Thursday, October 27, 2016

Reformation - John 8:31-36

John 8:31-36
Freedom: i.e. "the power to determine action without restraint." Even in a nation founded on the principle of freedom we are constrained by laws that limit our power to determine action. But then personal freedom, to do and say and act as I desire, is ultimately a selfish ambition that in some ways denies others their freedom to do and say and act as they like. So Jesus is not speaking about personal freedom to do and say and act as we desire. He is speaking of a freedom that changes the way we understand our relationship with God. The Jews “who had believed in him” were still depending on their connection with Abraham to claim their non-slave status as God’s own people even while their land was occupied by the Roman Empire. The freedom Jesus offers is summed up in the idea that those who believe have passed from death to life. (John 5:24) No one is more free than the one who by believing can confess “whether we live or whether we die we are the Lord’s” (Romans 14:8) trusting that “nothing can separate us from the love of God”. (Romans 8:38-39) Here’s the twist. Being made free by the Son makes you the slave of all. (John 13:12-17) Go figure. 

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Proper 25 C - Luke 18:9-14

The Pharisee standing by himself is imprisoned by his piety and for all his tithing and fasting and righteous living he is farther away from God than the tax collector standing far off. The tax collector in the company of thieves, rouges and adulterers is equally imprisoned by his impiety but closer to God because of his humility (or is it shame?) which is entirely appropriate for the life he lives and the company he keeps. Of course, he is still far off, physically and spiritually, despite being justified for knowing who he is. He will never be able to lift his head or give his breast a break until being justified goes beyond saying I’m sorry. But the parable is not about the tax collector nor does it encourage us to “go and do likewise.”  The parable is about people whose pride in practicing religion makes the practice of religion meaningless despite all the effort put into ordering life by religious practices. One cannot be close to God standing by oneself. So perhaps being close to God is to live like a Pharisee and pray like a tax collector?

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Proper 25 C - 2 Timothy 4:6-8; 16-18

The lectionary skips verses 9 – 15 but as usual I think the lectionary people have made a mistake. The laundry list of names and places and the cloak and books and parchments left in Troas make Paul’s fighting the good fight and finishing the race sound a lot like ours. Granted Paul accomplished more than we have but verses 9 -15 reveal the apostle who wrote most of the New Testament as a man who forgets his cloak in Troas and asks a friend to bring it to him because presumably he’s cold. But more important than identifying with his forgetfulness we understand how faithful friends become the agents used by the Lord to rescue us from the lion’s mouth. Paul, deserted by Demas and harmed greatly by Alexander, is rescued from evil attacks because of friends like Luke who is with him and Mark who is useful and of course Timothy who sends cloak and books and above all the parchments so Paul’s ministry of letter writing may continue.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Proper 25 C - Psalm 84:1-7

If you Google the valley of Baca you’ll find out we’ve all been there. Baca is Hebrew for weeping, but the point is not that we are familiar with the geography but that in the passing through God promises to turn the valley of tears into a place of springs and pools of peace. It is not a pie in the sky the sun will come up tomorrow bet your bottom dollar promise, but God’s guarantee for souls that long for lovely dwelling places. Strength in the Lord will not disappoint. It is in the “as they go through” that we “go from strength to strength” and though the song of hope might be sung for a time with weeping eyes through clenched teeth joy will come on the morrow as pilgrim clasps the hand of pilgrim and the song of victory swells to fill the valley of tears with shouts of joy for the living God.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Proper 25 C - Jeremiah 31:27-34

Jeremiah 31:27-34
Every now and then the prophet Jeremiah was given a good word to speak and that makes the promise of “the days are surely coming” noteworthy. Even though none of the people to whom these words were written saw the day that would surely come. They died in the land of their enemy sitting by the waters of Babylon weeping the songs of Zion. Or they were the remnant who returned home only to find ruins not easily rebuilt and vineyards destroyed that were difficult to replant. But because “the days are surely coming…” was believed despite sour grapes setting teeth on edge it was more than just a fairy tale ending for a people plucked up and broken down. Believing the promise was the difference between giving up or going on, between living in spite of or dying because of, and whether they knew it or not it is what it means to know the Lord. And so it is for us who endure hardship and persevere through difficult days knowing in part and seeing dimly all the while waiting for another day that will surely come, when we catch up with the least and the greatest who have gone on ahead of us and know the Lord fully for they see him face to face.