Monday, October 20, 2014

Reformation Sunday - Jeremiah 31:31-34

Jeremiah 31:31-34
The days are surely coming… when Lutherans might give up celebrating Reformation Sunday because it’s all about us and remembering Martin Luther and the 95 thesis as a festival liturgy is not as important as embracing a new covenant where confessing Christ is the common denominator that erases denominational lines. But the days have not surely come and every brother and sister teaches the knowledge of the Lord in her or his own way insisting that compliance to human traditions has divine meaning that is superior to all others. Now I’m not suggesting that we should not remember the past or celebrate the gift of our heritage but the days envisioned by Jeremiah can only come when the knowledge of the Lord unites the least and the greatest in a way that overcomes our natural tendency to divide and conquer. In the meantime Lutheran’s will sing “A Mighty Fortress” this Sunday and wear red (like a Lutheran version of St. Patty’s Day) and claim that grace was a Lutheran invention. Okay I apologize for that last sentence even if it was fun to write. When Jeremiah’s vision is fully realized the divisions of the past will disappear into the day that will surely come where all people will be full of the knowledge of the Lord and act accordingly.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Lectionary 29 A - Matthew 22:15-22

Matthew 22:15-22
This text is not about taxes. There were no options when Rome demanded it’s due and lawful or not the tax collector didn’t care what you think as long as you paid the bill. So Jesus isn’t making a statement about the separation of church and state or the two kingdom principle or anything remotely political. He is turning the table on hypocrites who aren’t interested in his answer as long as it traps Jesus and gets him killed. But their trick question gets a trick response and they go away marveled even if they were cursing under their breath. When we try to trick Jesus into taking sides by using any word about Jesus to support one political position over another we are like Pharisees making a deal with the devils of their day (Herodians) in order entrap Jesus. That’s not to say the scriptures don’t encourage all kinds of things that may or may not be emphasized on one side of the political line or the other. But Jesus’ kingdom is not of this world (John 18:26) and is apolitical. In the end all of our life belongs to God whose image is imprinted on our hearts and the only thing lawful for us is the law of love.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Lectionary 29 A - 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10

1 Thessalonians 1:1-10
“We always give thanks for you…” It think it is the most important element of pastoral ministry – especially when the ministry is not pastor or parishioner pleasing. That is because God has called both parishioner and pastor into a relationship for the sake of the Gospel so that their mutual work of faith, labor of love and steadfastness of hope might be made known in the Macedonia and Achaia and the other places of our day and age. Truthfully we cannot serve the living and true God unless we turn from the idols of judgmental attitudes, personal preferences and intransient positions. It does not mean we agree on everything or one side always has to give in to the other or that the way to an attitude of gratitude will be easily achieved. It does mean we accept and acknowledge that we are all equally and dearly loved by God and act accordingly.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Lectionary 29 A - Psalm 96:1-13

Psalm 96:1-13
Trees shout while the sea thunders and the fields rejoice and all creatures sing the refrain, “Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised.” The new song that the whole earth sings is prompted by the promise to judge the world with righteousness and the peoples with truth and equity. That is not good news for everyone as being judged in truth is a problem for those who prefer to live lies and despise righteousness. But for those who despite their sinfulness are drawn to the beauty of God’s holiness being judged with equity is an invitation to finally be free of the laundry list of all that diminishes life and makes us less than human. 

Monday, October 13, 2014

Lectionary 29 A - Isaiah 45:1-7

Isaiah 45:1-7
Cyrus the Great was good to all the gods who had been displaced by the Babylonians returning “the images of the gods… to their places and I let them dwell in eternal abodes.” (The Cyrus cylinder 538 BC) Granted he hoped for something in return. “May all the gods whom I settled in their sacred centers ask daily of Bêl and Nâbu that my days be long and may they intercede for my welfare.” But he was especially kind to the exiles from Judah and not only sent them home but funded the rebuilding of the temple and the reestablishment of sacrifices according to the Law of Moses. Not that he gave the God of Israel sole credit for making him “Cyrus, king of the world, great king, mighty king, king of Babylon, king of Sumer and Akkad, king of the four quarters...” But then Cyrus didn’t know he was a pawn in God’s game and that the little “g” gods couldn’t hear or answer any of his prayers. The lesson of Cyrus is that God’s good and gracious will is done with or without prayer (Luther’s explanation to the 3rd petition of the Lord’s Prayer) so that sometimes even less than pious people perform holy acts.