Tuesday – March 10, 2020
David speaks of the blessedness of those to whom God reckons righteousness
irrespective of works:
Blessed are those whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; blessed is the one against whom the Lord will not reckon sin.’
Is this blessedness, then, pronounced only on the circumcised, or also on the uncircumcised? We say, ‘Faith was reckoned to Abraham as righteousness.’ How then was it reckoned to him? Was it before or after he had been circumcised? It was not after, but before he was circumcised. He 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, and 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.
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
Word of Hope
I have often heard that this passage from Paul was meant to assure the non-Jewish listeners in Rome that salvation could be theirs. If, like Abraham, they have faith then righteousness will be accorded to them. Circumcision is a symbol of that. But faith came first; then the sign. And there is an implication is that the sign was not needed to prove the existence of the faith. Since circumcision was a sign for Abraham and his descendants, it is good to know that those who are not descendants of Abraham are included in so much as righteousness is reckoned to all through faith first.
But I think there is also a message here for the Jewish listeners; and it is not, perhaps, as bluntly stated. The whole framing of the passage says things to the Jews listening and the non-Jewish Romans might not catch.
Every Jew listening would know that Abraham, though their ancestor, was not a Jew, nor a Hebrew, nor an Israelite. Those three titles were attributed to the descendants of Jacob; whose name was changed by God to Israel. If Paul had meant the Jews alone he would have started with Jacob/Israel. But he doesn’t. He starts with Abraham, father of Isaac and Ishmael. Ishmael is the father of the Ishmaelites. Isaac goes on to be the father if Jacob and Esau. Esau is the father of the Edomites. Jacob becomes the father of Israel.
Also, there is a message in choosing Abraham, and at the same time, referencing the law. The law, which would have been understood to be the law if Moses, came after Abraham, Isaac, Ishmael, Jacob, Esau, and Jacob’s twelve sons on whom the tribes of Israel were based. In modern terms, there is no ex post facto situation here.
What then is the message to the Jews who hear this? Acceptance. Acceptance of non-Jewish converts. No one could be rejected. Acceptance based on the law would have excluded all the generations from (and including) Abraham to the generation freed from bondage in Egypt. And even those who came under the law were not renowned for their obedience to it (golden calf anyone?) Inheritance of the world comes through the righteousness of faith; not the law nor circumcision, nor even by lineage.
Loving Creator, how often are we not faithful to You; and yet You accept us back into Your loving presence? Thank You. Guide us always in the path of faith. Love us into righteousness. Be with us in all ways and always.
Order Of Saint Francis and Saint Clare
Monday – March 9, 2020
When Esther’s words were reported to Mordecai, he sent back this answer: “Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?” Then Esther sent this reply to Mordecai: “Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my maids will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.”
Word of Hope
Today is the Jewish celebration of Purim. Purim is one of the most fun holidays celebrated by the Jewish people. Purim commemorates the day Esther, Queen of Persia, saved the Jewish people from execution by Haman, the advisor to the Persian king.
I just came from a Disney Park, and none of the princesses have such a courageous story as Esther! Disney should have made a movie of this amazing story.
Esther was selected to become queen because of her beauty. She didn’t reveal that she was a Jew. That wasn’t an important fact until the King was tricked into signing a decree to eliminate all the Jews in the kingdom.
Amazing beautiful words come from this story. “And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?”
And what a brave and smart young woman Esther was. She put her faith in God. She fasted and prayed. Then she was brave enough to say “if I perish, I perish” as she trusted God to help her save her people. She faced the King without being summoned, and cleverly created a way to ask the King to grant her wish. He agreed and her people were saved.
As we prepare ourselves for Easter, we need to develop our plan to anticipate what God can do through us. It might not be such a grand event as Esther. But if we help feed the hungry through Breakfast of Hope, Lunch of Hope, pack the Pantry, or Blessing Bags; we have made a difference in the lives of those we help.
God who allows us to be brave, help us learn to trust you to make us brave in all our life. Help us through Lent to see where you want us to be more useful to you as we learn to be with you in the dark places of our lives.
Friday – March 6, 2020
Romans 3:31 (The Message)
“But by shifting our focus from what we do to what God does, don’t we cancel out all our careful keeping of the rules and ways God commanded? -Not at all. What happens, in fact, is that by putting that entire way of life in its proper place, we confirm it.”
A Word of Hope
Last week I had the second of two surgeries to remove cataracts. Wow. For nearly two years I have been living in a visual fog and didn’t realize it. Not only was my vision blurry, but colors were not bright, and my peripheral vision was limited. The change was instantaneous when the surgeon peeled away the cataracts and replaced my natural lenses with prescription lenses (yes, I was fully awake during the surgery). The artificial lens in my right eye aids my far vision and the left eye lens is for short range vision. So, I don’t need glasses for either reading or driving. My brain is still rewiring to shift from eye to eye but I already have a different perspective on the world. I have used glasses since I was 13, they were second nature. But, why did I put off the surgery for 2 years until my vision was so blurry I had trouble driving at night?
Changing my view of the world isn’t easy. Whether talking about my physical eye-sight or moral and spiritual insight. Changing perspective or challenging my views isn’t easy. We learn in today’s assigned reading (Romans 3:21 – 31) that the church members in Rome were having a hard time changing their view of what they thought was true and the way they thought God operated.
Paul was trying to convince the Romans (and us) that the life and example of Jesus changes the way we view and encounter God. Through Jesus we see that God engages us directly if we open ourselves to the relationship. This realization changes the way we view ourselves and others.
The Romans had to rethink their heritage as Jews interconnected with God. Their whole world-view and how they treated others was based on what they thought was a special claim on God (verses 27 – 30). Paul taught them that their view, their focus, needed to change. And when they changed their perspective, their vision if you will, everything was put in its right place (verse 31.) They could see more clearly.
I can’t tell you if my various views, whether they be political, social, or religious, are right or not. I know I constantly have to be challenging them. I have to always be looking for a new perspective, a new vision, view the world in new ways. I need to peel off the cataracts and look through new clearer lenses. Ultimately, I want to look at the world through God’s eyes.
Dear God of my being. Your vision is a gift. Peel off my cataracts.
Thursday – March 5, 2020
“When I gaze into the night sky/And see the work of your fingers;/The moon and stars suspended in space…/Oh what [are we] that you are mindful of [us]?” Tom Fettke (adapted)
“I have learned things in the dark that I could never learn in the light, things that saved my life over and over again.” Barbara Brown Taylor
A Word of Hope
I couldn’t imagine that it would save my life, for I was dying inside. But in the early dark of an October morning, when the remembered strains of “The Majesty and Glory of your Name” brought choking sobs, I stepped toward learning to walk in the dark. The Alleluia’s ached to speak—more a fervent prayer than praise—for only months before love had died, and with it much of my identity, my joy.
Gentle Maggie bumped my hand to be petted, and as I stroked her silken coat, I looked up at the crescent moon. It seemed to mirror my life—so diminished at that time– but its slender sickle of light was still lovely. Visible too was the fullness of the moon, though but a charcoal shadow. I began to hope, to pray that somehow, somehow, a vital life would return.
That dark morning “the Voice,” which I eventually began to know as God, called me home, claimed me as Beloved after many years away from my faith. And, as they say, the rest is history.
Though most of us would prefer the spirituality of light all the time, many have come to know this lesson: that God who calls us by name offers treasures in the dark, treasures hidden in secret places. (Isaiah 45:3, adapted). We don’t go willingly; we must be led, as Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness.
But from the long arc of this life, I give thanks for those like Barbara Brown Taylor who teach us of the close and holy darkness, for those who would preserve dark sky communities,* for those who affirm the importance of lament and confession, forgiveness and shadow work for our souls, for those who bravely go into the dusk of injustice to reconcile and heal: for all who seek to save us from light pollution and the half-truths of “full solar spirituality” (Taylor).
Dazzling Darkness, Lead us through our fear to discover the saving graces of the night. Amen.
Dr. Pat Saxon
Wednesday – March 4, 2020
Ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers.
A Word of Hope
Recently, I was looking at one of our children’s crafts about gratitude. The children were assigned to trace around their hand and cut out the shape, then, on each finger and thumb write one thing that they were grateful for. One child wrote cheese, mommy, daddy, baby brother, and trains. It should be obvious from the list, that the young child would not just be thankful for these specific things but that it also refers to those things that make him feel good.
To me, it’s a no-brainer that having a sense of gratitude around the familiar things in our daily lives would indeed make us feel better. It’s also interesting to think, as a spiritual discipline, that there’s some hefty science behind things that make us feel good; carry a certain vibration, make us emotionally healthy, if you will. Eating a doughnut might bring us some sense of pleasure, but I know there are people who struggle through their lives every day, carrying the burden that may cloud their judgment in wondering what truly good things they still have to be grateful for.
I’m not here to judge or to pretend that I know why it may be a difficult task for some to feel gratitude. However, I know lots of people who struggle to find the simplest things to be thankful for; things most of us take for granted. But, stop and think how often are you grateful that you are able to breathe clearly or that there is breathable air. Perhaps it’s gratitude for having 10 toes, all of them intact. I spoke to a good friend who happened to let me know he had lost a big toe. He said you never know the function of something like your big toe until it’s gone; how much balance and keeping rhythm with your walk that one toe meant.
By God’s grace, I’m sure you could think of an equally profound example; having all your teeth, your fingers, both hands, both eyes. What are the big things and little things you’re grateful for at this moment? What are the simple pleasures in life that bring you joy? What would your list look like if you were to consider things that you never realized you should be very grateful for every day?
For me as an artist and a writer, I am grateful every single day for my imagination, which also brings me an optimistic outlook. Our roof was replaced recently. I hadn’t realized how wonderful it would be to be free of the stress in knowing that the familiar leaks that had developed were part of the past. That little bit of worry every time it rained no longer brings a negative feeling. I now have a positive sense of relief and gratitude for God’s rain, and for being able to shift my awareness to other things.
Join me in taking 60 seconds to acknowledge, visualize, or list as many things as you can think of to be grateful for. The first thing I’m grateful for in this moment is someone who listens; having you in my life.
And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful. ~Colossians 3:15
Order of St. Francis and St. Clare
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