Prayer: Identifying Our Blind spots (pt. 3)

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This is the third of four short meditations on prayer based on Luke 18:9-14:

“He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Luke 18:9–14 NRSV)

Another thing this parable teaches us that prayer can help us to see ourselves more clearly.

We all know what a blind spot is. We have blind spots when there is “an obstruction in our visual field.” We talk about blind spots when we are driving. We talk about blind spots in all kinds of life. Continue reading Prayer: Identifying Our Blind spots (pt. 3)

Prayer: Don’t Trust the Labels! (pt. 2)

Flickr image: Thomas Hawk

This is the second of four short meditations on prayer based on Luke 18:9-14:

“He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Luke 18:9–14 NRSV)

A second thing we might learn from this parable is by considering how the pharisee and the tax collector are worlds apart socially. The distance between these to characters is like saying the Wall-Street Exec. and a person living on welfare went into a church together to pray. Continue reading Prayer: Don’t Trust the Labels! (pt. 2)

Prayers of Offense and Defense (pt. 1)

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This week I have four short meditations on prayer based on Luke 18:9-14:

“He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Luke 18:9–14 NRSV)

This parable is in many ways about prayer, but it isn’t trying to teach us what to say, so much as the kind of attitude, or posture we are to have when we pray.

Story

The Catholic football team was on its way to an important game. A reporter boarded the train and asked for the football coach.

“I understand,” said the reporter, “that you carry a chaplain to pray for the success of the team. Would you mind introducing me to him?”

“That would be a pleasure,” said the coach. “Which one do you want to meet, the offensive or the defensive chaplain?”

From Anthony de Mello’s Song of the Bird (p.150)

Many of us are probably familiar with at least the idea of the great lengths that sport fans will go to make sure their team is on the winning side. But there’s another way to hear this second parable and it is about the attitude in which we pray. Continue reading Prayers of Offense and Defense (pt. 1)

Darkness, Lampstands and Light (Revelation 2-3)

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The Lampstands in the Darkness

This past week the American consciousness has been tilted towards the East Coast. Every news source, every line posted to social media, and many of the prayers offered up have been on behalf of those who were injured, killed and/or traumatized on Monday in the Boston marathon bombing.

You may have been like some and couldn’t get enough of the news. Or maybe you felt like you just wanted to get away from it. I swung back and forth between these poles. Although I have to say it’s thrilling conclusion on Friday evening was captivating.

One of the things that Monday did for all of us who live in America was remind us of the simple fact that darkness is all around us. We don’t have to know the motives of the brothers, or whether they were helped by some terrorist network to know that these two young men were draw into a seductive darkness that is far more overwhelming than they clearly understood.

This darkness is seductive because it can pull even the most unsuspecting people into its influence and service. Continue reading Darkness, Lampstands and Light (Revelation 2-3)

The Bible is the People’s Book

This is a message I gave a couple years ago and coming across it today I feel it’s worth sharing again. We in the church have a paradoxical relationship with the bible. Many inside and outside the church have misgivings about certain texts or whole swaths of texts, while other texts serve as basic idioms and metaphors in our culture so much so that we don’t even notice it anymore. Is the Bible still a relevant book for us? I contend yes, but not in the ways we’ve often been taught. I argue that there is a Quaker way of reading the bible that bypasses at least some of our modern hang-ups, and I suggest that the Bible really is the people’s book. It is a collection of stories that give witness to God’s liberating work throughout human history. Seen in this light, we can find ways to enter into the story as our own and become participants in God’s transformation of ourselves and the world.

Scarcity, Abundance and the Sharing Economy (Mark 6:30-44)

This is the sermon I preached on October 28, 2012. It comes from the story of the feeding of the 5,000. Also, note that the general scope and interpretation of this sermon comes from Parker Palmer’s book The Active Life.*

The Problem with Scarcity

This morning I want us to look at this classic story about Jesus and his disciples feeding more than 5,000 people from the perspective of the themes scarcity and abundance.

Many of us have experienced times of scarcity in our lives, when money is tight or seems to evaporate as soon as you touch it. Where love and friendship seems unpredictable or worse untrustworthy. Where God is found silent and your prayers go unanswered. Scarcity is a feeling that you don’t have enough of what you need or want, and is often the root of anxiety, and fear in our lives. It’s that feeling of being hollowed out and empty. Continue reading Scarcity, Abundance and the Sharing Economy (Mark 6:30-44)