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Thursday, 31 August 2017

"Faith... for Our Justification."

Not our will, but yours, O God.  Transform our heats that we might reveal your light and help make the world a little more kind, a little more just, and a little more loving.

Romans 4:22-25
22Therefore his faith ‘was reckoned to him as righteousness.’ 23Now the words, ‘it was reckoned to him’, were written not for his sake alone, 24but for ours also. It will be reckoned to us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, 25who was handed over to death for our trespasses and was raised for our justification.

1) "...reckoned;" "...his faith 'was reckoned to him as righteousness;'" " will be reckoned to us;"

2) I've looked up the word "reckoned" in the Concise Oxford Dictionary because it is a bit of a stumbling stone to me: "counted," "considered," "concluded," "taken into account."  When I use my parallel Bible for other translations the REB says "counted," the NAB says, "credited," and the NJB actually puts quotes around 'reckoned.'  "Credited" seems to be the clearest in meaning.  "It" signifies "his faith." Our faith will be credited to us who believe in him?  or Abraham's faith will be credited to us who believe?  I expect either reading could be correct.  But the gist is that we believe/trust God who raise Jesus from the dead... We too must trust that even though following Jesus may lead to our death, God will justify us as well.  It is God who justifies, not our actions, not our following of the rules.  But God's infinite love that justifies.  Can I trust that God will justify these unrepentant sinners?  Clearly, I need to trust more.  I struggle to trust that President #45, Trudeau, White European Settlers, Multinational corporations, that miserable neighbour/family/church member, to name a few, will ever be justified.

3) What is the invitation in all this?  To trust that God will justify the living and the dead.

"Holy One, teach us to trust."

Breathprayer: "faith... for our justification."

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

"Against Hope... God Was Able."

Transform our hearts, Holy One, that your light may shine through us, making your world a little more kind, a little more just, and a little more gentle.

Romans 4:18-21
18Hoping against hope, he believed that he would become ‘the father of many nations’, according to what was said, ‘So numerous shall your descendants be.’ 19He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was already as good as dead (for he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. 20No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, 21being fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised.

1) "Hoping against hope;" "...good as dead;" "...he gave glory to God;" "...God was able;" "...God was able to do what he had promised;" "...fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised;" "...

2) Are we so convinced?  That God is able to do what God has promised?  Am I?  As I ran today, I was thinking of the double loop theory of congregational development and where I feel we are on it... I feel like the Titanic is sinking faster and faster every day and my congregation is so busy preparing and serving a five star meal in the banquet hall that they won't hear me saying we need to be ripping these tables and chairs apart and making life rafts, not moving them about to make it look like there are more people at the feast!  Where am I on the "double loop"?  I like to think I'm on the second loop trying to call people over, but that is SO not the case.  I'm panicking at the bottom of the first loop.  I want to cross over, but I'm busy pushing and pulling and exhorting trying to get other people to go across.  Why don't I just cross over?  And then I wonder about what I see on the other side, on the "second loop."  I see a more faithful church.  One that is serious about its calling to follow Christ.  One that is taking PIE seriously: Public, Intentional, and Explicit seriously.  Public in is proclamation, using every means at its disposal to share its message; Intentional about learning its place in history and how it has benefited from oppression, abuse, marginalization, and an injustice.  Explicit in is seeking of amends and right relationship with those it has wronged.  I see a church that is affirming of LGBTQ* people.  I see a church that sacrifices absolutely everything it thinks it is to follow the way of Christ.  And it isn't going to say, "We're too old (good as dead to use Paul's words)."  But rather it will trust that God will fulfil what God has promised.  What is holding ME back from simply crossing to the other loop?  Am I?

3) Cross over.  Start exploring the other loop.  If others choose to follow, wouldn't that be nice?

"Holy One, help us to trust that you are with us every step of the way, you were there before we arrived, you are there before we follow.  You are the push and the pull into the future, we simply can't escape you.  Thanks be to God."

Breathprayer: "Against hope... God was able."

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

"Grace... to All His Descendants."

I ask that our hearts be transformed, that we might surrender the imperial church, Christendom, the church that collaborates with the powers and the principalities of this age, and become the disciples that follow Christ, seeking justice, loving kindness, and walking humbly.

Romans 4:16-17
16 For this reason it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his descendants, not only to the adherents of the law but also to those who share the faith of Abraham (for he is the father of all of us, 17as it is written, ‘I have made you the father of many nations’)—in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist.

1) "grace;" " all his descendants;" "...the father of many nations;" " the presence of God;" "...who gives life to the dead;" "...and calls into existence the things that do not exist;"

2) If God can give life to the dead and call into existence the things that do not exist, surely God can reconcile the people of the law and the people without the law to each other and to God's self.  If God can give life to the dead and call in to existence the things that do not exist, maybe God really can transform our hearts, really make us disciples in the 21st century.  Maybe God really can help us let go of the things of the past that are preventing us from following Jesus with full integrity and life.  Maybe we can let go of our privilege based on racism, heterosexism, class, education, birth, nationality, and genders.  Maybe it is possible to pass through the eye of a needle?  I notice that I'm phrasing these all as 'maybes'.  Our inclination to hold fast to our comfortable ignorance is pretty strong.  The discomfort of the way things are needs to be more painful than the discomfort of changing the way things are before we will move.

3) To take comfort, knowing that what needs to happen now is minor when compared to what has already taken place: creation, liberation, resurrection, reconciliation...

"Holy One, give life to the dead and call into existence things that do not exist that we may truly be your people, called to serve and to reconcile."

Breathprayer: "Grace... to all his descendants."

Monday, 28 August 2017

"Promise... through the Righteousness of Faith."

Holy One, transform our hearts, that we may reveal the image in which we have been made, or at least, some small part of that image, so our world might be a little more kind, a little more just, a little more loving.

Romans 4:11-15
11He received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. The purpose was to make him the ancestor of all who believe without being circumcised and who thus have righteousness reckoned to them, 12and likewise the ancestor of the circumcised who are not only circumcised but who also follow the example of the faith that our ancestor Abraham had before he was circumcised.
13 For the promise that he would inherit the world did not come to Abraham or to his descendants through the law but through the righteousness of faith. 14If it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void. 15For the law brings wrath; but where there is no law, neither is there violation.

1) "...he would inherit the world... through the righteousness of faith."  "...but where there is no law, neither is the violation."

2) "but where there is no law, neither is there violation,"  Really?  I would rather think that the law helps us recognize violation.  I rather see the importance of the law as one of the means by which we come to know right and wrong.  Is it the law itself that creates violation?  I'm not partial to a "God" that would create a law for the sake of our being able to brake it for the sake of God being able to reconcile us.  That sounds much too much like baiting.  I can't imagine God playing games like that.  That God would be cruel.  Rather, I feel the "law" and "scripture" in general help us to witness the contours of what is right and wrong.  But following the law too rigorously becomes an act of ego in itself.  "See, I'm following the rules better than you."  That is not the path of reconciliation, that is self-justification.  Right relationship with ourselves, each other, God and creation isn't a checklist.  It's a deepening of relationship, trust, faith in one another.  I was reading about Thomas Merton talking about a Butter Churn from India that has paddles that go back and forth.  He says, we think we are marching towards a more just world.  We take three steps forward and two steps back; we take 10 steps forward and 12 back; we take 20 steps forward and 30 back, and we get frustrated because we are getting further and further away from the goal.  But justice isn't a destination, its a deepening of the heart.  We aren't marching to justice, we are churning butter, each success and each failure is another churning, back and forth, deepening with each stride.

3) To let the humility of failure instruct.  Wow... lots of material here for instruction... failure to "meditate," failure to remain focused, failure to react calmly in crisis, failure to be kind...

"Holy One, instruct us, teach us humility that will increase our capacity for life."

Breathprayer: "Promise... through the righteousness of faith."

Sunday, 27 August 2017

"Irrespective of Works... Iniquities Are Forgiven."

I ask that we may be transformed to be better disciples, better followers of Christ.  That we may reject cheap grace, and works righteousness and seek to be public in our proclamation, intentional about learning our place in history and how we benefit from injustice and disparity, and explicit in our attempts to live in right relationship, to make amends with those we have wronged, and to be reconciled to ourselves, to each other, to creation and to God.

Romans 4:6-10
6So also David speaks of the blessedness of those to whom God reckons righteousness irrespective of works:
7 ‘Blessed are those whose iniquities are forgiven,
   and whose sins are covered;
8 blessed is the one against whom the Lord will not reckon sin.’
9 Is this blessedness, then, pronounced only on the circumcised, or also on the uncircumcised? We say, ‘Faith was reckoned to Abraham as righteousness.’ 10How then was it reckoned to him? Was it before or after he had been circumcised? It was not after, but before he was circumcised.

1) "blessedness;" "...irrespective of works;" "...blessed are those who iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered;" "blessedness;"

2) It was prior to Abraham being circumcised that he was reckoned as righteous, as in, before he was following the law... in fact, Abraham was reckoned righteous before there even was a law to follow... several hundred years according to the texts.  Paul uses this as an argument against all forms of works righteousness and legalism.  And who are the "Blessed... whose iniquities are forgiven and whose sins are covered"?  All of us, circumcised and uncircumcised alike.  Paul has spent a great deal of time emphasizing this point.  No boasting because you think your works are better than others.  We don't do works because it earns us favour.  We work as a grateful response to God's grace, not to earn it.  Thank God, The lord "will not reckon sin" against us.  But God does command that we change our ways.  There is something terribly liberating, subtle, but liberating here.  We don't have to earn anything, just follow.  God's goes on ahead.

3) to relax into God's graciousness, to let the blessedness come on all of us, and respond with deep gratitude.

"Holy One, thank you."

Breathprayer: "Irrespective of works... iniquities are forgiven."

Saturday, 26 August 2017

"God... Justifies the Ungodly."

Holy One, I ask that our hearts be transformed.  May we let go of the false self that convinces us that we earn your love, and special privileges in your Kingdom, and surrender the false belief that there grace is cheap, with no expectations, no accountability, no obligation, or obedience.  Teach us the way of costly grace that calls us to give all, for all, as did the one we follow, Christ Jesus.  May we seek justice, love kindness, and walk humbly.

Romans 4:1-5
4What then are we to say was gained by Abraham, our ancestor according to the flesh? 2For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. 3For what does the scripture say? ‘Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.’ 4Now to one who works, wages are not reckoned as a gift but as something due. 5But to one who without works trusts him who justifies the ungodly, such faith is reckoned as righteousness.

1) "...according to the flesh;" "...Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness;" "...not reckoned as a gift, but as something due;" "...who without works trusts;" "...But to one who without works trusts him who justifies the ungodly, such faith is reckoned as righteousness;" "...who justifies the ungodly;" "...without works;" "...such faith is reckoned as righteousness;"

2) God justifies the ungodly.  God justifies the ungodly.  God justifies the ungodly.  We are called to trust the one who justifies the ungodly [us].  We are called to trust the one who justifies the ungodly [us].  We are called to trust the one who justifies the ungodly [us].  This trust is the faith that is reckoned as righteous.  It seems that "our ancestor according to the flesh" is meant to be a stab at legalism... isn't spirit more than "flesh" in this particular context.  So sure, call Abraham your ancestor according to the flesh, it isn't going to "gain" anything for us.  Trust is still called of us.  We are still called to follow.  Abraham's belief can't be a "work" that "earned" justification.  His belief is itself a gift.

3) To trust God to justify.  Wow... that's hard.  I want some control here.  I want something to do... like a list or something that I can tick off, "okay, did that, I'm good."  No list.  Just trust,  God's got it covered.  God justifies even the ungodly... Its the very ungodly, God justifies.

"Holy One, in your infinite mercy, you justify us in our ungodliness.  Thank you.  Humble us, that we may witness your justification in right relationship with all our neighbours."

Breathprayer: "God... justifies the ungodly."

Friday, 25 August 2017

"Boasting... Is Excluded."

I ask for the grace to be transformed, to let go of the comfort of the way things are, and to embrace the way God would have them, though that requires sacrifice and perhaps pain for a time.  May we know and follow Jesus more closely, seeking justice, loving kindness, and walking humbly.

Romans 3:27-31
27 Then what becomes of boasting? It is excluded. By what law? By that of works? No, but by the law of faith. 28For we hold that a person is justified by faith apart from works prescribed by the law. 29Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, 30since God is one; and he will justify the circumcised on the ground of faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith. 31Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law.

1) "Boating? It is excluded;" "...a person is justified by faith;" "...God is one;" "...through the same faith;" "...By no means!"

2) I should do a count to see just how often Paul uses the expression "By no means!" in these first chapters of Romans.  "Hell no!"  The work/law is essential, but it is not a means by which to boast.  And neither is grace.  Grace and obedience, obedience and grace go hand in hand.  We do not "earn" God's grace, grace is a free gift.  But neither is grace something we receive without some expectation, responsibility, and obligation.  The grace is to follow Christ.  Following Christ means seeking justice, loving kindness, and walking humbly.  I've been thinking, if I punch someone in the face repeatedly, and they say, "please stop, you are hurting me," and I say, "Sorry, I don't intend to hurt you," but I keep punching them in the same way, thinking that God's Grace absolves me of consequences, I'm wrong.  I need to stop doing what I'm doing that hurts that someone.  I need to change my ways.  Repentance and Grace go hand in hand.

3) What is the invitation in all this?  Stop boasting.  Stop thinking that for any reason, by merit, or by accident of birth, we are any better than anyone else.  Find gratitude for the privileges, advantages, that have been bestowed on me.  Share them.  Discrepancy in the world creates an opportunity to learn compassion and humility.  Where's ours?  Either one?

"Holy One, teach us compassion and humility, humility and compassion, and lead us to right relationship with all our neighbours."

Breathprayer: "Boasting... is excluded."

Thursday, 24 August 2017

"Accountable... to God."

May our hearts be transformed daily.  May we let go of our way and follow the way of Christ.  May we surrender our privilege, our advantage, and our desire to boast.  May we know and follow Christ more closely, seeking justice, loving kindness, and walking humbly.

Romans 3:19-26
19 Now we know that whatever the law says, it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 20For ‘no human being will be justified in his sight’ by deeds prescribed by the law, for through the law comes the knowledge of sin.
21 But now, irrespective of law, the righteousness of God has been disclosed, and is attested by the law and the prophets, 22the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction, 23since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; 24they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25whom God put forward as a sacrifice of atonement by his blood, effective through faith. He did this to show his righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over the sins previously committed; 26it was to prove at the present time that he himself is righteous and that he justifies the one who has faith in Jesus.

1) "...held accountable to God;" " human being will be justified in his sight' by deeds prescribed;" "...the knowledge of sin;" "...the righteousness of God has been disclosed;" "...all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God;" "...justified by his grace as a gift;" "...redemption that is in Christ Jesus;" "...effective through faith;" "...passed over;" "...he justifies;"

2) We "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God."  When I'm frustrated with someone else's shadow, it helps to reflect on this verse.  Rather than being angry and frustrated with the individual, I move into a place of honest grief that we just aren't meeting the glory of God.  So when someone is long winded, or slow to understand, or just not doing what they said they would do, or doing what they said they wouldn't, rather than living into my frustration, exasperation, anger, discouragement, I take the opportunity to remember that we all fall short and the glory we do experience is glory freely given.  Thanks be to God.  As I enable, condone, affirm, or remain silent to negative behaviour, I'm "sinning," as much as if I'm doing the negative behaviour myself.

3) Find gratitude for God's forbearance.  To live that forbearance myself.

"Thank you, Holy One, transform our hearts."

Breathprayer: "Accountable... to God"

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

"Who Is Righteous... Not Even One."

May we find the grace of courage and wisdom to let go and follow Christ more closely, seeking justice, loving kindness, and walking humbly.  May we let go of our "advantage,"  our need for advantage, our false sense of advantage, our attachment to the feeling of superiority that "advantage" brings us.  May we accept that following Christ is enough, abundant, liberating, and joyful.

Romans 3:9-18
9 What then? Are we any better off? No, not at all; for we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under the power of sin, 10as it is written:
‘There is no one who is righteous, not even one;
11   there is no one who has understanding,
     there is no one who seeks God.
12 All have turned aside, together they have become worthless;
   there is no one who shows kindness,
     there is not even one.’
13 ‘Their throats are opened graves;
   they use their tongues to deceive.’
‘The venom of vipers is under their lips.’
14   ‘Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.’
15 ‘Their feet are swift to shed blood;
16   ruin and misery are in their paths,
17 and the way of peace they have not known.’
18   ‘There is no fear of God before their eyes.’

1) "...under the power of sin;" "...not even one;" "...all have turned aside;"

2) When used to manipulate and control people with the fear of damnation, and to make people crawl in the mud with shame, the doctrine of original sin is a terrible thing.  But when we are thinking that we are better than those people over there because we've earned some grace through works righteousness, or simply because God's grace is free for "us," but not for "them," the doctrine of original sin is salvation.  I happened to be thinking of this as I was running this morning.  I guess that's what happens when I do a continuous reading of Romans and Psalms for my daily lectio practices!  I start contemplating the texts more continuously... who knew?  Paul goes to great lengths to remind us that God is not partial.  If God were partial, God would not be the God who made heaven and earth.  I wonder if today, we might think more in terms of shadow.  No one is without shadow.  I like how Janet Gear describes shadow as when everything good goes absolutely wrong, we become the opposite of what we would be.  Rather than patient, I'm angry and resentful.  Rather than hopeful, I'm discouraged and cynical.  Rather than attentive and empathetic, I'm self-important and discourteous.  The list goes on.  So let go of our sense of being "any better off" because we are ...whatever... fill in the blank... and simply be grateful to be following Christ. 

3) To let Christ be our All in All. To let go of being "any better off" than anyone else.

"Holy One, lead us, I humbly pray."

Breathprayer: "Who is righteous... not even one."

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

"God's Truthfulness... Abounds to His Glory."

I ask for the grace that our hearts might be transformed.  May we sacrifice our bigotry, our belief that we are better than other people, our self- importance over other congregations, our way of thinking that we may follow Christ's way of being in the world, a way of humility, patience, compassion, and kindness.  May our way be one of justice and humility.

Romans 3:1-8
3Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the value of circumcision? 2Much, in every way. For in the first place the Jews were entrusted with the oracles of God. 3What if some were unfaithful? Will their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God? 4By no means! Although everyone is a liar, let God be proved true, as it is written,
‘So that you may be justified in your words,
   and prevail in your judging.’
5But if our injustice serves to confirm the justice of God, what should we say? That God is unjust to inflict wrath on us? (I speak in a human way.) 6By no means! For then how could God judge the world? 7But if through my falsehood God’s truthfulness abounds to his glory, why am I still being condemned as a sinner? 8And why not say (as some people slander us by saying that we say), ‘Let us do evil so that good may come’? Their condemnation is deserved!

1) "advantage;" "...the faithfulness of God;" "...By no means;" "...everyone is a liar;" "...let God be proven true;" "...I speak in a human way;" "..."By no means;"

2) So rich.  To start with, I'm reminded of a prof who used to mock, "It's not enough to win, others must lose," as a way to point out the juvenile approach many take to the notions of divine "reward and punishment."  Really, God doesn't have favourites, to sin is to sin, to seek justice is to seek justice.  I like the way Paul explicitly states, "I speak in a human way."  It is not the case that God needs to "inflict wrath."  Rather, God just needs to let us experience the consequences of our behaviour.  The consequence of alienating behaviour is alienation.  The consequence of estranging behaviour is estrangement.  "Deserved condemnation" is just what we get when we choose to be less than loving.  We are called to be loving in all that that entails.   It is simple, but not easy.  Like grace is free, but not cheap.  "What is the value of circumcision?" is an entirely different question to "Then what advantage has the Jew?"  Seeking to follow God is always seeking to follow God.  Seeking to be wicked is seeking to be wicked.

3) To let go of our "advantage," our need for advantage, the illusion of advantage, the sin of advantage.  If we are genuinely following God's way, what need to we have of advantage?  God's way is God's way.  Thanks be to God!

"Holy One, keep us in your way, and help us to let go of all sense of entitlement, privilege, and advantage when it prevents us from loving our neighbour as our self.  Remind us that loving you, means loving 'the least of these'."

Breathprayer: "God's truthfulness... abounds to his glory."

Monday, 21 August 2017

"Inwardly... a Matter of the Heart."

I ask that we might prove to be a faithful people.  I ask that our hearts my continually be transformed to be more compassionate, gentle, empathetic, patient, and understanding.  I ask that we might know and follow Jesus more closely, seeking justice, loving kindness, and walking humbly.

Romans 2:25-29
25 Circumcision indeed is of value if you obey the law; but if you break the law, your circumcision has become uncircumcision. 26So, if those who are uncircumcised keep the requirements of the law, will not their uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision? 27Then those who are physically uncircumcised but keep the law will condemn you that have the written code and circumcision but break the law. 28For a person is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is true circumcision something external and physical. 29Rather, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly, and real circumcision is a matter of the heart—it is spiritual and not literal. Such a person receives praise not from others but from God.

1) "nor is true circumcision something external and physical;" "...a person is a Jew who is one inwardly;" "...real circumcision is a matter of the heart;" " is spiritual and not literal;" "...such a person receives praise not from others but from God;"

2) From whom do we seek praise?  We tend to seek praise from others, spiritual praise is too intangible.  Is it possible to be satisfied with spiritual praise, or praise from God?  Can we feel praise from God with out getting conceited or arrogant?  I suppose genuine praise from God wouldn't make us self-important, genuine praise from God would make us more like the way God wants us to be.  Now that would be nice.  It would be nice to be more like God wants me to be.  Life wouldn't be easy, but we would have what we need to engage it more freely and joyfully.  We would be able to sit with Jesus in the bow of the boat while the storms rage and still know peace, and comfort without being overwhelmed with rage, fear, anxiety, or discouragement.

3) What is the invitation in all this?  To seek the praise of God instead of the praise of others.  To know the praise of God, not in self-satisfaction, but in peace, freedom, and joy.

"Holy One, teach us to seek your praise and your praise alone that we might experience life in peace, freedom and joy."

Breathprayer: "inwardly ...a matter of the heart."

Sunday, 20 August 2017

"The Embodiment... of Knowledge and Truth."

Through our trials, may we become a more gracious people, more loving, more compassionate, more empathetic.  May we always hold Christ close, seeking justice, loving kindness, and walking humbly.

Romans 2:17-24
17 But if you call yourself a Jew and rely on the law and boast of your relation to God 18and know his will and determine what is best because you are instructed in the law, 19and if you are sure that you are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, 20a corrector of the foolish, a teacher of children, having in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth, 21you, then, that teach others, will you not teach yourself? While you preach against stealing, do you steal? 22You that forbid adultery, do you commit adultery? You that abhor idols, do you rob temples? 23You that boast in the law, do you dishonour God by breaking the law? 24For, as it is written, ‘The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.’

1) "will you not teach yourselves?" "...the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you."

2) Paul at his most biting and eloquent.  Oh, how the name of God is blasphemed because of Christians who proclaim hate, and anger, and bigotry, and white supremacy, and homophobia, and misogyny.  We would correct them, claiming morally superior and progressive gospel.  But the difference between "them" and "us" is not one of kind, but of degree.  We come through a tradition of white supremacy, and continue to receive benefits and privileges: we own land, receive loans, get educations, extract resources from land we never bought.  We are in possession of stolen property.  We may have once bought the land in "good faith," but shouldn't we know better by now?  Because of our history of oppression and supremacy, so many have reason to turn away from the Gospel.  Of course, they aren't really blaspheming God, only the false God we falsely represented.  In fact, in their cries for justice are the cries of Christ, calling us back to repentance and the Kingdom of God.  Had we been true to God, true to our proclamation of release to the captive and recovery of sight to the blind, it would have been a different story.  Thank God, grace is free, even if it isn't cheep. 

3) to seek amends, and make amends when the opportunity presents itself.  Apologize, again and again if necessary.  Acknowledge that the land is unceded.  Cease making decisions about the land and its resources without consulting the traditional owners transparently, and justly.

"Holy One, make us anew."

Breathprayer: "the embodiment... of knowledge and truth."

Thursday, 17 August 2017

"All Who Have Sinned... Will Be Judged."

I'm feeling overwhelmed by the pervasiveness of latent and not so latent racism in the world right now.  It feels like every last member of the human race (including me) is an unrepentant racist and no one is willing to be told or educated otherwise, add homophobe, add misogynist, add classists...  I remember a button my dad used to have that said, "Stop the world, I want to get off."

Romans 2:12-16
12 All who have sinned apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law. 13For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but the doers of the law who will be justified. 14When Gentiles, who do not possess the law, do instinctively what the law requires, these, though not having the law, are a law to themselves. 15They show that what the law requires is written on their hearts, to which their own conscience also bears witness; and their conflicting thoughts will accuse or perhaps excuse them 16on the day when, according to my gospel, God, through Jesus Christ, will judge the secret thoughts of all.

1) "doers of the law;" "...written on their hearts;" "...what the law requires;" " which their own conscience also bears witness;" "...their conflicting thoughts will accuse or perhaps excuse;"

2) I find some small amount of comfort in "their conflicting thoughts will accuse or perhaps excuse."  Of course, it assumes we have conflicting thoughts.  And that requires some degree of self-awareness.  I'm not convinced that we all hold the same capacity for self-awareness.  It seems to me that even a low level of self-awareness would result in greater empathy in the world.  I find myself looking forward to "the day when, according to my gospel, God, through Jesus Christ, will judge the secret thoughts of all."  But once again, Paul's argument is we are all condemned so that we can all be reconciled.  Ultimately, all who have sinned will be judged.  all who have sinned will be reconciled.  But that doesn't mean it will be easy... or pretty.

3) Clearly, the solution isn't in my hands.  Let the solution be in God's.

"Holy One, bring it on.  Bring on the day when you will judge the secret thoughts of all."

Breathprayer: "All who have sinned...will be judged"

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

"In Accordance with Truth... Seek for Glory and Honour."

I ask for integrity for my community of faith, that while we are condemning the show of racial violence south of our boarder, we do not ignore and justify our own white privilege.  I pray that we hear with ears of truth.  I pray that we  continue to strive to know and follow Jesus more closely, seeking justice, loving kindness, and walking humbly, even - especially - when that walk takes us to our own death.

Romans 2:2-11
2You say, ‘We know that God’s judgement on those who do such things is in accordance with truth.’ 3Do you imagine, whoever you are, that when you judge those who do such things and yet do them yourself, you will escape the judgement of God? 4Or do you despise the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience? Do you not realize that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? 5But by your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath, when God’s righteous judgement will be revealed. 6For he will repay according to each one’s deeds: 7to those who by patiently doing good seek for glory and honour and immortality, he will give eternal life; 8while for those who are self-seeking and who obey not the truth but wickedness, there will be wrath and fury. 9There will be anguish and distress for everyone who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, 10but glory and honour and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. 11For God shows no partiality.

1) "in accordance with truth;" "...and yet do them yourself;" "...the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience;" "...God's kindness is meant to lead you to repentance;" "...hard and impenitent heart;" "storing up wrath for yourself;" " for glory and honour and immortality;" "...eternal life;" "...wickedness;" "...wrath and fury;" "...God shows no partiality."

2) If I believed in hell, I know who would be burning in it.  Paul's message seems so clear to me, "stop judging other people."  It isn't even "stop doing the things you are condemning others for doing."  Paul is clear, we can only stop doing what we don't want to do by the grace of God.  Here, Paul is only concerned about one "side" condemning the other "side."  Stop it, he says.  God shows no partiality.  We are all condemned and only redeemed through God's enduring love.  Seeking glory and honour and immortality means not taking the responsibility of condemning other people onto ourselves, but rather loving them back into community.  So how do we apply this to "white nationalists" and 45?  I know that we should use them as a mirror to see the ways in which we too support white privilege and supremacy.  To dismantle white supremacy at its very roots... our own hearts.  Do we really believe that every human being is made in the image and likeness of God?  I don't witness that belief in my day to day workings.  I witness a lot of behaviour that proclaims, "God is more in this person than that person."  We have a healthy dose of works righteousness going on here.  But I witness a great deal of latent racism in our community.  We do a lot of "charity" rather than "relationship."  But how do I model "relationship" rather than "charity?"

3) What is the invitation in all this?  To make my relationships with diverse people more visible?  To model egalitarian relationship more explicitly?

"Holy One, we are struggling through this transformation.  Keep us kicking.  Give us what we need to break free from the cocoon into a transformed life."

Breathprayer: "in accordance with truth... seek for glory and honour."

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

"Therefore... No Excuse."

I ask for the grace to pray faithfully.  May we receive what is needed for us to be present to the world as it is.  May we seek to follow Christ and deepen our discipleship, whatever the cost.  May we be open to making the changes we can to proclaim the presence of the Kingdom of God to all God's peoples.

Romans 1:24-2:1
24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the degrading of their bodies among themselves, 25because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed for ever! Amen.
26 For this reason God gave them up to degrading passions. Their women exchanged natural intercourse for unnatural, 27and in the same way also the men, giving up natural intercourse with women, were consumed with passion for one another. Men committed shameless acts with men and received in their own persons the due penalty for their error.
28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind and to things that should not be done. 29They were filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, covetousness, malice. Full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, craftiness, they are gossips, 30slanderers, God-haters, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, rebellious towards parents, 31foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32They know God’s decree, that those who practise such things deserve to die—yet they not only do them but even applaud others who practise them. 2Therefore you have no excuse, whoever you are, when you judge others; for in passing judgement on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, are doing the very same things.

1) "degrading passion;" "...received in their own person the due penalty for their error;" "...did not see fit to acknowledge God;" "...filled with every kind of wickedness;" "...those who practise such things deserve to die;" "There fore you have no excuse, whoever you are, when you judge others; for in passing judgement on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, are doing the very same things."

2) My first thought is how amazing that for centuries the church read the first chapter to justify judging "sodomy" and yet neglected to read the first verse of chapter 2: "for in in passing judgement on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, are doing the very same things."  Paul will go on in Romans to demonstrate how the Jewish judgement of the Gentiles only contemns the Jews because it isn't in following the law, but by grace that all are saved.  All are "condemned," so that all may be "saved."  I wish I could internalize the first verse of chapter 2.  But I judge so easily.  And I'm filled with judgement about what's been happening with the "white nationalist" movement in the states.  I know that condemning them and asserting they are horribly wrong will never open them to alternative education.  Nor does it help me educate my own people about our own participation in white privilege/supremacy.  Yes, white nationalists have taken their privilege to an extreme, but the difference from our own reality is only in degree, not kind. 

3) What is the invitation in all this?  To find the opportunity to examine our own blind spots in relation to people who are not "like us;" to expose our tokenism for what it is; to confess our comfort with the way things are; to seek ways of being open to a more egalitarian model for relationships in particular between aboriginal and non-aboriginal people in our context.

"Holy One, help us remember that you are the only judge."

Breathprayer: "Therefore... no excuse."

Monday, 14 August 2017

"Claiming to Be Wise... They Became Fools."

As I move into passages of scripture that have been used as weapons to hurt LGBTQ people for hundreds of years, I ask to remain present to the text, present to the world, and present to the spirit that moves through me the world and the text. 

Romans 1:19-23
19For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made. So they are without excuse; 21for though they knew God, they did not honour him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their senseless minds were darkened. 22Claiming to be wise, they became fools; 23and they exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling a mortal human being or birds or four-footed animals or reptiles.

1) "eternal power;" "...divine nature;" "...understood and seen through the things he has made;" "...they knew God;" "...futile in their thinking;" "...their senseless minds were darkened;" "...Claiming to be wise, they became fools;"

2) "Claiming to be wise, they became fools."  That's common enough.  I know this in myself.  It is probably one of the things that produced the greatest shame in me: when I realized I don't know what I'm talking about.  Especially in those moments when I wax on for some time about something I'm sure I know and then someone points out that I'm mistaken.  And while realizing I'm wrong produces huge shame in me, when I'm aware that someone else is talking about something they know nothing about, it makes me unreasonably angry... that's shadow.  I can't listen to Trump talk about anything.  Shameless son of a bachelor... I've read ahead and know that this is all Paul leading up to "stop judging people, because when you judge them you are judging yourself."  But "stop judging" is easier said than done.  But a place in my heart does get it.  I'd be more free if I stopped judging.  My judgements hold me captive.  They make me foolish when I think I'm wise.

3)  What is the invitation in all this?  "love the sinner, hate the sin" really just doesn't work.  Just stop hating.  Let God be the one and only judge.

"Holy One, help me know what is plain about you, understood and seen through the things you have made."

Breathprayer: "Claiming to be wise... they became fools."

Sunday, 13 August 2017

"I Am Not Ashamed... Live by Faith."

I ask for the grace to remain present to a world that has gone mad, to remain informed, alert, and concerned, without being overwhelmed by despair, helplessness, and grief.  I ask for the grace to hear and speak truth, and the courage live justice.

Romans 1:16-18
16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel; it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17For in it the righteousness of God is revealed through faith for faith; as it is written, ‘The one who is righteous will live by faith.’ 18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of those who by their wickedness suppress the truth.

1) "the power of God;" " everyone;" " the Jew first and also to the Greek;" "...The one who is righteous will live by faith;" " their wickedness suppress the truth;"

2) The truth is that the Bible was not written by white European people.  It wasn't written about white European people. It wasn't written for white European people.  When most of the Bible was written,  white European people weren't even on the map of civilized people.  When most of the Bible was written, most white European people were considered illiterate savages to the north.  My heart is so heavy with what is happening in Virginia right now.  But I know that I don't need to travel to Virginia to find white supremist thinking.  People are faithless, we have no trust.  I feel shame for a species that cannot learn to live in peace.  When we have trust, it is God in us giving us what we need.  Give us what we need O God, to stay present to this reality, to look at ourselves and see how we participate and benefit from privilege we did not earn.

3) What is the invitation in all this?  To affirm the power of diversity in the community "the Jew" and "the Greek" (as Paul is writing to the Romans).  To affirm the little things we are doing to create refuge for diverse people: class, race, culture, age, sex, orientation, gender...

"Holy One, teach us the gospel that we might not be ashamed."

Breathprayer: "I am not ashamed... live by faith."

Thursday, 10 August 2017

"Debtor... to the Foolish."

I ask for the grace of finding peace with my own shortcomings and the shortcomings of those around me.

Romans 1:13-15
13I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that I have often intended to come to you (but thus far have been prevented), in order that I may reap some harvest among you as I have among the rest of the Gentiles. 14I am a debtor both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish 15 hence my eagerness to proclaim the gospel to you also who are in Rome.

1) "...have been prevented;" "...I am a debtor;" " the wise and the foolish;" "eagerness to proclaim the gospel;" "...may reap some harvest;" I am a debtor to ...the wise and to the foolish;" 

2) Paul is receiving benefit from his "service," in particular, to the foolish... "both to the wise and to the foolish."  We have an amazing community of wise people.  But we also have an astonishing number of fools.  People who are giving their best, but that best is below the mean, or at least my expectations.  And I know that I'm often the one serving below my own expectations.  I'd rather think of "the wise" and "the foolish" as being parts of each of us, perhaps representing the true self and the false self, or the informed self and the ignorant self.  But I don't.  I tend to let people slip into "types:" the wise and the foolish.  What benefit do we reap from the foolish?  Well... certainly a constant reminder that I'm not the person I wish I was.  And yes, I can be grateful for that reminder.  It could be less constant.

3) What is the invitation in all this?  To keep a place for the foolish, whether we appreciate what they bring or not, they are there and they too need a place, and whether "the foolish" is what is in us, what we see in another person, or other people in their totality.   

"Holy One, bring us to the harvest, let us bet debtors to one another in joy rather than in strife."

Breathprayer: "I am a debtor... to the foolish."

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

"Mutually Encouraged... by Each Other's Fatih."

I ask for a spirit of acceptance, that we might be more willing to acknowledge our own limitation, the limitations of others, and the limitations of the world.  I ask for a spirit of genuine surrender, that we might submit to God's will as discerned by the community, rather than asserting our own broken desires on the world.

Romans 1:8-12
8 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed throughout the world. 9For God, whom I serve with my spirit by announcing the gospel of his Son, is my witness that without ceasing I remember you always in my prayers, 10asking that by God’s will I may somehow at last succeed in coming to you. 11For I am longing to see you so that I may share with you some spiritual gift to strengthen you— 12or rather so that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine.

1) "I remember you always in my prayer;" " God's will;" "...For I am longing to see you so that I may share with you some spiritual gift to strengthen you;" "...mutually encouraged by each other's faith, both yours and mine;"

2) We could use some encouragement.  But it needs to be real, not fueled by false dreams and accomplishments (aren't we "nice" to each other?). But rather, encouragement that comes from genuine growth in faith, transformed hearts, new vision, deeper commitment, a more just world.  Do our words encourage?  Do our actions encourage?  Do we feel encouraged by each other's walk in faith?  What do we find encouraging just now?  Right now, I'm discouraged by my reaction this morning to some abysmal communication.  In the middle of the conversation I became aware that I wasn't who I wanted to be.  I was not encouraging.  Seven weeks of prayer and meditation flew out the window as my worst dread of returning to work was realized:  I'm still the same person I was when I left, just as easily frustrated, just as easily exasperated.  In fact, probably a little more so.

3)  To turn over expectations to Christ.  To remember that when we succeed at anything, it is only by God's will.  To seek to be encouraging.

"Holy One, have mercy on me, a sinner."

Breathprayer: "Mutually encouraged... by each other's faith."

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

"Bring about... the Obedience of Faith."

May we learn to offer our will up to the sacred and the holy.  May we seek to follow Christ, more than we seek to be right.  May justice and right relationship be in our thoughts, our words, and our actions.

Romans 1:1-7
1Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, 2which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy scriptures, 3the gospel concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh 4and was declared to be Son of God with power according to the spirit of holiness by resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, 5through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for the sake of his name, 6including yourselves who are called to belong to Jesus Christ,
7 To all God’s beloved in Rome, who are called to be saints:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

1) "...servant of Jesus Christ;" "...power according to the spirit of holiness;" "...we have received grace and apostleship;" "...obedience of faith;" "...all God's beloved;" "...called to be saints;" "...grace to you and peace;" "...the Gospel concerning his Son;" "...according to the flesh;" "...according to the spirit of holiness;" "...we have received grace and apostleship;" "...obedience of faith;"

2) How are we doing at obedience?  Its one of those words that so many of us bristle at.  Individualism is so enshrined in our culture, the notion of obedience is poorly received.  I want to be sure about to whom and to what am I being called to obedience of faith?  Obedience and "strong wills" tend to mix like oil and water.  Funny... I wasn't really paying attention the other day as I was following a recipe on a store bought product.  The instructions had me sautéing onions in a large amount of oil, then instructed to pour in a half a cup of water.  Oil exploded splattering over the stovetop.  Obedience and strong wills combine the same way.  The temperature in the church is so high.  So much needs to change in a short period of time.  It's the 21st Century and the world isn't what it used to be.  And I encounter so much, "Do it my way, or I'm going to leave," or "I wouldn't participate in a church that did X."  How do we lower the temperature so that it becomes possible to add obedience to these strong wills so that things don't keep exploding?

3) What is the invitation in all this?  Keep an eye on the temperature.  Make space for the inevitable splattering.  Put on a really big apron that covers everything that might be vulnerable (the whole armor of God?).

"Holy One, help us recognize the need for obedience to your will."

Breathprayer: "Bring about... the obedience of faith."