This week’s devotional is written by Jeff Peterson, a member of our Coop since it’s inception. Jeff has a wonderfully unique point of view and crisp communication style that conveys his meaning with honest clarity. Thank you, Jeff, for your openness and insight!
When the Cooperative Ministries were going through the Reconciling process, to be open and supportive to GLBT community members, our Oregon Lutheran Bishop Dave Brauer-Rieke, came and spoke. One of the things that struck me about what he said, as he discussed some of the scripture, was how Paul viewed the previous ways of doing things, as laid out in Old Testament scriptures, as opposed to what was going on right then (in what later became New Testament scripture). One of the things that Bishop Dave talked about was that Paul often referenced the Old Testament scripture, but never as the reason for continuing to do things that way. It was always in the spirit of “ Here is what the old order was, and here is why what we are doing is different…” He was often making a historical reference, but then suggesting the ways in which Jesus was suggesting a different, more inclusive, completely radical shift in the way that people of faith should do business.
Another of the things I like about Paul, is that despite his many self-admitted weaknesses, he is always looking forward. In his letters he is writing, quite often, to communities he has never seen, but trying to keep them moving forward as Christians. Word often seems to get back to him about what is going on, so sometimes he chastises them, but always, he seems to be talking to them about the need to move forward, and how to be a community that focuses on Christ’s word. He always talks about the problems, and he does address them head on, but he also always shows us the path forward. He talks, on the one hand, about “enviously or pridefully comparing ourselves to others.” But then also, right away, suggests to “Love from the center of who you are.”
As we move forward, in this period where we are going to be working with an interim pastor, and trying to find our new way forward. It strikes me that we need to be honest and frank about our own weaknesses. There are always ways in which things could be better. And yet we also need to keep focused on our vision forward. We do not need to always be bound by what was done before, or who did what to whom and when, we have a community to serve. As Paul reminds us, this is a church without boundaries – it is now not us versus them, but we are all part of God’s creative embrace.
“Life moves very fast. It rushes from Heaven to Hell in a matter of seconds.”
“People are very open-minded about new things, as long as they’re exactly like the old ones.”
Charles F. Kettering
“Stubbornness does have its helpful features. You always know what you are going to be thinking tomorrow.”
“I have a great respect for incremental improvement, and I’ve done that sort of thing in my life, but I’ve always been attracted to the more revolutionary changes. I don’t know why. Because they’re harder. They’re much more stressful emotionally. And you usually go through a period where everybody tells you that you’ve completely failed.”
“Getting stress out of your life takes more than prayer alone. You must take action to make changes and stop doing whatever is causing the stress. You can learn to calm down in the way you handle things.”
“Oh, the most important thing about myself is that my life has been full of changes. Therefore, when I observe the world, I don’t expect to see it just like I was seeing the fellow who lives in the next room.”
“There are terrible jerks, and there are an unusually large concentration of them in the workplace. And that means that you do have to make some changes in your behavior, but there is absolutely no need for you to give them power over your happiness.”
Romans 12: 1-21 (The Message)
12 1-2 So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.
3 I’m speaking to you out of deep gratitude for all that God has given me, and especially as I have responsibilities in relation to you. Living then, as every one of you does, in pure grace, it’s important that you not misinterpret yourselves as people who are bringing this goodness to God. No, God brings it all to you. The only accurate way to understand ourselves is by what God is and by what he does for us, not by what we are and what we do for him.
4-6 In this way we are like the various parts of a human body. Each part gets its meaning from the body as a whole, not the other way around. The body we’re talking about is Christ’s body of chosen people. Each of us finds our meaning and function as a part of his body. But as a chopped-off finger or cut-off toe we wouldn’t amount to much, would we? So since we find ourselves fashioned into all these excellently formed and marvelously functioning parts in Christ’s body, let’s just go ahead and be what we were made to be, without enviously or pridefully comparing ourselves with each other, or trying to be something we aren’t.
6-8 If you preach, just preach God’s Message, nothing else; if you help, just help, don’t take over; if you teach, stick to your teaching; if you give encouraging guidance, be careful that you don’t get bossy; if you’re put in charge, don’t manipulate; if you’re called to give aid to people in distress, keep your eyes open and be quick to respond; if you work with the disadvantaged, don’t let yourself get irritated with them or depressed by them. Keep a smile on your face.
9-10 Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle.
11-13 Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant. Don’t quit in hard times; pray all the harder. Help needy Christians; be inventive in hospitality.
14-16 Bless your enemies; no cursing under your breath. Laugh with your happy friends when they’re happy; share tears when they’re down. Get along with each other; don’t be stuck-up. Make friends with nobodies; don’t be the great somebody.
17-19 Don’t hit back; discover beauty in everyone. If you’ve got it in you, get along with everybody. Don’t insist on getting even; that’s not for you to do. “I’ll do the judging,” says God. “I’ll take care of it.”
20-21 Our Scriptures tell us that if you see your enemy hungry, go buy that person lunch, or if he’s thirsty, get him a drink. Your generosity will surprise him with goodness. Don’t let evil get the best of you; get the best of evil by doing good.
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION
- Are you more apt to lament change or celebrate it? Why do you think that is the case?
- What do you see yourself doing to strengthen the MCM community in this changing time?
- What big change in your life that you were fearful and anxious about turned out to be a really wonderful experience? What made it that way?