Thursday, September 3, 2015

Pentecost 15 B - Mark 7:24-37

Mark 7:24-37
It is a difficult story to deal with if you wonder what Jesus was thinking when he called the desperate woman a dog. She didn’t object to being called a dog which you might be willing to do when your daughter is possessed and you’ve got nowhere else to go. Pr. Nick Billardello of Abiding Grace Lutheran says she barked. At any rate Jesus recognizes the kind of need that leads one to bow down low and accept ridicule and insult for the sake of someone you love and so he banishes the demon from her daughter. The second story is similar to the first as the deaf man with slurred speech is helped by those who beg Jesus to heal their friend. Spit and speech (Ephphatha!) do what doctors could not. Astounded beyond measure the crowds marvel at everything done well. Jesus' “everything done well” won’t be remembered when he is accused of being in league with the devil. (Matthew 9:34) And it won’t be long before people hurl more than insults at him as they strip him naked and nail him to wood. But when the world is possessed and you have nowhere else to go you’ll go to the cross to save those you love.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Pentecost 15 B - James 2:1-17

James 2:1-17
What good is it my sisters and brothers if you supply the bodily needs of those who are hungry and do not wish them well by warming them with the sharing of peace? What good is that? I’m taking some liberties with the word from James but only because there is a tendency for well-meaning people to provide for people in need without ever getting to know or appreciate the person in need. Calvary’s participation in the Room in the Inn ministry attempts to meet both the relational and physical needs of the guests who spend the night in our family life center and if you ask them I think they appreciate the relational aspect as much as the physical. The homeless need help, no doubt, but what they long for is dignity and that doesn’t come to anyone as charity. It can only be found in true friendship and genuine love that looks past possessions or lack thereof to value another as a human being created in the image of God. 

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Pentecost 15 B - Psalm 146

Psalm 146
Trusting in the temporal is no help at all when what one hopes for is eternal. That doesn’t mean we do not put stock in the here and now. And the Lord does not care for the stranger or sustain the orphan and the widow or frustrate the wicked without in some ways enlisting our help. Even opening the eyes of the blind and lifting up the bowed down calls for the righteous loved by the Lord to be involved. But when I’m finished praising the Lord “as long as I live” I hope there is a refrain that follows my life long singing. That means we live our lives anticipating what will be while being fully engaged in what is. 

Monday, August 31, 2015

Pentecost 15 B - Isaiah 35:4-7

Isaiah 35:4-7
Isaiah 35 begins with the parched land rejoicing and ends with the ransomed of the Lord returning unto Zion with singing as they are overtaken by joy and gladness. Between the parched land rejoicing and the ransomed returning are feeble hands and weak knees and fearful hearts that long for redemption. But since the chapter begins and ends with a promise Isaiah can say, “Be strong” to the feeble and weak and fearful instead of “suck it up.” The ability to “be strong” comes from living into the future promise in whatever circumstance we find ourselves so that hands and knees become steady even when the ground is shaking. We are able to endure because we believe the present difficulty will be overcome by the future promise. It means we can deal with what is because we anticipate what will be. In the here and now the blind are still blind. The deaf still cannot hear. The lame still limp and the dumb are still speechless. It is as simple and as difficult as that because we are more accustomed to “suck it up” than what Isaiah means by “be strong” or perhaps we think they are the same thing and therefore are always running too fast in the present for the future to catch up. But when God’s ultimate vision becomes our eternal imagination the future bursts into the present like a rainstorm in the desert and the blind see and the deaf hear and the lame leap and the dumb shout for joy. What will be already is when by faith we stop “sucking it up” and allow the “be strong” of future gladness to overtake us. 

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Pentecost 14 B - Mark 7:1-8, 13-14, 21-23

Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23
Thank God we’re back to the Gospel of Mark! Don’t get me wrong. I’m not into gluten free Gospels but five weeks of bread, even bread from heaven, is more than I can stomach. Okay, that might be a little over the top for a lectionary based joke but I don’t think the lectionary needs five weeks to deal with John chapter six. Be that as it may it turns out the Gospel lesson for this week still has something to do with food and the rituals that surround it. I find it noteworthy that necessary things, the everyday act of eating and drinking, are given additional layers of meaning but maybe that is the point. Things basic but necessary are always more than ordinary. Most of us are far removed from the production of our food so that we can grab a burger from In and Out and think nothing of the sun and soil and rain and crops and cattle and rancher and farmer and slaughter house and silo and purchaser and packager and shipper and cook and wait staff that eventually put the burger on the bun with fries on the side so that we could wolf it down without thinking about it. Maybe if we were more aware of how fortunate we are we would become more aware of those for whom the every day act of eating is not a given. Of all the religious things we do being generous with the ordinary gifts we’ve been given brings the most joy to the God who desires the honor of our lips to be a true expression of the devotion of our heart.