Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Lectionary 25 A - Philippians 1:20-30

Philippians 1:20-30
To live a life worthy of the Gospel is more about embracing grace than adherence to the law although there are always consequences for less than Gospel worthy ways of living. But as those who “are in bondage to sin and cannot free ourselves” we understand living a Gospel worthy life is always a work in progress. So we bear with each other recognizing that all “fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23) and depend wholly on the mercy of God. Which means the Gospel way of living is to strive together side by side so that our mutual love and affection for one another bears witness to the God who loves all people equally.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Lectionary 25 A - Psalm 145:1-8

Psalm 145:1-8
“One generation commends your works to another” is the way the faith has been passed down through the ages so that the ancient story of mighty acts and awesome works is not lost. More than myth the ancient story is retold in the living language of the generation entrusted to bear it into the infinite future. Granted, the “passing on” generation always hopes that their way of telling the story will be as enduring as the story itself and that the generation “receiving” the gift will not throw away the wrapping. But the truth is “the Lord gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love” is the same for every generation, whether it's recounted on a Kindle or a scroll. 

Monday, September 15, 2014

Lectionary 25 A - Jonah 3:10-4:11

Jonah 3:10 - 4:11
Discussions of the Book of Jonah often focus on the detail of the “whale” and whether someone could be swallowed up and survive. Those who read the story as literal truth do so out of reverence for the scriptures as the source and norm of all doctrine and faith and believe if you doubt the literal truth of one story all the other stories are called into question. Those who read Jonah as a parable or allegory also reverence the scriptures as the source and norm of all faith and doctrine and believe a story does not need to be literally true to be true. The point of this story, which I am quite willing to swallow as literally true, is in chapter four. Jonah did not want to go to Nineveh because he knew God would be merciful and forgive the enemies of Israel and that was “very displeasing to Jonah, and he became angry.” (4:1) God provided shade to cool Jonah’s jets but then struck it down to make a point and Jonah sitting in the sun and lamenting the burned up bush was “angry enough to die.” (4:9) With or without the big fish story this is the part of the text that is literally true about us especially when like Jonah we care more about the bush of our own understanding than the “great city” of fellow believers whose fish story may be bigger or smaller than ours. 

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Holy Cross Year A - John 3:13-17

John 3:13-17
“God did not send the Son into the world to condemn it” but apparently the church didn’t get the memo. We've copyrighted the Son and condemn anyone who does not buy into the franchise. On the other hand John 3:18 (…those who do not believe are condemned already) seems to give us permission to divide the world into us and them. So what gives? Is there a password to paradise or not? Whenever I ask that question I hear my teacher and mentor The Reverend Doctor Walter Bouman saying “that’s the wrong question.” Which is to say we tend to rush to the end of the story without considering the narrative. God’s intention to not send the Son into the world to condemn it is first and foremost a statement about God. Every two bit small g god knows how to put on a light show and beat down the peasants into submission. The big G God of Israel abandons the place of power to make a small hill outside an insignificant city of an occupied nation the location of suffering that will be salvation for the world. What we do with that doesn't have anything to do with God’s intention even if our acceptance or rejection holds consequences that trump God’s desire. The world gets condemnation. We invented it and have spent considerable time and energy finding ways to be creative in our cruelty. God is not the one who condemns. We are. But God offers a way out of our inhumanity by meeting the world at its worst and letting the world’s way condemn the Son sent to love. So the choice we are given is to believe that in the end the way of love will overcome the condemnation that comes naturally to us. 

Lectionary 24 A - Matthew 18:21-35

Matthew 18:21-35
This is a troublesome text in that it appears that the “sin-ee” (aka the one sinned against) is at the mercy of the sinner even though the sinner is the one who needs to be forgiven. Even more troubling is that Peter doesn’t ask more questions once Jesus multiplies Peter’s seven times sin to infinity and beyond. (77 or 70 times 7 is Jesus math which always equals always) So what if the sin is always the same sin? At what point do you say the one who is asking for forgiveness is just getting permission to sin again? Hello. Doesn’t Jesus know about codependency? I’ll ask forgiveness for that last remark. Sorry for taking a parable to places it was never meant to go. The bottom line is this. Jesus commands the church that bears his name to consider forgiveness asked for forgiveness received period end of sentence. Where the parable draws the line is that there is a consequence for forgiveness withheld which once again places the burden on the sin-ee and not the sinner. But that’s the way Jesus rolls. That is not to say we cannot forgive, and love for that matter, from a safe distance. Jesus said to pick up our cross but he does not mean we should be crucified.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Holy Cross Year A - 1 Corinthians 1:18-24

1 Corinthians 1:18-24
The world doesn’t care about the message of the cross and thinks weakness just means you are that much easier to kill. For most of our history the church has mimicked the way of the world protecting its place of privilege in pious language that masked the holy war of words and/or weapons that it waged against any and all opposition. Those days are almost behind us, thank God, which means we might be able to reclaim the foolish message of the cross where loss is gain, weakness is strength, and death is life. It does mean we will have to give up our duplicitous nature where we try to walk in the way of the cross without giving up at least a toehold in the way of the world. Jesus said it this way, “You cannot serve two masters.” (Matthew 6:24) So let’s just confess that we would have preferred a stronger Savior and because of that are always tempted to recreate God in our own image. The Good News is that we were created in God’s image and whenever and wherever we reclaim our divine DNA the foolish church that proclaims Christ crucified is the saving power of God for the world

Lectionary 24 A - Romans 14:1-12

Romans 14:1-12
I think vegetarians might have a quarrel or two with the apostle Paul over who is weak after all it's not easy to be vegetarian at a Texas BBQ joint. Thank God for pickles! Of course vegetarians take a little bit of ribbing in Texas but maybe not the same as in the early church where “you are what you eat” were fighting words. Centuries of animosity between Jew and Gentile did not disappear overnight. If anything the differences that could largely be avoided through segregation were now inescapable. So Paul reminds them that they are no longer defined by their personal piety for they belong to the Lord who welcomes Jew and Gentile alike. That is the part we miss when we elevate one form of piety above another without recognizing that the only question that matters is does it please the Lord. Of course what really pleases the Lord is when we live in harmony with one another which in the end is the highest form of praise.