Friday, January 23, 2015

Epiphany 3 B - Mark 1:14-20

Jesus has a one sentence sermon that says it all. The time is fulfilled – which means the future has come into the present. The kingdom of God has come near – which means God has come down to dwell with people and establish the reign of love. Repent – which is to say stop living in ways that deny the forever future reign of God can be realized today. Believe the good news – which means live like you trust it is true. The trouble is we have one foot firmly planted in the world while we tap a toe into the life of the forever future and never fully repenting of the past we never quite live into the future. However, there are moments when random acts of kindness soften a harsh world or times when walking with a loved one right up to the edge death really does make death look like a birth or when we become so convinced of God’s love for us and others that we give ourselves and others a break and rejoice in the wonder of each moment. One sentence says it all. 

Epiphany 3 B - 1 Corinthians 7:29-31

1 Corinthians 7:21-31
I don’t want to question the Apostle Paul’s timeline but did he believe “the appointed time has grown short” would go on for 2000 years or more? And if he thought the “grown short” time was longer than a lifetime would he have encouraged people to live as if the present form of the world passing away was a tomorrow come today? Truth is he got it wrong. But then so did a lot of the early Christians. I suppose we could blame it on the Gospel writers who remembered Jesus saying one generation “shall see my return”. (Not the same thing as blaming Jesus) I don’t know what Paul meant but I think the eminent end time stuff gives people an excuse to not live in the present. And if I could dare to speak for Jesus I think that would tick him off royally – since he is the King who calls us to make a difference in the present. Which means we can live the future in the present and not worry about the things that concern the apostle Paul.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Epiphany 3 B - Psalm 62:5-12

Psalm 62:5-12
Waiting in silence is not something that comes naturally to most, especially when unsteady circumstances call for a rock and salvation stronghold that cannot be shaken. Perhaps “pour out your hearts” should begin the psalm and “wait in silence” end it. Or maybe the two can be considered the same thing when one trusts that the God who searches hearts and minds knows what we need before we do. And even if our lives are relatively stable neither those of high degree nor those of low estate can long delay the inevitable for like a fleeting breath the span of life doesn't even tip the scale of eternity. But if we trust our lives are in the hands of the One to whom steadfast love belongs we are able to endure even the specter of our inevitable end where we will be repaid according to our deeds for the rock of salvation was crowned with a cross so that our “Lord have mercy” would not fall on deaf ears. 

Monday, January 19, 2015

Epiphany 3 B - Jonah 3:1-5, 10

Jonah 3:1-10
God’s mind was changed but Jonah’s was not. In the beginning of the story Jonah tries to avoid going to Nineveh because he believes God’s word and is counting on it. If the people of Nineveh do not repent they will be destroyed and since Jonah would like nothing more than that he goes in the opposite direction hoping to seal the deal and call God’s bluff. But God trumps Jonah and has a great fish swallow him to get him to the church on time. Since the people of Nineveh worship a fish god in the form of a man Jonah doesn’t have to cry out very loudly to get the pagans to pay attention. Jonah is so angry he would rather die than endure God’s mercy for Israel’s enemies but then God is always more willing to forgive than we are. I know Lyle Lovett wasn’t thinking of this story when he wrote God Will but it seems to me if Jonah sang country he could put his heart into this song. 

“And who keeps on loving you
When you've been lying
Saying things that ain't what they seem
God does
But I don't
God will
But I won't
And that's the difference
Between God and me.


Of course we believe the “difference between God and me” is Jesus so if we want to put our heart into God’s way of being we will have to sing a different tune.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Epiphany 2 B - John 1:43-51

John 1:43-51
Apparently Nathaniel’s disparaging remark about Nazareth is just plain old prejudice and doesn't count as deceit. Or it could be that Jesus is engaging in a little sarcasm himself. At any rate the encounter with Jesus moves Nathaniel beyond his limited understanding of “can anything good come from Nazareth” to seeing the capital G Good that came from the unlikely place. He proclaims “You are the Son of God” which is to say “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God… and we have beheld his glory…” (John 1:1, 14) In the knowing Nathaniel becomes one who will see the future in the present because those who believe “have already passed from death to life.” (John 5:24) We are not so different from Nathaniel. We are often found sitting under the fig tree of our own religious prejudice. Can anything good come from St. Louis? (Lutheran Church Missouri Synod) Or can anything good come from Chicago? (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America) Or closer to home, can anything good come from the city on the hill – Dallas Theological Seminary? We who doubt whether good can come from places we dismiss need to be found by Jesus under the fig trees of our limited understanding and like Nathaniel journey from guile to goodness so that the world will come to know the Good that came from Nazareth.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Epiphany 2 B - 1 Corinthians 6:11-20

1 Corinthians 6:11-20
Corinth was the “sin city” of the 1st century and the Christians living there struggled to be “in the world but not of the world.” Judging by the contents of the correspondence they didn’t do very well and some, like the man sleeping with his father’s wife, (1 Corinthians 5:1) even made the pagans blush. So Paul’s caveat “not everything is beneficial” might have been lost on those who said “I have the right to do whatever I want.” The trouble was a misapplication of the Gospel that had rightly repealed the requirements of the law, namely food restrictions, sacrifices and circumcision. A good number of the Corinthians thought that meant they were free to do as they pleased; after all they were saved by grace. We can fall into the same trap thinking that as long as we feel badly about whatever we’ve done we are good to go and do whatever again. Unfortunately Lutherans tend to be the most susceptible to what Dietrich Bonhoeffer labeled “cheap grace”. The cost of sin was born by Christ but we continue to run a tab whenever we are mastered by the very things from which Christ has set us free. But the Lutheran two step of Law/Gospel was always meant to lead to an amendment of sinful ways albeit without dancing into the sin of being sanctimonious, not an easy step to master. The good news is that those united with Christ are one with His spirit which means help is always just a prayer away.