9/28/2013

Palimpsest: Your Own

Philippians 2:1-13


Readings:

On Saturday, things began to get out of hand. Twenty-four letters to Harry found their way into the house, rolled up and hidden inside each of the two dozen eggs that their very confused milkman had handed Aunt Petunia through the living room window. While Uncle Vernon made furious telephone calls to the post office and the dairy trying to find someone to complain to, Aunt Petunia shredded the letters in her food processor. “Who on earth wants to talk to you this badly?” Dudley asked Harry in amazement. On Sunday morning, Uncle Vernon sat down at the breakfast table looking tired and rather ill, but happy. “No post on Sundays,” he reminded them cheerfully as he spread marmalade on his newspapers, “no *@# letters today -” Something came whizzing down the kitchen chimney as he spoke and caught him sharply on the back of the head. Next moment, thirty or forty letters came pelting out of the fireplace like bullets. The Dursleys ducked, but Harry leapt into the air trying to catch one—
- J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone


(John) Wesley likens the process of salvation to a house. Prevenient grace serves as the porch, justification as the door, and sanctification or holiness as the rooms of the house wherein we are called to dwell. We are now approaching the porch. Justification and sanctification describe both divine action and human response, but God’s action always comes first. Indeed, it begins prior to our being aware of it. This is the grace that “comes before” (pre-venio) we are conscious that God is seeking us out, using subtle, and not so subtle, nudges to awaken us to our true condition. Nowhere is the priority of grace more evident than here.—Theodore Runyan, The New Creation

No one answered. The noon-bell rang. Still no one spoke. Frodo glanced at all the faces, but they were not turned to him. All the Council sat with downcast eyes, as if in deep thought. A great dread fell on him, as if he was awaiting the pronouncement of some doom that he had long foreseen and vainly hoped might after all never be spoken. An overwhelming longing to rest and remain at peace by Bilbo’s side in Rivendell filled all his heart. At last with an effort he spoke, and wondered to hear his own words, as if some other will was using his small voice. “I will take the Ring,’ he said, ‘though I do not know the way.”
- J.R.R. Tolkien, Fellowship of the Ring

Proceed we now to the Second point: If God worketh in you, then work out your own salvation. The original word rendered, work out, implies the doing a thing thoroughly. Your own; for you yourselves must do this, or it will be left undone forever. Your own salvation: Salvation begins with what is usually termed (and very properly) preventing grace; including the first wish to please God, the first dawn of light concerning his will, and the first slight transient conviction of having sinned against him. All these imply some tendency toward life; some degree of salvation; the beginning of a deliverance from a blind, unfeeling heart, quite insensible of God and the things of God. Salvation is carried on by convincing grace, usually in Scripture termed repentance; which brings a larger measure of self-knowledge, and a farther deliverance from the heart of stone. Afterwards we experience the proper Christian salvation; whereby, "through grace," we "are saved by faith;" consisting of those two grand branches, justification and sanctification. By justification we are saved from the guilt of sin, and restored to the favour of God; by sanctification we are saved from the power and root of sin, and restored to the image of God.
- John Wesley, Sermon #85 “Working Out Your Own Salvation”


Questions:
· How have you experienced God’s invitation to you? Has it been subtle, or not so subtle? How long did you feel it before you responded?
· What has your response to God been like? If you have said “yes” what support did you have? How has it changed your life? Have you said “yes” more than once?
· Do you believe we are to work out our own salvation? Why?
  

9/23/2013

Spider's Circle


We nearly walked by this on the trail in Minneopa State Park this morning. Kelly said it was an ambitious spider, trying to catch a human.

9/22/2013

9/14/2013

Sought by God

Luke 15:1-10


Readings:

I was passionate, filled with longing, I searched far and wide. But the day that the Truthful One found me, I was at home.
—Lal Ded, 14th century, Kashmir

There were ninety and nine that safely lay
In the shelter of the fold;
But one was out on the hills away,
Far off from the gates of gold,
Away on the mountains wild and bare,
Away from the tender Shepherd's care.
"Lord, Thou hast here Thy ninety and nine--
Are they not enough for Thee?"
But the Shepherd made answer,
"This of Mine has wandered away from Me;
And although the road be rough and steep
I go to the desert to find My sheep."
But none of the ransomed ever knew
How deep were the waters crossed;
Nor how dark was the night
That the Lord passed through
Ere He found His sheep that was lost.
Out in the desert He heard its cry,
Sick and helpless and ready to die.
And all through the mountains, thunder-riven,
And up from the rocky steep,
There arose a cry to the gate of heaven,
"Rejoice, I have found My sheep!"
And the angels echoed around the throne,
"Rejoice, for the Lord brings back His own."
—Elizabeth C. Clephane,
The Ninety and the Nine
from the 1935 Methodist Hymnal

About 150 miles north of the Straits of Magellan on Chile's Patagonian ice cap soars a set of 8,000-foot pink granite teeth that are perhaps the closest Mother Nature has come to creating a scream in stone. If the prospect of scaling these spires—the Torres del Paine—isn't sufficient to inspire religious conversion, the savagery of the wind will at least leave you convinced that the Almighty is one heck of a housekeeper. Locals say la escoba de Dios, the "broom of God," sweeps this landscape—a fitting metaphor for the 100-mile-per-hour gusts that routinely lash climbers clinging to the Torres' walls.
—Tim Neville, The Broom of God: Climbing Patagonia’s Torres del Paine

Who gets up early to discover the moment light begins?
Who finds us here, circling, bewildered, like atoms?
Who comes to a spring thirsty, and finds the moon reflected in it?
Who, like Jacob, blind with grief and age
smells the shirt of his lost son and can see again?
Who lets a bucket down and brings up a flowing prophet?
Or like Moses, goes for fire and finds what burns inside the sunrise?
Jesus slips into a house to escape enemies, and opens a door to the other world…
An oyster opens his mouth to swallow one drop. Now there's a pearl.
A vagrant wanders empty ruins. Suddenly he's wealthy.
But don't be satisfied with poems and stories
of how things have gone with others. Unfold your own myth.
—Rumi

“Here I raise mine Ebenezer, hither by thy help I’m come; and I hope, by thy good pleasure, safely to arrive at home. Jesus sought me when a stranger, wandering from the fold of God; he to rescue me from danger, interposed his precious blood.” from “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing,” hymn #400.  The Hymnal Revision Committee for the 1989 hymnal, responding to suggestions that “Ebenezer” meaning “Stone of Help” in stanza 2 be eliminated, was not able to supply any alternative that was consistent with the language and meter of the hymn, and 1 Samuel 7:12: “Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Jeshanah, and named it Ebenezer; for he said, “Thus far the Lord has helped us.”
 —Companion to the United Methodist Hymnal

Questions:
· Do you identify with the lost sheep or the coin or the found? Why?
· What happens when you’ve lost something, and find it?
· How does God find us? What does it feel like?
· How do we express our “found-ness” in God?











9/06/2013

Palimpsest: Formed by God

Jeremiah 18:1-6


The author (Adelaide Pollard, 1902) of Have Thine Own Way, Lord, a religious activist chronically frail and ill in mind and body, wrote this hymn during the distressful aftermath of an unsuccessful campaign to raise funds for a missionary trip to Africa. Following a prayer meeting she felt peace and a renewed relationship to God through her complete abandonment to do Gods will. She expressed that new relationship in the potter-clay imagery from Jeremiah. -- Carlton R. Young, Companion to the United Methodist Hymnal

The renewal of the creation and the creatures through the renewal in humanity of the image of God is what Wesley identifies as the very heart of Christianity. Ye know that the great end of religion is to renew our hearts in the image of God. The last centurys foremost Wesley scholar, Albert Outler, calls this renewal of the image the axial theme of Wesleys doctrine of salvation. God will thus renew us in the spirit of our mind, and create us anew in the image of God, wherein we were at first created,’” says Wesley, quoting Ephesians 4:23 and Colossians 3:10. -- Theodore Runyon, The New Creation: John Wesley’s Theology Today

This is a most unusual picture: God the knitter! I have a mother-in–aw, who has knit Norwegian sweaters…”You knit me together” says this psalm. It is complicated to knit a Norwegian sweater. But it is much more complicated toknit a Norwegian! Or an African, or an American.—James Limburg, Psalms for Sojourners

The workshop was situated in a lower area of Jerusalem, with easy access to a water supply. Jeremiah briefly describes the potter at work. He evidently stayed quite a a while, waiting for the oracle and meantime admiring the dexterity with which the potter handled the clay, the adroit way he could cope with any mishap by reshaping as necessary. The “wheel” is literally a pair of stone disks, which would revolve, one pivoted by a vertical shaft above the other, with a heavier lower disk that, periodically kick-started or shoved by the left hand, gave steady, freewheeling momentum. The prophet clarifies the divine interpretation in v. 6, supplying eyewitness information that fills out the demonstrative interjection rendered “Look.”  - Leslie C. Allen, Jeremiah

But thou art fire, sacred and hallow’d fire;
And I but earth and clay: should I presume
To wear thy habit, the severe attire
My slender compositions might consume.
I am both foul and brittle; much unfit
                       To deal in holy Writ.
Yet have I often seen, by cunning hand
And force of fire, what curious things are made
Of wretched earth. Where once I scorn’d to stand,
That earth is fitted by the fire and trade
Of skilfull artists, for the boards of those
                       Who make the bravest shows.
- George Herbert, from “The Priesthood”

Habits are powerful, but delicate. They can emerge outside our consciousness, or can be deliberately designed. They often occur without our permission, but can be reshaped by fiddling with their parts. They shape our lives far more than we realize—they are so strong, in fact, that they cause our brains to cling to them at the exclusion of all else, including common sense.—Charles Duhigg, The Power of Habit


Questions:

· What helps you remember that you were formed by God?
· How has God reshaped you through your life?
· What habits help or hinder God’s shaping of you?
· How is God shaping Centenary UMC?