Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Read 1 Corinthians 4:8-13
Behind this passage lies the self-image of the Corinthians. They have been behaving as if they have arrived at the pinnacle of spiritual blessing -- as if the Kingdom of God has been realized fully in their midst -- as if they will be spared the trials and temptations of mere mortals. As a result, the Corinthians have become comfortable, self-satisfied and complacent, with an air of spiritual superiority.
The perspective which Paul has on his own life and fortunes is quite different. If the Corinthians are wise in Christ, Paul is a fool for the sake of Christ. If the Corinthians are strong in the gifts of the Holy Spirit, Paul is weak. They are held in honor, Paul in disrepute. Paul epitomizes the Christian spirit of nonretaliation: "When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered we speak kindly."
The C0rinthians continue to measure themselves by the standards of the world. Paul invites them, and us, into God's new order of a peace which the world neither gives nor takes away.
Lord Jesus Christ, I pray that you may fortify me with the grace of your Holy Spirit, and give your peace to my soul, that I may be free from all needless anxiety and worry. Help me to desire always that which is pleasing and acceptable to you, so that your will may be my will.
Grant that I may be free from unholy desires, and that, for your love, I may remain obscure and unknown in this world, to be known only to you.
Do not permit me to attribute to myself the good that you perform in me and through me, but rather, referring all honor to you, may I admit only to my infirmities, so that renouncing sincerely all vainglory which comes from the world, I may aspire to that true and lasting glory that comes from you. Amen
- Frances Cabrini
Monday, June 29, 2009
Read 2 Corinthians 9:1-5
Here Paul acknowledges how much he has at stake in the Corinthians' response to the collection for the poor. He has boasted to the Macedonians about the Corinthians, saying that they have been ready to give since the past year.
In a worst-case scenario, if the Corinthians are not prepared and some Macedonians discover it, there is a potential for humiliation, both for Paul and for them. The Roman culture was dominated by codes of shame and honor, so Paul is rightly concerned.
To avoid such an outcome, Paul is sending some brothers as an advance guard to ensure that the Corinthians are prepared by the time Paul arrives. He is also concerned that the gift be perceived as generous and bountiful, not grudgingly given.
Giving and responding to others are best when they flow willingly and not grudgingly. If we start with a sense of obligation, we will never understand the freedom. If we begin with the celebration of God's abundant gifts to us, then the zeal for giving generously will flow from that awareness.
Sunday, June 28, 2009
Read 2 Corinthians 8:7-15
In this passage Paul makes four additional points to the Corinthians about their participation in the collection for the poor.
First, he uses the example of Jesus' self-emptying love as an encouragement to the Corinthians. Echoing his words in Philippians 2:5-11, he speaks of "the generous act of our Lord Jesus Christ" - though he was rich, for our sakes he became poor, in order that we might become rich in the graces of God. He advocates a non-clinging attitude toward our wealth and possessions, a willingness to give whatever it takes for our neighbor to live in health and peace.
Secondly, Paul encourages us to finish the good works we undertake. It is a tragedy to begin an act of love with enthusiasm and not finish it in the same spirit.
Then he reminds us that we are expected to give according to what we have, not according to what we don't have. He is not putting them under pressure to come up with an unreasonable amount. However, we must look at our resources with a clear-eyed honesty, because we so easily convince ourselves that we never have enough.
Finally, when helping others it's a matter of what Paul calls "a fair balance." Those experiencing a season of abundance should help those who are stuck in scarcity. After all, one day the positions may well be reversed.
Friday, June 26, 2009
This passage puts our giving in proper perspective.
First, giving is a God-empowered opportunity, not merely a duty, an institutional expectation, or something to dread. We cannot fail to love, because love received prompts love in return. We give because we have been given to.
Secondly, the Macedonians were empowered to give "even beyond their means" in the midst of affliction. The life of faith does not seal us off from distress and difficulty. Grace and joy in times of trial, far from being signs of God's absence, are instead sure signs of God's presence and power.
Finally, Paul notes that the Macedonians "gave themselves first to the Lord, and by the will of God, to us." Giving is a spiritual issue. It reflects the health of our relationship with God. Unless we give ourselves to God first and fundamentally, our sharing with others will be meager and joyless.
As the churches of Macedonia were lifted up as a model for the Corinthian church, so too they become an example for us. The goal is for us to excel in generosity as we seek to excel in other endeavors.
If you are a new reader, I do not blog over the weekend. I will, however still be reading and praying. See you Monday.
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
Monday, June 22, 2009
Read Acts 27:39-44
Does it make sense to kill more than 200 prisoners, who had barely survived shipwreck, so that "none might swim away and escape"? We know that one prisoner, Paul, had committed no violent offense, but was on his way to appear before the Emperor in Rome. Fortunately, a centurion intervened so that the soldiers could not carry out their plan.
Questions of "law and order" are often difficult to resolve. However, as followers of the nonviolent Christ, we ought to seek first a nonviolent resolution. Jesus teaches us to love and pray for our enemies. Especially in the midst of chaos and confusion, as in this story, we can choose to respect the sacred worth of every life.
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love,
Where there is injury, pardon,
Where there is doubt, faith,
Where there is despair, hope,
Where there is darkness, light,
Where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love;
for it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
St. Francis of Assisi
Sunday, June 21, 2009
Read Acts 27:13-38
Have you noticed the number of Old and New Testament stories that take place either on mountains or in the wilderness? A careful reading suggests that those locations represent two different spiritualities. Typically, God is manifested on a mountain, while the wilderness is a barren place where one is more likely to be tempted than to encounter God.
And what about the biblical "sea tales"? Yesterday's preaching text recounted Jesus' stilling the storm on the Sea of Galilee, much to the surprise of the frightened disciples. This reading from Acts speaks of Paul caught up in a terrible storm, along with 275 shipmates.
The sea is often spoken of as a place of chaos. Perhaps the spirituality of the sea addresses those times when God is present in chaos. Given the circumstances of life in these last months, it is a spirituality which I embrace. Regardless of the external circumstances of your life or mine, we are not alone. God is with us. Thanks be to God.
Raging waves of pain break all around us
and squalls howl through our lives.
From sinking boats, we call,
"We are going down!
"Quiet! Be still,"
we long to hear you say.
Give us faith to know, through
breeze or undertow, sunny day or gray,
that you never leave our boats. Make our ride holy,
Lord of wind and sea.
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
Oh do you have time
for just a little while
out of your busy
and very important day
for the goldfinches
that have gathered
in a field of thistles
for a musical battle,
to see who can sing
the highest note,
or the lowest,
or the most expressive of mirth,
or the most tender?
Their strong, blunt beaks
drink the air
as they strive
not for your sake
and not for mine
and not for the sake of winning
but for sheer delight and gratitude—
believe us, they say,
it is a serious thing
just to be alive
on this fresh morning
in the broken world.
I beg of you,
do not walk by
to attend to this
rather ridiculous performance.
It could mean something.
It could mean everything.
It could be what Rilke meant, when he wrote:
You must change your life.
by Mary Oliver, from Red Birds: Poems
Monday, June 15, 2009
Ralph Waldo Emerson
A Prayer for Today
God of stillness and creative action, help us to find space for quietness today that we may live creatively, discover the inner meaning of silence, and learn the wisdom that heals the world. Send peace and joy to each quiet place, to all who are waiting and listening. May your still small voice be heard through Christ, in the love of the Spirit. Amen.
The Retreat Association
Thursday, June 11, 2009
praise him with lute and harp.
Praise him with timbrel and dance,
praise him with strings and pipes.
O praise him with resounding symbols,
praise him with clashing of cymbals.
Let everything that lives and breathes
give praise to the Lord. Alleluia!
Out of town today and over the weekend. John
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
Tuesday, June 9, 2009
who is just to those who are oppressed.
It is God who gives bread to the hungry,
the Lord, who sets prisoners free,
the Lord who gives sight to the blind,
who raises up those who are bowed down,
the Lord, who protects the widow and orphan.
It is the Lord who loves the just
but thwarts the path of the wicked.
The Lord will reign for ever,
Zion's God, from age to age.
Psalm 146: 7-10
Thus says the Lord: Go down to the house of the king of Judah, and speak there this word, and say: Hear the word of the Lord, O King of Judah sitting on the throne of David - you, and your servants, and your people who enter these gates. Thus says the Lord: Act with justice and righteousness, and deliver from the hand of the oppressor anyone who has been robbed. And do no wrong or violence to the alien, the orphan, and the widow, or shed innocent blood in this place. For if you will indeed obey this word, then through the gates of this house shall enter kings who sit on the throne of David, riding in chariots and on horses, they, and their servants, and their people. But if you will not heed these words, I swear by myself, says the Lord, that this house shall become a desolation. For thus says the Lord concerning the house of the king of Judah:
You are like Gilead to me;
like the summit of Lebanon;
but I swear that I will make you a desert, an uninhabited city.
I will prepare destroyers against you,
all with their weapons;
they shall cut down your choicest cedars
and cast them into the fire.
And many nations will pass by this city, and all of them will say to one another, "Why has the Lord dealt this way with that great city?" And they will answer, "Because they abandoned the covenant of the Lord their God, and worshiped other gods and served them."
Prayer for the Day
O God, you build up and you tear down.
You call us to lives of justice and righteousness
in faithfulness to your covenant.
May our compassion be swift
toward the least, the lost and the last.
May our resolve be firm against
all temptation and transgression.
Heeding your word, may we live in your blessing.
Saturday, June 6, 2009
whose breath gives life to the world,
and whose voice is heard in the soft breeze:
We need your strength and wisdom.
Cause us to walk in beauty. Give us eyes
ever to behold the red and purple sunset.
Make us wise so that we may understand
what you have taught us.
Help us learn the lessons you have hidden
in every leaf and rock.
Make us always ready to come to you
with clean hands and steady eyes,
so when life fades, like the fading sunset,
our spirits may come to you without shame.
Traditional Native American Prayer
The United Methodist Hymnal, 329
Praying Our History
Seattle was chief of the Suquamish and Duwamish Indians of the Puget Sound area. He converted to Christianity as a youth. When more whites moved to the Northwest and conflict between them and the Native Americans increased, Chief Seattle was the first to accept movement to the Port Madison Reservation.
Chief Seattle was a peace-seeker and a friend to white people during periods of intense hostility and conflict. Most likely, he was wise enough to foresee the fate of his people under oppression and occupation and wanted to spare them unnecessary disruption and death.
In one account of a speech to Governor Stevens, Seattle said, "I will not dwell on, nor mourn over, our untimely decay. It matters little where we pass the remnants of our days. They will not be many. Your time of decay may be distant, but it will surely come, for even the White Man whose God walked and talked with him as friend with friend, cannot be exempt from the common destiny."
Chief Seattle died on June 7, 1866.
Creator of all tribes, people and colors, journey with us now into the wider world. Scatter us to the four directions that we might live and love as your children. Let us be a blessing to every path we may cross, and bring us back together when the time is right. Amen
Thursday, June 4, 2009
MEDITATING WITH ART
Art has a unique capacity to take one or other facet of the message and translate it into colors. shapes and sounds which nourish the intuition of those who look and listen.
Pope John Paul II
No one comes to art with a clear heart, soul and mind free from the events of the day. All beholders approach the art from their own history, their fears and joys, their sorrows and pain. It is often through the hues of these realities that the art appears before the beholder.
The practice of meditating with art is often referred to as visio divina or "holy seeing," corresponding to the practice of "praying the scriptures," lectio divina or "holy reading." In both cases, the hope is not to receive more information, such as the historical background of the text or the techniques of the artist. Our hope is to be formed by the experience of God's presence in and through the words or the image.
Therefore, we come before the image prayerfully, with openness to the ways in which God might use this time, and without judging the work as art. We ask, "What does God want me to see? What word is God speaking to me through this image? What do I wish to say to God in response? What is God calling me to be or do?"
One Way of Doing It
Using Edward Hopper's Hotel Room, 1931, above
1. QUIET: Take a few moments for centering. You might use Breathing Meditation. Disengage from the day's other preoccupations. Pray for an openness to God's presence and peace.
2. ATTENTION: Look over the entire painting. What are your first impressions? What is the first thing that catches your eye? Where does your eye travel? Is there a figure, shape, color, texture or word that calls your attention?
3. NOTICE: What are you feeling? What thoughts or questions are beginning to form? In what way do you experience God? What is God revealing, calling or saying to you? Sit in silent openness before the painting for as long as you desire.
4. RESPOND: Respond to God as you feel led, perhaps using a journal, perhaps speaking aloud. The response might be a prayer, a song, a question or continued silence.
5. CLOSE: Pray the Lord's Prayer or use some other gesture as a way to bring this time to a close.
(Additional suggestions and resources for Praying with Art will be posted on the companion website Resources for Daily Prayer.)