Category Archives: devotion

Lumen Weekly episode 27

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episode 27:
Boundaries

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“When the camel you’re riding runs wild, nothing will stop it. You cling to its neck. You wrench at its beard and long lip. You cry into its soft ear for mercy. You threaten vengeance. Either you hurl yourself to death from its pitching back or you ride out its madness to the end. It was not I who ran off with my father’s blessing. It was my father’s blessing that ran off with me. Often since then I have cried mercy with the sand in my teeth… The blessing will take me where it will take me. It is beautiful and it is appalling. It races through the barren hills to an end of its own.”

–Frederick Buechner (from the viewpoint of Jacob, shortly after tricking his father into giving him a blessing.)

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Scripture Reading: John 6:37-40

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In many ways, the will of Jesus’ father was, much like the Frederick Buechner passage quoted above, “beautiful and appalling.” The crucifixion was appalling, but its end result is the epitome of beauty, the culmination of a long journey of will. Look over your own life and see if you can spot acts of the will that you find both beautiful and appalling. Write them down and meditate on them this week. What aspects are beautiful? What are appalling? What can you do with the tension between those two attributes?

Read: Daily Prayers from the Book of Common Prayer

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Lumen Weekly episode 26

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episode 26:
Present Realities

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“When service is unto people, the bones can grow weary, the frustration deep… The moment you think of serving people, you begin to have a notion that other people owe you something for your pains…You will begin to bargain for reward, to angle for applause… When the eyes of the heart focus on God, and the hands on always washing the feet of Jesus alone – the bones, they sing joy and the work returns to its purest state… The work becomes worship, a liturgy of thankfulness… Deep joy is always in the touching of Christ – in whatever skin He comes to us.”

-Ann Voskamp

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Scripture Reading: Matthew 25:31-46

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If you visit this community regularly, it’s highly likely that you already volunteer somewhere. Our guess is that you come across, with some amount of regularity, people who might embody either the scripture passage from this week or from the Ann Voskamp quote above. If you do, then take some extra time this week to really look upon them as Jesus in different skin. What does this do for your faith? If you don’t volunteer among those less privileged than you, then perhaps you could consider taking that step forward this week, and then beyond into the new year. You could wind up meeting Jesus, again and again.

Read: Daily Prayers from the Book of Common Prayer

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Lumen Weekly episode 25

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episode 25:
Talk vs Actions

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“The impulse to keep to yourself what you have learned is not only shameful, it is destructive. Anything you do not give freely and abundantly becomes lost to you. You open your safe and find ashes.”

-Annie Dillard

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Scripture Reading: Matthew 21:28-32

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Today’s scripture is really about obedience – about meaning what you say and obeying the unwritten rules we have in society about following through on your promises. You have gifts you need to give to others in this world, and others have gifts they need to give you. This week, you can practice this with the help of a friend.

Agree with your friend that, for the first half of this week only, you’ll each send one another random text messages of encouragement and intentions to do a good deed to each other. Get specific. But when it comes time to fulfill your nice thing, do something completely different from what you sent in the text. Make it an intentional letdown. If you promise a cup of gourmet coffee, deliver an empty fast food cup; if you promise a new shirt, deliver a deliberately ugly secondhand belt. You get the point.

Whether you’re giving or receiving these letdown promises, meditate on how it made you feel – even though you already knew it was going to happen! Write about it in your journal. Talk it over with your friend.

For the second half of the week, reverse it. Promise small, deliver big. How does it change your outlook? What else changes within you? Again, write about it, and/or talk about it with your friend.

Read: Daily Prayers from the Book of Common Prayer

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Lumen Weekly episode 24

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episode 24:
Wresting with Jesus

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“Jesus is not the warrior king the world is accustomed to… Jesus refused to be the violent Messiah Israel longed for. Jesus did not kill Pilate and drag the governor’s body behind his chariot. Jesus did not pose triumphantly over the dead bodies of slain Roman soldiers. Instead it was Jesus who hung naked on a tree after being put to death through a state-sponsored execution. Jesus founded his kingdom in solidarity with brutalized victims. This is the gospel, but it’s hard for us to believe in a Jesus who would rather die than kill his enemies. It’s harder yet to believe in a Jesus who calls us to take up our own cross, follow him, and be willing to die rather than kill our enemies.”

-Brian Zahnd

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Scripture Reading: Matthew 16:21-27

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This week’s quote is taken from an essay by pastor and author Brian Zahnd, which we encourage you to read in full. Click here to read.

The title of that essay says it all: “It’s hard to follow Jesus.” When you sign up for Christianity, you sign up for a faith that says you’re going to have a bit of trouble. You’re going to run counter to the prevailing culture. You’re going to endure hardship. And while we would never recommend seeking out martyrdom nor looking for persecution behind every piece of legislation proposed by the political party you disagree with, we would encourage you this week to examine yourself. Get a notepad and write down the ways you find difficulty in pursuing your faith. Do you take it easy? Do you rationalize methods of sidestepping the difficult obstacles that an honest pursuit of your faith would take you over? Look over your list. What changes, if any, do you need to make in the way you live?

Read: Daily Prayers from the Book of Common Prayer

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Lumen Weekly episode 23

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episode 23:
Bringing God into Being

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“As long as we continue to live as if we are what we do, what we have, and what other people think about us, we will remain filled with judgments, opinions, evaluations, and condemnations. We will remain addicted to putting people and things in their ‘right’ place.”

-Henri Nouwen

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Scripture Reading: Matthew 22:34-40

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Trying to set people “right” is all too often less about helping them out and more about exerting our superiority or control over the world. Some Pharisees tried to set Jesus right and he shut them down by talking about proper priorities; try the same this week. Whenever you have an opportunity to prove someone else “wrong” (and therefore yourself “right”), resist the impulse and instead shift your perspective to a larger one that takes into consideration the grander narrative that your life is writing.

Read: Daily Prayers from the Book of Common Prayer

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Lumen Weekly episode 22

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episode 22:
If You Love Me…

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“We must not get caught up in the need for power over the poor. We need to be with the poor. That can seem a bit crazy because it doesn’t look like a plan to change the world. But maybe we will change the world if we are happy. Maybe what we need most is to rejoice and to celebrate with the weak and the vulnerable. Maybe the most important thing is to learn how to build communities of celebration. Maybe the world will be transformed when we learn to have fun together. I don’t mean to suggest we don’t talk about serious things. But maybe what our world needs more than anything is communities where we celebrate life together and become a sign of hope for our world. Maybe we need signs that it is possible to love each other.”

-Jean Vanier

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Scripture Reading: John 14:15-21

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In today’s text, Jesus promises He will love and reveal Himself to those who love Him. He promises the Holy Spirit, whom Christians will recognize because they are looking for Him. Here’s a suggestion: perhaps one of the best ways to recognize Jesus and the Holy Spirit is by going to those whom Jesus spent time with here on earth—the poor. Make some time this week to volunteer and serve the poor in your community. Seek out one or more organizations in your area that are helping the poor and ask them for ways you can contribute to their efforts. You may just find Jesus in a place you least expected.

Read: Daily Prayers from the Book of Common Prayer

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Lumen Weekly episode 21

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episode 21:
Subversion vs Fairness

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“You’re telling me I can’t do what I want with my own money? I’m supposed to be a stinker because you got your nose out of joint? All I did was have a fun idea. I decided to put the last first and the first last to show you there are no insiders or outsiders here; when I’m happy, everybody’s happy, no matter what they did or didn’t do. I’m not asking you to like me, Buster; I’m telling you to enjoy me. If you want to mope, that’s your business. But since the only thing it’ll get you is a lousy disposition, why don’t you just shut up and go into the tasting room and have yourself a free glass of Chardonnay? The choice is up to you, Friend: drink up, or get out; compliments of the house, or go to hell. Take your pick.”

-Robert Farrar Capon

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Scripture Reading: Matthew 20:1-16

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What the Parable of the Laborers (and Capon’s paraphrase of the final act of it that we quoted today) exposes is that we spend far too often looking at other people and thinking of them as other. To the detriment of ourselves! When we look at the other and focus on finding some way for them to be punished, we aren’t elevating ourselves; we only gain a “lousy disposition” and lose out on enjoying the outrageous grace of God! So this week, take some time to really listen to someone you perceive as other. It might be someone of a different political persuasion, or a different racial makeup, or a different religion, or what-have-you. Intentionally seek out reliable, level-headed voices from that other side and prayerfully listen to what they have to say.

Read: Daily Prayers from the Book of Common Prayer

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Lumen Weekly episode 20

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episode 20:
Looking Back, Looking Forward

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“Jesus is Lord, and everything else is bullshit.”

-Stanley Hauerwas

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Scripture Reading: John 3:13-17

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What more can be said about the most-quoted verse in the Bible, the hinge of Christianity? Either you believe in this ultimate example of God’s love or you don’t. But what about that bit earlier in the passage about the bronze snake? It’s a reference to Numbers 21:4-9. Take some time to read that particular passage and look for parallels to the introduction of Jesus into the world. Why might Jesus have mentioned that passage in reference to himself? What kind of monstrous God punishes whiny people by killing them with poisonous snakes? How can we reconcile that God with the one we see in the person of Jesus? Don’t be afraid of these kinds of hard questions.

Read: Daily Prayers from the Book of Common Prayer

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Lumen Weekly episode 19

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episode 19:
Finding Humanity Inside the Conflicts and Debates

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“Made for spirituality, we wallow in introspection. Made for joy, we settle for pleasure. Made for justice, we clamor for vengeance. Made for relationship, we insist on our own way. Made for beauty, we are satisfied with sentiment. But new creation has already begun. The sun has begun to rise. Christians are called to leave behind, in the tomb of Jesus Christ, all that belongs to the brokenness and incompleteness of the present world… That, quite simply, is what it means to be Christian: to follow Jesus Christ into the new world, God’s new world, which he has thrown open before us.”

-N.T. Wright

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Scripture Reading: Matthew 18:15-20

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It can be too easy to settle for the status quo, for the way things have always been done. Yes, we often need to take things as they are, but that doesn’t mean we have to take everything as it is. God has opened up a new world for us, but we sometimes just can’t see it because we’re too busy looking with our same-old-same-old minds.

So to practice thinking expectantly, try making a peanut butter sandwich for lunch every day, but change things up. Use honey instead of jelly. Or raisins. Or go nuts and do that Elvis Presley sandwich with bananas that’s fried. (You can find ideas here: http://www.epicurean.com/articles/beyond-jelly-reinventing-the-peanut-butter-sandwich.html ). The point is – by doing this, yes, you’re making a “peanut butter sandwich,” but you’re expanding your horizons and discovering new avenues out of the status quo. Now apply this thinking to the world God has made; how has he expanded it, improved upon it, opened up doors you never knew existed?

Read: Daily Prayers from the Book of Common Prayer

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Lumen Weekly episode 18

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episode 18:
Sarcasm, Crumbs and Jesus

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“Where you live should not decide / whether you live or whether you die

Three to a bed / Sister Ann, she said / Dignity passes by

And you speak of signs and wonders / but I need something other

I would believe if I was able / but I’m waiting on the crumbs from your table

-Bono

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Scripture Reading: Matthew 15:21-28

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In our passage, Jesus had mercy on a faith-filled woman who fell outside the scope of his mission. The irony is that, thanks to Jesus’ ministry and sacrifice, no person can fall outside the scope of Jesus’ mission. Everyone is a part of the mission – both to help fulfill it and to be fulfilled by it. So take some time this week to look for those who might need the “crumbs from your table”: a kind gesture, a smile, a five-dollar bill, a plate of homemade cookies. Give in small ways and, in so doing, you’ll help fulfill Jesus’ mission in your community.

Read: Daily Prayers from the Book of Common Prayer

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