Archive for the ‘God’ Category

Throwing a Party

Saturday, September 14th, 2019

In Luke 15 Jesus tells three parables of repentant sinners, and at the end of each we’re invited to rejoice. The shepherd announces, “Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep” (verse 6); the woman exclaims, “Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin” (verse 9); the father of the prodigal crows, “Let’s have a feast and celebrate” (verse 23). At the heart of the kingdom of heaven, a celebration is going on. What’s the occasion? It’s not that all wars are over, or all suffering ended, or all the world converted. No, the occasion is that one lost sheep has come home. Joy, overlooking all the good reasons for pessimism, throws a big party over one lovely flower, one bird call, one child’s smile, one earth-shattering change in a human heart. How about leaving our somber studies to join the revelry of angels?

— Mike Mason, Champagne for the Soul, p. 150

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, August 25, 2019

God’s Redeeming Care

Tuesday, September 10th, 2019

The act of redeeming is motivated by divine mercy or compassion (rahamim). If we knew Hebrew, we would realize that compassion is a cognate of the word for womb (rehem). When the people of Israel heard, “With everlasting love I will have compassion on you, says YHWH your Redeemer” (Isa 54:8), they understood that the redeeming God was pouring out on them the kind of love a mother has for the child of her womb. In Phyllis Trible’s careful analysis, this journey of a metaphor from the wombs of women to the compassion of God is a powerful clue to the divine being, unfolding as it does unsuspected female dimensions of the image of God whose mercy is greater than we can imagine….

From its original financial meaning the verb “redeem” expanded and came to refer to rescue from physical, political, and spiritual bondage; from slavery, exile, and other kinds of oppression; from persecution, troubles, and enemies; from sin and from death. Individuals as well as the community as a whole were the beneficiaries of God’s redeeming care.

This rich tradition flows into Second Isaiah who used it to awaken hope of redemption in people being held captive, based on the endearing goel relationship between YHWH and Israel: “But now thus says YHWH who created you, O Jacob, who formed you, O Israel: Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine” (43:1).

— Elizabeth A. Johnson, Creation and the Cross, p. 45-46

Photo: Rhine River, Germany, March 12, 1997

Community and Kinship

Friday, September 6th, 2019

If we choose to stand in the right place, God, through us, creates a community of resistance without our even realizing it. To embrace the strategy of Jesus is to be engaged in what Dean Brackley calls “downward mobility.” Our locating ourselves with those who have been endlessly excluded becomes an act of visible protest. For no amount of our screaming at the people in charge to change things can change them. The margins don’t get erased by simply insisting that the powers-that-be erase them. The trickle-down theory doesn’t really work here. The powers bent on waging war against the poor and the young and the “other” will only be moved to kinship when they observe it. Only when we can see a community where the outcast is valued and appreciated will we abandon the values that seek to exclude.

— Gregory Boyle, Tattoos on the Heart, p. 177-178

Photo: Gilbert’s Corner Regional Park, Virginia, August 31, 2019

A Story

Tuesday, September 3rd, 2019

We may wish for answers, but God rarely gives us answers. Instead, God gathers us up into soft, familiar arms and says, “Let me tell you a story.”

— Rachel Held Evans, Inspired, p. 221

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, August 28, 2019

Healing Shame

Monday, September 2nd, 2019

Jesus knows that we need him to help us deal with our shame and guilt. Shame does not need forgiveness, because it involves what others have done to us. We don’t need to be forgiven for being hurt, but we do need to heal. Treating shame takes honesty rather than confession. We don’t need to repent so much as we need to rediscover God’s beauty within us. God’s image is embossed on our souls. It is hard to see, under that grimy film others left behind, but shame can be cleansed. It has to be removed carefully, kindly, and often slowly. It takes time and patience and often the demonstrated love of close friends or wise counselors, but restoration is possible. Our hearts can grow this way and give us room for friendship and love to share with others.

— Tom Berlin, Reckless Love, p. 37

Photo: Zugspitze, Germany, July 17, 2000

Reckless Love

Saturday, August 24th, 2019

Reckless love is different. It pushes us to cross all sorts of boundaries to help us love as God loves and commands us to love. Getting people to take a risk and do the unexpected is the kind of thing Jesus had in mind as he guided his followers to encounter surprising places and people. He has probably done something similar in your life if you have followed him for even a short length of time. Whenever we walk with Jesus, we have experiences that transform us. He takes us out of our comfort zones. Without apology or warning, he expands us, makes us afraid of what might happen, and then shows us how love is properly done. He is not content with sedentary faith.

— Tom Berlin, Reckless Love, p. 11

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, August 17, 2019

Away from Law, Into Love

Wednesday, August 21st, 2019

In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus is providing a description of what life looks like for the person who will follow Him. Since the average Jewish person listening to Jesus attempted to allow their life to be guided by the Mosaic Law and Jewish tradition, Jesus frequently compares and contrasts His way of life with the way of life that comes from following the Law. When we approach the Sermon on the Mount with this in mind, we see that Jesus calls people away from actions of legalistic obedience to a set of laws and toward attitudes of love for all people.

The Sermon on the Mount is a call to love. It focuses on attitude, rather than activity. Following Jesus is not about going through the motions but about living in love that comes from the heart. Jesus is not adding to the law, but is showing that love is the fulfillment of the law. He shows, for example, that while the law says “Do not murder” and “Do not commit adultery,” such laws still allowed people to hate their brother or lust after women (Matt 5:21-30). In this way, it was possible to fulfill the letter of the law while completely ignoring its intent. But the person guided by love will neither hate nor lust, which fulfills both the letter and intent of the law. Jesus even goes so far as to call His followers to love their enemies (Matt 5:43-48), which is the ultimate representation of love and which no law could ever accomplish. The rest of the Sermon follows this same theme.

J. D. Myers, Nothing But the Blood of Jesus, p. 98-99

Standing With

Saturday, August 17th, 2019

So we are encouraged to stand with the tax collector and the prostitute, the widow, orphan, and stranger, precisely because they are the judged, the scapegoated, the less-than, whose chances are taken away well before they are given. The principal cause of suffering for the leper is not an annoying, smelly, itchy skin disease but rather having to live outside the camp. So the call is to stand with them, so that the margins get erased and they are welcomed back inside. Jesus doesn’t think twice: he touches the lepers before he gets around to healing them.

— Gregory Boyle, Barking to the Choir, p. 166

Redeeming Love

Friday, August 16th, 2019

The idea of a God who redeems Israel and who therefore can be called the Redeemer became firmly fixed in Israel’s religious imagination well before the disastrous exile in Babylon. In the dynamic way that language works, the technical meaning of redeem broadened out over time to include connotations of God’s helping, rescuing, liberating, restoring, forgiving, showing steadfast love, comforting, taking away fear, and especially caring for the poor and defenseless. The language of redeeming also became associated with the act of saving. While in the same general family of meaning, the latter carries a distinct sense of healing from sickness and restoring to health, the opposite of which is perishing.

— Elizabeth A. Johnson, Creation and the Cross, p. 45

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, August 4, 2019

Solidarity with Slaves

Tuesday, August 13th, 2019

You actually abolish slavery by accompanying the slave. We don’t strategize our way out of slavery, we solidarize, if you will, our way toward its demise. We stand in solidarity with the slave, and by so doing, we diminish slavery’s ability to stand. By casting our lot with the gang member, we hasten the demise of demonizing. All Jesus asks is, “Where are you standing?” And after chilling defeat and soul-numbing failure, He asks again, “Are you still standing there?”

Can we stay faithful and persistent in our fidelity even when things seem not to succeed? I suppose Jesus could have chosen a strategy that worked better (evidence-based outcomes) — that didn’t end in the Cross — but he couldn’t find a strategy more soaked with fidelity than the one he embraced.

— Gregory Boyle, Tattoos on the Heart, p. 173

Photo: Staffa Island, Scotland, July 13, 2003