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.”
Thursday, January 12, 2017
1 Corinthians 1:1-9
The opening verses to the Corinthian correspondence follow the Pauline pattern of over the top thanks for the faithful (the letter to the Galatians being the exception) before getting down to the heart of the matter. “I hear there are quarrels among you…” (1:11) While Paul might not always haven “given thanks” for his brothers and sisters in Corinth he did have affection for them and hoped that they might live more fully into the gifts God had given them. To our great benefit his struggle with those puffed up with pride produced “Love is patient and kind…” which is as good a prose as has ever been penned. The foundation upon which 1 Corinthians 13 “love is” depends is the faithfulness of God who called the Corinthians into fellowship (1:9) and enriched them with gifts so that they might be a blessing to each other and subsequently the world. We might lament of all the ways in which the church has not lived out the grace of its calling but I think a better approach is to marvel at the ways the church works despite its being led by and inhabited by less than perfect people. So we should not be surprised that the Corinthians coveted the gifts without giving credit to the giver. Or that the Galatians gave up the radical freedom of the Gospel for the familiar security of the law. We should be surprised that despite our failings we will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ, which might mean we try harder in the here and now to live into our inheritance.
Tuesday, January 10, 2017
I don’t mean to question the psalmist’s recollection but most people don’t wait patiently while sinking in a slimy pit. Of course when one has been rescued and is standing on a rock with a new song to sing the days of desperation might be remembered as patient waiting rather than a daily struggle to hold on to hope. But then maybe the psalmist’s patient waiting is not meant to be in the style of Norwegian stoicism or the British stiff upper lip. No, the psalmist’s cry from the mud and mire was loud and long enough for the Lord to finally hear. If that is true than patient waiting is not silent but is making the Lord your trust even when there is no end in sight and you can’t sink any lower in the pit of circumstances that have conspired against you. Patient waiting means continually crying out until the Lord’s ear is inclined in your direction. And when at last one is rescued the crying out in desperate days becomes a new song of salvation and we tell the glad news of deliverance for the sake of those who are still waiting for a firm place to stand.
Monday, January 9, 2017
“You are my servant” is a dialogue between the “Holy One” and the “polished arrow” who wonders aloud if it was all for nothing. “I have labored in vain…” The one hidden away in the quiver is only as good as the One who draws the bow which is why the arrow expresses confidence in the archer. “My cause is with the Lord…” Even so the plan for vindication before kneeling kings and prostrated princes would not be without pain. God does not work outside the boundaries of our human experience and chooses to use what is weak to shame the strong and what is foolish to confound the wise. (1 Corinthians 1:27) That is not to say God’s way of working does not have real life human consequences and for no fault of their own the lives of the “deeply despised” lit up the night skies of Auschwitz; but then that is why God was nailed to wood and died screaming like a wounded animal. You want pretty? Go somewhere else. God does not offer solutions to human savagery that deny human free will to act in ways that are less than human. In the end humans are responsible for what happens in this world. Salvation is revealed when you and I recognize it is not too light a thing for us to be servants who make a choice for a different world. It might mean crucifixion. No. It will certainly mean crucifixion. But then in the dialogue between what is and what will be crucifixion always anticipates resurrection. “Is it too light a thing that you should be my servant…”
Thursday, January 5, 2017
Matthew’s version of Jesus’ baptism has more dialogue than Mark or Luke but all three end in the same way. God declares Jesus the beloved Son with something like a dove coming out of heaven to “alight” on him after which Jesus is driven (Mark) or led (Matthew, Luke) into the wilderness to be tested, tried and/or tempted for forty days. The point is not to be missed. Jesus baptism is followed by forty days of fasting followed by three temptations that target the very words that sustained Jesus through the forty days. “You are my beloved Son.” Our baptisms are intended to give us the same confidence so that like Jesus being tempted after suffering solitary silence in the wilderness we might declare, “I am baptized!” as a statement of defiance against all that would make us believe we are less than loved. It doesn't mean all will go well with us in our everyday but rather that we might claim the promise of the future; “Do not fear. I have called you by name. You are mine.” (Isaiah 43:1) in the present. “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) The promise of God that operates outside of human institutions allows those of us who were baptized before our ability to remember to none-the-less name the day we were saved as the moment when the Spirit of God alighted upon us and declared us beloved. But that is only because In the end “I am baptized” is not about our decision but rather God’s declaration, “You are my beloved.”