Monday, October 26, 2020

The Feast of All Saints Year A - Revelation 7:9-17

                             

Revelation 7:9-17
These words were written to encourage and comfort people who were suffering terribly for the sake of the faith. Let’s put aside the thought that Revelation is a road map through Divine destruction with promises of paradise for a select few and consider that the God who wipes away the tears of a multitude too great to count might not want to poke the eyes out of everyone else. Maybe within the necessary narrative for a persecuted people there is a word that speaks to all humanity created in the image of the holy. There are innocents who suffer all of life as a great ordeal, starving for food or affection with no hope for happiness. Will God wipe away their tears? There are those less innocent who scarred by neglect or abuse suffer the great ordeal of lives doomed to misfortune and out of their pain visit it others. Will God wipe away their tears? There are those not innocent at all but acting out of selfish interest suffer the great ordeal that looks like prosperity but lacks love and mercy and kindness and if they knew perhaps they would weep as well. Will God wipe away their tears? Can God wipe away every tear from every eye and still be a God of justice? I don’t know but I hope so and not because I need a happy ending to the sad human story, but because I hope God does.

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Reformation Sunday - John 8:31-36

                                    

John 8:31-36
Maybe if I knew what my “we are descendants of Abraham” was I would know what keeps me from being free. But the sad truth is that those who claim to be “truly my disciples” are often just as bound as those who could care less. The truth is not as easily defined as one might think and as soon as you “name it and claim it” you have lost it. “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose” (Janis Joplin - Me & Bobby McGee) might not be Gospel but it is truth. When you get to the place where what matters to you is not as essential as to what makes a difference so that nothing matters but everything is important you come close to freedom. It is not a freedom we fight for or protect as crazy as that sounds. No one has ever been freer than Jesus, but not when was healing or preaching or praying. Freedom for Jesus was the cross and the sad and wonderful truth is that it is the same for us.  

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Reformation Sunday - Romans 3:19-28

                                   

Romans 3:19-28

God is the one who is just and the one who justifies; period, end of sentence. So why do we work so hard for what is none of our business? I don’t mean sin, we don’t have to work at disobedience or doubt or self centeredness or disregard for the needs of others or neglect of the planet or any of the ways we are guilty of being less than human. No, sin is all about us, which is why the just one who justifies the creation gone its own way enters the fray to contend with the inevitable consequence of human rebellion, death. Faith does not activate or complete what God has already done in entering the human story. Faith means we enter God’s story in the Christ and stop working for what is already ours because we no longer doubt what is beyond comprehension. We are already justified, made right with God, because God won’t have it any other way which means we are free to be fully human.

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Reformation Sunday - Psalm 46

                                  

Psalm 46
To “be still” in the presence of shaking earth, falling mountains and roaring seas is not the natural response to natural disasters, unless being still is fainting dead away. In the same way that the uncertainty of nations in uproar and falling kingdoms typically lead us to circle the wagons and prepare for the worst by doing our best to make sure our piece of the earth doesn’t melt away. But the command is to “be still” while God does the heavy lifting of breaking bows and shattering spears. Being still in the face of personal and collective calamity only happens if we stand still on the foundation of faith which is the “know I am God” part of the equation. So being still doesn’t lead us to know God as much as knowing God allows us to be still.

Monday, October 19, 2020

Reformation Sunday - Jeremiah 31:31-34

Jeremiah 31:31-34
When will the “days are surely coming” finally get here? I know some will quickly point out “the days are surely coming” came with the new covenant signed and sealed by the blood of Jesus. But if that is true, and of course I believe it is, then the "days are surely coming" are not yet fully here. Even those who have the new covenant written on their heart and claim to “know the Lord” filter that knowledge through denominational lenses or personal experience and believe they have 20/20 vision while everyone else has to squint. The “days are surely coming” won’t get here until my “know the Lord” doesn’t deny the truth of your “know the Lord.” But surely there is a right and a wrong way to know the Lord? For something to be true something else is necessarily false. Well, yes but how can we tell the difference when everything we know is subject to our own bias, even the way we come to the scriptures? Maybe we can agree on this, at least for this text. God is the only actor and the people are passive for the heart of the promise is that God does not treat law breakers as they deserve but forgives iniquity and remembers sin no more. Maybe the day will surely come when we do the same.

Friday, October 16, 2020

Lectionary 29 A - Matthew 22:15-22

                                       

Matthew 22:15-22
You can’t trap Jesus. This text is not about taxes. There are no options save death when Rome demands it’s due and lawful or not, the tax collector doesn’t care what you think as long as you pay the bill. When we use any word about Jesus to support one political position over another we are like Pharisees making a deal with the devils of their day (Herodians) in order entrap Jesus. That’s not to say the scriptures don’t encourage all kinds of things that are emphasized on one side of the political line or the other. But the mission of Jesus is to reveal the God whose image is imprinted on the human heart and so for all the might and majesty mustered by Rome, a head on a temporal coin isn’t worth the metal it’s printed on. The lesson for us may be to measure our lives by the things that belong to God, love and life, which is eternal and unending and outside of our control. Jesus is perfectly willing to be entrapped for that mission and when his time comes he will not shy away from answering the question that for the sake of the world gets him nailed to the cross.

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Lectionary 29 A - 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10

                           

1 Thessalonians 1:1-10
One reason Paul may be continually thankful for the church of the Thessalonians is because he is continually troubled by the church of the Corinthians. And in same way the Philippians and Ephesians may have helped him endure the “who has bewitched you” Galatians, present day overseers may balance the burden of their call by rejoicing in works of faith in one place while laboring with love for ministries that struggle. I don’t know because I’ve been in the same place for almost thirty years and the Calvary that I landed in, by the grace of God btw, was already a “friendly church serving Christ and community.” But all of us together are called to be church steadfast in hope and inspired by the Holy Spirit. So how do we help each other be the best we can be and sound forth the word in the Macedonia and Achaia that for us are the congregations in Northern Texas and Northern Louisiana and Durant, OK and Clovis, NM? What was then is now. We always give thanks to God for all of you and daily mention you in our prayers.

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Lectionary 29 A - Psalm 96

                                           

Psalm 96:1-13
What a lovely coincidence! I just did Psalm 96 this morning for my FB live devotion! The little g gods stand in awe of the Big G Only God as the trees shout while the sea thunders and the fields rejoice and all people sing the refrain, “Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised.” The new song that the whole earth sings is prompted by the big G God's promise to judge the world with righteousness and the peoples with truth and equity. That is not good news for everyone as being judged in truth is a problem for those who prefer to live lies and despise righteousness. But if despite your sinfulness you are drawn to surrender to the beauty of God’s holiness being judged with equity is an invitation to finally be free of all that diminishes life and makes us less than human. And that is good news indeed, so sing to the Lord a new song to the Lord.

Monday, October 12, 2020

Lectionary 29 A - Isaiah 45:1-7

 Isaiah 45:1-7

Cyrus the Great was good to all the gods who had been displaced by the Babylonians returning “the images of the gods… to their places and I let them dwell in eternal abodes.” (The Cyrus cylinder 538 BC) Granted he hoped for something in return. “May all the gods whom I settled in their sacred centers ask daily of Bêl and Nâbu that my days be long and may they intercede for my welfare.” But he was especially kind to the exiles from Judah and not only sent them home but funded the rebuilding of the temple and the reestablishment of sacrifices according to the Law of Moses. Not that he gave the God of Israel sole credit for making him “Cyrus, king of the world, great king, mighty king, king of Babylon, king of Sumer and Akkad, king of the four quarters...” But then Cyrus didn’t know he was a pawn in God’s game and that the little “g” gods couldn’t hear or answer any of his prayers. The lesson of Cyrus is that God’s good and gracious will is done with or without prayer (Luther’s explanation to the 3rd petition of the Lord’s Prayer) so that sometimes even less than pious people perform holy acts.

Friday, October 9, 2020

Lectionary 28 A - Philippians 4:1-9

                                                      

Paul writing from prison encourages the Philippians with a lovely laundry list of “whatever is” which goes well beyond the power of positive thinking. It is, however, an attitude adjustment in the same way we are to have the mind of Christ who did not consider equality with God something to be exploited. Gentleness evident to all, and the double dip of rejoicing, is only possible because the Lord is near. It is for this reason that Euodia and Syntyche are to set aside whatever has come between them and remember the Gospel for which they both contend. Paul had no way of knowing his letter would be read by anyone after it had served its purpose and certainly could not have foreseen over 2000 years of church history. If he had he might not have called out these two women. On the other hand I wonder if the things that divide us would be as important if we knew our names would be forever enshrined in the scriptures.

Monday, October 5, 2020

Lectionary 28 A - Isaiah 25:1-9

                            

Isaiah 25:1-9
When the city is reduced to rubble and the fortified town turned into a ruin then the strong will honor God and the ruthless will revere the Lord. The only power the mighty respect is a more mighty power. In the end death silences the scepters sway and it doesn’t matter how ornate your tomb is when “remember you are dust and to dust you shall return” is the only honest epitaph. Every knee shall bow because God is the only one left standing and the forever feast on the holy mountain is a celebration of God not the “all peoples” who are invited. I know there are plenty of scriptures that would confirm that God is just ruthless as we are but if that is the case then the wicked win.

Thursday, October 1, 2020

Lectionary 27 A - Philippians 3:4-14

                              

Philippians 3:4-14
Like the apostle Paul I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh. Born to Lutheran educators, baptized in my first month, memorized the liturgy before I could read, confirmed by my thirteenth year, graduate of a Lutheran grade school, high school, college, and seminary and served as a Lutheran grade school teacher, youth director and pastor. I know we’re saved by grace but surely a Lutheran pedigree like that counts for something? Of course it does and in many ways it is the reason I am able to press on to take hold of the Christ who took hold of me through the water of baptism and the faith of parents and teachers. Paul considers confidence in the flesh as loss but clearly values the heritage it represents and his brothers and sisters according to the flesh for whom he would sacrifice his salvation. (Romans 9:3) So while we place no confidence in our religious pedigree we are grateful for the formation that does not happen without the family of faith.