Thursday, April 2, 2015

A Prayer for Maundy Thursday

(**A prayer for Maundy Thursday**)

This day of dread and betrayal denial 
and causes a pause in our busyness. 
Who would have thought that you would take
this eighth son of Jesse 
to become the pivot of hope in our ancient memory?

Who would have thought that you would take
this uncredentialed
Galilean rabbi
to become the pivot of newness in the world?

Who would have thought that you-
God of gods and Lord of lords-
would fasten on such small, innocuous agents
whom the world scorns
to turn creation toward your newness?

As we are dazzled,
give us the freedom to resituate our lives in modest,
uncredentialed, vulnerable places.
We ask for freedom and courage to move out from our nicely
arranged patterns of security
into dangerous places of newness where we fear to go.
Cross us by the cross, that we may be Easter marked. 

By Walter Brueggemann, Awed to Heaven, Rooted in Earth

Friday, July 25, 2014

Cry With Us

 This is a season of weeping and mourning but it is not void of hope. 
Our tears are the bridge between brutality and humanity; 
Our tears are the salty gates for seeing a different reality; 
Our tears are facing soulless nations and a parched mentality; 
Our tears are the dam preventing rivers of animosity; 

For the sake of the mourning men cry with us to reflect your amity;
 For the sake of the poor children cry with us demanding sanity;
 For the sake of lamenting mothers refuse violence and stupidity;
 Love your enemies and cry with them is the advice of divinity;
 Blessing those who curse is the path to genuine spirituality;

 Pouring tears of mercy and compassion is true piety;
 Pray with tears for the sake of spreading equity;
 Followers of Jesus: crying is now our responsibility;
 But don’t cry for your friends only but also for your Enemy.

A Prayer in the midst of the Israelie-Palestanian conflict by Dr. Yonanna Katanacho
(academic Dean, Bethlehem Bible College)

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Work: What the heck am I called to do? (Part 2)

"The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you." | Genesis 12:1

In my 14 years of pastoral ministry many have asked me, “Sam, what is God calling me to? Does God call only a select few? Why isn’t my calling clear?” Often when these questions are asked, calling is associated with a career (a specific job we do) or a place (a country or an organization where we do a job). To be honest, this association continues to lead many to feelings of failure, insecurity and discontentment and also to constant comparisons, indifference and inaction. For someone to be called they first need a caller, and a career and a place cannot call us.

In Scripture, we find God is the one who calls. He calls an individual like Moses, a family like Abraham and a nation like Israel to do certain things and to go to specific places. Jesus called Peter, Matthew, Andrew and the other disciples by name to repent from their self centred ways to a God centred life. A careful reading of the Scripture quickly makes us aware that there is more to calling than just a career or a place. While the call to a specific place or career may be clearer for some, the dramatic and crystal clear minority experiences of some should not become the majority expectation of all (Os Guiness).

Let us look at calling this way. The Greek word for church is “ekklesia” which means the ones that are called out. God calls His Church primarily to Himself than to an organization or a country or a career. A calling is not something the church chooses. The Church is chosen. Paul Stevens rightly states that in the Bible there is only one call of God that comes to God’s people, but there are three dimensions in that call: to belong to God, to be set apart as God’s people and to do God’s work.

In this sense, all are called, all are called together and all are called to every aspect of life. This understanding equips the church to live focused on God so that the needs and skills around us does not become our call. This understanding of calling also contributes to a deep sense of meaning and identity that is formed by whose we are rather than what we do. What this means is that even when we are unemployed or retired or disabled or sick, we are defined by whose we are rather than what we do.

So instead of getting frustrated with the specifics and pausing our whole life to figure out what organization we need to work for, what country we need to move to or what career we need to choose (although they may have their place), may we ask ourselves as people called by God, how can we with our existing abilities and opportunities join with God in what He is doing and be of greatest service to other people in the here and now?

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Work: Is it a Curse, an Idol or a Gift? (Part 1)

"The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it." | Genesis 2:15
What does work mean? Why do we do it? What is it all about? The answer to these questions depends on the story we attach to our work. Everything finds meaning in the context of the story.

If the story we attach to is achievement and success and making a name for ourselves, then we become an end in itself. We will do everything in our power, even if it is exploiting, dehumanizing, demonizing or discriminating other people to attain what we want. In this story we are the center and we work to consume and hoard for ourselves.

If the story we attach to is survival we’d do everything in our power to exploit and abuse our own bodies to make ends meet. In this story work is viewed as a punishment or a curse that we dream of escaping from. It is all about our desire to move from poverty to privilege.

If the story we attach to is dualism then we divide work into sacred and secular or special and not so special. Work like pastors, missionaries and doctors are looked at as sacred or special and singers, artists, businessmen, waiters, carpenters, gardeners, dry cleaners and storeowners are looked as secular and not so special. In this story some are called to God’s work and others are not.

But if we attach work to God’s story and see that God works, he made a good world and created us to work it and take care of it. Then work is a gift and it is good.

Although work is good it can be drudgery and frustrating at times as it is affected by sin like every other aspect of life (Genesis 3:17-19). However, it is neither a curse to be avoided nor an idol to be obsessed over but God’s grand purpose for us. God has redeemed us in Jesus and has invited us to join him in restoring and renewing and reconciling all creation.

God cares about every work we do from changing diapers at home to setting chairs for a worship service to finishing projects at our jobs. God cares about every relationship, the environment, the products we make, the companies we work for, and the customers we serve. This understanding of work elevates the purpose of work from making money and exploiting others for our gain to loving our neighbor and environment and in the process glorifying God.

"And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him" (Colossians 3:17).

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Easter Us

You God who terrified the waters,
who crashed your thunder,
who shook the earth, and
scared the wits out of chaos.
You God who with strong arm saved your people
by miracle and wonder and majestic act.
You are the same God to whom we turn,

we turn in our days of trouble,
and in our weary nights;
we look for steadfast love and are dismayed,
we wait for your promises, but wait in fatigue,
we ponder your forgetfulness and lack of compassion,
and we grow silent.

Our lives, addressed to you,
have this bitter-sweet taste of
loud-clashing miracles and weak-kneed doubt.
So we come in our bewilderment and wonderment,
deeply trusting, almost afraid to trust much,
passionately insisting, too timid to insist much,
fervently hoping, exhausted for hoping too much.

Look upon us in our deep need,
mark the wounds of our brothers and sisters just here,
notice the turmoil in our lives, and the lives of our families,
credit the incongruity of the rich and the poor in our very city,
and the staggering injustices abroad in our land,
tend to the rage out of control, rage justified by displacement,
rage gone crazy by absence, silence, and deprivation,
measure the suffering,
count the sufferers,
number the wounds.

You tamer of chaos and mender of all tears in the canvas of creation,
we ponder your suffering,
your crown of thorns,
your garment taken in lottery,
your mocked life,
and now we throw upon your suffering humiliation,
the suffering of the world.
You defeater of death, whose power could not hold you,
come in your Easter,
come in your sweeping victory,
come in your glorious new life.
Easter us,
salve wounds,
break injustice,
bring peace,
guarantee neighbor,

Easter us in joy and strength.
Be our God, be your true self, lord of life,
massively turn our life toward your life
and away from our anti-neighbor, anti-self deathliness.
Hear our thankful, grateful, unashamed Hallelujah!

A Prayer by Walter Brueggemann, March 29, 1994

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

A Four-Fold Benedictine Blessing

by Sr. Ruth Marlene Fox, OSB - 1985

May God bless you with a restless discomfort about easy answers, half-truths and superficial relationships, so that you may seek truth boldly and love deep within your heart.

May God bless you with holy anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people, so that you may tirelessly work for justice, freedom, and peace among all people.

May God bless you with the gift of tears to shed with those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation, or the loss of all that they cherish, so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and transform their pain into joy.

May God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you really can make a difference in this world, so that you are able, with God's grace, to do what others claim cannot be done.

And the blessing of God the Supreme Majesty and our Creator,

Jesus Christ the Incarnate Word who is our brother and Saviour,

and the Holy Spirit, our Advocate and Guide, be with you and remain with you, this day and forevermore.


Friday, October 18, 2013

Feeding Your Right Desires

How can a young person stay on the path of purity? By living according to your word. I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands. I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you" (Psalm 119:9-11).

An elderly First Nations man told his grandson: “My son, there’s a battle between two wolves inside us all. One is Evil and the other is Good.” The boy thought about it and asked: “Grandfather, which wolf wins?” The elderly man quietly replied: “The one you feed.”
The Christian life is not a matter of right behaviour, but right desires. That is why Jesus condemned the Pharisees who honoured him with their lips while their hearts were far from him (Matthew 15:8). Everyday there is a battle going on in all of us between our sinful desires and our Godly desires. The desires we choose to feed - wins.

How can we feed our right desires? 

The Psalmist responds: “By living according to God’s Word.” The Word of God reveals God and his deeds. If wefill up our minds and hearts with the Word of God, then we’re going to have a much more sensitive understanding of what God likes and what God does not like. What happens when we read and memorize God’s word and never trust it with our lives and put it to action? In his book Take and Read, Eugene Peterson quotes Julian Green, who noted:
The story of the manna gathered and set aside by the Hebrews is deeply significant. It so happened that the manna rotted when it was kept. And perhaps that means that all spiritual reading, which is not consumed – by prayer and by works – ends by causing a sort of rotting inside us. You die with a head full of fine sayings and a perfectly empty heart.
Look at Jesus. 

How did he resist the temptations of the devil in the wilderness? Wasn’t it through his knowledge of the Scripture? Jesus quoted a Scripture by saying, ‘It is written…’ every time he was tempted. The Apostle Paul stressed that the Word of God is the ‘sword of the Spirit’ that enables us to fight back against temptation (Ephesians 6:17).

When we hide the Word of God in our hearts and trust it with our lives, we are in fact hiding Jesus in our hearts and trusting him with our lives. So the more our minds and our hearts consume the Word of God, the more we will be aware of Jesus and his works, the more we will acknowledge his presence in our daily realities and the more we will avoid sin that displeases him. And even when we fall into sin we will always find our way back through Jesus.

So, are you feeding your right desires? 

May we feed our Godly desires daily by consuming the Word of God. And may we say confidently with the Psalmist, “I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.”