Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Pentecost 2 C - Psalm 96:1-6

Psalm 96:1-6All the gods of the peoples are small g idol gods. It’s a bold statement to make in a pluralistic culture where many would say the new song to be sung is any song not sung so loudly as to make religious waves in the secular sea. But if we believe there is only one big G God who alone is worthy of a new song then we have no option but to sing it as the only song there is. But even as an exclusive song it is not a song of conquest, as much as I like Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus and Onward Christian Soldiers. No. The new song that is our salvation was a lullaby first sung in a stable by an unwed mother to a new born who just so happened to be the Big G God come down on earth to dwell. The new song that is our salvation was sung by the same baby grown to be a man as an invitation to pick up a cross and follow. The new song that is our salvation was sung as mercy and kindness and healing – your faith has made you well. The new song that is our salvation was sung as a challenge to rule bound religion – the Sabbath was made for you; not you for the Sabbath. The new song that is our salvation was sung as a lament, my God, my God why have you forsaken me? And finally the new song that is our salvation refused to be silenced by death and broke the grave's stranglehold on humanity once and for all. So if we are to sing the new song we have to sing the old song which reminds me of one my favorites – I love to tell the story.

Monday, June 17, 2019

Pentecost 2 C - 1 Kings 8:22-23, 41-43

1 Kings 8:22-23, 41-43
In the verses the lectionary leaves out Solomon wonders if God whom “the highest heaven cannot contain” will be found in the sanctuary built by human hands. Solomon’s plea and prayer is that when people gather in the holy house God will be present. But more than that Solomon prays that God will be merciful so that sin will be forgiven and sin’s consequences mitigated. When the heavens are shut up and famine inhabits the land, when plague and pestilence and blight consume the people’s strength, God will see the plight of God’s people and provide. We no longer associate a single place as the location of the Divine presence but there is something to be said for a house that is a home.  And as it turns out we’re the ones that need a house that we can call God’s home so that we have a place to go when troubles grow too great to bear alone. 

Thursday, June 13, 2019

The Feast of the Holy Trinity Year C - John 16:12-15

John 16:12-15
I was once asked when the Holy Ghost disappeared from the creed and the Holy Spirit appeared. I said I’m not sure when but I know why. In Hebrew the word attached to the third person of the Trinity is Ruach, in Greek Pneuma or breath. Spirit seems to capture that idea better than Ghost but Holy Breath might be better. In the beginning Holy Breath hovered over the chaos and called forth the creation. Holy Breath animated humans formed from dust. Holy Breath inspired words in the mouth of the prophets to convict and correct so that the vision of redemption and return could be realized. Holy Breath cried in a stable and from a hill. Holy Breath stepped out of the darkness of death and through locked doors to breathe on disciples hiding in fear and confusion. On the day when the waiting came to an end Holy Breath like the rush of a wind spoke through fisher folk and tax collectors in languages unlearned. To this day the Holy Breath breathed scripture (2 Timothy 3:16) “calls, gathers, enlightens, sanctifies and keeps us in the one true faith.” (Luther) And wherever and wherever the one holy catholic (small c = universal, invisible) and apostolic church steps into and lives out of the truth as guided by Holy Breath, the Father Son Spirit is glorified.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

The Feast of the Holy Trinity Year C - Romans 5:1-5

Romans 5:1-5

The second article of the faith tells the story of the One not created who was before time began and yet chose to let go of glory and empty himself to be found in human likeness. This is where the Trinity gets tricky and the creeds only state the "what" leaving humans to figure out the "how", which is where we get into trouble. But if the unbroken unity of the Trinity is love for the children of creation then Father Son Spirit are equally engaged in the work of redemption, though it would appear that the Son does the heavy lifting. In the person of Jesus the One uncreated becomes weak to save the weak, becomes sin to save sinners, and surrendering his life forgives his enemies. The image of an angry God now appeased by a human sacrifice, albeit God in human flesh is not what Paul means by being saved from the wrath of God, for God’s love is proved by the death of Christ and wrath and love cannot coexist. God is the only actor on the stage of salvation. While we were ungodly, while we were weak, while we were sinners, while we were God’s enemies, God died for us, ahead of us, instead of us so that by the life of God the love of God might be poured into our hearts through the Spirit. This One in Three and Three in One, Father Son Spirit, dwelling within us produces hope that does not disappoint by enduring suffering and reflecting the character of Christ, which is love.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

The Feast of the Holy Trinity Year C - Psalm 8

The unity of Father Son Spirit cannot be divided and yet each member fully present in the other is also distinct. Attempting to say something about each One in Three while preserving the Three in each One is a tip toe through the tulips of heresy, but I will press on, gingerly! In the time before time began the One who was not created called forth the heavens and the earth setting the stars like jewels in the crown of space. From infinite imagination the One who was not created called forth living beings weaving them together with the fabric of the earth. When all was said and done and very good the One who was not created formed in the image of the Infinite Imagination a creature both beautiful and terrible. Given our drive to exercise dominion over all things, including the One who imagined us, God would do well to be mindful of mortals for God’s own sake. That might not be so far from the truth. The first article of the faith names the One who created the heavens and the earth as God the Father Almighty. It is the parent in the Infinite Imagination that is mindful of the children created in the image of God. Love for the child will move that same One who was not created to inhabit mortal flesh and be crowned with glory and honor, not in the heavens, but on a “hill far away.” Love for the child will move that same One who was not created to inspire the mouths of babes and infants and the young and the old to sing Alleluia when the enemy and the avenger, death itself, is swallowed up in victory. The One in Three and Three in One is bound together by love for the children both beautiful and terrible until and for the day when the children of the Infinite Imagination are perfected in the eternal future. O God, our God, how majestic is your name!

Monday, June 10, 2019

The Feast of the Holy Trinity - Proverbs 8:1-4; 22-31

Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31
I’m not a big fan of the book of Proverbs even though there is certain comfort to addressing the complexity of life with simple sayings. Like my Facebook profile picture of the WWII British poster “Stay Calm and Carry On”. Sometimes staying calm is only achieved by denial and carrying on is a costly illusion. That being said the wisdom established from the beginning that raises her voice for all who will hear is more than a collection of memorable cliches. In the infinite mystery of the Trinity Wisdom engages the world in ways that appear as random or mere coincidence but are labeled by folks of faith as a “God thing”. By that I mean all that goes beyond our ability to fully comprehend – even if we attempt to express whatever “it” is by inadequate analogies – operates under the surface of our lives somehow gives us the ability to keep calm and carry on. Not as denial or illusion but as the way in which confidence in the Wisdom of God gives courage to the fearful and strength to the weak. The beauty of this image is that the Holy “totally other” whispered into the silence before time is a Wisdom that would become an expression of the Divine in ways that delight in our being, which given human nature might be the greatest mystery of all. 

Friday, June 7, 2019

The Feast of Pentecost Year C - John 14:8-17, 25-27

John 14:8-17, 25-27
Years ago I had one of those moments when I desperately wanted a clear word from the Lord. Nothing seemed to be working. Not prayer or conversations with colleagues or time in silent meditation. I don’t recommend what I did next because I think it treats the scripture like a Christian version of the Magic 8 ball®, but desperate times called for desperate measures and so I opened my Bible at random and landed on John 14:9. “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still don’t know me?” That’s the other reason not to do it. God might use your name and when God has to use your name you know you haven’t been paying attention. Philip asks the question that is on everyone’s mind and though Jesus' answer sounds like a rebuke Jesus honors the question and shows Philip what he asks to see. It is in the person of Jesus that the mystery of the Holy One is made known. And even if the humanity of John’s Jesus plays second fiddle to his divinity, Jesus is for Philip and the disciples a present, physical reality that can be seen. It is Judas (notably not Iscariot) who asks the question for us who have not seen and yet long to believe. It is in keeping the word from Jesus’ own lips, “Love one another” that God is made known. The Holy, Invisible, God Only Wise revealed in kindness offered, in mercy shown, in comfort extended, in generosity sown in the name of Jesus. In that we become the answer to someone’s desperate prayer - ask anything in my name. God made visible in love. In the same way that the internal unity of Father, Son, Spirit cannot be separated, so we too cannot be separated from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. No longer alone without a home like those who have been orphaned the good news for us is that even if God’s answer sounds like a rebuke God uses our name because we are known.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

The Feast of Pentecost Year C - Romans 8:14-17

Romans 8:14-17

The conditional clause, “if, in fact, we suffer with him” might cause one to “fall back into fear” especially if one lives a life where suffering is minimal or avoided altogether. Of course all suffering is relative and in that sense painful. Even minor losses are loses none-the-less. But Paul is not talking about minor inconveniences. Nor is he talking about the kind of suffering that is arbitrary or random, like an accident or a sudden loss of health. Or the suffering caused by another. Or the suffering that is personal and borne alone. Paul is talking about the suffering one chooses to endure in the same way that Jesus abandoned the place of perfection to inhabit our flesh that like the flowers of the field fades. The suffering Jesus endured, then, was fully for the sake of others and the glory it brought him was the redemption of a world hell bent on destruction. For us to, “in fact, suffer with him” means we choose the path of pain and sorrow with and for the sake of the other - to pick up the cross that belongs to someone else in the same way Jesus bore our pain and suffered our sorrow. The condition of this clause depends on our possessing the family gene which is love and the good news is that the adoption papers have been signed, sealed and delivered by the One who made us to be children of God.

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

The Feast of Pentecost Year C - Psalm 104:24-34

Psalm 104:24-34
The prayer in the Pilgrims Guide (turn to page 42) of every Cursillio, Via de Cristo, Walk to Emmaus, or Tres Dias is based on Psalm 104 30. “Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in us the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and we shall be created and you shall renew the face of the earth…” I believe the page 42 prayer, prayed multiple times on a weekend, has a lot to do with what happens on a weekend. (You have to attend to fully comprehend) “You send forth your Spirit and they are created…” It is the Spirit sent forth that creates a community on a weekend in the same way that our weekly gatherings of the faithful in churches small and large and in-between are created by the same Spirit, albeit over a longer period of time. That might be enough for us to stand up and shout “Amen” but it’s really the next line that is meant to get us up and out of our pews. (And into the 4thDay following a weekend) “And you shall renew the face of the earth.” God could renew the face of earth without us but God’s desire is that we become co-creators in imagining the reign of God come down onto the piece of the planet we inhabit where the Spirit in us preaches Good News to the poor, binds up the brokenhearted, proclaims liberty for the captive and makes the year of the Lord’s favor a present reality by intentional acts of kindness – even if they if they are random.

Monday, June 3, 2019

The Feast of Pentecost Year C - Acts 2:1-21

Acts 2:1-21

Lutherans are rarely mistaken for Pentecostals and even when the charismatic renewal blew through the church our version of Pentecost was more polite than possessed. It could be our Nordic or Germanic heritage where church doesn't look anything like drinking new wine in the morning. But that doesn't mean we are less spirit filled or on fire for the Lord. It just means our expression of Holy Spirit fire prefers to toast the faithful not burn them to a crisp. It is a mistake to envy the more demonstrative Holy Spirit folk or think that they are holier than thou, though thou art free to discretely raise a hand while singing A Mighty Fortress or quietly add an “Amen” if the preaching warrants such a response. While those things are all well and good this text is not about personal expressions of emotional piety. The day of Pentecost is about speaking the story of Jesus in a language people can understand. In these “last days” it means speaking the story to those who are by self definition spiritual but not religious but in truth perhaps still seeking for something that satisfies the restless heart. On that first day of the “last days” it meant speaking in the tongues of Gentile nations. In these “last days” it means the church must step outside of its holy halls and wake up from the illusion of privilege and power. It means we stop lusting after the myth of a Christian nation and acting as if we are victims of a secular conspiracy. For those of us who call on the name of the Lord in this day of the “last days” it means speaking the story subversively so that by sowing the seeds of curiosity we may be asked why we long for peace, why we feed the hungry, why we share ourselves in service, why we hope, why we love. It may be that by speaking from the heart about the Spirit that fills us with peace those who are spiritual but not religious might be tempted to become religiously spiritual which might be an apt description of a Lutheran Pentecostal.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Easter 7 C - Revelation 22:12-22

Reprint from 2013 because I love the picture of Joshua and Mary Ruth on the deck with dogs.

Revelation 22:12-22
The lectionary for Easter 7c leaves out verse 15 of Revelation 22 presumably because verse 15 leaves out “dogs and sorcerers and fornicators and murderers and idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.” I don’t know about you but the Heinze household believes all dogs go to heaven, except maybe our bad Chihuahua, Feliz Puppydad, who will need to be potty trained in purgatory first. Verses 18 & 19 don’t make the lectionary lesson either but that has more to do with what one would add to Revelation then whatever one might leave behind. So warning and welcome live side by side and we do a disservice to the scripture when we pick and choose even though denominations clearly discriminate. Those more liberal, or by self definition progressive, need to acknowledge the nasty with the nice while those intent on saving the world as long as it is monochromatic need to look more closely at the Jesus who consistently colored outside the lines. But both sides should take note that while we argue about what verses to include or exclude the rest of the world doesn't give a damn which doesn't really matter if they are all going to hell. But if Jesus died to make a difference then we better figure out a better way than “turn or burn” or “all paths lead to the same place” to speak the truth about Jesus so the dogs in verse 15 might actually want to find a welcome place in verse 17.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Easter 6 C - Psalm 67

Psalm 67
The psalmist was a having a good day when Psalm 67 was written. Not like the day “My God! My God! Why have you forsaken me” Psalm 22 was penned. That both praise and lament are sung in the same song book is a testament to the truth telling of the Psalter for life is both blessing and bust. There is a tendency in the American mega-denomination to only talk about God's glory and the prosperity that is the right of the believer. But the graciousness of the crucified God is to be present in plenty and in want, in sickness and in health, in sorrow and in joy. The blessing of the crucified God is to shine the light of God’s face into the darkness of our lives when forsaken-ness has sapped our strength and doubt overshadowed our hope. The way of the crucified God and the saving power made known to the nations is justice for the oppressed, freedom for the captive, good news for the poor. When the blessing of God is no longer seen as a right for the righteous then equity among the peoples will be established and the increase of the earth will not be hoarded or squandered but freely shared. And that will be a good day indeed. 

Monday, May 20, 2019

Easter 6 C - Acts 16:9-15

Acts 16:9-15

Even though Paul and his companions do enter Europe Through the Back Door® the Acts 16 travelogue would be more interesting if National Public Radio Travels with Rick Steves had recorded it. Luke, on the other hand, is more interested in conversion than conversation about where to dine and recline, though he could not possibly foresee howEurope would both shape and be shaped by Christianity. And so when one considers how the faith will one day be expressed in crown and cathedral it is worth noting that it begins with a woman named Lydia, who is not to be confused with the tattooed lady of the song. She was a convert to Judaism without a place to worship because Philippi must not have had the ten men necessary to start a synagogue. It would not have mattered if there were a hundred women worshipers of God without ten men the Mosaic law's requirement for starting a synagogue could not be met, so shall we gather at the river became her place of prayer. On the other hand there may have been a hundred synagogues in Philippi but not one of them would welcome a woman who dealt in an industry that boiled Mollusks to dye the cloth reserved for the rich and famous. So stuck between a rock and hard place she is eager to receive the faith that declared there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for all are one in Christ Jesus. When the church is more conversant in who is worthy to dine and recline than the language of conversion we would do well to note that while the man of Macedonia called for help, it was Lydia who came to the rescue and started the church Paul prayed for and praised for its partnership in the Gospel.

Friday, May 17, 2019

Easter 5 C - John 13:31-35

John 13:31-35
"I give you a new commandment, that you love one another." You would think that the church could get this one right. After all love is what we preach and teach and claim to believe in the pulpit and in the pew. In fact if there is anything we should be able to get right it is this simple command. Love one another. Just do it. It's not rocket science. Of course that would mean the "one another" we are commanded to love would have to be a little more love-able or in other words a little more like us or better, more like me. It is a sign of our sinfulness that loving one another is contingent on conforming to my way or the highway. But in "love one another as I have loved you" we are called to conform to the selfless way of Jesus whose love was made visible in death to rescue those who refused to be loved. So if we do not love one another it is because we do not love Jesus for we cannot love Jesus without loving the "one another" Jesus died to love. That is not to say love is an invitation to be abused. You can love from a distance. But to look upon the "one another" as those loved by Christ means we see the other as Christ does. Therefore love one another as I have loved you means love Jesus in the unreasonable other. Love Jesus in the selfish other. Love Jesus in the spiteful other. Love Jesus in the weak willed and untrustworthy other. Then others will know that we are disciples of Jesus for we love one another, for Jesus' sake, so that others will love Jesus. None of which can happen unless you love the Jesus in you. So I guess in that way it really is all about me.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Easter 5 C - Revelation 21:1-6

Revelation 21:1-6
No sea on the new earth? And here I was planning on boogie boarding my way through at least half of eternity. Some read this word literally and explain that the "no sea" on the new earth is to accommodate the vast multitude too great to count. But that misses the point of the vision. The sea represents the chaos that existed before creation when the earth was formless and empty and darkness was over the surface of the deep. God's spirit hovered over the water and in the word "Let there be…" order was called forth and chaos was contained. In this creation account the chaos that threatens is not the sea (which is good news for me.) it is death, for mourning and crying and pain and tears caused by loss can make our lives formless and empty and dark. So the new thing that God is doing here is no different from the first thing God did. In Christ crucified and risen God creates order out of chaos, life out of death, joy out of sorrow, laughter out of tears. I suppose that should be enough but I'm halfway hoping for a new sea with really big waves and the ability to walk on water so I can boogie without the board.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Easter 5 C - Psalm 148

Psalm 148The praise the Lord list is all inclusive even though not everyone on the list gets along. Wild animals eat cattle, kings make war on princes, fire and hail and wind do damage to fruit trees and of course sea monsters are not called monsters for being friendly to sailors. I don’t think the point is that if the all inclusive list spent more time praising the Lord they would spend less time preying on one another. You can over think a psalm in the same way that the marriage of melody and lyric loses something when the words of a song are over analyzed. So let’s just say the symphony of the all inclusive praise psalm is the song of everything all at once exalting the name of the Lord which is a joyful noise to the Lord (even if the sound a sea monster might terrify us).

Monday, May 13, 2019

Easter 5 - Acts 11:1-18

I think I might just have to remain kosher if the Lord told me to eat reptiles even if rattlesnake does taste like chicken. Of course the come down on a sheet menu is really just a set up for what comes next. Three gentiles come a calling and Peter goes to their house which is like eating shrimp on the Sabbath. The categories of clean and unclean are designed to keep one group pure by profaning the other. It begins with keeping oneself separate and while segregation will satisfy for a time eventually violence is the final solution. In the vision of the sheet the future imagined by God is revealed where distinctions of clean and unclean and everything in between is erased from the human vocabulary. The prophet Isaiah sees it as the sheet that covers the nations, hatred, violence, pride leading to prejudice, lifted in favor of forever feasting. To be faithful to the future is to follow it in the present so as not to hinder God. Paul will say it this say it this way. There is neither Jew nor Greek, male nor female, slave nor free because in Christ God declares there is no distinction. So, while you certainly may decline the rattlesnake appetizer, loving neighbor as self is not optional on the Christian menu.

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Easter 4 C - Revelation 7:9-17

Revelation 7:9-17
The promise to the white robed ones before the throne describes the great ordeal our faith forebears suffered. Indeed, when we make this portion of the letter a prophecy of the imagined future we dishonor the real people who went without food and water as they suffered the scorching sun and the heat of the day. They were mostly slaves and women, the least and the left behind, which is why using the testimony of their tribulation in best selling books and cheesy DVDs by the rich and powerful insults the real people to whom these words were written. Their tears will be wiped away and though we might have much to make us weep the great multitude come out of the great ordeal does not include us. It is not to say we are left out because we happen to live in a time when the empire embraces the church without trying to strangle it. It just means we can't read about those persecuted and ultimately killed for the faith and make it about us. What is about us, persecuted or not, is that the Lamb at the center of the throne is the Shepherd of every nation and tribe and people and language which means leaving anyone behind is the last thing on the Lord's mind.

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Easter 4 C - Psalm 23

Psalm 23
The promises of Psalm 23; green pastures, still waters, soul restored, right paths followed, comfort and confidence in death’s dark valley, a feast in front of foes, head anointed, cup overflowing, goodness and mercy and a home in the house of the Lord are made possible by the statement of surrender, "the Lord is my shepherd." The second statement “I shall not want” is made possible by the first. Of course surrendering and being satisfied does not come naturally to us. The story of “the fall” is all about humans not being satisfied with paradise and in lusting after the fruit that was pleasing to the eye and useful for knowledge their attempt at an upgrade from creature to creator introduced a virus that infects us today. We infect this psalm with that virus when we think of the Shepherd as a service provider or make it all about the forever home in the Lord’s house. To surrender to the Shepherd is to be satisfied with creature status and trust that the One who comforts us through the valley of the shadow of whatever we face knows the way. That means green pastures can exist where there is no grass. Still waters can be found in the middle of a rushing river. The right path is the one we’re on as long as the Shepherd walks with us. And because we know the Shepherd is Jesus the feast prepared must be as much for the foe as it is for us. When we are satisfied with the Shepherd with us in whatever pasture we inhabit the goodness and mercy that “follows” catches up with us and the forever house of the Lord is our home today.

Monday, May 6, 2019

Living the Lectionary: Easter 4 C - Acts 9:36-43

Living the Lectionary: Easter 4 C - Acts 9:36-43: Acts 9:36-43 Peter, the fisherman turned physician, may have been the rock upon which the church was built, but Tabitha was the one who...

Easter 4 C - Acts 9:36-43

Peter, the fisherman turned physician, may have been the rock upon which the church was built, but Tabitha was the one who made it work. Devoted to acts of charity, she takes Jesus at his word about the least of these, “when I was naked you clothed me” and does something about it. Her handiwork in the hands of weeping widows is a testimony to her devotion. Remembered well for the good she did Tabitha will be missed. But this is a resurrection story and so like Lazarus and Jairus’ daughter, Tabitha will live to sew again. Luke tells the story as if a person coming back to life when called by name and told to get up happens all the time, even though miracles tend to demand attention and get it. People like Tabitha, devoted to good works and acts of charity, do not demand attention and maybe that makes her life of service more of a miracle than sitting up at Peter’s command. The miracle of the church is that despite all of its drawing attention to itself, mostly for the wrong reasons, it still has a Tabitha or two quietly going about being church. A resurrection story is always more about this life then whatever comes next and though we might long for the day when we hear that final “get up” the world would be well served, and maybe even resurrected, by a church devoted to good works and acts of charity.

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Easter 3 C - Revelation 5:11-14

Revelation 5:11-14

I remember the sound of angels singing in our backyard years ago. They must have been around three and five at the time and they were singing “This is the feast of victory for our God. Alleluia!” That’s the only part they knew so they just sang it over and over again. Maybe that’s the only part we need to know when it comes right down to it. The Lamb who was slain is worthy and has won the victory over death so that songs of rejoicing might spring forth from children and angels alike. To that the living creatures say Amen which means Let it be so. To live into let it be so is to invite the future into the present so that we hear and sing the song in our everyday. Granted it is more difficult when life is anything but playful. In those times the invitation is a prayer and this is the feast is sung through clenched teeth. Which is why it is the only thing we need to know. Despite all the difficulties of the day the battle is done, the final victory won. One day the feast of victory will be for all of us as children playing and singing this is the feast over and over again and the sound of suffering and sorrow will be stilled. And so the memory of angels singing in the backyard in the past enters the present of this morning so that one is reminded of the future. Amen. Let it be so.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Easter 3 C - Psalm 30

Psalm 30
Psalm 30 is a song of deliverance sung in the key of joy. Rescued from the foe, helped by healing, brought back from the depths of the pit the psalmist has seen it all and is glad that the day of refreshment has finally dawned. But the worst of what was is perhaps understated. “When you hid your face I was dismayed.” Weeping through the night watches, the psalmist is clothed in the sackcloth of God’s absence and the moment of God’s anger seems to last a lifetime. Crying into that silence for help the psalmist is not above making a deal. “What good am I to you dead?” When the morning of deliverance comes the rejoicing is unrestrained and one jumps for the joy of it, for even if silence and sorrow and suffering are remembered the new dawn trumps whatever one went through to see the sun rise.

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Easter 3 C - Acts 9:1-20

Acts 9:1-20
Saul may be the one blinded but Ananias is the one who wants to make sure God sees clearly. "Here, I am Lord" is followed quickly by a just in case you don't know "Lord, I've heard of this man…" According to Luke's tale all Ananias needs is a little more information to call Saul brother but I image he had an exit strategy when he headed down Straight Street in Damascus. Even so his only scene in the Gospel is a story of faith that makes Paul's story possible as his baptizing "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me" means Paul can suffer for "the sake of the name" which in turn makes the name of Jesus known. Ananias could have said send someone else but he didn't and his act of obedience opened the eyes of Paul and the eyes of countless generations who would read Paul's letters. Maybe God seeing clearly is how we receive our sight. Here I am Lord.

Monday, April 22, 2019

Easter 2 C - Acts 5:27-41

Acts 5:27-41

For a group of guys who didn't get it in the Gospels the disciples got going pretty quickly in the book of Acts. With a sound like the rushing of the wind and tongues of flames on their heads and languages not their own they were transformed from confused followers into bold witnesses who rejoiced that they were considered worthy of persecution. How do we enter such a text given that the message which caused such a stir has settled down to become the status quo? It may be that Gamaliel’s advice, ignore them and they’ll go away, accomplished what the Pharisees desired. The church becomes irrelevant to the culture when it is indistinguishable from it. I’m not nostalgic for the days when the Gospel attracted persecution but I would like to rejoice in being worthy of attention. If we tell the truth the journey of the last four days was mostly about us, the respectable church goers, and for many of our neighbors and co-workers and friends and even family it was just another weekend. If Monday happens right on schedule and holy week like Christmas is carefully wrapped and put back on the shelf until next year it will be just another, albeit it busy weekend for us well. But if we were to do something worthy of attention today and speak and act as those who have something worth living for and saying then like the disciples we would rejoice in being followers who take the lead.

Friday, April 19, 2019

The Feast of the Resurrection Year C - Luke 24:1-12

Luke 24:1-12

"It seemed to them an idle tale." The Greek for "idle tale" loosely translated is BS, if you'll pardon my Greek. There are some who still think of it that way but you can hardly blame them given the lack of evidence to the contrary. But then the idle BS doesn't stop Peter from rushing out to see for himself so I guess even disbelief looks for proof. For Peter and the rest who will listen to his version of the idle tale the linen cloths lying by themselves is more than the mind can comprehend, which is what amazement means in every language. I think in some ways amazement is better than acceptance and if I could I would go back to a time when the resurrection was more than I could believe - not an idle tale mind you - but something so extraordinary that I might tremble at the thought of it. Maybe when my time comes to enter this story more fully, when my seeking the living among the dead is personal, resurrection will be beyond belief and not something I simply state as a fact of faith. In the meantime I seek to be surprised by a resurrection that is more than just a familiar (but not idle) tale.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

1 Corinthians 15:19-26

1 Corinthians 15:19-26
To hope in Christ only for the next life is just as pitiable as to hope in Christ "only for this life..." To hope only for the future is to reduce the resurrection to a reward or some sort of panacea for the pain of the present. But the hope of resurrection has as much to do with the way one lives in this life as whatever life we will live in the next. The death that came through Adam is still a very real enemy that seeks to limit not just our mortal life but our spiritual life as well so that we never fully live the freedom that came out of the empty tomb with Jesus. But because Jesus died for all and rose above the boundary imposed by Adam’s rebellion we are free to live as those who have “already passed from death to life.” (John 5:24)  If by faith I am confident that the forever future imagined by God is a done deal then I am free to live as if death has already been destroyed. A life that anticipates resurrection is as much a resurrected life as the life that awaits us.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

The Feast of the Resurrection Year C - Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24

Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24
"There are shouts of exaltation in the tents of the righteous" is one of the verses from Psalm 118 that we read at graveside services where "I shall not die but live" takes on a new meaning for both the living and the dead. For those gathered to grieve it is a declaration of the hope of reunion with the one gone on before. For the one laid to rest it is the reality of life beyond the womb of the world that is as mysterious to us as this life must seem to the newly born babe. Since "we know in part" as we peer through "a mirror dimly" (1 Corinthians 13:12) everything we know about the next life can only be imagined from the context of this life. That is not to say we cannot confidently cast the vision of a future life without sorrow, sighing, tears or pain, a life where death dies and is buried forever. But the details of whatever is coming is beyond our knowing in the same way we could sense something on the other side while we were floating in our mother's secret place but had no frame of reference for what was coming next. Which is why the righteous live by faith and not by sight, trusting that the Lord who has made this day has made the next one as well, therefore we will rejoice and be glad in all our days.

Monday, April 15, 2019

The Feast of the Resurrection Year C - Acts 10:34-43

Acts 10:34-43When Peter says he “truly understands God shows no partiality” he understands God is no longer limited to a chosen nation (Israel) but now accepts people who “do right” no matter what nation they come from. Of course God has always been partial to people who do right so in some ways it doesn't seem like very much has changed at all. But if “no partiality” means Jesus “ordained as judge of the living and the dead” acts like the Jesus who went about “doing good and healing those oppressed by demons” then the “no partiality” clause is only limited by Jesus’ capacity to show mercy. “Father forgive them for they know not what they do” means mercy is shown even to those who “put him to death by hanging him on a tree” which truly is no partiality. 

Friday, April 12, 2019

The Feast of the Passion Year C

The Gospel according to Luke
Some of us remember when the Sunday of the Passion was called Palm Sunday and we didn't read the rest of the story until the Thursday we call Holy and the Friday we call Good. Some suspect the change from Palm to Passion allows the faithful to be less so and skip the Triduum (The Great Three Days). That may be true but it really doesn't matter (unless you are a liturgical Luddite) as Two out of Three Great Days happening on the Sunday before the Third Day still gets Jesus where he needs to be before Easter sunrise. But there is also a compelling reason to read the passion narrative all at the same time and out loud but only if the congregation speaks the part that belongs to all of us. Crucify! Crucify! CRUCIFY! It always makes me a little uncomfortable, as it should, and reminds me that given the same set of circumstances I would have deserted, denied and yelled crucify.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

The Feast of the Passion Year C - Philippians 2:5-11

Philippians 2:5-11
The operative word in having "the mind of Christ" is "let" as in allow or permit. Or maybe a better way to think of it is to welcome or invite the mind of Christ to "dwell in you richly". (Colossians 3:16) It is not something that comes naturally to us as our minds resist being conformed to a way of thinking that would willingly let go of power (especially equality with God) for the sake of those who are always seeking to exploit even the illusion of power. It is out of vain ambition that our minds are occupied with all manner of self serving thoughts and subsequently destructive ways of being. We even think of God that way and imagine that after Jesus went back to wherever he came from he never again did such a foolish thing as empty himself. But if the mind of Christ reveals the mind of God then the exaltation of Jesus is to be continually emptied. I don't mean that Jesus is crucified again and again but that the power that God in Christ wields is the infinite capacity to love which never proceeds from a position of power. So God in Christ is emptied in order to be one with humanity hell bent on filling itself up in the Divine hope that we would grow weary of our futile way of being and let the mind of Christ do the thinking.

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Feast of the Passion Year C - Isaiah 50:4-9

Isaiah 50:4-9
The word that sustains the weary is that the teacher himself was wearied by beatings, insult and spitting. Wakened by the word, "the Lord God will be my help at the break of the day" the student who is at the same time the teacher set his face like flint and gave his back to the whip, his head to thorns, his hands and feet to nail. The suffering and sorrow of God is the word for those who are wearied by life contending against them, confronted by inconsistency, struck by down by grief, insulted by trouble. The Lord will be my help at the break of day because the Lord was broken for all my days. To waken to this word despite all that would weary the soul and crush the spirit is to be opened to the distant song of vindication that is always near. It is not an easy answer, a simple solution, a wish fulfillment. It is a Word that inhabits flesh and blood, yours and mine, for when one is wearied by weeping and too tired to sing, when the difference between giving up and continuing on hangs in the balance, we become for each other in shared sorrow and suffering the Word that sustains until the day when all weariness will be a thing of the past. 

Saturday, April 6, 2019

Lent 5 C - John 12:1-11

John 12:1-11

What do you do when the man who raised your brother from the dead comes for a visit? If you are Martha you serve dinner. If you are Mary you spend more time at the feet of the teacher. It appears as if nothing has changed and yet everything is different. It is as it always was for Martha, table set, bread baked, food and fellowship with friends. A week before she could not have imagined it would ever be this way again. But now her brother, for a moment lost to life and here found again, sits at table with the One who weeping called him out of the tomb. And with laughter and much toasting “L'Chaim!” To Life! everything is as it was and she hopes always will be. And then Mary, perhaps weeping herself, does the unthinkable and brings death back to life. Nothing has changed but everything is different. Her act of extravagance, scoffed at by Judas, “What a waste” is prophetic. The one who raised my brother has a date with death himself but instead of the stench of four days the fragrance of perfume filled the house. You can’t think of death in the same way when Lazarus is sitting at the table with you. Like Lazarus Jesus will be lost for a time but when he is found again death itself will be defeated and everything will change and even what is the same will be different. The poor who you always have with you will be made rich to sit at the table as bread baked and wine poured ushers in food and fellowship and feasting like has never been before and will be forever and ever. Amen. L’Chami! To Life!

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Lent 5 C - Psalm 126

Psalm 126
The memory of mouths filled with laughter sustains those whose eyes brim with tears. A sustaining memory is a good thing in and of itself but in this case the memory of rejoicing in the past leads the psalmist to hope that the present weeping is also sowing seeds of future joy. The apostle Paul will say it this way. "...our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us." (Romans 8:18) Of course Paul is thinking of the ultimate rejoicing that will be revealed in the forever future and while I believe that to be true I am also confident that there are penultimate (days before the ultimate day) days of fortunes restored rejoicing that bring forth tears of joy and spontaneous laughter. While those days might be hard to come by and pale in comparison with what will be they do happen even in the midst of the most difficult of times whenever kindness is shown and love is freely offered and received. It could be a healing hug, a tender caress, a gentle smile or even (as strange as it may seem) a necessary word of correction that is accepted and acted upon. But however it happens rejoicing is always a gift and the fortune that is restored is hope.

Monday, April 1, 2019

Lent 5 C - Isaiah 43:16-21

Isaiah 43:16-21

“Do not remember the former things…” is not so much forgetting the captivity of the past as it is putting the past in its rightful place. The things we have done or left undone or the things done to us or not done for us are former things and have no power except the power we give them whenever former things prevent us from perceiving present things. Not that we don’t continue to create former things in our present. It is an odd sort of thing that we often prefer captivity to freedom so that even when a new thing springs forth we slip back into the more familiar patterns of former things. That is why this new thing that springs forth begins with a promise. “Do not be afraid. I have called you by name. You are mine.” (Isaiah 43:1) God makes a way in the wilderness for us, maybe in spite of us, with the hope that one day we would leave the illusion of comfort in captivity to live as those known and named by God. “God has made a new beginning from the ashes of our past; in the losing and the winning we hold fast.” (J. Ylvisaker) The threatening things are extinguished, the wild things are tamed, the crooked things are made straight, the difficult things brought down and the rare resource of water in a desolate and dry place gushes forth in abundance. Every day lived in the promise of God’s abiding and healing presence is the new day that springs forth so that the siren call of former things might be drowned out by the sound of praise. 

Friday, March 29, 2019

Lent 4 C - Luke 15:1-3, 11-32

Luke 15:1-3, 11-32
The proper sons (Pharisees and scribes) were grumbling because Jesus was eating and drinking with the prodigal sons (tax collectors and sinners) without punishing them for their prodigal-ness. It could be that Jesus knows that being prodigal (wasteful, reckless) is punishment enough and that those who stay home can be just as lost and dead as those who spend all they have in distant lands and end up coming home hungry. Of course the point of the parable is that the party will not be a joyful family reunion until the brothers sit down to dine together. So while the younger son suffered from hunger and the older son suffered from resentment it was the father who suffered the most waiting for his children to love each other as much as he loved them. Sad to say God is still waiting. 

Thursday, March 28, 2019

2 Corinthians 5:16-21

The apostle Paul makes it sound so simple. “If you are in Christ you are a new creation…” How is it then that so many new creations continue to live in old ways regarding themselves and others and even the Christ from a human point of view? It is because we continue to cling to our old skin, stretching or shrinking it to make it fit even when it is obvious to everyone else that it doesn't.  Becoming a new creation is as much a death as it is a birth and both birth and death are very difficult things to do. So how do old creations learn new tricks? It begins and ends with what sounds so simple – a new point of view. That is we no longer think of Christ or others or ourselves from the point of view that sees reconciliation as compromise and forgiveness freely given as cheap. Or the point of view that accepts reconciliation for self but withholds it from others. Or worse, the point of view that accepts reconciliation for everyone else but can’t quite come to accept it as true for self and so the old skin clings to us as much as we cling to it. But if we dare to shed the old skin, without fear of being naked, we will die to the human point of view of selfish ways (ways that are both self-serving and self-denying) and become the new creation we already are all because of who God is. God does not count your sins against you. You can stop counting them as well. 

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Lent 4 C - Psalm 32

Psalm 32
The sad truth about ourselves is that we don’t get to “happy are those” until our bodies have done some wasting away. It comes from being so good at hiding iniquity or living “what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” even though we've never left home. Hopefully sooner, rather than later, we come to our senses and realize that acknowledging our deceit has a direct effect on whether we live as “happy are those” or as those who are “dried up as in the heat of summer.” That is the gift of groaning all day long for if we were not made uncomfortable by a hand heavy upon us our ignorance would grow content with the bit and be curbed only when caught by torment or trouble. And so “happy are those” who both hear and tell the truth about themselves and determine to be less stubborn next time so that their groaning will give way to glad cries of deliverance.

Monday, March 25, 2019

Lent 4 C - Joshua 5:9-12

Joshua 5:9-12
Forty years of “what is it?” manna and now finally something new! Time and again in their wilderness wanderings the children of Israel lamented their meager fare. “We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost—also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic. But now we have lost our appetite; we never see anything but this manna!"” Complaining of their present they forgot the pain of their past as the memory of fish and fruit failed to recall the disgrace of Egypt. In reality the “no cost” meal was the manna God freely provided. The fish and fruit, the “no cost” meal in Egypt, was paid for by slavery and harsh treatment. Of course those who complained never did get off the manna diet and dying in the desert their only comfort must have been that at least their children would see the promised land. That hope did not disappoint as Joshua and the children of disgrace were set free and manna was forever off the menu in the land of milk and honey. When in our wilderness wandering we lose our appetite and mis-remembering the past long for something that never was God calls us back to faith through a “no cost to us” meal that cost God’s life. Sustaining us in our weakness God provides for the journey until manna is taken off the menu and we sit down to dine at the forever feast.