Month: February 2013
Scripture: Proverbs 19:11
A person’s wisdom yields patience;
it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense.
Thought for the Day: We have been learning from God and teaching each other that vengeance is disruptive and dishonorable for well over 5000 years. Then why is it I can turn on the television and watch a show called “Revenge”? Why is it that after our country is attacked, thumb we feel the need to rush to judgment and exact 70 times the damage on our alleged offender? This desire for vengeance just fuels both sides of the fight. They attack us, we punish them, and they punish us for punishing them, and so on until we’re caught in a vicious cycle of retribution without any hope of forgiveness.
God demands we become a peaceful people, and that means letting go. Letting go of perceived wrongs, letting go of fear, letting go of guilt and shame. Because otherwise, the entire planet will remain trapped in the current cyclical hell of retribution, constantly chasing vengeance like a dog chases its tail. Except eventually, the dog realizes this is a losing battle. I wonder when we’ll figure that out?
Prayer: Merciful and Loving God, liberate us from this ludicrous cycle of retribution. Help us grow spiritually, so that we understand and respect our differences, rather than reacting to them with fear and violence. Forgive us all, Mighty Lord, as we struggle to awaken from millennia of violent reaction to our world and each other. Transform us into new beings of love, respect, and mutual cooperation, as exemplified in Christ. Do it now, God, do it now. Amen.
Scripture: Luke 6:37-38
Do not judge, view and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.
Thought for the Day: As a performer, I’m used to being judged. All through high school and college I was in competitions where my performance and musical ability were judged. In fact in college, your final performance exam is called “juries.” One of the reasons shows like American Idol are so popular is because of the judging panel.
Life is not a talent show though. Generally, when we judge others, it’s not about their talent (or lack of it), but because of some trespass against us, perceived or real. However, Scripture implies that nobody deserves to be judged and condemned, even for heinous errors. We’re to forgive ”seventy times seven.” This is difficult for us, especially if someone has instigated something as heinous as say, the Holocaust. Yet Jesus forgave everyone he met, even those who crucified him, setting a powerful example for the rest of us.
Prayer: I know you forgive me when I mess up, Merciful Lord. Compel me to do the same for others. Amen.
Scripture: Mark 1:4
And so John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, sick preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
Thought for the Day: Being sorry is built into our nature. Most of us feel pretty remorseful when we mess up, drugstore especially when we hurt someone close to us. We talk a lot about repentance like it’s some difficult and lofty goal; but really, it’s part of our being. When’s the last time you made a mistake and didn’t feel sorry or apologize? My guess is it’s been a very long time since you didn’t own up to a mistake.
So why is it so hard then, for us to forgive each other? Why is the mechanism that’s built into every one of us, that usually goes into automatic action when we transgress against a family member or friend, seemingly switched “off”—especially when we become Presidents, Congress people, or captains of industry? Why is remorse so hard to find on Wall Street, after they’ve bankrupted the country? Where’s the repentance in a health care industry that marks up goods and services by thousands of percentage points and tries to deny service to those most in need (you must read this Time magazine article)?
Yet, even for all their abuses, I know I must forgive. I must forgive the people in positions of power who are squeezing me out of existence. I must forgive them for their greed, their abuse of power, and their abuse of the American legal system. I must forgive them for the millions of people they have put out of homes and jobs.
But all that forgiving would be a lot easier to do if just one of them would say, “I’m sorry.”
Prayer: I’m sorry for anyone I’ve ever hurt, may they forgive me. I forgive all those who hurt others, and pray, O Mighty God, that their hearts will be turned from stone, so that they too might find the power hidden in the words, “I’m sorry.” Amen.
Scripture: Romans 12:2
Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, for sale fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out.
Thought for the Day: We’re hypnotized by modern life. We wake up to the glow of our iDevices, check get into our cars, switch on the navigation systems and the radio, and drive obliviously to work. Once at work, we stress ourselves out or break our backs to make enough money to pay our mortgage, bills, education costs, and to put food on the table for our families. The next day, we do the same thing all over again. All because our culture tells us “more is better” and “everyone for themselves.”
This is completely contrary to a life lived in the fullness of God’s love. We don’t need to be running the rat race, caught in a circular maze that always keeps the cheese a couple feet away from us. If we focus our attention on God rather than on attaining material wealth, everything changes—for us, and for the world. Instead of fighting traffic, getting irritated and being grumpy all day, we find a calling—something we love to do, that we gladly wake up to do; something that serves others, not just Mammon.
We have a duty to care for each other. This American civilization of corporate control, of insurance companies that insist you don’t really need that operation, or hospitals that bankrupt you for healthcare; this American civilization of scratching and fighting and lying your way to the top of the heap (and it is a heap)—it must end. And the only way things get better for all of us, is when we begin to focus on the unconditional love of God and reflect unconditional love in our own lives.
Let God change you from the inside. Lose your stress. What are you fighting for anyway? Another car? Another house? Find the true peace and happiness that comes from service to others. Find God. Change the world. Do it now.
Prayer: Find me, God of love, and fill my soul with the desire to live for others, to see through the veil of selfishness and greed, and to be transformed into a new being. Do it now, God! Do it now! Amen.
Scripture: Romans 9:22-24
What if God, advice although choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, sales bore with great patience the objects of his wrath—prepared for destruction? What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, ed whom he prepared in advance for glory— even us, whom he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles?
Thought for the Day: What if the things we see as horrible are revelations of ultimate good? Is it naïve to see God at work in a society where mass shootings are common? Is it foolish to see God at work in a political system where cooperation for the common good—the very purpose of government—is seen as anathema to reelection? Or instead, as Paul suggests, what if God’s presence is made known to us even through polarized politics and a society so apathetic that even as our children are killed in schools—in schools! We still allow weapons to be sold at Wal-Mart.
It’s my fervent hope that the atrocities this country is going through now will serve as an impetus for a deeper understanding of justice and safety, understanding that can only come from knowing whose we are. We are not individuals with individual agendas. We are one people of God, indivisible, and we have a responsibility to start waking up from our nightmare and acting like the loving energy in whose image we are created. I hope this dark period of both American and world history is the storm before the calm.
Prayer: Slap us into a new reality, God. Wake us vigorously from our long slumber of separation. Calm the storms in our lives, in our nation, and in the world. Please, God of mercy, prepare us for a brighter, more peaceful and love-filled era, and make it start now. Amen.
Scripture: James 1:2-5
Consider it pure joy, try my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
Thought for the Day: The world is a noisy place, and our attention spans are short. I know I have trouble “turning off” and letting God’s love and serenity combust in my soul. Yet, God works in us whether we are aware or not. Sometimes I think we’re kind of like God’s artwork—perfectly crafted, yet oblivious of our perfection, just as a Picasso is unaware of the brilliance of its creator.
Yet, Jesus shows us we are capable of a much deeper awareness of God; a more intimate understanding of our beauty, if we will persevere through faith. The Christ reveals that fiery spirit within that God ignites in our souls. We’re connected to God intimately yet subtly; more as watercolor than sculpture, and each of us is one of God’s remarkably beautiful canvases. Together, we are God’s masterpiece, a variety of styles spread across the canvas of humanity. We persevere because we know God is painting a new scene, and it’s glorious.
Prayer: As an artist uses a brush, use me, Holy Imaginative One, to paint a new world of love, justice, compassion and forgiveness. Amen.
Quote: All misfortune is but a stepping-stone to fortune — Henry David Thoreau
Thought for the Day: A parable worth repeating… There is an ancient Chinese parable about a farmer whose horse ran away. “Oh, pharmacy that’s very bad news,” says the farmer’s friend. The farmer replies, “Good news, bad news, who can say?” A couple of days later, the horse returns, and brings another horse with it. “Wow! That’s very good news!” The farmer’s friend says encouragingly. “Good news, bad news, who can say?” The farmer replies simply.
Later, the farmer’s son is out riding the new horse, and he is thrown and breaks his leg. “Oh! What a tragedy!” exclaims the friend. “Good news, bad news, who can say?” repeats the farmer.
About a week later, the emperor’s men are riding through the town, conscripting every able-bodied young man. The farmer’s son is exempted because his leg is broken. The farmer’s friend is elated over such good news. The farmer simply says, “Good news, bad news, who’s to say?”
Prayer: O Unfathomably Loving God, enlighten me! Open my eyes, so I can see through the veil of human perception, and experience you in every moment. Amen.
Scripture: 1 Peter 4:12-13
Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.
Thought for the Day: Any spiritual journey is full of trials and tribulations. We shouldn’t be surprised when things go a little (or a lot) wonky on us. I think a lot of faithful people expect that once they open their hearts to God and turn their lives over to the Christ, that suddenly life is a bowl of pitted cherries. But spiritual growth is tough, and it takes as much work on our part as it does on God’s transformative power. I hear some of you out there thinking, “But isn’t that salvation by works, which Paul preaches against?” No, no it isn’t. This isn’t about salvation; it’s about changing the world here and now.
Somewhere along the road a lot of Christians have forgotten the teachings of Jesus and the struggles he and his followers went through to change the world they lived in—a very real struggle to overturn economic and political injustice. Christianity has become in large part about the afterlife—salvation, which I think is unfortunate. Jesus worked hard to get people thinking and acting differently in the here and now. He wanted people to find the intimate relationship with God that he had, and he wanted people to love each other unconditionally, as a reflection of God’s love for all creation.
As followers of Jesus, we’re called to continue the fight for justice, to bring about a more peaceful and equitable reality. Changing the world, which was Jesus’ ultimate purpose, does requires us to start thinking and acting differently. Any relationship requires both partners to act righteously. God’s doing God’s part. Are we doing ours?
Prayer: God of infinite memory, remind me that my relationship with you isn’t all about tomorrow, but rather about today. Use me to change the world—not because I expect a reward, but simply because I am a human, called to treat all other humans with respect, love, compassion, mercy, and justice. Amen.