Search This Blog

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

"If the Part... then the Whole."

Hmm... I'm not even sure what to ask for.  Which means I probably need to sit in silence, more than with lections.  So may I receive whatever it is I need in this time of prayer.

Romans 11:13-16
13 Now I am speaking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I glorify my ministry 14in order to make my own people jealous, and thus save some of them. 15For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead! 16If the part of the dough offered as first fruits is holy, then the whole batch is holy; and if the root is holy, then the branches also are holy.

1) "I glorify my ministry;" " from the dead;" "...if the part.. is holy, then the whole batch is holy;" "...if the root is holy, then the branches also are holy;"

2) Paul wants the two factions within the community to stop condemning each other.  He's trying to assert one body, even if different parts of the body have different observances.  I don't think he won his argument, but I agree with him.  I think the church quickly abandoned oneness in Christ, and judged that the branches were holy, while the root was rotted.  I just don't get how an institution that claimed to hold these texts as sacred, could end up persecuting Paul's own people.  Our capacity to bend and twist words to our own discriminatory and self-interested purposes is so pervasive.  And where are we today?  So many so called Christians have horrific "observances:" the subjugation of women, the persecution of LGBTTQ* people, racism, classism.  I can't help but feel Paul would be disgusted.  It breaks my heart.  My use of "so called Christians" bespeaks my desire to did-identify.  I do not want to be part of the body they are claiming.  I'd rather be an atheist that a hateful, bigoted, racist, homophobic, misogynistic anything.  I don't need to.  That isn't at all what Paul calls us to.  But I would.

3) What is the invitation in all this?  To observe what is right, compassionate, just, and holy.

"Holy One, I don't pray for 'oneness', but for peace, justice, compassion, and empathy for all your creatures."

Breathprayer: "If the part... then the whole."

Monday, 30 October 2017

"Stumbling... Means Riches for the World."

"In this time of prayer and meditation, may I be grounded in the ground of all being."

Romans 11:7-12
7 What then? Israel failed to obtain what it was seeking. The elect obtained it, but the rest were hardened, 8as it is written,
‘God gave them a sluggish spirit,
   eyes that would not see
   and ears that would not hear,
down to this very day.’
9And David says,
‘Let their table become a snare and a trap,
   a stumbling-block and a retribution for them;
10 let their eyes be darkened so that they cannot see,
   and keep their backs for ever bent.’ 11 So I ask, have they stumbled so as to fall? By no means! But through their stumbling salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous. 12Now if their stumbling means riches for the world, and if their defeat means riches for Gentiles, how much more will their full inclusion mean!

1) "...sluggish spirit;" "...down to this very day;" "...By no means;"  "...through their stumbling salvation has come;" "...if their stumbling means riches... how much more will their full inclusion mean!"

2) I still giggle at the sight of the expression, "By no means!"   Clearly Paul is still working the same argument he's been working the last several chapters.... it is an argument towards "full inclusion."  I love the expression "sluggish spirit."  I feel so familiar with "sluggish spirits."  In my own self, and in the communities I've served.  I encounter a great deal of sluggishness.  "But we've always done it this way." "We did that before." "We have no idea how to do it differently."  It brings to mind, hearing people complain about there not being anywhere to eat in downtown Port Coquitlam.  Within a short walking distance there are actually about 30 dining establishments: four or five pizza, twoi Donaire, Greek, three or four sushi, Chinese, Pho, Mongolian, Thai, two or three grills, A&W, Subway, DQ, three coffee shops, a greasy spoon, to name only a few.  What people mean is, "The places we used to like to eat have all closed or moved from downtown and we don't want to try anything new."  I love living in the downtown area because there are so many different dining options!  It's a world of opportunity if I'm not sluggish about trying something different, something I might not like, but something that I might like more than ever!

3) What is the invitation in all this?  To consider my own sluggishness.

"Holy One, when we stumble and fall, may this mean riches for all your children."

Breathprayer: "Stumbling... means riches for the world."

Sunday, 29 October 2017

"His People... Chosen by Grace."

May I have the grace to pray and meditate faithfully.  May I touch the firm foundation and know that I am not alone.  May my actions, thoughts, and words be just, loving, and humble.

Romans 11:1-6
11I ask, then, has God rejected his people? By no means! I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin. 2God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew. Do you not know what the scripture says of Elijah, how he pleads with God against Israel? 3‘Lord, they have killed your prophets, they have demolished your altars; I alone am left, and they are seeking my life.’ 4But what is the divine reply to him? ‘I have kept for myself seven thousand who have not bowed the knee to Baal.’ 5So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace. 6But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace would no longer be grace.

1) "By no means;" "...God has not rejected his people;" "...there is a remnant;" "...chosen by grace;" " grace;" "...otherwise grace would no longer be grace;"

2) Is Paul trying to have his cake and eat it too?  It seems like such a fine line.  "It is no longer on the basis of works,"  but "there is a remnant."  He, of course, is a member of the remnant.  How can he make such a claim without throwing humility aside?  He trusts that he is a member of the remnant?  He trusts that it doesn't matter if he is a member of the remnant or not, he is doin what he has been called to do?  That sounds more in keeping with Elijah.  Things never went well for Elijah, even though Elijah, we are told, always did as he was told.  "Rewards" mentality is troubling.  Am I doing it because it is the right thing to do, or do I do it because I expect some kind of reward or advantage?  the latter takes me into works righteousness.  How do we let go of our desire for a particular outcome, especially a particular outcome for ourselves?  Remnant theology is more than a little harsh.  I seem to recall reflecting earlier, is a "remnant" enough to be considered graceful?  Who gets on the ark?  Who gets left behind?  I don't want to be choosing.

3) What is the invitation in all this?  To trust grace to be grace.

"Holy One, by your grace."

Breathprayer: "His people... chosen by grace."

Thursday, 26 October 2017

"Foolish Nation... Contrary People."

May I pray and meditate faithfully.

Romans 10:18-21
18 But I ask, have they not heard? Indeed they have; for
‘Their voice has gone out to all the earth,
   and their words to the ends of the world.’
19Again I ask, did Israel not understand? First Moses says,
‘I will make you jealous of those who are not a nation;
   with a foolish nation I will make you angry.’
20Then Isaiah is so bold as to say,
‘I have been found by those who did not seek me;
   I have shown myself to those who did not ask for me.’
21But of Israel he says, ‘All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and contrary people.’

1) "...disobedient and contrary people;"

2) This is a call to humility.  If we should ever get ahead of ourselves and think we "know" God, or "God's will."  Or that we somehow have found special favour that places us above or ahead of others.  We are the "disobedient and contrary people;"  We are "jealous" and "angry." Do we not hear?  Do we not understand?  God is found by those who do not seek God; God reveals God's self to those who do not ask for God.  But, at least, all day long, God holds out hands to us.  There is plenty of opportunity to hear and understand.  I can certainly identify with being angry with a foolish nation... Is there hope that this foolish nation will find what it isn't even looking for?  That would be such a good thing.  Do I hold my hands out to disobedient and contrary people?  Can I?  God's "chosen race" is a foolish nation, a disobedient and contrary people.  There's room for everything...

3) What is the invitation in all this?  To hear and understand, even the foolish can find what they aren't seeking; to hear and understand: God holds out hands to even the disobedient and contrary people.

"Holy One, hold out your hand and gather me in, even when I am not seeking you, not asking for you."

Breathprayer: "Foolish nation... contrary people."

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

"Faith Comes... Through the Word of Christ."

It is a glorious fall morning.  The sky is clear, the air bites a little, the sun is warm, the leaves remaining on the trees are a myriad of colours, and the leaves on the ground smell of a rich rot.  Before the sun rose, the stars were like gems in the still frosty air.  May gratitude be the foundation of my thoughts words and actions as I pray and meditate on the words of St Paul.

Romans 10:14-17
14 But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him? 15And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!’ 16But not all have obeyed the good news; for Isaiah says, ‘Lord, who has believed our message?’ 17So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the word of Christ.

1) "they;" " beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news;" "...who has believed our message;" "...our;"

2) Who is "they"?  It changes in the middle of verse 15 from the "recipients" of the news to the carriers of the news (the ones "sent").  All the previous argument about salvation through faith, not works is now turned on those who are called to carry the word.  Hmm... If we do not carry the word with integrity, "how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him?"  Proclamation isn't just through our words, but through how we treat one another.  Our actions are what inspire others to "believe."  If we lack compassion, empathy, patience, tolerance, charity, How can we claim to have been "sent"?  Our feet are only beautiful if we walk the way we are called to walk.  We may be saved by faith, not works, but hands and feet are called to follow closely.  "Don't be a jerk about it" indeed.  "So faith comes from what is heard [witnessed?], and what is heard [witnessed?] comes through the word of Christ.  If we claim to proclaim, then we are the models of Christ.  If people do not witness Christ when in our presence, that is on our heads.  Belief isn't just about words, but about how we are in the world.

3) What is the invitation in all this?  What is the expression, proclaim Christ everywhere you go and when you must, use words.

"Holy One, make us worthy of your word."

Breathprayer: "Faith comes... through the word of Christ"

Monday, 23 October 2017

"The Word... Is in Your Heart."

I ask for the grace to pray and meditate faithfully. 

Romans 10:5-13
5 Moses writes concerning the righteousness that comes from the law, that ‘the person who does these things will live by them.’ 6But the righteousness that comes from faith says, ‘Do not say in your heart, “Who will ascend into heaven?” ’ (that is, to bring Christ down) 7‘or “Who will descend into the abyss?” ’ (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). 8But what does it say?
‘The word is near you,
   on your lips and in your heart’
(that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); 9because if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved. 11The scripture says, ‘No one who believes in him will be put to shame.’ 12For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call on him. 13For, ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’

1) "the person who does these things will live by them;" "...The word is near you, on your lips and in your heart;"

2) I fear the recipe here for "cheap grace."  It makes me think of the cartoon of a man standing at the pearly gates and Saint Peter is saying, "Yes, you are a believer, but you forgot the not-being-a-jerk-about-it part."  Cheap grace has no expectations, no responsibilities.  However, verse 6 is explicit that the righteousness that comes from faith does not ask about who is going to heaven or into the abyss.  Real faith that comes from the heart does not speculate on judgement.  Haven't we just heard that God will do what God will do?  What does "calling on the name of the Lord" look like?  Do we?  I'm also reminded of a colleague observing that most clergy are theoretical theists and practical atheists.  Do we believe that we are the ONLY hands and feet of Christ?  Do we actually pray?  Do we listen for response?  Do we know what a response sounds like?  I'm reading Catherine Keller's Cloud of the Impossible, slowly, just a paragraph a day and doing lectio with each paragraph.  She calls the intersection of what is non-knowable and what is im/possible apophatic entanglement: the place where what we cannot know (the will of God?) and what we must do (social justice?) meet.

3) What is the invitation in all this?  be wary of cheap grace, avoid works righteousness.  Over and over again, we turn everything over to God, even though we don't know what God will do with it.

"Help us to trust in what we cannot know, without being reckless."

Breathprayer: "The word... is in your heart."

Sunday, 8 October 2017

Fall Vacation Notice

I will be on vacation until Oct 24 and won't be updating my blog until my return.  Blessings,  Rev David Cathcart.

Thursday, 5 October 2017

"My Heart's Desire... the End of the Law."

May our prayers be genuine.  May we not comfort ourselves with prayer alone without hearing the call to action and change.  May we be open to the Spirit's movement in our hearts.

Romans 10:1-4
10Brothers and sisters, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved. 2I can testify that they have a zeal for God, but it is not enlightened. 3For, being ignorant of the righteousness that comes from God, and seeking to establish their own, they have not submitted to God’s righteousness. 4For Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.

1) " heart's desire;" "...but it is not enlightened;" "...ignorant of the righteousness;" "...seeking to establish their own [righteousness];" "...Christ is the end;" "...righteousness for everyone who believes;"

2) In how many ways do we seek to establish our own righteousness?  As soon as conflict becomes about winning instead of discerning the truth; being right, instead of discerning what is right.  Sometimes it is hard to discern which is which.  Is our zeal enlightened?  Is mine?  Unenlightened zeal could be a dangerous thing.  It abounds in the world.  God save us from unenlightened zeal... our own and others.  What is our heart's desire?  Do we really pray to God that "they" may be saved?  How often do other desires sneak in?  a desire to be right, a desire to win, a desire for comfort and rest, a desire for distraction.

3) To clarify our heart's desire.  To be honest about what we really want, then determine, is our zeal enlightened?  or self interested?

"Holy One, clarify our heart's desire, enlighten our zeal."

Breathprayer: "My heart's desire... the end of the law."

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

"Isaiah Cries Out... People Stumble."

I ask for signs of grace in a world full of violence and white male aggression.  I ask for a way to thanksgiving and praise through a land of disparity and injustice.  I ask for a felt sense of truth and assurance in a world of self-righteousness and delusion.  May we follow Christ and no other and willingly pay the price for genuine resurrection.

Romans 9:27-33
27 And Isaiah cries out concerning Israel, ‘Though the number of the children of Israel were like the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will be saved; 28for the Lord will execute his sentence on the earth quickly and decisively.’ 29And as Isaiah predicted,
‘If the Lord of hosts had not left survivors to us,
   we would have fared like Sodom
   and been made like Gomorrah.’
30 What then are we to say? Gentiles, who did not strive for righteousness, have attained it, that is, righteousness through faith; 31but Israel, who did strive for the righteousness that is based on the law, did not succeed in fulfilling that law. 32Why not? Because they did not strive for it on the basis of faith, but as if it were based on works. They have stumbled over the stumbling-stone, 33as it is written,
‘See, I am laying in Zion a stone that will make people stumble, a rock that will make them fall,
   and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.’

1) "...only a remnant of them will be saved;" "...quickly and decisively;" "...survivours;" " if it were based on works;" "...They have stumbled over the stumbling-stone;" "...a stone that will make people stumble;" "...a rock that will make them fall;"

2) I want to challenge the notion of God "laying in Zion a stone." But there are certainly stumbling-stones.  I don't think we stumble over them.  We worship them, race, gender, guns, wealth, beauty, power, knowledge, ignorance, self, violence, aggression...  A "remnant" doesn't sound very promising.  I remember reading a story about ants crossing a river.  The first soldiers get swept away, until there are enough ants entering the river that the later ants cross over on the backs of those who have drowned.  How many need to drown before the survivors cross over?  Will the survivors remember?  Will they be grateful?  Will they just feel like they've earned the privilege to continue walking on the backs of others?  Paul is trying to give hope.  At least there is a remnant.  Is a remnant enough for hope?  Hope isn't a feeling, its an action.  Hope is continuing to do what is right, because it is the right thing to do, whether there is hope or not.  I will continue to seek justice, love kindness, and walk humbly.

3)  To not stop at the stumbling-stone, even if we stumble.  To not worship the stumbling-stone, but to continue to follow the way of justice, kindness, and humility.  Humility does not mean silence or not attracting attention to myself.  It means risking everything I am and have to continue doing what is right.

"Holy One, even as we stumble, help us to not worship the stumbling-stone, but to rise again and follow the way of Christ, seeking justice, loving kindness, and walking humbly."

Breathprayer: "Isaiah cries out... people stumble."

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

"Who Indeed... Beloved."

I ask for the grace to receive what I need for this day.  I pray for the homeless couple that spent the night camping inside our hedge whom we have now had to ask to leave.  They are leaving now, though his behaviour is aggressive.  We don't need to watch the news about Las Vegas to experience pain, aggression and violence.  I am deeply grateful for the ministry we do to reduce the pain.  But "the poor will always be with" us.  May we know an follow Jesus more closely, seeking justice, loving kindness, and walking humbly.

Romans 9:19-26
19 You will say to me then, ‘Why then does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?’ 20But who indeed are you, a human being, to argue with God? Will what is moulded say to the one who moulds it, ‘Why have you made me like this?’ 21Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one object for special use and another for ordinary use? 22What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience the objects of wrath that are made for destruction; 23and what if he has done so in order to make known the riches of his glory for the objects of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— 24including us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles? 25As indeed he says in Hosea,
‘Those who were not my people I will call “my people”,
   and her who was not beloved I will call “beloved”.
26 ‘And in the very place where it was said to them, “You are not my people”,
   there they shall be called children of the living God.’

1) "...still find fault;" "...his will;" "...who indeed are you, a human being, to argue with God?" "...Why have you made me like this?" "...endured with much patience;" "...made for destruction;" "...the riches of his glory;:" " people; " "...beloved;" "...children of the living God."

2) The mistake is in thinking the will of God is anything like the will of human beings.  I think it is a mistake to even call it "will."  We only understand "agency" from our own small view.  God's will is nothing like that.  "Who indeed are you, a human being, to argue with God?"  If God willed the way humans "will" then God would seem capricious, and unjust.  But God does not "will" the way humans will.  God's power is not like our power.  God's knowledge is not like our knowing.  God's wisdom is not like our wisdom.  It is arrogance  and conceit to compare God's way of being with our way of being.  All in all, I think it better to accept that what is, is.  And God offers us what we need to meet the circumstances before us.  Like Mr Rodgers said, "look for the helpers."  Look for where grace breaks in.

3) To reserve judgement for God alone.  To focus on the glory.

"Holy One, make your glory known."

Breathprayer: "Who indeed... beloved."

Monday, 2 October 2017

"On Whomsoever... On Whomsoever."

I ask for the grace to be brought back to the way of praying and meditating faithfully, to trust the word and promise of God, to let go of ego and to embrace the true self, made in the image and likeness of Christ.  May we know and follow Jesus more closely, seeking justice, loving kindness, and walking humbly.

Romans 9:6-18
6 It is not as though the word of God had failed. For not all Israelites truly belong to Israel, 7and not all of Abraham’s children are his true descendants; but ‘It is through Isaac that descendants shall be named after you.’ 8This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as descendants. 9For this is what the promise said, ‘About this time I will return and Sarah shall have a son.’ 10Nor is that all; something similar happened to Rebecca when she had conceived children by one husband, our ancestor Isaac. 11Even before they had been born or had done anything good or bad (so that God’s purpose of election might continue, 12not by works but by his call) she was told, ‘The elder shall serve the younger.’ 13As it is written,
‘I have loved Jacob,
   but I have hated Esau.’
14 What then are we to say? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! 15For he says to Moses,
‘I will have mercy on whom I have mercy,
   and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.’
16So it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God who shows mercy. 17For the scripture says to Pharaoh, ‘I have raised you up for the very purpose of showing my power in you, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth.’ 18So then he has mercy on whomsoever he chooses, and he hardens the heart of whomsoever he chooses.

1) "...the children of the promise are counted as descendants;" " his call;" "...By no means;" "...I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion;" " depends not on human will or exertion, but on God;" "...he has mercy on whomsoever he chooses, and he hardens the heart of whomsoever he chooses;"

2) Here is where it helps, to stop thinking of God as a willing agent.  As if God is sitting above all things picking and choosing who will suffer more, who will suffer less.  Our circumstances are our circumstances.  They are not punishment or reward, temptation or test; they just are.  It is what it is.  God gives us what we need to navigate our circumstances.  Perhaps the real mistake is in comparing our circumstances to others, considering some circumstances as "mercies" or "blessings" and others as "curses" or "burdens."  Our circumstances are our circumstances and we either accept the grace of managing/navigating those circumstances with grace, or we do  not.  We do not "earn" our circumstances, but, like Job, we can chose a faithful way through them.  I hate to think of God as hardening Pharaoh's heart.  Is it God who hardens the hearts of the recalcitrant individuals in our community?  Really?  Do they have no choice but to be stiff-necked, murmurers in the wilderness?  But maybe I'm conflagrating the stories and I should stick with Paul's used of Pharaoh who needs to remain an unsympathetic villain?  Or maybe, when I witness another's heart being hardened, I am being offered the opportunity to develop more empathy and compassion for the hardening of their hearts, rather than letting the hardening of their heart motivate the hardening of mine?  Can I find empathy for those with hardened hearts?

3) What is the invitation in all this?  To stop comparing or judging "blessings" and "curses" and "mercies" and "burdens;" to let what is, be; and to accept God's presence and guidance to manage hardship.  In the hardening of another's heart, can I witness and be grateful for the opportunity for my heart to be liberated for compassion and empathy?

"Holy One, help us to rejoice when your blessing is apparent on whomsoever you have chosen; help us to rejoice when you have hardened the heart of whomsoever you have chosen."

Breathprayer: "On whomsoever... on whomsoever."