Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Lectionary 29 C - Psalm 121

Psalm 121
Sometimes even lifting one’s eyes to the hills to ask the question, “from where is my help to come” is more than we can manage. Worn down and weary of weeping, abandoned by friends and surrounded by foes (real or imagined) the hope of help seems a cruel joke. But it is precisely when we cannot go on and maybe no longer even care that the promise is most present, whether we recognize it or not. That is because the promise does not depend on our asking or our recognition. It depends fully on God’s desire to deliver and the nature of the help is that God always present exists beyond the reality of our sorrow and suffering. That means when our ability to believe is passed out on the floor of doubt God is wide awake and preserving for us the life that endures forever.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Lectionary 29 C - Genesis 32:22-31

Genesis 32:22-31
Jacob knows a thing or two about wrestling having held onto to Esau’s heel long enough to take away his brother’s birthright. And even if Laban thought he had a choke hold on his nephew it was Jacob who pulled a reverse and pinned Laban to the mat. Jacob is no stranger to struggle and so when he gets ready to meet an angry brother he may be more ready than most for the surprise cage match at the Jabbok. We tend to be more polite with God and even if we wrestle by rivers of own decision we cry “uncle” far too soon. So what does it mean to strive with God and not give up? Maybe it means we wrestle with our limited understanding of who God is for us in the face of our own fear and doubt and not let go until we are blessed. Of course as with most “God things” it turns out the blessing is in the striving itself. 

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Lectionary 28 C - Luke 17:11-19

Luke 17:11-19
The ten lepers meet the Lord in the land between religiously unclean Samaria and racially unclean Galilee of the Gentiles. They are nine Jews and one Samaritan bound together by their disease for in leprosy there is neither Jew nor Samaritan for all are equally unclean. Keeping the required distance they cry out for mercy. Jesus does not disappoint, though “Go and show yourselves to the priests” must have seemed premature as they are not healed until they turn and do as they are told. The one who turns back is the hero, of course, the dirty foreigner more clean than the nine Jewish ex lepers and Jesus makes a point of it but not just as a reminder to be thankful and praise God. It has more to do with a plea for mercy when living lost in the land between. The faith that restored the one restored the nine as well because the cry for mercy from Jesus the master was the act of faith and the turning to go and show was obedience even before healing happened. But the turning back one knows it and the nine do not. The benefit in knowing is that even when skin is clean and health restored one can still live lost in the land between. So faith to be made well is not about skin condition but about the condition of one’s soul which is well when the mercy of God is recognized and praised. And when the soul is well the whole body is clean.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Lectionary 28 C - 2 Timothy 2:3-15

(Uncle Ernest at Peace Lutheran, Columbus, Nebraska)
2 Timothy 2:3-15
"Share in suffering like a good soldier of Christ Jesus." (2 Timothy 2:3)
Until my son-in-law, Erin Soltis, enlisted the only solider in our family that I knew of was my mother's brother Ernest Smith who was a chaplain in Korea. Uncle Ernest gave me his army cap that had ear flaps because apparently you need ear flaps to suffer like a good solider through the Korean winter. Truth is I don’t know anything about what it means to be a solider but I know a thing or two about suffering and my guess is you do as well. Not that I like sharing it all that much and therein lies the problem for me and for you. We suffer stoically or silently or medicated rather than recognize that suffering is as much a part of life as celebration. But the heart of the Christian message is that the Christ entered fully into the suffering of human history so that we could share in the salvation that will happen when “gladness and joy overtake us and sorrow and sighing flee away”. (Isaiah 35:10) But you cannot have one without the other. No one likes to suffer, or share it for that matter, but if the choice is walk together or go it alone I’m thinking our shared sorrow might just make our ultimate joy more complete. So when life is cold put your ear flaps down by all means but keep your life open to those whose care and concern will keep you warm. 

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Lectionary 28 C - Psalm 111

Psalm 111
The last verse of Psalm 111 should come first as “the fear of the Lord” or better, the reverence of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. That is not to say it is unwise to be afraid of the Creator of the Universe only that the small g gods have the terror market cornered and truth is any two bit god can make a mortal tremble. But to reverence the Lord with a holy fear is to have a proper perspective on the order of things. God is God and you are not. So the wisdom that comes with reverence, as opposed to terror, is that God does not delight in our being fearful but rather desires us to be in right relationship which in a word is to be faithful. To be afraid of someone, be it God or anyone else for that matter, is not helpful or healthy. But when we stand in awe of the One who is “full of majesty” because the “power of his works” are “faithful, just and trustworthy” we live wisely. Jesus’ baby brother James will say it this way: “Show by your good life that your works are done with gentleness born of wisdom.” And that sort of wisdom “is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy.” (James 3:13, 17) Fear of the Lord indeed. I hope I’m shaking in my boots.