The Pharisee standing by himself is imprisoned by his piety and for all his tithing and fasting and righteous living he is farther away from God than the tax collector standing far off. The tax collector in the company of thieves, rouges and adulterers is equally imprisoned by his impiety but closer to God because of his humility (or is it shame?) which is entirely appropriate for the life he lives and the company he keeps. Of course, he is still far off, physically and spiritually, despite being justified for knowing who he is. He will never be able to lift his head or give his breast a break until being justified goes beyond saying I’m sorry. But the parable is not about the tax collector nor does it encourage us to “go and do likewise.” The parable is about people whose pride in practicing religion makes the practice of religion meaningless despite all the effort put into ordering life by religious practices. One cannot be close to God standing by oneself. So perhaps being close to God is to live like a Pharisee and pray like a tax collector?
Thursday, October 20, 2016
The lectionary skips verses 9 – 15 but as usual I think the lectionary people have made a mistake. The laundry list of names and places and the cloak and books and parchments left in Troas make Paul’s fighting the good fight and finishing the race sound a lot like ours. Granted Paul accomplished more than we have but verses 9 -15 reveal the apostle who wrote most of the New Testament as a man who forgets his cloak in Troas and asks a friend to bring it to him because presumably he’s cold. But more important than identifying with his forgetfulness we understand how faithful friends become the agents used by the Lord to rescue us from the lion’s mouth. Paul, deserted by Demas and harmed greatly by Alexander, is rescued from evil attacks because of friends like Luke who is with him and Mark who is useful and of course Timothy who sends cloak and books and above all the parchments so Paul’s ministry of letter writing may continue.
Tuesday, October 18, 2016
If you Google the
you’ll find out we’ve all been there. Baca is Hebrew for weeping, but the point is not that we are familiar with the geography but that in the passing through God promises to turn the valley of tears into a place of springs and pools of peace. It is not a pie in the sky the sun will come up tomorrow bet your bottom dollar promise, but God’s guarantee for souls that long for lovely dwelling places. Strength in the Lord will not disappoint. It is in the “as they go through” that we “go from strength to strength” and though the song of hope might be sung for a time with weeping eyes through clenched teeth joy will come on the morrow as pilgrim clasps the hand of pilgrim and the song of victory swells to fill the valley of tears with shouts of joy for the living God. of valley Baca
Monday, October 17, 2016
Every now and then the prophet Jeremiah was given a good word to speak and that makes the promise of “the days are surely coming” noteworthy. Even though none of the people to whom these words were written saw the day that would surely come. They died in the land of their enemy sitting by the waters of
Babylon weeping the songs of . Or they were the remnant who returned home only to find ruins not easily rebuilt and vineyards destroyed that were difficult to replant. But because “the days are surely coming…” was believed despite sour grapes setting teeth on edge it was more than just a fairy tale ending for a people plucked up and broken down. Believing the promise was the difference between giving up or going on, between living in spite of or dying because of, and whether they knew it or not it is what it means to know the Lord. And so it is for us who endure hardship and persevere through difficult days knowing in part and seeing dimly all the while waiting for another day that will surely come, when we catch up with the least and the greatest who have gone on ahead of us and know the Lord fully for they see him face to face. Zion
Friday, October 14, 2016
The trouble with itchy ears is you can’t hear very well and wandering into myths that distort the truth is bound to follow when one creates God in one’s own image. The God who is love, first last and always, also puts limitations on liberty and demands more than just the desire of one’s heart with consequences to come should one fail to live up to the sound teaching of the truth. Sound teaching doesn’t always sit well with us, partly because we prefer not to hear the truth about ourselves. But the sacred writings reveal the God who is both and. Both the one who is just and the one who justifies is how Paul puts it to the Romans. Which is why the sound teaching of the Lutheran doctrine of Law and Gospel is the cure for hard of hearing, itchy ears. The Law is not diminished by the Gospel rather it is the necessary first word about us and our world so that convicted by the just God we are drawn to the God who justifies for the Gospel trumps the Law and its demands and reveals the ultimate truth of God’s desire that all would be saved and come to the knowledge of truth. (1 Timothy 2:4)