The sheep didn't recognize Jesus in the hungry, thirsty, naked, sick, imprisoned stranger but they provided help anyway. The goats didn't recognize Jesus either but it sounds like if they had they would have done something about it. That’s why this text is not about works righteousness and neither the reward nor punishment is about what you do or don’t do. It is about who you are because “being” and “doing” is the same thing. The sheep were motivated by the obvious need of others and did what they could to alleviate the suffering of the Jesus hidden in the sick and isolated. For whatever reason the goats were not motivated by the obvious need of others and so did nothing to help the Jesus hiding in plain sight. So if you see this text as primarily about gaining reward or avoiding punishment you've missed the point and perhaps the Jesus hiding in the needs of others. It should not come as a surprise to those who claim Christ as King that God is interested in the welfare of those who live on the margins, after all Jesus was born into poverty and died a naked, thirsty stranger imprisoned by nail and wood.
Thursday, November 20, 2014
Wednesday, November 19, 2014
Paul writes more run on sentences than I do and sometimes his thoughts and mine can be lost in the language so let me keep this simple. This is the hope I want to know. I want to know a hope where God makes all wrongs right. I want to know a hope where all questions are answered. I want to know a hope that includes more rather than less. I want to know a hope that is more merciful than I am. I want to know a hope where fear and doubt and self-loathing disappear into perfect peace. Of course that is the hope of the cross; we just tend to run on about it until the simple meaning is obscured. You do not have to be afraid of a God you can strip naked and nail to a piece of wood. I hope the cross of Jesus Christ is everything I hope it is.
Tuesday, November 18, 2014
I can’t read psalm 95 without thinking of the Venite from the Office of Matins in the Lutheran hymnal of my youth. (The 1941 Lutheran Church Missouri Synod red book – the hymnal preferred by God and the angel choirs) It was a long song sung every Sunday and was printed on two pages that required flipping back and forth to sing the next verse. Of course we all had it memorized so the flipping was just liturgical calisthenics which in some ways is the whole point of liturgy. It’s like breathing, something that generally goes unnoticed but is essential for life itself. The Venite wasn’t very interesting musically and it would be hard to think of it as shouting with joy to the rock of our salvation but it became so familiar that fifty years later it reminds me of so much more than the song. That sort of foundational memory is present even when everyday memory fades and in that way the great God who made the seas and molded the dry land is always present until the last song of this life becomes the first of song of the next and we enter God’s face to face presence with thanksgiving.
Monday, November 17, 2014
Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24
The Lord God is critical of what seems to come naturally to sheep - pushing with flank and shoulder and butting each other with horns. Maybe the same is true for us for when push comes to shove we would prefer not to be on the receiving end. But God as shepherd prefers lean sheep to fat ones and promises to bring back the stray, bind up the injured and strengthen the weak. The image of God as our shepherd is for the encouragement of all who have been pushed and shoved by events beyond their control so that rescued from the clouds and thick darkness of despair they would be well watered and fed on the good pasture of hope and no longer be ravaged by doubt and fear. And if we feel secure we might be less likely to push and shove and scatter others to preserve a place for ourselves which would be pleasing to shepherd and sheep alike.
Thursday, November 13, 2014
The servant who is given one talent believes his master is harsh, reaping where he did not sow and gathering what he did not scatter, while the first two servants take advantage of the master’s generosity to the benefit of both master and servant. It could be that the one talent servant reaps what he sows and gets the harsh master he imagines. Even so it hardly seems fair that from those who have nothing even what they have will be taken away. On the other hand the image of God as a harsh master can be found throughout the scriptures and would give us good reason to fear judgment and bury our lives in rigid rules not risking anything lest everything be taken away. But there is a more profitable image of God as one whose “slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love” compassion compelled him to reap the harvest of our sin that he did not sow and gather those scattered by their own rebellious will. To live that vision means we take advantage of God’s generosity and risk the kind of things Jesus did by investing the five and two and one talent of the Gospel in our everyday and everywhere so that in the end God might reap a harvest of abundance beyond our one talent servant imagination.