Tag Archives: Gospel

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.



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), xi.

In Which I Define Terms

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Wednesday, November 16, 2016


In Which I Define Terms

I am uncomfortable with the term “Evangelical.”

There. I have said it. There it is, in black and white. (At least, in black and white on the computer screen.)

Looking at my past, I do have some Evangelical street cred. Yes, I was active in a bible study group in high school and into college, which led me to a non-denominational bible church on the northwest side of Chicago. I learned Pietistic practices, which were oddly and wonderfully balanced by the liturgical learning and careful Lutheran catechism of the church where I was baptized and confirmed.

And, to crown all this bible learning, I received a bachelor’s degree from a non-denominational bible college in downtown Chicago, in the mid-1980’s. (In church music. I wasn’t allowed to take biblical Greek or study to become a pastor at the time, since I was a woman. Women weren’t permitted/allowed to serve freely or utilize their God-given gifts. At least, under that particular stream of Evangelicalism. But, I digress.)

Yes. I used to identify as an Evangelical. Over the years, how twisted that term has become. So much rule-keeping, modern-day Pharisaism/legalism, and—most frightening to me, bigotry and xenophobia. Arrogant, condescending, cultural baggage is also hung on that moniker, causing me to shrink from using the term for myself.

What particularly opened my eyes to the smallness and meanness of modern-day Evangelicalism was (in no particular order), seminary training, counseling training and on-the-job work as an addictions counselor, chaplain training, and on-the-job work as a chaplain in an urban setting.

I sometimes take refuge in the historical definition of Evangelical, as in one who freely and gladly shares the Good News of the Gospel. Period. I am more likely to align myself with that simple definition, which is sadly antiquated, nowadays.

And now, post-presidential election, I have absolutely NO idea what an Evangelical is, or isn’t, or stands for or against or anything else. I find myself running to the embrace of a God who is so much bigger than anything this world has for me. My Refuge and Strength, and a very present Help in times of trouble and need.

Dear Lord, in Your mercy, hear all of our prayers for our country, for our representatives, for the leadership. Lift up all of the diverse voices, and downtrodden and silenced groups across this land. Draw us together as the unified people we strive to be, and show us all the way to walk together with openness, genuineness, tolerance, and—yes—love. (Even towards Evangelicals. 😉 ) Amen.


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

To Life! To Life Everlasting!

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Tuesday, July 14, 2015

circle of hands

To Life! To Life Everlasting!

Life remains a recurring theme throughout the Bible, and especially in the New Testament. Not only the mention of Life, but fullness of life. And of course, life everlasting, or eternal life.

The chapter for today from Praying the New Testament as Psalms features a number of these verses on differing aspects of Life. It gives a modern psalm that shows many of the different kinds of Life, and lets us know how amazing they are. And, what an amazing God we have. Imagine, offering us all of these different facets in Life Abundant. Or, Fullness of Life. Or, Life Everlasting.

This particular verse struck me deeply: “Make me a Gospel person—righteous, faith-filled—/for those who are righteous will live by faith.” [1] My goodness, the part where the authors mention “make me a Gospel person?” Those words are arresting. Thought-provoking.

And, I can spread the Gospel pretty much any way I want. As long as I remain true to the Message and to God.

First, God wants me to be a Gospel person! I had never thought of it that way before, but I think I want to be a Gospel person. Someone who runs after those who don’t know the Gospel, or haven’t heard. Someone who is trying to live in a way consistent with the Gospel, too.

Second, God would be pleased if I were to spread the Gospel. I see that as “however I see fit.” Moreover, one huge addition not expressly commanded, but can be seen by His example over and over again? Our Lord Jesus and His treatment, caring and love for those who dwelt on the margins. On the edges of not only society, but on the periphery of human behavior.

What would Jesus do? I think we know. He would proclaim Life Everlasting to everyone He met, no matter what. What should I do? I think, the same.


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

Why not visit my sister blogs, “the best of” A Year of Being Kind.   @chaplaineliza And, read my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er .

[1] Praying the New Testament as Psalms, Desmond O’Donnell, OMI, and Maureen Mohen, RSM, (United States of America: ACTA Publications, 2002.), 120.

Christmas Music for Everyone

matterofprayer blog post for Saturday, December 14, 2013

I hear Christmas music on the cd player as I write this. Choral, a capella. Complex chords and harmonies. These aspects of the music make my heart sing. The winning combination of beautiful music and meaningful words helps my heart to worship, too.

Since I am a classically trained musician and have a bachelor’s degree in church music, music has been and still is an important feature of my life. My avocation and my deep joy, as well as an aid to worship. Sometimes music can bring me to tears, and the next minute can lead me to worship and praise. Especially at this time of year.

A great deal of Christmas music was written with the church in mind, or at least, based on the Gospel accounts in Luke and Matthew. (I know there are some fun songs, secular songs, but I’d like to focus instead on the sacred music.) Composers and songwriters in many diverse cultures have tried their hands at writing Christmas music—and Advent music, too. Diverse songs like “Lo, How A Rose E’re Blooming” (German, Michael Praetorius, 1609) to “The Virgin Mary Had a Baby Boy” (Traditional West Indian Carol, popularized by Harry Belafonte in 1958).

Different cultures portray the Holy Family in contexts that are familiar to them, too. Many people are familiar with the olive wood nativity scenes, carved by Palestinian Christians and imported all over the world today. But I’ve also seen a Kenyan nativity set with animals native to the Kenya bush. And a Peruvian nativity with everyone dressed in traditional Peruvian garb. And—to me—the familiar Advent calendars with the northern European features.

One more recent Christmas carol comes from the mid 20th century. The words by Wihla Hutson evoke the differences in how children all over the world see the baby Jesus. “Lily white,” “bronzed and brown,” “almond-eyed,” “dark as they.” The Baby Jesus, Emmanuel, God with us. He was born into this world to identify with us. And we can identify with Him, just as much.

This Advent period is a period of waiting for the coming of the Baby in Bethlehem. However we may see Him, however the Holy Family is presented in our culture or setting or church tradition, we are to wait with eagerness. With quiet and prayer. With expectation in our hearts. And in one of my favorite ways, with music to assist us in this waiting time.

Let’s pray. Dear God, Gracious Lord, this Advent waiting time is a time of expectation, but it’s also a time of preparation. Help me to prepare my heart to receive You. Forgive me for closing the door on others who don’t see You in the same way as I see You. Forgive me for being so narrow-minded and thoughtless. Thank You that You came into this world for everyone. For each child, for each adult, for each senior. Help me to look on those who are different from me with Your eyes. Emmanuel, God with us, all of us. Thank You, Jesus. 

“Tomorrow can take care of itself.”

matterofprayer blog post for Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Hi, God. It’s me, again.

I am back considering one of the Gospels, again. I am so intrigued by portions of the Sermon on the Mount. Seriously, Lord, parts of it seem like such common sense! Especially this part. The end of Matthew chapter 6, verses 31 through 34.

God, why on earth do I keep on borrowing trouble? I know, I know. You tell me, in no uncertain terms, not to focus on tomorrow. And I am not to become preoccupied with yesterday, either. It’s like that acquaintance of mine who told me the other day, “It’s like my grandma said: ‘we can look back at yesterday, but don’t stare.’” Lord, ain’t it the truth?

If I get caught up in yesterday, or preoccupied with what might happen tomorrow, I can miss out on today! One day at a time living! Isn’t that what You suggest? Each day has concerns enough of its own. My marching orders from You could not be clearer, from the last verse of this passage. Live one day at a time: today. I want to believe Your promises, where You said You’d never leave me nor forsake me. I do, God! I do believe.

Thanks for the confirmation. Live one day at a time. That’s sufficient. You’ll take care of the rest. And you’ll take care of me, too.

Let’s pray. Dear God, sometimes I really get afraid. Or anxious. Or angry. Or a little bit of all of them. God, sometimes I feel like I’m near the end of my rope, or like my short fuse is burnt almost all the way to the end. Thank You for these very clear words from Matthew, God. You instruct me not to worry. Don’t borrow trouble! Thanks for these straight-forward ideas. Help me remember them. Daily. Even hourly. When I need You most. Thanks again. Amen.