Thursday, February 7, 2019

Epiphany 5 C - 1 Corinthians 15:1-11

1 Corinthians 15:1-11
Paul’s defense of his ministry has always seemed a little defensive to me. He claims to be the least but believes himself to be the best. And while he gives credit to the grace of God working in him that implies the other apostles have less of whatever makes Paul more. But then he is a man of passion and contends for the faith with the same zeal with which he persecuted it. The Corinthians are no strangers to passion either. Speaking in the tongues of humans and angels they have divided the body of Christ and given themselves over to spiritual excess or perverted the freedom of the Gospel in lustful pursuits. Confident in their own wisdom they neither respect nor appreciate Paul or each other for that matter and are not afraid to say so. How is it that a faith that celebrates the ultimate act of sacrificial love sacrifices love so quickly? It is human pride and selfishness that turns good news into bad and resurrects what Christ was raised to destroy. But even when church conflict is so commonplace as to be the norm and we think it a miracle when the church actually is what it claims to be the story keeps getting told. Jesus died for sin, was buried and was raised on the third day. You can check the scriptures if you like. As long as the story is told the church has reason to hope that the grace of God was not given in vain.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Epiphany 5 C - Psalm 138

Psalm 138
This is a psalm with high hopes. All the kings of the earth will sing of the ways of the Lord, despite the lyrics “he regards the lowly; but the haughty he perceives from far away” for kings, or queens for that matter, are not generally addressed as “your lowliness.” But they have been humbled by the words of God’s mouth and so they join the psalmist in praising God and even the little g gods have to listen to the song. In the Large Catechism Martin Luther defines a god as anything or anyone “upon which you set your heart and put your trust.” The pantheon of little g gods, wealth or ability or intellect or religious pedigree, etc. would prefer to stop up their ears and ours to the sound of the song of praise to the big G God. In times of trouble when souls grow weak they sing their own song offering comfort or escape in the small g god of indulgence or denial. But little g gods always disappoint for only a big G God can save us from ourselves and fulfill the high hopes of the psalm. Humbled by the words of God’s mouth who hears our cry for help, preserved and delivered in the day of distress, God’s purpose is fulfilled for us. And this is the highest hope, that in spite of our addiction to little g gods the big G God sang for us the endless song of enduring, steadfast love and invites us to join the chorus.

Monday, February 4, 2019

Epiphany 5 C - Isaiah 6:1-13

Isaiah 6:1-13
The lectionary gives the option of stopping after verse six and maybe Isaiah would have preferred to end with “Here am I; send me!” as well. Despite his enthusiasm the people to whom he is so anxious to go will be dull, deaf and blind and won’t begin to listen until it is too late. The exile is inevitable and the destruction will be total because they were a people of unclean lips who didn’t know or wouldn’t admit that they were lost. There is no turning, no confession; no cry of “Woe is me!” to move the Lord of Hosts to mercy. But in a far away land they will come to their senses and the prophet’s voice will be heard and understood by the stump that is the seed. “Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.” We would do well to listen for when with unclean lips we claim the grace of God without confessing, “Woe is me!” we are dull, deaf and blind and exiled from inhabiting forgiveness. It is the hallmark of the Lutheran expression of the faith that the Law and the Gospel work together as the Law exposes who we are so the Gospel can reveal who God is. From the stump that is the seed will come the One who high and lifted up will cry out “Woe is me” for the world. Confession is the only response when with dull senses we finally understand the truth about ourselves and hear the cry from the throne of the cross and see the agony he endured that our guilt would depart and our sin be blotted out. Woe is me.

Friday, February 1, 2019

Epiphany 4 C - 1 Corinthians 13:1-13

1 Corinthians 13:1-13

It doesn't matter if your language is laced with love if your words fall on deaf ears. Forty years later St. Clement begins his letter to the same congregation “My dear friends, take care to do good and virtuous deeds in unity before him, and be citizens worthy of him; or his many good works towards us may become a judgment on us all” and ends it with “let us not be in two minds, and let us have no doubts about his excellent and glorious gifts.” It sounds like the noisy gongs and clanging cymbals are still drowning out patience, kindness and rejoicing in the right. It is a sad commentary on the church that conflict comes so easily to those the living God has loved into being but maybe that is because knowing in part and seeing dimly lends itself to limited love. But if with our limited vision we fix our eyes on the limitless One who emptied himself, taking on the servant’s form, suffering the criminal’s death then insisting on one’s own way is much harder to do. In the shadow of the cross the love that bears, believes, hopes, and endures moves the mountain of arrogant pride and selfish ambition so that faith, hope and love abide in us. I think in that moment we know all there is to know and see face to face the one who died so that love would never end.