Thursday, June 30, 2005

Thursday, June 30

The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime (pp. 156-157)

To read this morning's office, click here.

I have been privileged to travel abroad -- and a listing of places is not the issue. Every time I go abroad, whether it is for a short visit or a longer stay, I have been impressed as a Christian of three things: first, that there is always a church where I go; second, that the church is filled with local customs, history, habits, issues, concerns, translation, and commitments; third, that it is always the same gospel: that God, in Jesus Christ, has come to us to forgive us and restore us and liberate us.

When the early apostles were shoved out of Jerusalem they had no idea that this small movement, this little mustard seed of followers, would explode into a world-wide Church.

"The Lord is King." "Happy the nation whose God is Yahweh." "He molds every heart and takes note of all that men do."

God cares for each of us, and he cares for each person in the entire world. God makes each person to be who they are, and God calls each person to love God and others, and he calls each of us to do the same. We are all alike -- and we are all different.

Today I will take note of the diversity of the Church and the simple unity of its gospel.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Wednesday, June 29

The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime (pp. 149-152)

To read this morning's office, click here.

Our faith is profoundly personal. God reveals himself in nature, but that is not enough. God reveals himself in Law, but that is not enough. God reveals himself in the Temple, but that is not enough. God raises up kings and prophets and sages, but they are not enough.

It is easy for me, as a theologian, to spend my time learning "about" God by analyzing nature and what natural theologians say; or what the Law tells us; or what the Temple reveals; or what God has said through people. But, learning about God is no substitute for learning to know God personally. To do this I must turn all my study into worship, and all my research into relationship.

Not until God had made himself manifest, not until God had become in incarnate, not until God had become just like us, was God able to say, "It is enough."

God is a Person, and so his final revelation of his love, his grace, and his redemption is found in his Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, who is one with the Father and the Holy Spirit. Places, laws, natural beauty may reflect God, the way a sacred icon reflects God for those who use them in worship, but nothing tells us more about God than the Son.

In fact, we can say that we don't know God until we know the Son, who has disclosed God's very nature to us.

Our faith is personal because our God is personal.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Tuesday, June 28

The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime (pp. 145-147)

To read this morning's office, click here.

Time, they say, heals all wounds. I'm not sure, but it helps. What I am sure of is that time gives us perspective on many events in our life.

Perhaps we didn't get admitted to the school of our choice, or perhaps one of our children didn't get admitted to their school of choice. Perhaps we didn't get the job offer. Perhaps we didn't find the house we always wanted. Perhaps we didn't land the opportunity we desired in our local church. We could go on.

Most of these are resolved with time -- the school we did attend was perfect; the job we are doing is what God wants after all; the house we have is where God placed us; our gifts are used better elsewhere.

Our lives, if seen from God's perspective, are a "puff of wind" or "like the grass" or "like a flower of the field." Since we are here for a brief spell, knowing how God looks upon life gives us perspective and wisdom.

During my postgraduate days and some years as an adjunct professor I wondered if I would ever get a teaching post at some college or seminary. More than twenty years later I reflect on the deep anxiety I felt and wonder how I could have worried so. Time, they say, heals all wounds and minimizes all anxieties. But most of all, the passage of time affords us the opportunity to reflect on life from the perspective of God. He is in control; he can be trusted; he will draw us into himself. God is good.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Monday, June 27

The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime (pp. 140-142)

To read this morning's office, click here.

"Almighty God, you have built your Church upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone: Grant that all of us may be joined together in unity of spirit by their teaching, that we may be made a holy temple acceptable to you..." (The Prayer Appointed for the Week).

What can it mean for us, for me and for you, to be "joined together in unity of spirit by their teaching"? A century of efforts by most well-meant Church folk has not brought about the unity that the ecumenical movement sought, and sometimes (or even more often than that) the disunity of local churches is an embarrassment. Debates by dignitaries, speeches by sermonizers, and the efforts by the elites simply have not brought about "unity" either "in spirit" or "by their teaching"? What can we do?

We can begin with ourselves with this commitment: if the Church is founded upon Jesus Christ and his apostles and prophets, then there ought to be greater unity -- both with what we believe as central and with how we treat one another.

Here's what I suggest: first, let us learn what all Christians have in common. Regardless of our denomination, we need to be aware of the gospel itself and creeds that shape the story of faith we tell. And, what we also have in common is celebration of the story of Jesus in the Lord's Supper. And, on top of this, we know that for this story to be our story we have to be committed to it.

Second, let us speak today only what we have in common, never uttering a word about how we differ but only of what we agree on. This can sometimes take effort, and the reason is because too often we stake out our own turf and identity by emphasizing our distinctiveness.

Third, let us learn about one another for the purpose of understanding and appreciating the wondrous diversity of God's people, a diversity rooted in what we hold in common.

Why? Because the Church, what Lesslie Newbigin calls the "legacy of Jesus Christ," is built on Jesus Christ and the apostles and the prophets and on that foundation we stand -- and if we all stand on that foundation we can be more unified.

Sunday, June 26

The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime (pp. 131-132)

To read this morning's office, click here.

One of the regular lines in The Divine Hours is from Psalm 55:18: "In the evening, in the morning, and at noonday, I will complain and lament, and he will hear my voice." This verse is one of the biblical foundations for the regular practice of prayer, or the development of sacred rhythms.

More than one person has told me that Phyllis Tickle taught them how to pray. How so? By developing sacred rhythms of prayer (3x a day, or 2x a day), our day is punctuated by a pause that draws us into the presence of God with the Church.

I know it has been wonderfully beneficial to my own prayer life and to praying with Kris. We struggled to pray together but now, in the morning (when our morning schedule permits) and in the evening (and we rarely ever miss), we pause to say our offices with The Divine Hours. There are many benefits, including the sense of praying with others, but perhaps the most significant is the use of Scripture, especially the Psalms, as words that become prayers. Instead of simply reading Scripture, our sacred rhythm teaches us to pray Scripture.

Hollowing out time for prayer is a hallowing of that time.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Saturday, June 25

The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime (pp. 131-132)

To read this morning's office, click here.

The Request for Presence this morning asks this: "In your righteousness, deliver and set me free." The Greeting continues this theme of freedom: "you have freed me from my bonds." Thomas, who is the subject of our Reading, finds that liberation when he sees the very wounds of Jesus. "This," our Refrain tells us, "is the Lord's doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes."

Our society is both enriched and confused by the notion of freedom. Our Constitution is the basis for most of our ideas about freedom, but the Christian sense of freedom is so much more. It makes these simple claims: We are God's, we are made in God's Image, and we can only be who were meant to be when we live out the Image God made us to be.

We don't have to be what others want us to be; we don't have to be what we'd like to be; we don't live the script others have written for us. We can only be what God made us to be: the Image of God. To be the Image of God means to embrace the God who made us and let God embrace us.

The most liberating or freeing idea that I have ever come across is this one: God made me to be me, that special me he made me to be, and I need only to be the person God made me to be.

This, too, is "marvelous in our eyes."

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Friday, June 23

The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime (pp. 125-126)

To read today's office, click here.

"So teach us to number our days that we may apply our hearts to wisdom," says the Refrain. I've often wondered why it is that we don't have courses in our churches, or even in our colleges and universities to poke myself in the eye, on Wisdom. I could imagine a series of courses on Wisdom and ... the family, the workplace, the neighborhood, the political world, and international politics. We could use more thinking and strategizing about Wisdom as the most important goal a Christian can have. What does a Wise person look like? how does one speak? how does one listen? how does one do all sorts of things?

When Solomon was asked what he wanted most of all, he said Wisdom (2 Kings 3). He's about the only king in history who wouldn't have asked for Almighty Power.

When I was a 5-year old, my great-aunt took me to St Louis, to a large Department store (something like Sticks, Bayer, and Fuller), and told me I could have anything I wanted. I asked for a baseball glove and then had the temerity to ask for a new baseball as well. My great-aunt was relieved I hadn't asked for anything expensive.

If I was asked today if I could have anything I wanted, and especially if I could be taken back 30 years or so and asked that question, I hope I would ask for wisdom. Wisdom to know what to write when I am given assignments, wisdom to know how to speak to my neighbor who refuses to mow his grass, wisdom to know how to deal with my grown and married children, wisdom to know how to respond as we try to sell our house, wisdom to know how to treat certain kinds of students, wisdom to know how to deal with three wonderful departmental members, wisdom to know how to speak to those to whom I can give witness ... . Yes, I say to myself, that is what I would ask for.

But would I? I've failed enough times with family and students and administrators to know that I need Wisdom, and to know that I need to think about asking for it more often.

Wisdom is what Jesus had when he saw through the cracks of society and found people in them; wisdom is what Jesus had when he replied with utter brilliance when he said God's work was for the "sick."

If Wisdom is a supreme value, then perhaps numbering our days (and my days are ticking off as yours) will aid us to see its supreme value.

Thursday, June 23

The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime (pp. 120-122)

To read today's office, click here.

"Behold, God is my helper; it is the Lord who sustains my Life." This word is a word I need today. Our house goes on the market and Kris and I would like a quick sale, my editor has sent me her suggestions for changes to a manuscript I worked long and hard on and editor's comments, even when you've got the best one in the world as I do, are hard to take.

My needs some so minor compared to those of David, who was hunted like prey by his enemies. Or so minor compared to the children of Israel when they found themselves in Babylon and needed a king to take up their cause and give them safe passage back to the Land of Israel. Or so minor compared to the Centurion whose servant was on the edge of death; or the many diseased and ailing that Jesus healed; or the many prostitutes and marginalized that found their way to the table with Jesus; or Jesus himself who was put to death; or the early Christians who were martyrs. And my needs are "minor" compared to these.

But, God cares and no matter how great or minor our needs, they are all needs to God for "God is our Helper." This is not something God occasionally does, it is an attribute of Who God Is.

Just thinking my needs are "minor" misunderstands the greatness of God, for it implies that God is like CEOs who have to decide which employee's concerns and which middle-level leader's issues are worthy of her or his attention. But, God is so vast that our needs are always his concerns, and we can take them to God and God will hear. I bless him for this.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Wednesday, June 22

The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime (pp. 116-117)

To read today's office, click here.

Our office today weaves in and out with the theme that "the Lord protects the faithful" and so the Refrain is the request "Protect my life and deliver me." Why does the Christian make this request to God? "let me not be put to shame for I have trusted in you."

Much easier said than done. I have one of those minds that works from a small symptom (say, for instance, my lower abdomen aches for some odd reason) to a large conclusion (I am dying of cancer). I have been wrong, as my physician often reminds me, each time. "Stick to theology," he tells me. "Good idea," I tell him, "but I can't help it."

What I need to say though is that I also move from my large conclusion to a fair amount of fretting and worrying, and sometimes even to complaining to God that it would not be fair to my family or that I was not done with the work he had given me or that it would be unfair to take me and not some knucklehead who doesn't even care about God or that ... I could go on. What happens is that I can get pretty worked up, and I can get pretty far down the road before I come to my senses that it is my responsibility to call on the Lord and to trust in the Lord that he will protect me.

Trust, I find, is not something mastered as one masters a commute to school, but instead is something that calls our entire being into action each time it is needed. We don't learn faith so much as we practice faith, and we practice faith whenever we are called upon to trust in God for something. And what I also find is that practicing faith is hard sometimes, in fact often.

But the ground of trusting in God is the sheer goodness of God: God protects the faithful.

So, today, if some worry comes along -- and we are putting our house on the market today and that will bring enough worry of its own, I need to remind myself that God is a Protecting God, and I can trust God with my whole being.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Tuesday, June 21

The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime (pp. 111-112)

To read today's office, click here.

It has always amazed me that we constantly need an old lesson: "Open my eyes, that I may see the wonders of your law," as The Request for Presence says in this morning's office. Familiarity with old texts, like the Adam and Eve story in Genesis 1--3, or the story of Abraham and Isaac in Genesis 22, or David and Bathsheba in 2 Samuel 11, or the wonders of Psalm 23, or the growing mountain of predictions in Isaiah 52--53. Or the Sermon on the Mount or the Pentecost account of Acts 2 or the love chapter of 1 Corinthians 13. Familiarity, as I was saying, with such texts can dull their luster or blind our eyes to seeing what they really say. We need to ask God to make these words fresh.

So, the Psalmist, who ought to know, asks God when he reads the Law to open his eyes so he can see the glory of God's good words for his good people so they can live as they can.

Perhaps we don't often enough pause to ask God to "open our eyes" to the glory of the words we read in our offices, but the structure of The Divine Hours is such that we are daily (three or four times, in fact!) reminded of being summoned to pray, of the request for God's presence to attend to our reading (so we can hear and see), and the profound Greeting of the Lord as God makes his presence known. Only then, after we have requested God's presence and greeted that presence, do we have a Refrain and a Reading of Scripture.

Our Father is a person; the Son is a person; the Spirit is a person. To attend to Scripture as God's Word to us -- as God speaking directly to us as a communication, is to be treated as persons and to treat God as a person. To do that we need to listen, and when we can recollect ourselves before this "one God, forever and ever" we can see who God is and hear what God wants us to hear.

Indeed, we pray, "Open our eyes" for we would hate to miss an encounter with the infinite God who created the universe and who attends to us as we request his presence.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Monday, June 20

The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime (pp. 106-108)

To read today's office, click here.

Guidance is a theme in this morning's office. From the "do not cast me off" to the "show me your ways" to the theme of "deliverance" to the potent theme of the Holy Spirit as the Alter Ego of Jesus within us, the theme of guidance runs through our office like a river.

The key to guidance is the sense of needing guidance. Some of us (perhaps more than we care to admit) our stubbornly convinced that we either have it figured out or that we can fight our way through something difficult. We don't have it figured out as often as we like, and fighting through life is the opposite of what Jesus intends for us. He has sent the Spirit to guide us -- so our Reading this morning tells us.

When my daughter, Laura, was about six or seven, I had it in my head that I would make her a bed out of wood. With the help of my father-in-law we drew up some plans, bought the oak, cut the wood to the general specifications, and then he began to chisel away some grooves at the end of the wood so it would fit firmly into the lathe, and then we'd be able to turn the lathe on, use the tools, and shape the square posts into a rounded bedstead. But, the grooving proved difficult, he had to run an errand, and he gave me this piece of guidance: "You better wait until I get back because I'm not sure the grooves are deep enough to hold the wood once it starts spinning." He left; I got to looking at the wood and the grooves and (knowing nothing about what I was doing) became convinced that the grooves were deep enough, and I'd surprise him by getting a little of the lathing done. I had the machine on for about 1 minute when the 4 foot piece of oak came flying off the lathe and smacked me in the face -- a little chip of a tooth, some smashed glasses, and a little cut under the nose (and plenty of blood) only persuaded me of one thing: I should have listened.

The secret to guidance is knowing that we need it. Today, perhaps, we could begin to look over the bedsteads of our life and see if we are admitting the guidance we need -- and to begin asking the Lord for guidance -- and to begin listening to the Spirit's still, but pure, voice.

Sunday, June 19

The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime (pp. 93-94)

To read today's office, click here.

Happy Father's Day to all fathers who might come upon this blogsite!

The Prayer appointed for the Week is always a highlight for me. Today's prayer is apposite the entire office, which is dedicated to the theme of God's provisions for us and our need to trust in God to supply -- which is easy when we have supplies, easy to talk about when we might not have supplies, but very difficult when the supplies are running low.

God's provisions for us are not to be seen as the dispensing of gifts by some unknown god or by some rich estate manager who happens to dole out things now and again in order to keep the rabble quiet. Instead, our Prayer today equates God's provisions with his "loving-kindness." It reads: "For you never fail to help ... those whom you have set upon the sure foundation of your loving-kindness." The foundation upon which we are placed, placed as gently as a father placing a child into a bed of comfort or onto his back as he carries the child through the city, is the foundation of loving-kindness.

For this reason, the response we are to have for God's gracious provision is to ask God to give us "perpetual love and reverence for your holy Name." The response of a child of God to a God who has placed that child on the sure foundation of his perpetual loving-kindness is the response of loving God back. As John said, We love because God first loved us.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Saturday, June 18

The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime (pp. 93-94)

To read today's office, click here.

Centering down is an old Quaker expression for finding ourselves at the our center, a center where God meets us. There are all kinds of terms used for this: our inner self, our real self, and more importantly (from a biblical standpoint) our heart. We commune most deeply with God in our heart of hearts, when our heart says an authentic "Yes" to God's heart. When we simply tell the authentic truth about ourselves by simply handing ourselves to God.

I am impressed by the The Greeting this morning: "O God, you will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are fixed on you; for in returning and rest we shall be saved; in quietness and trust shall be our strength." There are paradoxes here: "peace" and "fixed" (a strength word), in "returning and rest" we are "saved"; and in "quietness and trust" we find "strength."

Perhaps with me you will be reminded of Brother Lawrence, who learned prayer by speaking authentically with God as a form of constant communion. His contribution to the lives of millions is "practicing the presence of God." This is what the Psalmist has in mind in our Greeting today: perfect peace comes from being fixed on God; we rest in God; we find our strength in God in a sweet quietness.

How The Divine Hours ties this into the gospel is a stroke of genius: The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light (Jesus Christ). Thus, with this stroke it is all tied together: the constancy of life, found in the presence of God, has become Incarnate in Jesus Christ, to whom we go to find rest for our soul.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Friday, June 17

The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime (pp. 93-94)

To read today's office, click here.

Because our God sits in judgment it is our responsibility, as the Reading for this morning tells us, to listen to the words of Jesus and act on those words. The gospel, as it is becoming clear in our generation as never before, is to be performed and it is the performance of the gospel that speaks most potently to many. Many today are asking the Church not only to proclaim its gospel but also perform that same gospel. They are asking this more of the Church and not just individual followers of Jesus.

The recent study of St Francis by Lawrence S. Cunningham has the subtitle of Performing the gospel life. St Francis, like many in our generation, was tired of hearing Church leaders squabble about land and about theology and about power and said to himself: "I will live as Jesus lived." And his testimony is known throughout the entire world -- and it is a witness in a brown gown to the impact of a person who performed the gospel.

God sits in judgment, and he calls us to perform the gospel daily -- and that is why we begin our day with our offices and in them we greet our Lord with this: "I cry to you for help; in the morning my prayer comes before you."

That is why we need to pray, with the Church, the Prayer appointed for the Week: Keep, O Lord, your household the Church in your steadfast faith and love, that through your grace each of us may proclaim your truth with boldness, and minister your justice with compassion ... for the sake of our Savior Jsus Christ." It is the Church that performs the gospel to the world, and it is ours to play a small role -- a role we can be grateful to have.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Thursday, June 16

The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime (pp. 84-85)

To read today's office, click here.

Today's reading weaves together two indissoluble themes: the goodness of God's grace and the need for us to "remain" (I prefer the KJV's "abide") in Christ. So, the Refrain puts it together perfectly: "no good things [God's gracious provision] will the Lord withhold from those who walk with integrity [remaining/abiding]." Because it is the Lord's wondrous provisions that keep us on the "straight and narrow," the Request for Presence says, "I call with my whole heart [every bit of me knows the need]; answer me, O Lord, that I may keep your statutes."

What I have noticed about the spiritual masters of the Christian tradition is this: each of them shows a very real and noticeable dependence on God's grace and, at the same time, an unwavering discipline to do what they know to be good and right.

Take John Bunyan's classic, The Pilgrim's Progress, a book unfortunately not read enough any more. Christian, the pilgrim character who lives out the Christian life, is constantly affirming how great the Lord's provisions are and how important it is for him to keep his mind on the business of staying on the path to the Celestial City.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Wednesday, June 15

The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime (pp. 84-85)

To read today's office, click here.

The practice of a sacred rhythm of prayer, or saying your prayers or offices daily, along with the Church, is rooted in Israel's reciting of the Shema ("Hear, O Israel") as found today in Deuteronomy 6:4-9. The Psalmist speaks of praying three times a day -- morning, noonday, and evening (actually the original text begins with evening, as the Jewish day began in the evening). The reason this is done is not so humans could feel special or religious, as if doing something religious three times a day somehow earned favor with God.

No, the reason for the sacred rhythm of prayer and praying with the Church is so we can reminded of what is most important. The reciting of the Shema twice a day reminds us that we are to love God as a central focus of life; Jesus' amendment of the Shema by adding "and love your neighbor as yourself" (what I call The Jesus Creed) enables us to be reminded that life is about loving God and loving others.

And our text today tells us that we need to be reminded of what God has done for us. The lines "come to us" and "come and listen all you who fear God" finds a wonderful climax in our Morning Psalm: "That which we have heard [by reciting the stories over and over!] and known, what our forefathers have told us, we will not hide from our children." What will they tell them? "We will recount to generations to come the praiseworthy deeds and power of the Lord, and the wonderful works he has done." Why? "That the generations to come might know." Why? "So that they might put their trust in God."

The major reason why recitation of Scriptures, which is what The Divine Hours is all about, is because not everyone had Scriptures at hand -- so the leaders read them aloud so the people could hear, listen, remember, and recite. We are fortunate to have all our Bibles, but this fortune needs to be met with responsibility -- the responsibility of reading and hearing and embracing and telling others of the great works of God.

Tuesday, June 14

The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime (pp. 78-80)

To read the office, click here.

The singular gift of the Christian faith is summed up in the word grace and it reverberates throughout this morning's lesson. God's glorious and providential control in the Call to Prayer, the "word" in which we can trust in the Request for Presence, the desire to glorify the Lord because of his "love" in the Greeting, dwelling in the "word" of Jesus in the Reading, the "new song" that the believer can sing in the Morning Psalm, but most especially in both the Refrain and the Prayer Appointed for the Week: "those who are planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish" and "that through your grace each of us may proclaim." Each of these carries on the theme of God's embracing and healing grace.

God calls us to himself and God enables us to answer that call; God calls us to serve him and God enables us; God gives us a new song and enables us through the Holy Spirit to sing that new song.

In our many walks in the last month Kris and I have seen numerous ducks with their new little family of babies. Somehow, someway those mother ducks communicate with their little ones. For, when we get near them the little ones have heard the voice of the mother, the mother has shown the way to safety, and the little ones need only waddle behind the mother to find that security -- sometimes into the water and othertimes into some clump of taller grasses.

In much the same way, God calls us into the safety of his grace and the security of his love, and all we need to do is listen and "waddle behind the direction God takes us." In that grace and love we become the ones who are "planted in the house of the Lord" and who can "flourish in the courts of our God.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Monday, June 13

The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime (pp. 74-75)

For the lesson, click here.

"Wait upon the Lord and keep his way; he will raise you up to possess the land." The vocation of each of us is to worship the Lord, but some bless the Lord while the fool says in his heart that there is no God. When the presence and power of God seem so far away and so hard to see, we are still to wait upon the Lord. Soon God will come.

This is the faith that Jesus teaches under the image of a mustard seed -- the faith that the little is the large. Bob Muzikowski, a business man in the inner city of Chicago, saw his neighborhood as a place where, if he could plant his mustard seed of loving his neighborhood by offering to administrate a baseball program, a big work could flourish. And it did. Though Bob spent plenty of time worrying and working and pushing and asking, eventually sign-up day came. The line was at first little more than a few stragglers, but before the day was done -- a full league and coaches. The league flowered, Bob ministered grace to hundreds of kids and families, and soon another league -- and then one off in New York, too.

Bob learned what the Psalmist learned: Wait upon the Lord. The little is large.

Sunday, June 12

The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime (pp. 68-70)

To read this morning's lesson, click here.

The "human problem," as the Bible's narrative tells it, begins with Adam and Eve. Actually, Genesis 1:2 tells us that God turned the primeval soupy tohu va-bohu ("formlessness and void") into a gloriously perfect order, setting human beings into an orderly world so they could live with God and before God in an orderly way. Adam and Eve are part of God's orderly creation.

But, Genesis 3 tells us that Adam and Eve, who here speak of each of us, opted for another way than God's perfect order. The wheels began to fall off, the tohu va-bohu began to creep its way back into the picture, and Cain killed Abel and humans, one after another, began to run east from Eden and do nasty things. And one long-term impact of all this is that the powerless were ignored and suppressed.

Jesus came to do what God said God had to do: "I will judge with equity." Jesus did just that by a Spirit-guided concern with the "affllicted," the "captives," the "blind," and the "oppressed." His mission: to liberate and to proclaim the "year of the Lord's favor" (if you have time, read this in light of Leviticus 25).

With one quick stroke of power we cannot heal the world's ills, but today, tomorrow, and throughout the steps of the rest of our days we can respond to those who are around us who speak of needs, who speak of afflictions, who speak of oppressions -- and when we do, we are doing what Jesus was called to do. Today, God's judging with equity is our own special vocation. Notice, sometime, the diversity -- or what ought to be the diversity -- of God's people. We have heard Jesus proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Saturday, June 11

Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime (pp. 64-65)
[If you'd like to read this morning's lesson, click here.]

Traditional places of worship or symbolic places of significance are and become even more a place where people meet God. A recent trip to Italy permitted us to visit the Roman Forum, now but a dust heap with an attempt to stand old, broken pillars and monuments up enough to give the resemblance of the glory that was once the Roman Empire. A short trip on a bus across the city and over the Tiber led us into St Peter's Square and the Cathedral, and that place was filled with pilgrims and tourists. For many it was a place of worship. (For myself, I was more awed by the Basilica of St Francis in Assisi.)

The Psalmist announces the happiness of those who are privileged to dwell in the Temple courts, and our Refrain this morning is this: "How dear to me is your dwelling, O Lord of hosts!" There is a whole world of mystery in this line.

Next we have a reading from John 10, in which we find the NT principle that Jesus fulfills the Temple as he forms his own flock from the whole world. "I know my own and my own know me" is all that needs to be said. We are now privileged to dwell in God's presence, or better yet, to have God's presence dwell in us. This is a grand turnaround on God's part -- instead of drawing us to his physical dwelling, God searches us out and dwells within us. We long for this dwelling.

Perhaps we need to learn more about the inner sanctum, the "inner sanctuary" that we are, where God's Spirit dwells in order to make the sort of people that declare forth the goodness of God's grace and dwelling.

As we prepare for Sunday, we could think about being a bundle of God-indwellt temples as we gather with others.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Friday, June 10

The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime (pp. 59-60)

We are invited in the Call to Prayer to "come now and see the works of God." And, we are reminded in the Refrain that "mercy and truth have met together" and that "righteousness and peace have kissed each other."

We see the works of God and we see holiness kiss love in the life of Jesus, who says he has loved us the way the Father has loved the Son.

Here's the sublimest privilege you and I as Christians can ever have: when we love God and others, as we are taught to do, we "perform" the very nature of God in the world around us. So, when we love God and love others, we bring together mercy and truth, righteousness and peace, and they are kissed in our lives.

John Wesley, that great revivalist, once challenged a skeptic to faith by saying, "Come and see." And what he wanted the skeptic to see was how the Christians lived their lives in such a way that the gospel was declared. In that community of faith the skeptic could see the "works of God" and could see holiness and love kiss; in short, he would see Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Thursday, June 9

The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime (pp. 54-55)

"Let not those who hope in you be put to shame through me, Lord God of hosts" says David. It is this "through me" that opens up our morning office. David is overwhelmed by his troubles, troubles at the hands of those who oppose the work of God through him. And David is quite willing to confess anything amiss that he has done. But, David's concerns here are not just, or even primarily, with himself.

Instead, David is worried that those who trust in God, those who have their hope in Israel's future, those who have taken the David Road to its promised kingdom -- he is worried that those whom he has drawn into the work of God through him might be put to shame. So, he calls on God to "act" for the sake of God's good people.

God is a great God; we are to lift up our soul to God for he will lift us up. But, David's concern is that those who have depended upon him will see the work of God so that their faith will not fail.

Do we, in line with David, think often of our own troubles instead of how our own troubles may impact those who are under our care? Maybe we can learn from David to turn our trials into an opportunity to ask God to "show off" for the good of God's good people.

Wednesday, June 8

The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime (pp. 50-51)

Our strength is in the Lord. That is why we pray "Send forth your strength, O God." By calling upon God to be our strength, we can then call out, "Wake up, my spirit" and we can read with meaning this morning's Gospel lesson: "As long as the day lasts we must carry out the work of the one who sent me." The waters may be lifted up, but the Lord's power is mightier still.

We need the Lord's mighty strength this very day. For a long while, before reciting the Lord's Prayer, I "warm up" with the the Shema (Deut. 6:4-9). Basically, "Hear O Israel, Love the Lord your God... and Love your neighbor as yourself." So, before reciting the Lord's Prayer I always recite the Jesus Creed. It reminds me of the two major vocations of life: to love God and to love others.

We need God's strength for this love -- because it is easy to love those we like but challenging to love those we don't. And we need God's strength for the latter.

We need God's strength to live out the Lord's Prayer -- it involves seeking God's holiness, his kingdom, his will, trusting him for daily provisions, enabling us to forgive others, and along with the customary daily petition for the Lord to preserve us at the end of each morning's lesson, we need God's strength to ward off temptations.

God's strength is our joy.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Tuesday, June 7

Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime (45-47)

Those who genuinely pray with the Church that God may inspire us to think those things that are right will learn, if they listen and look into the work God is doing in this world, that with God the little is the large. Mary, little more than a poor woman with deep piety and passion for the things of God, somehow knew that the little baby she was promised to deliver to the world would be the Son of God who would rout injustices and tear down arrogance and pride. And, as the giver of grace, that same Son of God would dispense mercy to generation after generation.

Mary, whose mind was attuned to what was "right" with God, knew first-hand that the little was large. She, too, said that from now on all generations (including Protestants!) would bless her. We bless her today.

And what we are grateful for is that our own little offerings, when we see what God is doing through us, can become large offerings in God's eyes.