, Lord." As that happens, it could be that we become less and less bound up by our own stuff - our brokenness - our fear.


Gather us as one, O God, for it is as one - in your name - that we begin to take in the shalom of your blessed Reign. Amen.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Redeemer Devotions - June 7, 2011

Adventures... in Hope - Redeemer Devotions 

More on compassion - in "Let the Bones Dance."
Shantideva, an ancient source of wisdom in the Buddhist tradition, imparts to us a beautiful constellation of how compassion orients itself toward the suffering of the world. Compassion focuses on the human condition as such - we all suffer. Compassion does not concern itself with guilt or innocence, but it focuses on suffering itself. Shantideva tells us that clinging to moral dichotomies in the face of suffering only increases suffering. Compassion is always, first and foremost, about the work of acknowledging and alleviating suffering.

Compassion seems to be that power among us that puts us into action for the sake of those who suffer. There is no need to find out what side someone is on - who they represent - where they have been - where they are going. The Samaritan who offered help to the wounded person alongside the road - acted. Done. The one who was beaten did not wait for the Samaritan to show credentials - help! Compassion moves us. Maybe it is one of the necessary gifts needed as we take the steps toward love of enemy. We become so involved in "them" that we are given opportunity upon opportunity to see "them" without the baggage of life's biases. It is then that we can lean toward those who suffer and are in need rather than lean away - or even run away from them. I find it odd that those who suffer often become those others fear. Those on the backside of events - the side that experiences suffering of all forms - are those from whom many run. We also have a way of pointing our fingers at them and making their lives worse by coming up with reasons why they are in their condition. Sometimes there is even some fear that if we come to close to 'them,' their predicament may wipe off on us. So rather than move toward them - we pull back.


Connection:  Can we walk through one day (as a start) and focus on the suffering of others by moving toward them so that we can get to know what is needed? Can we do that before making judgments that we think are right and true?


Gather us as one, O God, so that as we gather together we not only see suffering up close, but we also tend to the wounds of those who suffer. Empower us and give us hearts of compassion. Amen.