Monday, October 26, 2015

WMTRBW 9: Freedom!

This week we read the story of the Israelites being oppressed and enslaved in Egypt from Exodus 1, and Moses being called to help liberate them from Exodus 3. Read again the description of the suffering people, and the words God spoke to recognize their situation and begin working for liberation and change:

"They set taskmasters over them to oppress them with forced labor. They built supply cities, Pithom and Rameses, for Pharaoh...The Egyptians became ruthless in imposing tasks on the Israelites, and made their lives bitter with hard service in mortar and brick and in every kind of field labor. They were ruthless in all the tasks that they imposed on them." (Exodus 1:11, 13-14)

"The Israelites groaned under their slavery, and cried out. Out of the slavery their cry for help rose up to God. God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God looked upon the Israelites, and God took notice of them." (Exodus 2:23-25)

"Then the Lord said, “I have observed the misery of my people who are in Egypt; I have heard their cry on account of their taskmasters. Indeed, I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them...The cry of the Israelites has now come to me; I have also seen how the Egyptians oppress them. So come, I will send you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.” (Exodus 3:7-10)

I want to keep the blog simple this week, and leave you with the same questions Brian McLaren leaves us with at the end of this week's chapter from We Make the Road by Walking (Chapter 9, "Freedom!"). They are on the picture above, or printed below for your reflection. I would love it, if a response pops to mind, if you would post it in the comments section...I think these are important questions for us to try to answer!

Name the Hebrew slaves of today’s world. 

  • Who today is being exploited and crying out for help? 
  • Who does backbreaking work for which others reap the rewards? 
  • How can we join in solidarity with them, seeking liberation?

Monday, October 19, 2015

WMTRBW 8: Rivalry or Reconciliation?

Yesterday in worship, as we read the story of Jacob and Esau from Genesis 32:24-33:17, we talked about the big "R-word" of the Christian faith: Reconciliation. We meditated together on the challenging words of the Apostle Paul from his second letter to the Corinthians:

So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! All this is from God, who reconciled us to [God's]self through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation." 2 Corinthians 5:17-18

I spoke in general terms about the many places our world is crying out for us to do the hard work of reconciliation, between individuals and between groups; but I didn't have time in the sermon to talk about some of the many amazing concrete examples. I did a Google search for news stories about reconciliation from the past month or two, and found some really interesting ones. I'd challenge you, in parallel to reading the chapter this week, to read at least one of the articles linked below--whichever one captures your attention. Just click on the description and it will take you to the article. How does the story you read challenge you as your consider your calling as a Minister of Reconciliation?

Film by POW's daughter explores reconciliation with Japanese

Canada's Truth and Reconciliation Commission Addresses Treatment of its Native People Groups

Reconciliation between Sunni and Shiite Muslim Groups Seen as Best Way to Deal with ISIS and other Extreme Groups in Iraq

Exhibit in Baltimore of work by painter who used her art to promote Racial Reconciliation

Sri Lanka's struggle to use South Africa's model for Reconciliation after long, violent Civil War

Monday, October 12, 2015

WMTRBW 7: It's Not Too Late

This week we are reading stories from the life of Abraham and Sarah--stories which make the important point that "It's Not Too Late."

Much of the chapter focuses on one of the most difficult stories from scripture, that of Abraham nearly sacrificing his son Isaac in Genesis 22:1-14. I didn't preach on this story yesterday because I knew I wouldn't have time to treat it thoroughly and fairly while also highlighting the rest of the Abraham and Sarah stories, but I am intrigued by the angle the chapter takes towards it.

Read the story, then read the chapter, and consider in particular this idea:

Imagine that you and everyone you know believes that God is a severe and demanding deity who can bestow forgiveness and other blessings only after human blood has been shed. Imagine how that belief in human sacrifice will affect the way you live, the way you worship, and the way you treat others. Now imagine how hard it would be to be the first person in your society to question such a belief. Imagine how much courage it would take, especially because your blood might be the next to be sacrificed! Questioning widely held assumptions about God can be a dangerous venture indeed...[But] over many centuries, led along by many teachers and prophets, Abraham’s descendants came to believe that God wanted one thing from humanity… not sacrifice, whether human or animal, but this: to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with God. The only sacrifice that mattered to God was the holy gift of humble hearts and lives dedicated to his way of love. So with faith, it’s not too learn something new. (WMTRBW p. 28-29, 30-31).

When has an assumption you always held about God or about what God wants or what is acceptable to God been challenged for you? When have you changed your mind or belief about something central? As McLaren asks at the end of the chapter, where might God be wanting you to realize it's not too late to change your mind about something today?

Reflect on these questions as you read this chapter this week, and if you are willing leave comments below to continue the conversation among us!

Monday, October 5, 2015

WMTRBW 6: Plotting Goodness

Yesterday in worship, and in our chapter this week, we meet the figure of Abram (Abraham). We read the first part of his story from Genesis 12:1-9, where he is called to go to a land that God will show him with few guarantees for what lies ahead.

In the New Testament book of Hebrews, Abraham and his wife Sarah are described as models of faith:

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to set out for a place that he was to receive as an inheritance; and he set out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he stayed for a time in the land he had been promised, as in a foreign land, living in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise.  For he looked forward to the city that has foundations, whose architect and builder is God.  By faith he received power of procreation, even though he was too old—and Sarah herself was barren—because he considered him faithful who had promised. Therefore from one person, and this one as good as dead, descendants were born, “as many as the stars of heaven and as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore.” (Hebrews 11:8-12)

The part of this week's chapter on Plotting Goodness that I found most interesting was the idea that in Abram's story, God is revealing to us what true faith looks like--and that in many ways it is different than our conventional definitions of faith. Take a look at the chart below, which lays out the differences McLaren describes in this chapter. 

Which things on these lists sound most like how you've traditionally defined faith--or seen/heard faith defined? Which challenge you the most? Which resonate with you?

Leave your comments below!