Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Proper 13 c - Psalm 49

Psalm 49 continues the theme of Ecclesiastes, namely, no one gets out of here alive. Or as my theology professor Walt Bouman liked to say, “Eat healthy, exercise regularly, die anyway.” He was also fond of pointing out that despite all the advances in medical science the death rate is still one per person. While that might lead one to despair the Psalmist is confident enough to sing a solution to the riddle. Those whose iniquity brings trouble are not to be feared for even with the wealth of the world at their disposal there is no price that can be paid to purchase a pass on the grave. The wise and the foolish, the persecutor and the persecuted will perish together. While that might seem a Pyrrhic victory the psalmist trusts God will do what cannot be done. “God will redeem my life from the grave and will surely take me to himself.” What the psalmist anticipated and what we believe and what my friend and mentor Walt, now gone on to glory, knows is that the ransom for human life, the price paid for a pass on the grave, was God’s own life and that more than foots the bill.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Proper 13 C - Ecclesiastes 1:1-2, 12-24, 2:18-23

The opening words of the teacher, son of David, declare "Meaningless! Meaningless!" If you didn’t get it the first time he leaves no doubt as to what he means when he goes on to say, "Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless." Most people prefer to sugar coat reality to make it more palatable as in “a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.” (Mary Poppins) Or they defy reality as in, "The one who dies with the most toys wins!" (Malcolm Forbes) The teacher prefers to tell it like it is. He hates the things for which he toiled and despairs of his striving under the sun. Even if you work with wisdom, knowledge and skill you can’t take it with you when you go and others will profit from your pain. The one who dies with the most toys still dies. This might lead one to despair of life but that is not what the teacher declares as meaningless. Vanity of vanities is how the old version goes and that puts the emphasis where it belongs. What is meaningless is a sugar coated reality that convinces one that circumstances can be controlled, that the future can be made secure by the accumulation of wealth or wisdom or that with enough chasing after the wind you can put the breeze in your pocket. The teacher’s instruction is not that life itself is meaningless. No. But life lived without meaning is truly vanity of vanities.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Proper 12 C - Luke 11:1-13

“Teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” Praying was not new to the disciples who as Jews would have done so religiously three times a day so this request has more to do with Jesus than a lesson in proper prayer posture. It’s like asking for the secret handshake, the visible or in this case, verbal cue that the ones praying belong to the Jesus club. But instead of an exclusive club (we want our own prayer) Jesus begins with a new naming of the God whose name could not be spoken (lest ye die!) as Our Father. Everything that follows the teaching of the prayer, including the parable and the seeking, finding, knocking as well as evil parents knowing the difference between eggs and scorpions, has to do with this naming of God as Father, or better, parent. The “Our Father” is not about gender but genetics. The kingdom come, the asking for daily bread, the being forgiven and forgiving, the temptation from which one is spared all depend on trusting the truth of “Our Father”. And one cannot trust the truth of God as Father unless one acknowledges the Father as “Our” which means we who belong to God belong to each other. (ala Sister Sledge “We Are Family” 1979) When we live “Our” while trusting God as “Father” the kingdom comes, bread is shared, we are forgiven and forgive and the time of trial is not avoided but overcome. And to that let all God’s children say, “Amen!”

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Proper 12 C - Colossians 2:6-19

                                                           Agony by Theyre Lee-Elliott (1903-1988)

The rulers and authorities intended to make a public example of Jesus by nailing him to a cross. But what rulers intended for evil God intended for good and in the ultimate irony the shame of the cross is its glory. Those who killed Jesus according to the demands of the law could not foresee that condemning Christ would in the end fulfill the law. We who are not overly concerned with circumcision or keeping kosher or observing festivals must none-the-less admit our tendency to prefer the rules and regulations of religion, if only for the regiment they bring, to what otherwise seems too good to be true or too simple to be of much use. Each tradition claims Christ and disagreements about perceived fundamentals of faith lead one to dismiss the other as misguided or misinformed or sadly mistaken. But if God set aside the requirements of kosher and circumcision and Sabbath without a substitution save one then maybe that’s the only thing we have to hold onto to remain rooted and built up and established in the God who is Love.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Proper 12 C - Psalm 138

The small g gods who covet a capital G will have to listen while the psalmist sings praise of the Lord exalted above all things especially small g gods. The kings of the earth, accustomed to people bowing down to them, will have to bow down to a higher power and join the song whether they like it or not. And so you might expect the Lord of all the earth, who puts little g gods in their place and is King above all kings, to act the part. But this One who knows no equal, no rival, no one worthy of comparison, regards the lowly, preserves the powerless, and delivers the needy. Therefore, the whole heart of the psalmist gives thanks despite walking in the midst of trouble for the Lord is near and not far off. We too, when strengthened in soul by the steadfast love of the Lord, trust that purposes for us which may or may not be immediately apparent will in fact be fulfilled for the capital G God and the King above all kings hears the words of our mouth and knows the needs of our soul.