Tuesday, February 22, 2011

It's Greek to me...

In Greek mythology Narcissus was a self-absorbed young man who fell in love with his own reflection in a pool. (Caravaggio, 1596)


We seem hard-wired for personal autonomy and self-fulfillment. You designed the circuit board. I assume that’s your good will for us.

As so often happens, we carry it to extremes. Self-fulfillment becomes self-absorption. Fueled by affluence, it’s the American Way.

...but we have much in common with the first Greeks to follow Jesus.

St. Paul tells the Corinthians:
You are not your own.
You do not belong to yourself.
God owns the whole works.

(from 1st Corinthians 6:19, various translations)

He reminds the Thessalonians:
...live in order to please God.
(from 1st Thessalonians 4:1)

Lord Christ, when we live to satisfy you, we find satisfaction. And we find a sense of autonomy and fulfillment. I have come to understand and believe that. I still have trouble living it.

Holy Spirit, prod me, push me, pull me…bend my self-will toward the Kingdom. Amen.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Prayer for Egypt

The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD; he directs it like a watercourse wherever he pleases. (Proverbs 21:1)

Dear God, creator and sustainer of our planet…

It took me a week to realize that you might be at work in Egypt.

I claim to believe in a BIG God, that your hand directs world events, but I’m reluctant to go there. Spiritual interpretation of geopolitics can be a slippery slope. It’s beyond our understanding.

For now, I will fervently pray that you are on the case. It appears to be your work: regime change without war. That’s not the way we usually do it. Remarkable. Praise God!

In this ancient land of eighty million people - once a center of Christianity - may freedom, democracy and justice take root.

I pray that it will not be derailed.
I pray that peace with Israel will be maintained.
I pray that your church in Egypt will be unshackled.
I pray that Christians and Muslims will find common ground.
I pray that this progress will be contagious in the region.

In the powerful and empowering name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen.

Illustration credit: Coptic Orthodox Cross & Icon of Saint Mark, apostolic founder of the Church of Alexandria

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

After the Super Bowl

"For when the One Great Scorer comes
 to write against your name,

He marks - not that you won or lost -
 but how you played the Game."

That’s from the the poem "Alumnus Football" by the legendary American sportswriter Grantland Rice. I discovered it in a homily about soccer on the De La Salle Brothers UK
 web site, and I borrowed their idea for the prayer below. The Rice rhyme reminds me of something an Episcopal priest, Fleming Rutledge, wrote about “how we play the game” of daily living:

“…the Christian ethic is an ethic of means. The Christian is known not only by the end or goal that he seeks, but especially by the means he uses to strive toward the end. The attainment of the end must be left to God. It is the means by which the end is sought that distinguishes the Christian community and links it to the Son of God.”

Now, back to the game(s)…


Sport is more than a pastime for me. It’s my job, so I’m hard pressed to be overly critical.

I do see the excess - of ego, money and aggression. For sure, there are rogues…but there are heroes, too. Examples of teamwork, fidelity, grace and joy abound.

Holy Spirit, set my focus on the attributes of sport that we need at church, as parents, in our workplace and community:

Nurturing a diversity of talents. Mutual respect. Cooperation. Unity. Commitment. Determination. Clear objectives.

It seems we go over-the-top when we worship a player, coach or team. Lord Christ, may that be reserved for you - only you.

…and then sport will be in its proper place as we use its lessons to advance the Kingdom. Amen.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Of Heaven & Earth

I probably have a muddled view of heaven. I’m reading N.T. Wright’s 2008 book Surprised by Hope. The Bishop of Durham (UK) challenges us to be about Kingdom work here on earth while we await Christ’s return - to earth. The latter is a promise we don’t fully claim. We put it on the theological back burner preferring to think of heaven as a place of clouds, angels and harp music. Bishop Wright says we’ve got it wrong.

Yes, at death we will be with God...at peace...at rest...but it’s only a respite, something akin to a temporary sleep. Wright says we’ve lost sight of the bigger promise; that is, Christ will come again - here - somehow joining heaven and earth. Just like Jesus, our physical bodies will be resurrected and we will become citizens of a new creation. Our imperfect bodies and this imperfect planet will be perfected. No skipping around on the clouds. Wrap your mind around that. I’m trying…

Creator God,

I confess that heaven and earth seem very separate to me. The cliché fits: they are worlds apart.

…but that’s not your intention.

We give voice to your purpose when we pray “your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:10)

It’s our job to craft some heaven here on earth, to follow Micah’s lead: To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.
(Micah 6:8) Jesus, you point us toward our neighbors, the poor and hungry, the sick, the stranger, the prisoner. You insist on radical forgiveness.*

…and that’s preparation for your ultimate plan.

We give voice to the blueprint at communion: “Christ will come again.”

It’s hard to grasp. We seem fascinated by apocalypse while resisting the real promise of Revelation: I heard a voice thunder from the Throne: “Look! Look! God has moved into the neighborhood, making his home with men and women! They’re his people, he’s their God. He’ll wipe every tear from their eyes. Death is gone for good - tears gone, crying gone, pain gone…“Look! I’m making everything new.”
(Revelation 21:3-5, The Message)

Lord Christ, put me to your purposes in the present. Make your home with me for eternity. Amen.

* - from Matthew 22:39, 25:35-40, 18:21-22
Illustration - William-Adolphe Bouguereau, French Painter, 1800s