Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Communion

Daily reading: 1 Corinthians 11:17-34
Wednesday, August 30, 2017

The center of Paul’s argument against social stratification in worship is the remembrance of Christ’s last meal with his disciples.  Paul begins with these words, “on the night when Jesus was betrayed.”  Now there was a LOT that happened on that night …yes?

On the night Jesus washed the feet of his disciples …
On the night Jesus celebrated the Passover meal …
On the night Jesus prayed in the Garden …
On the night Jesus was arrested …
On the night the disciples scattered …
On the night Peter denied knowing Jesus …

But the oral tradition that had been passed down to Paul is grounded first and foremost in the broken relationship of Jesus and Judas. On the night Jesus was betrayed.

The oral tradition that had been handed down to Paul speaks of a new covenant; and this is important.  While we hear this language weekly in our celebration of Communion, it was not frequent language in their canon of scripture.  It comes from the prophet Jeremiah.  In chapter 31, verse 31 we read, “The time is coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and Judah.  It won’t be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt.   They broke that covenant with me even though I was their husband, declares the LORD.  No, this is the covenant that I will make with the people of Israel after that time, declares the LORD.  I will put my instructions within them and engrave them on their hearts.  I will be there God, and they will be my people.  They will no longer need to teach each other and say, ‘Know the LORD!’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD; for I will forgive their wrongdoing and never again remember their sins.”

This new covenant is born out of brokenness and betrayal and is a reminder that God is gracious and forgives our wrongdoing and does not remember our sins.  Communion is a radical act of graciousness grounded in the reality that we are broken and hurt one another, yet God loves us unconditionally!


Prayer: God, help me to be mindful of your presence in my life: help me to see your presence in everyone I encounter today.  May my words and actions embody your radical welcome and love for Your creation.  Amen.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Social hierarchy

Daily reading: 1 Corinthians 11:17-34
Monday, August 28, 2017

One thing to keep in mind when reading Paul’s letters is that Greco-Roman culture had specific social levels.  Some scholars have defined it like a pyramid, with an elite few at the top, with sub sections going down the pyramid, until you get to the bottom that had the majority of the population.  In any given social situation, everyone always knew whether they were above, below or at the same level with others.  Knowing your place became second nature to the population.

A household in the Greco-Roman world consisted of both your biological family and your servants and slaves.  Heads of household often decided what the belief system of the house was to be, so naturally, churches had a variety of levels of high and low status members within them, due in part, because of entire households being part of a congregation and because of the message of the gospel reached all levels of society and brought in everyone.

What Paul comes to find out, is that the Greco-Roman social stratification was being lived out in the church when they gathered together to worship.
In the Greco-Roman world, it was completely normal and standard for those in high levels of society to be served a higher quality and quantity of food and drink; while those of lower standing would be served lesser quality and quantity of food and drink.  From an outside perspective, nothing would seem to be out of place. 

Even for those on the inside nothing seemed to be out of place.  Celebrating communion was shaped by the social stratification that everyone took for granted.  Communion was served during a shared meal, much like the meal that Jesus had with his disciples.

Jesus was celebrating the Passover, by having a specific, full meal with his disciples when he took the two most basic elements of the meal off of the table and blessed them and gave them new meaning.  Likewise, in Corinth, while sharing a meal, where the highest members of society sat with one another and ate a higher quality and quantity of food and drink, so much so that some become drunk off of the wine; while the lower members of society sat with one another eating a lower quality and quantity of food, and where some of the lowest might not even really have a meal to share and remained hungry … bread was broken and blessed and shared and so was wine.

These divisions, according to Paul, compromised the gospel.

Prayer: God, help me to be mindful of your presence in my life: help me to see your presence in everyone I encounter today.  May my words and actions embody your radical welcome and love for Your creation.  Amen.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Sharing bread and cup

Daily reading: 1 Corinthians 11:17-34
Sunday, August 27, 2017

Paul sought to create a place in God’s house where all are satisfied, where all are treated equally.  He was planting a seed that had the potential to radically change the church with shoots spreading out into the wider culture.

Paul, seeing the world through gospel tinted lenses saw that the radical message of the gospel needed to break open the community in Corinth and help them to live their lives differently.  Because when we boil it down, this faith that we hold in common, when we begin to live it and breathe it, has the power to touch every single aspect of our lives.  It begins in gathered community, where bread and cup are freely shared and it spreads from there.  


Prayer: God, help me to be mindful of your presence in my life: help me to see your presence in everyone I encounter today.  May my words and actions embody your radical welcome and love for Your creation.  Amen.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Freedom

Daily reading: Psalm 84 and Romans 6:1-11
Friday, August 25, 2017


For those familiar with recovery communities, we know how necessary it is to have daily group meetings.  For those I know that live on the boundary of recovered, they tell me time and time again, that recovery is a minute by minute choice for them.  We host one, if not the largest, NA meetings in this city.  On Tuesday nights they have up to 40 people in recovery here in this space.  The governing board of our congregation has made the commitment not to hold meetings here on Tuesday that would limit the amount of parking lot spaces so that those who are choosing recovery have a space to park.

Like those in recovery, choosing to be free from sin is a minute by minute choice for us.  Baptism doesn’t take away our free will to choose to turn from God.  It anchors us to God and to our community and is the starting point of living a life free to love unconditionally, to practice radical forgiveness, and bring life to this concept of amazing grace.  It is the moment that we decide to walk along others who have made the plunge into the waters to see the world through gospel tinted eyes so that we together can work to free the world from sin and destruction and actively work to bring about God’s peaceable kingdom on earth. 


Prayer:  Today may I be ever mindful of my baptism, in every drop of water that I encounter.  May it remind me of Your deep and abiding love, Christ’s call to repent and practice forgiveness and for the Spirit’s abiding presence with me.  Amen. 

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Grace poured out


Daily reading: Psalm 84 and Romans 6:1-11
Thursday, August 24, 2017

Why would you still live as a slave to sin if you have been freed, Paul asks.  Why live as if forgiveness isn’t offered to you?  Why do you continue to heap on the regret of misspoken words or actions?  Why do you allow each word and action to pile more weight and guilt upon you?

Why do you live as if you are not worthy to receive God’s unconditional love … feeling that you have to do something to earn God’s love, making you in turn a slave to everything you think you need to do in order to earn it, pilling unrealistic expectations upon yourself.
Why do you allow absolutely anything on this earth, be it fear or anxiety, worry or hate to take away from the presence of God for you when you have been freed, even from the fear of death?

The beauty of the question and the grounding of it in baptism, is that we are called to remember our baptism, not just that one moment in time, but to remember who names us and claims us and the tangible reminder of that moment happens every time we come across water. 
Water reminds us how readily God’s grace is poured out for us. 


Prayer:  Today may I be ever mindful of my baptism, in every drop of water that I encounter.  May it remind me of Your deep and abiding love, Christ’s call to repent and practice forgiveness and for the Spirit’s abiding presence with me.  Amen. 

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Entering the waters

Daily reading: Psalm 84 and Romans 6:1-11
Wednesday, August 23, 2017


If you have decided to go down in the water and symbolically participate in the death of Christ so that you can be brought back up to live in newness of life, that means something.  Putting on a white robe and walking into the baptismal waters is an act of faith – no one emerges looking like they did before they went under the water.  There is usually a look of surprise on the one emerging from the water, while taking a clean breath of air.  Their hair is all messed up, perhaps even with mascara running down their face, they are all sopping wet and weighed down by the weight of their robe and the clothes they are wearing underneath. 

As a pastor, I refuse to take short cuts like some of my colleagues do, who put on fishing waders so that they only get their arms wet when performing the baptism.  Their justification is that they don’t have to change their clothes after and can get back to worship faster.  Not me.  I find it central to the act that I get wet too.  Baptism changes us, and I want to feel the water that you get into.  I look forward to  locking eyes with the candidate as we quietly communication across the baptistery, away from the congregation’s watchful eye as we take the first step into the water.  It is never what we anticipate it to be.  As the one helping the candidate answer the call, I need to also wade in the water and come back out sopping wet from the waist down.


Prayer:  Today may I be ever mindful of my baptism, in every drop of water that I encounter.  May it remind me of Your deep and abiding love, Christ’s call to repent and practice forgiveness and for the Spirit’s abiding presence with me.  Amen. 

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Having a place to return to

Daily reading: Psalm 84 and Romans 6:1-11
Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Paul brings it home, literally, by saying you who have responded to God’s gracious invitation to be baptized, need to be mindful of how you have responded to God’s claim on you … and that means something not just to God, but also to those in your faith community and to all of God’s creation.

We need moments of encountering God in our collective memory; anchors if you will, that will ground us when life becomes chaotic.  For Paul, one of these anchors is our baptism.  It is the moment when ordinary water becomes holy, and takes on a new meaning that then colors the lens for how we are to see ourselves as named, claimed and marked by Christ Jesus.


Prayer:  Today may I be ever mindful of my baptism, in every drop of water that I encounter.  May it remind me of Your deep and abiding love, Christ’s call to repent and practice forgiveness and for the Spirit’s abiding presence with me.  Amen. 

Monday, August 21, 2017

Grounding ourselves

Daily reading: Psalm 84
Monday, August 21, 2017


Psalm 84 specifically is a psalm of the pilgrim, it speaks of God’s dwelling place as a place that is set apart and is holy.  The pilgrim seeks the living God “who is not static or trapped in endless cycles of death and rebirth as some of the Canaanite deities” were thought to be.

So it is not so much the physical place that is the destination, as much as it is, the one who dwells there.  The pilgrim seeks to be in the presence of God.  Along the way there, they travel through the Baca Valley, a place unknown.   If we were to imagine it to be a desert landscape, then the mention of springs water and rain bring about a much desired blessing, as we know.  Much like those in the exodus found springs of water and sustenance from God in the desert, so do those on pilgrimages. 

While the faithful knew that God was not solely in the temple, the psalm reminds us that there are certain places and moments that we define as holy and set apart.  These moments and places then become our anchor that keeps us grounded when life becomes chaotic. 


Prayer:  Today may I be ever mindful of my baptism, in every drop of water that I encounter.  May it remind me of Your deep and abiding love, Christ’s call to repent and practice forgiveness and for the Spirit’s abiding presence with me.  Amen. 

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Is grace cheap?

Daily readings: Psalm 84 and Romans 6:1-11
Sunday, September 20, 2017


Romans is thought to be one of Paul’s final letters that he wrote that  had been compiled along with other letters that are part of the canon of our scriptures.  As you may know these letters give us a glimpse into a conversation that Paul was having with a variety of faith communities, many of which he had a hand in starting, so they act like text messages or emails that you might send to a mentor that you have worked with after they have left town and are working somewhere else.  However, in this case we only have Paul’s letters, we do not have the letters that Paul received.

The letter to the community in Rome was unique in that Paul had yet to visit the community, so he did not have a hand in starting it.  In chapter 1, verse 10 we read, “I’m always asking that somehow, by God’s will, I might succeed in visiting you at last.”  And then in verse 13, “I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that I planned to visit you many times, although I have been prevented from coming until now.”

In chapter 5, Paul lays out the argument that God’s grace embodied in Jesus Christ is an answer to human sin.  So he then wonders if his audience might think, well if God is always going to be gracious and forgive our sins, then why not indulge in the actions that necessitate forgiveness?  Is grace then somehow a free pass to not actively love God and love our neighbor?

As a parent, that is something I wrestle with, too. I am sure most parents do, as well.  If we offer up easy forgiveness, then will our children ever choose to do what we ask them to do?

Paul’s response in contemporary language would be something like this… “you’ve got to be kidding, to even entertain that kind of logic.”  Rather than ask that question, Paul wants to know why would you want to go back and be a slave to sin, now that freedom from all that restrains you is gone?  The psalmist says that even the birds seek out God’s presence … “Those who live in your house are truly happy; they praise you constantly.”


Prayer:  Today may I be ever mindful of my baptism, in every drop of water that I encounter.  May it remind me of Your deep and abiding love, Christ’s call to repent and practice forgiveness and for the Spirit’s abiding presence with me.  Amen. 

Friday, August 18, 2017

Grace as promise

Daily reading: Psalm 46 & Acts 2:37-42
Friday, August 18, 2017

Focus passage: 37 When the crowd heard this, they were deeply troubled. They said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?”
38 Peter replied, “Change your hearts and lives. Each of you must be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 This promise is for you, your children, and for all who are far away—as many as the Lord our God invites.” 40 With many other words he testified to them and encouraged them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation.” 41 Those who accepted Peter’s message were baptized. God brought about three thousand people into the community on that day.

42 The believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to the community, to their shared meals, and to their prayers. (Acts 2:37-42)

Grace is both abrasive and amazing because it fundamentally is grounded in release and turning toward God.  It is the power to carve through our hardened dispositions and redefine the landscape of our hearts.  What has happened in the past no longer defines us.
Baptism is the anchor, the home of grace because in baptism we respond to the liberating action of God who allows us to be free from our sin and be made new in Christ.  Baptism then is the tangible mark of God’s grace upon us.

It is a promise that we hold together in community, to encourage, support and pray for one another as we move through the ebb and flow of our faithfulness.  It is a promise by God to be with us always, guiding us, loving us, encouraging us and calling us home.    It is a promise where we as a community allow space for God to work in and among us, carving out space for repentance, forgiveness and the presence of the Holy Spirit to flourish and change the landscape of our lives. 


Prayer:  Today may I be ever mindful of my baptism, in every drop of water that I encounter.  May it remind me of Your deep and abiding love, Christ’s call to repent and practice forgiveness and for the Spirit’s ability to carve the landscape of my heart.  Amen. 

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Release

Daily reading: Psalm 46 & Acts 2:37-42
Thursday, August 17, 2017

Focus passage: 37 When the crowd heard this, they were deeply troubled. They said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?”
38 Peter replied, “Change your hearts and lives. Each of you must be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 This promise is for you, your children, and for all who are far away—as many as the Lord our God invites.” 40 With many other words he testified to them and encouraged them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation.” 41 Those who accepted Peter’s message were baptized. God brought about three thousand people into the community on that day.

42 The believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to the community, to their shared meals, and to their prayers. (Acts 2:37-42)

Grace allows for a continual breaking open and peeling back of the areas of our lives where we are resistant to God’s movement in our lives.
Grace allows us also to be nourished by the presence of God as it redefines the landscaped of our hearts.

Grace allows us to become unstuck in relationships and situations where we have found ourselves unable to move forward for a variety of reasons.  Maybe we are at a standstill because we stubbornly need to be right and we are unaware of how our actions and our words are feeding into the standstill and dysfunction.  Or maybe we are unable to see the new thing God is doing in our life because we are mourning what is no longer and we find ourselves confused and angered.  Or maybe we don’t really believe that God is able to truly forgive the wrongs we have committed and neither is our community, that grace and forgiveness are just empty words or lofty thoughts that sound nice but in reality can’t be lived out.

Whatever pattern we find ourselves in, be it defense, protection, denial, or shame grace allows us release.


Prayer:  Today may I be ever mindful of my baptism, in every drop of water that I encounter.  May it remind me of Your deep and abiding love, Christ’s call to repent and practice forgiveness and for the Spirit’s ability to carve the landscape of my heart.  Amen. 

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Grace infused life

Daily reading: Psalm 46 & Acts 2:37-42
Wednesday, August 16, 2017
Focus passage: 37 When the crowd heard this, they were deeply troubled. They said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?”
38 Peter replied, “Change your hearts and lives. Each of you must be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 This promise is for you, your children, and for all who are far away—as many as the Lord our God invites.” 40 With many other words he testified to them and encouraged them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation.” 41 Those who accepted Peter’s message were baptized. God brought about three thousand people into the community on that day.

42 The believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to the community, to their shared meals, and to their prayers. (Acts 2:37-42)

Do you understand baptism, receiving forgiveness and the Holy Spirit as linear action, making baptism a onetime event, as well as our need for forgiveness?   What if instead we see baptism as the point in which our life is anchored in God’s grace?  In our turning away and then turning back to God, it is our anchor or our home if you will.  It is our reminder that we have been claimed by God to live holy lives.  Our lives then are lived in the ebb and flow of turning away, of repenting, of receiving forgiveness and letting go and of our receiving of the Holy Spirit.
Baptism then is an invitation to live a grace infused life.  It is also a response to the invitation by Christ to follow him always.


Prayer:  Today may I be ever mindful of my baptism, in every drop of water that I encounter.  May it remind me of Your deep and abiding love, Christ’s call to repent and practice forgiveness and for the Spirit’s ability to carve the landscape of my heart.  Amen. 

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Turn Around

Daily reading: Psalm 46 & Acts 2:37-42
Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Focus passage: 37 When the crowd heard this, they were deeply troubled. They said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?”
38 Peter replied, “Change your hearts and lives. Each of you must be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 This promise is for you, your children, and for all who are far away—as many as the Lord our God invites.” 40 With many other words he testified to them and encouraged them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation.” 41 Those who accepted Peter’s message were baptized. God brought about three thousand people into the community on that day.

42 The believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to the community, to their shared meals, and to their prayers. (Acts 2:37-42)

As a sacrament, baptism is both a sign and a source of God’s grace in our lives. Our lives are lived as a response to God’s action in our life, just like with the faithful gathered on the first day of Pentecost, where we seek for ways to embody the grace of God in our own lives.
How is grace embodied in your life?  Where are the places that you seek it out?  In others?  In community?  Within yourself?  In specific relationships?

Peter invites the gathered community to repent, in Greek, it literally means to turn around.  The invitation then is to turn around and to turn back to our God who “is our refuge and strength, a help always near in times of great trouble … [present] when the world falls apart … [who] shall not be moved .. and [who] makes wars cease.”

Peter offers these words to those who are confused as to how they should respond to the Good News ... they are to change their hearts and lives … they are to be baptized in Christ for the forgiveness of their sins … they are to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit …As a response to these actions we read that “the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teachings, to the community, to their shared meals, and to their prayers.”


Prayer:  Today may I be ever mindful of my baptism, in every drop of water that I encounter.  May it remind me of Your deep and abiding love, Christ’s call to repent and practice forgiveness and for the Spirit’s ability to carve the landscape of my heart.  Amen. 

Monday, August 14, 2017

Water

Daily reading: Psalm 46 & Acts 2:37-42
Monday, August 14, 2017

Focus passage: 37 When the crowd heard this, they were deeply troubled. They said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?”
38 Peter replied, “Change your hearts and lives. Each of you must be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 This promise is for you, your children, and for all who are far away—as many as the Lord our God invites.” 40 With many other words he testified to them and encouraged them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation.” 41 Those who accepted Peter’s message were baptized. God brought about three thousand people into the community on that day.

42 The believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to the community, to their shared meals, and to their prayers. (Acts 2:37-42)

Water is so very necessary for our lives.  Without it we die.  It nourishes us, it cleans us, it sustains us.  It is something we turn to numerous times throughout our day.  Water is also a fundamental element in the sacrament of baptism, allowing us then to remember that we are named and claimed by God to live holy lives every time we see, hear, taste or feel water.

Evidence of our heavy rains this summer were present everywhere, on my morning hike.  What, at times, looks quite brown had burst forth into vibrant colors of green, yellow and purple.  Bumble bees buzzed from flower to flower as their weight bent the stems of the delicate desert flowers.  Well known paths were hidden by a sea of yellow flowers covering the shrubs, some pathways were even washed away by the current of water that had carved new ditches in the landscape.  This radical change in the scenery was due to water.

Water has the power to carve through rock and redefine landscapes. 
Water is used in baptism in our tradition so that the confessor of faith, can die to their self-centered ways and rise a new, in the life of Christ. 


Prayer:  Today may I be ever mindful of my baptism, in every drop of water that I encounter.  May it remind me of Your deep and abiding love, Christ’s call to repent and practice forgiveness and for the Spirit’s ability to carve the landscape of my heart.  Amen. 

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Living Baptism

Daily reading: Psalm 46 & Acts 2:37-42
Sunday, August 13, 2017

Focus passage: 37 When the crowd heard this, they were deeply troubled. They said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?”
38 Peter replied, “Change your hearts and lives. Each of you must be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 This promise is for you, your children, and for all who are far away—as many as the Lord our God invites.” 40 With many other words he testified to them and encouraged them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation.” 41 Those who accepted Peter’s message were baptized. God brought about three thousand people into the community on that day.

42 The believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to the community, to their shared meals, and to their prayers. (Acts 2:37-42)

For Martin Luther, one of the great Protestant reformers, baptism is to be embodied daily, it is a cleansing and renewal, if you will, of the forgiveness that we continually need.   Baptism then isn’t an event in time, it is never finished, it is rather the beginning and is something that we live into. 

Take time today to remember your baptism, that moment when you responded to God’s liberating action in your life.  Every time you touch, taste, hear and see water remember that you are named and claimed by God.


Prayer:  Today may I be ever mindful of my baptism, in every drop of water that I encounter.  May it remind me of Your deep and abiding love, Christ’s call to repent and practice forgiveness and for the Spirit’s ability to carve the landscape of my heart.  Amen. 

Comfort

Daily reading: Isaiah 40:1-11 Tuesday December 11, 2018 Focus passage:  Comfort, comfort my people! says your God.  Speak compassion...