Monday, May 30, 2016

Proper 5 C - 2 Samuel 11:26 - 12:15

“Each one is tempted when, by one’s own evil desire, one is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.” (James 1:14-15) David is not bewitched by Bathsheba’s beauty as much as he is consumed by his own evil desire and when his desire gives birth to sin he multiples it by killing Uriah. The story that leads up to Nathan’s “you are the man” details David’s desperation to hide the consequence of his adultery. If Uriah had been more like David and slept with Bathsheba the plan would have succeeded. Of course sooner or later someone would have noticed that Uriah’s boy looked a lot like the King. When the righteous will not cooperate with the schemes of the wicked the only solution is to kill the righteous one. Nathan sent by the Lord is given the unenviable task of speaking truth to power which is why he comes through the back door and tells a story of injustice before identifying David as the villain. That David can become so incensed at Nathan’s story of a rich man taking a poor man’s only lamb and not connect the dots speaks of sin’s power of self-deception. David, a man after God’s own heart, has broken God’s heart and in continuing to live as if nothing happened David is as dead as Uriah. The power to deceive self is why the accusation “you are the man” is a judgment that is actually good news for David, for though he suffers the penalty of sin he is restored to life. It is the same for us when Nathans sent by the Lord tell the truth about our infidelity, as all sin is unfaithfulness towards God. In the naming of our sin the Word that forgives is found for the One who was more righteous than Uriah, whose heart melted like wax within him as he hung upon the cross, recreates in us a clean heart and renews within us a right spirit. (Psalm 51)

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Proper 4 C - Luke 7:1-12

I think the remarkable thing about the centurion is that he loves the people of the land he was sent to occupy. The Romans were not in business to benefit others and centurions were not typically interested in building worship spaces for foreign gods. The armies of Rome were sent to ensure the coffers of Rome were filled by populations subdued by the first century version of shock and awe. But the centurion’s love for an occupied people was also paired with the military humility that recognizes a superior officer. “But only speak the word…” so impresses the Jewish rabbi that he returns the favor and praises the NCO of the occupying army. The valued slave returned to good health goes back to what made him valuable in the first place and my guess is the centurion shows his appreciation to the synagogue and the folks who presumed to speak on his behalf. It’s a lovely story. Of course not all the Romans will be so kind to Jesus in the future and while we take “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do” to mean those who shouted “crucify” I’m guessing Jesus remembered a centurion who said "do this" to those who made the crown of thorns and drove the nails through Jesus' hands and feet. 

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Proper 4 C - Galatians 1:1-12

Paul’s letter to the Galatians begins nicely enough but then gets down to the heart of the matter.  “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you in the grace of Christ…” The Galatians have been “bewitched” (3:1) and have abandoned the Gospel of grace for a gospel that is no Gospel at all. The believers in the Galatia churches - Antioch of Pisidia, Iconium, Lystra and Derbe – (Acts 13:4-14:28) originally embraced the message of the Gospel that “a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ” (2:16) but now have let go of the Gospel to cling once again to the Law. The trouble for the Galatians is the same trouble the faithful always seem to face. Change. I think we should cut them a little more slack then Paul suggests, (i.e. 5:12) after all change does not come easily to the church in any age and the changes the Gospel called forth for the Galatians were monumental. And maybe it is always more difficult for people who are really good at following the Law to fully believe that the Gospel does all the work which in a real sense means to “let go and let God.”

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Proper 4 C - Psalm 30

Mil Anderson, a gone on to glory member of Calvary, was working in a field hospital on the beaches of Normandy six days after the allied landings. Six months later she was evacuated from Bastogne as the Battle of the Bugle began. Once the tide began to turn she followed the allied advance while caring for the wounded and dying often within hearing of the front. A slight but feisty woman she reminded me of my grandmother Lillian Smith who was cut from the same cloth. Coping with adversity, hardship and loss they did their praying silently and endured patiently whatever was their lot. At the same time, living within the constraints of their era, they pushed back against the boundaries imposed upon them and made it possible for the daughters of our time to achieve more than the women of the greatest generation could have ever hoped for or even imagined. The psalmist crying out for help to God is clothed in healing with answered prayer. The joy of the morning is known by living through the weeping of the night. Life is brought forth from the experience of going down to the Pit. Dancing springs forth from sackcloth, rejoicing follows grief. Mil and Lillian, and so many like them, lived the movement of this psalm and made strong as a mountain by faith in the Lord inspire us all to do the same.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Proper 4 C - 1 Kings 17:8-24

When I was 11 my family visited the American military cemetery at Colleville-sur-Mer which sits on the bluffs above D-Day’s Omaha beach. It was a beautiful sunny day in 1968 and all I wanted to do was explore the remaining WWII fortifications and play solider with my brother. I was stopped by the sight of row upon row of perfectly aligned white marble crosses that seemed to go on forever. It is a painfully beautiful sight where conversation, if any, is held in hushed tones as if talking any louder would dishonor the dead. I can’t say for certain but I think even an 11-year-old boy might have been moved to tears on such sacred ground. The widow weeping gives her only son to the prophet whose presence she assumes has led to his death. “What do you have against me, O man of God?” The prophet is equally pained and questions the intention of the One for whom he speaks. “Why, O Lord, have you killed the widow’s son?” I imagine not a few of the 9,387 who lie above the beach, or the 1,557 never found, whose names etched in the stone colonnade are all that remain, had mothers like the widow who wept their questions, “Why?” or like the prophet accused God of less than holy intentions. No doubt the mothers of the 21,222 Germans buried at nearby La Cambe, asked the same question. Elijah stretched out three times on the breath-less body of the widow’s son and the Lord restored his life so that returned to his mother she believed the truth; life is stronger than death. The lifeless body of the Lord, stretched out three days in the darkness of death, burst forth from the tomb so that one day those slain in the course of human conflict might be revived and know the truth; life is stronger than death. When at last the nations learn to study war no more and death is swallowed up in victory those who wait in the silent sleep of death at places like Colleville-sur-Mer and La Cambe will meet again, not as divided brothers in arms, but as brothers united in the arms the Lord.