Monday, October 31, 2011

Halloween

For about as long as humans have been human, we have wondered, feared, and hoped about the souls of our companions who die. Both out of love for those we've lost, and out of fear for what might happen to us, we have felt it important to "put the dead in their place," to make sure they are not wandering the earth causing trouble.

Perhaps it's no problem that we are no longer quite so supertitious in this direction. But there's something missing when Halloween has become just an occasion for dress-up and excess.

Ghosts still wander the earth - in reality, or in metaphor. We do well to respect what they still have to say to us, what we need to do to help assure peace in their passing. In the Western Church, we will remember the departed tomorrow, on All Saints' Day. But tonight, for all the fun there may be in a Fall Carnaval, I hope we do not neglect the spirits that are just out of sight.
 

Growing faith

We were asked a question today in church: "How do we grow in faith"?

Does the grass know how it grows? It is a mystery.

Good soil, water, and sunlight help - but are no guarantee. We know people with seemingly all the resources, but no results. And, while hardship can stunt growth, new life can unaccountably spring up in the most adverse circumstances.

Whenever it happens, growth in faith, faith itself, is always a gift.

If there is one thing that helps the most... it is the example of others' fathfulness, others' hope, others' love. We see that so clearly in Jesus - but also in so many others. That is the best kind of soil.

 

Friday, October 21, 2011

God's commandments

The Lord spoke to Moses, saying: "Speak to all the congregation of the people of Israel and say to them: You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy." And then the Lord gave ten commandments for the people to follow. Leviticus 19:1-2

Over the years, the commandments have picked up a bad reputation with some, fueled by those who would impose them on others, or who seem to delight in punishing lawbreakers. But the text does not show the commandments given by these lesser authorities, but by God.

And you might simply take them as guidelines for good behavior. We don't need a heavenly enforcer to know that killing, stealing, jealousy, failure to rest, and disrespect to others eventually leads to bad results. Violate them and you violate the conditions of personal and social health, to your peril.

But look back to the way God gives the commandments: not to keep people in line, but out of God's desire that we share in the holiness, the righteousness, the goodness that is God's very nature. "You shall be holy..." God wants us to imitate the goodness that is God's desire for us.

That's freeing, compared to the endless chain of bad stuff that follows from going counter to the Way given by God.
 

Friday, October 7, 2011

Prayer for peace

This day marks the 10th anniversary of the US invasion of Afghanistan, our nation's longest war.

Afghanistan War Children, photographer unknown

O God, war rends your creation and multiplies suffering and poverty. Let us cry out in response to war's devastation. Be with all affected by warfare: those who wage it, those caught in its crossfire, and those who fund and enable it. Call forth peacemakers and healers, that the wounds of war and the ills which provoke war might be the subject of your care, your healing, your transformation. Help us to see the many victims of war: the precious lives killed, the beautiful bodies maimed, the spirits afflicted by violence committed, inflicted upon, and witnessed. Have mercy, and heal us.

O God, it is your will to hold both heaven and earth in a single peace. Let the design of your great love shine on the waste of our wraths and sorrows, and give peace to your church, peace among nations, peace in our homes, and peace in our hearts; through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The second paragraph is from Evangelical Lutheran Worship, p.72.