Friday, February 12, 2016

Daily Lesson for February 12, 2016

Today's Daily Lesson comes from John 17 verse 9:

"I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me . . ."

There is a saying about the dinner table which is proverbially about a lot more than just dinner: "I have more than I can say grace over."

We are called to pray at all times, but we cannot pray over everything.  We are to bear each others' burdens, but we can't bear everyone's burdens all the time.  To try leaves us overly worried and emotionally exhausted. Compassion fatigue is a real thing; it's the human being's natural defense against spiritual and emotional overload.

We don't have to pray for all the world, nor take on all its problems. Nor should we!  We are to pray for and tend to only what has been given us -- in other words, what we can hold in our hands, at any one time.

Anything more than what we can say grace over really is more than we ought to have before us anyways.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Daily Lesson for February 11, 2016

Today's Daily Lesson comes from Habakkuk chapter 3 verses 17 and 18:

17 Though the fig tree should not blossom,
nor fruit be on the vines,
the produce of the olive fail
and the fields yield no food,
the flock be cut off from the fold
and there be no herd in the stalls,
18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord;
I will take joy in the God of my salvation.

Now here is one of the most challenging and inspiring words in all of Scripture.  I have attempted to re-write it for today:

Though things didn't turn out like we hoped,
And the venture failed,
Everything went south,
And we just couldn't make anything grow,
The flock wandered away and didn't come back,
And the herd was lost amidst the storm,
Yet, I can still be joyful in the LORD;
I can still sing a hymn to God on Sunday.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Daily Lesson for February 10, 2016

Today's Daily Lesson comes from Psalm 32 verse 5:

5 I acknowledged my sin to you,
and I did not cover my iniquity;
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,”
and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah

Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the Lenten season and the day set aside for Christians to don ashes on their foreheads and hands as a sign of penitence.  A colleague in ministry told her flock yesterday that we wear the ashes to remind ourselves that we are dying and ought to live like dying people.

As we begin the Lenten journey, we follow along Christ's journey to Jerusalem, and to the cross. None of us will go all the way; no one else will die and descend into the very depths of hell as He did. We thank God we do not have to!  The Lenten experience is Christ's invitation to us to come and be near -- to stay awake as he prays in Gethsemane, and to come and stand close as he is crucified at Golgotha.  Christ's place is on the cross; but we have a place also -- at the foot, as close as we might dare.

The nearer we come to the cross the nearer we come to the truth of our own fears, shortcomings, and mortality. The further we go the more exhausted and exposed we are. To stand there, within voice distance of Jesus as he remains silent before ridicule, refuses to be put out of his own misery, and even expresses forgiveness to those who are killing him reveals to us just how frail and deficient our faith really is. This is what it means to stand under conviction. We too are dying; and this is how we ought to live as dying people.

And yet, not only those who kill Jesus, but we too hear his words.  "Father, forgive them."  We hear these words because we have dared to follow after, and come close -- as close as we can, even within earshot. And when we hear Jesus say these words, we know they are not only for his enemies who hated him, but also for his friends who love him, but do not love him enough.

The journey begins. May we take up our cross and follow. And may we follow as far and faithfully as we can.

Scrap Metal Cross, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN.[retrieved February 10, 2016]. Original source:

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Daily Lesson for February 9, 2016

Today's Daily Lesson comes from Philippians chapter 3 verses 3 through 9:

"[P]ut no confidence in the flesh—4 though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. 7 But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him."

In the end the good news is that nothing can save us except God. But the good news is also disturbing news because it forces us to accept the passing away of all that which is not God.

Tribe passes, along with all political parties and sectarian divides. Religion is swallowed up. Pride of nation is drowned in a vast sea of love. Javert's zeal finds peace in surrendering to the mercy found in Bishop Myriel. Righteous pretense is proved impure in the purifying light which exposes all things great and small. Heaven and earth pass away.

And all else save the gain of God and Christ are found to be rubbish, worthless, fool's gold.

It's good news for those who believe; but it's disturbing news to the present order and import of all things here and now.

In the end nothing will save us except God; all else must then die and be mourned.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Daily Lesson for February 8, 2016

Today's Daily Lesson comes from Proverbs chapter 27 verse 5:

          "Better is open rebuke
than hidden love."

and John chapter 18 verses 15 through 18:

15 Simon Peter followed Jesus, and so did another disciple. Since that disciple was known to the high priest, he entered with Jesus into the courtyard of the high priest, 16 but Peter stood outside at the door. So the other disciple, who was known to the high priest, went out and spoke to the servant girl who kept watch at the door, and brought Peter in. 17 The servant girl at the door said to Peter, “You also are not one of this man's disciples, are you?” He said, “I am not.” 18 Now the servants and officers had made a charcoal fire, because it was cold, and they were standing and warming themselves. Peter also was with them, standing and warming himself.

Most of the betrayal in life is not of the willful and active sort, but rather of the passive and silent kind. To betray is to "prove false"; and we can be proven false either by action or inaction, words or silence. Most of us are not Judas; but we are all Peter.

In a speech in the last year of his life, Dr. King said, "In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends."  This was the same sentiment written in Book of Proverbs two millennia before: "Better is open rebuke than hidden love."

Last week at school my daughter Gabrielle was on the playground when she was confronted with a group of her classmates belittling another kind of classmate for something that was deemed disgraceful.  Would she speak up or keep quiet?

We're not on the playground anymore but the same choice remains; and it doesn't get any easier.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Daily Lesson for February 5, 2016

Today's Daily Lesson comes from Hebrews chapter 12 verses 5 through 10:

“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him.
6 For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and chastises every son whom he receives.”
7 It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. 9 Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness.

Yesterday I wanted very much to be somewhere with some people I care deeply about. Alas, one of my son's case of Strep Throat thwarted my plans. I was deeply disappointed. Then later in the day after we came home from the doctor's office with the official diagnosis, I look up and see the boys have decided to share the sucker the doctor was so kind to give us. Shared sucker. Shared strep.  I nearly blew a gasket. I was angry at the boys, resentful of having to miss something important, and wondering if there was a hotline to call and report the doctor for violating her Hippocratic Oath to do no harm.

Today I see my own sin -- my own impatience, resentfulness, and tendency to blame. Today I can see more clearly what I do when life is beyond my control.

I don't like seeing all this in myself. I don't like seeing the sin. I don't like being stung with its truth. In short, I don't like being disciplined the way God disciplined me yesterday.

Yet like my one, and probably now two sons I have to take my medicine. I don't like the way it tastes, but I know it's good for me. I know it's God's way of making me well, making me whole, making me holy.

Anger and blame are besetting sins which come out when I can't control things. That's a serious diagnosis. And yesterday I had to take a strong dose of acceptance.  I winced when I swallowed it.

And I didn't even get a sucker afterward.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Daily Lesson for February 4, 2016

Today's Daily Lesson comes from Psalm 74 verse 16a:

"Yours is the day, yours also the night."

The psalmist who penned these words was writing from the ashes of the destroyed sanctuary. National calamity had befallen the nation.  Everything had been torn down, profaned, and burned. Everyone was wondering if God had forgotten them, if the LORD had cast them off forever (verse 1).

It is into this time of desolation and grief that the psalmist's words defiantly speak: "Yours is the day, yours also the night."

It may be whistling in the dark; but it's more than that also. This is what true faith looks like.

Last night in a class at our church we finished watching the film "The Mission", staring Jeremy Irons and Robert DeNiro as two 18th century Jesuit priests serving a mission to the native peoples in South America. At the end of the film, the mission is attacked by colonial powers, all is destroyed, and the two Jesuits and most of the villagers are killed. It is a heavy and disturbing end. But then, just before the conclusion of the film a young village boy takes up and begins the cross of one of the fallen Jesuits.  The final words into the film just before the credits are from the beginning of the Gospel of St John, "The light shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot overcome it."

Heartache, loss, calamity and devastation cannot be avoided in this mission of living. The experience of the darkness a part of the journey -- half of the journey. And yet, the darkness too belongs to God. It too is tamed by God. In the end, it too will be swallowed up by God.

The light within us is most manifest in the darkness; the life we bear is most meaningful in the shadow of death.  To God belongs the day, and also the night; and to God belongs the children of light even in the darkest of midnight hours.