Daily Riches: Religion and Established Privilege (Thomas Merton)

“Of course, it is true that religion on a superficial level, religion that is untrue to itself and to God, easily comes to serve as the ‘opium of the people.’ And this takes place whenever religion and prayer invoke the name of God for reasons and ends that have nothing to do with him. When religion becomes a mere artificial facade to justify a social or economic system–when religion hands over its rites and language completely to the political propagandists, and when prayer becomes the vehicle for a purely secular ideological program, then religion does tend to become an opiate. It deadens the spirit enough to permit the substitution of a superficial fiction and mythology for this truth of life. And this brings about the alienation of the believer, so that his religious zeal becomes political fanaticism. His faith in God, while preserving its traditional formulas, becomes in fact faith in his own nation, class or race. His ethic ceases to be the law of God and of love, and becomes the law that might-makes-right: established privilege justifies everything. God is the status quo.” Thomas Merton

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world,
but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is –
his good, pleasing and perfect will. “
Romans 12:1, 2

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Does your religious experience “deaden the spirit” rather than invigorating it? Does it squelch individuality and produce conformity? Does it discourage imagination and curiosity?
  • Does it tend to prop up some unjust “social [or] economic system? Does it support the “status quo” as a way that is out of step with the Bible’s insistence upon justice?
  • Has your faith in God become “in fact faith in your own nation, class or race?”
  • Has your religious ethic somehow become something other than the “law . . . of love?”
  • Are you comfortable with your answers to these questions? If not, what can change?

Abba, help me to speak to the status quo instead of being shaped by it. Strengthen me to question established, unjust privilege and work to undo it. Work in me your earth-changing “law of love.”

For More: Contemplative Prayer by Thomas Merton

_________________________________________________

These “Daily Riches” are for your encouragement as you seek after God and he seeks after you. I hope you’ll follow and share my blog. My goal is to share something of unique value with you daily in 400 words or less. I appreciate your interest!  –  Bill (Psalm 90:14)

“I practice daily what I believe; everything else is religious talk.”

Daily Riches: A Theology of Love and of Resistance (Thomas Merton and Martin Luther King, Jr.)

“A theology of love cannot afford to be sentimental. It cannot afford to preach edifying generalities about charity, while identifying ‘peace’ with mere established power and legalized violence against the oppressed. A theology of love cannot be allowed merely to serve the interests of the rich and powerful, justifying their wars, their violence, and their bombs, while exhorting the poor and underprivileged to practice patience, meekness, long-suffering and to solve their problems, if at all, nonviolently. The theology of love must seek to deal drastically with evil and injustice in the world, and not merely to compromise with them. …Theology does not exist merely to appease the already too untroubled conscience of the powerful and the established. A theology of love may also conceivably turn out to be a theology of revolution. In any case, it is a theology of resistance, a refusal of the evil that reduces a brother to homicidal desperation.” Thomas Merton

“In the terrible midnight of war men have knocked on the door of the church to ask for the bread of peace, but the church has often disappointed them. What more pathetically reveals the irrelevancy of the church in present-day world affairs than its witness regarding war? In a world gone mad with arms buildups, chauvinistic passions, and imperialistic exploitation, the church has either endorsed these activities or remained appallingly silent. … A weary world, pleading desperately for peace, has often found the church morally sanctioning war. … And those who have gone to the church to seek the bread of economic justice have been left in the frustrating midnight of economic deprivation. In many instances the church has so aligned itself with the privileged classes and so defended the status quo that it has been unwilling to answer the knock at midnight.” Martin Luther King, Jr.

“A person who seeks to honor the one who sent him
speaks truth, not lies.”
Jesus in John 7:18

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Is your theology of love a “theology of resistance?”
  • Is your church “aligned with the privileged classes and the status quo?”
  • Where in our day, might the church be guilty of appeasing “the already too untroubled?”
  • Do you think these are valuable questions for Christians? . . . for pastors? If not, why not?

Abba, keep us from conforming to this world, or allowing others to do so in peace.

For More: Faith and Violence by Thomas Merton

_________________________________________________

These “Daily Riches” are for your encouragement as you seek after God and he seeks after you. I hope you’ll follow my blog, and share it. My goal is to share something of unique value with you daily in 400 words or less. I appreciate your interest!  –  Bill (Psalm 90:14)

“I practice daily what I believe; everything else is religious talk.”

Daily Riches: The Problem with National Exceptionalism (Charles Marsh)

“I am fighting for the work of the Lord.” Adolf Hitler

“The weight of German exceptionalism and the spiritual veneration of military valor were not easy inheritances to disown. In nineteenth-century Protestant Prussia, no less a philosopher-patriot than Hegel resolved that his beloved Machtstaat (the ‘power state’ that was the German imperium) had been chosen by God to rule the nations by example, fiat, or force. It was God’s nature to manifest his will in superior and powerful nations, which demonstrated their providential purpose by imposing their will on their neighbors, as the ancient Hebrews had done. By the end of the nineteenth century, the idea of Germany as such a ‘world-historical nation’ had become as hallowed as the historicity of the biblical narratives. . . . Seeberg believed he was fulfilling his spiritual vocation by helping the German people discern the powerful hand of God in the new forces gathering to propel Germany to greatness. Among the professoriate there were precious few willing dissenters from this conviction. German Protestant theology from Schleiermacher to Harnack and Seeberg presumed the providential blessings of the warrior God. . . . In Protestant faculties and congregations, churchmen of fixed and iron-hard purpose who called themselves the Deutsche Christen, the ‘German Christians,’ were pedaling their loyalty to the fatherland. They claimed that God had chosen a new Israel, the German Volk; that the Christian doctrine of revelation had brought about the disinheritance of the Jews and that Jesus Christ had abrogated Israel’s ancient covenant. They wanted a strong church of muscular virtues–a manly church, eine mannliche Kirche–unified by German ideals. They even convinced themselves that Jesus was not a Jew. They boasted of their mission in the most inspiring terms imaginable: as the completion of Martin Luther’s work.” Charles Marsh

“What are nations without justice but large bands of thieves?” Pope John XXIII


“Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar,
and give to God what belongs to God.”
Jesus in Mark 12:17

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • National “exceptionalism”, God’s “new Israel”, “muscular values”–even “the providential blessings of the warrior God”–we’re hearing these kinds of themes again. What is your response?
  • Do you believe it’s “God’s nature to manifest his will in superior and powerful nations which [demonstrate] their providential purpose by imposing their will on their neighbors?” What’s the danger is such a view?
  • Hitler claimed to serve God, and most of the church supported him. What can we learn from this sad story?

Abba, help us discern your hand in power and in weakness. Ground us in reality, truth and courage.

For More: Strange Glory: A Life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer by Charles Marsh 

_________________________________________________

I hope you’ll follow my blog and share it with others.  I really appreciate your interest! – Bill

Daily Riches: When Only Empathy Will Do (Peter Scazzero and Martin Buber)

“Before the war began, [Martin] Buber considered the ‘religious’ to be mystical experiences that lifted him out of the earthly ordinary experiences of everyday life. He was more concerned with the eternal than with the temporal, more focused on ecstasy that on daily existence, more interested in what lies beyond the world than in the world itself. That all changed one day in 1914, the year the World War I broke out in Europe, when a young man came to visit Buber.

What happened was no more than that one forenoon, after a morning of ‘religious’ enthusiasm, I had a visit from an unknown young man, without being there in spirit. I certainly did not fail to let the meeting be friendly. . . . I conversed attentively and openly with him–only I omitted to guess the questions which he did not put. Later, not long after, I learned from one of his friends–he himself was no longer alive–the essential content of these questions; I learned that he had come to me not casually but borne by destiny, not for a chat but for a decision. He had come to me, he had come in this hour.

“The young man had committed suicide. The guilt Buber felt was not that he had somehow failed to remove the young man’s despair, but that he was not fully present to him. He was so preoccupied by his religious experience earlier that morning, that he failed to bring the full resources of his attention to their conversation. He did not turn to the young man with his whole being to actually feel with him. Instead, of genuinely listening, he brought leftovers, a courteous but partial engagement. For Buber, the experience felt like a judgment on his whole way of life. He realized that it is possible to have profound spiritual experiences . . . but that such a faith is worth nothing without a deeply present love for people.” Peter Scazzero

“But they did not understand what he meant
and were afraid to ask him about it.”
Mark 9:32 NIV

Moving from Head to Heart

  • How do you think Jesus felt when he spoke about his coming death, and no one asked him what he meant?
  • Can you recall a time when you tragically failed to listen well?
  • What can you do to become a better listener?

Abba, when I listen, help me focus on what’s happening inside the other person, not inside of me.

For More: Emotionally Healthy Relationships Day by Day by Peter Scazzero

Daily Riches: “It’s Good That You Exist!” (Josef Pieper)

“If a human being already exists anyhow, could we not say that it does not matter whether a lover finds it wonderful and affirms it? Does it really add or take away anything that someone says, ‘It’s good that you exist?” . . . We are basically asking what is the ‘function’ of love within the whole of existence; what it is supposed to do and accomplish in the world. . . . It admittedly does not suffice to analyze, no matter how precisely, the lover’s intention and what is ‘really’ willed and meant by the one who feels loving concern. We must . . . examine the matter from the point of view of the person who happens to be loved. What is really taking place on his side? . . . What does it mean for a person that another turns to him and says . . . ‘It’s good that you exist?’ . . . It does not suffice us simply to exist; we can do that ‘anyhow.” What matters to us, beyond mere existence, is the explicit confirmation: It is good that you exist; how wonderful that you are! In other words, what we need over and above sheer existence is: to be loved by another person. That is an astonishing fact when we consider it closely. Being created by God actually does not suffice, it would seem; the fact of creation needs continuation and perfection by the creative power of human love. But this seemingly astonishing fact is repeatedly confirmed by the most palpable experience, of the kind that everyone has day after day. We say that a person ‘blossoms’ when undergoing the experience of being loved; that he becomes wholly himself for the first time; that a ‘new life’ is beginning for him–and so forth. For a child, and to all appearance even for the still unborn child, being loved by the mother is literally the precondition for its own thriving.” Josef Pieper

“I will betroth you to me forever;
I will betroth you in righteousness and justice,
in love and compassion.”
Hosea 2:19 NIV

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Do you have someone in your life who rejoices over you?
  • Who do you have in your life who is looking to you for love?
  • When is the last time you let someone know “It’s good that you exist!”?

Abba, I desire that people who encounter me would feel much loved.

For More: An Anthology by Joseph Pieper

Daily Riches: Justice, Not Just Love (William Sloane Coffin, Abraham Heschel, and Augustine)

“Hope has two beautiful daughters. Their names are anger and courage; anger at the way things are, and courage to see that they do not remain the way they are.” Augustine

“It is also true that many pastors . . . find it easier to talk to their congregations of charity rather than of justice. Charity, after all, threatens not at all the status quo that may be profitable to a goodly number of their parishioners. Justice, on the other hand, leads directly to political controversy. So there is a real temptation to think that an issue is less spiritual for being more political, to believe that religion is above politics, that the sanctuary is too sacred a place for the grit and grime of political battle. But if you believe religion is above politics, you are, in actually, for the status quo–a very political position. And were God the god of the status quo, then the church would have no prophetic role . . . The cause of justice . . . is to challenge the status quo, to try to make what’s legal more moral, to speak truth to power, and to take personal or concerted action against evil, whether in personal or systemic form. . . .  Clearly the love that lies on the far side of justice demands a communal sense of responsibility for and a sense of complicity in the very evils we abhor. ” William Sloan Coffin

“The more deeply immersed I became in the thinking of the prophets, the more powerfully it became clear to me what the lives of the Prophets sought to convey: that morally speaking, there is no limit to the concern one must feel for the suffering of human beings, that indifference to evil is worse than evil itself, that in a free society, some are guilty, but all are responsible.” Abraham Heschel

Defend the weak and the fatherless;
uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed.
Rescue the weak and the needy;
deliver them from the hand of the wicked.”
Psalm 82:3-4 NIV

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Is focusing on love a way for you to avoid doing justice?
  • Are you perhaps inadvertently siding with the status-quo?
  • Are you characterized by the kind of love spoken of above?

Abba, help me to take responsibility for my complicity, even in evils I abhor.

For More: The Heart Is A Little To The Left by William Sloane Coffin

Daily Riches: “Finally, The Woman Died” (J. Peter Holmes)

“There is good news here [Luke 20:27-40] about the status of women. Jesus was saying that in the resurrection, there will be no more giving women away as if they are property. Women in the resurrection will be persons, just as men will be persons. Paul picked up on this when he wrote, ‘There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus’ (Gal. 3: 28). Jesus’ response was a call to kingdom thinking—on earth as it is in heaven—and a reminder that all things shall be made new. Jesus’ response is also good news for slaves, for those oppressed by race, class, creed, or any other box in which they have been confined: too big, too young, too slow, poorly educated or learning disabled. Whatever the box, it will not exist in the resurrection. Though the Sadducees did not believe in resurrection, many others believed that eternity would be a continuation of things as they had been on earth. Jesus came to say, ‘No. Open your minds and hearts, because what is coming will be so much greater. . . .’ The Sadducees’ question showed very little sympathy for the sorrow this woman had faced. In two verses, they described a woman losing her husband, then remarrying his brother and losing him and then the next brother, and on and on: seven weddings followed by seven funerals. If Jesus sounded exasperated by their telling of the tale, perhaps it was because they did so without an ounce of empathy. How did the men die? How did she get through it all? Maybe they were all wonderful husbands who cared for her tenderly, and yet she had seven marriages and not a child to care for her after her husbands died. It was all so sad. . . . No one empathized with that woman more than Jesus. The tale unfolded so quickly that just as he might have said, ‘Take me to this woman,’ they announced in their insensitive voices, ‘Oh yes, the woman is dead now too’ (the sense of v. 32).” J. Peter Holmes

“Now then, at the resurrection whose wife will she be,
since the seven were married to her?”
Luke 20:33 NIV

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Did you ever read this story and feel the heartbreak of this widow? I never did.
  • Women have been treated poorly (e.g., like property) for most of recorded history. What would Jesus say?
  • Do those who share your faith honor women and advocate for them because of it? Do you?

I can do better Lord. Help me.

For More: Feasting on the Gospels–Luke, Volume 2, by Cynthia Jarvis and E. Elizabeth Johnson

 

 

 

 

Daily Riches: Naming–The Root of Empathy and Intimacy (Maria Popova, Robin Wall Kimmerer, and Bob Dylan)

“Words are simply the signs of things. But many people treat things as though they were the signs and illustrations of words.” Aldous Huxley

.

“To name a thing is to acknowledge its existence as separate from everything else that has a name; to confer upon it the dignity of autonomy while at the same time affirming its belonging with the rest of the namable world; to transform its strangeness into familiarity, which is the root of empathy. To name is to pay attention; to name is to love. Parents name their babies as a first nonbiological marker of individuality amid the human lot; lovers give each other private nicknames that sanctify their intimacy; it is only when we began naming domesticated animals that they stopped being animals and became pets. . . . And yet names are words, and words have a way of obscuring or warping the true meanings of their objects. ‘Words belong to each other,’ Virginia Woolf observed . . . and so they are more accountable to other words than to the often unnamable essences of the things they signify. . . . Naming is an act of redemption and a special form of paying attention, which [Robin Wall] Kimmerer captures beautifully:

Having words for these forms [of various mosses] makes the differences between them so much more obvious. With words at your disposal, you can see more clearly. Finding the words is another step in learning to see. . . . Having words also creates an intimacy with the plant that speaks of careful observation. . . . In indigenous ways of knowing, all beings are recognized as non-human persons, and all have their own names. It is a sign of respect to call a being by its name, and a sign of disrespect to ignore it. Words and names are the ways we humans build relationships . . . . Intimate connection allows recognition in an all-too-often anonymous world. . . . Intimacy gives us a different way of seeing.'” Maria Popova

“Whatever the man called each living creature,
that was its name.”
Genesis 2:19b NIV

“He saw an animal that liked to snort.
Horns on his head and they weren’t too short.
It looked like there wasn’t nothin’ that he couldn’t pull.
‘Ah, think I’ll call it a bull.”
Bob Dylan, “Man Gave Names To All the Animals”

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Have you realized the predictable difference between “what something is” and “what it is to you”?
  • Can you see how much power exists in naming? . . . both for great good and for great harm?
  • Can you see how finding the right words can help you “see more clearly?” . . . love more readily?

Abba, break my addition to assumptions and labels for the sake of love.

For More: “Autism From the Inside” by Katherine May

Daily Riches: “An Inflow of God Into the Soul” (Gerald May, John of the Cross, and Thomas Kelly)

“There is a relentless willfulness in us that seldom ceases until we have been brought to our knees by incapacity and failure.” Gerald May

“Continuously renewed immediacy, not receding memory of the Divine Touch, lies at the base of religious living.” Thomas Kelly

“The dark night is a profoundly good thing. It is an ongoing spiritual process in which we are liberated from attachments and compulsions and empowered to live and love more freely. Sometimes the letting go of old ways is painful, occasionally even devastating. But this is not why the night is called ‘dark.’ The darkness of the night implies nothing sinister, only that the liberation takes place in hidden ways, beneath our knowledge and understanding. It happens mysteriously, in secret, and beyond our conscious control. For that reason if can be disturbing or even scary, but in the end it always works to our benefit. . . . To some extent, we can assume that various dimensions of the night are always going on in our lives. God is always working obscurely within us. And, even more mysteriously, some part of us is always saying yes to God’s invitations to go where we do not want to go. Viewed in this way, the dark night of the soul is . . .  a deep ongoing process that characterizes our spiritual life. In this sense, the dark night is a person’s hidden life with God. . . . ‘This dark night,’ [John of the Cross says,] ‘is an inflow of God into the soul.’ . . . This is, for me, the most hopeful thing about it; the dark night is nothing other than our ongoing relationship with the Divine. . . . As such it never ends; it just keeps deepening, revealing more and more intimate layers of freedom for love.” Gerald May

“Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing.
So they led him by the hand into Damascus.
For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.”
Acts 9:8,9 NIV

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Has incapacity or failure “brought you to your knees?”
  • In your “hidden life with God” can you imagine God always at work deepening your ability to love?
  • You’re not hearkening back to some religious experience years ago are you?

Abba, I renounce my familiar willfulness, and look to you for that needed continuous renewal in my life.

For More: The Dark Night of the Soul by Gerald May

Daily Riches: Incarnational Listening (Leo Buscaglia, David Augsburger, and A. J. Swoboda )

“Being heard is so close to being loved
that for the average person they are almost indistinguishable.” David Augsburger

“The world is changed by listeners.” A.J. Swoboda

“An open ear is the only believable sign of an open heart.” David Augsburger

“When I ask you to listen to me
and you start giving me advice,
you have not done what I asked.

“When I ask you to listen to me
and you begin to tell me why
I shouldn’t feel that way,
you are trampling on my feelings.

“When I ask you to listen to me
and you feel you have to do something
to solve my problem,
you have failed me,
strange as that may seem.

“Listen! All I ask is that you listen.
Don’t talk or do–just hear me.

“Advice is cheap; 20 cents will get
you both Dear Abby and Billy Graham
in the same newspaper.
And I can do for myself; I am not helpless.
Maybe discouraged and faltering,
but not helpless.

“When you do something for me that I can
and need to do for myself,
you contribute to my fear and
inadequacy.

“But when you accept as a simple fact
that I feel what I feel,
no matter how irrational,
then I can stop trying to convince
you and get about this business
of understanding what’s behind
this irrational feeling.

“And when that’s clear, the answers are
obvious and I don’t need advice.
Irrational feelings make sense when
we understand what’s behind them.

“Perhaps that’s why prayer works, sometimes,
for some people–because God is mute,
and he doesn’t give advice or try
to fix things.
God just listens and lets you work
it out for yourself.

“So please listen, and just hear me.
And if you want to talk, wait a minute
for your turn–and I will listen to you.”

Leo Buscaglia

“To answer before listening–that is folly and shame.”
Proverbs 18:13 NIV

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • When you’re called upon to listen, do you find yourself giving advice? It’s a common problem.
  • Are you quick to want to “fix” someone or their problem? What might that say about you–either positively or negatively?
  • When did you last feel truly heard? Wasn’t it powerful and wonderful? Didn’t you feel special, valuable–loved? Can you do that for someone else soon? How could you practice that?

Abba, help me as I practice loving, attentive, silent listening.

For More: Caring Enough to Hear and Be Heard by David Augusburger

Daily Riches: What Saves Relationships Over and Over (Maria Popova, Rainer Maria Rilke, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, and Shel Silverstein)

“Love does not consist of gazing at each other, but in looking outward together in the same direction.” Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

“Our paradoxical longing for intimacy and independence is a diamagnetic force—it pulls us toward togetherness and simultaneously repels us from it with a mighty magnet that, if unskillfully handled, can rupture a relationship and break a heart. Under this unforgiving magnetism, it becomes an act of superhuman strength and self-transcendence to give space to the other when all one wants is closeness. And yet this difficult act may be the very thing—perhaps the only thing—that saves the relationship over and over.” Maria Popova

“I hold this to be the highest task of a bond between two people: that each should stand guard over the solitude of the other. For, if it lies in the nature of indifference and of the crowd to recognize no solitude, then love and friendship are there for the purpose of continually providing the opportunity for solitude. And only those are the true sharings which rhythmically interrupt periods of deep isolation. . . . It is a question in marriage, to my feeling, not of creating a quick community of spirit by tearing down and destroying all boundaries, but rather a good marriage is that in which each appoints the other guardian of his solitude, and shows him this confidence, the greatest in his power to bestow. A togetherness between two people is an impossibility, and where it seems, nevertheless, to exist, it is a narrowing, a reciprocal agreement which robs either one party or both of his fullest freedom and development. But, once the realization is accepted that even between the closest human beings infinite distances continue to exist, a wonderful living side by side can grow up, if they succeed in loving the distance between them which makes it possible for each to see the other whole and against a wide sky! Therefore this too must be the standard for rejection or choice: whether one is willing to stand guard over the solitude of a person and whether one is inclined to set this same person at the gate of one’s own solitude . . . . Self-transformation is precisely what life is, and human relationships, which are an extract of life, are the most changeable of all, rising and falling from minute to minute, and lovers are those in whose relationship and contact no one moment resembles another. . . . For one human being to love another: that is perhaps the most difficult of all our tasks, the ultimate, the last test and proof, the work for which all other work is but preparation.” Rainer Maria Rilke

“Love one another.”
John 13:34

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Do you agree that by nature the crowd deprives its members of solitude?
  • Will you choose a beloved who will protect your solitude? Can you be trusted to protect their solitude?
  • Are you learning to be happy and whole in solitude, so that even when you want closeness, you can give your partner space?

Abba, may my love be unpossessing, uncontrolling, protecting space for the thriving of my beloved.

For More: The Missing Piece Meets the Big O by Shel Silverstein

Popova, Maria. “The Difficult Art of Giving Space in Love: Rilke on Freedom, Togetherness, and the Secret to a Good Marriage”

Rilke, Rainer Maria. Letters to a Young Poet. New York: W. W. Norton, 2004. 

Daily Riches: The Madness and Meaning of Love (Thomas Moore)

“Love is also a kind of madness. It seals you in a bubble of fantasy where emotions are intense. You feel unbalanced. You do silly things. Your sense of responsibility disappears. You are deaf to the reasonable advice of friends and family. In your delirium you may get married or pregnant. Then you spend years in the aftermath trying to make a reasonable life. At any point you may fall into a dark night of the soul created by the profound unsettling that love leaves in its wake. . . . After years of practicing psychotherapy with men and women of all ages, I am convinced that love is the most common source of our dark nights. . . . The lure is strong, but the darkness is intense. It is as though love always has two parts, or two sides, like the moon, a light one and a dark one. In all our loves we have little idea of what is going on and what is demanded of us. Love has little to do with ego and is beyond understanding and control. It has its own reasons and its own indirect ways of getting what it wants. . . . You surrender, and then the spell descends and you get swept away by days and nights of fantasy, memory and longing, and a strange sensation of loss, perhaps the end of freedom and of a comfortable life. Even if you have had experiences of painful and unsuccessful love, you don’t give up on it. The soul so hungers for love that you go after it, even if there is only the slightest chance of succeeding. . . . Clearly love is not about making you happy. It is a form of initiation that may radically transform you, making you more of who you are but less of who you have been. If you don’t realize that you are walking on coals and running the gauntlet and surviving the wilderness in quest of vision–all within the comforts of a simple human relationship–you could be undone by it. Love gives you a sense of meaning, but it asks a price. It will make you into the person you are called to be, but only if you endure its pains and allow it to empty you as much as it fills you.” Thomas Moore

“The Lord said to me, ‘Go, show your love to your wife again . . . .
Love her as the Lord loves the Israelites, though they turn to other gods . . . .’”
Hosea 3:1 NIV

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • “The lure [of love] is strong, but the darkness is intense.” Do you typically remember that?
  • Moore says, “Clearly love is not about making you happy.” Does that even make sense? If it’s true, what does it mean?
  • Are you willing to “pay the price” that love demands?

Abba, as we love, help us to see past the fantasies to the opportunities.

For More: The Dark Nights Of The Soul by Thomas Moore

Daily Riches: The Approachability of Jesus (Shannon Jung)

“People were bringing even infants, presumably those so young that they needed to be carried, and other children to Jesus ‘that he might touch them.’ Perhaps they had heard of Jesus’ miraculous healing powers and wanted to gain some of that for their children. However, that is partly to impose our more caring view of children onto first-century people. The literature on how children were viewed then suggests that people then did not value children very highly. Children were, in one interpretation, seen to be on the same social level as slaves: with few rights, open to abuse, and lacking protection under Jewish law. Other, more moderate views are that children were merely treated with indifference. . . . Clearly there is more than a metaphor here; there is an emotional image for us who would be disciples to imitate. There is something about Jesus that is a blessing, a hospitality, an approachability, a charisma that draws others into him. Luke the author wants us to get that image. . . . No one can merit or achieve the kingdom; it must be received without merit, as a child receives everything. . . . We, like the disciples, are to welcome as Jesus welcomed. We are to follow the example of Jesus, who called the marginal and the despised to himself. What we can do out of gratitude is to call the socially rejected to physical and spiritual life in Christ. Like the early church, we are to transform society by not just accepting but seeking out the outcasts and the marginalized. We are to treat them as Jesus did the children. . . . Ministry to, with, and for those who are on the margins is our response to God’s welcome of us. . . . What is the quality that commends children? Precisely their dependency. Their dependence on adults mirrors our dependence of God; that is one of the marks of the kingdom, which belongs to them (v. 16b). Here is exemplified the equal unworthiness, marginality and dependence of us all before God.” Shannon Jung

“Whoever does not receive
the kingdom of God as a little child
will never enter it.”
Luke 18:17 NLT

Moving From Head to Heart

  • What would a church look like that called the “socially rejected to physical and spiritual life in Christ?”
  • How would that impact it’s philosophy of ministry? . . . congregational demographics?
  • Have you ever been an outsider? Are there many socially rejected people in your congregation? . . . in your list of friends?

Abba, thank you for our approachable Jesus.

For More: Feasting on the Gospels, Vol. 2 by Cynthia Jarvis and E. Elizabeth Johnson, eds.

_______________________________________________

Daily Riches: Jesus Calls Us To the Chutes, Not the Ladders (Mark Ralls and D. L. Moody) *

“We may easily be too big for God to use, but never too small.” D. L. Moody

“There is a game for children that has been around for generations, and I expect almost every reader has played it at one time or another. . . . The game is Chutes and Ladders; since it is a game for little ones, the rules are about as simple and straightforward as you can get. Spin the wheel and move around the board. As you go, you wish for ladders and hope to avoid the chutes or slides. Land at the base of a ladder—All Right!—you get to climb all the way to the top, advancing beyond where even the highest spin can take you. Land at the top of a chute—Oh No!—you must slide all the way to the bottom, back toward the square where you started. Chutes and Ladders gives us some insight into the culture in which Jesus lived. Scholars tell us that first-century Mediterranean culture operated under the binaries of shame and honor. This basically means that people’s behavior was shaped by two things: the threat of being publicly shamed and the promise of being publicly honored. It is difficult to grasp the emotional power of one’s reputation in the ancient world. Our individualistic culture has muted its force. To be shamed was a terrible setback. To be honored moved you forward in the eyes of everyone who mattered most to you. It was akin to Chutes and Ladders. One evening Jesus tells two parables while he is a guest at a dinner party that includes the most honorable folks in town. Sitting there, Jesus cannot help but grin as he observes that this dinner party has all the social subtlety of a junior high cafeteria. Everyone is jockeying for a seat at the cool table. . . . So what does Jesus do? He stands up and tells all those guests a little story . . . . ‘Here is a little tip,’ Jesus says. ‘The next time you are invited to a wedding, do not take the best seat in the house. What is going to happen if someone more distinguished than you shows up? Hard to imagine, I know, but it could happen. When it does, you will find yourself at the top of the chute, and you will have to slide from the seat of honor all the way down to the seat of shame. Oh, what a long, lonely walk it is, from the first table to that one in the back, right beside the swinging door of the kitchen!’ To sharpen his point and to make sure we do not confine his advice to dinner parties, Jesus adds this: Those who make their own honor the goal of their lives will be ashamed of themselves in the end, and those who are humble, repeatedly putting others first, will experience the true, deep, and lasting honor of the kingdom of God. . . . these parables go much deeper than practical advice. They speak to the general arc of our lives. What if the point of our lives is not about climbing all the right ladders of achievement and prestige and power? What if our true purpose is to slide down as many chutes as possible to offer compassion and service and love to all those on the rungs below? While our culture may operate under different rules than honor and shame, we still live in the land of Chutes and Ladders. We fool ourselves into thinking that contentment lies on the rung just above us. So we reach for ever-new heights and climb as fast as we can. The rest is simple math. The more time and energy we dedicate to this all-consuming endeavor, the less we notice those who reside on the rungs below. We forget those we have passed along the way. It is just as true that we will most likely miss Christ himself. Born in the back room of a barn, spending his days bending his back to touch the hands of lepers, to caress the cheeks of widows, to place children on his knee, this humble Savior rode a donkey through the gates of Jerusalem and then knelt before his disciples to wash their feet. The only time he chose to ascend was up a hill called Calvary, where he bore our sins and carried our sorrows on his bent and holy back. On Easter morning, we discovered that his humility is what God truly honors. Climbing up, we are likely to pass right by the Son of God, who is intent on coming down. According to Jesus, we have completely misunderstood the point of the game. We are out there looking for ladders, when Jesus is calling us toward the chutes. We are climbing up, when he is calling to come down. If we dare to follow, he promises that in the end we will find deep blessing and true honor.” Mark Ralls

“When he had finished washing their feet,
he put on his clothes and returned to his place.
‘Do you understand what I have done for you?’ he asked them.”
John 13:12 NIV

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Are you listening to Jesus about the Chutes?
  • Are you climbing up, whereas he was always bending down?
  • Jesus’ humility (his “downward mobility”) was for the purpose of showing compassion to those at the bottom of the Chutes. Isn’t he a beautiful person? Is this the person you’re making known with your life?

Abba, keep me off the Ladders . . . for the sake of compassion.

For More: The Selfless Way of Christ by Henri Nouwen

_______________________________________________

Cynthia A. Jarvis & E. Elizabeth Johnson. Feasting on the Gospels–Luke, Volume 2: A Feasting on the Word Commentary. Westminster John Knox Press. Louisville, 2014.

Nouwen, Henri. The Selfless Way of Christ: Downward Mobility and the Spiritual Life. Maryknoll: Orbis, 2007.

*One of the great things about making the rules, is that you can break them when you want. I thought that what Mark Ralls wrote was worth breaking my rule to limit posts to 400 words.

 

Daily Riches: . . . And Nothing Changes (David Benner)

“The conversion of the heart that lies at the core of Christian spiritual transformation begins at the cross. It involves meeting God’s love in the cross, not simply encountering some judicial solution for the problem of human sin. It must also involve surrender to that love, not simply being warmed by it as a comforting spiritual truth.” David Benner

“Love is the acid test of Christian spirituality. . . . If we are not becoming more loving, something is seriously wrong. But how do we become more loving and what has gone wrong if we are on the Christian spiritual journey but our heart is not more and more the heart of the Father? How do we move beyond self-interest as our number one priority? How do we get from envy, criticalness or competitiveness to compassion? . . . When I am confronted with my frequent failure in love, my first instinct has always been to try harder. I recognize the poverty of my love. . . . I feel regret and discouragement. I pray for help in being more loving. I try harder. And nothing changes. . . . My own struggles to become more loving have been the most discouraging aspect of my Christian spiritual journey. But as I have begun to learn to come back through the cross to the extravagant love of God for me, slowly my hard heart is beginning to thaw. Ever so slowly my heart is becoming God’s heart–larger and more tender than anything I could have ever expected or experienced as a result of my most persistent effort. . . . Allowing myself to deeply experience his love–taking time to soak in it and allow it to infuse me–has begun to effect changes that I had given up hope of ever experiencing. Coming back to God in my failure at love, throwing myself into his arms and asking him to remind me of how much he loves me as I am–here I begin to experience new levels of love to give to others.” Benner

“If you love your neighbor,
you will fulfill the requirements of God’s law.”
Romans 13:8b NLT

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Do you ever feel like “nothing changes?”
  • In those moments, is your solution “try harder?”
  • Is God’s love for sinners something you actually experience?

Abba, let me soak in, and be infused with, your love for me–and be motivated and empowered to love others.

For More: Surrender to Love by David Benner

________________________________________________

Sources:

Benner, David G. Surrender to Love: Discovering the Heart of Christian Spirituality. Downer’s Grove: InterVarsity, 2003.

%d bloggers like this: