Friday, June 24, 2016

Proper 7 C - Luke 9:51-62

Either the disciples are accustomed to calling down fire on folks or they’re blowing smoke. I’m voting for the latter. But then church folk do get a little hot under the collar when what they believe to be sacred is not well received. Jesus puts out their passion for revenge (and ours?) with a rebuke and the narrative continues with three on the road sayings. The cost of following Jesus will be high. No home. No time to bury the dead. No turning back. We tend to have an easier time of it and even if we make sacrifices we are not without the comforts of home or time to mourn or take care of business before doing whatever it is God has called us to do. So we are either “not fit for the kingdom of God” or the text does not apply to us. I’m going to opt for a middle way aka the Lutheran solution. We may indeed have comfortable places to lay our heads and take time to bury our dead and say farewell before following but being fit for the kingdom depends wholly on the One who had the power to call down fire on rude Samaritans but did not. So what might seem as an absolute (…not fit for the kingdom) is actually a rebuke and a rebuke is a correction not a rejection. And in the Lutheran solution the rebuke of the law always leads one to cling more firmly to the Gospel which is the only way we are ever fit for the kingdom of God.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Proper 6 C - Luke 8:26-39

Luke 8:26-39
The man set free from demons is the hope of every parent, sister, brother or friend of a loved one shackled by insanity, tormented by self-abuse or consumed by addiction. The story is recorded in Mathew, Mark & Luke and it would seem from the narrative, especially the details of self-mutilation in the Gospel of Mark, that the man was chained for his own protection as much as he was to protect others from his violent behavior. No doubt the man of Gerasene had family and friends who like their counterparts in our time prayed desperate prayers and hoped and wept and blamed and despaired and prayed again. And so when the shackles of insanity are finally broken and the Legion possessed pigs take the demons to the deep it seems odd that the people are afraid and tell Jesus, as politely as possible, to get out of Dodge. On the other hand, it makes perfect sense that the man now in his right mind pleads to go with Jesus and if permitted I imagine would have rather died than desert or deny Jesus when the time came to choose. But Jesus sends him home and because he does the next time Jesus steps out of a boat in Gerasene people recognize him immediately and run “throughout that whole region bringing the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was… begging him to let them touch even the edge of his cloak...” (Mark 6:55, 56) The possessed man, now in his right mind, has changed the minds of the people of Gerasene by telling his story and the witness of his new life in Christ. There is healing in hope that springs from touching Jesus through the love and care and support and encouragement of people in their “right minds” concerning the promise of God to deliver us, as Luther put it, from sin, death and the devil. It may be that healing happens in our time as it did in Gerasene. It may be that healing is the strength to endue another day. It may be that healing is the courage to make difficult decisions born of love for the possessed. But however it happens the only way minds and lives are changed is when we who have been set free share our story and the witness of our new lives in Christ so that those still bound might experience the blessing of a right mind.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Proper 6 C - Galatians 3:23-29

Clothed in Christ the divisions of race and religion, social status and gender are washed away in the waters of baptism. This is the vision that captures our imagination but like a dream fades from memory in the harsh light of day. It works in theory, but in practice? Not so much. It might be because we are more comfortable with rules and regulations that define our everyday, putting people in their proper place, maintaining the social order for the sake of order (or profit?) Now I’m not advocating anarchy and neither is Paul. What he is advocating is a real time reflection of the future where all things are made new and people of every tribe and nation, language and tongue dine together in perfect unity at the final feast that never ends. If in the future of God’s design definitions that divide do not exist then we who are joined to the preview, who are justified in the here and now by faith, ought to live what we trust and hope one day will be. Maybe the reason it only works in theory is because we don’t practice it enough.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Psalm 22:19-28

Psalm 22 begins with God gone missing “My God, My God why have you forsaken me?” but concludes with hope as the one who cries out is confident that the Lord not hidden has listened to the cry for help. It is the absolute honesty of the lament psalms that allows them to end on a note of praise. In a way they are liturgical venting, the psalmist’s heart poured out in questioning and complaint. It does not mean the condition that prompts the cry of dereliction is resolved only that by voicing the complaint as an act of faith the strength that is sapped is restored and the confidence that is shaken is reset on solid ground. That is true for the laments of our lives as well which is why the psalms are the place we go when trouble surrounds us and deliverance seems far off. While the witnesses of the crucifixion only heard the first verse, “My God, my God…” Jesus remembered that the psalm ends with rejoicing and trusted that the cross was the prelude to resurrection. The laments in Orlando echo Jesus’ cry and while their sorrow may last a long time one hopes that in the same way that Jesus overcame pain and sorrow and suffering and the darkness of death so too all our laments will ultimately end in praise.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Proper 6 C - Isaiah 65:1-9

Isaiah is one of my favorite books in the Bible but as it is with favorite books there are chapters I favor over others. Isaiah 25 and the feast of fat things for all people, the return to Zion with singing in Isaiah 35, the tender speaking of Isaiah 40, “comfort, comfort my people” are all to be preferred over “I will not keep silent, but I will repay.” But in the same way that the Gospel is meaningless without the Law and the Law is hopeless without the Gospel so God is not wholly God without being just and the one who justifies. (Romans 3:26) Which is to say while God is merciful there is a cost associated with continually grieving God and even though sin is not counted against us there are consequences that cannot be avoided. Isaiah 65 reveals a dimension of the incarnation, God in the flesh, which is not as comforting as the babe of Bethlehem. No. This is God as grieving parent, God as jilted lover; God continually provoked on purpose by those God seeks to save. It is also an image of God who has been pushed to the point of breaking, whose fierce anger has been aroused by continual mocking and disregard. But while it is true that we are a rebellious people who walk in a way that is not good, following our own devices I don’t think fear motivates one to love the God who calls to us, “Here I am, here I am.” However, if I am the parent of a rebellious child who continually provokes I might sympathize with God’s patience being exhausted. If I have loved another with my whole heart only to be lied to, cheated on, made to be a fool of, then I might sympathize with God’s righteous anger. And when I sympathize with God’s anger and pain and profound sadness by confessing that I am the rebellious child and the unfaithful spouse then I might just be the good apple within the bad and become a blessing to the God that by my sin I provoke. I hope so. And believe me, so does God.