Monday – November 11, 2019
Sing to the LORD a new song, God has done marvelous things; God’s right hand and holy arm have worked salvation.98:2 The LORD has made salvation known and revealed righteousness to the nations.98:3 God has remembered love and faithfulness to the house of Israel; all the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God.98:4 Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth, burst into jubilant song with music;98:5 make music to the LORD with the harp, with the harp and the sound of singing,98:6 with trumpets and the blast of the ram’s horn–shout for joy before the LORD.98:7 Let the sea resound, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.98:8 Let the rivers clap their hands, let the mountains sing together for joy;98:9 let them sing before the LORD, for God comes to judge the earth. God will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples with equity. Psalm 98
A Word of Hope
Today is World Orphans Day. Google explains “Tragically, millions of children all over the globe have become orphaned for many reasons: war, famine, displacement, disease or poverty. To make sure that they are not forgotten, once a year there is a special day dedicated just to them: World Orphans Day, which falls on the second Monday of each November.”
I don’t know it is much help to remember that there are millions of orphans in the world today. They need way more than being remembered. I am glad the Cathedral of Hope has participated in helping children in need on other countries over the years. We have started programs in a couple of places that grew into larger projects that other groups took over and moved forward in care to those in need.
We have people in our church family who are foster parents and those who have adopted. I have been a foster parent in my younger days and was a director for a boy’s ranch as well. I am so grateful for each person who does what we each can to solve a part of the issue of homeless children. It is a blessing when solutions happen.
United Church of Christ through Global Ministries Child Sponsorship make a difference! The Child Sponsorship program works closely with partner organizations that have long-established links with the UCC and Disciples. Collaborating with partners, gifts to Child Sponsorship provide food, basic health care, clothing and in some cases housing, school fees, uniforms, books and training.
Psalm 98 tells us God has done great things. I trust God to continue helping find support and families for the homeless children of the world through all of us.
God of orphans and all of us, we thank you for your love and care for each of us. Help us to see how we need to care for those in need! Guide us to find ways to do our part in the world however we can.
Cathedral of Hope Volunteer
Friday – November 8, 2019
Believe me I do my level best to keep a clear conscience before God and my neighbors in everything I do. Acts 24: 16 The Message
A Word of Hope
I am breaking a self-imposed rule when writing a devotional: avoid controversial topics.
Today, I am talking politics. Our assigned reading (Acts 24: 10-23) compels me as it is impossible to ignore the politics in Paul’s trial before Felix. First-century Christians were embroiled in political machinations. After all, the Christ they followed was put to death by the state spurred on by religious leaders’ political scheming.
In the decades following Jesus’s execution, religious powerbrokers continued to spread rumors and allegations against the followers of the Way, accusing them of “disturbing the peace” and “defiling the temple” (verses 5 -8). My modern-day interpretation of that charge: calling to account the orthodoxy, hypocrisy, power and bank accounts of those who set themselves up as the arbiters of faith. Some things never change.
Paul’s response to smears against his character is inspiring and instructive. While he proved the accusations to be false (it is always good to have the facts on your side), the core of his defense was his life and works. Paul pointed to his work for the poor, his prayer life, his belief in the ways of Jesus and his faith in God. His own character and moral clarity were Paul’s best defense. He stood up to the shenanigans of those who had lost all credibility (again, some things never change) by sticking up for what he knew to be right. He declared he had a clean conscience before God and his neighbors. His accusers offered no counter argument just more smooth-talking.
Paul was a product of his time and some of his beliefs are shocking today. But I don’t doubt the courage of his convictions. He stood up against the political and religious power structures of his day even though it meant years in prison.
And me? Well, I congratulate myself when I leave work early to vote. (As a pundit put it: Voting is, literally, the least a citizen can do.) What would the verdict be if I stood before a judge and my only defense was my conscience and my life’s work on the justice, equality, social and political issues of our time?
God of my Being. Strengthen my backbone. May my conscience be clear.
Thursday – November 7, 2019
“The kingdom of heaven is within you, in the hidden-most center of your soul. And God, from beyond you and within you, is radiating out, sustaining you in existence, sustaining you in being, calling you to union with God.” James Finley
A Word of Hope
I invite you to continue to journey with me in my learning experience with The Interior Castle by Teresa of Avila, 16th Century Spanish mystic.
The core of the work derives from Teresa’s vision that “the soul is like a castle made exclusively of diamond or some other very clear crystal. In this castle are a multitude of dwellings, just as in heaven there are many mansions” (IC, 35). At the center of this mansion the Beloved dwells within us and calls to us. And, echoing St. Augustine, our deepest desire is to find our way home to God. Prayer, particularly contemplative prayer, provides the opening and movement toward intimacy with God.
The door to the mansion is guarded by various “nasty creatures” whose mission is to thwart the soul’s journey toward union with God by distracting her with all kinds of insidious worldly temptations (IC 23). Once inside the castle, the struggle is not over, but our resistance to evil will be strengthened by two important virtues: self-knowledge and humility, without which “all is lost.” “When we turn from our small selves and toward the greatness of God, both our understanding and our will are more inclined to embrace all that is good”(47).
The intentional practice of prayer allows the soul to develop the power to endure the challenges of the first mansion and enter the second. Here, James Finley teaches, we bring our “trauma, suffering, our ‘reptiles’ into prayer, but we find we “don’t know how to stop colluding with the very forces that compromise our hearts.” Nevertheless, the soul begins to learn “to tune out the clamor of the mundane world and tune into the delicate voice of God”—which comes to her at this point through meaningful conversation with other soul travelers, inspiring speeches, and sacred literature. (Starr, IC 24)
In the third dwelling, Teresa passionately exhorts: “Our only hope is in losing ourselves in [God], in spending this life absorbed only in serving [God], in trying to understand [God’s] will” (IC, 68). And while we have come far, through faithfulness, discipleship, and the grace of God and are at this point serving the world in love, Teresa warns us not to expect God to “repay us” for our sacrifice with divine favor. In fact, the soul will encounter “periods of aridity” which, if met with humility, will lead to a peace that comes from being aligned with God’s will (IC,73). Do not settle for our “modest little way of serving God,” she entreats, but give all for love.
Today I invite you to take a word or phrase above that speaks to you and consider its resonance for your life.
Dr. Pat Saxon
Wednesday – November 6, 2019
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7
A Word of Hope
Stress and anxiety, in varying degrees, seem to be constant companions for most of us these days. At least once a day, and often more, I hear someone say, “I am so stressed out!” Jobs, relationships, finances, the state of the world around us all bombard us with stressors. Sometimes, it even feels like living a life of faith creates stress for us.
I have found myself asking: Am I doing enough for the church? Am I giving enough to God’s work? Am I the person that God made me to be? Am I doing what Jesus would do in a given situation? And the big question…Am I loving my neighbor as myself always? When I can’t give a confident “yes” to these questions, anxiety enters. Being a person of faith is not easy and it is not without stress. Fortunately for us, the same faith that on one hand has the potential to create stress in our lives also provides us with comfort and a respite from it.
In his letter to the Philippians, Paul says, “Do not be anxious about anything.” Anything? Really; ANYTHING? Is that even possible in this day and age? Paul goes on to tell the people that all of their requests should be turned over to God and then the peace of God will guard their hearts and minds. The implication here is that the peace about which Paul speaks is so powerful that it will conquer all feelings of anxiety and stress. Perhaps this is the passage that inspired the contemporary phrase, “Let go and let God.”
It is important for us to remember that when we present our petitions and requests to God through our time in prayer, God may not respond in the way that we desire or expect. When we ask for God’s help with difficult situations, sometimes God responds by dealing with the external circumstances bothering us. Other times, however, God changes only our hearts and minds. In other words, nothing changes about the situation itself, but God touches us in a way that causes our perception of that particular stressor to shift and we then are filled with peace…a peace that transcends all understanding. Perhaps the biggest stress for people of faith is thinking that we have to know and understand, without any doubts, how God works. We don’t. This is why we often speak of the “mystery of faith.” Once our trust in this mystery is strong enough to accept that God will guard our hearts and minds, God’s peace can and will consume our entire being.
God of peace, I turn over to you today those things about which I am anxious and that are creating stress in my life. Help me to fully embrace the “Let go and let God” idea so that my heart and mind can be filled with the kind of peace that I know can only come from you. Amen
Order of St. Francis and St. Clare
Tuesday – November 5, 2019
“God has been incarnate from the very beginning. Being Incarnate was not plan B. God is incarnate primarily, not secondarily.”
A Word of Hope
Oh this woman, how she revolutionized things for me with her words. Have you ever felt distant from God? Have you ever felt like God couldn’t possibly understand you? Like your body, your sexuality, your desires were somehow too gritty for God? Your concrete dreams of a house, the way your partner’s hand feels in yours, the favorite food you love to eat at midnight, could never be something God could grasp? Has God ever felt too high for you? Too spiritual for you? Too far away for you?
I know God has felt like that for me, so many times. And why should it surprise me with the picture of God that was given to me as a child. God was lofty, above everything, a spirit, asexual, in the highest heavens. God didn’t love the smell of particular flowers. God didn’t grasp the feeling of sweat or the pain of a cut. God never birthed a child or had a period. God never got an erection or felt a racing heart when someone’s skin became near. God doesn’t know what cold feels like, what the fear of heavy rains is. God has never had to gather enough food for a winter, or burst through the waves of the ocean in a playful dance. God was a-material, non-physical.
But Sallie McFague took that picture of God and smashed it with one powerful reminder: Jesus, the revelation of God. In Jesus, we discovered a radical truth, that God’s nature is not lofty and separate, not away from us and unlike us. God’s nature is incarnate. God’s nature is material. God’s fullest expression comes in God’s embodiment. And Sallie McFague radically suggests that God’s Body is all of us, all of the universe. God is inseparably present in all of us.
Personally, I think this is a radical word of hope particularly for those of us who identify as queer or transgender. The lofty, sky-god of evangelicalism teaches me that god is not near my body, does not know my body, and in fact rejects my body. But the God of Jesus, the God incarnate, the God whose body is the universe, the God all around and within me, this God calls my body home. My body becomes a sacred listening point, a place of holy words and holy wisdom. As queer people and trans people, we can look at a God not loftily in the heavens, but in the grit of our guts. We can love a God who speaks to us through our bodies. When we explore and accept our gender identity, we are exploring the very body of God. When we explore and accept our sexuality, we are listening to the very body of God. We are encountering the very sacredness of God.
So while it might sound crazy, it’s my belief that our view of God as lofty can separate us from a body-affirming embrace of our queerness. And gloriously, the reverse is also true: a view of God as embodied in this very universe liberates us to celebrate our queerness.
Incarnate God! You who have ever-lived in and with your creation! I love you for being in me, for being in us, for being in the birds and stones, in the waves and the sky. I love you for being in our sweat and tears, for being incarnate, ever and always. Thank you for revealing this great truth to us in Jesus. Liberate us, Incarnate God, to love our bodies as much as you love them, for our bodies are your body, and your body is our bodies. Set free our ears to listen to our own heart beats, our own blood flow, our own desires and needs. Let us see the radical holiness of our own bodies, that we might utterly celebrate our queerness. —Amen
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