Daily Prayer :: Water

Encouragement for a lifelong journey of faith

November 22, 2017 — Ministry of justification

Today’s Bible reading

Reading 2 Corinthians 3.

You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all;  and you show that you are a letter of Christ, prepared by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.—2 Corinthians 3:2-3

More thoughts for meditation

Paul contrasts the old covenant of Moses (which he calls the “ministry of condemnation”) with the new covenant of Jesus (the  “ministry of justification”). He is talking about the power of the incarnation. Through the person of Jesus, we can now gaze on God unveiled (which was something Moses couldn’t do when he encountered God on Mt. Sinai). Paul is doing work in redefining salvation for the Jewish people, but his language about a new covenant isn’t novel to them though, as Jeremiah, the prophet, has a redundant motif about this very subject (see Jeremiah 31:32).

This old covenant is revitalized and fulfilled by the Spirit of God present in Jesus. Where the Spirit is, there is freedom. The new covenant, frees us from the shackles of the rules (and therefore condemnation) and moves us toward freedom. The law is still there, but this time, instead of being chiseled on stone tablets, it is written on our hearts.

The new covenant gives us the boldness to minister of the Gospel. We are developed and deepened by the Spirit. We are “letters of Christ,” shaped by the Spirit of God, declaring God’s fullness in the world by our words and deeds. A wonderful opportunity, it is, and a great responsibility.

Suggestions for action

Paul’s description of the new covenant is so encouraging, it removes the condemnation of the old and does so in plain language. The trouble, of course, is believing. Reject your self-condemnation today, and find your wholeness, not in your own strength and might, but in Christ despite your weakness. Walk as a child of God. Maybe the way you express it is with a straighter posture, chest out. Maybe it’s with a more confident smile. Maybe you dare to be kind because you have nothing to fear. Be a letter of Christ today.

Today is Eberhard Arnold Day! Understand more about the founder of the Bruderhof at Celebrating our Transhistorical Body.

Today is also C. S. Lewis Day! Celebrate this great 20th Century apologist and imagineer at Celebrating our Transhistorical Body.

 

November 21, 2017 — Forgiveness undoes evil

Today’s Bible reading

Reading 2 Corinthians 2:5-11.

What I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, has been for your sake in the presence of Christ.  And we do this so that we may not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs.—2 Corinthians 2:10-11

More thoughts for meditation

One of the challenges of reading a letter written to another group of people is the mystery of the correspondence. Paul doesn’t fill in details that might be helpful to us, because his recipients are familiar with the incidents in question. So it reads more generally and sometimes the specifics are absent. In this passage, we know there is an offender, someone who has damaged the entire community. It seems like he has been punished or quarantined for a period of time (see verse six). Now the time has come to include him again. Paul encourages his friends to forgive the man. “Reaffirm your love for him.”

For Paul, forgiveness frees us, and unlocks our ability to love. It undoes evil. When Paul encourages his audience to forgive the man who harmed them, he emphathizes with them, feels their pain, and but pushes them to obey God. The devil, he says, outwits us when we hold on to grudges; we outmaneuver the devil when we freely forgive.

Paul notes that forgiveness is a communal process because sins that cause pain in community hurt everyone. We can’t individualize our sin; we can’t just deal with our problems secretly (or not deal with them). The community is infected when conflict and sin go unresolved. It affects us all. We have a proverb that makes reference to this: Nothing should be left to fester until the pastors smell it.

Suggestions for action

Consider the passage again.  Open up your heart. See where your resentments lie. Try to let them go. When the time comes, see if you can seek reconciliation. We follow Matthew 18’s instructions when we do. Address the person directly, then with another if necessary, and then in a larger group after that. The Cell Leaders call this our “Forgiveness and Containment” process. 

November 20, 2017 — Strength in weakness

Today’s Bible reading

Reading 2 Corinthians 1:3-11.

Our hope for you is unshaken; for we know that as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our consolation.—2 Corinthians 1:7

More thoughts for meditation

Overshadowed by some other of Paul’s big letter (Romans, 1 Corinthians, and Galatians), Paul’s second epistle to the Corinthians might be worth more meditation. One scholar calls it a “sleeping giant.”

Many scholars believe that Paul wrote a series of letters to the church in Corinth, and that 2 Corinthians is a redaction of three different ones. In 1 Corinthians 5:8, he refers to a previous letter he wrote. But he also makes reference to other letters in 2 Corinthians. Speculation about redaction has limited value, but viewing 2 Corinthians in three different parts: chapters 1 to 7, 8 to 9, and 10 to 13 (what many think are three letters) helps us thematically consider the text, at the very least.  This week, we’ll jog through the first section, chapters 1 to 7. The big theme in it is finding strength in weakness.

Paul begins the letter by describing a near-death experience that he had and the consolation that he enjoyed despite his suffering. For Paul, his consolation and comfort is a witness for the Gospel for the sake of others; Paul is sharing about his hope, despite suffering, to encourage his comrades. It encourages us too. It sets the tone for the whole letter. Following Jesus is about suffering, but surviving; finding consolation in oppression; being sustained by a reconciled loving community.

Suggestions for action

One of the only things, a mentor once told me, that a Christian can be assured of is that they will suffer. Jesus transforms our suffering, though. But we resist the embrace of it, don’t we? Or at least, we’re told that we should avoid it and cope with it. Maybe today, you can embrace your suffering and offering it up to God. Maybe, like Paul, you may share it with your friends. Maybe even the process of sharing will help transform it.

Today is Leo Tolstoy Day! Understand more about this great reformer at Celebrating our Transhistorical Body.

 

November 19, 2017 — Freedom and Purpose

Today’s Bible reading

You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other. — Galatians 5:13-15

More thoughts for meditation

The liberation that Christianity preaches is a liberation from something that enslaves, for something that ennobles us. Those who talk only about the enslavement, about the negative part of liberation, do not have the power that the church can give one. It struggles, yes, against the Earth’s enslavements, against oppression, against misery, against hunger. All that’s true – but, for what? For something. St. Paul uses a beautiful expression: to be free for love. To be free for something positive, that is what Christ means when he says, “Follow me.” – Oscar Romero, The Violence of Love

I confess to having a faith that is more about escape than purpose. I love this song, both for how beautiful it is and because I do want to live in paradise. That’s not a bad thing in itself, and God does promise to make things right one day, I have found it tends towards a mostly negative view of the present.

This life before death is something to be suffered through and, ultimately, released from. In this way I also have to resist that negative freedom Romero is pointing out. Christ offers of a Freedom for something rather than just a freedom from something. To be sure, Christ’s death and resurrection put an end to the claims sin and death had on us but that is only the beginning.

Suggestions for action

Exercise your freedom to love. This might mean relating across well established boundaries. It might mean resisting being obligated. Why don’t you invite someone to your cell? Why not pray about making your cell a place where the love of Christ is displayed?  Christ is calling us to act out of something deeper and more joyful than just doing what we should.

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