Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Judge Not That You Not Be Judged

Wherefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest. For wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself. For thou dost the same things which thou judgest. -- Romans 2:1 (Douay-Rheims 1899)
Being judgemental is a common human trait.  It has evolved to the state in America of an expectation in everyday conversation.  Individuals earn their livelihoods by being critics; we are commonly called upon to issue opinions about others.  So much judgement gets tossed around that it is difficult to avoid it.  This has got to put an ache in God's heart!

Paul's astute observation is that if you judge others you will only be condemning yourself.  My father would say, "Point that finger at me and see three others pointing back at you."  Another cliche is, "It takes one to know one."  Being judgemental is wrong simply because it violates grace.  The acts of which we may accuse someone are not the issue; the issue is the act of judging others and the corrupt state of our own heart that judging demonstrates it to be.  The vast majority of judging acts boil down to petty attempts to raise our own worth or value above those around us.  When we have to engage in demeaning others to raise our own worth we have grossly forgotten the saving grace through which God adopted us.  It is a spit in God's eye when we have to say, "I'm good because (so & so) is doing (these bad things.)"  God says, "But what about your goodness that I paid for on the cross?  Does it not mean a thing?  Why must you condemn others, when that condemnation was yours as well before I bought you back?  GO - and sin no more."

The grace that bought you your safety and assured eternal life is the same grace that assures and embraces the person you may be tempted to condemn or judge.    Remember that today!

Grace-filled Creator, grant us a powerful appreciation for the gifts of acceptance and the deep abiding grace of our salvation from pettiness, darkness and sin.  Grow us in benevolence and retard our arrogance.  In Christ's name.  Amen.     

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Wake Up

Take heed, watch and pray, for ye do not know when the time is -- Mark 13:33 (Darby)
This is the first Sunday of Advent.  The watchword for Advent is, "Wake Up."  Life in these United States is largely about sleeping.  Most of us hate getting up, not wanting to face our day.  We have gotten anesthetized to being alive and alert; so many things numb us out.  Shopping is a fix to remove us from troubles; alcohol deadens the senses; busy-ness helps distract from all the demands of which we do not want to think.  There are problems galore and we simply don't want to know or see.  But, the coming Christ admonishes us to, "Wake up!  Watch!  Pray, for we do not know when the time is."  Yet, we don't wake up to His coming.  Is it because we don't believe it's immanent?  Don't have time for religious hocus pocus?  Can't find the time for watching meditatively?  Sleeping is easier.  Is it?

Is sleeping easier than hope, than peace, than joy, than love -- the traditional virtues represented by each lighted candle in the Advent wreath?  Is sleeping more desirable than waking up to the healing, transformation, and assurance Christ brings into our lives and the world?  This Advent let go of your sleepiness and all the things that help you stay asleep: consumerism, work, substance abuse, and busy schedules.  Take time to evaluate your life.  Light an Advent Candle and ponder the "eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, begotten not made, of one Being with the Father."(1)

Dear God, open our eyes to see and our ears to hear the wonder of heaven touching earth.  Amen.

(1) Words from the traditional "Nicene Creed."

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Have Grace

Wherefore let us, receiving a kingdom not to be shaken, have grace, by which let us serve God acceptably with reverence and fear.  --Hebrews 12:28 (Darby)
Grace is a spiritual foundation around which life revolves.  If we were fish, grace would be the water, and the sides of the aquarium would be the kingdom.  We are surrounded by the safe walls of God's kingdom.  Living in the kingdom, we live and breathe the grace of God.  If we live conscious of what is ours through grace, we look at each one around us with supreme reverence (they too live because of grace!) and embrace the sheer out-of-control power of God who cares for us in ways we can't imagine. 

Grace-filled Master care for us and each of those we meet this day.  Help us to see others and all situations as your creations; let us behave accordingly.  Amen.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving Blessings

Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name. --Psalms 100:4

Henry W. Baker wrote "The King of Love, My Shepherd Is" in 1868.  One verse reads:
Thou spreadest a table in my sight;
thy unction grace bestoweth;
and oh, what transport of delight
from thy pure chalice floweth!
I was caught by the words: "unction grace."  Unction means "the shedding of a divine or spiritual influence upon a person." (1)  As we sit down to the tables we spread, let us each be aware of the unction grace that God instills upon and all around us.  Let us take pause and think of the blessing Jesus Christ placed on that chalice centuries ago, remembering His sacred acts, and all the hands and all the lips across which covenantal wine has flowed, even to ours and our beloveds.  He is our God and we are His people!

Be Present at our table Lord; be here and everywhere adored.  These mercies bless, and and grant that we may feast in paradise with thee.  Amen. 


Monday, November 21, 2011

The Good Shepherd Is Seeking You Out

 For thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I, even I, will both search my sheep, and seek them out.
 As a shepherd seeketh out his flock in the day that he is among his sheep that are scattered; so will I seek out my sheep, and will deliver them out of all places where they have been scattered in the cloudy and dark day. -- Ezekiel 34:11-12 (KJV)
When I heard this read I almost thought it was a passage from one of the Gospels.  Yet, it's from the Old Testament prophet, Ezekiel.
I think about all the people in tough straits this year.  Like little scared sheep hiding under a bush rustled by the wind they hide.  Huddled uncertain from where their next meal is coming, wondering whether they will have a roof over their heads, lost in the maze of mental illness, or even more simply just blue or sad over the approach of the holidays and God comes seeking.  No matter where you might find yourself hiding, God actively seeks you out to deliver you from the dark cloudy space in which you find yourself.  God is not seeking you out for reprimand or criticism, but God places you over His shoulders and walks you right out of the darkness into the light of security and protection.  That is the nature of God's love, and how God's character of His shepherding is.

As Thanksgiving nudges itself closer let yourself have some grateful moments where you listen for the Shepherd's voice calling you out of wherever you're hiding yourself.  Recollect that God's hand appears to hold yours when things are awkward, hard, scary, uncertain, challenging, or empty; you only have to take it and give thanks.

Gentle Shepherd of our souls, allow us not to live in the blind delusions of self-imposed exiles from you.  We lift up to You whatever has befallen us and pray Your strength and healing to be present for us in strong and certain ways.  In Christ's abiding presence.  Amen.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Thou Art From Everlasting

Thy throne is established of old: Thou art from everlasting.  --Psalm 93:2

We possess, and have within our control, a powerful relationship with God.  God established the universe, the light, and all that is; down to, and including, the fingerprints on your very fingers.  Our relationship with God is ours to work as we choose.  God meets us wherever we are.

The thing we should know about God is that through the love God shared with humanity through Jesus Christ we can be completely certain that love never fails.  If we are going through tough times, we can turn to God.  If we are going through good times, God will rejoice with us.  The love of God never fails.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Spiritual Food

I am the living bread which came down from heaven.  If any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever; and the bread that I will give, is my flesh, for the life of the world.  -- John 6:51-52 (Douay-Rheims 1899)
Spiritual Food

Manna                    Living Bread
Balm of Gilead             Water turned to wine
Eucharist                 Communion
Baptism                Gathered Worship

Divine Presence
A Widow's measure of flour and oil
Loaves & Fishes                   Last Supper
Quail           Scripture
Prayer               Lamb of God
Anointing Oil        Cup Overflowing


Friday, November 11, 2011

Cleaning from the Inside

Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess.  Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also.  --Matthew 23:25-26 (KJV)
The 23rd chapter of Matthew is filled with "woe unto you" phrases aimed at the Pharisees.  This particular woe-unto-you couplet has advice for us - namely how to change our lives.  True change needs to happen from the inside out.  Change can't happen from polishing up our exteriors, putting on a fine suit of clothes and a spot of makeup.  Change must come from the inside, mending a tarnished, excessive, selfish heart.  Napoleon is said to have said, "Only people of the Spirit actually change things, the rest of us just rearrange them."  Fixing what is wrong with our lives and mending our hearts does not happen through our own hard work, it is a Spirit movement.  To attempt change only under our own powers will only superficially rearrange how we think of ourselves, not actually transform our thinking.  Life engaged with the Spirit is transformational; self-help does nothing.  

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Conspiracy of Blessing

Blessed they who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled. --Matthew 5:6 (Darby)
Human beings are a mixture of physical and spiritual.  The physical element, because it is so tangible, steals more of our attention while our spiritual element probably occupies more of what is important in life.  The spiritual element is built of God's blessing.  There is a thin veil that separates our spiritual awareness from the physical; a veil that can be crossed through prayer, word, and sacrament.

Jesus lists a host of positive, gentle attributes that reflect the basic (default) blessing that is present just across the veil.  When we speak a blessing to another the reality of the spiritual support that is our foundation becomes conscious.  Consciousness of blessing brings out all of the attitudes Jesus mentions in the Beatitudes.  Consciousness of our blessing in Christ brings us peace, humility, comfort, purity of heart, etc. (See Matthew 5 for the whole list.)  

We can make the world move closer to a Kingdom of God, Beatitude place through a conspiracy of blessing.  Saying "Bless you," or "God bless you," or "Blessings on your day," invokes the love of God and generates a "blessing wave" that ripples in concert or harmony with Christ's redemptive intention for all the world.  Praying for people -- just random blessing prayers for the innocent person just standing there in front of you minding their own business has unknown effects - if not for the person prayed for, then for you; for in the act of praying you cross the physical/spirit veil to touch the healing presence of God's love.  Go about your day participating in the conspiracy of blessing and see how God works through it.

God of Blessing and Love, set aside my solitary focus on the physical aspects of life.  Allow me to touch multiple times today the blessing of Your power by remembering how Your blessing surrounds me.  Make me a conspirator of Your love by helping me to remember to bless those around me.  In Christ's steps and way.  Amen.

Friday, November 4, 2011

For Love of God

O sing unto the LORD a new song: sing unto the LORD, all the earth.
Sing unto the LORD, bless his name; shew forth his salvation from day to day. (Psalms 96:1-2) (KJV)
"Often in these times we seem to be grasping at straws in our weak attempts to meet the terrifying demands of a world seemingly at odds with creation and its Creator."(1)
This is the opening line on the jacket cover for a book by Brother Lawrence entitled, The Practice of the Presence of God.  Brother Lawrence was perhaps one of the more humble men in Christian history, spending most of his latter life as a cook in a monastery.  Brother Lawrence is the guy who integrates his work with prayer so tightly that they become one activity.  Brother Lawrence spoke unceasingly about doing everything for love of God -- every thought, every action, every deed, every word should be done out of love for God.