Tuesday – July 2, 2019
Ascribe to the Lord, O heavenly beings,
ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
2 Ascribe to the Lord the glory due God’s name;
worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness.
3 The voice of the Lord is over the waters;
the God of glory thunders,
the Lord, over many waters.
4 The voice of the Lord is powerful;
the voice of the Lord is full of majesty.
5 The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars;
the Lord breaks the cedars of Lebanon.
6 God makes Lebanon to skip like a calf,
and Sirion like a young wild ox.
7 The voice of the Lord flashes forth flames of fire.
8 The voice of the Lord shakes the wilderness;
the Lord shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.
9 The voice of the Lord makes the deer give birth
and strips the forests bare,
and in his temple all cry, “Glory!”
10 The Lord sits enthroned over the flood;
the Lord sits enthroned as Ruler forever.
11 May the Lord give strength to God’s people!
May the Lord bless God’s people with peace!
A Word of Hope
Like many other Psalms in the Hebrew Scripture, we hear that God is greater than the enemies of the Hebrew people whom he blesses with peace. It is obvious to most theologians that this repetition is not accidental. In fact, God is saying to us repeatedly that we will be protected against those who would wish us harm and that while tough times may be experienced, peace will ultimately be ours for our faithfulness. We know that David struggled both with enemies in the region and the demons that taunted his soul. He prayed that his enemies would be destroyed and that he would experience peace politically and personally.
After thousands of years, what could be the possible message for us in today’s so-called “modern era?”
Each of us, if invited, could name those persons, situations, diseases that we consider “enemies.” We pray for relief; we fast for relief and some even tithe for relief believing that our peace will somehow arrive from the outside of ourselves, awarded by a grateful God. We all experience, from time to time, the hurts imposed by selfish, misguided and small individuals who act as bullies in normal and abnormal social, work, or church settings. Unfortunately, we tend to catalog each hurt and place it in a suitcase that we drag along the path of our life’s journey. It really slows us down. It does not honor the God of love.
Realize that the peace we all yearn for comes not from outside ourselves but from within, where me make a home for God to dwell – that God teaches us how to deflect the spears and arrows of others, to love our enemies by forgiving them for each attack. As we mature, we leave the hurts stowed away in our hearts along the way. We name them and discard them knowing that we need to pack lighter for the road to leave room for the love of God.
Holy One! Help us to see the Majesty of God even at those times in our life that we may feel overwhelmed by the storm. Teach us that our forgiveness of others removes their ability to intimidate us. We pray for our “enemies” and pray that we do not become the enemies of others. It is your peace that we seek. Be with us today and all days.
We make this prayer in your many names, O God! AMEN!
Cathedral of Hope / United Church of Christ
Monday – July 1, 2019
“I have said these things to you that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.” John 15.11
A Word of Hope- Joy as Spiritual Discipline
On the night before his trial and ultimate suffering, Jesus said the words quoted above. He was actually experiencing joy at a time of his life when most of us would have been feeling the lowest ebb of despair. Far too often, we confuse happiness with true joy.
Happiness is a feeling we experience when things are going our way, like good weather on the upcoming 4th of July weekend. Joy is more difficult to define. It’s one of those paradoxes of the spiritual life; entirely compatible with danger, persecution, failure and sorrow. It is a lot like that Shalom definition of peace that the Jews speak about: not simply an absence of conflict, but a state of being which includes health, wholeness, and completion.
Joy is that “peace that surpasses understanding” that Paul told the Philippians about. It makes no sense if we look at it through the lens of our natural understanding. Joy is not an emotion. Desmond Tutu, when asked about how he kept a joyful attitude throughout his considerable persecutions, he said: “I’ve read the end of the Book- We win.”
But, how can we experience joy in the face of the sufferings children imprisoned at our borders and other atrocities that those around us face daily? The easy way out is to simply ignore the misery of others and create a personal escapism that amounts to a false “happiness.” But, Kathleen Norris says that “a true saint is a person who faces life without anesthesia”- We must be fully conscious of the stresses of the world around us, but always remember what happened when Jesus touched people- even with dirt and spit- he was actually healing the deepest wounds of their souls.
If the point of Jesus’ ministry was to heal a lot of people, he didn’t do a very good job. The joy comes in realizing that he was instructing us on how to do the same. His job is our job now, both in the doing and the teaching. If we perform those duties well, there will always be others to carry on those healings after us. Knowing that can truly make our joy complete.
Teach me the sublime discipline of joy.
Minister for Children and Families
Order of St. Francis and St. Clare
Friday – June 28, 2019
It is a good thing to be ardent in doing good, but not just when I am in your presence. Can’t you continue the same concern for both my person and my message when I am away from you that you had when I was with you? Do you know how I feel right now, and will feel until Christ’s life becomes visible in your lives? Like a mother in the pain of childbirth. Oh, I keep wishing that I was with you. Then I wouldn’t be reduced to this blunt, letter-writing language out of sheer frustration. Galatians 4. 18-20 (The Message)
A Word of Hope
The early letters of the New Testament were primarily written to encourage and to correct the emerging church. This letter to the church in Galatia was probably written around 55 CE. The writer, whom we assume to be the Apostle Paul, sent it to correct some theological differences that had begun to emerge. It is centered on the need for followers of Jesus to understand that a person is not justified solely through works of the law, specifically the Mosaic Law, but through faith in Jesus Christ.
In the closing words of Galatians, Chapter 4, Paul once again reminds them that it is a good thing to be ardent; zealous about doing good. He goes on to say that these acts of goodness should continue regardless of whether he, or others, are present to witness those actions.
So often we see people who behave one way when they are in church and another way when they are not. It is one of the biggest criticisms that I hear about “church-folk”. It is the inconsistency that often leads people to use the word, “hypocrite” when talking about those who “talk the talk” but who don’t appear to “walk the walk”.
Let me say this. While we all have “off” days and the pressures of the world can bring us down, our behavior and attitude toward one another should be impacted by the One that we follow and believe in.
It was this kind of behavior that Paul was addressing then, and we get to ponder for ourselves today.
As we begin this new day, I invite us all to consider the good things that God has done for us and the good things that we get to do in our world. I pray that we will be ardent, zealous in our faith and in our works, and that we become more consistent in our ability to live into the life of love that comes from God’s Spirit, the fruit of which is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. As Paul says, “against such things there is no law” (Galatians 5:22-23)
Help me, O God, to live more fully into the fullness of Christ that lives in me. Amen.
The Reverend Dr. Neil G. Cazares-Thomas
Cathedral of Hope United Church of Christ
Thursday – June 27, 2019
Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you–unless, of course, you fail the test? 2 Corinthians 13.05
A Word of Hope
The Corinthians seemed to be the far-reaching critics of the Apostles, particularly Paul, criticizing his letters. They berated him saying they were bulky, his physical presence weak, and his speech distasteful! So, Paul wrote two letters to them in which he boldly pointed out, since they had disputed his doctrine, they should examine their own faith. He said, “you have made me prove my apostleship; now prove your own selves.” Basically, who are you being in your own walk with Christ?
Many others and I have experienced firsthand how it feels to be misunderstood, ostracized and berated. Our faith walk has been put through the test many times, particularly by those who profess to be Christians. It was easy for me to be angry and disappointed until I looked closely at my own self. I am accountable to weigh my own life scales, not theirs.
If things were going to change in my life, it had to start with me. I needed to take time to understand my own prejudices, fears and condemnations. To determine the short comings of others was more pleasant than to discover my own.
If I was going to succeed as I felt I was being called, then I needed to BE the person I wanted to see in others. I rise, I fall, I get up and start again realizing it is all part of growing as a Christian. It’s a hill, it’s a valley and it’s worth the journey.
Onlookers see actions, but not the motives. So, for me, the test which I apply to others, I should be able to stand as well. Looking inward as well as outward began to get easier. The test of time truly is you cannot love your neighbor if you do not love yourself.
Creator God, I openly confess my love for Christ, I accept as true the Holy Spirit and without doubt, I believe in your Grace. Amen
Wednesday – June 26, 2019
An Inspired Text and a Word of Hope
There is an ancient Egyptian text almost 4000 years old that scholars just call, “A Dialogue Between a Man and His Ba.” I found it so moving the first time I read it; that someone from so long ago was saying these very same things I feel. Ba is the Egyptian word for soul, so the whole text is a conversation between a highly pained man with his own soul.
As the man anguishes to his soul, his soul pushes back and calls him to not give up, to live. He responds back, crying out to his soul: “Can you not see? Hearts are selfish, no man’s heart can be relied on. Can you not see? The betrayer is one’s intimate, the brother whom one has loved, is against me. Can you not see? Faces are blank, everyone turns away. Can you not see? Wrong roams the earth, and there is no end of it.”
This man is crying out to his own soul: See my pain! Acknowledge it! Take it in for all its worth! I must be heard! This agony be seen! I can’t handle these wrongs not being acknowledged. I need you, my soul, to truly know what I feel.
As queer people, we still live in a world where the status quo includes even intimate family members fundamentally betraying us, ignorantly assaulting our essential wellbeing even as children. We live in a society that systematically harms and oppresses us while pretending it’s “just a difference of opinions.” And I’m convinced that it takes years, maybe even decades, for many of us to really allow ourselves to feel the pain, the devastation, of the mistreatment we face as queer people.
We may say it to others: You don’t understand how much this hurts! And at the same time, we are saying that to ourselves. We haven’t fully accepted, fully acknowledged, fully seen our own suffering, the heavy weight of oppression we have experienced. And we need to.
We need to know all of our feelings are absolutely valid. Whether we were wounded by the selfish meanness of strangers, the betrayal of family, or the callous indifference of a blank face, we have a right to be so deeply enraged, so profoundly hurt. We have a right to feel crushed and overwhelmed. And many of us need to hear our own voices weeping. We are saying to our own souls, even still, “Can you not see? Will you not acknowledge? Will you not give me permission to feel this, finally?”
It is my deep belief that as we let that happen, as we integrate our suffering, as we allow it to be real and terribly hard, we actually begin to heal, to actualize, to become stronger. A new vitality and hope starts to course through us. A new connection to the Divine inside of us blossoms.
To the God Himself who cried out, “Why have you forsaken me?!” -I pray to you. I pray to the God intimate with betrayal, with being mocked, with being spat on, with the fiercest rejection. Help me feel what I feel. Help me know it’s okay to weep and wail like you did. Help me know you will catch me. Help me to know you will be here as I fall apart a bit more. Help me know it’s safe enough to have this much pain in your arms. I cherish You, Spirit. Draw out my own voice in your embrace. Amen
Tyler James, MA, LPC
5910 Cedar Springs Road
Dallas, TX 75235
Toll Free: 800-501-HOPE (4673)