Thursday, August 25, 2016

Proper 17 C - Luke 14:1, 7-14

Jesus ate and drank with Pharisees as much as he did with tax collectors and though they would not eat and drink with each other they had one thing in common. Jesus. The Congregations that left the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America in 2010 and formed the North American Lutheran Church do not recognize the church they left but we still have one thing in common. Jesus. My Missouri Synod Lutheran brothers and sisters who practice “close” communion, which closes the communion rail to all but those who are in full doctrinal agreement, believe they are protecting those who might otherwise eat and drink in an unworthy manner and do damage to themselves (1 Corinthians 11:28) but whether we eat and drink at the same table or only the ones we recognize Christ communes with us all. We have one thing in common. Jesus. I know denominational lines are important, otherwise why would we spend so much time and energy drawing them, but I am going to suggest that God is not glorified when we exclude each other from the place of grace by thinking we preserve the Gospel by holding onto the letter of the Law. If there is one place Pharisees and Tax Collectors should meet it is at the table of mercy. While we argue over who is more holy or who is more enlightened and create more institutions to preserve the integrity of our respective tables the poor have no home, the crippled can’t stand, the lame stumble and the blind cannot see. It may be too much to expect this side of the resurrection of the righteous but if we would humble ourselves perhaps the poor, crippled, lame and blind would want to eat at the table we are so keen on preserving. You might think I prefer one side over the other but that would miss the point. The table belongs to the Lord and whether we recognize each other or not the Lord has one thing in common. Us. God help Him.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Proper 17 C - Hebrews 13:1-8, 15-16

“Entertaining Angels Unaware” is one of my favorite songs by Erik Johansson, a Vermonter and part time Texan who restores pipe organs and through his music and prayer the human heart as well, including my own I might add. It was always my first request in the past when he would unpack his hand made harp, followed closely by my second request for a whimsical, sweet song about fishing with a child. They might be the same thing for when the human heart is healed by hospitality the angels are entertained and in our restoration they rejoice. The hospitable life of Hebrews is found in mutual love expressed by loving the stranger, which is the literal meaning of the Greek. It means we remember those in prison as if we were in their place. It is for one’s own being to be tortured by the thought of another’s body violated, as well as grieving for the spirit and soul and mind of the one who devises and inflicts pain upon another. Honoring marriage, resisting the lure of wealth, contentment within one’s self, being thankful for faithful leaders, doing good and sharing what you have are all expressions of the hospitable life in which the angels rejoice and God is pleased. So entertaining angels unaware is not a chance encounter with a cherub but a life encountered and changed by Jesus, the same yesterday, today and always.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Proper 17 C - Psalm 112

Evil tidings tend to strike the heart with fear, whether global as in warming or war, or closer to home as in loss of health or employment or relationship. Even the most optimistic must admit we live in an age of uncertainly but then every age is in its own way insecure. The response of the righteous to uncertain times is not to circle the wagons, retreating behind walls of stricter laws and harsher penalties, nor do they long for an earlier less uncertain time which is in truth a seeking after a mythical Shangri-La. The response of the righteous to evil tidings in every age of uncertain times is to be gracious and merciful. Hearts that are steady in unsteady times distribute freely to the poor, lend themselves and their resources generously and deal justly with all in every circumstance. The wicked see it and scoff but will gnash their teeth and melt away the longer the righteous persist in being righteous. Whether wealth and riches follow remains to be seen or perhaps the righteous know that wealth is fleeting and seeking after riches is vain glory and like the desire of the wicked comes to nothing. Steady hearts that do not fear live today as if the “I make all things new” endless age was already here even though it is a not yet present reality. But of course the future day of peace is and will be whenever and wherever the righteous act righteously.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Proper 17 C - Proverbs 25:6-7

The first thing to say is that whatever we say about this proverb it was obviously written to those who had the ability to put themselves forward in the presence of the king. The closest I’ve come to royalty is the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace and since the royal standard wasn’t flying above the royal apartment the Queen was being royal somewhere else. Apparently no one told her I was coming. I don’t think I’ll be using Solomon’s sage advice anytime soon. So what is to be said about two verses which have little application to those who are not likely to stand or sit in the place of the great? “Don’t think of yourselves more highly than you ought” is how the apostle Paul might have applied the text to his audience, the vast majority of whom would never get an audience with the king, unless of course they were being martyred in the coliseum. But it is to those white robed martyrs that the King of the universe says come up here while the kings of the earth, and queens for that matter, are put down from their thrones. I am sure that is not what Solomon meant to say in this proverb but then my guess is that he might want to follow his own advice when ushered into the presence of the KING of KINGS.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Proper 16 C - Luke 10:13-17

The woman set free from being bent over praises God while the synagogue ruler standing up straight remains bent over by the rules and regulations he is so keen on keeping. This daughter of Abraham knew her need and for eighteen years had endured the stares and whispers of those whose religious perspective placed the blame squarely on her bowed shoulders. Bad things happen to bad people. The synagogue ruler, a son of Abraham in a position of prestige and power, had no idea that the very things he held as holy prevented him from being holy. God said it this way more than once, “I desire mercy not sacrifice.” If the Sabbath is meant to return one to the place of rest, modeled by the Creator on the seventh day, then the Sabbath was always meant to reconnect the created to the God who commanded that rest be observed. Jesus said it this way more than once, “The Sabbath was meant for you. Not you for the Sabbath.” So the Sabbath that reconnects us to the One who commanded it begins with an attitude of care and concern for all of creation, beasts of burdens and daughters and sons of Abraham and everyone else for that matter, which is meant to lead us to act in ways that bring healing and peace and justice seven days a week. Or in other words: Sabbath sacrificed for mercy praises God while mercy sacrificed for Sabbath is no rest at all.