Month: December 2011
Scripture: Deuteronomy 10:17-19
For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, discount the great God, treat mighty and awesome, sales who is not partial and takes no bribe, who executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and who loves the strangers, providing them food and clothing. You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.
Thought for the Day: One of the great theological voices of the previous century was Paul Tillich. In a sermon entitled, “The New Being,” Tillich was looking for why the suffering and difficulties of the world continued. He did not point to some external evil as the cause, but seemed to suggest that the problem was found in “…the decrease of the power of imagination in the Christian people.” Could it be that we lack the ability to imagine the possibilities of God. Paul seemed to suggest it in the letter to Ephesians (3:20) when he wrote about God accomplishing far more than we can imagine. Yet if we read more carefully, we discover that the thing we cannot imagine is in fact being accomplished through us. Yes, God can imagine beyond anything we could ever fathom, but it is only when we cease believing that the far-fetched could happen that we impede God’s ability to do the unimaginable through us. As we approach this new year, let us rekindle our imaginations while also believing that some crazy idea that could lead toward peace, hospitality and justice just might be realized through those who allow themselves to be used by the One who makes the unimaginable more than imaginable… in fact, makes it reality.
Prayer: Creator and Creative God, I acknowledge my cynical and often unbelieving spirit that makes me callous to your innovative work. Encourage my imagination so that in partnership we can see dreams and visions become the tangible work of healing and transformation in our world. Amen.
Thought for the Day: On this day in 1903, cialis sale the Iroquois Theatre fire occurred in Chicago that killed more than 600 people. The theatre had only been open a month, but in that short time, it had promoted itself as being fire proof…a rather arrogant claim in light of the fact that numerous inspectors had noted an inadequate number of fire extinguishers and fire exits. Though no one was ever convicted because of some creative maneuvering by the attorneys for the theatre, it is clear how the choices of the arrogant set a trap for the innocent and unaware. Too often our own arrogance can bring harm to those who trust us and call us friend, The Biblical call to humility is more than a nice virtue, but a tool for the creation of lasting and trustworthy relationships.
Prayer: Through the beautiful example of Jesus, teach me your ways of humility and gentleness, O God. Amen.
Scripture: Philippians 2:5-8
Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, case who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death— even death on a cross.
Thought for the Day: For today, I decided to focus on the passage I had casually referenced in yesterday’s devotional (the above passage from Philippians). The Bethlehem event was an emptying or ridding of those characteristics often associated with God (power, authority, omnipotence, etc.) and becoming meekness incarnate. From a human perspective, this act of becoming an empty vessel seems so unbecoming of what we believe God to be, but what if it was even more radical than that? What if that language was simply a human attempt at giving verbiage to what was perceived from a human vantage point? What if by chance the nature of God is the perfect expression of humility and sacrificial love, and the Bethlehem event was in fact the emptying, not of God, but of our failed perceptions of God? Paul describes Jesus as the image of the invisible God, not the image of a God who has emptied the divine nature of all that is usually associated with God. I must confess that I have fallen in love with the God I see in the life of Jesus, and the God revealed in that life doesn’t have too many of the characteristics humanity has historically associated with God. Yet isn’t it in the nature of Jesus (and thus God) to reverse our old tightly held beliefs?
Prayer: May my encounters with Jesus only make me more aware of who you are, O gracious and loving God. Amen.
Scripture: 1st Corinthians 14: 25
After the secrets of the unbeliever’s heart are disclosed, that person will bow down before God and worship him, declaring, “God is really among you.”
Thought for the Day: In a sermon preached recently by Rev. John Auer, he said, “…the illimitable incarnation of God in human form – the Word of Life made Flesh of Love… God decides to take an insider approach, becoming one of us…” (Sermon entitled: “Hail Mary! The Beginning is Near”). I have been pondering this idea of God taking an insider approach since first reading John’s words, and I must confess a feeling of both comfort and challenge. God has never been one to see divinity as something to ‘exploit’ (Philippians 2:6), but has continued to find ways of bridging the perceived divide between the eternal and the finite. Of course, this “illimitable incarnation” found in Bethlehem will grow into an adult who will invite people to become imitators of the God who has and will continue to choose to come among us. How do we imitate the One who traverses the barriers and infiltrates the reality of those who perceive God as transcendent and distant? I encourage you to spend some time meditating on this idea…
Prayer: O God of Incarnate Grace, with both gratitude and some trepidation, I ask for you to show me how I can best imitate your insider approach. Encourage me through your love, for I know where the journey took you. Amen.
Scripture: Luke 2:28-32
Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, tadalafil saying, “Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.”
Thought for the Day: When Jesus was taken to the Temple for the traditional blessing shortly after his birth, Simeon was there to give witness to who Jesus was and what he would do for the world. Simeon’s words sound very poetic and beautiful, and though they are, these words are also confrontational and reveal the perilous path for this child and anyone who would follow him. To speak of this infant as the Saving One whose light would bring diverse peoples together would have been to usurp the authority of Rome and specifically the Emperor. I read the following quote on the Sojourner’s website a few weeks back: “Following Jesus will mean surrendering the power that masquerades as security in order to love the neighbor and welcome the stranger. It will mean avoiding the safe path in order to pursue the good” (Quote from Scott Bader-Saye, Ethics professor at the Seminary of the Southwest). From the beginning, the way of the Christ was not easy. Though the path of sacrifice to which we are called is a path that Jesus has already walked…and is one he will walk again as a partner with us.
Prayer: Merciful God, you have shown me the way of discipleship through a young child, and now you offer to walk with me as I journey the path myself. Thank you! Amen.
Scripture: John 1:1-5
In the beginning was the Word, cure and the Word was with God, patient and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
Thought for the Day: Rembrandt’s painting, “The Adoration of the Shepherds,” depicts the holy family in a barn with shepherds surrounding them. The painting is dark, except for the light radiating from the Christ child. It is because of this light that we are able to see the individual faces of those gathered at the nativity. I don’t know whether the artist intended it or not (if not, I will be taking some creative license), but whatever the case, I want us to give thanks for the light of love that shines anew in this world and allows us to see more clearly the individual beauty of every person.
CLICK HERE to view the painting.
Prayer: You have provided us, O Word made Flesh, with the brilliance of your presence by which we are able to better see the value and beauty within each member of the human family. Amen.
Scripture: Luke 2:7
And [Mary] gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, cheap and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
Thought for the Day: I had a slip of the tongue the other day, but it led me to think of Christmas in a slightly different way. Instead of saying ‘manger’, I said ‘major’. At first, I saw no connecting point between the two words except the similarity in sound. But then it hit me…we need to attune our spiritual senses so we are looking, not for major moments in life, but the manger moments. Too often we awaken to each day looking for the great opportunity or the big break. We think in terms of magnitude and authority, when in fact our faith calls us to look more closely at the most simple and fragile among us. When we are no longer obsessed with the major events, we might just see the manger event. Whatever your plans are for this day, I encourage you to get excited about the manger event that is and will continue to happen in this world, assuming we are willing to cast our sight away from the major events.
Prayer: O God revealed in a stable, when the powers and principalities of this world encourage me to obsess over the major events, I ask for you to gently guide my attention to the manger event that will turn out to be the greatest of all events. Amen.
Scripture: Luke 1:45
And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.
Thought for the Day: And blessed are we all who listen to and believe the word of God in our lives. Although we like to think of ourselves as an advanced (dare I say “enlightened”) civilization, in truth, we are not very different from those who preceded us, like Mary so long ago. Our lives are busy, complicated and difficult (Mary was an unwed, teenage mother–her life was definitely complicated and difficult).
Now, as then, we continue to concentrate on the material aspects of our lives, leaving little time to hear and believe God is talking to us. In fact, today’s über-scientific point of view makes it difficult to believe in anything considered “supernatural.” I don’t actually have a problem with that, because I don’ think God is supernatural. I believe God is the most natural of substances in this or any universe; that God is the underlying “stuff” of everything that exists, and that God does speak to us, regularly, if we keep an open mind. There’s nothing supernatural about God–there certainly wasn’t anything supernatural about God to Mary, who listened and accepted what she was told, no questions asked, as if God speaking to her was the most natural thing ever. As we celebrate the birth of the Christ, let us also celebrate Mary, who had the conviction, strength, and faith necessary to listen when God spoke. In that respect, Mary was much more advanced than are we.
Prayer: Infinite God of love, during this magical time of the year, we pray you open our minds to the wonder and magic of the universe, and thus allow us to invite the mystery that is God into out hearts, without hesitation, and with complete faith. Amen.
Scripture: Exodus 16:14-18
When the layer of dew lifted, there on the surface of the wilderness was a fine flaky substance, as fine as frost on the ground. When the Israelites saw it, they said to one another, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was. Moses said to them, “It is the bread that the LORD has given you to eat. This is what the LORD has commanded: ‘Gather as much of it as each of you needs, an omer to a person according to the number of persons, all providing for those in their own tents.’ ” The Israelites did so, some gathering more, some less. But when they measured it with an omer, those who gathered much had nothing over, and those who gathered little had no shortage; they gathered as much as each of them needed.
Thought for the Day: Just as God provided manna for the Israelites, God provides spiritual sustenance to each of us as well, and fills us to capacity, all the time. Nobody can have too much or too little of the Spirit of God, of the Christ. Just as the Israelites gathering their daily bread found that whether they gathered too much or too little, they all received just the right amount, so too it is when we begin to allow God into our lives, when we begin to allow Christ into our lives. Of course, it’s our job to be open to the reception of these gifts.
In a society where hoarding has become a disease (and of course, a television show), the story of the Israeites gathering their daily manna takes on a powerful new symbolism. If you gather a little too much, God evens out your take so that you have what you need, and no more. If you don’t gather quite enough, God fills your cup so that you don’t go hungry. Ultimately, everyone has not necessarily the same amount of daily bread, but has what they need to feed themselves and their families.
As we begin to reevaluate our modern society, and discuss the idea that everyone needs to produce or pay their fair share, we should keep in mind that this does not mean we all necessarily have the same house, car, or lifestyle, but rather, that those who have much–those whose manna is oveflowing–are commanded by God and simple human decency, to share with those who have not enough. God is gracious enough to share God’s spirit with all of us unconditionally, and indeed, as we learn during the Advent and Christmas season, God is willing to share God’s own flesh with us. The least we can do in return is share our abundances with those in need.
Prayer: May your Holy Spirit of love and fairness touch the hearts of humankind this Christmas, glorious God. May we rememnber that you provide all we need. We pray that your Spirit moves us to a life of giving and compassion, so that we might help create a world where all share equitably in your gifts, a world where those who have the gift of abundance, learn to share it with those who do not, as you, God of hope, share of yourself with us, always. Amen.
Scripture: Isaiah 9:2
The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness—on them light has shined.
Thought for the Day: Apple’s “1984” commercial is probably the most famous commercial ever created. In it, a group of mindless automatons sit in a dark room and dispassionately watch a giant Orwellian head on a screen talk to them about conformity. Then, a female athlete, the only color in a wash of grey, bursts into the room, swinging a sledgehammer in sweeping circles with the grace of an Olympian. She lets the sledgehammer fly, and it shatters the screen, sending a wash of light across the endless rows of Zombies, waking them from their slumber and freeing them from their chains of conformity.
Even though this commercial only aired once, it has become part of our popular psyche. It’s a great commercial, but I think it resonates with us on a deeper level. It shows a group of enslaved people, saved by a person who allows light into the darkness. It’s the Exodus story. It’s the Christmas story, a story about the creation of a radical new way to live, filled with the light of God, free from this artificial reality that keeps us trapped in a Zombie-like state of being.
Just as Isaiah prophesied, we have been sent the One who is the light of God; the One who shattered all ideas about what reality is. One who calls us to turn our lives upside down and inside out, who had a vision of a radical and egalitarian new world. By example, Jesus showed us that we are called to a life lived consciously and actively in God’s Spirit; a life filled with light, love, compassion, and forgiveness. Christ is born and alive within us, but we must shed the husks of conformity and mindlessness to reveal our beautiful, wise, charitable Spirit within. That’s our true human legacy. We are not automatons. We are not mindless chunks of flesh. We are Spirit-infused beings meant to live a Spirit-filled life, and the light of the world is always available to us as a guide.
Prayer: I pray to you, God most holy, to grant me the self-awareness I need to accept your call out of the darkness, into a life lived awakened to the Spirit of light within me. May I live a life of humility; a life of service to humanity and to you, our loving God. Amen.