Thursday, August 28, 2014

Lectionary 22 A - Matthew 16:21-28

Matthew 16:21-28
Peter thinks “the rock” upon which the church will be built should have a say so about its foundation and Jesus’ prediction of undergoing great suffering and death is not a part of Peter’s plan. You would think “and on the third day be raised” might make a difference but it doesn't. He’s a Galilean fisherman sailing in uncharted waters. He has witnessed miraculous healing and feeding and the transfiguration and until the wind and waves freaked him out he even walked on water. When he gets the promotion from “one of the twelve” to CEO he’s already cashed in the keys of the kingdom and is looking forward to living large. The rebuke must have come as a surprise with the “blessed are you” ringing in his ears and while the Gospels do not record his immediate response Peter’s denial in the courtyard would indicate that the “and on the third day be raised” still hadn't sunk in.  It is true for us as well. We do not wish sorrow away by the power of positive thinking. We cannot revise reality by saying the half empty glass is half full. Half full is the same as half empty in that there is 50 % less to drink. And of course we cannot avoid the inevitability of death. No. The suffering is great. The death is real. Which is why only “and on the third day be raised” can address the very things to which Peter and we ourselves say, “God forbid it, Lord!” The power of the resurrection is that it is the only thing that can deny death the last word about us which is why we dare to lose our lives before death can speak a word. 

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Lectionary 22 A - Romans 12:9-21

Romans 12:9-21
We celebrated the life of Wendy Lee Tedmon this morning at Calvary. It was a grand gathering of friends and family for a beautiful service of moving tributes and inspiring music. Even so we all felt the weight of Wendy's sudden and untimely passing. “Weep with those who weep” was the collective experience even when we were laughing. I am not generally given to coarse or crude language but there was no polite way to say what I believe we were all feeling so I began my homily in a way I believe Wendy Lee would have approved. “This sucks. Totally” There it is plain and simple. I think heaven should have waited for Wendy no matter how good it might be. We do not do ourselves any favors by sugar coating the truth of loss by looking for silver linings or minimizing grief by placating ourselves with thoughts of the deceased being better off even if they are because we sure as hell are not. That is not to say that we are overcome by the evil that robs parents of a grown child, a husband of a wife, children of a mother, siblings and connected family of their loved one or friends of a delight filled life. We rail against the darkness, albeit it with clenched teeth and weeping eye, because we believe the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ has exposed death as an illusion and therefore we are able to rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering and connect ourselves constantly to the Holy Mystery through prayer. So despite this devastating loss we are inspired to do what Wendy Lee did her with her life. She sang hope into despair, joy into sorrow, faith into doubt and through her life and in her death all who were blessed by her will honor her memory by doing justice, loving mercy and walking humbly with God. (Micah 6:8) Godspeed Wendy Lee. You will be missed but by the grace of God you will be always present. 

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Lectionary 22 A - Psalm 26:1-8

Psalm 26:1-8
David may have penned the psalm but Jesus is the one who embodies it. His blameless life was cut short by wicked evil doers whose deceit did not triumph for the glory of the Lord, high and lifted up on the cross, was vindicated by the empty tomb. But what of David singing this psalm late in life having raped Bathsheba and murdered Uriah? (There is no choice when the king commands you come to his bed or go to war) Maybe the testing and the trying and the proving of David’s heart and mind is in the nature of his life which might have remained “blameless” as a simple shepherd but was destined for tragedy as a king. When by the prophet’s ploy “you are the man” (2 Samuel 12:7) God confronts David’s deceit and hypocrisy he does not defend himself but rather relies fully on the unfailing love of God who is just in judging and right in pronouncing guilt. (Psalm 51) Maybe in showing undeserved mercy to David God also repents of plucking a ruddy young lad out of a pastoral existence and sending him to slay a giant in the armor of his best friend’s father whose throne he will one day steal. I should quit before I entertain any more heresy but the good news is this; if God forgives David, who showed evil doers a thing or two about being wicked, then there is hope for the rest of us who rely on the one who led a blameless life on our behalf, Jesus Christ out Lord. 

Monday, August 25, 2014

Lectionary 22 A - Jeremiah 15:15-21

Jeremiah 15:15-21
The merrymakers do not want to hear what Jeremiah has to say and even he is getting tired of being a party pooper. The word that was the joy and delight of his heart has gone missing like a brook whose waters dry up in the summer heat. Mocked and discounted as a crazy old coot he lashes out at the Lord who has laid on him the weight of righteous indignation. But the Lord slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love has reached the limit of patience with the protesting prophet and reminds Jeremiah of his place, albeit with a promise. They will turn to you if you turn to me. No one wants to be a Jeremiah but sometimes we have to tell a difficult truth and not count the cost, even if in truth telling we are accused of being false. How then do we know the difference between a precious word and one that is worthless? The worthless word lets us be even if that means we are left to be less than were meant to be. The precious word leads to life and even though preceded by a word of necessary death (which of course no one welcomes) is still a word for which one is ultimately grateful.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Lectionary 21 A - Matthew 16:13-20

Matthew 16:13-20
At first glance it appears as if “all authority in heaven and on earth” (Matthew 28:18) has been transferred via the Galilean fisherman (on this rock I will build my church) to an institution where men in robes are the gate keepers. But if the “keys of the kingdom” are synonymous with the cross of Christ there is no door they will not open. After all the One who was crucified forgave those who did the dirty deed (Luke 23:34) even if truth to be told they knew damn well what they were dong. So if we interpret Jesus’ words in light of the cross we will loose love and bind hatred. We will loose inclusion and bind intolerance. We will loose fairness and bind prejudice. When we stand on the rock of Peter’s confession the church is on solid ground. Therefore the good news for an anxious church is that the gates of Hades will not shut our doors. The good news for the gates of Hades is that the gates of Heaven will remain open.