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Saturday, 16 December 2017

"Made Known... the Only Wise God."

I ask for the grace to pray and meditate faithfully.  I ask for patience, tolerance, empathy, and compassion.  I ask to abstain from anxiety, anger, compulsive behaviour, discouragement, and self importance.  I ask that the light of the dawning year find its way into the darkness of the season and prepare my heart for the birth of reconciliation and new life.  May my thoughts, words, and actions proclaim justice, kindness, and humility.


Romans 16:25-27
25 Now to God who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages 26but is now disclosed, and through the prophetic writings is made known to all the Gentiles, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith— 27to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory for ever! Amen.


1) "...strengthen you;" "...the mystery;" "...kept secret for long ages;" "...now disclosed;" "...prophetic writings;" "...eternal God;" "...obedience of faith;" "...only wise God;" "...be the glory for ever;"


2) Is this even a sentence?  Paul writes a closing doxology that reiterates his theology of the promise going first to the Jews through the prophets, then to all the Gentiles, first kept secret, but now revealed... All according to God's command, but through Christ and the prophetic writings.  He's using the doxology to tie the Jews to the Gentiles and the Gentiles to the Jews.  It's one people for Paul, Jews with different identifications with Gentiles of different backgrounds.  One eternal, wise, revealing God. "...revelation of the mystery."  We are not alone.  The same wise God has made Godself known in a new way through Christ Jesus.  The same wise God of the Hebrew Scriptures who regularly revealed Godself throughout the history of Israel in new ways, is disclosed again in Christ Jesus.  How is God disclosed today?  How is God disclosed for us?  How is God disclosed to me?  Daily prayer; meditation; prayers answered; the impossible made possible; a way forward where there was no way; connection beyond alienation...


3) What is the invitation in all this?  To witness the one wise God disclosed to us today.


"Holy One, thank you.  Glory be to you on high."


Breathprayer: "Made known... the only wise God."



Thursday, 14 December 2017

"Rejoice... Be Wise."

I ask for the grace to pray and meditate faithfully.  I ask for patience, tolerance, compassion, and empathy.  I ask to abstain from anger, anxiety, compulsive behaviour, discouragement, and self-importance.  I ask that my heart may be open to the birth of something new in this season.  May my thoughts, words, and actions proclaim justice, kindness, and humility.


Romans 16:17-23 [24]
17 I urge you, brothers and sisters, to keep an eye on those who cause dissensions and offences, in opposition to the teaching that you have learned; avoid them. 18For such people do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the simple-minded. 19For while your obedience is known to all, so that I rejoice over you, I want you to be wise in what is good, and guileless in what is evil. 20The God of peace will shortly crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.
21 Timothy, my co-worker, greets you; so do Lucius and Jason and Sosipater, my relatives.
22 I Tertius, the writer of this letter, greet you in the Lord.
23 Gaius, who is host to me and to the whole church, greets you. Erastus, the city treasurer, and our brother Quartus, greet you.
[24 The Grace of or Lord Jesus Christ be with all of you. Amen.]



1) "...avoid them;" "...deceive the hearts of the simple-minded;" "...I rejoice over you;" "...be wise in what is good;" "...guileless in what is evil;"


2) I feel we live in a time in the church when we are surround both inside and outside the church by "those who cause dissensions and offences, in opposition to the teaching."  It is hard to sort out who the dissenters are from those who are keeping the teachings.  I believe I am keeping the teachings, but that racist, homophobic, misogynist, oligarch claims to be keeping the teachings too.  And it is hard to model humility.  It's not like one can bash someone over the head with their own humility.  All I can do is carry on in prayer, pushing the edges of humility and graciousness to assert justice.   When do we learn that "holy manners" is not "politeness".  It was clear to Bonhoeffer, eventually, when grace called him to action.  But did his humility do any good?  I may as well ask, Did Christ's?  So much dies in the wake of "those who cause dissensions and offences," and those of us who claim to keep the teachings, but find ourselves struggling to act beyond humility and self-doubt.  The problem with the world is that the wise are full of humility and doubt while fools are full of brazenness and confidence.


3) What is the invitation in all this?  To not lose my own sense of the teachings: compassion, graciousness, humility, passion.  To pray for the voice of the wise.


"Holy One, give voice to the wise; a voice that can be heard from one end of the earth to the other; a voice to the merciful, the just, the kind and the humble."


Breathprayer: "Rejoice... be wise."



Wednesday, 13 December 2017

"Beloved... Greet the Beloved."

I ask for the grace to pray and meditate faithfully.  I ask for patience, tolerance, compassion, and empathy.  I ask to abstain from anger, anxiety, compulsive behaviour, discouragement, and self-importance.  May the season create in me space for transformation into a new heaven and a new earth.  May my thoughts, words, and actions proclaim justices, kindness, and humility.


Romans 16:1-16
16I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deacon of the church at Cenchreae, 2so that you may welcome her in the Lord as is fitting for the saints, and help her in whatever she may require from you, for she has been a benefactor of many and of myself as well.
3 Greet Prisca and Aquila, who work with me in Christ Jesus, 4and who risked their necks for my life, to whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles. 5Greet also the church in their house. Greet my beloved Epaenetus, who was the first convert in Asia for Christ. 6Greet Mary, who has worked very hard among you. 7Greet Andronicus and Junia, my relatives who were in prison with me; they are prominent among the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was. 8Greet Ampliatus, my beloved in the Lord. 9Greet Urbanus, our co-worker in Christ, and my beloved Stachys. 10Greet Apelles, who is approved in Christ. Greet those who belong to the family of Aristobulus. 11Greet my relative Herodion. Greet those in the Lord who belong to the family of Narcissus. 12Greet those workers in the Lord, Tryphaena and Tryphosa. Greet the beloved Persis, who has worked hard in the Lord. 13Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord; and greet his mother—a mother to me also. 14Greet Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas, and the brothers and sisters who are with them. 15Greet Philologus, Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas, and all the saints who are with them. 16Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ greet you.


1) "..fitting for the saints;" "...a benefactor of many;" "...risked their necks for my life;" "...give thanks;" "...beloved;" "...beloved;" "...beloved;" "...beloved;"


2) Paul's greeting to people he loves in a far away place makes me think of all the beloved people I have worked with in my years in ministry across western Canada.  It fills me with warmth to think of the treasured relationships that have sustained me.  The people who accompanied me as I discerned a call to ministry, and came out of the closet.  The people who grieved with me when my Dad, then my grandmother, then my grandfather all died in my first year away from home in ministry in Saskatchewan.  The people who did brave cutting edge Affirming ministry with the LGBTQ2 Community with me in Manitoba.  The dear ones I've grieved with as they decided to tear down their church to build housing in Vancouver.  The many, many children, youth and young adult events across the country.  The companions on silent retreats, in workshops, committees, boards, and conferences.  A dozen or so spiritual directors.  A few Twelve Step Meetings.  Five years of seminary and internship, and fifteen years of ministry make for a long journey with so many beloved companions along the way.  Each parting is heartbreaking, but the relationships fill my heart so my heart overflows. 


3) What is the invitation in all this?  To give thanks for all the companionship.  To perhaps write some seasonal letters in this holiday season to greet my beloveds in far off places.


"Holy One, thank you for many years of dedicated companionship in many places."


Breathprayer: "Beloved... greet the beloved."

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

"By the Love of the Spirit... Peace."

I ask for the grace to pray and meditate faithfully.  I ask for patience, tolerance, compassion, and empathy.  I ask to abstain from anger, anxiety, compulsive behaviour, discouragement, and self-importance.  May I make room for transformation in my heart this Advent Season.  May my words, thoughts, and actions proclaim justice, kindness, and humility.


Romans 15:30-33
30 I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in earnest prayer to God on my behalf, 31that I may be rescued from the unbelievers in Judea, and that my ministry to Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints, 32so that by God’s will I may come to you with joy and be refreshed in your company. 33The God of peace be with all of you. Amen.


1) "...love of the Spirit;" "...earnest prayer;" "...acceptable to the saints;" "...by God's will;" "...refreshed in your company;" "...The God of peace;" "...I appeal to you;" "...by the love of the Spirit;" "...to join me in earnest prayer;" "...refreshed in your company;" "...I appeal to you... by the love of the Spirit;" "to  join me in earnest prayer;"


2) For what do we earnestly pray?  Paul is praying to escape imprisonment, possibly execution and that his ministry be found acceptable.  What are my earnest prayers?  I would certainly identify with the appeal that my ministry be found acceptable.  Its hard in an age when the church is in fact, I hope, atoning for its trespasses, to feel that any of our ministry is acceptable.  Not only has the church committed grievous crimes against indigenous peoples, LGBTQ2 people, women, and racial minorities, but in times when technology changes faster than membership is growing, keeping up with what is needed in genuine ministry is difficult.  Is doing what we did 10 years ago still suitable?  In too many instances the answer is "No," but we have not yet put in the energy to discerning an alternative.  And it is all changing at once.  So yes.  Pray earnestly that our ministry may be acceptable.  Not just to the "saints in Jerusalem" but to God and Christ.  May our ministry be worthy of the grace that abounds.


3) What is the invitation in all this?  To pray earnestly that our ministry be acceptable.


"Holy One, guide us in our ministry."


Breathprayer: "By the love of the Spirit... peace."



Monday, 11 December 2017

"In the Fullness... Blessing of Christ."

I ask for the grace to pray and meditate faithfully.  I ask for patience, tolerance, compassion, and empathy.  I ask to abstain from anger, anxiety, compulsive behaviour, discouragement, and self-importance.  I ask for the grace to be open to receiving the holy family in my heart in preparation for the birth of a new heaven and a new earth.  May my thoughts, words, and actions proclaim justice, kindness, and humility.


Romans 15:22-29
22 This is the reason that I have so often been hindered from coming to you. 23But now, with no further place for me in these regions, I desire, as I have for many years, to come to you 24when I go to Spain. For I do hope to see you on my journey and to be sent on by you, once I have enjoyed your company for a little while. 25At present, however, I am going to Jerusalem in a ministry to the saints; 26for Macedonia and Achaia have been pleased to share their resources with the poor among the saints at Jerusalem. 27They were pleased to do this, and indeed they owe it to them; for if the Gentiles have come to share in their spiritual blessings, they ought also to be of service to them in material things. 28So, when I have completed this, and have delivered to them what has been collected, I will set out by way of you to Spain; 29and I know that when I come to you, I will come in the fullness of the blessing of Christ.


1) "...hope to see you;" "...sent on by you;" "...enjoyed your company;" "...spiritual blessings;" "...material things;" "...the fullness of the blessing of Christ;" "...


2) Paul is sharing long term plans with the Romans, a mission to Spain after he has returned to Jerusalem with the offering he has collected in Greece.  No doubt implying that the Romans should also consider an offering to the Jerusalem church.  He's trying to set up good relations at home before he embarks on what would be a dangerous, far reaching adventure.  Of course, it doesn't come to pass.  He will be stopped at Rome.  But in this moment, as he writes this letter what an adventure he is about.  He has really surrendered everything to sharing the Gospel as far and as wide as possible.  I have mixed feelings about "far and wide."  How deeply held is the gospel in these communities?  How strong are the communities and the relationships between the communities as he leaves?  Would it not have been better to remain in one place and forge deeper relationships?  But that clearly was never Paul's calling.  He migrated back and forth across the Empire.  Did he ever go beyond the Roman Empire?  I feel a sadness for Paul, moving about as he did.  There were people who traveled with him, I suppose, I think he seldom traveled alone and he often had contacts long before he arrived at any one location.  I actually feel the longing to grow deeper roots after 15 years of relative itinerancy. 


3) What is the invitation in all this?  to trust the "Adventure" we are on, even if it fails.  Whether we live or whether we die, we belong to Christ for Christ is Lord of both the dead and the living. 


"Holy One, bless all our journeys."


Breathprayer: "in the fullness... blessing of Christ."



Sunday, 10 December 2017

"Words and Deeds... Signs and Wonders."

I ask for the grace to pray and meditate faithfully.  I ask for patience, tolerance, compassion, and empathy.  I ask to abstain from anger, anxiety, compulsive behaviour, discouragement, and self-importance.  I ask for the grace to make room for the birth of a new heaven and a new earth in this time of Advent Waiting.  May my words, actions, and thoughts proclaim justice, kindness, and humility.


Romans 15:14-21
14 I myself feel confident about you, my brothers and sisters, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, and able to instruct one another. 15Nevertheless, on some points I have written to you rather boldly by way of reminder, because of the grace given me by God 16to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles in the priestly service of the gospel of God, so that the offering of the Gentiles may be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit. 17In Christ Jesus, then, I have reason to boast of my work for God. 18For I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me to win obedience from the Gentiles, by word and deed, 19by the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God, so that from Jerusalem and as far around as Illyricum I have fully proclaimed the good news of Christ. 20Thus I make it my ambition to proclaim the good news, not where Christ has already been named, so that I do not build on someone else’s foundation, 21but as it is written,
‘Those who have never been told of him shall see,
   and those who have never heard of him shall understand.’


1) "...confident about you;" "...full of goodness, filled with all knowledge;" "...the grace given my by God;" "...acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit;" "...what Christ has accomplished through me;" "...obedience from the Gentiles;" "...signs and wonders;"


2) Does Paul have the confidence in us that we ourselves lack?  There is a meme going around right now on social media, "The problem with the world is that wise people are full of doubt and stupid people are full of confidence."  Do I believe that we are "full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, and able to instruct one another"?  I have my doubts.  What's more, there are those around me who are "full of confidence."  "Nevertheless, on some points," Paul continues.  Nevertheless, how good are we at keeping the Holy Spirit at the center of our discernment?  I fear we are often too boastful of our own works rather than the works of the Holy Spirit through us.  It may be a subtle difference some days, but it is a difference just the same.  I'm game for some "signs and wonders."  Paul draws a parallel between his own work and the story of Moses.  He did not convert the Gentiles to obedience without "signs and wonders."  We could use some signs and wonders.  Are we open to witnessing signs and wonders?  Again, we spend much time boasting about "new members" who are actually folk from where "Christ has already been named," people disaffected by other expressions of Christianity.  Are we truly taking Christ to "those who have never been told of him"?


3) What is the invitation in all this?  Perhaps to be more consciously open to signs and wonders.  To more intentionally "boast" in the power of the Holy Spirit to do work through us.  To make sure it is in the Holy Spirit and not just our own egos that we are "boasting."


"Holy One, in this waiting season, show us signs and wonders."


Breathprayer: "Words and deeds... signs and wonders."



Thursday, 7 December 2017

"Glorify God... Abound in Hope."

I ask for the grace to pray and meditate faithfully.  I ask for patience, tolerance, compassion and empathy.  I ask to abstain from anger, anxiety, compulsive behaviour, discouragement, and self-importance.  I ask for the grace to prepare the way for new way for Christ to be made manifest in my thoughts, words, and actions.  May I seek justice, love kindness, and walk humbly.


Romans 15:7-13
7 Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. 8For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the circumcised on behalf of the truth of God in order that he might confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, 9and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written,
‘Therefore I will confess you among the Gentiles,
   and sing praises to your name’;
10and again he says,
‘Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people’;
11and again,
‘Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles,
   and let all the peoples praise him’;
12and again Isaiah says,
‘The root of Jesse shall come,
   the one who rises to rule the Gentiles;
in him the Gentiles shall hope.’
13May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.


1) "...for the glory of God;" "...Christ has become a servant;" "...the truth of God;" "...glorify God;" "...Rejoice, O Gentiles;" "...praise the Lord;" "...let all the people praise him;" "...the Gentiles shall hope;" "...the God of hope;" "...all joy and peace;" "...abound in hope;"


2) Paul exhorts us constantly to get along with those who are fundamentally different from us: "for the glory of God," that we may be filled "with all joy and peace in believing" and "abound in hope."  And how have we done with that over the millennia?  How are we doing?  So much of Paul's gospel is simply, "Get along people!"  "For the glory of God, get along!"  "Don't think you are better than you ought." "Don't think you are wiser than you are." "Don't judge each other, leave judgement to God."  "God sent Christ to reconcile ALL PEOPLE."  "The root of Jesse shall come, the one who rises to rule the Gentiles; in him the Gentiles shall hope."  Paul asserts that the promise wasn't just to the chosen people of Israel, but to Gentiles as well... that's everybody else!  Christ has welcomed us, Welcome each other, for the glory of God!  Why do we struggle with this so?  How is there even room for argument?  Except that we forget humility, we judge, and consequently we condemn.  Where's the "stop" button?  It is too easy to judge and condemn.


3) What is the invitation in all this?  For the glory of God, seek humility, and stop judging others.  To leave judgement to God.


"Holy One, help us to glorify you and only you and to cease glorifying ourselves."


Breathprayer: "Glorify God... abound in hope."