Tag Archives: reflection

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.

Pay Attention to God’s Ways!

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Friday, January 5, 2018

Psa 119-15 precepts, Bible

Pay Attention to God’s Ways!

These admonitions really hit home, God. The words this psalmist writes are strong and emphatic. No nonsense, here. God  is the only one we ought to pay any attention to.

Consider the verse of Psalm 119 we are to consider this time. Verse 15 says to listen up!

I will meditate on Your commandments

And give attention to Your ways.

Some powerful words indeed, written by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Give an ear to this: ”Every gift we receive, every new understanding, drives us still deeper into the Word of God. We need time for God’s word.” [1]  Wow! That verse almost makes me really want to study God’s Word in depth. (I mean, morethan I am studying the Bible right now.)

Bonhoeffer does not pull many punches. He is quite direct in his admonitions, as well, and lets his readers know that with his direct speaking: “Certainly, God will often require quick action; but He also requires stillness and reflection.” [2]

Just to make sure that his readers did not miss one of the main points of this verse, Bonhoeffer demands that we consider this. “The Word of God demands our time. God Himself entered into time and wants us now to give Him our time.” [3]

How wonderful the riches to be found in the Bible. Old Testament, New Testament, both are important and both contain wisdom and knowledge for us, in abundance. (Bonhoeffer would definitely agree.) In fact, he scoffs at the theologian who merely makes his or her own interpretation and solely speaks their own thoughts—to the exclusion of mentioning the Word of God at all. That is not a fruitful manner in which to consider God’s Word.

Dear God, thanks for such a serious attitude and approach to Your Word. Help me—help us to value it and to treasure it as much as Bonhoeffer did. In Your Son’s name we 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] Meditating on the Word, Dietrich Bonhöffer, edited by David McI. Gracie. (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Cowley Publications, 2000, 121.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid, 122.

Trying to Keep God’s Statutes

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Thursday, November 9, 2017

Psa 119-8 keep statutes, bible

Trying to Keep God’s Statutes

As I return to the anthology of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s shorter writings, I was drawn up short by his reflections on Psalm 119:8 –

I will keep Your statutes;

do not utterly forsake me.

Bonhoeffer is struck by the words “I will.” He does not want to misinterpret them, or especially to try to take or use those words in a perverse way. As he says, “We must first unlearn the way in which we say ‘I will’ before the Holy Spirit can teach us to say it in a new and right way.” [1]

Oh, you and I can twist and manipulate words and phrases in any number of ways. Especially through justifying our actions (either beforehand or after the fact) and making ourselves to look pure and guiltless. “In matters of piety, the ‘I will’ can cause the greatest harm: ‘I will be devout, I will be holy, I will keep the commandments.’” [2]

I know God understands my motives and (even) needs to justify myself, and cause myself to be viewed as the good guy. However, aren’t you—aren’t I fearful of separation from God, even when God might be angry with us? Isn’t using self-righteousness as a defensive weapon hurtful to our own insides? In particular, our spiritual and relational insides?

Plus, I know I am basically sinful. (Remember Romans 3:23—I just gave a mini-series from Romans for my sermons on the “Solas” of the Reformation for the month of October.) I thank God that I am accepted in His sight, and the Scripture is a great resource to assist me to follow God. So, we “pray for a steadfast heart that keeps itself in God’s commandments, and we know that this can only be achieved by grace.” [3]

Yes, following God’s statutes seems, at first glance, all about Law. Unflinching and rigid, Law comes down on the necks of those who attempt to follow it. However, we follow God’s ways because we want to be delivered from this burden and bankruptcy of the Law. Then, by a marvelous gift of God, everything is grace. God’s grace makes it all possible. It’s grace that frees us from the Law, “grace puts us on the way [of God], and it is grace for which we pray from step to step.” [4] Hallelujah, what a Savior.

@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, 112.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid, 113.

[4] Ibid, 114.

Follow the Way, with Psalm 119

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Exod 13-21 lead the way, fire

Follow the Way, with Psalm 119

As we continue with Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s reflections on Psalm 119, I needed to stop short and consider the next verse at some length. Or rather, consider Bonhoeffer’s thoughts on verse 3.

Who never do any wrong,

but always walk in His ways.

As Bonhoeffer introduced his comments, “God will not allow us to go on any way on which He Himself has not preceded us. The way upon which He calls us to go is the way He has made and that He protects. So it is really His way.” [1]

I love many of Bonhoeffer’s writings. However, I suspect there might be a bit of black-and-white thinking here, both in the psalmist’s thought patterns as well as Bonhoeffer’s. If a person follows after God, they will “never do any wrong.” If a person follows after God, they will “always walk in His ways.” Period. No question about it.

So sorry, but I cannot agree. I am vividly aware of my sinful self, and my fallen nature. Sure, I strive to walk with God day by day. Certainly, I freely admit I am not sinless. However, I strive to sin less and less each day. Each month. And, each year. This verse makes it sound like a follower of God is immediately transformed into sinless perfection. So sorry, but I simply do not think so. (With humble apologies to certain of my seminary classmates, who lean towards Wesley’s doctrine of perfectionism.)

Yet, I fully agree with what Bonhoeffer said about the Lord going before us, as the Lord went before the nation of Israel, leading them in the wilderness, with a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. (Exod. 13:21-22)

God does know the whole way. There are no surprises to God. “Whoever sets his foot on this way finds that his life has become a journey on the road. It leads through green pastures and through the dark valley, but the Lord will always lead on the right pathway (Ps. 23) and He will not let your foot be moved (Ps. 121:3).” [2]

I pray that God will be with me throughout my journey, whether I am a prodigal, turning from the way God intends for me, or whether I walk hand in hand with my Savior, even through the dark valleys of life. Dear Lord, in Your mercy, hear all of our prayers.

@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. 104.

[2] Ibid, 104-05.

Busy Day—Need to Pray

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Friday, December 2, 2016

god-wants-to-talk-to-you

Busy Day—Need to Pray

Upon reflection, make that a busy evening, plus a busy day. A great deal of running, fetching, errands, and emails.

Started off the day on the computer. Went to the gym and power-walked. Did stuff at church for several hours. Dropped off two flyers at the local counseling center this afternoon (for the Prayer Gathering on Monday, Dec. 12 and the Blue Christmas service on Monday, Dec. 19). Then, a stop at the tree-lighting in the park downtown, and rushed off to a Holiday Concert (at my daughter’s school). Ended up doing several more errands.

Not a dull moment.

Lord, did I take one moment to think about You? To come before You with my praises as well as my pain? Well—I took a couple of minutes to pray, at my good friend Josh’s Daily Prayer website. (In case anyone is curious, it is www.dailyoffice.org ) But, I am afraid that was it, as far as prayer is concerned.

In retrospect, it was a good day. I had several excellent conversations. I enjoyed myself very much at the concert. (Especially hearing Corelli’s Christmas Concerto.)

However—Lord Jesus—I need to talk with You more. I don’t care how or when I communicated with You in the past, but I need to do more of it. Can You help me? That is my petition right now. Please.

@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

Glad Tidings, No Matter What

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Sunday, December 27, 2015

o come to us Emmanuel

Glad Tidings, No Matter What

What kind of situation do I come from?

When I consider the Christmas reflection Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, I cannot complain. By no means can I complain. Bonhoeffer was imprisoned by the Nazis. I read a portion of a letter he sent to his parents before Christmas 1943. He considered the occasion of the Christmas celebration within the prison as opposed to other places.

Can I possibly understand what Bonhoeffer really meant? I mean, really and truly? I must be honest. I have only a small idea what it’s like to be in misery and suffering. Just a little bit. I am struck by this sentence: “For many people in this building it will probably be a more sincere and genuine occasion than in places where nothing but the name [of Christmas] is kept.” [1]

That sentence did, indeed, pull me up short. How do I consider Christmas? Do I keep the holiday in a sincere and genuine way? Or, am I shallow, uncaring and inconsiderate? (Not considering my Christmas observance in a judgy, condescending manner, but instead in a thoughtful, contemplative one.)

Bonhoeffer’s contention is that a prisoner in a cell may well have a better understanding and more sincere appreciation for Christmas. So much better and more sincere than that of some people here on Chicago’s North Shore.

Dear Lord, help me to make room for You here. Help me to be open to Your work, Your will and Your ways.

Thanks.

@chaplaineliza

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] God Is in the Manger: Reflections on Advent and Christmas, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, trans. O.C. Dean, Jr., compiled and edited, Jana Riess (Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster/John Knox Press, 2010), 70.

Pray. Be Obedient. Listen!

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Friday, December 11, 2015

girl praying

Pray. Be Obedient. Listen!

I love words. I love the etymology of words. So, when I read today’s selection in the Advent reflection book, I “geeked out” over it. (As the young people might say today.)

Henri Nouwen said, “The word ‘listening’ in Latin is obedire, and audire means ‘listening with great attention.’ That is where the word ‘obedience’ comes from. Jesus is called the ‘obedient one,’ that means ‘the listener.’” [1]                                                                                                                                                                   Ah, dear Lord. Such a great idea, for us to keep our minds on You this day. So many things can distract a person from paying attention to God. So many things can keep us from stretching our necks out. Help me to listen to You, and to You alone, dear Lord.

@chaplaineliza

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] Advent and Christmas: Wisdom from Henri J. M. Nouwen (Linguori, Missouri: Redemptorist Pastoral Publications, 2004), 26.