Friday – March 29, 2019
Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the one whose sin God does not count against them and in whose spirit is no deceit. When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy on me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer.
Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity.
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to You.” And you forgave the guilt of my sin. Therefore, let all the faithful pray to you while you may be found; surely the rising of the mighty waters will not reach them.
You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance. I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you. Do not be like the horse or the mule, which have no understanding but must be controlled by bit and bridle or they will not come to you. Many are the woes of the wicked, but God’s unfailing love surrounds the one who trusts in God.
Rejoice and be glad, you righteous; sing, all you who are upright in heart! Psalm 32
A Word of Hope
The Book of Psalms in the Hebrew Bible is divided into five sections. Each section closes with a Benediction before moving forward to the next section. The overriding theme of the whole Book of Psalms involves praise for God’s providence, power, creation and deliverance for Israel.
Psalm 32 shows up in the section that is called “The Writings” and, while not all the Psalms are written by David, it is believed that this psalm is among the 73 that were.
In this Psalm, David worships God and speaks of God’s benevolence and grace in the blessing of forgiveness. He gives God honor and thanks for not counting his sins against him and speaks of the importance of confession, repentance and forgiveness.
We are in the season of Lent. It is a season of preparation and, for Christians, it is marked with prayer, fasting and, perhaps the most popular act, giving something up.
Lent is a great opportunity to take personal time to go deeper into our spiritual life. Through prayer, additional acts of service, fasting and study, we make ourselves right with God in preparation for the Great Sacrifice made for humanity as we prepare for Holy Week and Easter.
For many, this includes a time of personal confession, confessing our sin directly to God or, as some prefer to a minister. Regardless of how it works for us individually, we come to confession with the sure knowledge of a God who forgives and is both ready and willing to hear us, not from a place of judgement or shame or guilt, but with a loving embrace. It is offered freely and with a hearty dose of love that ends with words of freedom, “God’s unfailing love surrounds the one who trusts in God. Rejoice and be glad, you righteous; sing, all you who are upright in heart!”
As we move through Lent toward Easter, may we make our confession to God, letting go of the things that weigh us down, steal our joy, and prevent us from being truly free. Let us make ourselves ready to echo the words of David, to rejoice and be glad.
There is no better time than now!
God, we ask that you bless the good we have accomplished and also forgive the wrong that we have done. Have mercy on us, open our hearts and change our lives.
ASSURANCE OF FORGIVENESS
Siblings in Christ, hear this Good News: the love of God is beyond measure, and you are included in that love. Know that you are forgiven and thus freed to love and serve.
Reverend Dr. Neil G. Cazares- Thomas
Cathedral of Hope Dallas
Thursday – March 28, 2019
Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Romans 12.2
The mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. Romans 8.6
A Word of Hope
Whether you’ve given up something for Lent or went full-Protestant and gave up….Lent for Lent, this time between winter and spring, between the suffering and the Resurrection of Jesus, still remains a season of reflecting on a season for releasing what is old and embracing the new.
Perhaps the most easily overlooked, but crucial, area for us to consider such changes is in our thoughts.
For every moment of our waking hours, we are inundated with messages. We receive them from our spouses, partners, families, friends, workplaces, everyone we encounter throughout the day, and a staggering amount of marketing and advertising. According to Forbes, almost $250 billion will be spent on advertising and marketing this year and that most Americans are exposed to 4,000 to 10,000 ads per day. Each ad and each advertising dollar seeks to achieve one goal: to change your mind. These figures show the value of our thoughts. What we think and believe obviously matters a great deal.
Certainly, not every message sent our way is bad. Some can be quite beneficial. But, the majority of these messages bombarding us throughout the day take some form of “you’re okay, but…” or tell us that we are only as good as what we own, how we look, our education level, our income, or our occupation. This is the real Fake News.
The sheer number and velocity of these messages must lodge in our brains on some level and work our mental default settings. In the process, we sometimes try to separate our “spiritual life” and our “everyday life” in order to resolve the inner conflict between our cultural mindset and that of God.
In order for us to be who we were created to be, we must undertake the mental renovation project of surrendering the residual thoughts and effects of the messages coming at us from the outside and replacing them with those that arise from our Spirit. In doing so, we allow the messages we receive from God to take center stage in our hearts and minds.
The messages of Jesus are not so much difficult as they are radical and profoundly different; even counter-intuitive. I remain convinced that the only true and lasting way for us to see love, justice, and mercy in our world is to uproot all that is not loving, just, and merciful in our minds.
And in order to accomplish that, we must identify the erroneous nature of the cultural messages that saturate our minds so that we might refocus our souls on what we know to be true: that we are loved unconditionally, that we have what we need at this very moment, and that we are never alone. We recognize that the way of Christ calls us to recognize all of our fellow human beings as our equals, to bring good news to the poor, the outcast, the forgotten, and to live with integrity.
Let us be as relentless and motivated in marketing the message of God, not through prosthelytizing but by ensuring all those within our circle of influence simply know that they are loved and that they matter.
Most Loving God,
We submit to your Spirit our minds in order that they may be renewed, and our souls so that we may be transformed. We thank You for the clarity You provide. May it so transform us that we continue to become more like Christ. By the power of Your Spirit, remove the misguided and constricting messages we receive in this world and may Your peace, love, equality, integrity, and joy guide our every decision.
And so it is. Amen.
Wednesday – March 27, 2019
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12.2
A Word of Hope
From what bass do you operate?
I go see a lot of comic book movies. In the latest entry from the Marvel universe, I was thrilled to see the new Captain Marvel movie. This is not the DC comics version of the character Billy Batson who shouts Shazam!” No. This character is pronounced ‘Mar-Vell’ and this time Marvel studios gives us a female hero, who, in this case, must outthink her own origin and decide who is she is going to represent and ultimately save. Without revealing spoilers, I was first interested in seeing how the writing team developed a character that originally appeared in comics as a male. The world of superhero comics was predominantly white and male when I grew up. Usually only boys read them. I was “conformed to this world.” But, finally, the studios have realized that the current audience for these movies is everybody. I’ve been thrilled to see characters reworked to fit our current world in which heroes truly do come from a big melting pot. Black or white, male or female, our heroes come to us from all kinds of backgrounds and from varied circumstances.
I’m thankful for this approach in storytelling. It took a long time for me to embrace the idea that our world shouldn’t be structured just to serve the privileged white male. I am the product of mid century thinking, from the era that was realistically portrayed in the TV series called Mad Men. I enjoyed that series not only because it was my era from the 1960s, but also that it represented a society in which the everyday heroes were female, the people never given the highest ranking in my boy-centric universe. Yet, looking back on my real life growing up, my actual favorite heroes then were my grade school teachers, most of which were very strong women, standout survivors of that era.
I remember that about 20 years ago I was casually sharing my experiences about the many strong women in my life who were true leaders. I was speaking with a person I considered to be a friend. The man to whom I stated my obviously feminist viewpoint did not care for my opinion in the least. I told him that the strong women should be applauded for their tenacity, but he was stuck in an earlier time, the Mad Men era when men ruled on all fronts. I concluded that women should be running for the highest of offices including the presidency and he looked at me as if I had gone crazy. So many frightened men still look at me the same way 20 years later. Seeing my old friend’s extreme reaction, I began questioning myself, at that time, and why I was feeling so strongly about women in leadership roles.
My attitude was the opposite of my upbringing and my experiences. Was I led by the Spirit; the will of God? Transformed? I can’t say for sure. I do know I had simply found that those old misogynist teachings were dead to me because so many of my personal heroes for so long had been the women of my life. I had witnessed them continually working harder than any man for that honor. Christopher Reeve once said, “A hero is an individual who finds strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles.” Even though he had portrayed the first male superhero from which all the others grew, he was referring to anybody and everybody, regardless of gender or ethnic origin. These women had endured in spite of the most overwhelming of obstacles.
So from which base will you operate in this world? Who are the people that you call your heroes? Do they match your race and gender? Are they those certain heroic ordinary people who usually go unnoticed? I, myself, want to complete the unlearning of the message I grew up with, when all my favorite comic book superheroes were white and male. I want a hero to be everybody’s hero, but more specifically I want to be sure to never overlook those ordinary people who do extraordinary things in extraordinary times; the real heroes without credit or awards or a picture in the news.
I hope some of my original women heroes are still around to see Captain Marvel as the representative of the credit they are long overdue in receiving. I’m certainly not paid by the Disney company or Marvel Studios, but I would urge you to see Captain Marvel, a woman of ordinary beginnings who re-defines true heroism. So far, I’ve seen it three times.
Send us a hero for these extraordinary times. May she show us how to save us from ourselves and be transformed by the renewal of our minds.
Order of St. Francis and St. Clare
Tuesday – March 26, 2019
“I pray that out of God’s glorious riches, She may strengthen you with power through Her Spirit in your inner being…And I pray that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have power, together with all God’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” —Ephesians 3:16-18
A Word of Hope
Sometimes I feel like my own move into progressive Christianity has led me down a more balanced, reasonable, sane path. Many of us don’t roll around on the ground overcome by the Spirit, many of us don’t believe Jesus literally burst forth from the grave, we’re not too sure if we ever think Jesus is really going to come back, and many are rather certain there isn’t going to be some glorious thousand mile-wide city where God’s new house is built and Jesus reigns over the whole earth.
When we read stories in the early Jerusalem church about all the disciples sharing everything in common or about “cities being turned upside down” by the Christians in the Book of Acts, we don’t really associate ourselves with those people.
And maybe we shouldn’t. Maybe these experiences or ideas are too extreme. Too dangerous. Too much. In fact, I’ll go a step further, I’m fairly confident that one of the reasons progressive Christians often abandon the more extreme, absolutistic, intense, magical things is because such ideas do hurt people. They are problematic.
But recently, I’ve realized I miss the extremity, the madness of it all, the wildness, the insanity, the absurd faith. I miss how ridiculously dramatic it all was. Sounds strange, right? Progressive Christianity, with its central focus on evidenced wellbeing and sound ethics, keeps us safe from all of that. Its boundaries, its reasonableness, its sensitivity, its awareness of power and hurts, it keeps us safe. Right? I think it does. But I cannot help but wonder if there might be a way to keep some of those ethics, some of that safety, but add back in some of the wildness, some of the drama, some of the magic.
I wish I had the answer to it. But I read verses like the one above and I see someone who was seeing something unbelievable, something colossal, something not-of-this-world. And I think, where is that? Has my Christianity become entirely humanistic social justice? And don’t get me wrong, I LOVE humanistic social justice! But is there another layer of meaning I’m missing? Is my theism being replaced by my humanism? And right now, I’ve got this one idea to offer: maybe it’s okay to be as dramatic as this writer, to shout things as loudly as they did, to believe something as insanely, as wildly, as disruptively, as they did. Maybe it’s okay to be a dramatic theist.
God, can faith be intense without being too dangerous? Is there a way for theism to be dramatically, vividly real without it hurting people? I yearn for it, Mother God. And I need your help, to be filled with the fullness of You. I need Your power, but I’m scared. Amen.
Tyler James, LPC, MA
Monday – March 25, 2019
The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”
Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be.
But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. Luke 1. 28-33
A Word of Hope
In several faith traditions, today is the Feast of the Annunciation, or the Annunciation to the Blessed Virgin Mary, one of the 12 Great Feasts of the church calendar. The timing of the Feast is exactly nine months from December 25, the tradition birth date of the Christ. It is the celebration of the visit of the angel Gabriel to Mary at which time he informed her she would become the mother of Jesus, the Incarnation of God. Gabriel also took the time to tell Mary to name her son Jesus, which means “Savior”.
One of my favorite studies in art is comparing the literally thousands of Medieval art interpretations of the story of the Angel Gabriel appearing to Mary. The images have always fascinated artists who usually depict a frightened and submissive woman cowering before the powerful figure of a man- but not just any man. This one is glowing with heavenly light and hovering mid-air, flapping his golden wings. It’s typical of the art of the Middle Ages, during which time the artists were almost always men. But is Mary really a submissive woman?
Luke tells us that Mary does not just sit there shaking. She immediately recovers from her shock at the marvelous sight and pointedly questions the angel: “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” After an explanation from her visitor, she models understanding, faith, and cooperation. “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.
Throughout the rest of the Gospel stories, our glimpses of Mary are never about a woman under the authority of a man. She is the key recipient of the message of the Prophet, Anna, and is the family’s spokesperson when she grills the 13 year-old Jesus who had wandered away in Jerusalem. Even when her adult son is reluctant to perform a miracle at the wedding in Cana, Mary presumes that Jesus will follow her instructions anyway. He does. She is physically present with Jesus until his very end on the cross. Finally, she is still with the Disciples in the Book of Acts, leading and teaching the other women in the faith. She knew the story better than anyone; this woman who had treasured up these things in her heart as she held the divine infant in her arms.
Mary’s key appearances remind us that she has bravely and faithfully prepared herself from the beginning for a responsibility that no other person will ever be asked to endure. She was the mother of the Savior.
Jesus, grant to each of us the strength and faith of your mother. Amen.
Minister fro Children and Families
Order of St. Francis and St. Clare
Support Cathedral of Hope
5910 Cedar Springs Road
Dallas, TX 75235
Toll Free: 800-501-HOPE (4673)