Saturday, April 22, 2017

Easter 2 A - John 20:19-31

John 20:19-31There are those who say faith dare not doubt while others claim faith without doubt is no faith at all. I’m not sure I care to enter the debate. Thomas had good reason to wonder at this word, “We have seen the Lord!” and as the ten weren’t blessed until they had seen I’m willing to give Thomas the benefit of the doubt. Truth is there are times when I wonder at this word and question whether everything written is the Gospel truth. I don’t think that is as much a function of doubting as it is the product of the God given ability to think critically. God is not threatened by our questions and does not punish us for asking them.  Touch and see was what Thomas needed to do and touch and see is what Jesus offered him. And what seems like Jesus rebuking Thomas, “have you believed because you have seen me?”  is really an encouragement to those of us who given the opportunity would do anything to “trade places with Thomas and touch those ruined hands.” (Friederich Buechner – Peculiar Treasures) So we who live by faith and not by sight are free to question and in whatever way doubt and faith intersect find the place where the life of believing lives comfortably with questions.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Easter 2 A - 1 Peter 1:3-9

1 Peter 1:3-9
There is a stoic tendency in the Christian tradition, as in the proverbial British “stiff upper lip” or the Norwegian mantra “det kan bli verre”. (It could be worse) Or better yet the Black Knight in Monty Python's the Holy Grail. "It's just a flesh wound." So while I agree that various trials can be seen as tests of faith there are times when one is so worn down by trouble one could care less if faith proved less precious than gold. “It is what it is” only works for so long and eventually “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me” is a more appropriate response to trouble that multiplies with every passing day. But it is precisely during those times when human hope fades that we rejoice, albeit through tears, in the living hope that is kept for us and not by us. Kept for us and not by us this inheritance of hope, if you will, is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading. That means in practical terms we can live through a difficult day or week or month or even, dear God, a year, and not add to the weight of our troubles by blaming our dismal circumstances on the failure of faith. I think stoics live lonely lives even if they show great courage and fortitude. We were created for community, to be like the One we have never seen and yet still love, so that the genuineness of faith is measured in the way we respond to the needs of each other. There are times when various trials could not possibly be any worse which is why we do not suffer them alone.

Thursday, April 20, 2017



 Trinity Lutheran Church, Pottsville, TX

Here's a re-post from 2011. Pauline Hopper was a longtime member of Calvary who I visited in the hospital everyday over the course of a number of weeks. I'd pray with her every visit. She didn't seem to be getting any better so one time when I'd finished praying she looked at me and said, "you're not very good are you." So since Pauline was a country girl I said, "Let me give it another go. Oh Lord, we'd like you to piss or get off the pot. Amen." Wouldn't you know she got better within the week.

Psalm 16
Pauline Hopper went home to heaven this week and the body she inhabited for ninety-one years was laid to rest this afternoon in Pottsville, Texas. The boundary lines have fallen for her in a pleasant place which was cause for our hearts to be glad and our spirits rejoice. That is not to say we gloss over grief or deny the reality of loss and pain. No. What we do is deny death the last word for our loved ones and in celebrating their passing we deny death power over ourselves as well. We do not grieve as those without hope. We will not be abandoned to the shadow existence of Sheol. We will know pleasures forevermore and the fullness of joy in God’s presence. In the meantime funerals remind us that we have been gifted with another day in the land of the living to make the present look a little bit more like the future as we wait for our boundary lines to fall in the most pleasant of places.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Easter 2 A - Acts 10:22-33

Peter’s Pentecost sermon, addressed to those familiar with the story of salvation, is a fitting text for the first Sunday after Easter. Known by those “in the know” as low Sunday, it is the day when the pews and parking spaces of the faithful are not occupied by the twice a year crowd.  Maybe if the story was more dramatic people would stick around for another round sans trumpets, choirs, lilies and eggs hidden by bunnies, but the truth is the story could not be more out of the box. It was impossible for death to hold him in its power is how Peter puts it and I can’t imagine it gets more dramatic than that. The message has had over two thousand years to mature and so while preachers and every week pew people might be tempted to lament a Sunday with space we might be better served by going back to the beginning when even those who knew the story had to hear it again.

Friday, April 14, 2017

The Resurrection of Our Lord Year A - Colossians 3:1-11

Colossians 3:1-11
Paul’s resurrection perspective “if you have been raised with Christ” might be better understood as “since” you have been raised…” Of course the laundry list of behaviors and attitudes to be put to death reads like the “Thou shall not” the law demanded but could not accomplish, even with the threat of God’s wrath raining down on the disobedient, but I think that misses the point of these passages. Being raised with Christ is a done deal. “For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in (Jesus), and through him to be reconciled to all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.” (Colossians 1:19, 20) In the new reality of the resurrection all the old ways of being have no place. Even the divisions of race and creed and culture have been erased. That’s because the earthly ways all hearken back to the disobedience in the garden where wanting to be “like” God meant we became less than human.  Dwelling on earthly things that have been put to death is to prefer life in the grave which makes no sense. Since we have been raised with Christ our humanity has been restored and getting rid of earthly things is not to escape wrath but to embrace grace and therefore not a measure of self discipline but the exercise of true freedom.