What would Jesus cut in the budget?

Jim Wallis from Sojourners is asking an important question in the new budget debate.  He is asking: What would Jesus cut (see the link to an article below)?   This is a tough question for all of us who claim to be followers of Jesus.   I don’t think any Christian can say that Jesus would put a weapons system above health care for the poor.  There are those who would agree with that statement, but then point out that the government is not Jesus.  I think that is a legitimate statement, but the government is us.  And when our values are shaped by the teachings of Jesus, it is hard not to allow his life witness to guide our voice within the government.  Your thoughts?

New budget campaign asks 'What would Jesus cut?'

Devotional 02-28-11

February 28, clinic 2011

Scripture: Psalm 109:30-31

With my mouth I will give great thanks to the Lord; I will praise him in the midst of the throng.  For he stands at the right hand of the needy, to save them from those who would condemn them to death.

Thought for the Day: I had a number of people ask about the quote in my sermon yesterday.  It was from the motivational speaker, Ian Percy.  He said, “We judge others by their behavior.  We judge ourselves by our intentions.”  There is great truth to those words, but we can also find ourselves on the other side of them.  There will be those who judge us differently then they judge themselves.  In those painful and lonely moments when it feels as if there is no justice to the critique we receive, it is good to know  that God stands beside us and delivers us from every shallow judgment poured upon us.

Prayer: When worldly judgment wounds my soul, O Gracious God, come alongside and guide me to the place where healing can begin.  Amen.

Devotional 02-27-11

February 27, view 2011

Scripture: Matthew 7:1

“Do not judge, viagra so that you may not be judged.

Thought for the Day: Could it be said any more clearly?  If you set up a system where judging others is the norm, try why should you be surprised when others judge you?  Instead, let us follow Jesus who demonstrated a simple system of love.  Of course, there were some people who judged Jesus for this simple system, and then condemned him to death.  At first glance, it did not appear to have worked out all that well for Jesus, yet when the world tossed the condemned into the grave and rolled a rock in front of it, love offered an alternative ending to what appeared to be judgements victory.

Prayer: May I represent your alternative to judgement, O Loving Lord, in the simple acts of welcome and grace that I offer this day.  Amen.

Devotional 02-26-11

Scripture: Roman 2:1b (the Message)

Judgmental criticism of others is a well-known way of escaping detection in your own crimes and misdemeanors.

Thought for the Day: My son likes to point behind me and yell, cure “Look!”   When I turn and look, illness he’ll run the opposite direction.  The only problem is that he usually can’t keep a straight face when he points.  His snickering gives him away.  There are some people who are able to keep a very straight face as they pull off the same trick, buy but they do so in hopes of diverting the attention away from their own mistakes or insecurities.  They yell, “Look,” as they point toward anything or anyone who might be accused of something (truth is not necessary at this point).  It is sad to say, but throughout history it has been Christians who have perfected this act.  The last thing we want is for others to see our frailties, even though we claim to gather in the name of One whose grace embraces all of who we are.

Prayer: May humble acceptance of my own frailties and insecurities show what it means to live in your grace, O loving Lord.  Amen.

Devotional 02-25-11

Scripture: Jeremiah 7:23-24

But this command I gave them, decease “Obey my voice, advice and I will be your God, and you shall be my people; and walk only in the way that I command you, so that it may be well with you.”  Yet they did not obey or incline their ear, but, in the stubbornness of their evil will, they walked in their own counsels, and looked backward rather than forward.

Thought for the Day: Our faith tradition offers us many examples of people who couldn’t stop looking backward.  The newly liberated Israelites almost immediately started looking back to Egypt and slavery with a sense of nostalgia.  The people in exile longed for the good old days back in Israel, but they seemed to have forgotten how they disregarded God’s expectations of hospitality and compassion toward the poor and the sojourner.  Even the early church reflected on the past as if it were without blemish.  God can do amazing things, but at no point has God turned tomorrow into yesterday.  Tomorrow will always be tomorrow, but how tomorrow will be defined is based upon our willingness to follow God’s lead into the unfamiliar future.  The Good News for us is that since God is doing the leading, the unfamiliar future will always have one familiar face (God’s).

Prayer: God, help break my stubborn heart which has a tendency to look backwards through a skewed lens that paints everything with a rosy hue.  Amen.

Be Careful When You Use The Word ‘Evil’

As most people know, I am not a fan of Glenn Beck.  I will confess that upfront, yet I support his right to speak.  But when his speech reinforces a shallow and dangerous religiosity that he defines as Christianity, it is time for another voice to speak.  He recently said, “…the left has stood ‑‑ is standing now with profound and clear evil and they’ve connected from evil all the way to the average Democrat and everything in between.”  He uses the word ‘evil’ to frighten people, but the question for us is how did Jesus describe evil.  In each of the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke), we find the story of Jesus confronting people in the temple.  Most people assume Jesus was denouncing the money changers in the temple, but the real issue is found in his statement, “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations? But you have made it a den of robbers.”  Jesus was not talking about some scam done by the money changer.  Instead, he was confronting those who used the temple as a den, a hiding place.  He was quoting the prophet Jeremiah (chapter 7) who exposed those who oppressed the orphan, widow and alien, those who worshiped the gods of the culture (like money, power, etc.), and those who robbed and murdered.  Jeremiah called out those same people who then came to the temple thinking that their religious actions would somehow hide their selfish and oppressive ways.  They were like thieves who believed they could hide in a den and escape the responsibility of their actions.  For Jeremiah and Jesus, that was the definition of evil.  Not simply those who did the horrible things like oppressing the poor and abusing the weak, but those who thought it would go unnoticed because they hid behind some religious facade.

I do not wish to attack Glenn Beck.  I do not know his heart, but his language (not just here, but in many other places) is that of a man standing in the den of the holy vernacular in hopes that it will hide his actions that entirely dismiss the Jesus of the Gospels and the prophets of the Hebrew Scriptures.  People can argue with Democrats about the best way of helping the poor, liberating the oppressed or dealing with the alien in our midst (I have a few disagreements)…but to declare certain people’s attempts to do so as evil, is inexcusable. What part of Jesus’ message do you not understand?

Even more problematic are those who hide in the den of a pious illusion as a way of protecting selfishness and greed.   To do so was enough to even make Jesus, the Prince of Peace, become a little on the cranky side.  I’m not going to accuse Glenn Beck of being evil.  The world has seen evil, and I do not believe Glenn Beck is evil. With that said, evil has been able to run amuck throughout human history when charismatic leaders have hidden its power under the veil of religion.  I am going to do my best to illuminate the den of thieves with the Christ story.  Those who are fiercely dedicated to protecting power and wealth at the expense of the human family, and to do so while calling compassionate actions evil, must be exposed.  We can have disagreements on the best way of sharing the Gospel of love and justice, but do not show up at the temple and offer sacramental babel as an instrument of deception so that others won’t notice your real intentions and actions.

Devotional 02-24-11

Scripture: John 8:15

You judge by human standards; I judge no one.

Thought for the Day: I like how Jesus doesn’t say, buy “You judge by human standards; I judge by divine standards.”  Instead, rx he completely removes himself from an old system that assumes judging another human being is what God wants us to do.  He offers an alternative approach with a few simple words: “I judge no one.”  I think the point Jesus was attempting to demonstrate is well summarized by Wayne Dyer who said, try “When you judge another, you do not define them, you define yourself.”  By not judging, Jesus clearly defines himself and presents his expectation of his followers.

Prayer: Guide my attitude, O God, so it does not follow those who judge and condemn.    Amen.

Devotional 02-23-11

Scripture: Ephesians 4:2
For by grace you have been saved through faith, try and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God…
Thought for the Day: In his Book, treat The Great Texts of Grace, Stephen Farris reminds us of an important concept within the Christian faith: “Grace does not depend on faith, though faith depends on grace.”  I believe most folks would agree with the idea in theory, but many people fight it when it comes to their day to day lives.  As human beings, we claim grace, the unconditional and unmerited love of God, but we think only those who have faith like us should receive it.  It cannot work that way.  It is either grace or it is not grace.
Prayer: As I humbly receive your magnificent gift of grace, O Merciful One, I hope my life can show similar love to those who, for whatever reason, have been judged as unqualified.  I do so, because I know there are certain people who regard me as unworthy of your gift.  Amen.