Friday, January 20, 2017

Daily Lesson for January 20, 2017

Today's Daily Lesson is a prayer for Inauguration Day:

On this the Inaugural Day of our 45th President of the United States of America, we pray now for President Trump, for our country, and for our world.

As President Trump places his hand on the Bible and takes the Oath of Office, we pray your blessings upon him as he vows to serve and protect the people and the rights afforded them by our Constitution.

As President Trump assumes the role of Commander-in-Chief of the United States Armed Forces, we pray that he will solemnly consider the weight of this responsibility and  never forget or take for granted the great sacrifices made on the altar of this nation.

We pray now for the character of this our new President.  We pray for his spirit and well being.  Teach him now grace, humility and kindness, that vice might wane, virtue wax, and wisdom prevail.

We pray also for the character of our country.  We are one nation under you our God. May we prove ourselves so by striving always to be that city on a hill, freedom's beacon, a nation where there is truly liberty and justice for all.

And we pray also for this world. May you raise up leaders who dedicate themselves to peace and the protection of human rights in all corners of the globe. And may you level tyrants and despots and all those who would seek to enslave or oppress.  This world is your world and we are all your children. May we learn then to be our brothers' keepers and our sisters' friends.

This is the day that you have made, O LORD. May those who rejoice and are glad in it prove the goodness of this day with charity towards all and malice towards none. And may those who are anxious or dismayed on this day lift up their heads and be not afraid to speak their own truth in love for the sake of this our beloved country and world.

God bless this day.  God bless this President.  God bless the United States of America.  And God bless all these that they might in turn be a blessing unto the nations.

Amen.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Daily Lesson for January 19, 2016

Today's Daily Lesson comes from Isaiah chapter 45 verses 9 and 10:

9 “Woe to him who strives with him who formed him,
a pot among earthen pots!
Does the clay say to him who forms it, ‘What are you making?’
or ‘Your work has no handles’?
10 Woe to him who says to a father, ‘What are you begetting?’
or to a woman, ‘With what are you in labor?’”

What a need there is for all of us to accept, embrace, and love ourselves just as we are and not how we or somebody else wished we would be.

We need to learn to love what we do and how we look when we do it.

We need to learn to accept our size, our shape, and our color.

We need to learn to embrace our place and our purpose -- right there where we are and not where we're not.

We need to learn to bloom right where we've been planted -- for what would the desert be if the cactus withheld her coarse beauty?

We need to remember that he who is faithful in small things shall be given much.

We need to know that just as a gardener judges a lilac bush by its lilacs and not it's roses so we too will be judged by just how beautifully Ryon is Ryon and not somebody else.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. had a sermon he liked to preach called, "The Street Sweeper".  In it he said if one is just a street sweeper in life let him be the greatest street sweeper in all the world. Let him be "the Michaelangelo of street sweeping".

May I be the Michaelangelo of me today; and may you be the Michaelangelo of you too.  And together, let's create in ourselves a masterpiece.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Daily Lesson for January 18, 2016

Today's Daily Lesson comes from Mark chapter 4 verses 18 and 19:

18 And others are the ones sown among thorns. They are those who hear the word, 19 but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.

In Martin Scorsese's film "The Last Temptation of Christ", Jesus' final and most dramatic struggle with Satan comes in the temptation to come down from the Cross, marry, and live a nice and happy life. This is "the last temptation of Christ", a temptation which if given into would have meant that Jesus would not have in fact been the Christ. For their could be no Christ without self-renunciation, suffering, and Cross.

Today's Daily Lesson is a reminder to us that the ordinary desires and cares of this world are temptations for not only Jesus but also for all who follow him. We too would like to live quietly and peaceably, able to come home to our own homes and children without the burdens of our neighbors and their needs knocking on our doors. But the knocking persists, and those who follow Christ open the door. And the whole world comes in.

The word is sown in each of us. It is a word telling us to volunteer.  To pay a visit. To sing in the choir. To go to a school board meeting. To raise our voice. But the cares of home and the desire for a quiet and calm evening and an ordinary and peaceful life choke out the word.  Who knew just how subtle the temptation is, how shrewd the thorns of this world can be?

And at the end of four score and ten what is lost is the potential one single soul has to truly change the world.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Daily Lesson for January 17, 2016

Today's Daily Lesson comes from Mark chapter 3 verses 22 through 30:

22 And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem were saying, “He is possessed by Beelzebul,” and “by the prince of demons he casts out the demons.” 23 And he called them to him and said to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan? 24 If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25 And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. 26 And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but is coming to an end. 27 But no one can enter a strong man's house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man. Then indeed he may plunder his house.

28 “Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter,29 but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”— 30 for they were saying, “He has an unclean spirit.”

Today's Lesson is sometimes called "the Unpardonable Sin".  That is absolutely a very poor and damaging misinterpretation; for there is nothing that cannot be pardoned by God. "For nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ" (Romans 8)!
What Jesus says is that the son does not have "forgiveness" -- forgiveness meaning to be in a state of having given up or let go of one's sin. But the sin is held on to.  As Jesus says it is an "eternal sin", meaning it is a sin that goes on and on and on from one generation to the next throughout history. 

And what is the sin?  It is blasphemy agains the Holy Spirit -- naming good evil; calling what is holy unholy.

We can look back throughout history and see this is indeed an eternal and ageless sin. The work of the Holy Spirit moves to bring freedom and agency and deliverance from all manner of oppression and abuse and again and again what is good and holy is called evil and unholy and even demonic. 

Fair warning for those intent on seeing good done in this world: if they did this to Jesus they will do it to us also.  And this is why Jesus began his ministry by saying, "Blessed are you when  people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.  For they did the same to the prophets who came before you."

Monday, January 16, 2017

Daily Lesson for January 16, 2016

In lieu of today's Daily Lesson from the Scritpures I have instead elected to share the prayer I was honored to give yesterday at Lubbock's City-wide Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration and Worship Service:

Dear LORD,

We gather here this evening in your name and with Thanksgiving for the life of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

We are grateful for his light and life and the courage with which he lived out his convictions. He was the messenger of a dream -- a dream which changed not only the South, and not only America, but indeed the whole world, inspiring people in places far and wide to discover our own dignity within and empowering us to rise up and be the change we wish to see in this world. What a star he was under. We do thank you for him.

Forgive us, O God, when we cheapen the work and witness of your servant, Dr. King.  Chastise us for our complacency in celebrating his ministry while shrinking from our own. Rebuke us whenever we and our leaders build monuments to prophets past while disregarding their message for times present.

There is still work to be done, we know. The dream has not yet been realized. Mercy and truth have not yet met together. Justice has not yet run down like waters nor righteousness like a mighty stream. And so, provoke yet again. Stir up your people once more.  Unsettle us with the holy dissatisfaction of the prophets, and Dr. King, and Jesus of Nazareth that we ourselves might no longer be content with the way the world is but anxious and agitating for the way the world ought to be.

This is the meaning of MLK Day, and the meaning of this service in his prophetic name.  May it prove as much, and even more. Amen.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Daily Lesson for January 13, 2016

Today's Daily Lesson comes from Isaiah chapter 42 verses 1 through 3:

Behold my servant, whom I uphold,
my chosen, in whom my soul delights;
I have put my Spirit upon him;
he will bring forth justice to the nations.
2 He will not cry aloud or lift up his voice,
or make it heard in the street;
3 a bruised reed he will not break,
and a faintly burning wick he will not quench;
he will faithfully bring forth justice.

All of us are vulnerable.  All of us are fragile. We are, as the Scripture says, bruised reeds and faintly burning wicks. Most of us, however, try to deny our vulnerability.  And we protect ourselves from the reminders of our own vulnerability weakness by separating ourselves from the vulnerability and weakness of others. This is why so many people are so cold and even cruel to the weak; for the weakness in others reminds us of the weakness in ourselves.

The servant of God does not abhor or abuse weakness, but acts always with mercy and compassion towards those who are fragile, poor, and poor of spirit.  The servant of God is gentle with the weakness in others and gentle also with the weakness in their own spirit.

Weakness, fragility, and vulnerability are part of what it means to be human. We must learn to embrace and not deny the humanity in others and also the humanity in our own selves.

The faintly burning wick is not strong, it is not mighty or powerful. But it is courageous.  And it is alive.

And the servant of God holds it gently in the palm of their hand.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Daily Lesson for January 12, 2016

Today's Daily Lesson comes from Ephesians chapter 2 verses 11 through 16:

11 Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— 12 remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.

There is an old hymn, "In Christ There Is No East or West".  We should also say in Christ there is no black or white or brown.  Neither is there Jew nor Gentile. Instead, as Christians we have been given a fundamentally radical claim: that in our Christ a new humanity has been created on the cross.  The cross destroyed all alienation and separation and made peace amongst the people with God and with each other. 

This is why the talk which has apparently regained traction both here in the United States and in Europe about a "white nation" is so heretical. Christians do not believe in white nationalism or black nationalism or any other nationalism built upon race. For Christ has made of us all a new nation, and a new humanity.  The Scriptures are so bold as to say that Christ has "killed[ed] the hostility" between the races. Race and the hostility between races has been destroyed by Christ on the Cross. So, wherever there is yet again hostility or division or separation and segregation Christ is there again crucified. Anyone therefore who plays and preys upon and seeks to increase this hostility or dividing wall is, in fact, literally "anti-Christ".

There is an anti-Christ spirit on the rise now. It's intent is to steal, kill, and destroy. Do not fall prey.