Friday, July 20, 2018

Lectionary 16 B - Mark 6:30-34; 53-56

Mark 6:30-3453-56
The people of Gennesaret recognize Jesus because the Gerasene demoniac is in his right mind and wearing clothes and won’t stop talking about the One who set him free from the chains of insanity. (Mark 5:1-20) My guess is only the swine headers are sorry to see Jesus again. The apostles sent and returned have also experienced rock star status and along with Jesus are no longer anonymous. Of course it is not a good thing to have no leisure (even to eat) but it might be nice to be known once and awhile as a disciple of the Christ. We don’t have to have Holy Spirit power to heal or the ability to teach with wisdom and authority. The command of Christ is to love one another as we have been loved and love will get you noticed if we love consistently and without reservation. Even a chance encounter with a stranger affords us the opportunity to be friendly or generous or welcoming and although we might not see the result there is healing in a smile or a gesture of kindness. We have spent a good bit of time practicing the faith in and with the faithful. It’s time to get in our boats, so to speak, and cross to the other side, which today might mean the Starbucks across the street from the sanctuary. I wonder if anyone would recognize us? 

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Lectionary 16 B - Ephesians 2:11-22

Ephesians 2:11-22
I've read this passage more times than I can remember and have always celebrated it as good news and of course it is. But then I am a “citizen with the saints” who otherwise would have been an alien and a stranger cut off from the covenant with no hope and without God. I imagine it was read differently by those who saw the “dividing wall” as faithfulness and not hostility, who waxed poetic about the perfect law that revives the soul and makes the simple wise. (Psalm 19:7) Truth is even the apostle Paul resisted the new arrangement with violence, breathing “murderous threats” (Acts 9:1) against those who claimed the Christ as Messiah and Lord.  Years after Paul breached the wall the commonwealth of Israel was expelled from the household of God by the aliens and strangers who erected a new wall of hostility. I’m guessing God hoped for a different outcome but like the “in the beginning” gone wrong in the garden this was a moment when all the possibilities of the perfect future were available in the present and humans chose to remain mired in the past. That does not mean we need to stay there. We can embrace this text from the other side of history and tear down the walls we have erected. We can stop defining “us” by denigrating “them”. We can choose to be people who proclaim peace to all who have been exiled to “far off” and by living the hope of the future be ourselves a holy “dwelling place for God.” 

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Lectionary 16 B - Psalm 23

Psalm 23


I have had more than one sheep and quite a few shepherds, albeit of the German, Australian and Belgium variety, but then “the Lord is my shepherd” wasn’t thinking of a dog to get the job done. No, “the Lord is my shepherd” isn’t limited to a pastoral landscape or agrarian lifestyle. That may be why a culture specific song speaks to every time and place. We all know the valley of the shadow and have felt its cold grip about our necks. We have been surrounded by enemies who overturn our tables and drain our cups to the dregs. Goodness and mercy have fled away and our heads have been anointed with scorn. The psalm is not spoken to those who lie on beds of ease or rejoice as in days of comfort. There is a reason the 23rd psalm follows the 22nd cry of dereliction, “My God! My God! Why have you forsaken me?” For “the Lord is my shepherd” speaks as a finale to those who have walked through “the valley of the shadow”. Not that the rest of us can’t sing the song. It’s just that to fully appreciate the tune requires a minor key before the chord can be resolved. 

Monday, July 16, 2018

Lectionary 16 B - Jeremiah 23:1-6

Jeremiah 23:1-6
It appears that the days that “are surely coming” still haven’t arrived as the righteous Branch raised up for David was “despised and rejected” (Isaiah 53) and crucified by the sheep he came to shepherd. Of course the righteous Branch was resurrected and the remnant gathered on Pentecost would proclaim the reign of the righteous Branch from Jerusalem to Samaria to the ends of the earth. Unfortunately the empire figured out assimilation was the best way to stamp out the Holy Spirit fire as the remnant tempted by the power of ruling did not remain true to the righteous Branch. And so even if there are days of righteousness and justice and wise dealings they don’t last as one tyrant is overthrown only to be replaced by another. So what shall we say about this promise as yet unfilled? Well maybe Jeremiah’s idea of what the Branch would accomplish and God’s “plans to prosper… with a hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11) were not exactly the same thing. In the temporal realm branches raised up are not like the capital B branch that comes humble and riding on a donkey and in the grand scheme of things we should not look to small b Branches to be anything more than twigs. We are citizens of a realm that exists simultaneously in the finite present and the infinite future and as such are free like Jeremiah to speak truth to “the powers that be” without counting the cost even if the cost is a cross. In that way the days that “are surely coming” have already arrived and are still pending as we work to transform what is into what will be, even while we wait with eager expectation the day when “they shall not fear any longer, or be dismayed, nor shall any be missing” will have fully come.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Lectionary 15 B - Mark 6:14-29

Mark 6:14-29
It is a gruesome story and a sad end for the Baptizer who made straight the way in the wilderness to prepare the way of the Lord. I know Stephen is the first martyr of the church but John is the first one to die for the cause. That’s not to say he fully understood it even if in baptizing Jesus he recognized the one who was greater than he. While in prison John sent his disciples to ask Jesus if he was the one or should they look for another. Jesus sent them back to tell John “the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised and good news is proclaimed to the poor.” (Matthew 11:5) Maybe Jesus’ response emboldened John to continue to be a voice in the wilderness, albeit confined in Herod’s prison, calling on “that fox” (Luke 13:32) to get out of the hen house. But then John was not a “reed shaking in the wind” or one destined to wear fine clothes. (Matthew 11:7) He was born to be a prophet and “more than a prophet” but like so many prophets before him he paid the price for speaking the truth to power. Jesus will have his own day in court when the crowd demands its due and the prophet from Galilee suffers the same fate as those who went before him. The difference is that the Word made flesh could not be silenced, even by the grave. And John the baptizer was blessed to know he was included in the answer that Jesus sent him. We stand in that prophetic tradition as those called to speak the truth and not count the cost for the answer sent to John includes us. The dead are raised.