Encouragement for a lifelong journey of faith

Author: Circle of Hope (Page 1 of 423)

September 29, 2020 — Spin down into rootedness

In the time of covid-19 and political turmoil, we are suffering.  Some of us more than others, but all of us feel some level of suffering.  This week in our prayer guide we will consider suffering with the help of some of the therapists from Circle Counseling.  There’s a brief recording from a different therapist each day for you to consider and take into your prayer. We hope you will find encouragement here.

Today’s Bible reading

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,  through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God.  Not only so, but we  also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. — Romans 5:1-5 (NIV)

­More thoughts for meditation

From Rachael Kerns-Wetherington on how suffering may harm us and what to do about that.

Suggestions for action

Today’s scripture gives us help in trying deal with harmful suffering vs. suffering that produces good in us, As Rachael suggests suffering can spin us out into old wounds that are traumatizing, at time paralyzing us, actually changing how we think and certainly disrupting any peace we feel. But we can also spin down into a rootedness, as Rachael phrases it, and into a contemplative posture that allows our suffering to create as the scripture says a perseverance or resilience in us. That happens when we find a way to cling to our faith, to the reality of what we have been given in Christ. We need to remind ourselves when we suffer that we are justified as the passage says. We are not doomed to only pain. We are not going to face shame alone. Christ has done something about traumatizing suffering. He has transformed it already. We can confront our suffering in faith and allow it to ground us not in past wounds, but in hope of the Spirit’s nearness and rescue.  We may have to really turn our attention to this and wait in the darkness for the spinning to stop so we can find the creative energy to suffer in faith, not without it. 

Breath prayer to carry with you today: (Inhale) Because of You, Lord Christ; (exhale) my suffering is transformed.

September 28, 2020 — Narrowing our lives

In the time of covid-19 and political turmoil, we are suffering.  Some of us more than others, but all of us feel some level of suffering.  This week in our prayer guide we will consider suffering with the help of some of the therapists from Circle Counseling.  There’s a brief recording from a different therapist each day for you to consider and take into your prayer. We hope you will find encouragement here.

Today’s Bible reading

Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.  I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. — Romans 8:17-19 (NIV)

More thoughts for meditation

From Angie Backues on how avoiding suffering narrows our lives.

Suggestions for action

Today’s scripture gives us help in trying resist the urge to avoid our suffering which leaves us narrowing our lives as Angie explains.  How do you consider your suffering?  Can you lean into considering your present suffering as temporary and embrace the truth that as God’s child you are destined for glory?

Breath Prayer to carry with you today: (Inhale) Because of You, Lord Christ; (exhale) I am destined for glory.

Today is William Seymour Day! Appreciate the courage and vision of the father of Pentecostalism at Celebrating Our Transhistorical Body.

September 27, 2020 – Enemy Love

This week, we are drawing upon Drew Hart’s new book “Who Will Be A Witness?” From the back of the book, “At a time when many feel disillusioned and distressed, Hart calls the church to action, offering a way forward that is deeply rooted in the life and witness of Jesus.” Hart is a public theologian and professor at Messiah University.

Today’s Bible Reading

Read: Matthew 5:43-48

“But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.”—Matthew 5:44-45

More thoughts for meditation

“To understand the gift that love is for Howard Thurman, we must take note of the three kinds of enemy love one could practice, according to Thurman. ‘There is first the personal enemy, one who is in some sense a part of one’s primary-group life’… Here Thurman turns out attention to personal conflicts that arise among those you encounter and interact with in your relational network. ‘The second kind of enemy comprises those persons who, by their activities, make it difficult for the group to live without shame and humiliation.’ To explain this kind of enemy love, Thurman uses Jewish tax collectors as an example. He explains the hatred many Jewish people had toward them: ‘They were despised; they were outcasts, because from the inside they had unlocked the door to the enemy.’ Basically they were traitors, or what many in the black community call ‘Uncle Toms,’ because they are working on behalf of the very people who are oppressing your people. Loving this person is a bit more difficult, in fact, it seems insulting to have to do so. Thurman explains further,

All underprivileged people have to deal with this kind of enemy. There are always those who seem to be willing to put their special knowledge at the disposal of the dominant group to facilitate the tightening of the chains. They are given positions, often prominence, and above all a guarantee of economic security and status. To love such people requires the uprooting of the bitterness of betrayal, the heartiest poison that grows in the human spirit… but to love them does not mean to condone their way of life.

Finally, the ‘third type of enemy was exemplified by Rome… Rome was the political enemy. And I believe this category that Thurman identifies is the primary meaning Jesus had in mind when he used enemy. For Thurman, the ability to love a political enemy, that is your oppressor, requires that the ‘Roman had to emerge as a person.’ We must see their humanity. We must see their personhood. There is no path to loving your enemy without that happening first. When Jesus taught about loving one’s enemies, first-century Jews would have known that Jesus first and foremost was talking about the Romans. And that realization turned love into a political act. The more natural response is hatred. But Thurman realized the harm and hatred does to the hater. ‘Hatred, in the mind and spirit of the disinherited, is born out of great bitterness—a bitterness that is made possible by sustained resentment which is bottled up.’ That, of course, is not the way of Jesus, and the love he turns us toward. At the heart of Jesus’ teaching, affirms Thurman, stand the ethic to love one’s enemies”  (Hart, Drew, “Who Will be A Witness,” Harold Press: 2020, p. 351-352).

“The problem is not that we get angry, but what we do with that anger. We are called to be angry and yet not to sin. We must take our righteous anger against idolatry and injustice and let it converge with genuine love. This will move us from virtue signaling about issues to passionately struggling for the deliverance and well-being of our enemies while refusing to destroy those that do the harm. We fiercely struggle to bring an end to the systems and forces of evil while seeking the deliverance of our social and political enemies. Our anger taps us into the urgency of human suffering while love sustains to persevere in this work for the long haul” (p. 356).

Suggestions for action

Consider the three types of enemies Howard Thurman lists that we might love. Who are those in your life? Make a list and pray for them now and pray that God may open up their humanity to you so that you may love them.

But don’t allow your love for them to tone down your conviction. Anger is OK, especially at the horror of the injustice around us. Today ask God to turn your anger into righteous anger, and allow it converge with love.

My prayer for you: May God anoint you to make peace, make love, and make justice happen. Amen.

September 26, 2020 – Economic Injustice

This week, we are drawing upon Drew Hart’s new book “Who Will Be A Witness?” From the back of the book, “At a time when many feel disillusioned and distressed, Hart calls the church to action, offering a way forward that is deeply rooted in the life and witness of Jesus.” Hart is a public theologian and professor at Messiah University.

Today’s Bible Reading

Read: Luke 18:18-25

“There is still one thing lacking. Sell all that you own and distribute the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” But when he heard this, he became sad; for he was very rich.”—Luke 18:22-23

Read: Luke 19:1-10

Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, “Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much.”—Luke 19:8

More thoughts for meditation

“One of the more troubling passages on wealth for many comfortable Christians is found in Luke 18. This passage is one which people read in isolation and then attempt to make it not say what it directly says. We are told that a wealthy ruler came to Jesus asking how he can inherit eternal life. Apparently, he faithfully kept the law, but Jesus assures him that there was one thing he had not done. He had not embraced the spirit of Jubilee ethic that Jesus was fulfilling in his ministry… Despite Jesus’ own explanation of the parable, I’ve still witnessed comfortable Christians do all sorts of heavy intellectual labor so they can deny and domesticate Jesus’ challenging words… For comfortable Christians it is always a matter of the heart when it comes to wealth, which means one can claim a heart change rather than actually repent form our economic practices. Even after we have surrendered over our last idol in our heart, we can continue to hoard resources for ourselves without regard for the well-being of poor people” (Hart, Drew, “Who Will be A Witness,” Harold Press: 2020, p. 269-270).

“This is a powerful liberative story that contrasts radically with the rich ruler encounter. Zacchaeus voluntarily practices a Jubilee ethic through two distinct actions. First, he recognizes that he has a responsibility to all people living in poverty. Half of his possessions will be given to people living in poverty. Secondly, Zacchaeus understood that his wealth was accumulated through exploitation and by harming those who already had a foot on their neck by an unjust system. Therefore, Zacchaeus plans to make amends by paying reparations to all his victims. He knows righteousness requires setting things right and restoring people to wholeness and well-being. He not only will give back what he took, but he will give four times that so they can flourish. In many ways, Zacchaeus is much more than a foil to the rich ruler, he embodied faithful economic action in his neighborhood where the Jubilee ethic fulfilled in Christ is visibly manifested. His life becomes good news for the poor” (p. 272-273).

Throughout the Gospel of Luke, the economic consequences of Jesus’ way and teaching are made manifest to those with ears to hear them, according to Hart. For the church, this means we really need to consider economic injustice as a part of our faithful witness and vocation.

Suggestions for action

“We designate the existing funds for partnering gifts toward a local organization working for racial restitution.” That is a goal in our Map this year, and I think we made it with the passages above in mind. The economic injustices that we have in the United States aren’t something that the church is exclusively responsible for, but in the spirit of a new way of doing things.

But more than that, sharing our money in our Common Fund is another example of how we are demonstrating an alternative to the world’s economy. Though we live in a world of massive income disparity, let us use the opportunity to share in common to fill the valleys, and lower the hills, so to speak. Maybe on action item for this day is to note your contribution to our Common Fund, or even make one.

 

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