Archive | October, 2015

Personal Perspective

24 Oct

Good Morning,

Have you ever notice when someone mention something/anything, we immediately look at it through our own lens.  Someone says, “I’m tired”; our response, “You’re tired, let me tell you how tired I am” or someone says, “you wouldn’t believe what happened today” and proceed with the story of the days events; then we counter with and unbelievable story of our own.  I think it is human nature – at least it is true for me.

So, with this profound dispensation to tell about the world from our own perspective, somehow people have exempted the Bible from this truth.  As if the people who wrote the text didn’t have a particular viewpoint or maybe even an ax to grind.

In this passage Paul talks about Jesus coming back, which he thought would be next week.  It is interesting that really this was just Paul’s opinion, and an incorrect one at that; yet people have treated this idea as fact. . . 2000 years is just a blimp on the screen.

What really works in this passage from the letter to the Romans is Paul’s passion.

18-21 That’s why I don’t think there’s any comparison between the present hard times and the coming good times. The created world itself can hardly wait for what’s coming next. Everything in creation is being more or less held back. God reins it in until both creation and all the creatures are ready and can be released at the same moment into the glorious times ahead. Meanwhile, the joyful anticipation deepens.

22-25 All around us we observe a pregnant creation. The difficult times of pain throughout the world are simply birth pangs. But it’s not only around us; it’s within us. The Spirit of God is arousing us within. We’re also feeling the birth pangs. These sterile and barren bodies of ours are yearning for full deliverance. That is why waiting does not diminish us, any more than waiting diminishes a pregnant mother. We are enlarged in the waiting. We, of course, don’t see what is enlarging us. But the longer we wait, the larger we become, and the more joyful our expectancy.

The big event has not occurred. The ‘we don’t have to worry about the mess the world is in because God will take care of it’ event is not here.  And yet, and yet God’s spirit is changing and guiding and transforming people everyday and those people are making a difference in our world to reveal more of the Divine Presence each day.  Sometimes it is hard to see, in the midst of the violence, the poverty, the self-involved consumption of goods, but I know that it is there.  I look for it and I find it, everyday.  So, we return again to personal perspective.  I think so long as we know that we are viewing the world through a very particular lens and that even the ‘Bible-writers’ had a distinctive perspective, we can handle ourselves and those around us with God’s gentle grace.

So, that is my wisdom for the day.  Be gentle with yourself and others, you look at the world and events through a unique set of eyes; and the Divine is loving us and them and those through it all.  Peace

Real Life-Resurrection Life

19 Oct

Good Morning,

I just want to say, I love Eugene Peterson.  This paraphrase of Romans 8:12-17 is vibrant, and life-giving.  So often the Bible sounds old and dry and nothing to do with our current lives.  I know that understanding has driven many a biblical scholar to make the text real and living.  Well, Eugene Peterson’s, The Message, does it for me.

12-14 So don’t you see that we don’t owe this old do-it-yourself life one red cent. There’s nothing in it for us, nothing at all. The best thing to do is give it a decent burial and get on with your new life. God’s Spirit beckons. There are things to do and places to go!

15-17 This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike “What’s next, Papa?” God’s Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. We know who he is, and we know who we are: Father and children. And we know we are going to get what’s coming to us—an unbelievable inheritance! We go through exactly what Christ goes through. If we go through the hard times with him, then we’re certainly going to go through the good times with him!

I will confess that this past week has been difficult for me for several reasons.  I have tried, as best I can, to look the emotional pain right in the eye and see it for what it is – old brokenness that needs to be surrendered and released.  However, caught in the feelings, I just want to curl up under the ‘blanket of woe’ and stay there. . . there is little energy to move on.   That’s the bad news.

The good news is, I read Eugene Peterson and smile.  I know that his paraphrase of Paul’s words is true.  This resurrection life is an adventure and I don’t owe the old sadness one red cent.  It is a place to begin anew today.

Now, because I am old, I know that those feelings of pain will return, but I don’t have to give the any attention – they belong to life that I have no power over.  Yet, God has the power to heal the brokenness – and I need to ‘work the program’.

So. . .

Once again, this morning, I commit my life to Christ.  I surrender all that is to his love and rise again with his power.  It is only by the grace of the Divine that my life is rescued again today.  This is the dailiness that St. Benedict understood.  It is the dailiness that bring hope and peace and adventure to my life again.  Peace.

The Proof is in the Living

16 Oct

Good Morning,

Yeah, we are up to chapter 8 in Romans.  The words of Paul are amazing!  Martin Luther, the Catholic reformer who ended up with a new church, said that the reform of the church comes through a carefully, insightful reading of Romans.

As I read this letter, 2000 year old letter, I am struck again with the understanding that this letter only has power because people have found it meaningful in living out their faith.  The belief in The Divine Presence that created all things and that Jesus of Nazareth was the human incarnation of that power, and that it is still active in our world today.  That is a huge affirmation of the nature of our world and our role within the world.

So, half way through the letter Paul goes for the big reveal.  It is Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ, the Son of God, that has solved the issues created by the God-given law that it could not solve.  [Human beings are so hard to deal with!]

1-2 With the arrival of Jesus, the Messiah, that fateful dilemma is resolved. Those who enter into Christ’s being-here-for-us no longer have to live under a continuous, low-lying black cloud. A new power is in operation. The Spirit of life in Christ, like a strong wind, has magnificently cleared the air, freeing you from a fated lifetime of brutal tyranny at the hands of sin and death.

3-4 God went for the jugular when he sent his own Son. He didn’t deal with the problem as something remote and unimportant. In his Son, Jesus, he personally took on the human condition, entered the disordered mess of struggling humanity in order to set it right once and for all. The law code, weakened as it always was by fractured human nature, could never have done that.

The law always ended up being used as a Band-Aid on sin instead of a deep healing of it. And now what the law code asked for but we couldn’t deliver is accomplished as we, instead of redoubling our own efforts, simply embrace what the Spirit is doing in us.

Human beings are a complex and different species to train.  I think the law given to Moses was effective to form community when there were good leaders and when the community was small enough to be somewhat homogeneous.  However, when the powers of Roman came in to rule the land of the Israelite, and the priest became corrupted by the wealth to be had through Roman, and the population became diverse because of the ability to travel on Roman roads – the world changed.  The Law of God became a tool to be used for personal piety and not to draw people into relationship with God.  As Eugene Peterson paraphrases, it had become a Band-Aid, and the healing power of God had been watered down and useless.

Then a human being, in all his confidence and humility, changed the world by walking with barely educated people around and across lakes.  The story of Jesus changing our world really has to be about God’s power working through his life and his death.  It could not continue with the vitality and dynamic power to change lives it is was anything less.

5-8 Those who think they can do it on their own end up obsessed with measuring their own moral muscle but never get around to exercising it in real life. Those who trust God’s action in them find that God’s Spirit is in them—living and breathing God! Obsession with self in these matters is a dead end; attention to God leads us out into the open, into a spacious, free life. Focusing on the self is the opposite of focusing on God. Anyone completely absorbed in self ignores God, ends up thinking more about self than God. That person ignores who God is and what he is doing. And God isn’t pleased at being ignored.

9-11 But if God himself has taken up residence in your life, you can hardly be thinking more of yourself than of him. Anyone, of course, who has not welcomed this invisible but clearly present God, the Spirit of Christ, won’t know what we’re talking about. But for you who welcome him, in whom he dwells—even though you still experience all the limitations of sin—you yourself experience life on God’s terms. It stands to reason, doesn’t it, that if the alive-and-present God who raised Jesus from the dead moves into your life, he’ll do the same thing in you that he did in Jesus, bringing you alive to himself? When God lives and breathes in you (and he does, as surely as he did in Jesus), you are delivered from that dead life. With his Spirit living in you, your body will be as alive as Christ’s!

In Celebration of Discipline, Richard Foster talks about walking on the edge of a cliff.  On one side is legalism, a sense of ‘moral muscle’ that we create our own righteousness.  On the other side is free flowing spirituality where we wait to be ‘moved by the spirit’.  The path along the edge is the discipline of Christ.  It is Christ’s power, alive within us, that enables us to be transform and it is our willingness to surrender to the discipline of placing our lives before God that enables us to be ready to live out the transformation of Christ.

This new life, this God breath life is an amazing one.  We have seen examples of it lived; Jesus of Nazareth, the author, Gandhi, Dr. Martin Luther King, Mother Teresa, and countless others that bring Paul’s letter to life, that show that the Divine Presence is in-breaking into our world.

Peace

Honesty

14 Oct

Good morning,

I think the power of Paul’s writing is not only in his analytical mind, but he is totally honesty about who we are as human beings.

As I have said, this part of the book of Romans is written to people who understand faith in God means following prescribed rules through each part of the day and through each event in our lives.  Paul is saying that the law is not helpful, because when we just follow the letter of the law, it leads us into destruction.

13 I can already hear your next question: “Does that mean I can’t even trust what is good [that is, the law]? Is good just as dangerous as evil?” No again! Sin simply did what sin is so famous for doing: using the good as a cover to tempt me to do what would finally destroy me. By hiding within God’s good commandment, sin did far more mischief than it could ever have accomplished on its own.

14-16 I can anticipate the response that is coming: “I know that all God’s commands are spiritual, but I’m not. Isn’t this also your experience?” Yes. I’m full of myself—after all, I’ve spent a long time in sin’s prison. What I don’t understand about myself is that I decide one way, but then I act another, doing things I absolutely despise. So if I can’t be trusted to figure out what is best for myself and then do it, it becomes obvious that God’s command is necessary.

This next section may be familiar to you.  In the New Revised Standard Version, Paul writes that the good he wants to do, he doesn’t and the evil he want to avoid, he ends up doing.  It text is often quoted because it is so true about who we are in our humanness.  It is why we need something more than the law, something more than a superficial relationship with the Divine Presence.

17-20 But I need something more! For if I know the law but still can’t keep it, and if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help! I realize that I don’t have what it takes. I can will it, but I can’t do it. I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don’t result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time.

21-23 It happens so regularly that it’s predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God’s commands, but it’s pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge.

24 I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. I’m at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn’t that the real question?

25 The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different.

It is the relationship, the person of Jesus Christ, that changes everything from a “have to” to a “want to”.  I have known so many people in my life who have said that ‘religion’ is useless, a panacea for weak or slow; but have never surrender to a relationship with the Eternal Presence.  Their’s is a ‘prove it to me at arms length’ approach, which I have never seen work for the faith adventure that is Christianity.

There is a old story of a debate between a Christian and an atheist.  After a long, logical, articulate speech by the atheist he looks smugly at the Christian.  The Christian produces a beautiful orange and begins to peel and then eat it.  The says, “this orange tastes wonderful, but you can only prove it by tasting it yourself; so it is with faith in Jesus Christ.”

Our journey is about relationship, surrender, love, and grace.  Paul tells of this astounding truth in profound ways.  Peace

All Twisted Up

12 Oct

Good Morning,

All twisted up; that’s the way it feels sometimes in my head.  What’s good, what’s bad, what’s important, what’s unimportant.  I serve little church now, and on a Sunday when there is a lot to do other than “go to church”, or there are a number of folks who are ill, it looks pretty spare in my churches.   I think about those churches that have Bands and Screens and Excitement, but it’s just doesn’t seem the right fit for my little churches or for me.

I think worship is about relationship.  About coming before God to give thanks for the week that has past and strength for the week to come and reflect on how my walk with the Divine is going.  That’s it.  That and joining with my church family to share the load and the love and the wisdom of God’s presence.

In this section of the Book of Romans, Paul is talking about how the law, which started out helpful, got twisted into a code to get around and get people into trouble.

8-12 Don’t you remember how it was? I do, perfectly well. The law code started out as an excellent piece of work. What happened, though, was that sin found a way to pervert the command into a temptation, making a piece of “forbidden fruit” out of it. The law code, instead of being used to guide me, was used to seduce me. Without all the paraphernalia of the law code, sin looked pretty dull and lifeless, and I went along without paying much attention to it. But once sin got its hands on the law code and decked itself out in all that finery, I was fooled, and fell for it. The very command that was supposed to guide me into life was cleverly used to trip me up, throwing me headlong. So sin was plenty alive, and I was stone dead. But the law code itself is God’s good and common sense, each command sane and holy counsel.

13 I can already hear your next question: “Does that mean I can’t even trust what is good [that is, the law]? Is good just as dangerous as evil?” No again! Sin simply did what sin is so famous for doing: using the good as a cover to tempt me to do what would finally destroy me. By hiding within God’s good commandment, sin did far more mischief than it could ever have accomplished on its own.

C.S. Lewis talks about this idea in, Mere Christianity.  The instincts we are good; helpful for our survival, but when they become it center of our focus instead of God, they become destructive.  He gives examples like, making money is good and necessary, but when it becomes the center of life, it is a weight around our life.  Or, sex is good and important to keep human begins going on the planet, but when it become all important, or used in harmful ways, then it breaks our relationship with God.

I know there is evil in our world.  I often think the most dangerous evil is that which is hard to see.  Not the big; guns killing people evil, which is easy to identify and not something I am likely to fall prey to carrying out.  But the little, twisted stuff, like not enjoying worship at my little churches because some people didn’t show up.  The worship is about me and God and serving the best I can.  I think I will continue to do that and ask God to show me the evil in my life, because really, that’s all that God and I have any chance of changing.   Peace

A New Spouse

10 Oct

Good Morning,

One of the great things about Paul’s writing is his ability to make spiritual ideas clear.  I think it is amazing that he wrote to Jewish people, most of whom were barely literate, and had been steeped in their laws and traditions for a lifetime.  Changing their way of understanding their relationship with God is the purpose of the letter.

So, these folks have understood that Jesus was the Messiah, that he did not act the way they expected (throw out Roman and create another Davidic dynasty), but they have experienced the holy spirit and are trying to live out this new faith.  Now, Paul is helping them to understand just how new this new life in Christ is going to be.

Paul uses the idea of marriage for his example.  i.e. if you get rid of your first husband you get to find a new one, and you don’t have to obey the rules of the dead one.   I like this idea.

1-3 You shouldn’t have any trouble understanding this, friends, for you know all the ins and outs of the law—how it works and how its power touches only the living. For instance, a wife is legally tied to her husband while he lives, but if he dies, she’s free. If she lives with another man while her husband is living, she’s obviously an adulteress. But if he dies, she is quite free to marry another man in good conscience, with no one’s disapproval.

4-6 So, my friends, this is something like what has taken place with you. When Christ died he took that entire rule-dominated way of life down with him and left it in the tomb, leaving you free to “marry” a resurrection life and bear “offspring” of faith for God. For as long as we lived that old way of life, doing whatever we felt we could get away with, sin was calling most of the shots as the old law code hemmed us in. And this made us all the more rebellious. In the end, all we had to show for it was miscarriages and stillbirths. But now that we’re no longer shackled to that domineering mate of sin, and out from under all those oppressive regulations and fine print, we’re free to live a new life in the freedom of God.

Imagine if you lived everyday with a list of rules to please God, mostly to make sure that you or someone you loved wasn’t going to get zap.  Job would go through sacrificial rituals every morning to make sure everyone in his house would be OK for the day.  Now, you also have probably worked all of your lifetime to get around the rules – doing the lest with your heart and mind some place else.   And, Jesus come along and says the only thing that is important is where your heart and mind are.

Paul says the old life, old commitments are dead; you don’t have to figure out how to get around them, they are gone.  You have a new spouse, a resurrection life, where the relationship is based on honesty and integrity and not going through the motions.  I think about raising my sons.  There weren’t every old when I realized they could go through the motions of what I asked them to do, but it would not touch their hearts and minds.  I remember when one son was made to apologize to the other for hitting.  The word, sorry, was sad; very unconvincingly.  I asked, “What are you sorry about.”  The response -” I am sorry you caught me”.   All I can say, was that it was an honest answer, but miles away from where I wanted his heart to be.

Enjoy the gift of this resurrected, new life day.  Know that there are no rule, only relationship with the Divine author of all life.

Peace

What Owns You?

8 Oct

Good Morning,

Now that I am old it is easier to see what kinds of things have owned me.  It is not big stuff, like drugs or alcohol, sex,  but, small, insidious things like chocolate, worry, resentment, a need for approval . . .   Mine were not big, socially unacceptable addictions, but they still owned me.  And, truly I tell you, the only force I want owning me it the Divine Presence.

Reading Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline, and practicing fasting, has been a great way to find the things that hold me.  Things that lead my life into bondage, rather than freedom.  I have ended up using churchy words, but it is hard to find other one.  When I let worry or anger or even chocolate be the force of power in my life, I become imprisoned by it.  It becomes the central thought in my head.  And, that’s the place I want God’s heart, is in my head.

19 I’m using this freedom language because it’s easy to picture. You can readily recall, can’t you, how at one time the more you did just what you felt like doing—not caring about others, not caring about God—the worse your life became and the less freedom you had? And how much different is it now as you live in God’s freedom, your lives healed and expansive in holiness?

20-21 As long as you did what you felt like doing, ignoring God, you didn’t have to bother with right thinking or right living, or right anything for that matter. But do you call that a free life? What did you get out of it? Nothing you’re proud of now. Where did it get you? A dead end.

22-23 But now that you’ve found you don’t have to listen to sin tell you what to do, and have discovered the delight of listening to God telling you, what a surprise! A whole, healed, put-together life right now, with more and more of life on the way! Work hard for sin your whole life and your pension is death. But God’s gift is real life, eternal life, delivered by Jesus, our Master.

The freedom of God is amazing.  It brings new and creative and life-giving opportunities; it breaks out of old routines, and old concepts.  This is the power of the resurrection at work in my life.  I pray you are enjoying this amazing, unpredictable, journey of faith.   Peace