Resurrecting Goodness :: Readers’ Choice

Selected by reader, Matt Tullos from Alexandria, LA
I loved the grit of this meditation and scripture. Great insight into the humanity and intimacy of our connection with Jesus. It was a reminder to me that he is incarnate in the present. Our connection isn’t hidden in the future. It’s now. I love the concept of a God with dirty hands restoring everything to himself.

Originally posted April 23, 2018, based on readings from Ecclesiastes 10 and Titus 2.

In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us. — Titus 2.7-8

Reflection: Resurrecting Goodness :: Readers’ Choice
By John Tillman

It would be easy to misread the second chapter of Paul’s letter to Titus as a legalistic list of behaviors to enforce—complete with injunctions against addictions and stealing and including commendations of moral purity and of showing respect for masters and for husbands.

But these actions are not requirements of the gospel as much as they are results of it. They are differentiators—showing the evidence of God at work among the Christian community.

Nearly every religion promises transcendent joy and peace in the hereafter. Christianity describes a God willing to get his hands dirty fixing things in the here and now.

Our God is not a distant observer, merely passing judgement. He is a present participant, showing the dignity of work by engaging in it himself. He works on us as Paul says, he, “gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.”

Even Christ’s resurrection wasn’t about his cosmic survival, it was about us. Christ didn’t stick around after his resurrection to “prove” he was alive. If he cared about incontrovertible proof, Christ would simply have leapt off of the top of the Temple as he was tempted to do at the beginning of his ministry.

Christ invested time between his resurrection and his ascension preparing his followers for the coming of the Holy Spirit and getting them ready to do the work the Holy Spirit would prompt them to do.

It is a uniquely Christian claim that God is invested in our present, not just our future. His Holy Spirit is our present down payment on the future eternity we will one day inherit. And right now, in each moment, the Holy Spirit inhabits us giving us the connection, the power, and the ability to resurrect goodness into the world.

During the season of Easter, we transition from a Christ who walked around in a body like ours, doing good in the ancient world of the past, to a Christ whose Spirit walks around in our bodies prompting us to do good in our world right now.

When we engage in the gospel that Paul describes to Titus, the natural result will be a connection to the Spirit that makes us “eager” to do good.

May we connect with the Spirit of Christ and resurrect goodness of speech, goodness in teaching, and goodness in action for those in our communities.

Prayer: The Greeting
O Lord, what are we that you should care for us? Mere mortals that you should think of us?
We are like a puff of wind; our days are like a passing shadow. — Psalm 144.3-4

– Prayer from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Prayers from The Divine Hours available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Jeremiah 29 (Listen – 5:44)
Mark 15 (Listen – 5:16)

Additional Reading
Read More about Present Glory
Thus God’s glory among men is his goodness, his mercy, his justice, his truth.

Read More about Rhythms of Grace and Discipline
Spiritual disciplines, practiced well, are not contradictory to grace, but extensions of it.

Readers’ Choice
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For Such a Time

Scripture: Esther 4:12-14
When Hathach told Mordecai what Esther had said, Mordecai sent her this message: “Don’t think that just because you live in the king’s house you’re the one Jew who will get out of this alive. If you persist in staying silent at a time like this, help and deliverance will arrive for the Jews from someplace else; but you and your family will be wiped out. Who knows? Maybe you were made queen for just such a time as this.” (The Message)

Reflection: For Such a Time
By Jada Swanson

There are times in one’s life when following God’s plan for our lives does not really make sense to those closest to us and, perhaps, not even to us. Even still, God calls us to obedience during the dark and the daring moments of our lives. In his word, he has promised never to leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5).

In this passage, Esther finds herself facing a most important crossroads, which necessitates a response of faith, even at great personal risk. In each of our lives, there are times when God Almighty calls us to boldly speak out for and act on behalf of those who are marginalized and disenfranchised, the voiceless, and the invisible. Embracing his promptings as an act of obedience, even when it comes at great personal cost. This is leadership.

John Wesley states, “We should every one of us consider, for what end God has put in the place where we are? And when an opportunity offers of serving God and our generation, we must take care not to let it slip” (Notes, 4:14).

Leadership comes in many ways and takes on many forms. At its very core, leadership is influence. Although we may not hold positional roles of leadership, we all have very specific influential roles of leadership in our everyday lives. Have you taken notice of where they are? And with whom? Pray for God to reveal these opportunities to you. Pray for boldness and courage to step forward and speak out, to be of service to the Lord and His people.

God has a plan and purpose for each of our lives. And in God’s view of time, there are no coincidences. As such, it was no coincidence that Esther, a Jew, was selected as queen. Neither is it a coincidence where we find ourselves at this very moment and on this very day. Be observant of those around you, of situations and circumstances. Take notice of how you may be the one appointed to take action, in seemingly small or significant ways. As God’s children, we know that he will accomplish his purposes and plans for this world. The beauty is that he invites us to take part…for such a time as this!

Song: Born for This by Mandisa

The Request for Presence
I call with my whole heart; answer me, O Lord, that I may keep your statues. — Psalm 119.145

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Esther 3 (Listen – 3:12)
Acts 26 (Listen – 5:17)

This Weekend’s Readings
Esther 4 (Listen – 2:53) Acts 27 (Listen – 6:09)
Esther 5 (Listen – 2:42) Acts 28 (Listen – 4:56)

Doing Justice to the Sacrament :: Throwback Thursday

Scripture: 1 Corinthians 11.26
For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

Reflection: Doing Justice to the Sacrament :: Throwback Thursday
By Martin Luther — 1519 AD

We at present see to our sorrow that many masses are held and yet the Christian fellowship which should be preached, practiced and kept before us by Christ’s example has quite perished.

This is the fault of the preachers who do not preach the Gospel nor the sacraments, but their humanly devised fables concerning the many works to be done and the ways to live aright.

But in times past this sacrament was so properly used, and the people were taught to understand this fellowship so well, that they even gathered material food and goods in the church and there distributed them among those who were in need.

Christians cared for one another, assisted one another, sympathized with one another, bore one another’s burden and affliction.

There are those, indeed, who would share the benefits but not the cost, that is, who gladly hear in this sacrament that the help, fellowship and assistance of all the saints are promised and given to them, but who, because they fear the world, are unwilling in their turn to contribute to this fellowship, to help the poor, to endure sins, to care for the sick, to suffer with the suffering, to intercede for others, to defend the truth, to seek the reformation of the Church and of all Christians at the risk of life, property and honor.

They are unwilling to suffer disfavor, harm, shame or death, although it is God’s will that they be driven, for the sake of the truth and their neighbors, to desire the great grace and strength of this sacrament. They are self-seeking persons, whom this sacrament does not benefit.

Just as we could not endure a citizen who wanted to be helped, protected and made free by the community, and yet in his turn would do nothing for it nor serve it. No, we on our part must make others’ evil our own, if we desire Christ and His saints to make our evil their own; then will the fellowship be complete and justice be done to the sacrament.

For the sacrament has no blessing and significance unless love grows daily and so changes a man that he is made one with all others.

The Morning Psalm
The Lord has heard the sound of my weeping. The Lord has heard my supplication; the Lord accepts my prayer. — Psalm 6.8-9

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Esther 2 (Listen – 4:31)
Acts 25 (Listen – 4:40)

Every Man a King?

Scripture: Esther 1:22
He sent dispatches to all parts of the kingdom, to each province in its own script and to each people in their own language, proclaiming that every man should be ruler over his own household

Reflection: Every Man a King?
By John Tillman

It is perhaps most fitting that a book titled for it’s heroine, Esther, begins with a tale of fragile male ego. In what amounts to not answering her husband’s Facebook event invite, Vashti commits what, to the assembled, powerful men of the land was a grievous wrong.

What follows is what typically follows after a bruised male ego—overreaction leading eventually to violence. In any era, including our own, powerful men being snubbed at a party can set off a chain of events that threatens an entire population, but in the ancient world of monarchs it was inevitable.

Xerxes, who on the outside seems the most powerful person in the story, is shown in many ways to be the weakest. He is ruler of half the known land mass of the world, but spends the entire narrative beset by and tied up in, reactionary (and irreversible) laws. Some of them of his own making.

Xerxes is obsessed with what happens to himself. His ego can’t tolerate being disobeyed in even the slightest way. When snubbed, he looks to legislation rather than to relationships as both punishment and final solution.

The idea of “every man a king” does not come exclusively from this verse, but it is an early iteration of the concept and a desperate attempt by men to maintain ungodly power over women who are, together with men, bearers of the image of God.

The legislation that ends Chapter one is the desperate shutting of the door on an already empty barn. It is descriptive—telling us of the foolish actions of men. It is not prescriptive—telling us how men should deal with women. The men who utter it are the bumbling fools of the story, not the heroine.

And the next step taken, to replace Vashti, is the first step in bringing to power a woman who will do something more unusual than refuse the king’s presence. She will command his attention instead. She will condemn to death men close to him. She will issue commands to the leaders of his people and change the course of history.

The Call to Prayer
But I will call upon God, and the Lord will deliver me.
In the evening, in the morning, and at noonday, I will complain and lament,
He will bring me safely back… God, who is enthroned of old, will hear me. — Psalm 55.17ff

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Esther 1 (Listen – 4:14)
Acts 23 (Listen – 4:11)

Politically Ambiguous Religion

Scripture: Romans 1.16-17
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”

Reflection: Politically Ambiguous Religion
By John Tillman

Constantine, Emperor of Rome from 306 AD to 337 AD, is known as a “Christian Emperor” but for most of his public life was a follower of Sol Invictus and seemed to be unable or unwilling to renounce publicly this politically advantageous faith, only being baptized in the last moments of his life.

Constantine’s statements were frequently ambiguous enough that Sol Invictus supporters would assume he was reverencing the Sun and Christians would assume he was reverencing the Son of God. One of several examples noted in A Brief History of Sunday, by Justo Gonzalez is that when walking to set the lines that the walls of Constantinople would follow, he was asked how far he intended to walk and responded, “As far as the One who leads me.” Christians understood this “one” to be their God, and devotees of the Sun to be theirs.

This ambiguous rhetorical caution is repeated in Constantine’s edict that made, from a Christian point of view, the day we call Sunday a day of Christian rest and worship. From the viewpoint of a Sol Invictus worshiper, Constantine promoted their religion to primacy by enshrining the day of the sun, Sunday, as the first day of the week—demoting the god Saturn by demoting Saturday.

Was Constantine faking or just being “ecumenical?” Was he being wise yet innocent, as Jesus advised? Or was he being “ashamed of the gospel”? Maybe a little of both? We don’t know for sure, but many of his actions seem to indicate sincerity.

Faith devoted to the way of Christ is rarely politically expedient and being a Christian in political service involves careful, refined, rhetorical language. Yet, Christians in any party have proved to be a politically naive group—swallowing whatever politicians want as long as they quote the Bible verses we like and avoid the ones we don’t.

We have been duped by politicians who have no demonstrable history of spiritual practice, discipline, or charity but who suddenly start standing on stages with famous Christian pastors, talking about prayer or about helping the poor.

May we view faith that conveniently seems similar to our own with grace, but also with wisdom—accepting but also testing. When it comes to politicians, and anyone else, may the only standard we judge them by be the one Jesus gave us: by the fruit of their actions.

The Call to Prayer
Sing to the Lord and bless his Name; proclaim the good news of his salvation from day to day.
Declare his glory among the nations and his wonders among all peoples. — Psalm 96.2-3

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Nehemiah 12 (Listen – 6:30)
Acts 22 (Listen – 5:55)

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