Thursday, September 25, 2014


This Sunday's second lesson is Philippians 2:1-13. In it, Paul inserts verses taken from what can be described as a Christological hymn from the early decades of the church's liturgical tradition. In it, we hear an exhortation to live into singleness of purpose. This involves the spiritual discipline of surrender.
Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God,did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited,but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave,being born in human likeness.And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death--even death on a cross.
My morning devotions today included a meditation written by Catherine of Siena. It has helped me more fully appreciate the act of surrender. Here is an excerpt:
Our heart should burst right out of our body at the realization of the status and dignity to which infinite Goodness has appointed us--first by creating us in his own image, and then by joining his divine nature with our humanity to ransom us and create us anew! More than this he could not give: to give himself to those who by sin had become his enemies.
. . . So let your heart hold back no longer. Let the city of your soul surrender. If it does not surrender to anything else, it will have to surrender to fire--for Christ has set fire everywhere, and there is nowhere you can turn, physically or spiritually, without encountering the fire of love.
Saint Catherine of Siena (+1380), Doctor of the Church, was a Dominican, stigmatist, and papal counselor.

Surrendering is not the same as giving up. It is more like giving ourselves over and into the will of God for the whole of our lives. For most, this is a discipline that calls for daily participation.

When we remember our baptism, we re-call that we have been made a new creation in and through Christ's passion, death, and resurrection. Yet, because of our hard-headedness, we continue to want to run the show. How is that working out?

How have you experienced the peace of God that surpasses all understanding?  In what ways could each one of us individually and all of us collectively move deeper in our participation in the discipline of surrender, to scripture reading, to prayer? How can we help one another to invigorate our discipleship? In what ways is God calling us here and now to encounter the fire of love?

Saturday, September 20, 2014


I had a friend who regularly said, "moderation is for the unmotivated." It's not that he was over the top and grandiose (well, maybe a little). He simply had several niche passions. If something was worth doing, it was worth, perhaps, overdoing.

Moderation is often peddled as a virtue worthy of our pursuit. Certainly self-control can be understood as a type of moderation.  Self-control is one of the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:23). I find it interesting that the Greek word (egkrateia) used in Galatians 5:23 that is translated variously as self-control, temperance, etc., refers to the virtue of one who masters his or her desires and passions, especially his or her sensual appetites. In this sense, the scope of the word and this fruit of the Spirit seems to be more specific than general.

Could it be argued that to be moderate is to be in the middle? One who is moderate politically, for example, is in the relative middle of the spectrum. Could that position be interpreted as being neither hot or cold, but lukewarm? Is it wishy washy? Maybe (neither yes or no!)? We'll see.

I am grateful God doesn't operate out of an ethic of moderation. To operate out of an ethic of moderation is to function within the limits of finitude. God doesn't have to do that.

What then are the implications for us who have been created in the image of God? What then are the implications for us who have been joined to Christ's death and resurrection in our baptism? Pray and mediate about this.

Now, take a few minutes and read the gospel lesson for tomorrow (sited below).  It is the parable of the laborers in the vineyard. How does this parable of Jesus help us understand and appreciate God's amazingly infinite grace, generosity, passion, excess, and abundance?

Parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard
Rembrandt, 1637

September 21, 2014

Prayer of the Day
Almighty and eternal God, 
you show perpetual lovingkindness to us your servants. 
Because we cannot rely on our own abilities, 
grant us your merciful judgement, 
and train us to embody the generosity of your Son, 
Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen

Jonah 3:10 - 4:11
Psalm 145:1-8
Philippians 1:21-30
Matthew 20:1-16

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Holy Cross

I don't exactly remember how many years ago it was that I went on a retreat to Holy Cross Abbey in Berryville, Virginia. Maybe it was five or so. I went in early December, the first days of the season of Advent. The abbey is situated on many acres of beautiful land along a meandering stretch of the Shenandoah River. I arrived there on a cold and crisp Friday evening. When I woke the next morning, I discovered that a fresh blanket of snow, several inches thick, had tucked us in for a prayerful time away.

In the midst of the busy-ness of life, I often find myself retreating to this memory of stillness, quiet, and calm. This is especially helpful when confronted with what seems to be relentless occasions for distraction. You know how easy it is to feel the need to react and respond to the latest and loudest. We tend to so quickly set aside proactivity at the expense of the moment. At least, I confess, I do.

What is called for is a measure of intentionality.

This coming Sunday the church observes Holy Cross Day. This tradition traces its origin to the year 335. Although, that may be interesting, its not the point here. What is the point, I suggest, is that Holy Cross Day provides us with a fitting and timely opportunity to be intentional. We need to be deliberate about the centrality of the cross of Christ in both our individual and corporate lives. 

Holy Cross Day is an occasion for us to consider what Luther referred to as the theology of the cross, the divinely-chosen way of humility and service, of suffering and death as the path to life and salvation.

In the meantime, consider how you could grow spiritually by being more intentional about your faith and your engagement in and support of the life and calling of the community of faith. How could you move deeper? How will we move deeper?

Holy Cross Day
September 14

Prayer of the Day
Almighty God, your Son Jesus Christ was lifted high upon the cross 
so that he might draw the whole world to himself.
To those who look upon the cross, 
grant your wisdom, healing, and eternal life, 
through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, 
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, 
one God, now and forever. Amen

Numbers 21:4b-9
Psalm 98:1-4
1 Corinthians 1:18-24
John 3:13-17