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Friday, December 25

Today, I start a much needed week's vacation. I will be taking some time away from my blog for a time of rest and renewal. I will use this time to think about potential changes I might make to my blog in the coming year. I wish you and yours a wonderful end to the year and a blessed start to your new year. I hope you'll check back on January 4th and see where this blog might take us. Til next time...

Thursday, December 24

Today’s Readings: Micah 6:6-8; Hebrews 10:5-10; Luke 1:46b-55

On this day before Christmas, it’s a great opportunity to stop and reflect what the coming of this Jesus means for all of us.

As I do that, I realize that I get a little nervous around this time each year because some folks use the holiday as a means of asserting their desire to be more aggressive in putting their faith out there. You hear, for instance, folks who are disturbed by the commercialization of the holiday saying it’s time to put the “Christ” back in Christmas. Others wage a personal campaign to get rid of interfaith-friendly public greetings like “Seasons Greetings” or “Happy Holidays” with “Merry Christmas”.

I’m never sure exactly what these folks are trying to accomplish. I guess they are longing for the good old days when folks who identified as Christian didn’t have to worry about acknowledging the existence of people of other faiths/no faith.

Whenever I hear folks go off on those topics, a part of me becomes sad and wonders, “Why aren’t people worried about living out the values that Jesus stood for rather than focusing on words?”

And what sort of values did Jesus stand for?

Well, today’s reading from the Hebrew Scriptures is one of the most succinct statements of those values: act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God (Micah 6:8 from The Message).

Imagine how different the word would be if people took the energy they used to demand that City Hall put up a nativity scene and instead used that energy into acting justly. Imagine what might happen if people stopped insisting retail clerks say “Merry Christmas” and instead insisted on acting mercifully with each other. Imagine how it would feel if people stopped insisting that Christmas carols be sung at public school concerts and started walking humbly with their God. It just might usher in the dawn of a new area when people paid less attention to talking ABOUT Jesus and more attention to acting LIKE Jesus.

As we head into our Christmas celebration, may we focus on doing what Jesus did: act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God. Til next time…

Wednesday, December 23

Today’s Readings: Isaiah 42:14-21; Luke 1:5-25; Psalm 113

I find an interesting theological tension lying buried within one of the verses in today’s reading from Isaiah. Let me take a moment and see if I can tease it out for you.

In the first portion of verse 16, the prophet quotes God as saying: “I’ll take the hand of those who don’t know the way, who can’t see where they’re going. I’ll be a personal guide to them, directing them through unknown country. I’ll be right there to show them what roads to take, make sure they don’t fall into the ditch” (Isaiah 42:16 from The Message). This portion of verse 16 makes it sound as if God is a puppeteer – driving the events of one’s life as they unfold. That is the approach many have taken for years in terms of conceptualizing God’s role in one’s life.

The second theological approach is a bit more subtle. It lies within the culminating words of the same verse – verse 16. In that portion, God is quoted as suggesting: “There as the things I’ll be doing for them – sticking with them, not leaving them for a minute” (Isaiah 42: 16 from The Message). There words stress a different way of understanding God’s role in one’s life – a way that stresses God’s presence over God’s control.

My life experiences have pushed me in the direction of the second theological perspective. I believe in a God that limits Godself by gifting us human beings with free will – while being with us/within us at every step of our journey.

So where do you come down on this theological perspective? Are you inclined to relate to God as puppeteer, are you drawn to God as an imminent presence within our lives, or some other understanding?

Til next time…

Tuesday, December 22

Today’s Readings: Luke 1:46b-55; Micah 4:1-5; Ephesians 2:11-22

I was talking with a friend recently about a situation half-way around the globe where armed conflict was taking place. The conversation centered on the possibility that American troops would become involved.

My friend suggested that such involvement would be necessary if we wanted to bring peace to the region. The comment raised a larger issue for me: what exactly is peace? Is peace simply the absence of armed conflict; or could it be something more?

The more I thought about that question, the more I realized peace is so much more than the absence of military conflict. True peace has its roots in justice. That’s something that most folks don’t like to think about. It’s much easier, for instance, for the United States to intervene in situations and stop the fighting than it is for us to first evaluate the circumstance and then systematically work to address the systemic issues that are fueling the violence (i.e. the unequal distribution of wealth, etc.).

I think Micah understood the importance of justice as a precursor for peace.

And why do I think that?

Because when the author begins to talk about God’s vision for the world, he begins by addressing the issue of injustice (i.e. “God will establish justice in the rabble of nations and settle disputes in far away places” (Micah 4:3 from The Message). Only then does he move on to the discussion of peace: “They’ll trade in their swords for shovels, their spears for rakes and hoes” (Micah 4:3 from The Message).

So what’s your perception about the role of peace? Are you trying to experience a sense of peace without addressing the issues injustice or inequity in your life? If that’s the case, you might want to re-think your approach. Til next time…

Monday, December 21

Today’s Readings: Genesis 25:19-28; Colossians 1:15-20; Palm 113

I have to say I was encouraged by the developments that occurred in Copenhagen last week. While the accords are certainly not perfect, I am a huge believer that most significant change does not happen overnight; it takes time. It’s the waiting that is often the hard part for us human beings. In the case of the planet, I pray that it has the ability to be patient with us as well.

So why would I start a blog entry devoted to spiritual matters with comments about what some would perceive of as purely the political event known as the UN Climate summit in Copenhagen? Because I believe the attitudes we hold about the care of the planet reflect our spiritual commitments to a HUGE degree.

Today’s passage for Colossians, for instance, gives me reason to think this way. “We look at this Son and see God’s original purpose in everything created,” the author stated in Colossians 1:16 from The Message). The author went on to add: “Not only that, but all the broken and dislocated pieces of the universe –people and things, animals and atoms-get properly fixed and fit together in vibrant harmonies…” (Colossians 1:20 from The Message).

I love the notion that being reconciled to God is about more than human beings living in right relation with one another and God. I LOVE the idea that reconciliation implies human beings are called to live in right relation with ALL aspects of God’s creation. This for me is not a political concept; it is a deeply spiritual concept.

So what about you? How do you view humanity’s relationship with the created world? Are you concerned about the well-being of the planet simply out of self-interest (i.e. we human beings need a healthy planet in order to survive); or do your concerns for the planet reflect a larger spiritual dimension? Til next time…