Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Today’s text

Luke 12:32-34

'There is no need to be afraid, little flock, for it has pleased your Father to give you the kingdom. 'Sell your possessions and give to those in need. Get yourselves purses that do not wear out, treasure that will not fail you, in heaven where no thief can reach it and no moth destroy it. For wherever your treasure is, that is where your heart will be too.'


Recently, I was accused of employing a “heavy political and one-sided lens through which [I] have presented the ill-conceived ‘social gospel’ from the pulpit.”

Initially, I was profoundly angry and disgusted, not to mention surprised. I could more easily have been accused of being an unreformed German pietist who over-spiritualizes the gospel and is too little concerned with its social and political implications.

For the past decade, my ministry emphasis has been on personal spirituality and prayer, discernment and meditation, the knowing of God with heart and soul that relies less on the mind than on inner experience and intuition. I have studied, spoke and written hundreds of thousands of words about the teaching of great spiritual teachers of the Western Christian tradition.

Being accused of following an ill-conceived ideology rankled me. It also made me wonder if the person making the charge understood the term he was using, not to mention the deeply Christian convictions of the movement he used to insult me.

The social gospel movement was Protestant in origin and became prominent in the late 19th early 20th centuries. Proponents applied Christian ethics to social problems, such as social injustices, inequality, liquor, crime, racial tensions, slums, poverty, bad hygiene, child labor, weak labor unions, poor schools and the danger of war.

The movement encouraged people to be involved with the world’s problems, analyzing and responding to them from perspectives rooted in their Christian convictions.

A few of the movement’s theological beliefs were far too optimistic and died in the trenches of WWI. Most notably, some movement founders taught that human beings by their own efforts could build the kingdom of God and usher in the millennium.

But the influence of the movement outlived its founder’s optimism and helped shape significant events in the 20th century, such as women’s suffrage, the fight against poverty and the civil rights movement. The soaring rhetoric of Martin Luther King Jr., ringing with the language of Jesus and the prophets, reflects the deepest instincts of the social gospel movement.

The hunger and poverty ministries of major church bodies and many Christian organizations such as Lutheran World Relief and Feed my Starving Children also bear witness to the way this movement raised the consciousness of Christians in North America, even among believers who did not accept some of the theological baggage of its original founders.

Reflecting on this history, my anger fades, and I realize that I stand among good company: the company of Christians who seek to take their beliefs out of the sanctuary to address suffering and injustice, the company of those who don’t rush by Jesus’ warnings about the dangers of wealth … or his words about justice for the poor.

Sometimes the compatriots in this company have been right and helpful to the entire church and the broader society; sometimes they have been naïve and not well informed: just like the church in this and every age since Jesus.

And it is to Jesus that I return each day, listening for the assurance that urges me to trust that the Father cares so much for me that I can throw off my self-concerned worries and seek God’s love and justice for those who need.

I urge you to do the same. You will find good company, the company of Jesus.

Pr. David L. Miller

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Today’s text

Psalm 33:20-22

We are waiting for Yahweh; he is our help and our shield, for in him our heart rejoices, in his holy name we trust. Yahweh, let your faithful love rest on us, as our hope has rested in you.


I wait for you, My God. Impatiently, I wait. Come and lift the burden of past days’ sadness that I may again rejoice with uplifted heart in freedom of spirit.

I have no will or power in my soul to lift myself beyond grayness. I do not even want release, not if it requires much energy for me. I have no effort to give.

My soul is hostage. Only my fingers can move and pray. My soul cannot lift itself above the chair.

So come to me through my fingers. Let my hands become the media of your presence, the path of your approach.

Use them to surprise me, to break through sad helplessness. Move them to find the right words, the precise sound needed to startle my soul into life, my will into action that, I, with you, may fight through this gloom of soul and find the joy of your saints.

I am not alone here. You come, even through fingers. Who knew fingers could form tears of relief and release?

Many. All who have felt the gloom, bore the sadness of the hour and found you, sitting and waiting in the depths, expecting them--now me--to show up. Just sitting there … and smiling.

Pr. David L. Miller