The Reign of God as losing to death is my way of using an idea of James Alison. He writes that Jesus' "losing to death was not done so as to please the Father, but rather so as to get through to us. It is we could not be unhooked from our addiction to death until we were shown that we could live as if it were not." Imagine that, living as death were not. We would not need to fight for our lives. If the powers of death flex their might, we already know that that might need not have power over us. Jesus' life never stopped short of living. He did not back away from the many faces of death - a death that seems to be able to wrap its hands around us and shape our lives. So in the face of that death, Jesus lives. Even when his living appears to be a losing to death on the cross, he is never overcome by death. I find that to be an outrageous way to look at the power of death. It is an upfront statement that says 'go for it death' - 'we are going to keep living even when it appears to the world that death has won the day.' That attitude - that way of looking at life - presents to the world another way of living that is able to embody the Reign of God even as death fouls the air with its attempts to win the day. It cannot win the day.
O God of love and new life, it is just not in us to lose - we fight it - we even become it rather than lose to it. Free us from the many ways death is ready to grab us and hold us. Amen.
The Reign of God as foolish will not fight back. Usually we think of fighting back as a physical action or an onslaught of nasty words. The Reign of God as foolish does not fight back like in that manner nor does it fight back in back-handed ways. It simply does not fight back. Today I had to consider the notion of forgiveness as a way to punish or defeat or conquer or demean the other. To offer forgiveness as a way of putting down the other person is an attack in which I come off smelling sweet and the other is seen as the nasty one who is now given a break. The Reign of God as foolish does not turn others into nasty ones - it is always reconciling so that all people are made new and are reborn into the domain of God's love - a reality in which no one is ever cast out to be one of them. The Reign of God as foolish is all about making all people - one. That, is foolish. That is so hard to imagine it is frightening. There will be no upper-hand. That is also a power no other power can match and therefore, every power in the world will fight it. Even me - that is painful to admit.
O God of love and new life, guide us as we foolishly begin to enter into the pathway of your Reigning love. Amen.
The Reign of God as foolish is like a group of young people who had their whole lives in front of them and yet they piled into buses and traveled into the deep south of the United States of America to help people of color sign up to vote. In the land of the 'land of the free and the home of the brave' they were the ones who really embodied those words from the national anthem. And yet, they were seen as being foolish - even expendable. The Reign of God as foolish comes as a wave of people walk over a bridge - just a bridge - toward the waiting bats and clubs and dogs who saw that 'walk over the bridge' as a threat to their lives. The Reign of God as foolish may look like a threat to some - but it is never a threat, it is always life-giving. It is the beginning of the a new life the world has tried to condemn and ignore for as long as we have recorded our history. And yet, some see the ways within God's Reign as the way they will lose control over life as they want it - no matter what it will cost them or others.
O God of love and new life, as your Reign begins to shine among us may it be for the complete healing of all your people - that is, all people. Amen.
The Reign of God as foolish proves itself as just that - over and over again. We need only open the daily newspaper. Acts of compassion and love and mercy and justice are considered 'special' stories - even unbelievable. We are so involved with war - being better than the other - taking what we want because we think we have the right to do it - killing others at the mere thought that our lives might be threatened, we do not even see God's Reign waiting to come to life. The Reign of God as foolish seeks out negotiation and conversation and a give-and-take in which all sides are honored. That is foolishness. We have too many war-mongerers and chicken-hawks to allow anyone to hear the voice of peace and reconciliation and confession and forgiveness. Warring madness for all of its foolishness is considered sensible. I suppose the Reign of God as foolish is a rallying cry to take part in sheer nonsense.
O God of love and new life, let the nonsense begin with us. Amen.
The Reign of God as foolish is a love that is - just not right - a bit off - a tad too much - undeserved - messes up the whole world of paybacks and manipulation. In other words it is a reality we are invited to enter and as we manifest that foolish love - we no longer will be taken seriously. Having said that, I must correct myself. We will be taken seriously. As we are living within the Reign of God as foolish, it means we are putting that loving life out there to be observed and encountered and given away. Even though many will laugh at that or call it all unreal - some will see (maybe for the first time) another reality in which we can live. Ordinary people within our ordinary daily routines do become the vehicles through which the Reign of God in all its foolishness come to make sense. It becomes real - a real alternative - a creative option - an astounding paradigm that can burst into and make a way through the rigidity and violence of the world. The Reign of God is always foolishly meddling with the world.
O God of love and new life, turn our lives into that alternative which is the ordinary life of your Reign. Amen.
The Reign of God as foolish is a simple observation we can make everyday of our lives. The raging love of God that is constantly being set off here and there is most often ignored or put out as quickly as possible. It is a foolish blaze. And yet, when this foolishness breaks out - maybe only for moments in a day - it is very obvious. Standard operating procedures do not hold their ground and the well-composed facades that are meant to keep the power of the world in control seem to be exposed. The Reign of God as foolish is that power that turns heads and then turns hearts and then - leaves us wondering how 'in this world' we can remain living in such foolishness. That is for me the whole of the biblical story - how in the world do we live within the gracious Reign of God when it is not ever the dominant story of any group of people who have claimed the power of the day. And yet, God keeps reminding us of a foolishness that is powerful and life-giving and filled with vision that will carry us over the horizon and into that which is not yet visible. Foolish - I know.
O God of love and new life, let the raging fire of you love spread through our lives and hold our hearts like coals ready to create new flames in the world around us. Amen.
The Reign of God as power to overcome is the power to make us consider just might happen when we live and speak and act within the newness of life that is always at hand. When the Reign of God is the power to overcome we have to make the choice to step up and face the world with the nonviolence, mercy, love, justice, and peace that is always promised within this Reign. It is a power - a true power. We are not left on our own. We are not being called to be "brave heart" warriors who overcome others by the violence of overcoming others. No. We are given the power to consider how one overcomes when one is living in God's Reign. We must consider that. We must stop for a moment - whatever length that is - and then step up into a place we may have previously stay back from entering. That simple act of considering is the beginning - it is the hope - it makes this Reigning presence of God real - as real as our own lives - eternally peaceable.
O God of love and new life, help in keep in the mind the way of Jesus' life within your Reign so that the moment at hand holds a new world for us also Amen.
The Reign of God as power to overcome begins now. I cannot say what it will be that I must overcome today. I cannot say what you must overcome. I do trust the power of the Spirit of the Reign of God will place into our hearts and minds and actions a life that will be the life that overcomes the ways of the world that so readily divide and blame and fear. This weekend a number of ELCA folks will walk in the Pride Parade in Columbus. We started this presence last year. I know that the ELCA is not a leader in overcoming the power of bias and fear and violence. I also know that our church finally stepped up to enter into the adventure of overcoming. It is not a done deal. The Reign of God as power to overcome is a day-in and day-out bit of inspiration that draws all of our actions and thought and comfortable stances into question. I always go back to the early church in Acts. Those brothers and sisters worked to overcome the direction of the world - they did that by doing and saying and walking in another way. We shall overcome for there is this Spirit that I believe keeps pulling us into the fire and inviting us to live as though God Reigns in our lives.
O God of love and new life, keep pulling us into your Reigning glory. Amen.
The Reign of God as power to overcome is the power of life we are handed by our God. It is a power for life. That means it is a power for our whole life - day after day - endlessly - eternally. We are continually being encouraged to overcome the ways of the world that thrive on division and exclusion and judgment. The Reign of God as power to overcome demands that we listen to the voices around us so that we can hear what is being asked of us. It is then that we will hear those voices that are able to keep people within the ways of the world. Even 'religious' people - or should I say especially religious people - have a way of calling for the worst in us. Whenever we hear the voices of those who call on the name of the God of Scripture to lead us into acts of violence or exclusion or hatred (and it is done all the time) we shall overcome them by acts of non-violence, inclusion and love. The Reign of God as power to overcome gives us another way even if that way does not abide by holy voices that claim divine wisdom and insight - only to be another power of the world's corruption. The Reign of God as power to overcome stands up or speaks up or begins to offer another way to come alive - even in the face of religious words that will attempt to condemn and ridicule and frighten. We shall overcome.
O God of love and new life, open our lips and our lives to the endlessness of life in your peaceable Reign. Amen.
The Reign of God as power to overcome enables us to see what in the world needs to be overcome. Too often, it is much too easy to let things slide. When we do that the world rules us and the Reign of God becomes simply a nice idea - but not a possibility. The Reign of God as power to overcome open's our eyes to injustice and prejudice and hatred and violence. Once we are able to see such things and call them out as what they are, we have already started the journey within God's Reign. For now, we are also able to see how much of the life around us is being lived in a way that is contrary to God's peaceable Reign. It is then that we can walk another way and begin to be a witness to life that does not endorse or support the ways of the world. It is simply amazing how much of the ordinary ways of the world must be overcome. There are so many powers that attempt to suck us into a way of life that does not and will not abide by the love of God's Reign. The saddest part of that power is that we call it 'reality' and begin to abide by its rules because that is the way things are done. Oh no - we shall overcome.
O God of love and new life, help us stand up and overcome the powers we too often let rule us. Amen.
The Reign of God as power to overcome is not a power to destroy. It is the power to rise up within the blessed identity given to us by our God even when no one is willing or able to grant us that identity. It is the 'we shall overcome' that is sung out loud by folks who have been placed under the fist of others who think they can rightly push down people not like them. The Reign of God as power to overcome becomes the power to resist any other power that attempts to make less of another person. That is why it is a power not just for my well being. It is also the power handed to me when other people are being oppressed and knocked down. I/we are empowered to be a part of the Reign of God that resists such treatment. We do it with our voices or our actions. In either case, we become aligned with the ones who are push out and pushed down. The Reign of God as power to overcome is the power we see in the creativity of Creation story. Things are created as new and it is good. The chaos is not in control. God's creativity is handed to us and within that power we are a part of what overcomes the powers the world so loves.
O God of love and new life, lead us into the gentle rule of your Reign. There let us walk and act and speak of new life that will overcome the brutality of the world. Amen.
The Reign of God as 'all y'all' means there is something very common about how God comes and is established among us. There will be no exclusive showing to which only a select number of folks will be invited. There is no gate to open or have someone else open. The gate has been knocked down - the separation has been ended. The Reign of God as 'all y'all' is the eternally expanding parade of saints that keeps pulling people into the march that upholds the status of each person as beloved. It is not a status that must be earned. Rather, it is a status that creates new life even when folks seem to be headed toward death - even when they appear to be overcome by violence. The Reign of God as 'all y'all' is as visible as the first person we see as we lift up our heads or the first person we hear or the first person we smell or touch. That is how common and ordinary is God's Reign. It is at hand - it shows no partiality - it is waiting for you to take on the life and love it offers.
O God of love and new life, it is not easy to love that which is common and ordinary. But then you show yourself through what is common and ordinary and we are overwhelmed and moved into new life. We give you thanks. Amen.
The Reign of God as 'all y'all' is meant to wake us up - surprise us. God's Reign is not only me and those who are like me and those with whom I feel comfortable that are a part of this Reigning life. It is all. I don't know about you but I can be very quick to cast out some folks. - I can base that on what they just said or how they just acted. I don't think I would cast them out of God's Reign (for I cannot do that) but I can be tempted to cast them out of my circle of inclusion. And yet, when I do that - when I cast them out of 'my circle' - I am really casting myself out of that Reign of God as 'all y'all'. For when I am living in that Reign of God, the power of the Holy Spirit enables me to resist the temptation to be judge and jury and take the leap to open the doors of my heart so I may experience the surprising wonder of God's inclusivity. The Reign of God as 'all y'all' will constantly press me to see in the other how God sees the other. In that moment - or even over a bit of time - my view will change - my heart will open - my embrace will be expanded. Within all of that action I will find myself in God's Reign with all others - surprise.
O God of love and new life, open us again to your power of life and love. Amen.