Tag Archives: thank God

Breaking Down Barriers

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

Gal 3-28 all one, words

Breaking Down Barriers

The Apostle Paul talks about barriers several times in his letters. Not only about breaking down barriers between people, between Jews and non-Jews, between male and female, slave and free, but also between us and God. (That is, all of us—humanity—and God.)

This caused me to reflect on the breaking down of barriers today. It seems to me that God would be pleased if followers of God were to break down barriers in all areas today. Not only racial and social, but in terms of gender, class, accident of birth, ethnic and cultural barriers, as well.

It seems as if racial, ethnic and cultural tensions are on the rise. It is not just my imagination. Just over the weekend, The New York Times reported a marked spike in hate crimes here in the United States. Specifically, hate crimes against Jewish people between the years 2016 and 2017 are up over 50 percent. [1] And, this is not an isolated occurrence.

In Detroit this past weekend an experiment disgruntled many people. A mock “no Irish pub” was “part of an experiment to raise awareness about how poorly Irish immigrants were once treated in the U.S. against the backdrop of prominent modern-day conversations about race and immigration.” [2] This mock-pub had a bouncer outside who gave verbal abuse to people of Irish ancestry and people who were wearing green—as was common around the turn of the 1900’s, with signs in shop windows that said “No Irish need apply” for help wanted positions. “Century-old newspaper articles that described Irish immigrants as “simians,” “too lazy to work” and members of “a servant race” helped fuel bouncer Bill Johns’ language as he sat outside the pub, telling people they couldn’t come in.” [3]

During the Apostle Paul’s time, in some circles, if you were not a Roman citizen, you were not worth much at all. (Fortunately, Paul was born a citizen; he was born to a father who had Roman citizenship.) Right side or wrong side of the railroad tracks, north-sider or south-sider, city mouse or country mouse? It does not matter to God. God breaks down all barriers. (Thank God!)

Let us pray: “Lord Jesus, in this Lenten season we are reminded of the sacrifice you made for us. Thank you that, by your sacrifice, you have made peace between us and God, and between us and others. Help us to live as people who represent the hope of the universe. Amen.” [4]

@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] https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/17/sunday-review/anti-semitism-american-jews.html

[2] https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation-now/2018/03/17/detroit-pub-refused-serve-irish-people-detroit-st-paddys-pub-refused-serve-irish-people-make-point-m/435650002/

[3] Ibid.

[4] Meeting God in Paul: Reflections for the Season of Lent, Rowan Williams (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2015), 90-91.

Servant of This Gospel

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Thursday, March 1, 2018

Eph 3 servant of this Gospel, words

Servant of This Gospel

As I have continued with the Lenten scripture readings for this past week set by the book Meeting God in Paul, I also read part of a chapter where Paul is described in detail. Rowan Williams has a remarkable understanding of Paul the man, as well as Paul the theologian.

I had never really thought about it before, but we have more of an actual description and more understanding of the apostle Paul the man than we do of almost anyone else in the ancient world—except for certain rulers and emperors. We know more of the person and description of Paul than we do about the person and description of Jesus, in fact. (We know lots of other things about the man Jesus while He was here on earth, but not so much about His person and physical description.)

Prof. Williams highlights some fascinating details about Paul, including a physical description from only a few years after the beginning of the second century. This was within the lifetime of someone who—as a young person—could have actually seen Paul. Written in Asia Minor, this account mentions that Paul “is a little man, bow-legged, thin-faced, hook-nosed, bald with heavy eyebrows meeting in the middle; and this is how he is invariably depicted in the most ancient Byzantine artistic tradition and in icons of him up to the present day.” [1]

In other words, Paul was not particularly photogenic. (It probably was a good thing that Paul did not live in either the 20th or 21st centuries, with the prevalence of cameras and other forms of media.) However short or near-sighted or bald he may have been, those were just elements of an exterior image of Paul. It was the interior that mattered to God. And, on the inside, Paul was an eloquent ambassador for Jesus. He called himself a servant of the Gospel or of the Lord several times in his New Testament letters. And, he meant it.

I wonder. Am I too caught up in what is on the exterior? Is someone’s image all-important to me? (Is my personal image that important to me? Dear Lord, please, no.) How about considering myself a servant of the Gospel, as Paul described himself to the believers in Ephesus? Lord, I hope so. I pray so. Help me to make it so. Thank You, God, for this wonderful book about Paul, filled with such meaningful words.

@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), 19.

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.

God is Judge, in Psalm 50

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Friday, August 4, 2017

JUDGE as God, Jesus

God as Judge, in Psalm 50

Have any of my readers been in a courtroom lately? I mean, close enough to watch the judge deliberate and make rulings?

Such a vivid example of tonight’s reading, from Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s compilation of short writings and letters called Meditating on the Word. God has a whole lot of names, and serves as a whole lot of awesome majesty and power.

I must admit, seeing God act as stern Judge certainly would give me pause. I do not think in those terms, usually. I know I usually see God Almighty as Shepherd or Lamb, as Teacher, or as Sower of God’s seed. I realize those images are meant to be honest and serious.

However, as I have been following these particular words written in Psalm 50, I am struck by these verses. Pierced to the heart is more like it.

Bonhoeffer had several comments on God’s behalf, in reflection on Psalm 50: “The loyal followers have been sanctified through the sacrifice of the cross. Against the background of Advent, the cross comes into view. Here, in this sacrifice of God’s judgment and His loving kindness are one.” [1]

Yes, some of the Names of God are quite serious, and their description contains parts of God’s character.

Dear God, mighty Judge of humanity (and all the rest of the universe), have mercy on us. Thank You for the cross, as it stands on that hill outside Jerusalem so long ago—and still stands in the heart of God. Thank You for Jesus, the Lamb of God. And, thank You for Your gracious and merciful loving-kindness.

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), 65.

Heaviness of My Soul, and Psalm 42

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Thursday, July 27, 2017

psalm 42-11 help of my countenance

Heaviness of My Soul, and Psalm 42

Have you ever been full of doubt? Downhearted, depressed and hopeless? Completely lost, with everything collapsing around you? Yeah … me, too.

That was what I dealt with for years. (Seriously, yes.) For years, I would struggle to pray, struggle with my doubts, and especially struggle with any knowledge that God was remembering me, at all. It was almost a daily struggle, for many, many months. For years, at times.

That was how the psalmist felt, too. (This psalm was written by one of the sons of Korah, so we are not sure exactly who wrote it.)

Our psalmist was of two minds as he wrote this. Sure, he told about his assurance in the Lord, and how he trusted in God. He wrote of how much the Lord would help him, and how he would pray to God regularly. On the other hand—he also poured out his heart, and confessed his doubts, his fears, his heaviness. He would mention how much his enemies oppressed him, and how far away from him he felt God was. (Yes, very far.)

And, yet … and, yet …

Dietrich Bonhoeffer writes “Whoever has found God in the cross of Jesus Christ knows how mysteriously God hides himself in this world, and how, when we believe him farthest away, he is just there beside us.” [1]

Some might call this a paradox, others might say it is the mysterious, sometimes unfathomable nature of God. Note the closing verse of Psalm 42: “Put your trust in God; for I will yet give thanks to him, who is the help of my countenance, and my God.”

I have trust in Bonhoeffer’s closing in this mini-commentary: “He will be the help of your countenance; because he knows you and loved you before he made you, He will not let you fall. You are in his hands.” [2] I take heart in this assurance. Pastor Dietrich affirmed this blessed truth. He certainly had a good deal of challenge and hardship in his life. However, he made it through his struggles and trials. Bonhoeffer continued to thank God for being there for him and with him.

Dear Lord, help me do the same. Please, Lord.

@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), 60.

[2] Ibid, 61.

Problems of Meditation?

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Monday, June 19, 2017

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Problems of Meditation?

Ah, now we come to the main point of difficulty. At least, my main point of difficulty. Yes, I have prayed regularly for years, and prayed sometimes for extended periods of time. (Not half as much as I should have, for which I ask great forgiveness, Lord.) And, I have had problems with prayer and meditation for years. For decades.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer understood about problems with meditation. He was writing to seminarians, remember; a goodly portion of them probably complained and moaned when Pastor Bonhoeffer told them how long each day he expected them to pray and meditate. The first recommendation he had, when encountering great difficulties in meditation? Practice, practice, practice. Practice earnestly and for a long time.

His second recommendation applies to me, quite well. My thoughts often flit around like insects—sometimes fluttering like butterflies, but other times zooming like quite another kind of unpleasant bug. Bonhoeffer says, “If your thoughts keep wandering, there is no need for you to hold on to them compulsively.” (Thank God.) “There is nothing wrong with letting them roam where they will; but then incorporate in your prayers the place or person to which they have gone.” [1]

Yes. I’ve known that my thoughts do fly all around, for years. And, I have asked God to send my thoughts to people or situations that need prayer. That’s one way I’ve been praying, for years.

Thank God for Bonhoeffer’s suggestion! Otherwise, I would feel really guilty about my thoughts flying around all over the place, even when I sincerely try to pray and meditate.

I admit that I have the Myers-Briggs preferences of ENFP. I have read the 16 different prayers for the 16 different personality preferences, and I can relate to the one for ENFP: “God, help me to keep my mind—look! A bird!—on one thing at a time.” So, yes. I appreciate Bonhoeffer’s understanding and patience with his students. I also appreciate my God’s understanding and patience with me. (Thank You, God!)

@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), 26.

Richard of St. Victor Submits

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Monday, April 3, 2017

submission, flower.jpg

Richard of St. Victor Submits

Fascinating reading today. I had never heard of this spiritual writer before, who set down the distinctive markers of medieval spirituality. As he went about this writing, Richard of St. Victor had an ease of speaking of intimate relations.

“See to it that the very time He begins to knock at the door is not the first time that you begin to want to throw out the crowds of those who make noise.” [1] Ah! How often am I distracted by outer noises, much less inner thoughts, wanderings and other distractions! Lord, You know how much difficulty I have had (for years!) with prayer and meditation.

Then, there is the plain statement “How often must one repeat ‘Wait and wait again, a moment here and a moment there.” [2] It is a rather ambiguous statement. Yet, this can refer to the Lover, to Christ waiting outside, knocking, patiently standing outside the door. He could break down the door. He could. As we reflect on that word picture, ‘Wait, and wait again’ can also refer to the beloved. How often do I lose patience with God? (Far oftener than I care to admit to myself, much less to all the rest of the world.)

Yes, this practice of waiting is a way for me to practice the spiritual gift of submission. Waiting quietly in line, sitting silently with a smile, walking slowly in connection with

I am reminded of other mystical, medieval literature I have read, especially in these phrases: “He is heard by a showing; seen by contemplation; kissed warmly by devotion, drawn close for the infusion of His sweetness.” [3] Ah. To be loved wholly, fully, without strings or hang-ups or any other distraction: that would be heavenly. Wait! I already am loved that way. Thank You, God!

@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] Spiritual Classics, edited by Richard J. Foster and Emilie Griffin. (San Francisco, California: HarperSanFrancisco, 2000), 185.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.