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Friday, April 2, 2010

What I’m Reading Today: Luke 12:1-34

My father was a child of the Great Depression. Consequently, he raised each of his children to be extremely careful with his or her money. My partner Mike would say that’s a nice way of saying his children are cheap.

I can say there have been many positive aspects to my father’s teaching. From day one, for instance, I learned to live within my means. I also haven’t wasted much energy thinking, “I wish I could have (and you can fill in the blank with most material things).” That part has been extremely helpful!

The challenge of dad’s approach, however, is that it is hard for me to feel as if I have ever saved enough money to provide for the future. One some level I seemed to have learned to equate money with stability and security. Most folks in our society would say that’s an admirable approach.

I can think of at least one person who might question the degree to which I have taken that.

That person?


In today’s reading, Jesus is quoted as saying things like, “What I’m trying to do here is get you to relax, not be so preoccupied with getting so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way God works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how God works. Steep yourself in God-reality, God initiative, God-provisions. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.”

A few words later he added: “Be generous. Give to the poor.” Then he brings things home by adding: “The place where your treasure is, is the place you will most want to be, and end up being.”

Those words challenge me on a regular basis to re-think my approach to things like how I spend my money and where I derive my sense of security.

Jesus’ words are a wonderful opportunity for each of us to examine our approach toward money today. It also gives us a helpful jumping off point to ask ourselves, “From where do I draw my sense of stability and security?”

Til next time…

Thursday, April 1, 2010

What I’m Reading Today: Luke 11:29-54

When I was on my path toward ordination, I had the pleasure of working with an experienced pastor named Tom who taught me much. In addition to spending several years as a local pastor, Tom had also spent time working as a denominational official. Given that most of his years in ministry were in Montana, it’s not surprising that Tom had a wonderfully folksy wisdom about him.

Tom taught me the single most important lesson about ministry that I ever learned – and the entire lesson was contained in a single sentence. “People don’t care how much you know,” Tom said one day, “until they know how much you care.” That lesson grounds me in the practice of ministry each and every day.

In some ways, Jesus was playing with that concept in today’s passage from Luke. “You’re hopeless, you religion scholars,” Jesus began. “You load people down with rules and regulations, nearly breaking their back,” he added. And then he brings it home with his final observation: “but [you] never lift even a finger to help.”

Today I would invite you to examine some of the relationships in your life. Perhaps there is one relationship in particular that’s out of kilter – a relationship where it feels as if there is some sort of power struggle going on. Maybe that power struggle is related to who knows more, or is more competent in an area.

If you find yourself in such a place, take a step back and look for opportunities to demonstrate not your level of knowledge – but your degree of concern for the person. Maybe – just maybe- that shift in approach will transform the quality of the relationship.

Til next time…

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

What I’m Reading Today: Luke 11:1-28

Every person carries with them issues they acquired during their childhood. I have many such issues. I have one issue in particular that is rather bizarre.

That issue?

Well, it’s almost impossible for me to ask what I want. That’s because I was raised to believe that it is rude to do so. I was taught that a good person is subtle – and drops hints about what he or she may need. A good person who’s sitting on the couch watching television with someone, for instance, could say something like: ‘I bet the Houston Texan game being televised right now on ESPN would be an exciting game to watch.” The hope would be that the person beside you would pick up on your hint and turn the channel. I was taught that it would be inappropriate, however, to say: “Can I turn the channel to ESPN so I can watch the Houston Texans game.”

I know – it’s a bizarre way to go through life: never asking directly for what you want. It’s something that drives my partner Mike crazy. In fact, over the years we’ve gotten into many fights because I was hurt that he didn’t pick up on my clues about what I needed. Now, whenever I start to drop passive aggressive hints about what I need, Mike will now interrupt me and say, “Are you trying to tell me that you need something?”

Mike isn’t the only one that thinks a person should be courageous enough to ask for what he or she wants. Jesus thought that seemed like a pretty good idea too. In today’s reading from Luke, for example, Jesus is quoted as saying: “Don’t bargain with God. Be direct. Ask for what you need.”

That notion of being direct and asking for what I need is still a challenge for me. But every day I grow a little stronger in my ability to do just that.

So how are you with that? Do you find yourself adopting passage aggressive strategies like the ones I use to employ in order to try to get your needs met; or are you able to articulate to God and to others what your needs are?

Til next time…

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

What I’m Reading Today: Luke 10

There are many ways my participation in organized religion has helped make me a better person. That participation has helped grow my commitment to helping others through a variety of mission programs; my participation in organized religioun has introduced me to amazing people that I certainly would have never otherwise met; and it has helped instill within me a moral compass that helps me navigate my way through a world filled with turbulence. For these things I am grateful!

As many of us know, however, participation in organized religion can have its downside as well. One of the parables contained in today’s passage from Luke makes that point very well; that parable is the story of The Good Samaritan.

If I were to ask most folks to recount the parable of The Good Samaritan, they would say something like: “A man gets mugged and the first two people who encounter the battered man ignore his plight. The third man – the Samaritan – is the only one who helped the man out. That’s what makes him good.”

That bare-bones summary of the parable would basically be accurate. It would overlook a couple of important points – one of which is why the first two individuals passed by the battered man. In the parable, Jesus tells us that the first man to pass by the man was a priest and the second was a Levite religious person. From those details one could infer that in addition to the thing that might have otherwise caused the individuals to pass by (i.e. a busy schedule or the fear of getting involved in another person’s drama), one could make a case that the individuals had religious reasons for passing by as well. Their concern about coming into contact with blood and jeopardizing their standing as pure, however, might have been one reason they passed by.

That would be ironic, wouldn’t it? The possibility that one’s participation in organized religion might be the reason someone fails to shore love and compassion?

For those of you readers who participate actively within a faith tradition, I would as you to examine your own life today. Are there ways in which this participation might cause you to develop blind spots that might prevent you from truly embodying the faith of Jesus?

Til next time…

Monday, March 29, 2010

What I’m Reading Today: Luke 9:37-62

My days in politics taught me many important lessons. Some of those lessons I have left behind – others I cling to to this very day. I can give you an example of one of those lessons.

In politics, one of the most important things one needs to remember is to build broad based coalitions in order to get things important to you passed. This means you try to never put an end to a working relationship with a colleague because you never know when you might need their vote.

Some would be surprised at this lesson because - if you watch the coverage of our elected officials in Washington, DC or Sacramento - it sounds as if politicians are regularly vilifying their opponents and ending working relationships. Not so! Most of the time politics is like professional wrestling: the politicians understand they have to publically posture themselves in certain ways to appease their supporters - so they publically go after their opponents as if they were evil personified. Behind closed doors, however, they often get along rather well. They may vote on opposite ends of the spectrum on a few bills dealing with hot button issues like abortion and homosexuality; but when it comes time to voting on less controversial measures, they typically vote together 90% of the time.

Jesus may not have been a politician in the modern sense, but he understood the importance of building broad based coalitions.

How do I know?

Well, in today’s passage from Luke 9:50, Jesus said of a so-called competitor who was expelling demons: “Don’t stop him. If he’s not an enemy, he’s an ally.”

One of the challenges we progressive folks face is a tendency to stop folks we don’t like their credentials as a “progressive”. Sadly, our suspicions cause us to overlook or alienate many potential allies. Today, I would invite you to hold Jesus’ words close to your heart as a way of expanding your base of allies – and minimizing your number of enemies.

Til next time…