Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Lent 1 C - Psalm 91

Psalm 91
I can’t read Psalm 91 without humming “On Eagles Wings” and rightly so. This is a psalm that has to be sung in the same way as a child I sang “I am trusting thee, Lord Jesus” walking down our basement stairs in the dark. The snare of the fowler, deadly pestilence, terrors at night, arrows by day and the charge of the light brigade can only be faced by a chorus like, “And I will raise you up on eagle’s wings.” And while it is true that the way out is up it takes some going through before the Lord can be the wind beneath your wings. That is what songs and psalms like this are for; the going through times. Such songs and psalms encourage the heart in the dark and difficult, strengthen the spirit in the unpredictable and unnerving, restore hope in the face of despair, faith in times of doubt. The only thing better than a song sung in such times is a song sung together. One day when raised on eagle’s wings, borne on the breath of dawn, shining like the sun we find ourselves held in the palm of God’s hand we’ll sing a new song with a chorus that never ends. In the meantime, this one will see us through.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Lent 1 C - Deuteronomy 26:1-11

Deuteronomy 26:1-11
Lent has always been my favorite season of the church year. I attribute it to being fed a steady diet of sad country western songs as a child and having a fondness for hymns in a minor key. Or maybe it was that all the effort put into Lent, the shrouded cross, the purple banners, the symbols of pain and suffering, just made church more interesting. I do know I first came to love Jesus during Lent because the story was so sad and Jesus did it all for me though I’m sure as a child I didn’t understand why. That is what is happening in this text. The giving of first fruits is connected to the story of Israel’s beginning so they will understand why they offer first fruits at all. We were treated harshly in Egypt but God heard our voice and saw our affliction and did something about it and so we do something in return. That distinction, the doing something in response to something , is what makes this a story of grace and not just paying for a piece of property. It is the gift of freedom, a land flowing with milk and honey as opposed to making bricks in a harsh land of bondage, that prompts giving something in return to the gift giver. Like the children of Israel we were in bondage to sin but God heard our voice and saw our affliction and did something about it. So in the giving up or the taking on, the effort we put into Lent, we give something to the gift giver and enter more fully the sad story that in the resurrection has a happy ending.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Transfiguration Year C - Luke 9:28-43

The lectionary allows the option of including the verses that describe what happens when Jesus comes down the mountain and while it might appear to be two different stories they belong together. The transfigured Jesus talking with the law giver and the end of all things prophet is sent to be with and bear the faithless and perverse generation. “How long…” is a lament not a rebuke and has more to do with Jesus than the perverse generation for Jesus knows he will be with this perverse generation until he bears their perversity in his own person. How do you give up glory when you know that? You do it for a father who cries out “Teacher, I beg you…” You do it for an only child convulsed and mauled and beaten by a demon. You do it for well-meaning but ineffective disciples. You do it because that is what love is. The beloved only Son is convulsed and mauled and beaten and killed for the faithless and perverse of every generation, every last one of us. If the disciples want to stay on the mountain and bask in the glory how much more so Jesus who has every reason to stay and doesn’t.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Transfiguration Year C - 2 Corinthians 3:12-4:2

2 Corinthians 3:12-4:2
When Paul writes to the Romans of his kindred according to the flesh his sorrow is unceasing and his anguish is great. So much so he would gladly himself be cut off from Christ, go back behind the veil as it were, if it meant the children of Abraham would see clearly. The hope that makes Paul bold is a confidence that the freedom of the Spirit will work its will even on those whose minds are hardened and vision veiled. Changed from glory into glory they will one day with unveiled faces gaze upon the glory that is the Lord. That is the ministry of the mercy that makes Paul’s heart beat faster. And that is why we do not lose heart when friends or spouses or children or parents, our kindred according to the flesh, are veiled to the freedom in which we live. If one day we are blessed to see them gifted by sight it will not be by cunning or changing the Word to fit the world but by living more fully what we believe. We renounce the shameful things that promise much and deliver nothing and live the gift of freedom that is the law of love. We trust in hope that the glory to be revealed is bigger and better and more inclusive than we can possibly imagine. For the open statement of the truth is that we love others so others will love Christ who has always loved them.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Transfiguration Year C - Psalm 99

The psalm begins as one might expect. The Lord who is King, enthroned above angelic beings, terrifying in their own right, causes people to tremble as the earth quakes. When one is before the Lord, who is exalted over everyone and everything, praise is not an option. Kings of the human variety, with far less power and majesty, tend to magnify themselves at the expense of their subjects. Not so with the Holy God, the lover of justice, who hears the cries of those who pleading for mercy receive forgiveness. But we might pause before we shout alleluia, for while the Holy One forgives the wrongdoer the wrongdoing must still be avenged. Like it or not that’s the way equity is established. And as difficult and painful as that is living outside the boundaries of God’s decrees is more so. The trouble is we always seem to find ways to bear the unbearable and tolerate the painful. So the Holy God who knew no wrong becomes a wrongdoer and is avenged with a vengeance. And therein lies our salvation and God’s hope that one day we will love justice as much as God does.