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The Story of God: Courage

Esther 4:1-17, NRSV
Matthew 5:13-16, NRSV


Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point, which means at the point of highest reality. A chastity or honesty or mercy which yields to danger will be chaste or honest only on conditions. Pilate was merciful till it became risky.

— “Screwtape,” a senior devil, to his nephew, “Wormwood,”
in The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis

  • “It reminds us that our engagement with the (U.S.) empire can quickly become a case of the frog in the pot of boiling water. A little support of war, a little indifference about the environment, a little disregard of poverty, a little failure to notice racism or sexism, a little collapse of indignation and hope, a little innocence about class privilege; a little of this and a little of that, and all too soon comes a lethal society.” from Out of Babylon, by Walter Brueggemann

  • Courage is needed to save others, the poor, the oppressed
  • Esther has the power to save, but there is risk
  • We too, like Esther, have great power, also with risk

  • Courage is needed to save ourselves
  • Esther’s identity was replanted

  • Has to be fueled by grace of God
  • It’s all gift from God (v14)
  • We need the “Great Esther” in Christ Jesus
  • Not trying to be Esther ourselves

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The Story of God: Hope

Habakkuk 1:1-4; 2:2-4; 3:17-19, NRSV
Matthew 26:36-38, NRSV


As I have grown old, my feelings about God have tapered down to gratitude and hope. Gratitude is the pleasure of hope come true. Hope is the pain of gratitude postponed. Gratitude comes easy, on its own steam, whenever we know that someone has given us a real gift. Hope comes harder, sometimes with our backs against the wall, laden with doubts that what we hope for will ever come. Gratitude always feels good, as close to joy as any feeling can get. Hope can feel unbearable; when we passionately long for what we do not have and it is taking too long to come, we are restless as a farmer waiting for rain after an August without a drop… living by hope can get awfully wearying.

— Lewis Smedes,
My God and I

  • Season of Advent after time of Ordinary
  • Season of Joy and Hope
  • Cynics’ view: Hope as “Moral Cowardice”; Nietzsche writes, “Hope is the evil of evils because it prolongs man’s torment.”
  • Season of Waiting

  • Hope is the movement from Pain towards Joy
  • Hope is not denial of pain, but to turn to God
  • Hope is expression of pain, embracing the pain
  • To listen is to hope, only longing for what exists
  • Hope is delay of Joy

  • Jesus enters pain of the world, and moves toward Joy

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The Story of God: Trust

Isaiah 36:1-3, 13-20; 37:1-7; 2:1-4, NRSV
Matthew 5:14, NRSV


To escape the distress caused by regret for the past or fear about the future, this is the rule to follow: leave the past to the infinite mercy of God, the future to his good providence; give the present wholly to his love by being faithful to his grace.

— Jean-Pierre de Caussade,
The Joy of the Saints

  • Dire situation in the story from Isaiah
  • The lie “God cannot save us”

  • What voices
  • With many voices and lies, we forget who we are
  • We are image of God

  • Isaiah answered with vision

  • Even when our dreams/vision die, can we trust God’s vision?
  • Forgiveness is just part of healing
  • Gods sends prophets or other Christ followers to us, to let us know God’s vision and dream

  • Chuck DeGroat: Stop defining yourself by your stumbling, and start defining yourself by your deepest identity. God paid an awfully big price to make his welcome crystal clear for you…now receive it.

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The Story of God: Humility

Micah 6:1-8, NRSV
Matthew 9:9-13, NRSV


But you will perhaps see how, as baptized people are drawn into the priestliness of Jesus, they are called upon to mend shattered relationships between God and the world, through the power of Christ and his Spirit. As baptized people, we are in the business of building bridges. We are in the business, once again, of seeing situations where there is breakage, damage and disorder, and bringing into those situations the power of God in Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit in order to rebuild something. We may not offer sacrifices in the Old Testament sense but we offer and bring before God the reality of Jesus which has restored everything. We pray in Jesus that that restoration may apply here, and here, and here. And we offer our own service and devotion as best we can in the bridge-building process.

— Rowan Williams,
Being Christian

  • First 5 chapters of Micah, social injustice

  • Way to Humility
  • To believe we are not on our own

  • Americans sacrifices vacation time, in hopes of keeping employment
  • Human invent sacrifice
  • Pattern of sacrifice is within us
  • But we can be sure God will be with us, without anymore sacrifice

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The Story of God: A Difficult Descent

2 Kings 5:1-19, NRSV
Matthew 18:2-3, NRSV


If I had to name my disability, I would call it an unwillingness to fall. On the one hand, this is perfectly normal. I do not know anyone who likes to fall. But, on the other hand, this reluctance signals mistrust of the central truth of the Christian gospel: life springs from death, not only at the last but also in the many little deaths along the way. When everything you count on for protection has failed, the Divine Presence does not fail. The hands are still there — not promising to rescue, not promising to intervene — promising only to hold you no matter how far you fall. Ironically, those who try hardest not to fall learn this later than those who topple more easily. The ones who find their lives are the losers, while the winners come in last.

— Barbara Brown Taylor
Leaving Church: A Memoir of Faith

  • Healing from our own pride and self-worth
  • Pope Francis: if we want to be healed, we need to be on the road of true humility
  • Believing Christianity is like (v14) Naaman going to the river of Jordan, swallowing pride and be humble, say Yes and accept the Gospel and believe
  • “Heal me for being a big deal”

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The Story of God: Wisdom

1 Kings 3:4-28, NRSV
Matthew 9:35-36, NRSV


In the literature of Scripture, wisdom is, broadly speaking, the knowledge of God’s world and the knack of fitting oneself into it. The wise person knows creation. He knows it boundaries and limits, understands its laws and rhythms, discerns its times and seasons, respects its great dynamics. He understands that creation possesses its own integrity and significance quite apart from his claim on it, and quite apart from any possibility that creation will make him happy. The wise person gives in to creation, and he gives in to God, and he does the first because he does the second. He knows that the earth is the Lord’s, and so the fullness thereof. He knows that wisdom itself is the Lord’s. He knows some of the deep grains and textures of the world because he knows some of the ways and habits of its maker.

— Cornelius Plantinga, Jr.
Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be

  • Wisdom is always interesting, fascinating
  • Begins with asking questions; 3 Questions

  • What’s your greatest need in life?
  • v7 Solomon asks for wisdom
  • Wisdom is beginning of humanity
  • Fear of the Lord is beginning of wisdom
  • Wisdom is hard work, it’s difficult

  • What is the most important thing in your life?
  • That’s source of wisdom, whatever king in your life
  • If the “king” is not in the right place, you are in danger of breaking rules down the road

  • Frustration: What is my hope to have this wisdom in my life?
  • Compassion
  • Jesus is our wisdom, compassion

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The Story of God: Confrontation

2 Samuel 12: 1-9, 13, NRSV
Matthew 4:17, NRSV


Comprehensible, sensible sin is one of the unexpected gifts I’ve found in the monastic tradition. The fourth-century monks began to answer a question for me that the human potential movement of the late twentieth century never seemed to address: if I’m O.K. and you’re O.K., and our friends (nice people and, like us, markedly middle class, if a bit bohemian) are O.K., why is the world definitely not O.K.? Blaming others wouldn’t do. Only when I began to see the world’s ills mirrored in myself did I begin to find an answer; only as I began to address that uncomfortable word, sin, did I see that I was not being handed a load of needless guilt so much as a useful tool for confronting the negative side of human behavior.

— Kathleen Norris
Dakota: A Spiritual Geography

  • Purpose is not to hurt, not to shame
  • It is gracious healing of God, healing grace

  • Confront with Truth
  • Nathan confronts with truth, specific to you, not generic

  • Confront with Grace
  • Confrontation, not condemnation, with grace, with wisdom
  • Do we have friends like Nathan to tell you your blind spots?

  • Pardon
  • Although forgiven, there is still consequences, still hurting people

  • David’s response after math in Psalm 51:12 “Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation…”

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The Story of God: Simplicity

Joshua 24:1-3; 14-15, NRSV
Matthew 4:8-10, NRSV


When you agree to live simply, you put yourself outside of others’ ability to buy you off, reward you falsely, or control you by money, status, salary, punishment, and loss or gain of anything.

When you agree to live simply, you have little to protect and no desire for acquisition, even for acquisition of any “moral capital.” If you imagine you are better, holier, higher, more important to God than others, it is a very short step to justified arrogance or violence toward those others. In fact, it is almost inevitable.

When you agree to live simply you can understand what Francis meant when he said, “A brother has not given up all things if he holds onto the purse of his own opinions.” Most of us find out that this purse is far more dangerous and disguised than a money purse, and we seldom let go of it.

When you voluntarily agree to live simply, you do not need to get into the frenzy of work for the sake of salary or the ability to buy nonessentials or raise your social standing. You enjoy the freedom of not climbing. You might climb for others, but not just for yourself.

When you agree to live simply, you have time for spiritual and corporal works of mercy because you have renegotiated in your mind and heart your very understanding of time and its purposes. Time is not money anymore, despite the common aphorism! Time is life itself.

When you agree to live simply, you can easily find a natural solidarity with all people on the edge and the bottom—the excluded, the shamed, and the forgotten—because you stop idealizing the climb and finally realize there isn’t a top anyway.

When you agree to live simply, people cease to be possessions and objects for your consumption or use. Your lust for relationships or for others to serve you, your need for other people’s admiration, your desire to use other people as a kind of commodity for your personal pleasure, or any need to control and manipulate other people, slowly—yes, very slowly—falls away.

When you agree to live simply, there is no long-standing basis for any kind of addiction. You are free to enjoy, but you never let any enjoyment become your master. You practice non-addiction every day by letting go, not needing, and not desiring anything in particular. Fasting, detachment, and simplicity were the original words for non-addiction in the spiritual traditions.

— Richard Rohr
from Eager to Love: The Alternative Way of Francis of Assisi

  • Focus, Simplicity
  • Addiction to say Yes
  • Invitation to be simple, at this very moment
    • one devotion/simplicity
    • one cause: God’s Agenda – seek flourishing of all, to renew the world
    • one Savior

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The Story of God: Go

Genesis 12:1-9, NRSV


Barrenness is the way of human history. It is an effective metaphor for hopelessness. There is no foreseeable future. There is no human power to invent a future. But barrenness is not only the condition of hopeless humanity. The marvel of biblical faith is that barrenness is the arena of God’s life-giving action. Inexplicably, this God speaks his powerful word directly into a situation of barrenness. This is the ground of the good news. This God does not depend on any potentiality in the one addressed. Abraham and Sarah were quite without potential. The speech of God presumes nothing from the one addressed but carries in itself all that is necessary to begin a new people in history. The speech of God overcomes and overpowers the barrenness of reality.

– Walter Brueggemann
Genesis, in the Interpretation Commentary Series

  • God calls us to go often
  • Something nudging us to go or do, that’s God’s call

  • To go is scary
  • Not always with details or full explanation
  • It’s like parents to children, “because I said so”
  • We love control, that’s why it’s scary

  • Call to something beyond
  • Higher state of being
  • Go beyond our “tribe”
  • A church not just for ourselves

  • To go is to get into discomfort

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The Story of God: Blessing

Genesis 1:1-2; 26-28, NRSV
Matthew 3:13-17, NRSV
John 1:1-5, 14, NRSV


Science does an excellent job of telling me why I don’t have a tail, but it can’t explain why I find that interesting.
Science shines when dealing with parts and pieces, but it doesn’t do all that well with soul.
It can do a brilliant job of explaining how we and other species have adapted and evolved, but it falls short when it comes to where the reverence humming within us comes from.
When I’m talking about God, I’m talking about the grenzbegriff kind of faith that sees science and faith as the dance partners they’ve always been, each guiding and informing the other, bringing much-needed information and insight to their respective levels of hierarchy. To see them at odds with each other is to confuse the levels of hierarchy, resulting in all sorts of needless debates, misunderstandings, and terrible bumper stickers.
I say all of this about science and faith because when I’m talking about God, I’m talking about the source of all truth, whatever labels it wears, whoever says it, and wherever it’s found—from a lab to a cathedral to a pub to Mars.
This is important, because for many in our world, somewhere along the way reality got divided up into the secular and the sacred, the religious and the regular, the holy and the common — the understanding being that you’re talking about either one or the other but not both at the same time.
This dis-integrated understanding of reality — the one that puts God on one side and not the other, the one that divides the world up into two realms – it’s lethal, and it cuts us off from the depths and separates us from the source.
Because sometimes you need a biologist, and sometimes you need a poet.
Sometimes you need a scientist, and sometimes you need a song.

– Rob Bell
What We Talk About When We Talk About God

  • Expectations of getting answers, but we get meaning
  • There is more than literate truth

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