Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Easter 7 C - Psalm 97

The Lord is king! Let the earth rejoice unless lit up by the Lord’s lightning the earth trembles. Let the coastlands be glad unless occupied by adversaries the coastlands are consumed. Psalm 97 imagines the mountains melting like wax and the Lord surrounded by clouds and thick darkness bringing it on like Iron Man. But for those rescued from the hand of the wicked and loved for hating evil the Lord is like the gentle light of dawn bringing joy to the upright who have survived the night. Here in lies the rub between judgment and justice, penalty and pity, the ones forgiven for eternity and those whose eternal punishment seems to outweigh the crime. How do we bow down before the throne of the Lord as King Iron Man and at the same time proclaim the servant God of Grace? It may be that the Lord as King brings a world of hurt to whoever boasts in worthless idols but the gospel proclaims a God whose heart melting like wax within him, his hands nailed to wood by the wicked, forgives those who knowing full well what they were doing didn’t have a clue why he allowed it to be done to him. So rejoice in the Lord then, you who have been made righteous by the Lord as King, who forgave the wicked in the same way the God of Grace forgave you.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Easter 7 C - Acts 16:16-34

In Acts 16 healing happens because Paul “very much annoyed” tells the divining spirit outing him as a slave of the “Most High God” to shut up. Of course the slave girl set free is a set up for the freeing of the Philippian jailer who doesn’t know he’s the one behind bars. Once the stage is set, Paul and Silas singing in the aftershock of the earthquake is such a surprise that the jailer brought back from the brink asks, “What must I do to be saved?” even though what he really wants to know is “Why are you still here?” The answer that saves the jailer and his household is to believe in whatever kept Paul and Silas in the cell singing when running away made more sense. That is the answer that saves us as well, for instead of coming down from the cross and saving himself Jesus stayed put so that like the jailer we might be brought back from the brink. In this we know we are saved, not by confessing a creed or adhering to a tradition or allegiance to denomination or ritual, (as good as those things might be) but when our believing in Jesus means staying put with and for the other when walking away would be much easier. And so whether we can carry a tune or not we are called to sing the mercy of God in the aftershock of whatever life throws at us for we know as slaves of the “Most High God” we are truly free.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Easter 6 C - John 14:23-29

“Do not let your hearts be troubled” might be mistaken for a Jesus “Just Do It” theology if it were not for the peace that precedes the “do not be troubled”. In the same way that “Believe in God. Believe also in me” precedes the same command in the beginning of chapter 14, the “do not let…” does not lead. It follows. And the peace that precedes the “do not let…” is not put on a happy face and the whole world smiles with you because the sun will come up tomorrow bet your bottom dollar solution to real life strife. In the same way, “believe in me” does not mean just get over it. Nor does it minimize trouble because it could be worse even if it clearly could be. That would be worldly peace. The peace of the world is temporary and illusionary as it denies sorrow, medicates pain with costly pleasure, or seeks solace by seeing to it that other hearts are equally troubled. The peace that Jesus gives embraces suffering and dies to destroy the power of death. Called to cling to the cross by which Jesus overcomes the world, and all the trouble in it, the people of Jesus’ peace believe that trouble is temporary while peace is eternal. In the fourth chapter of his second letter to the troublesome Corinthians the apostle Paul did not let his heart be troubled even though he had more than enough of his share of difficulty. “We have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” Do not let your hearts be troubled is not a command. It is an invitation.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Easter 6 C - Revelation 21:10 - 22:5

It is a strange vision of a city that is out of this world. Carefully measured and described with twelve gates of pearl, walls of jasper, streets of gold and foundations adorned with jewels, with names that will twist the tongue of Sunday’s lectors, the vision is intended to impress. Written to those suffering the pain of persecution it must have seemed a dream too good to be true. But the vision went beyond the immediate need for rescue and redemption. For those who longed for Jerusalem’s ruined temple to be rebuilt God and the Lamb will be in plain sight and no curtain will hide the Holy of Holies. There will be no need of sun or moon, or gates shut to keep out the danger that lurks in the dark, for all that threatens and practices falsehood will be banished. And the twelve tree forest will heal the world’s warring madness so that all that follows in the wake of war, pestilence and plague and famine and death, will be forever erased from the human lexicon. It may be a vision of the future but it came from someone who in this world longed for the “out of this world” reality that only peace can bring. We might have to wait for the city to come down but there is no reason we cannot be building the foundation today by dreaming the dream and casting the vision while working to make this world look a little more like the next. That really would be out of this world.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Easter 6 C - Psalm 67

Psalm 67
The psalmist was a having a good day when Psalm 67 was written. Not like the day “My God! My God! Why have you forsaken me” Psalm 22 was penned. That both praise and lament are sung in the same song book is a testament to the truth telling of the Psalter for life is both blessing and bust. There is a tendency in the American mega-denomination to attribute only glory to God and prosperity to God’s people who invest wisely and often. But the graciousness of the crucified God is to be present in plenty and in want, in sickness and in health, in sorrow and in joy. The blessing of the crucified God is to shine the light of God’s face into the darkness of our lives when forsakeness has sapped our strength and doubt has overshadowed our hope. The way of the crucified God and the saving power made known to the nations is justice for the oppressed, freedom for the captive, good news for the poor. When the blessing of God is no longer seen as a right for the righteous then equity among the peoples will be established and the increase of the earth will not be hoarded or squandered but freely shared. And that will be a good day indeed.