Monthly Archives: October 2010

Spirit Space: Reformation Day

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On October 31 1517, Martin Luther posted 95 Theses (propositions) on the door of the Wittenberg Castle Church as an invitation to debate the sale of indulgences for forgiveness. That event sparked a reform movement that eventually led to a Lutheran church and separate denominations. While there is much sorrow in the disunity which the Reformation caused, Luther did establish the idea that the Church is always in need of reform in the light of the gospel. Luther’s primary principal that Christians are justified by God’s grace through faith in Christ has also found universal acceptance among denominations. Today we pray for church unity, for the purity of God’s word, and for a church that is always open to reform and the guidance of the Holy Spirit.


I greet Thee, who my sure Redeemer art,
My only trust and Savior of my heart,
Who pain didst undergo for my poor sake;
I pray Thee from our hearts all cares to take.

Thou art the King of mercy and of grace,
Reigning omnipotent in every place;
So come, O King, and our whole being sway;
Shine on us with the light of Thy pure day.

Thou art the life, by which alone we live,
And all our substance and our strength receive;
Oh comfort us in death’s approaching hour,
Strong-hearted then to face it by Thy power.

Thou hast the true and perfect gentleness,
No harshness hast Thou and no bitterness;
Make us to taste the sweet grace found in Thee
And ever stay in Thy sweet unity.

Our hope is in no other save in Thee;
Our faith is built upon Thy promise free;
Oh grant to us such stronger help and sure,
That we can boldly conquer and endure.

(words attributed to John Calvin)

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Job 1.6-12

One day the heavenly beings came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them. The Lord said to Satan, ‘Where have you come from?’ Satan answered the Lord, ‘From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.’ The Lord said to Satan, ‘Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man who fears God and turns away from evil.’ Then Satan answered the Lord, ‘Does Job fear God for nothing? Have you not put a fence around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But stretch out your hand now, and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.’ The Lord said to Satan, ‘Very well, all that he has is in your power; only do not stretch out your hand against him!’ So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord.

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WEAVE-ings: fact/truth/both/neither

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We all know the story of  the Tortoise and the Hare, passed down for 100s of generations because in this fictional story (or “myth”) there is valuable wisdom. Marcus Borg defines this as the difference between “fact” and “truth”and applies this same principle to Scripture. In his opinion the Garden of Eden story contains “truth” not “fact,” and he feels that confusion between the two is the cause of much of the disagreement between Christian groups and the rejection of religion by many.

We had a very lively discussion about this at WEAVE. The truth/fact distinction is okay for the story of Eden but what about the Resurrection? Did Jesus walk on water? What does Son of God mean? Fact or Truth or both?
How do you tell the difference? By guidance from the Holy Spirit? By human intuition? How do you know your conclusion is not the product of flawed human nature? Is Borg teaching us a valuable lesson in disernment and faith or as one critic claims “teaching Borgism not Christianity”?

This brings up some crucial issues for being a faithful follower of Christ in the 21st Century.

Where does authority lie? How do we know what is right? Would it be better if, like in some other denominations there was an official and binding position?

We have spent several weeks talking about how we as Reformed Christians read the Bible–with the rule of love, with Jesus-colored lenses, in historical and literary context, taking into account the whole of Scripture, guided by the Holy Spirit and by the community through the ages, etc. These guidelines are designed to help us as we struggle with the sacred text together, exploring these very questions.

How do you read the Bible? How do you know if you are following God’s will rather than being motivated by self interest?

 

vision

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From Travelling Hopefully: A Spiritual Pilgrimage by Robert Fyall…

There are many times on pilgrimage when situations like this occur; we have, we believe, been called by God and yet he has led us into a cul-de-sac. We do not see how he can meet our need so be panic and we blame others, we blame circumstances, and our vision fails.

It is vision in fact which is vital at moments like these. Vision is not seeing what is not there, vision is seeing ALL that is there. The thirst was real, the desert was real, but so also was the presence of God. The difference was that the presence of God was discerned only by the eye of vision. The letter to the Hebrews, speaking of Moses, captures this in a wonderful phrase: He persevered because he saw him who is invisible (Heb 11:27) It is not that thirst can be conjured away but rather that the resources to meet it are there but not yet visible.” (37)

“it is not that thirst can be conjured away but that the resources to meet it are there but not yet visible.” This reference to the story of Hagar (and to the story of the community of God’s people wandering in the wilderness after leaving Egypt, and to Elijah running to Mount Horeb as he flees Jezebel, and to countless other stories in our sacred text…I’m sensing a theme…) is a powerful one for a community in the midst of a conversation about stewardship, and resources, and what kind of church community we want to be. Scripture is studded with these stories of vision–of vision lost and found, “of sight regained” (as one of our hymns says), of hope in the middle of the desert.

We are not a community in the desert, at least not yet. We have resources of many kinds, from amazing talents to servant hearts to time to share. We also have the financial resources to do a lot of things…but not everything we have said we want to do, not everything we believe we are called to do, not quite enough to be who we think God wants us to be in our community and in our world. Our congregation operates for 12 months on only 10.5 months worth of income. We believe we are called to be the people of God 24/7, which includes even those 6 unfunded weeks. And we believe that the resources to meet this calling are there, but not yet visible.

 

What thirst do you have, or do we have as a congregation? And how can we open our eyes to see the resources to meet it? And once we see those resources, how are we going to make sure they get put to good use?

 

With the Word online Bible study–magnificat

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Psalm 146.5-10

Happy are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord their God,
who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them; who keeps faith forever;
who executes justice for the oppressed; who gives food to the hungry. The Lord sets the prisoners free;
the Lord opens the eyes of the blind. The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down; the Lord loves the righteous.
The Lord watches over the strangers; he upholds the orphan and the widow, but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.
The Lord will reign forever, your God, O Zion, for all generations. Praise the Lord!

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What pops out at you in this psalm? Is there anything that makes you go “hmm….” or “huh?” or “hey!!!!” Are you reminded of any other stories–whether in the Bible, in literature/movies/music/TV, or in your own life? As you read, do you hear any music in your head?

The psalms are both a prayer book and a hymnal. Does it seem like this particular psalm is more like a prayer or more like a song? What’s the difference between a prayer and a song? Do you ever pray through music? What is that like for you?

This particular psalm is echoed (or is an echo of!) both Hannah’s song (1 Samuel 2) and Mary’s song (Luke 1). Why do you think these themes are so prevalent in our faith story? And why does it so often appear as a song?  (Remember that women were property, not individuals…and remember that both Hannah and Mary were in pretty precarious positions when they sang this song…)  Why is THIS the song of people in those precarious positions? Is this the kind of song you sing at difficult times?

Is this how you experience the work of God? If not, how would you describe what God does and who God is?

If this is truly what God is like, then what does that mean for how we (the people of God, the Body of Christ) are to be?

The word “Magnificat” means “magnified”–it comes from Mary’s song in Luke 1 where she says “My soul magnifies the Lord”, meaning that she is glorifying God even in the midst of her distress. Do you ever have that kind of experience, a time when “magnificat” is appropriate to your spiritual life?

What do you hear as the good news in this text? What do you hear as a challenge? What might this passage have to say to our community today?