Sola Gratia

Who doesn’t love getting gifts?

 “For by grace you have been saved through faith.                                                          And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God…”   ~Ephesians 2: 8-9

Anytime I receive a gift, it is not my doing.

If I earned it, it’s called a wage.

If I deserved it, it’s called an honorarium.

Being Grandma’s favorite means getting stuff the others don’t. It’s those secret conversations that leave you holding an heirloom, an extra batch of cookies, or a crisp hundred dollar bill.

What’s incredible about Grandma’s favor is that you didn’t do anything to get it.

Well, nothing you know about.  Face it.

Grandma’s grace has more to do with who you are than what you are doing.

Sure, you thought it was because you are the first one in the family to go to college…or the only grand-kid who ever goes to church… but Grandmas are far more intuitive than that. The discernment of that denizen of older age sees more with her aging eyes than your pitifully acute, young eyes ever possibly could.

Grandma sees the person you are, the one you are becoming, and who you may yet be.

So, there is this gift given.  It is a sign of relationship; an expression that is both parts knowing and loving you.

A gift has nothing to do with justice. Juries deliver verdicts. Judges hand out sentences. Grandmas give gifts.

Grace is a gift. It is the favor of God bestowed for no other reason than your actually being known and loved by God.

Grandma gives you an heirloom; you treasure the legacy; preserve it and pass along its story to others.

Grandma favors you with a handmade sweater; you wear it proudly.

Grandma grants you a special batch of homemade cookies; you gobble them with yummy noises and grunts of appreciation between mouthfuls.

Grace is a gift from God. The gift says everything about the gift giver, but it is also saying something about the one receiving the gift.

It says you are loved.

And we say “I love you back” by what we do with the gift.

Gifts, after all, aren’t meant to be left in packages with pretty bows.

Gifts are given to be opened; put to use; acted on; employed.

Grace is a gift.

The question was never what did you do to deserve that?

The question has always been, what are you going to do with that?

 Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.  ~1 Peter 4:10

 

 

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Sola Fide

When did we give up on faith, exactly?

Since when is Faith, alone, not good enough and we had to send Assurance along to walk it to the corner market?

The anxiety gnawing at our innards; the spoiled children demanding to know what is in the package beneath the tree.  That peculiar drift from faith in Christ toward an insistence of an assurance of salvation astounds.

I’m still waiting for Calvin’s peer review to publish.

Faith does not satisfy like assurance. Faith is covenantal not contractual.

Assurance is binding; demanding. Our ways, human ways, like things strapped down.

Guaranteed.

 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. Isaiah 55:8-9

Leave it to a lawyer like Calvin to draft the closing argument for (his) justification before Christ in the divine courtroom. How clever to use sacred scripture to compile an adjudication; using God’s words against God to pronounce his own sentence, claiming  innocence on the merit of the Judge’s righteousness and demanding the inheritance of heaven!

So odd that among the Greekophiliac biblical scholars and their insatiable taste for tenses, that not one of them remember Paul saying we are “being saved”. Or, that not one has bothered to mention that assurance and faith are apples and oranges.

A witnessing believer declares, “Your name is written in the Lamb’s Book of Life! Your sins are forgiven and salvation is sure!” when those magic words are whispered: Jesus, come into my heart and save me. 

Somehow, this statement declaring a final judgment is not blasphemy.

                                    Just saving Jesus some time at the end of all things

Yet, should a Catholic priest say to a repentant person:

May God, who has enlightened every heart, help you to know your sins and trust in his mercy…God, the Father of mercies, through the death and resurrection of his Son has reconciled the world to himself and sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins; through the ministry of the Church may God give you pardon and peace, and I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

This, we are to believe, is an act of violence against Divine privilege and authority.

Even though Jesus taught us to forgive one another. James teaches us to confess our sins one to another. Jesus delegates to his disciples the function of binding and releasing sin as a function of shaping church (community) culture.

But the sacred scripture is quite clear about one thing.

Christ alone was declared worthy to judge. You cannot declare me “saved.” No one can. Not you. Not Calvin. Certainly not myself. How could any of us make such a claim?  Would you care to know what the Bible actually says about our salvation?

Jesus decides. And only Jesus knows.

See, I am being saved. I am charged to remain faithful. I have the works Jesus began to carry on.

Well there’s an uncomfortable concept. A judgment.

A judgement conducted by the only worthy judge.

No assurance there.

–All that “Lord, Lord we did miracles and such in your name” business.

But there is hope (Paul’s language again).  Faith is more formidable.

Assurance is, well, assuring. But the gospels, and the apostolic teachings, read collaboratively don’t say we are assured of anything.

Faith is a work of trust; it is relational.  It is evidenced, not by a tract discovered in a bathroom stall, signed, and stuffed in a wallet, but by a life living out the works and words of Christ.

Assurance-speak must be the language of the insecure, the anxious and uncertain. Assurance defies mystery. It is the prodigal’s demand for an inheritance now. Those who fear judgment have not experienced a mature relationship; a perfect love.

Faithfulness is an enduring; a process; a growth.

Faith is the substance that substantiates hope.

Faith is the evidence of what is yet unseen.

Faith is found in sincere, personal relationships.

They do not say of a good, loyal husband, “He was assuring to his wife.”

Hearing those words, that he was assuring to his wife, implies he is yet trying to convince his wife of something she is not quite sure is believable.

Sola Fide.  It is enough.

I won’t depend on magic words to seal my salvation any longer.  I will no longer demand Jesus come into my heart and life. Instead, I will answer the call of Christ and follow Him. I will come into His heart and His life.

And working out that salvation, not by my works, but through His works which He began and continues through us, I will know Him better; hear Him better; trust Him more.

Then, on that day, I will trust fall backward into the arms of Christ, or else into just judgment. Who knows?

Jesus.

Transf-aggravation

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Irritable Jesus isn’t someone we recognize. At least, we don’t readily envision Jesus as the short-tempered, fed-up, tired-of-people type.

The Gospels take us behind the scenes. Jesus, having a literal mountain top experience, is back home for a time.

The presence of the Divine, familiar souls..Jesus glows with exhilaration. Even the conversation sounds like party planning: his departure.  This is homecoming, right?

But once the lights are turned out and the old friends are headed home, Jesus sounds anything but thrilled. His tone is scolding; His words scalding.

If the Gospels were mere hagiography, the epic hero would remain unchanged. But in a real life, like the one we read about in Scripture, real people react to bad news.

Like the news that your best friend will betray you. That your closest friends will desert you. That your enemies will shame you: mock you, spit on you , beat you. They’ll hang you naked, stuck to a post by nails, where you’ll be suffocated to death while suffering from anemia and dehydration due to blood loss, in front of loved ones, racial haters, and curious creepy types who enjoy watching people tortured.

That’s the news. That’s how you’re going out. That’s the send off from the public you loved with healing, and forgiveness, and restorative wisdom given at times you were completely exhausted or grieving the death of a close cousin.

Someone should tell God to get out of this abusive relationship.

But they’ll say they’re sorry. Sure they will. Don’t all abusers? They don’t know why they did it. They love you so much.

Here are some gifts. Will that make it better?

Take some money for missionaries.

I’ll be at church 3 times next month instead of just 1.

See, I’m over here at the service project, on a Saturday.

All better?

But then it happens again.

The cheating on God with other obsessions . The lying about it. Covering up. The rage fights. The screaming.

It’s God’s fault and God knows it!

Just stay in your place, God!

Do what you’re told!

Stay outta my business!

I’ll do what I want!

You really need to get out of this relationship, God. Humans are not good to you. Have some self respect, Most High. You need to affirm the Divine You. You deserve better…

Jesus feels it. Deeply. The anger. The confusion.

Just before the Cross moment, it’s decision time.

Are you breaking up with us, God?

Are you giving up on the marriage? Is the long, ugly separation finally going to end in divorce?

Let this cup pass from me

Only natural that God, in flesh, wants out. Who needs co-dependent, destructive, hurting relationships?

But God, divine, knows something.

Your will be done

The difference between God in an abusive relationship and you and I in abusive relationships…

We can’t change the abusive broken deceiver-hurters  into new, whole, healed selves.

God says, from Calvary, “…but I can.”

LUKE

9:37 On the next day, when they had come down from the mountain, a great crowd met him.

9:38 Just then a man from the crowd shouted, “Teacher, I beg you to look at my son; he is my only child.

9:39 Suddenly a spirit seizes him, and all at once he shrieks. It convulses him until he foams at the mouth; it mauls him and will scarcely leave him.

9:40 I begged your disciples to cast it out, but they could not.”

9:41 Jesus answered, “You faithless and perverse generation, how much longer must I be with you and bear with you? Bring your son here.”

9:42 While he was coming, the demon dashed him to the ground in convulsions. But Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, healed the boy, and gave him back to his father.

9:43a And all were astounded at the greatness of God.

Courage

courage1

An attribute of good character is Courage.

It is the stuff respect is made of.

Heart like this is not bravado

Real bravado is heart like this: risk takers and justice seekers who win over the mind of others because they conquered themselves first.

 

Today we practice courage:

 

When we are afraid, still we will act.

Fear and courage are brothers.

 

We will follow our heart.

To dare is to lose your footing for a moment. To not dare is to lose yourself.

 

We will continue on in spite of adversity.

Emerson said, “A hero is no braver than an ordinary person, but the hero was braver five minutes longer.”

 

We will stand for what is right.

From caring comes courage.

 

We will go farther and see more

No one ever sees new oceans without the courage to no longer see the shore.

 

We face everything with dignity.

There is no need to be ashamed of tears. Tears are courage packaged in suffering.

 

Today, we will practice courage.

Let the exercises begin.

And be stronger because of them.

 

Amen.

 

 

Adapted from the article:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-mindful-self-express/201208/the-six-attributes-courage

Hospitality

Welcome Mat

In my tradition

wrong or right

we teach one another to

invite Jesus into your heart

or

into your life.

(Though it might be better said

that Jesus invites us all into His life

is a blog post for another time.)

Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. ~Luke 10:38

Hospitality was the first virtue of Christendom.

It is really quite simple.

Make the stranger feel at home in your home.  Put the tired traveler at ease.

But today we are terrified. Paranoid. Worried over many things.

All the doors are bolted; even the ones to our heart.

Convinced that the stranger is only after what is ours we build motels and hotels for our peers

and with our imagination play “pretend like -” to create fairy tale make believe shelters big enough for all the homeless people where taxes and charities and 1 per centers dig deep to provide food, clothes, showers. Then sleep easy in our dreamland.

The art and practice of hospitality has been lost.

 the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. ~Luke 10:41 

The service of hospitality.

All that was needed was for one to welcome Jesus into their home: this is heart and life.

Welcomed into the vault where we lock up all our treasures.

A beautiful sentiment lost on a generation far away from all things hospitable.

Because, how do we tell ourselves: our friends and children

Invite Jesus into your heart!  Welcome Jesus into your life!

when we no longer know how to entertain a guest? what to do with the stranger?

They have no idea what inviting anyone into their life should look like.

So…

Would Jesus even feel comfortable in your life?

Does He feel “in the way”?  A bother?  “Asking too much?”

How often is this guest attended to, and what is not provided or offered because of the silent politeness of the visitor?

What would a heart and life look like if we actually tried to make Jesus “feel at home”.

I think we’ve left Jesus on the front porch.

Don’t worry. It’s screened-in. The mosquitos won’t get him.”

We’ll bring him some iced tea and a few magazines.”

Make yourself at home” isn’t hospitable. It’s neglect with a polite smile.

She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying…”there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.” ~ Luke 10:39,42

Hospitality

Broken

Mary arrived early at the tomb to clean up the broken body;

wrap it with soft cloth and spice.

Jesus forbad it.

       Hands off.        Don’t touch.

Broken punctured twisted bloodied naked shredded skin

A glorified body

presented to God in all its brokenness

visible to friends: see my hands, my feet, my side

Don’t hold on to me, Mary.

The world must see me just like this.

You cannot clean him up, Mary.

Let’s all stop trying to wash away the blood

and spice up the body broken.

Lest we all start believing the lie that people are basically good…

That the arc of human nature bends toward justice…

It is the disfigured figure of innocence savagedly razed to life

that testifies against the human race: a depraved race.

Holy Love embodied walks on calloused heels searching out the concentration camps of the soul:

unblinded eyes see the self-haters forgiven who embrace the leprosy-free as they dance with the lame-no-more.

Only one punishment to fit this crime against humanity:

Crucify Him.

No, Mary, you cannot clean him up.

      We must see Him as he is

as we made him

         or we will never believe it is true –

                        in denial

that we are the darkness we fear

               disguised as angels of light.

BrokenBody

Creator of the universe,
you made the world in beauty,
and restore all things in glory
through the victory of Jesus Christ.
We pray that, wherever your image is still disfigured
by poverty, sickness, selfishness, war and greed,
the new creation in Jesus Christ may appear in justice, love, and peace,
to the glory of your name. Amen.*

*Revised Common Lectionary, Vanderbilt Divinity Library (online)

Source: http://lectionary.library.vanderbilt.edu/prayers.php?id=87

Combustion

bustle

Gracious and giving God,

We are busy and when we get busy we get bold: acting decisively, deciding quickly, quickly moving, to move the day’s business forward.

So guard our activity with wisdom and fill it with compassion.

If You give us only one gift this holiday season, let it be this: grant to us the blessing of stillness; some quiet, soul searching time. Let us have time to move slower, choose with consideration, and question what we do.

Give us rest.

May all the ways You are beyond us bring us comfort: You are able in all the ways we are unable.

May all the ways You are near us bring us hope. You understand us and love us: calling us by name and looking into our eyes even in this moment.

endofwick

In this season where Peace and Hope are anticipated, allow Your virtue which is both beyond us and near us to inspire us: like a candle at the end of its wick let malice, intolerance, hatred, bigotry and exclusion burn itself out to a sputtering, flickering end.

Instead, let us find within us love, acceptance, and peace.

Amen

.burning out