Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Redeemer Devotions - August 31, 2011

Adventures... in Hope - Redeemer Devotions 

Today is the day before my three month sabbatical begins. These devotions may take several forms for the next months.
1. Old posts from years ago - years ago.
2. Old posts plus ongoing posts as I read and have something on which I would like to reflect without it being considered work in any way.
It is my bet that we will move forward with #2. Today it is one more piece from Marcia Mount Shoop.

Christian community is no place for fear. When we cast out fear, we expect and we embody great things; an end to racism, an end to homophobia, and an end to violence. We expect and embody the day when justice flows and promises are fulfilled. We look for it, we anticipate it, and we dispose ourselves accordingly. Being informed by surrender is not easy for mainline Protestants. We are accustomed to being in control. This act of trust means that Caucasian Protestants, in particular, may need to reflect on their fears and the privileges whites in particular have secured by letting fear dictate how our communities are formed and function. Such vulnerability is only palatable when we re-member ourselves in God's hands.


When we are people who say we live by the Word of God. It is not by what we can remember of that word. It is what we re-member. That seems to be an important jump. We use important words so that our lives will be filled with the substance of those important words. Fine word thrown onto a sheet of paper or lifted high in the singing of hymns are merely decorations that can be torn down at the end of the day. We are people who are told that our words - words that share promise - move their way into the bits and pieces of our lives so that people are able to see and say - 'that is what that word means.' We say love enemy and love neighbor. Sometimes it will be lived out with lives that undo racism. Our focus is not the racism - it is the glory of the Reign of God where there is no such concept! Our words put us into such a place and time. It is not one that corresponds to the images and biases of the world. That is why we are often people who consider ourselves aliens. We are invited to embrace that word and the Land of Hopefulness and Joy from which we have been given life eternal.

Connection: We can live new lives - the words are already in our vocabulary. Therefore we never have to make up words or images. They are the gift given to us within the community of God's beloved.


You, O God, empower us to let go and listen to your word and then, the world is made open to new life that is quite beyond our expectations. Thanks be to you, O God. Amen.







Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Redeemer Devotions - August 30, 2011

Adventures... in Hope - Redeemer Devotions 

Another part of 'in-forming surrender' by Maria Mount Shoop.

In God's plentitude we can also let go of our fear that there is not enough of God's grace to go around. Trusting that means living as if it is true. The church can model how to live in a world of fear with revolutionary embodied compassion and surrender. Hospitality to the stranger can become more than nice welcome packets to give to visitors when they walk in the door. This kind of trust in God means that we embrace the strangers who walk in and embody the "otherness" that we fear the most because they are there for us. The church cannot be church without them. Theological, racial, economic, and other expressions of differences are not just a nice idea. They are an embodied necessity for the Body of Christ to thrive. Our interdependence means that ruptured relationships with those we "otherize" diminish our lives in Christ. Like a good midwife, the saints of the church can support and attend to difference and the new life it can bring.


Trusting in God means we embrace the stranger. And yet, but much of the rhetoric we hear from 'religious' folks these days is that we must hold the other suspect. Most odd in this kind of thing is the notion that churches will only serve or hire Christians or people they think they can turn around. Are we so unsure of God's power to rescue and save and heal that we must hold people hostage. That is like saying we are more powerful than God. Open church means open - no hostages - no 'gotta do this to get that" - no we think we do this best.  Rather, it is from the other that we become the beloved we are called by God. We are always being called to bring to life the love of Christ - without holding back or saving it for someone who deserves it or is like us. When we do that, I would think we are not really about the love of Christ but the love of our own live and that of our institutions.

Connection: The gift of hospitality is a wonderful gift that brings the world together when it would usually attempt to be divided.


You, O God, empower us to let go and listen to your word and then, when we are afraid of what might come, be the blessed assurance you always have been and promise to be. Amen.







Monday, August 29, 2011

Redeemer Devotions - August 29, 2011

Adventures... in Hope - Redeemer Devotions 

Another part of 'in-forming surrender.'

In this practice of compassion and gentleness, Christ's mind and heart can become ours. This gentle, generous, thankful heart is not timid. Its boldness comes not from fulfillment or from certainty; it comes from the deeply informed surrender to the way God's unique power works. if we are thankful in all those things, then we can even be thankful when God's Spirit intersects our lives with those "others" who scare us so much. We can encounter differences as providential. We can embrace the mystery of this gift in our lives without fear.


A "deeply informed surrender to the way of God's unique power works" is the way of allowing one's self to unfold with a sense of gentleness. I like that image. It is not an easy place to go. Too often, we hold on and keep our minds settled on that which we know and what we want and what we can control. And yet, our God gifts us with a Spirit of boldness that is willing to step back into the position of surrender so that we may look again at all the things in our life over which we may feel the need to enter into warfare. When we do not have this foundation of hopefulness that is a gift from our God, we will be scared into all sorts of crazy ways of pointing our fingers and casting stones. It is in that act of surrendering to God's power of life that is handed to each of us, that we begin to open our eyes and see that the one who is cast as the 'other' is really a sister and a brother that we have not yet had the time or opportunity to meet more fully. But to meet them with open arms means we must not fear them.


Connection: This reminds me of what I included in a wedding sermon this weekend. It had to simply do with the notion that we are all people of power - the power of being. From there, we connect with others - we draw to others (love) and within that love we honor the other for their otherness and we see to it that we do not trample them or dim their light (justice).


You, O God, empower us to let go and listen to your word - that is enough to ask this day.   Amen.







Friday, August 26, 2011

Redeemer Devotions - August 25, 2011

Adventures... in Hope - Redeemer Devotions 

Another part of 'in-forming surrender.'

Paul bears this out for us in his letter to the church in Philippi, especially in 4:4-7. Like Isaiah's, Paul's vision of the world is not born out of naivete or lack of contact with the shadow side of human life. Paul wrote this letter from prison. And Paul was someone who had known fear and loathing. He had at one time built his life around hate. Paul was a man transformed by the compassion and love of Christ. In this letter to a church he loved he wants to extend this disposition of "gentleness," which is how the NRSV and NIV translate epieikes (4:5). It is really much more than gentleness; the term suggests generosity toward others. Other translations use works like 'forbearance' or 'moderation.' This gentleness is intimately entwined with compassion. This mode of operation does not just tolerate other people; it is intentional in its generosity toward others. This disposition is not a "live and let live" libertarianism; it is a committed involvement with people. It is the willingness to bear the differences of limitations of another. This disposition is patient and merciful; it is not anxious or harsh. This, according to Paul is that for which followers of Christ should be known.


This 'gentleness' sure has a feeling of being pulled into the mix of things. Nothing is avoided. Rather, we extend ourselves out to those we may not usually give ourselves. It also brings back that image that we are the ones who bridge the gap. We do not wait for the other to come to us for the healing of the world. We go out and we step across the divide or jump right into it with the hope that there will be healing as we enter into the divide for the welfare of others. Gentleness is not a 'soft' word. It is a courageous word. Martin Luther King, Jr. walked into the day with a gentleness that overturned the status quo. Whoa! The same can be send of Gandhi and the whole gentle engagement with the British. In these cases we saw the amazing power of patience and the wild incarnation of mercy that is extended to enemies as much as it would be to friends. Simply amazing.


Connection: Where within this day will this kind of gentleness help to create a better day for each of us and those we encounter? 


You, O God, empower us to let go and listen to your word. Give us eyes to see those around us as your beloved so that we will treat them as just such people.   Amen.







Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Redeemer Devotions - August 23, 2011

Adventures... in Hope - Redeemer Devotions 

Staying with Mount Shoop's notion of in-forming, today we enter a section called "in-forming Surrender."

What if churches spent more time practicing how to surrender to divine power to the Christ-living power that vivifies who we are? Isaiah and Peter ware tow of our forebears who had their fingers on a pulse categorically different from fear. These men were immersed in the world, but not overcome by its cruelty and disappointment.  And their visions are not naive. They reflect and refract a strong intention to live toward God. Isaiah invites believers to respond to God's work in the world with thanksgiving: "Surely God is my salvation. I will trust in God; I will not be afraid; God is my strength and my might; with joy I will draw from the well of salvation....I will sing to the Lord" (Isaiah 12:2,5) Thanksgiving is an act of trust and it is a rejection of fear. It is even the audacity to be joyful in the midst of hardship and peril.  
I like the image of one having a 'strong intention to live toward God.' It is a truthful statement. It carries with it the understanding that in the middle of things, I may not do and be exactly what I pray I will be. The intention is there. Yet, it is in that intention that the life takes up its place and faithfulness emerges even when we are being pounded by the fears of our lives. We intend to live toward God and for now - we will do it.  Lord God help us. We admit that we are not those brave warriors of the movies. Rather we are like prophets of old and saints before us who, like us, questioned whether they could do and be the ones who would witness to their God. Their words of praise already thrust them into the middle of that life. Already in praising God we are leaning in that direction - we are giving time and thought to that lean - we are looking at the possibility of stepping off and tipping over into the way of that lean. Yes, fear is still at hand but as we fear, we call our to our God who dismantles fear and therefore in the middle of our praise we are transformed.


Connection: We are already in the ballpark. When we pray or praise or give a fleeting thought to our God who is willing and able to see us through the fears of our lives, we are already empowered to surrender to that new life.


You, O God, empower us to let go and listen to your word. Remind us again of your mighty acts that take place in, with and under the frightened ones who become in your presence, mighty witnesses to your grace.  Amen.







Monday, August 22, 2011

Redeemer Devotions - August 22, 2011

Adventures... in Hope - Redeemer Devotions 

Shoop Mount simply helps me see things differently - here again.

Institutional fear has the same antidote as embodied, personal fear. Remember the birthing body and the ruptures caused by fear. Support, affirmation, embodied knowing, and truth are all enfleshed antidotes to the paralyzing effects of fear. When we surrender out of power and not out of fear then we are more response-able. When a woman gives in to the power of her own body, then her body is freed up to do the work it knows how to do. "Fear not!" is not a suggestion. It is the cornerstone of Christian life.

"When we surrender out of power - we are more response-able."  The religious and political powers thought they had Jesus done in. They had him tied up and ready to be left out to dry and die. But he was in that place because he was able to respond to the world around him the way he intended to respond.  He was going to be the "truly human one" the "messiah" and no power was going to shake him up to make him go another way. Fear is a monster that puffs itself up so that we will not go the way we are to go and we will not be the ones we are to be. I don't know anything about a woman's body work - I be a fool to say that I do. But every time I see a pregnant woman I am awe-filled. Her body will do what it will do - that's what I'm told. But from my view point - wow. And yet, that is what we all must remember. The body of Christ will do what it must do - fear not.  Each one of us must be and do whatever it is that makes us the followers of Jesus - such acts of courage build the witness and make each of us a blessing to the world.


Connection: How do any of us face those pregnant moments in our lives when we may be so easily swayed by fear and yet are called to be faithful and witness to the bright light of our humanity? It is really quite a daily question to consider. 


As you lead us through the wilderness of our fears, O God, help us to work though it all and follow our Lord, Jesus, even as we tremble.  Amen.







Friday, August 19, 2011

Redeemer Devotions - August 19, 2011

Adventures... in Hope - Redeemer Devotions 

Fear. Lions and tiger and bears - and more.

Faith should be the antidote to fear, but fear still grips the church. Lynn Japinga writes, "Perhaps 'Fear no' is such an excellent speech because most human beings are afraid of something." She asks: "Why is a church that claims to be confident about the grace of God so fearful about its future?" In our Reformed faith our fears are all encompassed in three categories: fear of the other, fear of being wrong, and fear of being irrelevant. Indeed, our fear of otherness has given rise to fractures, schisms, and  splits. Our fear of being wrong stifles conversation and keeps us from taking risks with one another. Our fear of irrelevance has weighed the church down with anxiety about its own survival. 

This is always one of the most important things to hear: fear not. There are too many ways that we pull ourselves back into our shells and, in many ways, let the world go to hell. But we are meant to be the people who bring about the beloved community but that community is one in which we are not ruled by fear. Unfortunately, it seems to be much to easy to be ruled by fear rather than standing up and speaking and taking the risk that what happen next will not be the end of us. And if it is, we go out within the realm of truthfulness - that is a good place. Between us and truthfulness - us and blessedness - us and justice and peace, is this fear that longs to disrupt any and every aspect of God's peaceable Reign. Fear not. Yes, even when it seems like that is all we can do. Fear not.

Connection: Too many people count on the followers of Jesus to live out full lives in the face of fear. That is the witness we are blessed to provide for the world. This is never an easy life - but always necessary for the well-being of all.


As you lead us through the wilderness of our fears, O God, we need your constant power of renewal and new life to inspire us to continue along the way. That is why you are for us the rock that gives our wavering lives the stability to stand up boldly within your Reigning vision. Amen.







Thursday, August 18, 2011

Redeemer Devotions - August 18, 2011

Adventures... in Hope - Redeemer Devotions 

Mount Shoop notes how oblivious we are to the fact that we are not inclusive within many white churches.

 I assert that this aversion and obliviousness are intimately linked to our disease with our own skin, our own bodies. Even when our doctrines, our sacred stories, and our mission statements describe our hope for and commitment to inclusion, our embodied practices and gathered communities speak of our fear of moral chaos and loss of identity. We camouflage our lack of trust in God with who we say that we are. We may unconsciously reject those who are outside the range of our comfort zones even when we believe ourselves to be hospitable to difference. When encounters with 'others' stir up subdermal fears of not being who or what we think we are, we repel them without having to say a word. Having to face the fragments of our own bodies is a deeply repulsive prospect for many of us. When someone intersects with us who embodies the jarring truth that there is contradiction, complexity, and ambiguity in human embodied existence we fear the chaos they may bring with them. Fear wounds us as the Body of Christ. It trivializes who we are and how the future becomes.

I find it important that we continue to remind ourselves that we are indeed 'simultaneously saint and sinner.' This is not to be an excuse for what we do and what we do not do when it comes to being a people who resist opening up our communities. Rather, it is a good way to start something new - to face fears - to realize that we do not have everything. There is always the need to look at the day and begin to ask who we are and what makes us who we are. When our vision of the Reign of God is a part of who we are, we are not a people who settle for the disease of the ways things are and the fear that stokes that fire. We are a people meant to constantly face our fears and begin to open door and move in and out so that more and more people will become a part of our day. The more people we entertain - even when they are so different from us we are confused - the more likely it is that we are really entertaining angels.  But then, angels do scare folks.

Connection: Our future has no chance to change if we keep the doors closed and we settle for what we know and how we like to feel. The future expands when God's Spirit unsettles us.  It is there that we begin to be healed.
As you lead us through the wilderness of our fears, O God, we do not know where we will end up - and that is enough to pull us back into the lives we like to create for ourselves. Lead us and guide us into new life even as we fear each step. Amen.







Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Redeemer Devotions - August 17, 2011

Adventures... in Hope - Redeemer Devotions 

Today we will enter a new section in "Let the Bones Dance" - The Wound of Fear.

Jesus tells us not to be afraid, especially of those who are  "other" - like the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:1-42) and our brother and sisters in Christ who play the tambourine to worship God (a reference to a prior story in this chapter). So why are we still so afraid? And what are we afraid of? Our unspoken expectations of conformity reveal themselves in the homogeneity of most mainline congregations. Only 8 percent of all congregations are of mixed ethnicity and race. Historically, Protestant churches have the most unsuccessful record on diversity of any group. Among these mainline churches only 2 percent are of mixed ethnicity and/or racial makeup. One of the more interesting statistics is that 11 percent of whites say they worship in an integrated church, but when survey teams visited those congregations they found in most cases that the diversity had been greatly exaggerated.

There are so many ways that people are made into "others." It may be the way they look - it may be their race - it may be the way they worship - it may be the way they smell - it may be the way they talk. I found that the perceptions noted above are quite on target. From the outside, Redeemer is still viewed as a 'white' church. From the inside, many folks say we have a good mix. From within the ELCA we would also be considered a good mix. And yet, we are quite a white, protestant church. As I write this, I also know that there has been much movement in regard to taking down some of the old prejudices that were used to keep people at a distance. The stranger is still a bit strange so people keep to those they know well. If the stranger is also racially in the minority, it seems like it takes folks even longer to embrace them. And yet, bridges are made and people do 'cross over' and welcome and become friends and work side-by-side. I'm sure that most folks would not call this kind of activity (or inactivity) fear-based. I would say it is good to start with that admission. Deal with what kind of fears are wandering through our lives and then begin to dismantle the fears. It is not easy work - but it is the necessary Good News work of the church.

Connection: How do you approach someone who is not like most people you know? What do you put on "others?"  What expectations to lay on yourself?
As you lead us through the wilderness of our fears, O God, we still shake. We are not sure what is the way. We justify our action and inaction in the hope that we will "look good."  Make us open-minded so that our lives will be instruments of hospitality and love. Amen.





Monday, August 15, 2011

Redeemer Devotions - August 15, 2011

Adventures... in Hope - Redeemer Devotions 

I read this piece this morning and thought - use it. No reflection, just a good article by Martin Marty - people who have Rob Bell might light it.

Sightings  8/15/2011



Who Wins? Two Books about Heaven and Hell

-- Martin E. Marty



"Let's you and him fight!" The old comic-book trope is good advice for bystanders as Mark Galli's God Wins counters Rob Bell and his book Love Wins. The two are respected evangelical leaders, an editor and a pastor, who attract headlines and readerships as they debate "Heaven, Hell" and the "Good News." Their subject is a meaningful alternative to the otherwise preoccupying evangelicals' debates over homosexuality and abortion. "The Good News" is a debate over whether "Love Wins" or "God Wins," and those who hear the biblical word that "God is Love" may have trouble telling the players without a program. Both sides agree that this is all about "the ultimate fate of human beings," a classic concern of all who believe that there is an afterlife.


What follows is not a taunt but a challenge: let us have a Volume Two, especially from Galli. He offers soft but evangelically-orthodox answers to most questions which Bell posed last year in his book. But he slights the biggest, hardest, most troubling questions about the love and justice of God. He is anthropocentric, of course, but his "anthro-" who asks questions and ponders fate tends to be someone familiar with the biblical questions with which serious apologists for centuries have dealt as they set out "to justify the ways of God to man" (and woman).


Such are perhaps the hardest questions which concern "me" and "my personal fate," or "people who need to get motivated to evangelize others," who worry about predestination and God's foreknowledge and the hardness of heart which the Bible says God causes. Galli is humble about what he knows and does not know, but always punts when it gets hard and interesting by saying that God is a loving judge who is smarter than we are and who told us enough to get us personally through our questioning. But here's the challenge: watch the evening news, as we do, showing Somali children starving, parched, dropping in the desert, in the arms of a dying mother. By the thousands upon thousands. Or walk among the poor of India, by the millions. There is no chance. Repeat: no chance, that they or their parents can ever hear the Christian "good news," to reject or accept it. Galli makes much of choice. Time is short: there is no way the best-intended gospellers can mobilize to reach them. No way. And staying home with books keeps gospel-recruiters from the desert sands or Indian villages.


Only a couple of dozen lines in Galli's book even bring up the question, which he then drops with some verbal sleight of hand. I'm almost embarrassed bringing this up, so ancient and worn it has become, but it's here. About the "fairness and justice of God," "let us not too sweepingly dismiss such questions." We Christians, our club, should ask them, since this is "one of the ways" we get a deeper faith and "think more deeply about God" in our sanctuaries and libraries. Meanwhile, hour by hour, millions by millions go to hell. Galli is sure about hell. Page 95: In the New Testament hell is "mostly pictured as fire," "darkness, destruction, exclusion from the presence of the Lord." "The point is less to describe hell in detail than to suggest it is a place of torment." In this case, for the innocent. Still: "those in hell experience torment for eternity," say most evangelicals, and Galli does not dispute them.


I'm a reporter, columnist, bystander, and don't claim to have credible answers to the questions Bell and Galli pose and to which they would respond. But we need a Volume Two from Galli on these really tough questions. Otherwise, "Bell Wins."




Mark Galli, God Wins: Heaven, Hell, and Why the Good News Is Better than Love Wins (Tyndale, 2011).


Rob Bell, Love Wins: A Book about Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived (HarperOne, 2011).



Martin E. Marty's biography, publications, and contact information can be found at

Friday, August 12, 2011

Redeemer Devotions - August 12, 2011

Adventures... in Hope - Redeemer Devotions 

Mount Shoop uses a piece by Pseudo-Dionysius (I have no clue) that leads into further comments on Mystery.

O Trinity
beyond essence and
beyond divinity and
beyond goodness
guide of Christians in divine wisdom,
direct us toward mysticism's heights
beyond unknowing
beyond light
beyond limit,
there where the
unmixed and
unfettered and
mysteries of theology
in the dazzling dark of the welcoming silence
lie hidden, in the intensity of their darkness
all brilliance outshining,
our intellects, blinded - overwhelming
released from all,
aloft to the flashing forth,
beyond all being, of the divine dark.
The "divine dark" invites us into mystery's expansiveness. As Christians, we are not just able to be there, we are, like Isaiah, compelled to be there, to be up close to God's mystery. It is there that we rest in God's massiveness and mercy. It is there that we abide in God's compassion and communication. We re close enough to overhear and drink in what we cannot fully understand.


Being up close to God's mystery may mean that we are not going to be in control of all that is. It may mean that we learn to wait and watch and listen. It may even mean that we are not the ones who draw close to God - but God draws close to us - a mystery. This is much like the incarnation. The 'God of Heaven and Earth" - that is, all that is - is now within the the same frame of reference as the rest of us. That God is in our shoes and making way through the ordinary stuff of life through which we muddle every day. It is in that everyday stuff that God becomes visible - mystery is opened up and we begin to have mystery unveiled in bits and pieces that are common and now see as holy.  The "other" is - somehow - the neighbor and in the routine and mixed in with the ordinary. That which was beyond us and shrouded in mystery begins to be unveiled and our lives walk in the midst of it all.


Connection: Forgiveness is a mystery - and yet it is present among us revealing the power of God. Honoring the life of others is a mystery - and yet it miraculously changes how we live together. Mystery all around us continues to open up our senses to the Reign of God.


Though you seem to be so far off, O God, we are all caught up in the mystical presence that remains with us in that through all times. Bless are you. Amen.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Redeemer Devotions - August 11, 2011

Adventures... in Hope - Redeemer Devotions 

Yes, more from Marcia Mount Shoop from "Let the Bones Dance."

Embodying divine mystery is much more concrete than the celestial mysteries we can never explain. Religious experience is not simply an intellectual assent to a great set of moral/ethical standards. It is also not simply a need for a community that has someone bigger than itself at the helm. Embodying divine mystery means we seek out ways to be available to God's capacity to find a home in us. This promise of sanctification is often left to the marginalized traditions of mysticism and negative theology. But far from being on the margins, mystery is at the very heart of religious devotion and experience. Intimacy with God is in the quiet, ethereal, concrete moments of God incarnate in and among us. We can be close to God and close to the world's pain, including our own. It is what Jesus did, and he told us we could too. Eternal life is a brushstroke of this intimacy with God that allows us to be in the world and not be destroyed by it.


Again, it is a phrase about embodying divine mystery that catches me: 'we seek out ways to be available to God's capacity to find a home in us.'  I would guess that the ways are limitless. There is no box. There is no special code. There is no exact discipline. Rather, there is God always available so that we will find rest in God alone - a place we can call home and a place in which we become more fully human in the image of God. Our God does not set up a place and a time that is best for us to enter God's Reign. Rather, in the middle of whatever are the highs and lows of our life - the brutalities and the comforts - there is the uncovering of the holy and the transformation of the ordinary into the blessed - just as it always has been. That may be part of the mystery of embodying divine. The divine is present and has been and will be. We are in the midst of it all. We are offered life that continues to be born again within the most simple moments of the day - even when they seem to be devoid of God's presence. Mystery is coming to the surface all the time. Sometimes - we may not be ready to see it. Therefore, God never stops being available.


Connection: God brings us home all the time. We may never see a change or move to a new place - but God opens our eyes and ears so that we are open to how the great mysteries of creation and redemption and the Reigning power of God is now dancing around us.
Though you seem to be so far off, O God, you come again to heal and hold and be the rest of our lives. Blessed are you, O God. Amen.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Redeemer Devotions - August 10, 2011

Adventures... in Hope - Redeemer Devotions 

Our language goes just so far. From there the real journey seems to begin - from "In-forming the Body of Christ."

Christian rhetoric about religious identity is frequently wrapped up in the guise of certainty, and if not certainty then ethical integrity. Mainline Protestants do not tend to find language for the fact that our entanglement with God is a body-penetrating mystery. Mystery is a footnote to who we are; sometimes it is a dumping ground for how so many awful things can happen when a loving God is supposed to be in charge. Mystery can also be a way to describe the faith aspect of religious belief - that we do not have to figure everything out, we just believe because we have faith.


I would end this section differently. Rather than include 'we just believe because we have faith.' I would end it with 'we do not have to figure everything out.'  To me, ending as she has it seems to keep us in control about this 'faith' thing. Rather, we really do not have to figure it out. We live on the power of promise. That is what pulls at us and will not let us go. It is a part of the mystery that may make us look foolish - like Jesus on the cross maybe. Even when it appears to be over there is life that we cannot control or figure out or put good words to it. I love the words 'a body-penetrating mystery.' This is not mystery that floats through the air, it is concretely available no matter where we are or who we think we are. The mystery of God's promise takes us on and wrestles with us - it involves all of life. Like Jacob wrestling with God. Nothing is left out of the grappling and nothing is able to be controlled. So - we wrestle until we have literally been changed from one person into another.


Connection: Mystery is not an excuse to give up or go home, it is an invitation to keep going and continue the journey. Frightening and yet it tickles us into new life.


Though you seem to be so far off, O God, here you are. Praise to you, O God of Wonder and Amazement. Amen.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Redeemer Devotions - August 9, 2011

Adventures... in Hope - Redeemer Devotions 

Here's one more piece on Nicodemus, in the section of "Let the Bones Dance" called  'In-forming Mystery.'

Nicodemus's last words to this story are: "How can these things be?" Jesus Was moving between heaven and earth; he was clearing a space for a new intimacy with God, for new proximity, a new horizon of being in God's presence. The Incarnation was and is an invitation for us to come closer, to listen and feel and see and receive, and to be there in God's presence. We are invited into palpable proximity, a space where our words and ideas and categories run out of steam, a space where the filing systems in our brains cannot find a place to put what is happening. Intimacy with God challenges us to "be there" even as we grope for words to describe, understand, and express divine mystery.


We are the way it happens. Through us - in,with, and under us - God is making for new life even when we think we are it already.  To our surprise, we are not all there is and we are not all there was meant to be. Life keeps unfolding and it take shape around in ways that we cannot get our head around completely. A brilliant aspect of incarnation is the simple story line that calls us away from everything that attempts to restrict us and box us in - even when we want to be restricted and boxed in! There is a sense of wonder that is a part of the Incarnation. May that is what the shepherds saw and heard. They were given a sensory advance on how closely God was coming and would remain. They stepped down out of the field to catch a glimpse of that which they could not comprehend. And yet, those guys make it into the story we love to savor.


Connection: God in the flesh is all about presence - real presence. It is about you and me and Nicodemus and how we all see and live as though we see the Spirit's never-ending attempt to bind us all together as one.


Though you seem to be so far off, O God, you come among us and come so close - you become us. To that we can only give thanks and praise. Amen.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Redeemer Devotions - August 8, 2011

Adventures... in Hope - Redeemer Devotions 

Once again images of Nicodemus, with some interesting look at images in  'In-forming Mystery.'

Jesus tries another set of metaphors to move Nicodemus into a new space of understanding when he says that one must be "born of water and Spirit." The waters of physical birth and spiritual birth do not negate each other, but instead they require each other for a full immersion into divine relationship. Again, the Scripture uses the subtlety of a word that carries within its layers of meaning - "the wind blows where it chooses and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit" (John 3:8). This Greek word for "wind," pneuma, is the same word that is used for "Spirit." We cannot pick and choose our meaning, but we must somehow abide in its inherent complexity. Like the wind, the Spirit can be perceived as present, but as human beings we cannot track its exact movement. this new birth is like that; it is a mystery we can sense, but not completely understand or control.


This Spirit stuff can cause a bit of alarm in folks. Like the wind, it can press upon us - blow us over -  lift us up - take the whole world into a place and time that we have not yet considered previously. I cannot say I always appreciate this power and how it seems to play with us in order to shake us up and hand us the possibility of another reality. And yet, it continues to blow. It should also be noted that the Spirit will, quite often, move us in ways that are contrary to the ways would like to go. We may not want to forgive - but this Spirit opens up life that move through forgiveness so that our bitterness and our pains do not have power over us. This Spirit pushes over the edge in order to have us be a part of the 'other' were would usually not want to consider and yet it is a part of the new world that is beyond us. If you are anything like me, when the Spirit blows, alarms do go off. We are then in the position to look at what the alarms mean and what is causing them to go off. Many times, our life as we have it is ringing that alarm because life looks as though it will not stay as is and we will need to both let go and grab hold.


Connection: This is why the church continues to bring with us to the Lord's Supper, those words: Come. Holy Spirit. Come. When we are a part of this meal, the world is about to change and so - Come! Holy Spirit, come and lift us up.


Though you seem to be so far off, O God, your Spirit surrounds us with visions of your Reigning glory and the way that glory takes shape within what is so ordinary.  Amen.