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Job 38: 18 (the Message)
And do you have any idea how large this earth is?
Speak up if you have even the beginning of an answer.
A Word of Hope
Actually Job, I do know how large the earth is. Its mass is 6.6 sextillion tons. Its volume is about 260 billion cubic miles. And its total surface area is about 197 million square miles.
And yet, despite all our knowledge about Mother Nature my view of nature has undergone dramatic change over the past 9 or so weeks. I now feel more like Job in today’s assigned reading (Job 38: 12-21) when he asks “Have you ever gotten to the true bottom of things?” I may know facts but that is not the same as fully understanding Mother Nature.
Nature is neither passive nor benign. Our ecosystem is incredibly complex and balanced. The instinct for self-preservation is strong. I have a new respect for the power of nature. We all have experienced the grandeur of nature like the Grand Canyon or the Antarctic or just looking at the night sky. I now have a new respect for the microscopic invisible inhabitants of earth.
Nature does not discriminate as some would have us believe. Nature is not used to punish behavior. But the ways we treat nature have consequences. And nature has the upper hand. That is why I do not understand those who think that nature will simply allow us to dramatically change our climate or ignore the balance of nature established over millennium.
Job has a very simple way of putting it in verse 21 when he says we have “grown up in the same neighborhood” as all of nature.
Dear God of my being and of all life may I start showing the neighborhood more respect.
[Ongoing conversion] is a work of grace through which we participate in the great adventure of becoming saints. We [cooperate] with God to [refine] this work so that in the end we live the life of joyous freedom. Then, as St Benedict says, “we will run on the path of God’s commandments, our hearts overflowing with an inexpressible delight of love.” Fr. Dwight Longnecker
Words of Hope
Many consider conversion a single event in which a person is “saved,” turns her prone-to-wander life around, and pledges that Jesus Christ is Lord and Savior. Or something akin to Saul of Tarsus’ encounter on the road to Damascus. It can be that, but even more importantly it is to become a student in the school of love, as St. Benedict asserts, a process that leads to “ongoing conversion.”
In his recent daily devotions, Richard Rohr has led readers to reflect on different levels of one kind of conversion, conversion to solidarity. The first is to have compassion for the poor, oppressed, and marginalized. The second is a passionate anger at the situations which cause the injustice. While acknowledging that some anger can be dangerous, Rohr believes that those with privilege can transform our anger to become “life-giving presences working with and for those who are suffering.” For the oppressed, anger can be a form of survival, as Barbara Holmes indicates: [W]hen systems of injustice inflict generational abuses upon people and communities because of their ethnicity, race, sexuality, and/or gender, anger as righteous indignation is appropriate, healthy, and necessary for survival. . . Until the killing of black and brown people stops, all peaceful methods of resistance are appropriate. Right now, our anger is our truth, and our anger is a sacred part of our humanity and our faith.”
In a third movement of conversion, we come to value and appreciate qualities of the marginalized group, having had our vision cleared “by an initial awakening” to injustice. Though this stage can feel positive, the burden for people of color in being “superhumanized” –as with a belief in the strong Black woman who can “do it all”–can be another kind of oppression.
The next level carries us to recognize the deep and longstanding harm caused by the structures of systemic oppression. This is a difficult and complicated journey for those of us who are white and privileged, but essential to journeying into the image and likeness of Christ.
Ongoing conversion is “the wild-eyed and grace filled, unpredictable part of the spiritual way,” according to Fr. Longnecker. “[It] involves a ‘change of life,’ and real change entails risk, uncertainty and the adventure of going into the unknown. …[I]t means accepting the work of the Holy Spirit–who may be doing things[her] way, not our way.”
Draw us close to you, O God. Never let us go as we undertake the challenges and wondrous surprises of ongoing conversion. Amen.
Dr. Pat Saxon
John 7. 37-39
On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” By this he meant the Spirit…
Words of Hope
Today is National Repeat Day. Did you hear that? National Repeat Day. One of my all-time favorite Looney Tunes characters comes to mind: Foghorn Leghorn, the huge rooster-adversary of tiny Henry Hawk. His well-rehearsed habit was to repeat virtually everything he said at least once for emphasis: “That boy, I say, that boy, is about as sharp as a bowlin’ ball!” “Nice boy, I say, nice boy, but he’s got more nerve, I say more nerve, than a bum tooth.” I had the great honor to work with Mel Blanc, the voice of Foghorn, a couple of times when I was much, I say, much younger. He relished in doing the voice of the rooster when he criticized something, such as a weak script. (“This script, I say, This Script, is more mixed up than a feather in a whirlwind!”
Mr. Blanc, counted among his many other accomplishments, being a Hebrew scholar, a student of many languages. When we had the opportunity to chat, he was the first to make me aware of the fact that there was a huge amount of repetition of the same ideas in the Psalms, always for emphasis. The Hebrews rhymed thoughts rather than the ends of words. (Your glory is unique among nations; in this world, your glory is unmatched) There are hundreds of more examples.
Jesus carried on that classic Hebrew tradition in the Gospel stories, using repetition on a regular basis to make a point. The above scripture reading for the day is just one example, basically saying the same thing in two different metaphors about the fulfillment of spiritual thirst. He also continually used the same repetitive technique in describing who he was and what the future held for his followers. We often get the impression, however, that Jesus felt obliged to repeat so many of his teachings because the Disciples just didn’t listen.
The practice is still alive and thriving, I say, thriving, today, used by our greatest of preachers to emphasize the truth and our worst of politicians to legitimize their lies. We must be on the alert to carefully listen to what is said by both of them; much better than the often-befuddled followers of Jesus were. These days, that warning can’t be repeated enough.
Make us acutely aware of the power of words, that we may repeat only the ones which serve your divine initiative the best.
Minister for Children and Families
Order of St. Francis and St. Clare
O Lord, “your word is a lantern to my feet and a light upon my path. I am determined to keep your right judgments” [and desires]. In these difficult times “I am deeply troubled, preserve my life according to your” [desires].
A Word of Hope
Often, we think that our spiritual life journey (path) is separate from our daily, physical life routine; that one is intangible spirit and the other is tangible reality. But, this is a false assumption. Moment by moment, each of us are by nature a single entity being both tangible, physical creatures with bodily needs and wants, and also intangible spiritual beings which need communion with the Divine. Both of these realities need constant attention, nourishment and care. In uncertain times when our life may seem to be upside down and our path darkened, human attention tends to be consumed by getting through the turmoil in our physical, daily routine.
Our attention may be distracted and totally consumed by our tangible life needs and our spiritual life is left to wither. But the physical life by itself is essentially a “dead human” subsisting in isolation from the Divine source of true life. The Gospels clearly tell us that our spiritual nourishment and help comes from one Source, the true Light to our life path. In difficult times have you been tempted or distracted by worries and let slip your need for this divine communion? Think seriously about this question. Recognition of our spiritual need is the first step to assure that we have a successful daily journey on our path with God.
As you get up from sleep each morning, do you turn on the bedroom light to prevent tripping (over the cat, dog, etc.) on your way to start that day’s activity? Your path needs to be clearly seen if you will walk safely. What about your spiritual path? Do you take some time each morning to turn on the light for your spiritual reality? And what is that non-electric light source? The psalmist said: O Lord, “your word is a lantern to my feet and a light upon my path. I am determined to keep your right judgments” [and desires]. In these difficult times “I am deeply troubled, preserve my life according to your” [desires]. (Psalm 119:105-107) The writer of this Psalm knew that the lantern light of his spiritual life was sourced in the first five books of the Jewish Scriptures. Nowadays, we Christians have a more complete and brighter light to illumine our life path.
We have the entire Bible with its Gospels, a large library of Christian teachings, life examples of fellow Christians, and most important, the voice of God’s Spirit. The Spirit’s presence in your life wants to help you get up out of bed each morning with a special purpose for life that day, a special set of steps which you can take on the spiritual path of your life’s journey. The presence of God ‘s Spirit will light your
journey, nourishing and guiding your soul, as you step into that new day. Are you willing to take a little time and pay attention, listening to the Spirit’s words of enlightenment?
O Lord, I want to continue my journey with you, even in these days when life is so uncertain and often filled with loss and constant change. In my love for you, I am assured that you will help me. You will give light to my path and at its end, I will be right where you want me to be… with you now and forever. Amen
Donald (Luke) Day
Order of St. Francis and St. Clare
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body, you were called to peace. And be thankful.
Words of Hope
In this day of hyper-activisms, social media has enabled us to be passive activists. You may “like” something, comment, or share, but how often do you really become active? What actually inspires you to change your current course in life and become the difference? Some of us comment each day on animal rights, the epidemic of racism, religious, or political activity, and the general status of our lives, but usually that’s where it stops.
One of the new terms that caught my attention recently is the oxymoron phrase, “Peace Activism.” I had a friend who once said if you truly want to bring peace into the world, do nothing. He was a genuine passive activist. Sure, we can take part in a rally, post things on social media, or begin grassroots movements about whatever we choose, but he questioned if that was the peaceful thing to do. I do understand what my friend was talking about. The essence of the word “peace” brought about a feeling of non-action to him. In order to have true peace at any given time in our day, we don’t need to react or take new action, we simply may choose to do nothing. Doing nothing is still actively choosing to “do” something. It was an interesting theory, but not necessarily world-changing.
The Non-violent peace marches of the 1960’s took on the idea of rallying against racism and equality in a very public way of a visible protest, while keeping retaliation to violent threats at a minimum. The idea was to create a situation to refrain from reactive violence at all costs; a non-violent protest. I once attended a weekend workshop on Creative Non-Violence. We talked about learning to control even our expressions; about creating a peaceful moment with a smile, a random gesture of kindness, a smile, or some other means of brightening someone else’s day, especially when we may not be in the moment; to offer something peaceful of ourselves without expectation of the same in return.
Doing this, being actively kind in the most adverse situations, may sound overly simplistic, yet it is a fact that what we bring into the world we receive in return – maybe never from the people who position themselves to be our adversaries, but from the peace we create inside of us; that Jesus Peace; the peace that passes all understanding. It is the peace he models throughout the Gospels. I acknowledge he wasn’t always without his own demonstration of overturning the tables of the money-changers in the temples. But we still we can choose to carry that Jesus thought or prayer with us; the
thought to actively change today one moment, one person at a time, always beginning with ourselves.
Will you join me in vowing today to actively create compassion, love, and peace in our world? I’m choosing to not offer up violent words of protest to the “thing” that bothers me; to be passive in the face of verbal aggression and outright hatred. Instead, I’m going to offer up some peace by choosing to quietly help another to create room for peace in their own lives; to meditate about what giving freely of myself, my time, and my resources really means. Come to think of it, that doesn’t sound too passive after all.
Make me an instrument of your peace.
Order of St. Francis and St. Clare
Romans 8:14-17 New International Version (NIV)
For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption as children of God. And by the Spirit we cry, “Abba.” The Spirit testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in Christ’s sufferings in order that we may also share in that glory.
Words of Hope
The book of Romans is very different than many of the other letters that are attributed to the Apostle Paul. It is written to a group of converts in Rome who knew what it meant to live under a regime of empire – in this case the Roman Empire.
They knew what it meant to live under oppression with a ruler who could be harsh and ensured that people followed rules, not from a healthy level of respect, but because the punishment for not following orders could result in consequences that, for some, lead to death.
In our reading today, Paul is encouraging the early followers to see themselves not under the rule of law but under the love of the Spirit. They are no longer slaves to an Empire, but adopted by God’s love and therefore received, by the Spirit as children of God – Children that are about to call God, Abba and, like those adopted by God, heirs that inherit all that God desires for us as those created in the likeness of God. We are shaped as “children of God” into the likeness of Christ and have equal share to God’s inheritance.
Last Sunday, I preached about how the Gospel’s of Jesus points to a new reality of God. We often see God as Trinity. God, who is our creator, Jesus who is God incarnate – God in flesh, and God who is the Holy Spirit, the promised advocate who sustains us and advocates for us, shaping us from the inside out.
This “Trinitarian” statement of faith is one that has guided Christian theology for much of the history of Christianity, as we know it. It calls us to look outward to God who becomes like a benevolent dispenser of Grace – one that we can blame when things go wrong and who is often forgotten when we find blessing in our lives!
However, as joint heirs, Paul (and I would equally argue, Jesus) calls us beyond this view of God as three in one to add a forth component of God’s self. This forth element, or attribute of God, is YOU and ME.
This forth expression of God is the God who is living and breathing, like Jesus when he walked the earth, and the disciples as the Holy Spirit “breathed on them” on Pentecost.
To know this aspect of God on earth makes us responsible for living out the greatest commandment of Jesus – to love one another as I have loved you. And makes sense of Paul’s assertion that we “share in Christ’s sufferings in order that we may also share in that glory.”
It is in our cooperation and co-creating experience of God that is in us, this forth aspect of the Godhead, that God is made complete and God is again revealed.
No longer can we see God as a benevolent dispenser, but we claim our Godself – not that we are God – but with all four pieces of God present in our lives we are and continue to be transformed.
The Spirit testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children, heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ.
Beloved of God, made in God’s likeness, completed and adopted by God as joint heirs, let us claim our Godself this day and be the love that the world is looking for today, and every day. Amen.
The Reverend Dr. Neil G Thomas
Senior Pastor, Cathedral of Hope UCC Dallas