Daily Prayer :: Water

Encouragement for a lifelong journey of faith

October 18, 2019 — The Upside-down Kingdom of God

Today’s Bible reading

“Then he looked up at his disciples and said:
“Blessed are you who are poor, for the kingdom of God belongs to you.
“Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied.
“Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.
“Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you and insult you and reject you as evil on account of the Son of Man! Rejoice in that day, and jump for joy, because your reward is great in heaven. For their ancestors did the same things to the prophets.

“But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your comfort already.
“Woe to you who are well satisfied with food now, for you will be hungry.
“Woe to you who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep.
“Woe to you when all people speak well of you, for their ancestors did the same things to the false prophets.

“But I say to you who are listening: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. To the person who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other as well, and from the person who takes away your coat, do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who asks you, and do not ask for your possessions back from the person who takes them away. Treat others in the same way that you would want them to treat you.

“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you hope to be repaid, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, so that they may be repaid in full. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to ungrateful and evil people. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” — Luke 6:20-36

More thoughts for meditation

Jesus’ kingdom is both counterintuitive and countercultural to most people. To ease the misunderstanding, some have even called it “The Upside-down Kingdom.” It’s upside down because it isn’t what anybody expects. Jesus was aware that he was “turning the world upside-down” (Acts 17:6).

Throughout the Bible there is a stark contrast between the “kingdoms of this world” and the “kingdom of God.” Jesus actually said “my kingdom is not like the kingdoms of the world” (John 18:36). What is that all about?

First of all, this scene where Jesus speaks to Pilate (definitely a representative of THE kingdom of this world), is one of the places where the Lord claims his authority — that he has a kingdom and is claiming to be a king.

Secondly, this scene reveals that Jesus’ kingdom has an upside-down power structure. The things we dream about and the things Jesus’ first followers dreamed about: justice, love, companionship, meaningful work are all achieved through different means than the ways of the “kingdoms of this world.” The ways of the world are little more than a seesaw of power-over and power-under structures where some are perceived as superior and others as inferior, some dominators and others victims.

The way of Jesus is power within. While the U.S. might declare that all men, then maybe women and non-white people are created equal, the grace of God is the true equalizer and the service of God in community is the best way to experience that.  We have a cloudy view of this reality, but we keep trying to understand it.  Here is Tim Keller, a Christian apologist, speaking on the difference between the two kingdoms at length.  Or read  Jonny Rashind’s review of The Upside-down Kingdom by Donald Kraybill. Or watch this Bible Project video for a well-done animated summary of the good news of the kingdom of God, here.

Suggestions for action

There is a major difference between the lives of those living in these two kingdoms. Thankfully, those seeking Christ’s kingdom are not alone and are given God’s Spirit to guide us. The prompting of the Spirit of God might feel upside down, at first, too. You might be prompted to give all your possessions away! — it has happened before. 

“Following the Spirit is risky business, calm seas do not make good sailors.” — Circle of Hope’s Proverbs.  But follow that inspiration anyway and bring your experience back to your cell or closer community for discernment.

Pray Spirit, may I receive your promptings today with an open heart, and with joy.

October 17, 2019 — Submission is all about trust.

Today’s Bible reading

“When they came to the disciples, they saw a large crowd around them and experts in the law arguing with them. When the whole crowd saw him, they were amazed and ran at once and greeted him. He asked them, “What are you arguing about with them?” A member of the crowd said to him, “Teacher, I brought you my son, who is possessed by a spirit that makes him mute. Whenever it seizes him, it throws him down, and he foams at the mouth, grinds his teeth, and becomes rigid. I asked your disciples to cast it out, but they were not able to do so.” He answered them, “You unbelieving generation! How much longer must I be with you? How much longer must I endure you? Bring him to me.” So they brought the boy to him. When the spirit saw him, it immediately threw the boy into a convulsion. He fell on the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth. Jesus asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. It has often thrown him into fire or water to destroy him. But if you are able to do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” Then Jesus said to him, “‘If you are able?’ All things are possible for the one who believes.” Immediately the father of the boy cried out and said, ‘I believe; help my unbelief!’” — Mark 9:14-24

More thoughts for meditation

Submitting to something outside oneself can be intimidating — just ask somebody who is married!

The father in the story above is gripped by desperation when Jesus finds him. His son has struggled for his entire life — almost losing his life on countless occasions. When Jesus asks the man about his son’s condition the man blurts out a petition for his deliverance — and a pretty half-hearted one at that. Jesus picks up on that.

Jesus has compassion, though. This is not the first place Jesus rebukes people for lacking faith. He’s all about proving how, despite our lack of faith, God is on a mission to save the world and us. As the father learned that day, even his own small faith was enough to connect with God in a powerful way. Thus we find out how our first steps of submission make us accessible to God.

We can submit ourselves to Jesus because of who he is.  This God can, and wants, to be known and loved. Religion uses the word worship as an act expressing one’s love with their whole life. Worship, or whole-life submission, speaks to the thing one’s life is orbiting around — we all worship something. Jesus accepted the adoration and worship from his disciples and that troubled many. But it is only troubling if he cannot be trusted with our lives. The “good news of God’s grace” is good, because we know God in Jesus — he can be trusted.

Suggestions for action

Pray the prayer of the father in Mark 9 who was struggling with faith. Even if you feel secure right now, this can be a good centering prayer throughout your day: “I do believe! Help my unbelief.”

October 16, 2019 — Lord

Today’s Bible reading

When they arrived, he said to them, “You yourselves know how I lived the whole time I was with you, from the first day I set foot in the province of Asia, serving the Lord with all humility and with tears, and with the trials that happened to me because of the plots of the Jews. You know that I did not hold back from proclaiming to you anything that would be helpful, and from teaching you publicly and from house to house, testifying to both Jews and Greeks about repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus. And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem without knowing what will happen to me there,  except that the Holy Spirit warns me in town after town that imprisonment and persecutions are waiting for me.  But I do not consider my life worth anything to myself, so that I may finish my task and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the good news of God’s grace.” — Acts 20:18-24

More thoughts for meditation

Following Jesus is about submission.

Why keep “Lord” as a way of relating to God? Doesn’t the word fall flat when it walks around in postmodern culture? Maybe we should throw it out when testifying to the faith.  After all, there are plenty of more palatable ways people name the Creator from all across the globe.

But without it, where would the idea of life submission be? More than the words we use, submission is really the issue, isn’t it? The undercurrent of individualism in the U.S., especially, makes us think we don’t have to submit to anybody, and shouldn’t! Everybody is supposed to flesh out a unique identity: gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity, vocation, personality, etc… the list of ways one could distinguish themselves from another is probably endless.

One of the reasons the Bible writers and church teachers throughout the centuries have kept “Lord” as an identifier for God is because our relationship to her is a whole-life submission to and a many-parts integration, in that order. The “good news of God’s grace,” as Paul says, is all about the implications of someone submitting to the call of Jesus and integrating their whole life with God’s Spirit and the other Jesus followers.

Suggestions for action

Such a life takes a lot of trust in the Lord, doesn’t it? Following Jesus is about loosening one’s grip on everything they hold close and listening for why those things were in their hands in the first place. The Lord may ask us to let go of some things so we can pick something better. Some things we may be asked to put down so we can get a better grip on other things.

Pray: Jesus, help me to submit my whole life to you. I want you to lead me today.

October 15, 2019 — Naming the Truth

Today’s Bible reading

And you know the way where I am going.”

Thomas said, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus replied, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you have known me, you will know my Father too. And from now on you do know him and have seen him.” Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be content.” Jesus replied, “Have I been with you for so long, and you have not known me, Philip? The person who has seen me has seen the Father! How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in me?  — John 14:4-10

More thoughts for meditation

Someone will say that the “Lord” and “Kingdom” language of the Bible  is archaic and can even be oppressive. I understand where you are coming from, if that’s you. The idea of my life being at the “expense” of another is a bit frightening. To say it another way, if my life is not mine then what do I have? And if what I do have is not my own, but my “lord’s,” then why am I alive? I am alive, so what’s the point? And down the rabbit hole we go. It’s a serious question though; is my life mine?

In our culture there is a lot of talk about “naming your truth.” The idea being that each of us has The (or “A,” more like it) Truth within us, but it is not the same for everybody. To “find your truth” is one’s life-purpose and living it is one’s life-fulfillment. Of course, if I spend my life “finding my truth” or have found it and proceed “living my truth” then submitting even my identity to another, completely, would be incredibly offensive, like like someone was calling me a liar.

This is a reason Jesus’s consoled us in today reading. He “is the truth,” can actually be a point of contention for some of us. It is a lot to hold and God wants to help us hold it. Jesus is revealing God to us and so his claim to “be the truth” shouldn’t be all that shocking, really, even if it is difficult to swallow. 

Suggestion for action

Listen to one of our earliest songs, Show Me Your Way. Pick out one of the lines to make your prayer for today. You can also find the song on all major streaming platforms in addition to the YouTube link above.

Today is Teresa of Avila Day! Enjoy her courage and genius at Celebrating Our Transhistorical Body.

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