Dangerous Newness of Jesus

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Thursday, February 22, 2018

2 Cor 10-10 Paul in person, words

Dangerous Newness of Jesus

I am striving (and struggling) to do my Lenten devotional, as has happened for years. It is not because of the reading material! No, the book of short reflections called Meeting God in Paul by Rowan Williams is a fascinating read. (Did I mention that I love the clarity of Prof. Williams’ writing?) No, I have struggled to have regular devotions for years. God knows. (And, we have had many conversations about this, over the years.) But, I was fascinated by the readings set for this week.

As I read the assigned chapters from 2 Corinthians, 10 and 11, I was struck again by Paul’s forcefulness in speech. Sure, he might have been a less-than-impressive figure in person. I know—from what he wrote—that he was fully aware of that. However, that did not stop him from being forceful, convincing, and persuasive in his letters. I have no doubt in eloquence in speech (and sermons), too.

I went back to Williams’ introduction, just to refresh my memory. I was struck by what he said: “…we need to have at least some sense also of the social world and the world of ideas Paul inhabits…It helps to have some feeling for this, otherwise we shall miss the moments when he is being most courageous and creative, when the dangerous newness of what has happened because of Jesus most clearly comes through for him.” [1]

What a statement! “Dangerous newness.” Almost two thousand years after the fact, having been raised in an atmosphere where the Biblical figures and the Old and New Testaments were fairly common references in literary culture, it’s difficult for me to separate myself from my “pre-set,” from the ideas and concepts that I learned about the apostle Paul from school-age (1960’s and 70’s) to seminary, shortly after 2000. Yet, reading 2 Corinthians 10 and 11 once again brought this newness starkly to my attention.

How can I tell others about the newness of Jesus? Of His love for me, and of His very Good News? In the 21st century, as modern culture is becoming less and less knowledgeable and welcoming to the Gospel message, the news about Jesus Christ is gaining dangerous newness, again.

How can I communicate this? Dear God, I wonder. Help me learn how to reach out effectively, in this day and age. Help me to understand better how to tell others about You, I pray.

@chaplaineliza

 

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Why not visit my companion blogs, “the best of” A Year of Being Kind.  #PursuePEACE. My Facebook page, Pursuing Peace – Thanks! And, read my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er

[1] Meeting God in Paul: Reflections for the Season of Lent, Rowan Williams (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2015), xi.

Inside, Outside, from All Sides

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Monday, February 19, 2018

St. Paul on Damascus road, medieval

Inside, Outside, from All Sides

As my Lenten devotional, I am reading a book of short reflections called Meeting God in Paul by Rowan Williams. I have such respect for Rowan Williams’ leadership in not only his Anglican Church, but also the wider ecumenical church worldwide.

For years—for decades—I have been fascinated by the Apostle Paul, reading books and articles on his writings and theology. Since becoming a local church pastor almost four years ago, I haven’t had the time to really dig into the life and ministry of Paul. I miss that part of my thought-life, and wish I could revisit more of Paul’s writings, in depth. Since I can’t take the time right now to dive deep into Paul’s thoughts and theology, I felt the least I could do was to read this excellent little devotional on the life of Paul, written by the wonderful theological scholar Rowan Williams.

The reflection for the first Sunday of Lent highlights Saul of Tarsus. He was “staunchly committed to maintaining the boundary between those who were ‘inside’ and those who were ‘outside.’” [1] Of course, this was before his Damascus Road encounter with the risen Lord Jesus. It was afterwards, with God’s influence and help, that he became a champion of the Gentile converts to Christianity.

However, I was intrigued and moved by Professor Williams’ expression: maintaining the boundary between those ‘inside’ and those ‘outside.’ How much of the Church Universal today is (rightly or wrongly) committed to maintaining similar boundaries? How much are local churches similarly keeping those boundaries—or walls—or other kinds of barriers firmly in place? I think Williams would agree with my serious questioning of this practice.

I am hesitant to name-call or cast aspersions on other Christians or others of different faith traditions. All the same, two adjectives came to mind when considering those who are ‘inside’ and those who are ‘outside.’ First, shortsighted. Second, divisive. Yes, shortsighted in the sense of missing a goodly portion of what Jesus preached in the Gospels. Yes, downright divisive, because of the innate fear, anxiety and stubbornness inherent in us frail, faulty human beings. Oh, how much humanity has to answer for…over the centuries, over the millenia. (And, I fully admit I am right there, amidst the rest of humanity.)

Dear Lord, are we ever to grow beyond this casting of stones and calling of names? This shunning behavior and distasteful attitude? Lord, have mercy. Help me—help us—to repent of our sins (both inside and outside). Lead us to amend our ways and walk in Your path of truth, righteousness, love, caring and sharing. Amen.

@chaplaineliza

 

Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.

Why not visit my companion blogs, “the best of” A Year of Being Kind.  #PursuePEACE. My Facebook page, Pursuing Peace – Thanks! And, read my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er

[1] Meeting God in Paul: Reflections for the Season of Lent, Rowan Williams (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2015), 87.

Straying from God’s Commands

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Psa 119-21 scroll

Straying from God’s Commands

We come to the abbreviated end of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s meditations on Psalm 119. Verse 21 was the last of these short comments into Psalm 119, the longest psalm in the Bible. I wish Bonhoeffer had been able to write more, because I get such insight from him. (both into his heart as well as into the psalm) Bonhoeffer truly loved the Word of God. With this acrostic psalm praising and lifting up God’s Word in every verse, it is little wonder that Bonhoeffer should have been drawn to it.

This verse 21 is a bit of a downer—more than a bit, actually. Let’s take a look at it:

You have rebuked the insolent;

Cursed are they who stray from Your commandments!

God hates the insolent, Bonhoeffer says. The self-satisfied, puffed-up ones. Even more, those “who care nothing for justice and mercy, who despise the Word of God and the faithful.” [1]

I get the feeling that Pastor Bonhoeffer really has distaste for these people. People who despise the God he loves and follows with all his heart, and who despise the Word of God and those who are faithful to that God, too. Bonhoeffer pins these self-satisfied people to the wall with a direct blow: “The cross of Jesus Christ, which shows that God is with the weak and the humble, is God’s rebuke to the insolent.” [2]

What a way to deliver an uppercut to the jaw. (Theoretically and metaphorically, of course.) Bonhoeffer truly believes that the cross of Christ is the remedy and the antidote to the insolent of this earth, humanity puffed up with pride and self-importance.

Of course, you and I know that oftentimes the innocent, the weak, the downtrodden are stepped upon by the powerful. These humble ones are wrongfully accused, oppressed, and abused. We see “the visible judgments of God remain hidden and obscure even for the faithful.” [3]

Yet…and yet…are these words only for others? Or, are the words of this verse for ourselves, too? Are you and I insolent, at times? Do you or I feel self-satisfied or proud? Do we stray from God’s commands—sometimes? I see myself in this mirror. Sometimes. Ah, Pastor Bonhoeffer, you have hit home. I bow my head, humbly asking God for forgiveness.

These words are so appropriate for this Shrove Tuesday, with Ash Wednesday tomorrow. God’s blessings to all as we start our Lenten journey to the cross, alongside of our Savior and Friend the Lord Jesus.

@chaplaineliza

 

Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.

Why not visit my companion blogs, “the best of” A Year of Being Kind.  #PursuePEACE. My Facebook page, Pursuing Peace – Thanks! And, read my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er

[1] Meditating on the Word, Dietrich Bonhöffer, edited by David McI. Gracie. (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Cowley Publications, 2000, 133.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

Longing for God’s Judgments

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Sunday, February 4, 2018

Psa 119-20-scroll

Longing for God’s Judgments

I needed to read this verse over a couple of times to Scriptureunderstand it. At first, I thought it was the psalmist exaggerating. (Then, I remembered that this particular psalm writer did not seem to be the exaggerating-type.) I’ll let everyone take a look and see what I mean.

My soul is consumed at all times

with longing for Your judgments.

This verse brings back to my remembrance the fact that the existing Scriptures at this time were not (as a whole) very complete. The Torah—the first five books of Moses—plus Joshua, Judges, and Job, and maybe Ruth. Probably most of 1 and 2 Samuel, maybe some of Kings, and some of the Psalms. Some of Proverbs, too? That’s it, pretty much.

Sure, some of these writings are heartwarming and positive. But, when I hear things like “longing for Your judgments,” somehow I think of things like the Mosaic Law Code. Judgments do not sound very appealing. The longings of the soul sound painful. Not like something I would seek out, willingly.

As Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “On the contrary, it is the experience of the soul’s being consumed and destroyed by this longing that is spoken of here.” [1] This longing for God’s judgments is definitely not a warm, fuzzy feeling. From what Bonhoeffer says, one cannot get it simply by having “pious feelings.” It comes upon us “from God Himself and so must be everlasting.” [2]

However I may wish to have blithe, sunny, simplistic mountaintop experiences with the Lord, that is not what the psalmist is talking about here. This deep-seated longing is “being compelled to seek [God] where reason and experience deny Him, in knowing God’s Word as a power over our life that never lets us go, though all our powers sink into death.” [3]

Such a deep and thorough understanding and knowledge of God and God’s Word almost scares me. Certainly, it sobers me. What a thing to strive for. Dear Lord, gracious God, I would strive after such a longing and knowledge and understanding, if I dared.

@chaplaineliza

 

Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.

Why not visit my companion blogs, “the best of” A Year of Being Kind.  #PursuePEACE. My Facebook page, Pursuing Peace – Thanks! And, read my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er

[1] Meditating on the Word, Dietrich Bonhöffer, edited by David McI. Gracie. (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Cowley Publications, 2000, 132.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

Strangers Here On Earth, God

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Monday, January 29, 2018

Psa 119-19 stranger, words

Strangers Here On Earth, God

What a strange thing. So many people in the Bible considered themselves strangers, sojourners in a strange land. I had never noticed that before!

That feeling of being out of place? Awkward? Strangers, not belonging in a situation or a place?

I am a stranger here on earth,

Do not hide Your commandments from me.

Intellectually, I realize this feeling is more widespread than some people think. Abraham, Isaac, Moses: all felt like this But, all of these mentions in the Bible? And, by King David, no less! He was one of the last people I would expect to feel this way, with his charismatic personality and charming good looks.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer mentioned that he, too, was a stranger and a sojourner here on earth. However, this strangeness and wandering as a sojourner is no reason to neglect the call of God. God can still call me. It doesn’t matter whether I answer to Bonhoeffer, or the Catholic faith, a Protestant denomination.

I am here on this earth as a person who follows God’s Word. To the best of my ability. However, there are those who pray as pilgrims in a strange land. “For those who have become strangers on earth, according to God’s will and his calling, there is really only one thought that can fill them with dread—that they might no longer recognize God’s will, no longer know what God require of us.

What does God require? How do we, as strangers and sojourners, possibly present God with anything possible that God could want. Remarkably, the last words in this psalm   anyone would expect. Do I fear that the promises of God could be wallpapered over? Scary thought, indeed. Holy God, blessed God, help me continue to follow.

@chaplaineliza

 

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Why not visit my companion blogs, “the best of” A Year of Being Kind.  #PursuePEACE. My Facebook page, Pursuing Peace – Thanks! And, read my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er

 

Open Our Eyes, God

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Sunday, January 21, 2018

Psa 119-18 Open-My-Eyes-brown

Open Our Eyes, God

I know I am a fallible human being. I readily admit that. I also readily acknowledge that I’m just a very young one, compared to God. I am so young. I feel really blind, sometimes, too.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer had a fascinating insight. He said God sometimes makes us blind in order to see God’s Word. Then, God “opens my blind eyes, and I see what otherwise I could never have recognized, that God’s law is full of wonders.” [1]

Open my eyes, that I may see,

The wonders of Your Law.

Just a small portion of the Hebrew Scriptures were the wonderful Law that was spoken of in Psalm 119. But, I have access to a lot more than just that portion. When God causes me to greatly desire His Word, I have access to many more wonders and riches now. All of the Hebrew Scriptures plus the New Testament?

“It is, in fact, the one who has glanced at the wonders of God’s law who knows how blind he still is and how much he needs his eyes to be opened in order not to sink back into total darkness.” [2]

Oh, yes. I am still very young, very blind, and very much in need of God’s Law and God’s Light in my life. Dear Lord, please help me to fully acknowledge my shortcomings. I do not wish to perish in my blindness.

Gracious God, open my eyes.

@chaplaineliza

 

Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.

Why not visit my companion blogs, “the best of” A Year of Being Kind.  #PursuePEACE. My Facebook page, Pursuing Peace – Thanks! And, read my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er

[1] Meditating on the Word, Dietrich Bonhöffer, edited by David McI. Gracie. (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Cowley Publications, 2000, 125.

[2] Ibid, 126.

Live and Keep God’s Word

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Monday, January 15, 2018

Psa 119-17 keep God's word, Bible

Live and Keep God’s Word

“God created us that we might live, [God] reconciled and saved us that we might live.” [1] When I read these words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s, it reminded me of two sermons: the sermon I just preached yesterday, and the sermon for next Sunday.  Both of these sermons had as their theme the calling of God. But—what does God call us for? Or, call us to? We are called—invited—to live for the Lord. Life is indeed God’s purpose for us.

Deal bountifully with Your servant,

That I may live and keep Your word.

I am awestruck (yet again) when I consider that God loves me. The man Jesus came to earth and was born as a baby to reconcile fallen, sinful/sin-filled me to God. Yes, I—we “were haters and despisers of life.” [2] However, as I receive God’s invitation to live and keep God’s Word, I can also thank God for the gift of life. Eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.

Ah. I am getting beyond what this verse is talking about. This verse from Psalm 119 describes life as a beloved servant of God, “life that will be fulfilled through keeping the Word of God.” [3] What a marvelous thing to remember: my life can be right on track as I follow the Lord and live and keep God’s Word.

Dear Lord, this is a straight-forward way of staying close to You. Help us remain close to You, and not stumble off into dark, dangerous places. Lord, in Your mercy, hear all of our prayers.

Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.

Why not visit my companion blogs, “the best of” A Year of Being Kind.  #PursuePEACE. My Facebook page, Pursuing Peace – Thanks! And, read my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er

[1] Meditating on the Word, Dietrich Bonhöffer, edited by David McI. Gracie. (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Cowley Publications, 2000, 124.

[2] Ibid, 125.

[3] Ibid.