Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Epiphany 3 C - Psalm 19

Psalm 19

I've been attending yoga classes for a few years and if it weren't for the mirrors around the room I’d think I was quite good at it. That’s because the pose often feels more right than it looks. So while I am pretty good at breathing and can nail the Shavasana (the corpse pose) I need to see myself in the mirror to straighten my back on a deep forward bend or really sit into my chair or sink my head below my shoulders to get my doggie facing down. Of course the mirror can’t do it all and I don’t need to look at my reflection to know my crow pose is never going to get off the ground. The perfect law of the Lord is more than a list of do’s and don’ts. If it were then we could detect our hidden faults and check them off one by one. But as it is we are guilty not only of the hidden but the obvious or as another version states, “presumptuous” sins. And so the law of the Lord is like a mirror revealing our spiritual posture. There are corrections we can make once warned but that only gets us so far, which is why we need a Rock and Redeemer to revive the heart of our Shavasana.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Epiphany 3 C - Nehemiah 8:1-10

Nehemiah 8:1-10
The exiles, including the lay reader's nightmare list of names in the omitted verses, have returned from captivity to begin the slow process of rebuilding Jerusalem which includes reestablishing the rituals of the faith community. Outside the gate the preachers preach and the people respond with liturgy, Amen, Amen, lifting hands and bowing down. But when the ritual reading is explained and the people understand they begin to weep and wail and mourn. They weep because they know who they are in the light of the law and how they have grieved the One who brought them out of exile. They weep because they are afraid that God knows what they know. But there is another lesson to learn and if they had seen it coming they would have laughed out loud and shouted alleluia. God is not grieved. God is not angry. God is not weeping. This is God’s day of rejoicing and it is because of them. Surprise! So dry your eyes and wash your face. Break out the bubbly and forget your diet for you are the joy of the Lord and that is your strength. That is a good lesson for us as well. As long as we think of the joy of the Lord as an emotion we have or can get we will inevitably end up weakened and weeping. But since the joy of the Lord is the Lord's joy over us it is constant and can never be diminished or depleted and therein lies our strength. In God’s joy we endure. In God’s joy we persevere. In God’s joy we hope. And yes, in God’s joy we rejoice. The only thing to do with that kind of strength is to share with those who have nothing prepared because, of course, that is what God has done for us.  

Friday, January 18, 2019

Epiphany 2 C - John 2:1-11

John 2:1-11

The wine has run out and with one more “l’chaim” the guest’s goblets will go dry and the party will be over ahead of schedule. Mary is determined to do something about it and counting on those things she has treasured in her heart she gets Jesus to serve the good wine before his time. John records this as the first sign of many and even though the other Gospels remember more pressing first signs, like healing diseases and casting out demons, turning water into wine is the sign for the time to come. It might not seem so in a world where more important things than wine run out, where a surplus of sorrow and suffering beg God to heal and exercise evil before filling the carafe with Cabernet  But the miracle of water into wine is more than a story of good timing for a worried wine steward and it is Mary who gives it to us. Like Jesus in the garden she asks for what she wants and accepts his rebuff. In the same way Jesus will ask for what he wants, “Take this cup from me” but accept “Thy will be done.” And so Jesus in faith will leave the garden for the cross and Mary, with every reason to believe the answer is no, tells the servant, “Do whatever he tells you.” She has no idea what he will do but believes he will do something. Faith in the face of jugs gone dry is what is called for in the face of circumstances that drain reserves, sorrow that consumes joy, questions empty of answers, which is why water into wine is a sign of the time to come. Without knowing how or when we believe God will do something like Isaiah imagined; a feast of rich food and fine wine for all people where God will dine on death for when Jesus' time finally came the One who asked for the cup to be taken from him is the One who filled it. 

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Epiphany 2 B - 1 Corinthians 6:12-20

1 Corinthians 6:12-20
Corinth was the “sin city” of the 1st century and the Christians living there struggled to be “in the world but not of the world.” Judging by the contents of the correspondence they didn’t do very well and some, like the man sleeping with his father’s wife, even made the pagans blush.(1 Corinthians 5:1) So Paul’s caveat “not everything is beneficial” might have been lost on those who said “I have the right to do anything.” The trouble was a misapplication of the Gospel that had rightly repealed the requirements of the law, namely food restrictions, sacrifices and circumcision. A good number of the Corinthians thought that meant they were free to do as they pleased; after all they were saved by grace. We can fall into the same trap thinking that as long as we feel badly about whatever we’ve done we are good to go and do whatever again. Unfortunately Lutherans tend to be the most susceptible to what Dietrich Bonhoeffer labeled “cheap grace”. The cost of sin was born by Christ but we continue to run a tab whenever we are mastered by the very things from which Christ has set us free. But the Lutheran two step of Law/Gospel was always meant to lead to an amendment of sinful ways albeit without dancing into the sin of being sanctimonious, not an easy step to master. The good news is that those united with Christ are one with His spirit which means help is always just a prayer away.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Epiphany 2 C - Isaiah 62:1-5

Isaiah 62:1-5

The people to whom these words are addressed have grown weary of hope. They were promised a return to Zion with singing but when they got home the only song they could sing was a lament and Lord knows they knew that song by heart. The burning sand has dried up the promised pool, the haunt of jackals is still just as dangerous and the ruins they will have to rebuild are inhabited by hostile residents. It will take more than hope to make Jerusalem hospitable to the prophet’s vision. And maybe that is how hope works. We might prefer the fairy tale close your eyes, click your heels three times and you're home, but truth is hope just gets us to believe again that not all the songs we will sing will be in a minor key. And so the forsaken who have returned to a desolate land change their tune and start singing as those who are the delight of the Lord in a land that is married. But what if the prophet’s vision is beyond our ability to hope? Truth is all the visions of the future are beyond our ability to hope which is why God sings lead. For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent.