The Struggle to Trust
2010-08-10 by Stephen Schuette
Jeremiah is the “get real” prophet, and this small passage certainly bears that out. He identifies the then popular temple-king theology as a “dream.” In other words, it’s no good to make up your own covenant with God or attempt to push your own deal: we’ll worship you and you give us national security. God’s covenant is not magic. It requires hard choices in the real world and a continual search for the way. Not that God leaves us without openings. But the opening may be different than might be assumed out of an easy God-n’-me coziness. One wonders if those who assume “God and America” or believe a resettlement of Israel in Palestine will automatically lead to fulfillment (however you may define that) have ever taken Jeremiah seriously? (…even in their supposed biblical seriousness)
And the suggestion of faith as struggle continues through the other readings. Not that the struggle is without redemption, but it involves struggle nevertheless.
Before you go to that beautiful and familiar section in Heb. 12:1ff., linger in this waterfall of remembrance of those who struggled for faith against the odds. And notice, too, that transitional sentence that links their struggle and ours in 11:40: “…that they would not, apart from us, be made perfect.” In other words, their struggle is ours and ours is theirs. Their history of struggle for faith is given meaning in the present situation by our faith, a faith that 12:2 suggests is connected with the cross. History and future come into focus in the present moment with us. Not that we’re alone, but there’s much riding here in this “present time” (Lk 12:56) and a larger meaning that refracts the light of past and future into this present time and place.
I’d be careful of trying to read the Luke passage in a way that emphasizes us-them divisions with us on the “right” side and so there’s struggle with those in our families, or otherwise, who are not with us and God. That seems too superficial or even dangerous. Instead I’m going to focus on this division and struggle that runs right through the center of every Christian who is an odd mixture of faithfulness and faithlessness, including me. After all if Jesus himself is under stress (vs. 50) then how can I honestly avoid this in my own faith journey? Jesus is certainly taking the baptism of John seriously, a baptism that will require his very life. It means a struggle within Jesus as all the people and powers who are pressing this forward come together and in that he seeks to live out his calling faithfully.
So the “race” of Hebrews is not a competitive race with other runners but a race of perseverance within oneself to engage all of oneself complete and whole in relationship with God. Runners know about the need to run through the point of resistance (casting aside the weight and sin) before they know the joy – not so much the joy of winning over others which only comes at the end of a race but the pure joy of running in the moment.
My dog is a beautiful runner as she thrusts her long legs both forward and behind giving herself over to a kind of suspended flight through midair. What she does naturally I must work at – to fully trust God.
Watching the Bird Bath
2010-08-10 by Rina Terry
Watching the Bird Bath
From my kitchen window, I can see the small cement birdbath in my side yard. There is nothing fancy about it. I am not a great gardener and the parsonage yard is in desperate need of a landscaper’s professional skill.
Yet, it just takes a small pool of water and an inexpensive bird feeder to attract many birds. I have noticed the relationship between the larger and smaller birds. The large birds: grackles, ravens, jays and crows , due to size, use on demand. On occasion though, I notice a smaller bird fluttering to the edge of the bath anyway and when the larger birds make their hostile gestures, the small birds flutter to the trees and wait their turn. They are patient and they always come back.
The dominant birds ultimately tire themselves out and go off and preen on a limb while they dry. Later, I go back to the window and the finches, Eastern Meadowlarks, cardinals, Fox Sparrows and occasional Red-winged blackbirds take their turns.
Finally, the deep, thick hush of evening comes and there is a stillness and silence that resists any evidence of wing-flapping and splashing that went before. The heat of the day gives way to ocean breeze and starry sky and the bird bath, the feeders, are no longer visible.
All of this I can see, identify, interpret—yet what do I know of this present time?
I enter my own sanctuary, my private space—
we breathe by faith and trust there will be a sunrise.Singing In An Empty Sanctuary
No candles to light, no offering
taken. Hymnals and Bibles poised in their racks. The dust murmuring on the altar never makes
a distinct sound. Then an eruption—
something praise-like, a song meant
2010-08-09 by Rina Terry
Abandon If horrow is the reality that sustains
our existence, then let the rain come in
torrents until the ship sinks close enough
to shore, even a fool’s fool might wade
to solid ground. All roads are flooded
and one must climb the swaying trees
to make one’s way. Bending limb to limb
the thought of building a raft comes
dripping into mind. Someone is winding
the clock—either grandmother or grandfather,
and someone else shrieks from a mountain
top then crawls or limps into a valley ablaze
with wild purple, yellow, red, cornflower
blue. We all are where we are. Wondering
how this could have happened without
noticing the fine lines and loss of longing.
August 9, 2010Italic quote from Lord Byron…
Italic quote from Lord Byron…
As I lived with the texts today, this piece began to form.This is first draft original workd and not to be used,by readers rather considered.and engaged. May it provike a creative impulse in you...
I Want To Sing You A Tough-Love Song...
2010-08-09 by Rina Terry
Many years ago, Anne Murray recorded I Want To Sing You A Love Song, written by Kenny Loggins and D.L. George. As I read the first few words of the Isaiah text for this week, I wondered how many other Baby Boomer pastors began singing that tune. Well, none of us sang it for very long as we engaged the prophet's indictment. It is our task, as pastors, to share God's love with our parishioners and to magnify the image of God as love so they might be filled with the power of that holy love for the world. This week, it calls for tough love, indeed. The Lucan text simply reinforces that tough love approach. Yet, to be honest, many times it is buildings and traditions and rituals which infatuate us far more than God's purposeful call born of divine love. Do we dare, in a day when shrinking mainline churches have made church-growth training the rallying cry of denominational leaders, to proclaim a prophetic word? Are we willing to deal with the consequences of prophetic preaching in middle-class social club congregations? As with me, you may be inspired by persons whose prophetic voices do speak up and out. Yet, they largely are not parish pastors and not in positions that can be damaged by angry or hostile congregational committees or tunnel-visioned M&M (money and members) leaders. At a time when the unemployment rate is nearly 10%, why would a congregation that is having difficulty meeting its annual budget engage in a major stained glass restoration project rather than shine the light of God’s love on those in need? In a political climate that has unmasked, and unsheeted, the latent racism in our country, how can congregations called Christian refuse to welcome the stranger? When our planet is heaving, and hemorrhaging, and fracturing, why are churches such poor stewards when it comes to the greening of our buildings and habits? As we meditate, pray and exegete this week, may we hear God’s cry for justice and dare claiming the prophet’s voice.
Where your treasure is...
2010-08-05 by Adam Grosch
The order of clause in verse 34 is very important. The common phrase I have heard is "where your heart is, there your treasure will be." I don't know if that line comes from this verse - but if it does, it totally misrepresents the meaning behind this passage. The line is "Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."
The first version suggests that whatever our heart longs for and whatever we are focused on - THAT is our treasure. In the second version - the treasure is constant, it never changes. Our heart follows us to our treasure - and we are told that are true treasure is our "unfailing treasure in heaven."
Well, what if our heart isn't there? That is why we are told to do all of the things that are previous to this line - we are not meant to worry and consume ourselves with the things of this world - we are even to sell our possessions, and give alms, making a purse for ourselves that does not wear out.
In this way, even if our heart is not yet with the kingdom, we should still be investing our lives knowing that this is our true treasure. When we invest our lives into the kingdom then our heart will be there...eventually. What a pastoral word for the many new comers in our congregation who are not yet sure what their hearts believe about God, let alone Jesus Christ. Invest in the kingdom, invest where our treasure is and you will soon find your heart there as well.
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