Friday, October 30, 2015

Blessed is the One Who is Forgiven: Learning to Pray Ps 32

Ps 32 is a lament psalm that serves to teach us how to pray for forgiveness. It is the second of the traditional penitential psalms that we introduced with Ps 6 (the others are Psalms 38, 51, 102, 130, and 143). Psalm 32 offers profound reflection on sin and forgiveness in its two parts: vv. 1–5 and 6–11. It also includes the role of the community of faith in the process of sin, confession, and forgiveness.

Blessed is the one
    whose transgressions are forgiven,
    whose sins are covered.
Blessed is the one
    whose sin the Lord does not count against them
    and in whose spirit is no deceit.
When I kept silent,
    my bones wasted away
    through my groaning all day long.
For day and night
    your hand was heavy on me;
my strength was sapped
    as in the heat of summer.
Then I acknowledged my sin to you
    and did not cover up my iniquity.
I said, “I will confess
    my transgressions to the Lord.”
And you forgave
    the guilt of my sin.
Therefore let all the faithful pray to you
    while you may be found;
surely the rising of the mighty waters
    will not reach them.
You are my hiding place;
    you will protect me from trouble
    and surround me with songs of deliverance.
I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
    I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.
Do not be like the horse or the mule,
    which have no understanding
but must be controlled by bit and bridle
    or they will not come to you.
10 Many are the woes of the wicked,
    but the Lord’s unfailing love
    surrounds the one who trusts in him.
11 Rejoice in the Lord and be glad, you righteous;
    sing, all you who are upright in heart! 

Vv. 1–2 open Ps 32 with two related beatitudes. This is a psalm about being happy. This is a theme of the Psalter. We’ve seen the word “happy” in our readings of Psalm 1:1, 2:12, and 146:5. Happy means living in a state of God’s blessing.

   What is indicative of being in a state of God-given blessedness according to Psalm 32? It is the experience of the forgiveness of sin. Verses 1–2 reflect on a life of grace: the blessing of forgiveness and a life marked by faithfulness in response to God’s grace. This psalm invites its pray-ers to reflect on our lives before God and our community to be sensitive to our brokenness and bring our sins and failures to the only source of cleansing: the LORD.
   Verses 1–2 makes three statements about sin and forgiveness. The psalmist uses three different words for sin: transgression, sin, and iniquity. The psalmist also deploys three different verbs for God’s response to it: forgiven,  covered, and does not impute. The richness of the vocabulary reminds us of the seriousness of the problem. Psalm 36:1–4, which we will look at this week, likewise offers a broad description of sin. Sin is serious business. God calls us to love God and love others (including ourselves). Sin is the totality of acts and motivations that move us away from living fully as the people whom God created us to be. Sin finds its root in self-will apart from living moment–by–moment in relationship with God. It involves outright acts of rebellion and times when we miss the mark (intentional or unintentional). Broadly it also includes an attitude or will that continually intends or desires a path contrary to God’s loving ways.

   Part of the story of us all is the problem of our brokenness. Sin drags on us. It hurts us. It weighs on us in the depths of our beings. Verses 3–4 describe the psalmist’s own testimony of sin’s effects on the psalmist. Yet this psalm contains good news. God does not leave us in our struggles, alienations, and despair due to our sin. God acts to cleanse us. 

   What does it take to experience God’s cleansing? All it takes is voicing our need for God. In verse 5, the psalmist models the response of the faithful: confession and acknowledgement to God. When we recognize our faults and flaws, this opens us up for the work of God in our lives. The psalmist testifies that God has indeed forgiven him. 

   The second half of Ps 32 serves as a witness to the community about good news of forgiveness. Verse 6 opens with an exhortation to all in faithful relationship with God to continue to pray. The apostle Paul will later advise some of the earliest Christians, “Pray continually” (1 Thes 5:17). Prayer connects us with God. We abide in God through prayer. The psalter has explored prayers of praise and prayers for help. Prayers of confession remind us that we must stay in relationship with God even when we have created the mess that surrounds us.

   The faithful will find security with God. The psalmist moves from exhortation to the faithful to direct address of God. God secures the psalmist’s future despite the sins that he committed and confessed. This does not mean that the psalmist escaped any consequences. He hinted at them in verses 3–4. But our text does declare the consequences are finite in comparison with God’s infinite capacity to forgive and create a new future for the psalmist. This is good news for the psalmist and for us!

   Verses 8–9 introduces a new voice to the psalm. In these verses, someone from the community, perhaps a priest, speaks wise counsel and instruction into the psalmist’s life. This is a critical component for the psalmist as he lives into the experience of forgiveness and restoration. There were reasons for wrong behavior and actions. If the root causes of sin are not addressed, we can easily turn them into recurring patterns. As part of the experience of forgiveness that Ps 32 envisions, the community comes alongside of the forgiven psalmist to provide guidance so that the psalmist does not embody the worst characteristics of a horse or mule—a lack of understanding. The Christian faith is not a solitary adventure. God’s people exists to serve as a missional community that reflects God’s character. Our sins mute our witness to the world. As a community of faith we need each other’s support, prayers, and guidance as we seek to follow Jesus into the world on mission. Verses 8–9 invite us to listen to our community at the times of our own deep need for forgiveness.  
   Verses 10–11 bring Ps 32 to a conclusion by announcing a sure foundation for living our lives. The psalmist briefly mentions the challenges and woes of the wicked. If we choose to live in our sins, we will experience hardships. This is true for all people. But there is good news: the LORD’s committed and faithful love abides with all who trust and find true security in the LORD. When we choose the way of faith and faithfulness, we are able to live in the joy that verse 11 invites us to embody. Our rejoicing serves as a testimony to the watching world.  

Friday, October 23, 2015

The Longest Sentence in my New Book: What would Hemmingway or Shakespeare Say? Lol

If Hemmingway is famous for his robust and powerful prose and Shakespeare for the quotation "Brevity is the soul of wit", I wonder what they might say about this sentence that I crafted in my forthcoming book (re)Aligning with God: Reading Scripture for Church and World (Cascade Books, 2015)...

Take a deep breath...

Nothing is more suffocating or potentially harmful to God’s mission than a status quo religion that is more concerned with protecting its own power base, propagating tradition in anachronistic and legalistic ways, ex­alting itself by criticizing others, or promoting ideology over relationship than it is with declaring God’s eternal “Yes” to those women and men des­perate for the Good News that God has called us to share.

I promise that most of the new book is much easier to read. I almost edited above, but decided to leave it in for fun. 

How the Psalms Understand and Deal with Human Sin: Pss 32 and 36 as Case Studies

One of the presuppositions of Scripture is that humanity is lost apart from the grace, love, and kindness of God. God’s grace and love manifest most fully in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus our Messiah. Due to human sin, we all find ourselves living with the fruit of our own actions as well as the actions of others (past and present). Sin manifests itself in guilt, shame, alienation, brokenness, and injustice. God’s mission is to reverse the results of sin by creating a missional people through whom God will bless the nations (Gen 12:3, Exod 19:5–6, 1 Peter 2:9). The Risen Jesus sends us into this world. Paul summarizes the plight and possibility of our world this way: “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,  and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus” (Rom 3:23–24).

How do we pray as we seek to live faithfully in our lost and fallen world? Psalms 32 and 36 focus on human sin and wickedness. They address this issue from two different perspectives. Both are psalms of lament, but they have different intentions.

Psalm 32 is a lament for the forgiveness of sin. It serves a key role in the psalter by teaching us how to pray when we as God’s people act unfaithfully and find ourselves in need of God’s forgiving grace. Psalm 32 models a prayer of confession so that we can experience God’s cleansing grace anew and refocus our lives on God’s mission.

Psalm 36 is a lament about wickedness. It is similar to Ps 1 in its stark contrast of two diametrically opposed ways of making it through the world. Psalm 36:1–4 paints a dark and bleak picture of the world and humanity apart from God’s grace. It locates the cause of sin in a self-centeredness that plagues men and women. No good comes from this way of life.

In contrast, the second half of the psalm focuses on the beauty and love of the LORD. Sin, self-centeredness, and alienation do not have to be the final verdict on life. In fact, it is pointless and illogical in contrast to the lavishness of God’s grace, love, and faithfulness that is freely available to all who seek the LORD.

As we reflect carefully on these two psalms in the next two blog post, we have an opportunity to ponder sin on one hand and God’s love and grace on the other. Both are present in the world, but only God’s love will be for all eternity. At this point it is worth reflecting on this question: What would it look like for you to settle the issue of sin and begin to align yourself fully with the love and grace of the LORD?

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Trusting Fully in the LORD for Deliverance and Protection: Learning to Pray Ps 25

Psalm 25 is a lament grounded in deep trust. The psalmist prays to the LORD for forgiveness of sin and protection from enemies. This psalm teaches us to pray in trying times and invites us to receive and act on the LORD’s instruction to forge a godly character.

Psalm 25 uses an acrostic design. This means that in the original Hebrew each successive verse begins with the next letter in the Hebrew alphabet. This gives the psalm a unity and completeness. Verse 1 begins with the letter aleph and verse 21 with the letter tav. Verse 22 stands outside of the acrostic design and brings the psalm to a conclusion with a final plea for help.

1 In you, LORD my God, I put my trust.

2 I trust in you; do not let me be put to shame, nor let my enemies triumph over me.

3 No one who hopes in you will ever be put to shame, but shame will come on those who are treacherous without cause.

4 Show me your ways, LORD, teach me your paths.

5 Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.

6 Remember, LORD, your great mercy and love, for they are from of old.

7 Do not remember the sins of my youth and my rebellious ways; according to your love remember me, for you, LORD, are good.

8 Good and upright is the LORD; therefore he instructs sinners in his ways.

9 He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way.

10 All the ways of the LORD are loving and faithful toward those who keep the demands of his covenant.

11 For the sake of your name, LORD, forgive my iniquity, though it is great.

12 Who, then, are those who fear the LORD? He will instruct them in the ways they should choose.

13 They will spend their days in prosperity, and their descendants will inherit the land.

14 The LORD confides in those who fear him; he makes his covenant known to them.

15 My eyes are ever on the LORD, for only he will release my feet from the snare.

16 Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted.

17 Relieve the troubles of my heart and free me from my anguish.

18 Look on my affliction and my distress and take away all my sins.

19 See how numerous are my enemies and how fiercely they hate me!

20 Guard my life and rescue me; do not let me be put to shame, for I take refuge in you.

21 May integrity and uprightness protect me, because my hope, LORD, is in you.
22 Redeem Israel, O God, from all their troubles!

In verses 1–2, the psalmist twice declares his trust in the LORD. He addresses the LORD as “my God.” He recognizes his dependence on the LORD. This is the proper posture by which to approach the King of Glory (see Ps 24). The psalmist then petitions the LORD to keep him from shame and from the triumphs of his enemies. Verse 3 affirms the psalmist’s faith in the form of an affirmation that those who hope in the LORD will be spared shame at the hands of their enemies. The LORD will instead shame those who are intent on acting wickedly.

The psalmist recognizes his dependence on God and in vv. 4–7 asks for the LORD’s instruction so that he may walk faithfully through the world. Thus far, we’ve read psalms in which there is a clear line between the righteous and the wicked. The psalmist in Ps 25 includes himself with the righteous, but demonstrates a key trait for God’s people to nurture: a teachable spirit mixed with a desire for growth.

In verses 4–5a, the psalmist prays, “Show me your ways.” This is a prayer for the LORD to cause the psalmist to know the LORD’s ways or paths. The assumption is that life is a journey and guidance is necessary. A second assumption is that God is willing and able to teach. The psalmist understands that he needs the GPS of God to help him navigate the world.

In verses 5b–7, the psalmist grounds his prayer in his confidence in the LORD’s character.  In v. 5b, the psalmist declares his loyalty to God. The psalmist is “all in” in his trust. The LORD is plan A, B, C, and D. He recognizes that the LORD is his God and his Savior. 

The psalmist appeals to the core of the LORD’s character: his mercy and faithful love (cf. Exod 34:6–7a). These are the traits that the LORD demonstrated in saving God’s people from bondage in Egypt and in revealing to God’s people the Law on Sinai. The psalmist trusts that God will deal with him in the same way. The psalmist recognizes his own need for cleansing and asks God to deal with him out of his love and goodness. 

As we seek to grow into the people whom God desires for us to be, let us pray out of dependence and need while opening ourselves to God’s cleansing and empowerment.

In verses 1–7, the psalmist declared his trust and dependence on the LORD and appealed to the LORD’s love, mercy, and goodness as the basis for forgiving his sins and delivering him from enemies.

Now in the remainder of the psalm (vv. 8–22) the psalmist reiterates his need for deliverance and his belief in the LORD’s goodness. The psalmist moves back and forth in his prayer between proclaiming the guidance and kindness of God with his petitions for God to act to save him.

Verses 8–11 illustrate this well. In verses 8–10, the psalmist praises the LORD for his instruction and guidance. These flow directly out of God’s character. The psalmist describes the LORD as good, upright, loving, and faithful. In other words, the LORD embodies the positive traits that we long to experience in our own lives. The psalmist appeals to these core characteristics of the LORD by crying out for forgiveness for his own sense of lostness. Notice the phrase in v. 11, “for the sake of your name LORD.” The psalmist desires forgiveness not only as means of saving his own neck but for the testimony and honor that it will provide for the LORD. The psalmist can again join in the chorus of creation that will testify to the LORD’s goodness to those who do not know the LORD.

In verses 12–21, the pattern repeats. The psalmist describes God’s character and actions (vv. 12–14) and then the psalmist follows with a longer list of petitions (vv. 15–21). Verses 12–14 describe the benefits of being in proper relationship with the LORD (“those who fear the LORD”). God will instruct them and give them prosperity. The assumption is that God’s people desire and receive this guidance. Verse 14 mentions “covenant.” This likely refers to the Sinai covenant. At Sinai, God offered God’s people a relationship rooted in grace.

In vv. 15–21, the psalmist aligns himself and his hope for a future with the LORD. He sees in the God the only means of release from his bondage and affliction. The psalmist struggles both internally as a result of his sins, but he also faces serious challenges and danger from numerous enemies all around him. He releases all of his hurts and desires to God. This is a key step in prayer. The pray-er relinquishes to God all concerns. Doing this allows God’s people (including us) to live in the moment and free ourselves from the affliction of worry. Verse 21 is a final proclamation of the psalmist’s personal trust. The psalmist is direct and to the point: “my hope, LORD, is in you.” The psalmist does not waffle between options. If there is a way out, it will be through the help of the LORD.

 The psalmist concludes Ps 25 with a general petition for God to act on behalf of God’s people as whole to deliver them from all their troubles. This final verse reminds us that true piety can never be confined to our experiences as individuals. We must be mindful of our neighbor in our prayers too!

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Missional Shift #1: From Preaching to the Choir to Communicating with Cultural Clarity

“The difference between the almost right word & the right word is really a large matter--it's the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.” Mark Twain

As Christendom continues to fade away, God’s people in the United States are beginning to awaken to the new normal of the 21st century. The United States has shifted spiritually. The former “world” religions are now part of the fabric of American culture while simultaneously the United States is becoming demographically diverse.  While the overall population continues to rise, most mainline congregations are experiencing slow and sustained decline. What are we to do as United Methodist Christians?

I will propose three critical shifts to help congregations (re)engage their local communities with the Gospel. My proposals find their roots in preaching and kingdom activity of Jesus in the Gospels and also in the words and actions of John Wesley.

To recapture the apostolic mission of the New Testament, it is crucial to begin with Jesus. Jesus began his earthly ministry by announcing the arrival of the kingdom of God (Matt 4:17, Mark 1:13–15 cf. Luke 4:16–20). The core of Jesus’ message was that God’s long awaited age of salvation had arrived. In response, Jesus called all of his listeners to an ongoing repentance in light of the kingdom’s arrival. Repentance in Matthew 4:17 refers to a (re)aligning of one’s movements, intentions, and actions in light of God’s Kingdom. Jesus called religious insiders to realign with the coming of the kingdom while simultaneously inviting religious outsiders to align with the kingdom.

Jesus’ words serve as a guide for how we are to respond to the Gospel as we read it. As we engage Jesus’ teaching, preaching, and actions, we respond to Jesus’ modeling and announcement of the kingdom by (re)aligning ourselves with it. These ongoing shifts are vital as we seek to live faithfully in the world.

The initial response to Jesus’ proclamation of the kingdom was the calling of the first disciples (Matt 4:18–22) and the creation of a new community. As we ponder Jesus’ actions, we will find the three shifts that we need to make in our 21st century contexts.

Shift #1 From Preaching to the Choir to Communicating with Cultural Clarity 

Jesus calls his disciples by using language familiar to them. He says, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people” (4:19). When Jesus spoke these words, he took hold of something familiar to his new disciples. They were fishermen. Jesus was calling them to a mission. Instead of saying, “I’m calling you to announce the good news through mission and evangelism,” Jesus chose the familiar. This is a critical but overlooked part of this story. Jesus helped his fishermen to understand their new calling by speaking on their turf rather than expecting them to gain a new vocabulary from the beginning.

Let me illustrate this why this is critical. I can remember singing a song about Jesus’ calling of his disciples as a young child. Its lyrics went “I will make you fishers of men, fishers of men, fishers of men. I will make you fishers of men, if you follow me.” It was a fun song to sing, but there was a problem. I grew up in an urban context and I had never fished. Therefore I had no clue of the meaning of the song. In fact, I remember my Sunday school teacher having to explain to us what fishing involved and then trying to explain how this was a metaphor for us telling others about Jesus. It didn’t make sense to us.

We must begin to think about the words that we use to communicate the Gospel. Who is our audience? Are we choosing the right words or are we simply doing the easy thing and using words that we understand without reflecting on if they are clear to those with whom we share the Gospel.

In the introduction to his Sermons, John Wesley speaks directly to this issue:

“I design plain truth for plain people: Therefore, of set purpose, I abstain from all nice and philosophical speculations; from all perplexed and intricate reasonings; and, as far as possible, from even the show of learning, unless in sometimes citing the original Scripture. I labour to avoid all words which are not easy to be understood, all which are not used in common life; and, in particular, those kinds of technical terms that so frequently occur in Bodies of Divinity; those modes of speaking which men of reading are intimately acquainted with, but which to common people are an unknown tongue. Yet I am not assured, that I do not sometimes slide into them unawares: It is so extremely natural to imagine, that a word which is familiar to ourselves is not so to all the world.”

Make sure that the words you are using actually communicate the meaning that you think you are sharing. As we (re)engage a culture that lacks Christian memory or in many cases does not even come from a Christian background, we must adopts and deploy new language as we seek to introduce the Gospel anew in our world. I am not arguing for the elimination of traditional Christian vocabulary. The key is making sure that we lead with words and phrases that connect with our audiences before we introduce words and phrases that are completely foreign to them.

Here are some questions that may help you to assess your own language as well as the language used in the public services of your community of faith:

What words or concepts do I expect my audience to understand as a precondition for hearing the Gospel from me?

What do we expect a non-Christ follower to become before they can understand our presentation of the Gospel at our community of faith? 

As we seek to advance Jesus’ kingdom in our day, let us commit ourselves to communicating with cultural clarity.

What do you think?

Thursday, October 8, 2015

"God Save the King?": Learning to Pray Psalm 20

Psalm 20 is a royal psalm that asks for God’s continued protection and support for the LORD’s annointed king or messiah as he leads God’s people in their mission to bless the nations. The context is important. Psalm 18 and 21 are also royal psalms. These three royal psalms wrap around Ps 19 that proclaims the power of Torah. Torah and kingship are key related themes in the book of psalms and are foundational for helping us as God’s people to understand our security in God and our guide.

May the Lord answer you when you are in distress;
    may the name of the God of Jacob protect you.
May he send you help from the sanctuary
    and grant you support from Zion.
May he remember all your sacrifices
    and accept your burnt offerings.
May he give you the desire of your heart
    and make all your plans succeed.
May we shout for joy over your victory
    and lift up our banners in the name of our God.
May the Lord grant all your requests.

Now this I know:
    The Lord gives victory to his anointed.
He answers him from his heavenly sanctuary
    with the victorious power of his right hand.
Some trust in chariots and some in horses,
    but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.
They are brought to their knees and fall,
    but we rise up and stand firm.
Lord, give victory to the king!
    Answer us when we call!

The king served as the LORD’s agent for guiding and leading the LORD’s kingdom on earth. The king was to model faithfulness to the LORD’s instruction as he lead God’s people to embody God’s holy character before the nations.

Psalm 20 is a prayer for the success of the king as he defends God’s people from enemies. Vv. 1–5 are the petitions for the LORD’s help and vv. 6–9 are statements of assurance of God’s help.
In vv. 1–5, the king faces a trying time. The language in these verses implies that it is a time of war. In the Old Testament, Israel was a tiny nation surrounded by the superpowers of the day (usually Egypt, Assyria, Babylon or a combination of these three). The security of Israel depended on the power of the LORD. The king presented the human agent through whom God worked. This is not a violent prayer of a militaristic society that plots to dominate its neighbors. The wars of Israel’s kings were matters of self-defense in the advancement of God’s ultimate mission of extending his blessings of peace and justice to the world. In our day as God’s people, such a prayer is not for use in the advancement of any nation's self-interest but for protection for God’s people, the church of Jesus, against forces that may seek to thwart its kingdom advancing work.

The prayer of vv. 1–5 recognizes that success depends fully on the LORD whose sanctuary was in Zion in Jerusalem. It was not about battle plans or weapons. The faithfulness of the king is emphasized (v. 3).

Verses 6–9 anticipate God granting the king victory. God will answer the king from the sanctuary. Again verse 7 affirms the key stance of God’s people: trust in the LORD rather than gaining a false security through the best weapons developed by human inventiveness. Chariots and horses functioned as the tanks or perhaps even as the airforce of the day.

Those who trust merely in human tactics and military might will fall before the LORD and God’s people will stand. Verse 9 ends the psalm with a final plea for the LORD’s saving actions.

As we ponder this prayer for the king, let us remember our Lord and Messiah Jesus through whom God conquered the grave, the power of sin, and injustice. King Jesus accomplished this through willing submission to death on a cross rather than through wielding any type of human power or using divine privilege. He trusted the LORD. As we represent God’s kingdom in our day, let us do so in the confidence that God will hear our prayers for protection and victory too.

What does this psalm teach us about trusting the LORD for victory?

How does this psalm teach us to pray for protection for God’s people, the church of Jesus?

What provides false security for us today?

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Interview with William Guerrant Author of Organic Wesley (Seedbed, 2015)

I am happy to welcome William Guerrant to my blog. He agreed to answer some questions about his new book Organic Wesley: A Christian Perspective on Food, Farming, and Faith. I read it and am excited to get the word out to my readers. John Wesley was committed to holistic health and was ahead of his 18th century context in terms of understanding the importance of eating properly as a means of maximizing one's missional impact. Bill Guerrant's work based on his thesis research at Asbury Seminary enlarges our knowledge of the topic and informs us on how to live more consciously as God's people.

Bill, what were your goals in writing Organic Wesley?

I hope the book helps introduce a Wesleyan food ethic into the vibrant and ongoing cultural conversation we are having about food these days. I am convinced that there is a food ethic within our Christian tradition, and specifically within our Wesleyan heritage, that speaks powerfully into the broken food culture of our time. My modest goal is to contribute to making the world a better place.

Who is the audience that you hope to reach?

Whatever its shortcomings, I am reasonably confident that those who are interested in both Wesleyan teaching and food ethics will find the book interesting. My hope is that it will be interesting to people who have an interest in either of those subjects.

How did you become interested in organic food?

I became aware of the phenomenon I call the "food movement" first through the influence of my wife. She began studying our industrial food system after contracting a food-borne illness and she passed along to me what she was discovering. I soon joined her in the journey that led ultimately to our relocating from Florida to our farm in Virginia, where we are now full-time farmers, devoted to being a part of improving our food system.

What do you wish that every person knew about the intersection of Wesleyan theology and food/health?

The principal themes that motivate those in today's food movement--a preference for nutritious whole foods, ethically-produced and eaten in moderation--were once central to Wesleyan thought and teaching. You might say that for Wesleyans, today's "food movement" is part of our ecclesiological DNA. When we make our food choices consistently with the Wesleyan ethic, we are contributing to God's restoration and redemption of all of creation.

How do you hope to contribute to the ongoing mission of God through your work?

I would love to see Wesleyans at the forefront of today's food movement, advocating for a just, humane and benevolent food system. I believe, with Wesley, that good food is one of God's greatest gifts to humanity and that every time we make a choice of what to eat we have the opportunity to further God's Kingdom or to impede it.

Maybe the best answer I can give to this question is just to quote the last few paragraphs of the book:

"For most of us it will be easy to imagine the benefits that will come from eating better. We may imagine losing weight and feeling better, we may imagine becoming healthy enough to no longer need as many medications, and we may imagine longer, more fulfilling lives for ourselves and our families.  Of course these are all excellent reasons for choosing to eat a healthier diet. But the Wesleyan vision is grander than that.

Imagine a world in which all of humanity eats only ethically-produced nutritious food, in moderation. In such a world there would be less sickness, less disease, no gluttony, and a population living long, healthy lives. Farm animals would be raised naturally and compassionately, being afforded the respect they deserve as beloved creatures of God. There would be no exploitation of farm workers and farmers. The land would be treated gently and respectfully, with farming practices that ensure a sustainable, resilient, regenerative future. There would be robust and vibrant community-based food economies.

In such a world, the food system would be a part of God’s renewal and restoration of creation, rather than an impediment to it.

May it be so.

Let our next meal, and all those that follow it, be a part of bringing that vision to reality."

Tell us about study that accompanies Organic Wesley? What does the DVD content add to the book?

We filmed one video lesson for each of the ten chapters in the book. The videos summarize the content in each chapter and I hope folks will find them engaging. They will be great for group studies, preferably in conjunction with the book, but capable of standing alone without it. Most of the videos were filmed on our farm and the Seedbed team has done an excellent job of production.

What is the best way for people to get in touch with you or learn more about Organic Wesley?

Seedbed has a webpage devoted to the book and that's the best place to start. There is a good synopsis of the book there, as well as some of the endorsements the book has received. Seedbed offers a free download of Chapter One as well as a free viewing of the first video lesson, and they can be accessed on that page as well. Check it out! 

Friday, October 2, 2015

My God My God, Why Have Your Forsaken Me (The resolution): Learning to Pray Ps 22:22-31

Poignant lament becomes a testimony of thanksgiving when God answers our prayer. For the psalmist of Ps 22, lament turns to thanksgiving and praise at verse 22. The sorrow of the opening verse “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” morphs into an audacious and free testimony about the power of the LORD to work salvation even in the most hopeless situation.

22 I will declare your name to my people;
    in the assembly I will praise you.
23 You who fear the Lord, praise him!
    All you descendants of Jacob, honor him!
    Revere him, all you descendants of Israel!
24 For he has not despised or scorned
    the suffering of the afflicted one;
he has not hidden his face from him
    but has listened to his cry for help.
25 From you comes the theme of my praise in the great assembly;
    before those who fear you I will fulfill my vows.
26 The poor will eat and be satisfied;
    those who seek the Lord will praise him—
    may your hearts live forever!
27 All the ends of the earth
    will remember and turn to the Lord,
and all the families of the nations
    will bow down before him,
28 for dominion belongs to the Lord
    and he rules over the nations.
29 All the rich of the earth will feast and worship;
    all who go down to the dust will kneel before him—
    those who cannot keep themselves alive.
30 Posterity will serve him;
    future generations will be told about the Lord.
31 They will proclaim his righteousness,
    declaring to a people yet unborn:
    He has done it!

How do we respond to God’s saving work in our lives? With gratitude and public witness. The psalmist knows that God has saved him and makes certain that God gets the credit (v. 22).
Notice that the psalmist’s testimony includes inviting the community to participate in the celebration (vv. 23). This is an important reminder that even psalms that sound individualistic are meant to be heard and shared in community. Following Jesus is not a solitary enterprise. We must always stay connected to our community in times of plenty and in times of want. The psalmist experienced isolation in vv. 1–21. Verses 22–31 model the importance of communal celebration.

In verses 24–25 remind us of the psalmist’s previous plight and summarizes his new found testimony. He had experienced isolation and trauma. He had felt rejected by God. Yet now the psalmist declares the truth: God remained with him. This is deep truth for us. We may feel rejected and alone, but God abides with us. Jesus who knows suffering and pain is our high priest (4:14–16) and extends grace to us in our times of need. God hears our cries and prayers, even our most desperate ones. Moreover, God acts and provides the pray-er with a testimony to share (v. 25).

The deliverance of the psalmist is good news for the world. In verses 26–29 turn to the implications of the psalmist’s experience of salvation for others. God doesn’t just save “me”; God is willing, ready, and able to deliver others. The “other” includes the poor, all who seek the LORD, and even people from the surrounding nations who turn to the LORD. This reminds us of God’s mission. God’s people exist as conduits of God’s grace for the world. This means that our testimony serves not only to encourage other believers but as a word about God’s kingdom to those who do not yet follow Jesus.

Verses 26–29 are inclusive of all: from the prosperous to needy. Verse 29 even hints at persons who have already passed on. The point is this: God’s grace, love, and blessings are available to all who turn to him. The psalmist has experienced this personally and shares this good news with his community and the world.

Verses 30–31 conclude the psalm by emphasizing God’s work in bring deliverance and salvation. God’s acts of grace will carry on and future generations will here of it. The final verdict on human history is this: “He has done it.”

Jesus spoke 22:1 on the cross. Yet Jesus’ death was not the end; God raised Jesus from the dead to secure our future. He, Jesus, has done it indeed. Amen.

What does Ps 22:22–31 teach us about gratitude and giving thanks?

How can we incorporate thanksgiving into our personal lives and into our worship experiences?

How does giving thanks advance God’s mission in the world?