Saturday, March 23, 2019

Job 13, RJV (Reblog)

Originally written for and posted on 3/22/19. 

Job 13, Revised Julia Version 

Look, I have heard everything you are telling me, “friends”,
And your words aren’t new to me.

I have the same information that you do;
And, frankly, you’re not offering different or better interpretation.

I want to speak directly to the Almighty and take up this injustice in that conversation. 

Y’all… you are looking at my situation and
Basically talking out of your rear ends. You’ve got nothing.

If you were just quiet, just grieved with me, that would actually a true help,
Not whatever it is you’re doing now.

Listen real carefully to me now:
Is it better to be quiet or
To speak about God and turn out to have lied?

Unless you are defending the Divine by speaking about Holy Prerogative
And Holy Mystery and our own smallness and trust in Holy Grace, it is better to hush up.

Do you think God is going to own everything you’ve decided is true about the Holy,
When you try to make the Divine in your own image?

God is going to correct you, quite sharply,
If you continue to speak for the Divine without waiting for the Spirit and just relying on your own understanding.

Aren’t you a little scared of that? Doesn’t God’s awe-fullness cause you to quake?

Your quick words of “comfort” are trash.
Your false piety is fit for the compost pile.

If anyone is to confront God and speak directly,
Let it be the one who has actually suffered.

In this case, that’s me. I’ll speak directly to God,
What more can go wrong than already has?
I want answers and I will demand them, but not from you.

And, look, if God decides to kill me for my impertinence, so be it.
I still have greater faith in God’s way than in the quick falseness of people.

God knows my heart, seeing beyond my grief,
To the trust I have that the Eternal One works justice.

So, listen to me, “friends”,
I know what I am doing, even in the midst of my life chaos.

I’ve thought about what I will say to God,
And that’s between God and me.

There is no one who is truly going to intercede for me from you lot,
That’s what I’ve learned from your platitudes and cross-stitched maxims.

Holy One, I am coming to you directly and I am asking for two things,
And I’m going to do my best to stand strong in the face of your answers.

Pull back, God, from whatever it is that you are causing to happen to me,
It is too much for me to bear and I am growing fearful of you in a way that does not and will not produce love.

Then, O God, then I humbly ask you to reveal yourself to me,
And, admittedly terrified, I will open my eyes to see what you show.

Or, conversely, hear me out and then provide clear answers to me in a way I can comprehend.
It’s your choice, O God. It always is.

I don’t think I’ve been perfect, but I have been doing my best.
Since perfection hasn’t been possible, can you just show me where I’ve screwed up?
I hope it’s not a long list, but it may well be.
What I cannot handle is your silence.
I thought we were in a relationship and now it feels as though I have been Divinely ghosted.
And I do not mean Holy Ghost. I mean, where have you gone?!?
I’m already struggling, God, and you can see how my “friends” are “helping”.
Are you going to pile on by denying me tangible signs of your presence?

Because that feels harsh. If I’ve earned this kind of punishment, so be it,
But please tell me. Right now, I’m racking my brain and coming up empty.

I feel hobbled in my vocations, in my prayers, in my efforts to just live.
I worry about additional spiritual ambushes.
It’s hard to walk faithfully in this situation.
I know that “may the Lord bless and keep” means that
It is entirely possible that the Lord may not.

But right now, I feel like I am wilting produce in your holy fridge,
And that’s a waste for both of us.

Here my prayer, O God,
And in your mercy, answer me.


Monday, March 11, 2019

Baptismal Service Commentary, Part 1

The following is the Service of Holy Baptism from Evangelical Lutheran Worship (Augsburg Fortress, 2019). The text is black from that service. The blue text is my commentary on the service. Same with the green. This entry takes us through the first half of the baptismal service, prior to the act of baptizing. 


God, who is rich in mercy and love, gives us a new birth into a living hope through the sacrament of baptism. By water and the Word God delivers us from sin and death and raises us to new life in Jesus Christ. We are united with all the baptized in the one body of Christ, anointed with the gift of the Holy Spirit, and joined in God's mission for the life of the world.

This is when the family members of the person to be baptized, infant or adult, come forward with the candidate for baptism. Notice that the presentation, as an invitation, explains what baptism is. This explanation does not mention hell. In Lutheran understanding, the defeat of hell has already been accomplished for the baptismal candidate and for all people by God in Christ through the power of resurrection. Thus, baptism is not removing the threat of hell, but is bringing the baptized into a new life in Christ. Both coming to be baptized or to have baptized andthe living out of the new life are responses to what God has already done. 

God is the prime mover, the originator of all things. All we do is notto earn grace, but in response to it. This is specifically and most certainly true in baptism. 


As you bring your children to receive the gift of baptism, you are entrusted with responsibilities:
to live with them among God's faithful people,
bring them to the word of God and the holy supper,
teach them the Lord's Prayer, the Creed, and the Ten Commandments,
place in their hands the holy scriptures,
and nurture them in faith and prayer,
so that your children may learn to trust God,
proclaim Christ through word and deed,
care for others and the world God made,
and work for justice and peace.
Do you promise to help your children grow in the Christian faith and life?

Sponsors, do you promise to nurture these persons in the Christian faith as you are empowered by God's Spirit, and to help them live in the covenant of baptism and in communion with the church?

People of God, do you promise to support  name/s  and pray for them in their new life in Christ?
We do.

In the Promises and Commitments, the baptized or the family and sponsors of the baptized are committing to the shape of their new life in Christ. The baptismal life is not lived alone, but is lived out with other believers (and in the world). This life involves participating in faith community life, encounters and wrestling with the written word (scripture), regular participation in communion and affirmation of baptism, praying for others in word and deed, and becoming familiar with the most foundational texts of the faith (10 commandments, the Lord’s Prayer, and the Creed). 

This life is lived out for this purpose: so that the baptized may learn to trust God and, through that trust, live a life that proclaims Christ, crucified and risen. This proclamation will be evident in the baptized life in what the person says and does, what she prioritizes and what he rejects. Indeed, it is to be hoped that, with the help of the Spirit, works of justice and peace flow in the wake of the baptized person, leading people to ask about the source of their courage and strength. 

Baptismal sponsors agree to help with this work, as do congregation members. Even if a child is baptized in a “home” congregation, but lives elsewhere- the local congregation is committed to these promises to all children of God who come through their doors. 

I ask you to profess your faith in Christ Jesus, reject sin, and confess the faith of the church.

Do you renounce the devil and all the forces that defy God?
I renounce them.
Do you renounce the powers of this world that rebel against God?
I renounce them.
Do you renounce the ways of sin that draw you from God?
I renounce them.

Do you believe in God the Father?
I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.
Do you believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God?
I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again;
he ascended into heaven,
he is seated at the right hand of the Father,
and he will come to judge the living and the dead.
Do you believe in God the Holy Spirit?
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting.

The Profession of Faith is a statement of what the candidate or their family and the congregation both trust to be truthful about God and also ask God to help them believe. This profession begins in the via negativa, that is with what is not of God. 

God will not defy Godself, thus we forcefully reject spiritual forces that tell lies about God and attempt to make us feel separated from God’s love. 

God will not rebel against Godself, thus we forcefully reject the social and political forces of this world that attempt to subvert God’s will and purposes for reformation, restoration, and resurrection. 

God will not deliberately harm or separate Godself from the beloved creation, thus we forcefully reject our own internal forces that cause us to make idols of ourselves, falsely elevating self above God and neighbor. 

Once we have rejected what cannot be true about God, we are left with the Divine Mystery. In approaching that Mystery, all we have is the handful of ways that God has chosen to be revealed- through creation, through Jesus, and through the eternal work of the Holy Spirit, specifically in the church. We use the Apostles Creed, during baptism, to attest to these revelations, knowing that they do not represent the full nature of God, but a glimpse into the gift of eternal truth. 

This first part of our baptismal service teaches and reminds us that: 

1)   God moves first. 
2)   We respond to God’s grace. 
3)   The world needs and is waiting for our response, because the faithful response of the baptized person points beyond their actions toward God, the Source and Ground of their being and all grace. 

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Taking Stock

Lent is an invitational season. We are invited into deeper discipline, longer reflection, more community time, and to pay greater attention to Jesus' journey to Jerusalem, the cross, and the resurrection. It's good time to take stock of our commitment to the First Commandment: "You are to have no other gods before me."

Note here that God isn't saying that there are not other gods. Instead, the Creator is saying, "I'm first. You are to fear, love, and trust Me above all else."

There are little gods all around us. If we did an audit of our time, energy, and expenditures, would someone who didn't know us be able to tell that God was our priority, that we placed the Holy Divine above all else?

Lent invites us into this spiritual audit, an examination of thoughts, words, and deeds. We have a season in which we can change our habits so that our bottom line is truly more reflective of our priorities. I encourage you, with the help of the Holy Spirit, to accept the invitation.

Monday, March 4, 2019

Getting Ready for Lenten Discipline

Some Christian traditions observe the season of Lent and some do not. 

Lent is a six- week period before Easter, wherein churches that observe the season focus on 1) Jesus' journey to Jerusalem and the cross, 2) preparation for baptism or renewal of baptismal vows, and 3) corrective spiritual discipline with a prayer toward increased faith and deepened trust in God. 

Sometimes when people think about spiritual disciplines for Lent, they think "giving things up"- a setting aside of something enjoyable for a season of deprivation (only to resume the habit or activity at Easter). The purpose of spiritual discipline isn't (usually) deprivation, but instead an exercise to make one stronger in internal and external faith demonstration. We should be setting aside things that cause us to feel separated from Christ and/or taking up actions or practices that help us to connect with the Ground and Source of our Being. 

For most of us, chocolate is not getting between us and Jesus. In fact, when we set aside candy or sweets as our discipline or make a new diet our Lenten focus, there can be a detrimental side effect of demeaning our body, which is a generous and valuable gift from God. We may need to make changes in how we treat our body, but that often begins with how we think of it. 

Back to the spiritual disciplines of Lent. What one takes up or sets aside should be connected to reflection on the life of Jesus and to the sacrament of baptism. Let's take a quick look at the baptismal vows spoken by parents or baptismal sponsors (or by an adult candidate for baptism): 

As you bring your children to receive the gift of baptism, you are entrusted with responsibilities:
to live with them among God's faithful people,
bring them to the word of God and the holy supper,
teach them the Lord's Prayer, the Creed, and the Ten Commandments,
place in their hands the holy scriptures,
and nurture them in faith and prayer,
so that your children may learn to trust God,
proclaim Christ through word and deed,
care for others and the world God made,
and work for justice and peace.

Those are some hefty promises, only really possible with the help of the Holy Spirit and when we have learned not to fear death and hell because of our freedom in Christ. Our Lenten disciplines, then, should be connected to these promises, helping us to take up habits that relate to our baptized status or setting aside the things that get in the way of living into that same baptized status.

We are not baptized into a "Jesus and me" life; we are born again into a life that is lived in Jesus for the sake of the world, from our closest neighbors to the people across the planet whom we will never meet. Each year, we are invited into a season of course correction for the sake of those relationship. Our redirection, our repentance, in anchored in Christ, so we are not floundering about, trying to find our way. Instead, we imitate the words and deeds of the pioneer of our faith, Jesus.

So, as you prepare for Lent, prayerfully consider your disciplines. Ask God to guide you into good work that will deepen your understanding of baptism, your awareness of the Spirit, and your trust in God's presence. Be prepared to be changed.

I think, and this is just me, that it is only when we have done the hard work of Lenten discipline and still realize how much grace we need that we are truly able to glimpse the powerful grace of the empty tomb and the resurrected Savior of the world.

This will be my dismissal phrase for Lent (at the end of church services) and I'm offering it to you now.

Go in peace. Be diligent in discipline and strong in faith. 
(Thanks be to God.)