Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Doxology



Romans 11:33-36, “Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!  How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!  “Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?” “Who has ever given to God, that God should repay them?” For from him and through him and for him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen” (NIV).

Admittedly, defining doxology can be difficult.  At its simplest, doxology is a short form of praise offered to God, often at the end of something.  Sometimes we use this word for a short blessing at the end of worship.  Any way you look at it, doxology brings something to a close. 

As averse as I can be to endings, there is something beautiful about closing your eyes, lifting upturned, open hands, and receiving grace to go out into the world one more time, because God is worthy of praise.

As I tried to piece together the daily office, this morning, the passages seemed oddly matched.  The Doxology?  Well, OK… but I didn’t want to write about Exodus 2:11-15.  Really, who does?  For reference, here it is:

One day, after Moses had grown up, he went out to where his own people were and watched them at their hard labor. He saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his own people. Looking this way and that and seeing no one, he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand. The next day he went out and saw two Hebrews fighting. He asked the one in the wrong, ‘Why are you hitting your fellow Hebrew?’ The man said, ‘Who made you ruler and judge over us? Are you thinking of killing me as you killed the Egyptian?’ Then Moses was afraid and thought, ‘What I did must have become known.’ When Pharaoh heard of this, he tried to kill Moses, but Moses fled from Pharaoh and went to live in Midian, where he sat down by a well” (NIV).

There are a number of things that could be noted here, but the thing that caught me off guard was the final phrase.  After slavery, abuse, murder, deception, fighting, judgment, fear, and threats (all in a matter of 48 hours); Moses runs.  Life as he knows it ends (and maybe it should… he even brought some of this on himself… but again, too much for today), and then something both ordinary and extraordinary happens.  He sits down by a well.

Because here’s the thing…  Unless you’re dead; when one thing ends, another begins.  Um… scratch that…  It sounded catchy, but I just realized it might be less than theologically sound…  Let’s just leave it at; when one thing ends, another begins.  Period.

I wonder how often we miss the well.

I am thinking about this, specifically, in regard to community, today.  I’ve been returning to this concept of struggle and grief over the loss of community for so long now, it sort of makes me sick.  But stay with me.  Grief is real, we need to work through it, I’m not sure it always fully comes to a close, and I’m not done talking/writing about it.  However, I had this moment the other day when I realized I was missing the “next.”  I was sitting by the well, metaphorically drinking from it all night long, and it was 5am before I realized I had adjusted to a new community, and I was OK.  Go figure…

Taking the “Theology Besties” post off the “job board” still feels a little rough.  But I guess you shouldn’t continue to advertise for a position that has been filled…
 
L.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Intentionality



Joseph’s story always feels a little rough to me.  This is part of why I have not had much to say, regarding the daily office, for several days.  There is so much abuse, persecution, and needless tragedy.  I struggle to wrap my mind around it, and as Joseph’s story begins to draw to a close, these words are haunting: 

Genesis 50:20, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives” (NIV).

Is it possible that this intense distress, over the course of a lifetime, was intentional?  Is it possible that God intended, all along, for Joseph, specifically, to be the ‘lucky one’ who must endure this narrative in order to bring redemption to the world, including Joseph’s very own abusers?  Often, when this passage is preached or taught, this is exactly what we say.  I’m not saying that, today.

Many versions of Scripture use the word “intended” in the translation, but the original Hebrew word here is actually חֲשָׁבָ֣הּ (chashavah), which means to think or to account… 

I love this, because it seems to get at the heart of what was going on.  Joseph’s brothers thought they could inflict this pain and suffering on Joseph and rid themselves of him, for their own sake.  But God looked at the situation and thought something good could still come of it.  God had an opinion, and then God worked with Joseph to account for the awful mess of his life.

Many things happened to Joseph, at the hands of others, over which he had no control.  But Joseph had a choice when it came to how he would respond to God’s nudge, and it appears that he responded in love, making the best choice possible in the given moment, far more often than not (maybe not always, but a lot).  God can use that!  And God did.

From Common Prayer, today, we have this quote:

“Help us, Lord, to see as you see : and to change what is into what ought to be.”

Let’s not turn a blind eye to the evil and suffering in the world.  It’s real.  But let’s also get out there and make every effort to do something about it.  Intentionality begins with a thought and an opinion about what is happening, but it ends with an account about what happens next!

L.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Unity is Not Oppression



Psalm 33:1, 3, “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity… For there the Lord bestows his blessing, even life forevermore” (NIV).

I feel confident that these words should be able to stand on their own and yet concerned that they might be misconstrued in the current cultural climate.  Here’s my take, in a world where I have had to back way… way… down on social media involvement over the past week, because I can’t seem to deal with the hate that is being spewed.  My preference is to get out into the community and to do something with and for people who are being oppressed, because that seems to be more beneficial to all involved.

I have not been completely silent (because, of course, silence can insinuate approval and perpetuate cruelty).  You can listen to some of my thoughts regarding racism and bigotry, here, if you really want to, but it might be better to use that time loving on people in the real world… in your real world.  I recognize that my own voice is less effective at the present time than my actions might be.

But, today, I will comment briefly.  Unity is not oppression.  We cannot define unity by propagating the “us and them” mentality and then placing the burden on “them” to become like “us” in order for blessing and peace to fall from heaven!  God is not going to bless this. 

We are not the gatekeepers.  It is time to open our tables and relinquish our platforms to people who are not like us in order to allow their voices to be heard as legitimate, essential, and authentic.  Unity is diversity.

L.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

For Common Use



Romans 9:21 has significance to me for a variety of reasons, but something fresh hit me when I read it, today:

“Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for special purposes and some for common use?” (NIV).

Synonyms for ‘common’ include words like ordinary, regular, usual, and conventional.  A quick synonym search in Microsoft Word will even bring up the phrase, “nothing special.”  But ‘common’ has more than one meaning…

It also means, “shared… mutual… communal… collective… for all…”  Instead of “nothing special,” common might, indeed, be extraordinary.

What if some of us are made for use by everyone?  Kind of makes me think of Jesus…

L.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Too Much



Buried deep within the genealogical record of Esau’s descendents is a line we might skim over, merely because of its location in Scripture:

Genesis 36:7, “Their possessions were too great for them to remain together; the land where they were staying could not support them both…” (NIV).

Of course, Jacob and Esau have a storied history.  From conception, they have been fighting over space and rights and blessings and dinner.  They have a multitude of reasons to avoid living in the same neighborhood, but this one is an odd one.  They have too much stuff between them (another double meaning for the week). 

I write a lot about the tragedy that has befallen us as a selfish people who do not care about the poor and oppressed as we should—the fear, the greed, the identity crisis that has caused us to forget that all people are our people.  Strangely, selfishness can also prevent us from interacting well with people who are just like us—the fear, the greed, the identity crisis that has caused us to forget that there is enough space for everyone… well… unless we hoard stuff.  Then it gets tricky.

Over a period of time, I have been slowly processing what it is that I actually need, defined as require.  I think it’s important to make a distinction between basic, physical needs and self-indulgent wants, but there is also something in-between.  Maybe there is even a lot of something in-between.  And the middle is always where lines blur and color turns to grey.  I’m still working through it, but I have reached a few defining principles:

I require less than I thought.  With undertones of self-deprecating humor, I have sometimes referred to myself as high maintenance, but I’m realizing that I’m actually not.  In reality, I don’t ask nearly as much of others as I ask of myself.  I made a list of my expectations, this morning, and it looked like this: don’t lie to me, don’t waste my time, don’t hurt my kids.  I’m pretty sure those are all reasonable requests.  Admittedly, I turn into someone I don’t even know if those principles are broken, so they’re more than ‘just’ wants.  They are needs.

I require very few things, which is not to say that I do not own far too many.  As our family has downsized (even with five children at home), some of our close friends and family members have freaked out.  Are we giving away too much?  I don’t think so, and I am confident that it is tied to my next need…

I require ample, uncluttered space.  This is holistically true.  Physical space is one thing, but I also need mental, emotional, spiritual, and even social space.  Just as in literature, there must be a balance between blank space and text or images (activity).  If there are no margins, I do not recognize what I have for what it is.   

I require that people take priority over possessions or prominence.  It’s not about me.  I will share.  Community has become more essential to me than ever, so if you need my stuff… or even if you legitimately need my space (admittedly, I might be slightly stingier with that)… you can have it.  There’s enough to go around. 

Maybe that’s why this piece of Jacob’s and Esau’s narrative stings.  Why can’t they be satisfied with less of themselves and more of the other?  Thankfully, their story doesn’t end like this, but they lose so much in the process of trying to gain something else.  The number of years and the quality of relationship that is lost simply isn’t worth it.

‘The land’ can support us all.

L.