Thursday, November 15, 2018

Lectio nary 33 B - Mark 13"1-8

Mark 13:1-8

I imagine upon reading the Gospel of Mark the unnamed disciple was glad he remained anonymous. Only moments before the disciple exclaimed “Look teacher!” Jesus had elevated an invisible widow and two small copper coins above the offerings of excess from those who, like large stone buildings, made themselves hard to ignore. Of course we too are enamored by an impressive edifice of flesh or stone, more often than not our own. But the temple was more than just an extraordinary piece of architecture. In the mind of the people it was the only place where heaven and earth met, where the Holy consecrated the profane, where the presence of God hidden behind a curtain kept watch over Israel. The temple had become more important to the faith than the One it was built to house and so Jesus directed the disciple to look more closely. Do you see…? God does not dwell in a house made by human hands but in the heart of a widow. It is a word for those who might be impressed by stone structures of denominations or distressed at their possible demise. Do you see…? It applies to the beginnings of the birth pangs as well, which might indeed be cause for alarm but for the promise at the end of this chapter “heaven and earth will pass away but my words will not.” Do you see…? It is a question for all who are alarmed by personal conflicts within and without, by divisions, by everyday disruptions that make one hunger for something stable and trustworthy. Do you see…? It is in this different way of seeing that God is found for when all appeared lost for Jesus all in fact was won. “My God, my God why have you forsaken me?” is the prelude to “It is finished” in the same way that the birth pangs, as alarming as they may be, anticipate the advent of something new. Do you see?

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Lectionary 33 B - Hebrews 10:11-25

Hebrews 10:11-25

"Let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds…" It reminds me of “I double dare you” on the grade school playground although that usually involved provoking one another to dangerous deeds that were never very good and certainly not well thought out. The Greek word is paroxysm, which means a sharpening. The only other time the word is used is for the sharp disagreement between Paul and Barnabas that resulted in their parting company. So we are to provoke one another to love and good deeds with the same intensity as a sharp disagreement. This won’t be easy for Lutherans because we prefer a more polite approach that includes the magic word “please” or “If it’s not too much trouble…” If that doesn't work we still don’t provoke. We motivate one another the old fashioned way aka Lutheran guilt. But for the writer of Hebrews provocation is based on confidence, full assurance and unwavering hope in the faithfulness of God. The provocation to love is a response to God’s love, as good deeds are a response to the good deed done for us by Jesus who has opened a new and living way into heaven itself. Now that sounds like something that might motivate a Lutheran. So what are you waiting for? Get out there and do some good deeds today. I double dare you.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Lectionary 33 B - Psalm 16

Psalm 16

“I have no good apart from you” while those “who choose another god multiply their sorrows.” I’m afraid we often turn “I have no good apart from you” into “another god.” By that I mean we build walls around the boundary lines of the “pleasant places” so that we become the landlords of the Lord’s lot and deny others the grace we freely accept for ourselves. That doesn't mean there are not drink offerings that should not be drunk or names of false gods that are better not uttered. But if we listen to the instruction of the Lord and obey the counsel of the Christ our delight and fullness of joy will lead us to care for those who have chosen to go down to the pit in such a way that they might choose to step out of the Sheol of their own design and onto to the path of life that is the light and love of the Lord. 

Monday, November 12, 2018

Lectionary 33 B - Daniel 12:1-3

Daniel 12:1-3
The only trouble with writing a lectionary based blog is you can’t avoid difficult passages. So let me say first that doom and gloom scriptures with everlasting judgment trouble me even if I count myself as one of the wise. And there are plenty of scripture passages that will support the idea that the chance of being one of the wise shiny ones is akin to winning the lottery which is even more troubling because I never win anything. Later verses in the 12th chapter of Daniel are considered by some to be the key to unlocking the riddle of the time of tribulation in the Book of Revelation where the vast majority of people hold a losing lottery ticket and are left behind. That is not to say God cannot do whatever God wants, even sentence the whole lot of us to shame and everlasting contempt. But in light of the cross I find that unlikely and for me the cross is always the key to unlocking the mystery of scripture. There are certainly things worthy of judgment and I count myself guilty on all counts, but as my theology professor Walt Bouman liked to say judgment is a penultimate word, or the word that comes before the ultimate word which is the cross which is grace and mercy and God’s self-sacrifice for wise and foolish alike. The truth of Daniel is more apparent in its immediate context. It is a word for persecuted people held captive in a foreign land and more than one of their loved ones are sleeping in the dust. It is a promise that the scales of justice will be tipped in their favor and despite a time of unprecedented anguish deliverance will have the final say. Does it mean that everyone will shine and no one will be eternally ashamed? I don’t know, but God does and somehow knowing that the God of the cross has the final say makes even doom and gloom scriptures less troubling.

Friday, November 9, 2018

Lectionary 32 B - Mark 12:38-44

Mark 12:38-44
As one who walks around in a long robe once a week and sits up front in the sanctuary and at the head table and is often greeted in public with a nod and a “Morning, Father” I must admit there is some truth to Jesus description of “pastored up” pride. The designation (in some Lutheran circles) of “Herr Pastor” did not come about without cause. That being said there is also a great sense of humility that comes from being “a steward of the mysteries of God” and bearing the burdens of God’s people “not because you must but because you are willing” (ordination vows) because no one takes those vows without repeating the refrain “…and I ask God to help me”. The only help (and hope) of the poor widow comes from God as she is neglected by the institution that requires her copper coins (the temple tax) even though support for widows and orphans and the poor and "the sojourner in your midst" was required of the institution as a reminder that “once you were slaves in the land of Egypt”. Maybe the greater condemnation received by the outwardly pious and proud is that when the doors of the banquet of the future are closed to them the widow at the head table will ask Jesus to let them sit next to her. And maybe Jesus will ask, “are you sure?” And she’ll say, “Yes, and I ask God to help me.” 

Lectionary 32 A - Hebrews 9:24-28

Hebrews 9:24-28Jesus’ “once for all” is a done deal, a fait accompli, and yet our religious practices are such that the once would appear to not be enough, or if it is, it is not for all. Even if all we add is “eager waiting” Jesus self-sacrifice is not “once for all” self-sufficient in and of itself. That is not to say “eager waiting” is not important, only that it adds nothing to what the Christ has done “once for all”. Otherwise we are just another version of the high priest putting Christ into play week after week, day after day, by the sacrifice we make for ourselves or require of others. But if God has determined to do what we could not by replacing the blood of bulls and lambs and doves with God’s own life then God no longer needs to be appeased (if indeed God ever did) and we are free to live as those loved by God. If our piety reflected that truth we would be more like Jesus and less like high priests.