Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Daily Lesson for July 26, 2016

Today's Daily Lesson comes from Matthew chapter 27 verses 39 through 43:

39 And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads 40 and saying, “You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” 41 So also the chief priests, with the scribes and elders, mocked him, saying, 42 “He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. 43 He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he desires him. For he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” 44 And the robbers who were crucified with him also reviled him in the same way.

This week at camp out Bible memorization was Hebrews 12:1b-2:

"Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God."

It's interesting to talk to kids about scorn and shame and ridicule because they are so present to it in so many ways. Whereas we adults, having learned to keep our heads down and avoid standing out, have become masters at avoiding shame and ridicule, children on the other hand are still exposed.  The kids I was with last week are still being mocked and terrorized by playground bullies and "mean girls".  Because of that a week at camp involves talking about the cross on an entirely deeper and more challenging level than most of us adults ever experience.  These children, seeking to hold onto themselves, their dignity, and the dignity of Christ's way, challenge and inspire me.

The last night of camp we sang a song called "The Summons", a line in which says:

"Will you risk the hostile stare
Should your life attract or scare?"

The children I was with are risking hostile stares in their schools.  They're risking hostile stares to love science, to dance, to befriend the disabled child in the class, to embrace having two moms, to read their Bible at lunch.  They're risking hostile stares in order to live the lives to which Christ is summoning them.

We must become like them.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Daily Lesson for July 25, 2016

Today's Daily a lesson comes from Matthew chapter 27 verses 24 through 26:

24 So when Pilate saw that he was gaining nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of bthis man's blood; see to it yourselves.” 25 And all the people answered, “His blood be on us and on our children!” 26 Then he released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, delivered him to be crucified.

There is a quote by Martin Luther King, Jr. that I think of when I read this passage about Pilate acquiescence to the crowd:

"Cowardice asks the question, is it safe?
Expediency asks the question, is it politic?
Vanity asks the question, is it popular?
But, conscience asks the question, is it right?"

Day in and day out we all have our little questions about what we should or should not do; how much we should get involved, whether or not we should speak up, what good it would do if we did. We are not that different from Pontius Pilate. We all have within our spheres the choice between sticking our necks out or keeping our heads down, getting our hands dirty or washing them clean.  We ought not to throw stones at Pilate. I dare not. He turned over Jesus to prevent a riot; I have turned him over for a mess of pottage.

Earlier this year during Lent I kept saying to the church that Jesus has set his face hard towards Jerusalem and the Cross and we are trying to follow as far and as faithfully as we possibly can. Few set out at all.  Others quit when their mother calls. The rest scatter when the authorities arise. All fall short.

And so, in the end it's true: only grace can save us.  We can't save ourselves -- not even when we save ourselves.

I know today I will give up, I will give in, I will give out. I'll wash my hands in some way to spare myself the ire of the crowd or the misery of the cross. But for now, I see the Galilean on the Hill and I hear his words, and I think to myself maybe I can get a few yards closer . . .

Friday, July 22, 2016

Daily Lesson for July 22, 2016

Today's Daily Lesson comes from Psalm 51 verses 15 through 17:

15 O Lord, open my lips,
and my mouth will declare your praise.
16 For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it;
you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.
17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

Humility is the path to our redemption.

The word "humility" comes from the same word we get "hummus" from. It is the Latin word "humando", meaning "of the earth".  To be humble is to think of oneself as being of the earth.  Humility keeps us "grounded".

I once heard Richard Rohr say he prays for a daily dose of humiliation, some daily reminder that he is human and not God.  It's a pretty radical practice to pray to God to be humiliated today. It's an even more radical practice to pray it again tomorrow.

There is an old story of a young man who came to a monk saying he feared his sins were too much for God to forgive.  The monk replied, "God is an artist; and his favorite medium is mud."

When we finally get it they our real name is mud, that we are sinners, and that all our sanctimony and sacrifice and playing church won't change it, then we're ready.  Then it's time for the artist's hands to get hold of us, and make us into something new and beautiful.

Lord, give me the humility to let it happen today.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Daily Lesson for July 21, 2016

Today's Daily Lesson comes from Romans chapter 15 verses 5 and 6:

5 May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, 6 that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Over the last few weeks I have been gathering with a number of pastors from across our city to discuss and seek to positively and proactively respond to the events now afflicting our nation. We are both interdenominational and interracial in makeup, important characteristics for a group trying to model unity in a time of so much division.

"We need to be in harmony with one another," one of the pastors said.  "We can all be singing the same words to the same hymn from the same hymn book, but unless we are in harmony with one another it's just not going to sound good."

In music, harmony is the mixing of varying, yet simultaneous pitches or chords.  You need the sopranos, the altos, the tenors, and the basses all singing to reach harmony.  Each voice has its place and it's pitch; and knowing just how and when to pipe in is the art of making harmonious music.

There's a debate going on right now across our country about the place  of certain slogans like "Black Lives Matter", "Blue Lives Matter" and "All Lives Matter".  Let me suggest that all these slogans belong. They make up our chorus and each is important in its own right, in its own place, and with its own volume.  They each belong in their own right; but they also belong to and with and for one another.  They each and all belong; but they belong together -- in harmony.

In his "I Have a Dream"speech, Dr. King used the metaphor of music when he encouraged us to "transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood."  That's the dream. And even if we haven't heard it yet in chorus, we read it on paper and hear it in our heads.  Harmony. It's music to our ears. And our hearts. And God's heart also.

Now, who wants to join the choir?

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Daily Lesson for July 20, 2016

Today's Daily Lesson

Four or five years ago Kathleen my friend from church had been down at St Benedicts Chapel for a Sunday morning service with the homeless community downtown. After the service, one of the homeless guys came and put a $100 bill into the collection plate. Now, $100 can go a long ways on the streets but this person said he wanted the money to "go to feeding the poor."

Kathleen came back to Second B for our late service and told me about what happened earlier that day at St Benedict's. Then, that night I had been asked to go over to an anniversary service for another church on the other side of town. They took up the collection and I reached for my wallet to kick in a $10 spot. It was then I realized that all I had was a $100 bill.

I tell you, the LORD does sometimes work in MISCHIEVOUS ways.

May those with ears to hear let them hear.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Daily Lesson for July 19, 2016

Today's Daily Lesson comes from Matthew chapter 26 verses 47 through 52:

47 While he was still speaking, Judas came, one of the twelve, and with him a great crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the elders of the people. 48 Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “The one I will kiss is the man; seize him.” 49 And he came up to Jesus at once and said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” And he kissed him. 50 Jesus said to him, “Friend, do what you came to do.” Then they came up and laid hands on Jesus and seized him. 51 And behold, one of those who were with Jesus stretched out his hand and drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his ear. 52 Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword.”

A couple of years back Reza Aslan, a former Christian turned Muslim religious scholar, wrote a bestselling book titled "Zealot" which basically implied that Jesus was a revolutionary figure who was put to death for fomenting a violent insurrection against the occupying Roman military and political power.

Indeed, these were the charges leveled against Jesus by those who sought his execution. Jesus' followers, however, were adamant in their defense of Jesus, stating consistently again and again in the documents we would later know as the Gospels that though the State's charge against was inciting violence, Jesus in fact categorically rejected violence -- even to the point of refusing to defend himself.

Jesus taught that violence is not only wrong, but also ineffective and ultimately even suicidal. "Those who live by the sword shall die by the sword." What we have witnessed in recent days in both Dallas and Baton Rouge are cases in point. Those who take up guns die by guns.

Jesus was a brown-skinned man from Galilee, a region known for its hostile and rebellious defiance against Roman authority and abuse. He had among his followers zealots, people who had studied and trained and were prepared to die in revolt.  Yet Jesus taught another way.  He too was willing to die, but not with a sword in his hand. He too was willing to give his life, in an act of love and not in of hate.

Jesus tried to teach that other way; and he is still trying to teach it now.

It is the only way that makes for peace.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Daily Lesson for July 18, 2016

Today's Daily Lesson comes from Romans chapter 13 verses 8 through 10:

8 Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. 9 For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

Mother Teresa once diagnosed the world's ills: "If we have no peace, it's because we've forgotten we belong to each other."

Now is a time for remembering that we belong together:

-- for remembering that we're neighbors

-- for remembering that we're friends

-- for remembering that we're brothers and sisters and all children of the same Heavenly Father

Both Jesus and St Paul each summed up the law with the command to love neighbor as we love ourselves. That means to wish the best for our neighbor, to look out for our neighbor, to walk the extra mile with our neighbor, and never ever seek to wrong or harm our neighbor -- nor tolerate those who do.  Neighbors don't tolerate the violence against people who belong to them.

All those who have lost their lives in recent weeks belonged to us. These were our sons and our brothers. And it was our mothers and our sisters kissed who kissed them on the head at the door as they left and fretted over them when they they didn't call or text.  Black or Blue, White or Brown, that is true for every family; it's true for our country's family.

"Who is my neighbor?" the lawyer asked Jesus. And his response was the Samaritan -- the man of another race and ethnicity.  He was the neighbor because he was the one who crossed the tracks to act with care and compassion. He was the neighbor and in being a good neighbor he became even a brother.

We should go and do likewise.

We belong to each other. We are neighbors. God longs for us to be sisters and brothers. When we remember this we shall have.

"And blessed are the peacemakers."