Monday, June 29, 2015

Pentecost 6 B - Ezekiel 2:1-5

Ezekiel 2:1-5
This is not the sort of job description one wants to receive but then it seems to be the prophet’s lot. Ezekiel is sent to speak truth to a nation of rebels, obstinate and stubborn. Isaiah is sent to a people “ever hearing but never understanding… ever seeing but never perceiving.” (Isaiah 6:9) Jeremiah is made to be a “fortified city, an iron pillar, a bronze wall” to stand against the kings of Judah, the officials, the priests and the people of the land. (Jeremiah 1:17) I’d prefer to be a kinder, gentler prophet like the “Comfort, comfort, ye my people” Isaiah (40:1) or the “I know the plans I have for you says the Lord” Jeremiah. (29:11-13) But the healing words cannot not be heard unless harsh ones till the soil of stubborn souls in the same way that the “Thus says the Lord” truth to be told about us makes us receptive to the good news of the Gospel. “Come let us reason together. Though your sins are scarlet they shall be as white as snow…” (Isaiah 1:18) Bad news becomes good news when we receive the corrective word of the Lord as an invitation and not a condemnation. Or as Ezekiel will say much later  ‘As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live.” (33:11)

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Pentecost 5 B - Mark 5:21-43

Mark 5:21-43
It is a story of two women healed (even if one is girl). Both are anonymous – one named by a condition – the other by a relationship. The bleeding woman is as dead as Jairus’ daughter will soon be. She is cut off from the community by her unending flow and has been impoverished by physicians whose skills have failed her. She would have been invisible to those who did not know her and those who did would have shrunk back for fear of contact contamination. In her desperation she doesn’t care. “If I but touch the hem of his robe…” I imagine through twelve years of bleeding she’s had faith in other options. The reputation of the Mayo Clinic of her time, a perfect sacrifice offered in the Jerusalem temple, the dedication of her first born if God made it possible, etc. etc. That is until they failed to live up to her hope. That means the faith of this moment has less to do with her and everything to do with the One in whom she has placed her trust. The faith that follows and is more remarkable than a desperate act is that after having been made well she is free to walk away without anyone being the wiser but instead steps forward and admits to touching a man in public while she was bleeding and that Jesus did what no one else had been able to do in twelve years of trying. The daughter of Jairus has been alive as long as the woman has been bleeding. Her father shows the same sort of courage born of desperation that the woman did. No doubt members of the synagogue have heard of the Galilean preacher and wonder if their leader has lost his mind but Jairus believes Jesus is his and his daughter’s only hope. Even when the dreadful news reaches Jairus he listens to Jesus (who by the way is now unclean by virtue of the woman’s touch) and no doubt urges him on, “hurry then!” Jesus passing through the wailing crowd, ignoring the ridicule of their prognosis, takes the hand of “the little girl” and speaks life into her dead body.  So it will be with us, maybe in the here and now if God chooses to gift us with healing of earthly aliments but most certainly in the life to come when with our hand in his he will say, “get up!” And so we shall. 

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Pentecost 5 B - 2 Corinthians 8:7-15

2 Corinthians 8:7-15
The context for this portion of the Corinthian correspondence is the collection for the saints in Jerusalem who were suffering extreme poverty during an extended famine. The fundraising has stalled and the weekly installments (1 Corinthians 16:2) have come up short. I image there were a good number of wealthy Corinthians who used the occasion to point out the foolishness of selling all your possessions and holding everything in common. (Acts 2:44-45) Paul, ever the pragmatist, appeals to their pride, the very thing he has previously argued against. But maybe this is where the thirteenth chapter of his first letter “If I speak in the tongues of men and angels and have not love I am a noisy gong and a clanging cymbal” is wedded to the words of Jesus’ half-bother James. “Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed, “but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? (James 2:15-17) If we have been made rich by the poverty of Christ how can we not be generous toward the needs of others? Paul would not have said it that way but James, who as blood kin is closer to Jesus than Paul, states the obvious. Faith without works is no faith at all. Maybe that is why James sounds more like his half-brother than Paul does. If someone is hungry give them food. If someone is thirsty give them something to drink. If someone is naked clothe them. If someone is in prison visit them. If someone is without shelter house them. If your brothers and sisters in Jerusalem are in need, do whatever you can to help them. It's a no-brainer. But Paul, ever the politician, cleans it up a bit and says, in doing so you will excel in the generous undertaking of doing for others as has been done for you. Which is Paul's way of speaking like James. "Just do it."

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Easter 5 B - Psalm 30

Psalm 30
Psalm 30 knows a thing or two about suffering. Enemies threatened. Health was lost. The mouth of the grave was wide open. The night was filled with weeping. But Psalm 30 sings of sorrow from the perspective of deliverance. You lifted me up. You restored my health. You denied death its due. You met me in the morning with joy. That is good news for anyone on the other side of trouble. But can we sing the song of deliverance before the song of suffering is stilled? As difficult as it may be the answer is yes. Because Jesus was surrounded by enemies, pierced by nail and thorn in hand and foot and forehead and descended into the grave we can be confident that there is nowhere that we will go that God has not been. And more that Jesus broke free from death's grip so that we can be confident that even when all of life is dressed in sackcloth and wailing we are destined for an eternity of dancing dressed in garments of joy. That will be the day when the song without ceasing is fully sung. In the meantime if all we can do is hum a few bars of the forever song it will be enough to get us through the night of weeping until we are welcomed by the eternal morning of joy.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Easter 5 B - Lamentations 3:22-33

Lamentations 3:22-33
Lamentations is not the happiest book in the Bible. It may be the most honest. The good news is that honesty can be encouraging without being “happy” so that Lamentations can proclaim God’s never ceasing love and mercies while keeping the parenthesis in place - (there may yet be hope) vs. 29. Wes Word, a Fort Worth, TX singer songwriter, sings it this way, “Tomorrow is just another yesterday – don’t worry ‘cause it’s all over soon.” I suppose you could hear that as a depressing commentary on life but when you wed it to his comment “we are the community we create” it is really an invitation to live fully into the day that exists between tomorrow and yesterday. So we wait quietly (or maybe not so quietly) for the Lord to act trusting that in the life between the forever tomorrow and all our yesterdays the community God creates in us through the Christ for the sake of the world is abiding grace, confident hope, enduring love.