Tuesday Daniel 15:13-14 Then Daniel was brought in before the king. The king said to Daniel, “So you are Daniel, one of the exiles of Judah, whom my father the king brought from Judah? I have heard of you that a spirit of the gods is in you, and that enlightenment, understanding, and excellent wisdom are found in you.
I little background here. Daniel and his friends Hananiah, Azariah and Mishael, are taken into captivity in Babylon, their Hebrew names stripped from them and replaces with Babylonian names, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. Babylon wants to strip every bit of Israels traditions and beliefs from them and make them completely subservient to them, even trying to outlaw their kosher dietary habits. The story of Daniel and his friends is the story of an empire that reaches into the lives of all of its foreign subjects and attempts not only to control them, but strip them of their identity, a cruel and violence form of oppression.
In the verses that we read today, the king finds himself in need. He is having troubling dreams (oracles from God) but he cannot understand or interpret them. So he calls upon Daniel who has ‘enlightenment’ the light of God, the wisdom of God such that he can interpret dreams with wisdom.
These may all seem quite magical, mythical and far removed from our experience. But I would suggest that it really connects quite powerfully with our experience. Let’s just think of some of the things that we are struggling with as a nation at this time (or should be at least); the number of American’s living in poverty, the number of homeless, the issue of bullying which has recently been in uncovered in the NFL, drone warfare that kills innocents in Yemen, Afghanistan and other regions, the lack of adequately paying jobs for our college graduates and the cost of college to begin with.
Let’s take homelessness for instance. We don’t know what to do about this issue. There is a great deal of anxiety and even anger when individuals and communities are faced by homeless beggars. Some communities try to bus them out to other places. Some cities make it illegal for church groups to feed them. We all wonder when faced with this; should I help or will I just be paying for drugs or alcohol and contribute to the problem. It is a complex issue and I’m not pretending that it is easy. What I am saying is that this is a deep dark shadow on our nation, that the land of opportunity is faced with evidence that opportunity does visit everyone. Which is why some are angered. The homeless beggars challenge the myth of a prosperous American. What is needed is Light, Wisdom for such an issue.
The story of Daniel tells us that the King, the political leader of a great empire cannot find the solution for the troubles of his kingdom. It is only the enlightenment of God that can lead people to blessed community.
Monday John 12:23
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.
Elizabeth Achtemeier suggests that if we want to gain a meaningful understanding of Jesus' proclamation that he is the light of the world, we need to go back to the story of light in the First Testament. Light is introduced to us at the beginning of the creation story in Genesis and interestingly God creates light before God creates the sun. Often this fact gets all tangled up in creation vs. evolution and science vs. faith debates, which misses the point entirely. Light, as we will see, obviously means something more than just literal sunlight. Historically the sun, the moon, and stars were worshiped in some cultures as gods. Israel creates this creation story and places the creation of light before sun, moon and stars so as to discredit the worship of celestial objects as idolatry, the worship of created things. Light has its ultimate source in God and Light refers to the source of life, the ground of all being. Which is very deep theological and philosophical talk. God is the source of even the greatest things observed in the sky, such as the sun and stars. Light points to God as a deeper source for life. This begins to make more practical or applicable sense as we move forward in scripture to see what else Israel says about the Light.
In Isaiah 9:2 we read The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned. The light in this verse is that which gives hope to Israel in their captivity in Babylon and eventually liberates them from the control of the Babylonian Empire. The light created by God not only powers sun, moon, and stars, rivers, mountains, and all creation, but also brings a reversal of fortunes, a change in political and social reality which has been oppressive bringing Israel to liberation. In this sense light is very closely connected to glory that we learned about last weak, both referring to God’s intervention in history to bring dignity and worth to shamed, rejected and devalued.
Finally there is another way that light operates as in Psalm119:105 Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path. The Psalmist refers to the Torah, the God-inspired written tradition of wisdom from God. If Light refers to source of life, and the activity of God to create dignity and worth for all creatures, the word is a conduit of that light or an instructional guide for those who which to be connected to the source of life and activists for the justice creating God here on earth.
Do you have a daily practice for connecting to the Light, the source? What will you do this week to make getting in touch with this creative light this week?
Tuesday John 12:24 Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.
We are journeying toward an answer to the question, ‘what does Jesus mean by saying ‘those who love their life will lose it?’ Yesterday we paused to prayerfully consider what Jesus is telling us about what God is doing. Today, we stop to think about what exactly Jesus is doing, not only in this particular story, but in the gospel of John (in the gospels in general actually).
To begin this part of our journey we have to go back to worship on Sunday Oct 27th, in which we listened as Jesus occupied the Temple in Jerusalem and then proclaimed ‘Destroy this Temple and in three days I will raise it up.’ Jesus, we are told, was speaking of himself, he was the temple that would be destroyed and then raised up.’ We must recall that part of what Jesus was doing at the temple that day was prophetically confronting the religious & political leadership who created and maintained an economic system that divested the people of wealth and redistributed it to the wealthiest 1-2% of the population. The gospels tell us that Jesus joined these poor, often malnourished and diseased people in their vulnerable lives. We are told that Jesus had no place to lay his head, both a literal and highly symbolic joining with those who had lost their property to the wealthy. We are told that he instructed to divest themselves of wealth and material goods as they went out to bring the good news to people, again a visible way of showing solidarity with the least of these. We are told that Jesus went to the lepers and the prostitutes, both of whom, we can safely assume find themselves in these situations due to poverty. Jesus was one of the expendables. God, the creator of all, in Jesus became one of the least, one of the most vulnerable.
To be crucified was not simply to be killed or tortured, although that is tragic and cruel enough. To be crucified was to be publicly shamed and used as a messenger to all of Israel. The message was clear. Make peace with this unjust system, accept your fate under our control, for we are in control of life and death. It instilled fear in the people so that they would submit to the economic and social control of Rome.
What does this tell us about Jesus? When Jesus speaks about being the temple that will be destroyed, the grain of wheat that falls and dies, Jesus is speaking about joining with the vulnerable, the abused, the oppressed. God, who has always paid particular attention to the oppressed as we recalled yesterday, has come to earth to join with these impoverished, oppressed people. That joining is complete. There is poverty, there is loss, and there is even death. Jesus will undo the power of Rome not through violent revolution, but instead through full solidarity with the people, to the point of his own death.
Monday John 12:23
The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified
Our story from Sunday focuses on one of the most commonly known sayings of Jesus, ‘Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.’ All of the gospels record this saying and we are very familiar with it, but I found myself struggling with its meaning as I prepared for sunday. What exactly is Jesus trying to say to us about the life God expects of those who would follow and be faithful? Are we expected to become martyrs? Are we encouraged to become, like Jesus, wandering impoverished preachers? Are we to live a life of sober abstinence of all things joyful? The temptation is to dumb down the implications of this saying, and then to ‘know’ that Jesus said it without really struggling with what it means for us.
I would suggest that before we can really begin to seek an answer for the question of what ‘Those who love their life lose it,’ means for us we should ask what Jesus is saying about God and what God is doing. The beginning of the journey towards the answer to this question begins in the verse highlighted today, God is glorifying the Son of Man, Jesus. God is glorifying. But what exactly does that mean? The greek word translated as ‘glorify’ is doxazo which is defined as ‘to cause the dignity and worth of some person or thing to become manifest and acknowledged.’ When God glorifies, God is treating the shamed with dignity and the ignored or despised with worth. When we look at the glory or glorify in the First Testament this gets even more interesting. The hebrew word translated at glory/glorify is ‘kabod,’ which can mean abundance, riches. While the word is used throughout the First Testament its most memorable use comes as God rescues Israel from slavery in Egypt. In Numbers, God is said to refer to His actions in Israel as ‘glory.’ God is rescuing Israel from slavery and genocide and treating them with worth and dignity. This is glory, this is God’s glory. The word glory, then reminds us of the story of God’s liberation of Israel. This is what God does, liberates the enslaved, the oppressed, the expendable from the social systems that deny them their humanity and leads them to a life of worth and dignity, a full life, eternal life.
If we pause for a moment and remember, we can think of many instances in which God ‘glorifies’ the poor and vulnerable. The institution of the Jubilee year in which the enslaved were freed and the impoverished with forgiven debts and empowered to provide for their families. The warning in Isaiah of God’s displeasure at Israel’s disregard of the dispossessed recorded in the first chapter of that book. Elijah’s miraculous rescue of the widow of Zarephath. Through the Bible we read stories in which God rescues the dispossessed and brings them to an experience of the full life of dignity and worth.
*the photo above is an image related to the good Samaritan*
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.