08-18-19

ECCLESIOLOGICAL ETCHINGS

August 18, 2019

Scripture: Psalm 23:4

Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

Thought for the Day: Many of us know these words well. We might have memorized a slightly different version, but no matter how you first learned them there is an important and beautiful transition in the language that should not be overlooked. Earlier in the Psalm, the author spoke of God in the third person. “The Lord is my shepherd…” is the metaphor by which the author described God, but as we transition into the darkness and shadows of the valley, the pronouns change. The language becomes intimate as the author makes a profound statement of faith: “…you are with me…” The Psalm would have still been beautiful if the author would have said, “The Shepherd is with me,” but with the transition to first person, we find a confident familiarity that is so much more comforting. A shepherd is a nice image to use, but at the end of the day, I don’t want a shepherd in my valleys of darkness. I desire the One who might be LIKE a shepherd, but is in fact the Source of Everlasting Life and Love.

Prayer: Whatever language I may use to describe you, Lord, at the end of the day I do not desire a relationship with language. I want to know you and the love found in a relationship with you. Amen.



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08-17-19

ECCLESIOLOGICAL ETCHINGS

August 17, 2019

Scripture: Psalm 55:22

Cast your burden on the LORD— he will support you! God will never let the righteous be shaken!

Thought for the Day: Does anyone else have a difficult time ‘casting’ those things that weigh heavy upon you? We can usually talk a good game about letting go or turning over to God, but do we really do this? I find that most folks struggle with the whole notion, especially in the middle of the night when anxiety creeps back in and the concern (issue, fear, etc) returns with authority and strength. It sticks to us like a dryer sheet in December. With this verse, and others like it, we tend to focus on the part that is easily repeated: Cast your burden on the LORD… This limited focus ignores the language of divine support and the steadiness of God found in the latter part of the verse. A contrast is made between us and God, suggesting that our casting will be a work in progress. As we both cast and cling, toss and hold tight, we can trust in God to work with us. Our inability to let go does not impact God’s capacity to remain faithful and encouraging. God is not looking for us to flog ourselves when we fail, but to appreciate God’s unchanging care and kindness that refuses to be anything but an unshakeable supporter in our struggles.

Prayer: Thank you for your unmerited love, O Lord, even when I struggle between trusting you and attempting to control those things that are out of my control. With your help, I will continue to work on those unhealthy things to which I grip tightly. Amen.



08-16-19

ECCLESIOLOGICAL ETCHINGS

August 16, 2019

Scripture: 1st Corinthians 10:13

No temptation has seized you that isn’t common for people. But God is faithful. He won’t allow you to be tempted beyond your abilities. Instead, with the temptation, God will also supply a way out so that you will be able to endure it.

Thought for the Day: I have always been troubled by the pithy line, “God will never give you more than you can handle.” My response has always been, “God doesn’t, but the world can sure pile it on pretty thick.” I feel strongly about it, but also want to take seriously these words from 1st Corinthians. Temptation is the issue, and on a first reading it appears that God will limit the ability or power of temptation in our lives. This too seems strange to me, for if God can restrict temptation, then why not reduce it all the way around? Reading these words must be done within their original context, and Paul was writing to Gentile Christians who were worshiping gods that were petty, manipulative, seductive and would view human beings as pawns in their divine games. For Paul to speak of God differently would have been shocking, but also liberating. God is not the source of temptation, according to Paul, but the One who works with us amid the temptations. Paul is cracking open a new way of thinking about God that is not as small-minded and shallow as we often are. God is not in the tempting business, but in the saving business. God is not into manipulative game playing, but in the loving work of creating human beings who are able to become more than what the world might suggest.

Prayer: As Paul broke open a new understanding of the divine for his generation, we ask for help as we break open new ways of thinking about you, O Eternal God. As we grow in our relationship with the fullness of your love, may old and empty ways of perceiving you slip away. This is our hope. Amen.



08-15-19

ECCLESIOLOGICAL ETCHINGS

August 15, 2019

Scripture: Isaiah 43:19

Look! I’m doing a new thing; now it sprouts up; don’t you recognize it? I’m making a way in the desert, paths in the wilderness.

Thought for the Day: For the foreseeable future, I am going to make Thursday a day of prayer. I will use the above text from Isaiah each week as my starting place as I pray for a world free of violence, bigotry and hate…believing that God is already doing a new thing. Do we recognize it?

Prayer: It was Bob the Builder who asked, “Can we fix it?” And with an enthusiasm that shook many living rooms across the country, the response among children was, “Yes we can!”

Merciful Creator, you look upon the life you engendered and nurtured in this world, yet we have not always respected or been the best stewards of that life energy. Our choices, so often short sided, have discounted the value of this gift. We have disrespected it within others, and we have too easily disregarded it within ourselves. Your Spirit whispers to us a rhetorical question, “Can we fix it?” Our lips want to join the millions of children who have responded without hesitation, “Yes we can!” They know the story of Bob, and they know he always finds a way. We know your story, Lord, and we try to believe in your patient capacity when it comes to finding a way. Provide us time to do some soul searching with your Spirit as the guide. Let us name the wounds we carry within us that too often provide consent to others who may want to injure us. Let us name the wounds we carry within us that buy into the myth that our healing will come through disparaging or hurting others. Can we fix it, we ask? Let our emphasis be upon the word WE as WE need you and your transformative love that is given unconditionally. Let us work on ourselves, but in doing so, let us provide a gracious and safe environment where others can work on their stuff. In and through your love, we might just find a way to fix this. Or maybe, we will learn to join you in the new thing already happening in our midst. Amen.



08-14-19

ECCLESIOLOGICAL ETCHINGS

August 14, 2019

Scripture: Romans 15:14-15

My brothers and sisters, I myself am convinced that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, and are able to teach each other. But I’ve written to you in a sort of daring way, partly to remind you of what you already know. I’m writing to you in this way because of the grace that was given to me by God.

Thought for the Day: If Paul had actually given headings to certain sections of scripture, I feel pretty certain this one would have the heading, “Take note, Bruce.” Paul is so affirming in the opening sentence, but then it is followed with a “But…” According to Jon Snow from Game of Thrones, “Everything before the word ‘but’ is horse manure (he used a different word, but you get the point). I don’t know if I would go that far with Paul’s words, but he wants to temper any ego issues the church in Rome might claim. I wonder what the church in Rome already knows? Could it be that each of us is a mixed bag of good and poor choices. We have our more than impressive moments, and then we have our less than stellar. I think Paul would applaud us for many things, but then remind us of what we already know – we are always one decision, one poor choice of words, one quick reaction without thinking, one sarcastic comment – from becoming the jerks Christ does not need representing him. Will he still love us? Of course, but we need to continually do self-evaluations about our weaknesses and what sets us off. Grace, according to Paul, is what helps us do this tough internal work. It removes any fear we might have of some divine judgment, while also empowering us as we do the necessary work of change. Remember, you are also – one decision, one grace-filled choice, one thoughtful response, one affirming comment – from becoming the person Christ need you to be.

Prayer: Let us celebrate the many successes while being aware of the needed work that remains. O Merciful God, keep us about the work of faith while always working on our faith. Amen.