Friday, January 20, 2017

Epiphany 3 A - Matthew 4:12-23

Matthew 4:12-23
I understand the sentimental attachment Christians have to this call story but truthfully it is not a positive metaphor for evangelism. Fishers of people might be quite happy with the idea that God uses them to catch people for Christ but being caught by those who “fish for people” means the “fished” are ensnared in a net or deceived by a lure or hooked by bait none of which paints the process of conversion in a positive light. More than that there is no life for the fish once caught as living outside their watery world is not an option. Granted I might be overthinking the metaphor. Maybe what Jesus was saying to those fisher folk stripped down and sweating is that getting people to accept Jesus as “God with us” is not that different from sweating over nets and dragging one’s livelihood from the Sea of Galilee. Which means we do what we can do with what we’ve been given. There will be those who object to any effort we make as a violation of their territorial waters of secularism or outright unbelief but truth is we have no reason or right to fish in those waters anyway. What we can and must do is fish every day in daily waters calm or stormy. But not with net or lure or bait but with all our heart, mind and soul so that those who object to the arrogance of the church are won over by the humility of Christianity. We love others so that others will love Christ even though we have all learned the language of love as a foreign tongue.

Thursday, January 19, 2017


1 Corinthians 1:10-18
Okay, so I got ahead of myself last week and skipped over Paul’s introductory remarks about sanctified saints enriched in speech and knowledge to get to the conflict I knew was coming. It is amazing how many Spirit filled, stockings stuffed with manifest gifts, Bible believing Christians who know the Corinthian correspondence chapter and verse miss Paul’s point altogether. On the other hand I remember when the wind of the Spirit rocked my world and set me on fire for the Lord. I scorched more than a few friends and neighbors with my new found personal relationship with Jesus piety. There’s nothing worse than a reformed sinner who only remembers the moment of conversion and forgets how many conversions it took to get one to finally stick. But then the Corinthians are not so much reformed back-sliders as they are religious junkies who revel in the novelty of ecstatic speech and hedonistic excess justified by grace gone wild. And even though Chloe’s people report some follow Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas or Christ, truth is the Corinthians are following their own desires. Preferring the tongues of angels they neglect the language of love and empty the cross of its power because they trust their own wisdom and manufacture whatever truth suits their fancy. This is the week of prayer for Christian unity and yet divisions in Christendom continue to be common as those destined to spend significant time together in eternity can’t seem to set aside the petty differences of the present to be the one in Christ people, by the grace of God, they were meant to be. Instead the church puffed up with pride, thinking its primary purpose to be the sole gate keeper to heavenly bliss, has finally reaped the reward of its arrogance and become irrelevant to those who know what legitimate love looks like without any help from the church, thank you very much. If those inside the church can’t get along with each other why would anyone outside the church want to “come and see”? We spend a lot of time and effort defining ourselves by what divides us. I belong to Luther. I belong to Calvin. I belong to Wesley. I belong to Rome. I belong to Canterbury. And yes, I belong to Christ. But the foolish message of the cross is that in Christ we belong to each other.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Epiphany 3 A - Psalm 27

Psalm 27:1, 4-9
The confidence celebrated in Psalm 27 is not due to the absence of things of which one might rightly be afraid. In fact the psalmist anticipates a day of trouble and even now is surrounded by enemies. So this is not a “you’ve got to accentuate the positive eliminate the negative” sort of psalm. That denial of true trouble cannot long withstand the onslaught of all that destroys hope and robs us of well being. But I believe it to be true that songs sung and music made in the midst of trouble, even through clenched teeth and weeping eye, diminish the darkness and encourage confidence, for in the light and salvation of the Lord we see the sanctuary of hope and gaze upon the beauty of peace that is the face of Christ. One my favorite songs of the monastic community in Taize, France is Nada te turbe. “Nothing can trouble. Nothing can frighten. Those who seek God will never go wanting. God alone fills us.” It is the way of faith to remember when in the past God our helper lifted our head above all that troubled, all which frightened, so that when we experience difficult days in the present we can by memory sing the song that anticipates the time of rejoicing.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Isaiah 9:1-4
This seems a timely text for a day that remembers the light that dawned in this country when the voice of a 20th century prophet, Martin Luther King Jr., called for the yoke of burden to be lifted from the shoulders of African Americans and the rod of oppression that kept them enslaved to systems which denied them denied basic civil rights to be broken. I hope that no matter where we stand on the political spectrum we can agree that denying people equal access to seats on a bus or at a lunch counter or the right to vote or what school one can attend based on the color of one’s skin violates the very principles upon which this country was founded. And therefore no matter what we might think of Dr. King I hope we can acknowledge he was a man of great courage and conviction whose commitment to justice changed our country for the better. But of course that’s not what Isaiah had in mind when he penned this prophecy as the “he” who brought the land of Zebulun and Naphtali into contempt was the same “he” who would later make glorious their way to the sea. What seems ironic to me, in light of my introductory remarks, is why these two tribes were brought into contempt in the first place. When the tribes of Zebulun and Naphtali were given the prettiest land in Palestine they didn’t obey God’s command and kill the resident Canaanites but lived among them, which meant at some point a Zebulun Romeo fell in love with a Canaanite Juliet and that is certainly not kosher. Of course that’s not the reason the Assyrians brought anguish to these two lands, that happens much later, but it would seem that the very thing that Dr. King preached about after having “been to the mountaintop” is at odds with God’s demand for racial purity in the conquest of the original Promised Land. But then the prophet who penned the prophecy could not fully foresee the future that was being promised. The great light that would shine over deep darkness did not come from Jerusalem but from the land corrupted by Romeo and Juliet’s romance. The “he” that would make glorious the way of the sea and would lift the yoke of burden and break the rod of the oppressor would do so not by ethnic cleansing but by bearing the anguish of the cross on his shoulders banishing the deep darkness of death with the light of resurrection dawn. So maybe it is a timely text for a 20th century prophet who knew himself to be a sinner but by the grace of God a saint as well, a man who like most prophetic voices resisted the call at first but once claimed by the vision did not withdraw even when he knew it would lead to his death.

Friday, January 13, 2017


How is “Rabbi, where are you staying?” an answer to “What are you looking for?” unless of course what the two disciples are looking for is a place to stay. In that case “Come and see” is exactly what they want to hear and before you know it at least one of the two disciples of John the Baptist, namely Andrew, has moved in with Jesus and found a spot on the couch for his brother Peter as well. Six chapters later Andrew will find a boy whose mother packed him a sack lunch and bring him to Jesus and Jesus will turn the boy’s five small barley loaves and two sardines into a feast for more than 5000. That’s what happens when “Where are you staying?” is really “Can we come with you?” and “Come and see” is really “Follow me.” It’s not any different today, although the Gospel makes everything except the crucifixion sound easier than it really was. Andrew leaves the familiar to follow the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world and Simon, whose name means “to hear”, listens to his brother without any evidence that what Andrew is saying is true and subsequently becomes Peter “the “rock” on whose confession the church is built, though that will get him crucified just like Christ he confesses. I do not believe God orchestrates all the details of our lives, but like the two disciples of John I do believe God can be found in the timing of chance encounters and overheard conversations that lead those of us who have found a dwelling place in the Christ to step out of our comfort zone and for a moment be Andrew inviting those who God has put in our path to “Come and see.”