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Wednesday, February 27, 2013
Lectionary Scriptures: Isaiah 55:1-9, Psalm 63:1-8, I Corinthians 10:1-3, Luke 13:1-9

Images of eating and drinking to describe our relationship with God appear more than once in scripture.  The language used in John’s Gospel was apparently common enough that some accused the early Christians of cannibalism.  “ . . . the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh . . . unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you . . . for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink.  Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them.”  (John 6:51-55)

Although those in our tradition do not take these words literally, Communion services still symbolize feasting on the spiritual resources found in Jesus’ life and teachings.  The theme of such feasting is in most of the lectionary readings for the coming week.  Ironically, the verses from the Gospel According to John, used above, are not in the list.  I think they should be, but maybe there’s a tangential connection in this week’s Gospel lesson from Luke.

We talk about things that feed and nurture our souls.  It also occurred to me that we sometimes refer to feasting our eyes on something.  What are the things that we take in and/or receive that stir our spirits?  The implication of some of the biblical images is that we take God into our very bodies.  In my childhood tradition we thought of Jesus as living in our hearts.  Somehow we knew that the reality with which we were dealing was not just external ritual; it was some kind of inner connection.  I couldn’t explain it then, and still can’t.  I’m suspicious of anyone who thinks he or she can.

All the talk about feasting on God seems to be a call to pay attention to what is life-giving and what is not.  A well-set table can be a wonderful thing.  I love the smells and tastes and beauty of food set before me (or cooked by me) in all its infinite variety, but scripture tells us that if we simply sate ourselves on such sumptuous fare we are missing food and drink that is far more important.

The reading from Isaiah begins with the familiar words, “Ho, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you that have no money, come buy and eat!  Why do you spend money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy?  Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food.”  (Isaiah 55:1-2)  There’s a puzzle in there:  Why speak of buying when it is free?  No matter how one answers that question, the truth here is that what God has to feed us is free.  All we have to do is breathe in and breathe out and open our souls.  God has put us in a universe that exudes soul food.  Oh, there’s much trouble out there that doesn’t do much to uplift the soul, trouble that we need to pay attention to, but there’s enough nurturing divine presence for every soul to thrive if we focus and if we love and respect one another.  This reading says, “Seek the Lord while he may be found, call upon him while he is near.”  (vs. 6)  My theology proclaims that God is always near, even when we have difficulty getting beyond out limited perspectives and experience.  The Lord, in the reading from Isaiah, says, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways . . . For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”  (vss. 8-9)

When choosing a restaurant our choice may be influenced by the atmosphere it offers.  If we want to feast on God, perhaps we need to choose a place with the right atmosphere, one where we might even be tempted to say, “Isn’t this heavenly?”

Psalm 63 includes verses that take us down similar paths.  Without additional interpretation I quote verse one and five:  “O God, you are my God, I seek you, my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is not water . . . My soul is satisfied as with a rich feast . . .”

The reading from I Corinthians recalls the Exodus of the Hebrew people from Egypt and the sustenance they received in the wilderness.  “ . . . all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink.”  (I Corinthians 10:3-4)  Paul, as he often does, mixes metaphors and leaves us with a startled “Huh?” on our lips.  “For they drank from the spiritual rock that followed them, and the rock was Christ.”  (vs. 4)  “Christ”?  I thought we were dealing with a story from the Old Testament.  Let’s not try to figure it all out.  For Paul, and for most Christians, whatever the name given to that guiding and nurturing spirit, it symbolizes the loving presence of God that we see in the life and teachings of Jesus.  Feasting on God means, for us, paying attention to Jesus, letting his spirit enter our very being.

I can’t skip lightly over the troubling verses which follow, speaking of God’s displeasure.  I simply don’t experience God as a vengeful God.  On the other hand, some of us in the “progressive” tradition may try so hard to avoid any semblance of judgmentalism that we fail to acknowledge the ways in which human beings resist drinking deeply from the wells of God’s Spirit.  Paul is referring to what happened in the wilderness, but resistance to the ways of Christ continue to this day.  Even here in this reading from I Corinthians, we find reference again to eating and drinking without receiving true nourishment.  (See vs. 7)

There’s also the troubling and often misused verse that ends the Epistle reading:  “No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone.  God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure.”  (vs. 13)  It’s not meant to be a saccharine comfort that belittles the suffering someone may be experiencing.  To me, it says at least two things.  We all go through times of trouble.  In those times, we need to keep on feasting on God so that our spiritual strength is not totally destroyed.  It doesn’t mean that the trouble we experience will be any less or even that the testing was sent by God.  Some people, when going through hard times, literally quit eating.  Whether the troubles are physical or spiritual, this is not a time to quit gathering at the table, preferably with other people, to join in the feast.

Then we have the Gospel lesson which has two sections.  The first is, pure and simple, a call to repentance.  It is, at the same time, a warning about those who see themselves as better than others, as opposed to those whose troubles come upon them because of their sin.  (See Luke 13:1-4)  It moves on to a parable about a fig tree, which may be another call to repentance and/or another warning against judgmentalism.  It tells of a fig tree which is bearing no fruit.  (vs. 6)  The owner of the vineyard wants to cut it down. (vss. 6-7) The gardener argues for one more year, “until I dig around it and put manure on it.”  (vs. 8)

Although the owner is often taken to be God, some see the gardener as God, arguing for patience.  If that is the case, God is a nurturing God wanting to breathe new life into the fig tree. Someone at our breakfast discussion this morning suggested that maybe Jesus is the manure.  You can decide that.  It’s clear that, even here, we see an emphasis upon the importance of nurture in the life of the soul.

More importantly, perhaps, we see that we don’t feast just to satisfy our hunger, even our  spiritual hunger.  We feast in order to bear spiritual fruit, so that we can feed and nurture the spirits of others around us.  The hope for the fig tree is that, properly nourished with that manure, it will bear “fruit next year.”  (vss. 8-9)

Come to God’s table and eat your fill.  Receive nourishment and bear fruit that nourishes others.
Wednesday, February 20, 2013
Lectionary Scriptures: Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18, Psalm 27:1-14, Philippians 3:17-4:1, Luke 13:31-25  (NOTE:  The story of the Transfiguration from Luke, chapter 9, is for some reason repeated this week.  Since we dealt with it a couple of weeks ago, I have omitted it from this week’s list of readings.)

My thoughts this week follow a course similar to that taken last week.  I take the title from Luke 13:33 where Jesus says “ . . . today, tomorrow, and the next day I must be on my way . . .”

The theme I see running through these scriptures, perhaps a focus often encountered during the Lenten season, is that of seeing beyond the impossibilities, obstacles, and troubles that are ahead.  There is more to life than adding up the positives and negatives and determining whether further effort is worth it.  We are encouraged to live by what some call “hope beyond hope.”  There are those who look and see signs that things are getting better and so they have hope; they move ahead because the possibilities look good.  Hope beyond hope kicks in when the signs are full of warning, often seemingly pointing toward disaster.  Hope beyond hope sees a larger horizon and keeps on going because there is nothing ahead that can destroy us. 

Paul, in the letter to the church in Philippi, suggests that that perspective of hope comes from an identity shaped by a different reality.  Cultural values and perspectives surround us daily, often tempting us and pulling us in.  Paul speaks of those whose “god is the belly . . .; their minds are set on earthly things.”  (Philippians 3:19)  When we pay attention, it is easy to get discouraged.  Paul calls us instead to be shaped by the values of “heaven.”  “ . . . our citizenship is in heaven,” he says. (vs. 20) One translation says that we are “a colony of heaven.”  Claiming that identity is what keeps us going “today, tomorrow, and the next day.”

Struggling with such issues seems to be the province of old men and old women---of which I am one.  Young people often seem to be invincible, or at least think they are.  They seem never to give up hope.  They think all challenges are conquerable.  That’s the stereotype at least, and there’s a lot of truth in it.  Thank God!  Nevertheless, the rising generation has been handed a plateful of problems to overcome.  The fate of the planet seems to be in their hands, and that can be a bit overwhelming.  No wonder there are those who succumb to suicide, or go on a shooting spree.

The biblical record gives us stories of those who keep on going, do not give up hope “today, tomorrow, or the next day”---whether it be the Hebrew people taken into captivity or Abram (who became Abraham) wondering how he can be father to descendants whose number is as great as the stars in heaven.  (Genesis 15:5)

The lectionary readings for the coming week stand in that tradition.

Beyond the main theme I have identified, the story of Abram offers several points to be pondered and a few verses that seem almost unfathomable.  It starts with Abram complaining to God about being childless.  “You have given me no offspring, and so a slave born in my house is to be my heir.”  (vs. 3)  So, we might ask, what’s wrong with a slave having an inheritance?  This slave, in fact, turns out to be the ancestor of Mohammed, and so we see the seeds of family rivalry that persist to today.

For some reason, though, God promises Abram a son of his own and a “land to possess.”  (vss. 4-7)  We are in the middle of a story of God’s covenant-making here.  (See the reference to “covenant” in verse 18.)  We often think of the blessing of being included in God’s covenant (although those of us who are Gentile were not originally thought to be included).  What are the implications of an understanding of covenant in which some are chosen and some are not, in which the Promised Land is already occupied by people who have a legitimate claim to it?  Again, we see present-day conflicts in the context of a long history.

Abram responds with both faith and incredulity.  The part of his response that becomes a centerpiece for Paul’s theology is found in verse 6:  “And he believed the Lord; and the Lord reckoned it to him to righteousness.”  Paul’s point is that Abram was considered “righteous” not because he lived up to The Law (which didn’t even yet exist), but because he “believed.”

Abram’s mind, however, cannot get around all this.  The promise seems like an impossibility.  He wants a sign.  “O Lord God, how am I to know that I shall possess it?”  (vs. 8)  O how we want to know!  With certainty!  How can we move ahead only on a hunch, a flimsy promise, when it all seems so overwhelming and impossible?

What are we to do with the sign recorded in these verses?  They are filled with images from another time and culture---from a religion of animal sacrifice.  It’s not clear whether this is a dream or vision or what.  At least part of the time Abram is asleep.  (vs. 12)  The reading omits the verses in which God speaks words that are a mixture of positive and negative, noting Abram’s descendants will be taken into slavery while promising Abram himself long life and peace.  (vss. 12-15)  Ultimately the story gives Abram a sign of God’s continuing presence, the sign of fire and a torch.  (vs. 17)  It’s not unlike the message of last week’s blog, capturing in Psalm 91:15---“I will be with them in trouble.”

This week’s Psalm is similar in tone.  The writer is feeling besieged by evildoers.  (Psalm 27:2-3)  Like Abram, he alternates between faith and abject pleading.  “The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?”  (vs. 1)  “Do not hide your face from me.  Do not turn your servant away in anger . . . Do not cast me off, do not forsake me, O God of my salvation!” (vs. 9)

Most of the verses follow the above, their tone leaning toward one or the other.  Also in the Psalm we find individual verses that may take us on rich and worthy side trips.  “One thing I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple.” (vs. 4)  “Teach me your way, O Lord, and lead me on a level path because of my enemies.”  (vs. 11)  “I believe that I shall see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.”  (vs. 13)  You’re on your own for the side trips.

The Psalm ends with a variation of “today, tomorrow, and the next day.”  It speaks of waiting, a theme often emphasized during Lent.  “Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!”  (vs. 14)  Waiting here does not mean stopping, ceasing to move.  It means to keep one’s eye on the Lord, to exist in “the land of the living” as a citizen of God’s kingdom.

Beyond my earlier comments on the epistle to the Philippians, I would note the final verse of this week’s reading:  “Therefore, my brothers and sisters, whom I loved and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, my beloved.”  (Philippians 4:1)  “Stand firm”---wait, continue with confidence and hope “today, tomorrow, and the next day.”

Which brings us back to the Gospel lesson, where we find the context of the words about “today, tomorrow, and the next day."  Luke, in particular, emphasizes Jesus’ journey toward Jerusalem where his probably fate is death.  In Luke 9:51, we are told that “he set his face to go to Jerusalem.”  The rest of Luke’s story fits into that framework.  In this week’s reading from chapter 13, Jesus is told, “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.”  (Luke 13:13)  Jesus does not shrink from what lies ahead, declaring “ . . . today, tomorrow, and the next day I must be on my way . . .”  (vs. 33)  That does not mean that he goes forward tripping lightly.  His heart is heavy.  “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills prophets and stones those who are sent to it!  How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!”

I’ve always loved the image of Jesus as a mother hen!  Who says God does not have a feminine side?  The question is whether or not we are willing to be embraced by him as we move ahead today and tomorrow and the next day.  In my opinion, it’s the only way we are going to make it!
Friday, February 15, 2013

Lectionary Scriptures: Deuteronomy 26:1-11, Psalm 91:1-2, 9-16, Romans 10:8b-13, Luke 4:1-13

Lots of things come into our lives.  Some of them we’d just as soon avoid---like thinking about our weaknesses or about the national and global history that got us to the place we are, the comfortable lives many of us enjoy when there is so much suffering in the world.  This week’s lectionary readings are a little bit like that for me.  Some of them, at least, raise questions bigger than I want to face.  They also remind me that despite all the ambiguities of existence, life goes on---and they call me to gratitude and giving and self-awareness.

I’m not really sure the above counts as an overarching theme, so today I’m just going to take each reading and point out what comes through to me as darkness and hope, perhaps using a few personal stories as illustration.

The reading from Deuteronomy reminds me that conquest is far too prominent in world history---from the “wandering Arameans” (Deuteronomy 26:5---if you want to know about the Arameans, look it up) who overran Palestine to the Europeans who invaded that lands of the various “native American” tribes on the continent of my birth and residence.  We’re still living with the results of both, with the most global effect emanating from the dispute over land in the Middle East.  Those original “occupiers” thought that God had promised them this land, and they still think they have a God-given right to it.

I wonder if there could have been some other way to populate the earth.  It seems that expansion always seems to displace someone else.  Maybe there’s no way to live without intruding on one another’s space.  We still do not play together very well.

When I read this particular portion of Deuteronomy I find myself moving beyond such disturbing and mostly unanswerable realities to a deeper place.  It tells me to appreciate where I am and what I have and to give back.  It’s an early story about tithing.  “ . . . you shall take some of the first of all the fruit of the ground, which you harvest from the land that the Lord your God is giving you, and you shall put it in a basket” and give it to the priest to offer “before the altar of the Lord.”  (vss. 2-4)  In verse ten, we are told that the people were obedient to this command.  I realize that this was, in part, a tax to support the priesthood and could easily be abused, but notice the final verse of the reading in which an inclusive community comes together to celebrate.  “Then you, together with the Levites and the aliens who reside among you, shall celebrate with all the bounty that the Lord you God has given to you and to your house.”  (vs. 11)

Mostly I’m set to thinking about my parents and their tithing practices.  Strict tithing (the giving of the first ten percent of one’s “wealth”) is not much emphasized in our congregation or denomination, although many give most generously.  Although I have always made 10% the minimum for my giving, I rebel at the concept when it is legalistically, sometimes almost punitively, enforced.  Tithing simply was not questioned in the churches of my childhood.  Mostly, however, I was inspired by the positive attitude and generosity of my parents.  Although their income put them below the official poverty level, they never turned away the request of a needy person.  At one time, they carefully matched whatever they spent on groceries and put it aside to give to missions.  The check to the church was always the first one written, not an afterthought donated from whatever was left over.  And at times, it came back to them from surprising places when they hit a particularly rough patch.

Life is about giving as well as taking, about celebrating the give and take of a loving community, wherever we are in life.  With all the ambiguities of life, we are called to continue moving ahead in a journey of Love.

What I struggle with in the Psalm is the overwhelming emphasis upon God’s protection.  It’s one of those scriptures that can be interpreted to mean that no harm will come to those who believe.  “ . . . no evil shall befall you, no scourge come near your tent.”  (Psalm 91:10---Interestingly, the Epistle reading picks up a similar tone when it quotes, in Romans 10:11, from Isaiah:  “No one who believes in him will be put to shame.”)  I don’t experience life that way.  Bad things do happen to good people.

The Psalm is probably included because Jesus, in the Gospel lesson, quotes from it about the angels who “on their hands . . . will bear you up.”  (vs. 11-12 and Luke 4:10-11)  I suppose some of us might want to get caught up in the not-too-productive discussion of “guardian angels.”  My wife has been a lifelong collector of angel art- sculpted, painted, etc.  Angels (or human depictions of them) are visible in almost every room, sometimes hovering over top of a door.

The phrase in the Psalm that most comforts me, and speaks of life going on, is in verse fifteen.  “I will be with them in trouble.”  There’s still talk of “rescue” and “long life,” but mostly when I face trouble I don’t wonder why God is failing me.  I am reassured to know that there is a strength beyond logic (almost “divine” one might say) that keeps me going and keeps me hoping.  Those are moments when I celebrate life going on.

In the Evangelical circles in which I grew up, verses from Romans were often used to convince anyone outside the flock that they were sinners who needed to be saved from an eternity in hell.  (I hasten to note that not all Evangelicals can be lumped into a single stereotype---and that the ones I knew tended to be less offensive than many, or perhaps just lived bigger and better than the stereotype.)  One of those verses in in this week’s Epistle reading.  Most of us in that tradition were encouraged to memorize it.    . . . if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”  (Romans 10:9)  Many have a more expansive understanding of the mysteries that ground us in the love of God and constitute what we understand as salvation.  Whatever the process, the hope I find in this passage is its declaration that God’s Love is there for all who open themselves to it.  “For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call on him.”  (vs. 12)  We will meet and interact with many different kinds of people as life goes on.  May we see them all as brothers and sisters with whom we share a pilgrimage of Love.

The Gospel lesson reminds me that my motives are never as pure as I like to think they are.  Jesus’ temptation calls me to look inward and consider the focus of my life.  Much has been made of the temptations Jesus’ faced, making them types of temptations we all face, making them possible foci from Jesus’ ministry, etc.  The story does appear to be another in portraying the development of Jesus’ awareness of his mission.  Often the temptations are seen as the possibility of a mission faced on economics or on power or on miracles and spectacular entertainment.  Such possibilities continue to be prominent in the choices people make about life—pursuing wealth and economic goals, looking to power and politics for the answers to life, or seeking superstar status (or at least basking in the glow of those who grace our TV/movie screens and/or sports fields and arenas).

Most of our temptations are probably less grandiose.  They may seem to be so mundane that they don’t matter.  Anyway, it seems much easier to ignore them.  The problem is that they just don’t go away, and probably erode the positive possibilities of our life.  I always am a little startled when I read the final verse of the reading.  Remember that, as the story is told in the Gospels, “the devil” is the tempter.  At the end, he departs from Jesus “until an opportune time.”  (Luke 4:13)

Occasions for giving and serving, celebrating, even facing troubles and temptation are all there as life goes on, and in them all we are sustained by the inclusive love of the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.  And now another temptation arises.  My wife just came in and invited me to go out to lunch.  It’s a temptation to which I think I’ll yield.
Thursday, February 07, 2013
Lectionary Scriptures: Exodus 34:29-35, Psalm 99:1-9, II Corinthians 3:12-4:2, Luke 9:38-43a

The season of Epiphany ends with a burst of light that is beyond our comprehension.  Moses’ face glows so brightly that he must put a veil over his face so that the brightness will not overwhelm and frighten the Israelites.  We are told in Exodus 43:30, “. . . the skin of his face was shining, and they were afraid to come near him.”  In verse 37 we read, “. . . the Israelites would see the face of Moses, that the skin of his face was shining; and Moses would put the veil on his face again . . .”  When Jesus stood on the mountaintop with Peter and John and James, it says, “. . . the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling.”  (Luke 9:29)

We sometimes say to a person, “You are positively glowing today,” but the kind of glow described in these passages seems to defy human experience.  Of course both Moses and Jesus had been with God whose light shone upon and in and through them in this disconcerting way.  And Moses and Elijah showed up on that mountain Jesus.  (Luke 9:30)  If that didn’t make you turn pale and pass out, it might be enough to make you glow.

The Gospel lesson records what is called “The Transfiguration of Jesus,” the event for which this Sunday is named.  It is another story in which a voice speaks from the clouds about Jesus’ identity:  “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him.”  (Luke 9:35)  Who was Jesus?  How and when did his identity develop?  We don’t need to continue that centuries-old discussion here.  It’s clear that the Gospel writers want us to know that the light that shone in Jesus was the light of God, whatever theological spin and interpretation one ends up putting on that.

The kicker is that it is the same light that shines in us, if we get close enough to it and let it.  Of all the verses in the lectionary readings for this Sunday, my eye and mind and heart is drawn to II Corinthians 3:18.  The reading looks back to the glowing Moses as he puts a veil over his face.  (II Corinthians 3:13)  It moves on to declare, in that 18th verse, that “all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another . . .”

We are not to be overwhelmed by light.  Instead we are to let it shine in and through us.  We don’t need a veil to protect us.  In fact, the veil in the epistle reading is seen as something that gets in the way of our understanding.  (vs. 14)

These two readings from Exodus and II Corinthians might also lead us to a discussion of authority and hierarchy in the life of faith.  In the Exodus story, the people are dependent upon Moses to interpret the glory of God.  He stands between them and the light of God.  For many years after Jesus, ordinary people didn’t have the scripture in their hands.  They could read it for themselves.  Authority for interpretation rested with the priest.  Paul reminds us that no such barriers exist anymore.  That’s what Jesus’ message was about.  We are surrounded in ordinary, everyday, life by the glory of God.

That might take us into a discussion of glory and holiness.  The reading from Psalm 99 reminds us that God is “holy.”  Twice we are told, “Holy is he!”  (Psalm 99:3 & 5)  The final verse of the Psalm declares, “Extol the Lord our God, and worship at his holy mountain; for the Lord our God is holy.”  (vs. 9)  To be holy is to be so stunningly different from the ordinary that when one encounters it, one’s breath is taken away.  The word “awesome” comes to mind, and there it is in verse 3.  “Glory” is sort of an “aura” that emanates from such holiness.  It takes us into the realm of spiritual experience that is beyond words.

The astounding thing is that when we are touched by this holiness it invades our very being if we let it.  Our best attempts to put it into words may be in the songs we sing.  I grew up singing “This Little Light of Mine, I’m gonna let it shine.”

Interestingly, the disciples coming down from the mountaintop seemed to lose the power of light when faced with real life problems.  A man pleading for his son possessed by a spirit who makes him convulse says, "I begged your disciples to cast it out, but they could not.”  (Luke 9:40)  Sometimes there’s a big gap between the mountaintop experiences of our lives and our day to day expression of the love of Jesus.  Sometimes we feel the glow on Sunday morning but burn out quickly when faced with the things we find in the dark corners of life.  What are the veils that become barriers that prevent the light from escaping?

Light, of course, need not refer to a literal measurable glow on our faces, although some have made a saccharine smile and an always positive disposition the mark of being a Christian.  I guess I fall short when such measures are used.  Light, however, is a powerful metaphor.  Light is what enables us to see and appreciate life at all.  Photographers are always aware of light.  Listen to them on the extras attached to many movies on DVD.  They’re always talking about why they used this or that lighting, or waiting for the right lighting.  Photographers will wait for hours for the right light to fall across a particular rock in a canyon.  (Sorry, I’m not that committed in my photography.)  I once owned a set of slides given to me by a photographer who did a study of a doll seen in many different kinds and colors and positions of light.

What is the light we use when we look at life and interact with those around us, when we turn to scrutinize the affairs of government?  What angle of light do we seek?  Light is not just a glow but a way of living and participating in life.  It is allowing our lives to be an expression of the light of God found in the life and teachings and presence of Jesus.  Again, that verse from II Corinthians 3:18---“all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from on degree of glory to another . . .”

Earlier I mentioned songs.  There are so many songs about light.  I thought of one from my earlier years, “You Light Up My Life” by Debbie Boone.  When I looked up the words, they didn’t work for what I wanted to say.  Maybe if they were rewritten so they were speaking of God lighting up our lives, they’d work---although sometimes it is people lighting up one another’s lives that are really a sign of God at work.  Who’s lighting up our lives and whose lives are we lighting up?

I leave you, though, with selected words from a song, “Shine, Jesus, Shine”, that is popular in “evangelical”circles.  It may not be a perfect selection for those of us with a more “progressive” spirit, but it’s worth thinking about the meaning and application of the words.

Lord the Light of Your Love is shining,
In midst of the darkness shining,
Jesus light of the world shine upon us,
Set us free by the truth You now bring us,
Shine on me. Shine on me.

Shine Jesus shine
Fill this land with the Father's glory
Blaze, Spirit blaze,
Set our hearts on fire
Flow, river flow
Flood the nations with grace and mercy
Send forth Your word
Lord and let there be light.

. . . . . . . . .

As we gaze on Your kindly brightness.
So our faces display Your likeness.
Ever changing from glory to glory,
Mirrored here may our lives tell Your story.
Shine on me. Shine on me.

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Kairos-Milwaukie UCC Blog

Reflections on the Revised Common Lectionary by Rev. Rick Skidmore and Rev. Jim Ogden.

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