Friday, April 30, 2010

Easter 5c - conclusion

I logged on to last night to map a new run for this morning. Mapmyrun allows you to draw and save runs, keep running logs and share runs online, like my challenging 10.5 mile that hits the big hill at old Birdville stadium at the six mile mark. So when I logged on and saw BigCliff from San Antonio had an 18.5 mile loop through Hurst naturally I was... Let’s just say I had the biggest run on the block until BigCliff from San Antonio busted my butt (pardon my French) so I clicked on his profile. It turns out BigCliff is a mountain biker and rides his run sitting down. I feel better already and I’ve not logged even a mile in my shoes. At Easter 5c the joy of the resurrection has faded into rivalry. Even though the Jerusalem council gives the thumbs up, Peter had to defend his breaking of the old rules to share the New news with Gentiles. In the psalm the natural competition of sun and moon, fire and freeze, predator and prey, young and old are forgotten in praising the Lord. In the new heaven and new earth of John’s vision even the ultimate division caused by death is erased. And if we live the Gospel mandate to love one another as Jesus has loved us then those who ride and those who run are happy to be on the same map.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Easter 5c - John 13:31-35

John 13:31-35
“I give you a new commandment, that you love one another.” You would think 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 loveable 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 was dying to love. That is not to say love is an invitation to be abused. You can love from a distance. But to love 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 Jesus in you. So I guess in that way it really is all about me.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Easter 5c - 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 is called forth and chaos is 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 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.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Easter 5c - Palm 148

Psalm 148

I was at Baylor All Saints this morning with a Calvary member who was waiting for a medical procedure. The woman at the admissions noticed I was pastored up (aka wearing a clerical collar) and the conversation eventually turned to church. She’d never been to a Lutheran church and asked about us. She didn’t ask about doctrine or theology or liturgy or practice. She just wanted to know if we were loud, which I assumed meant do you shout Praise the Lord and jump around. I told her we were not as loud as Pentecostals but not as quiet as Roman Catholics. It may be our German and Scandinavian heritage but we don’t like to draw a lot of attention to ourselves, except on Easter when Lutherans have been known to enthusiastically shout Alleluia! (Lent is over!) Even in our serving we don’t like to make a fuss. It is true for the hundreds of people who make all the things at Calvary happen without much ado. And in the wider church “We’re #1 is just not our style You can look up the statistics but Lutheran Disaster Response and Lutheran World Relief do more than any other single relief agencies in the world to respond to suffering and hunger. In the Psalm 148 praising the Lord list the angels sing, stars shine, heavens thunder, waters roar, hail and snow fall, wild animals growl etc. etc. but if the people the Lord has raised up happen to be Lutherans they praise by serving quietly and without much fuss. Praise the Lord!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Easter 5c - Acts 11:1-18

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 just 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 akin to eating shrimp on the Sabbath. The categories of clean and unclean, distinctions determined by the chosen, 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 only final solution. In the vision of the sheet the future imagined by God is revealed where distinctions of clean or unclean and anything 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 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.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Easter 4c - Conclusion

Acts 9:36-43; Psalm 23; Revelation 7:9-17; John 10:22-30

I was blown into Amarillo yesterday on an American Eagle flight. It was one of those flights that would be fun on a roller coaster but not so much in a plane the size of a mini van. Despite the up and down and side to side we landed safely and not too quickly thanks to the Good Lord and the flight crew. The texts for Easter 4c or Good Shepherd Sunday are about trusting God through turbulence. The widows weeping for Tabitha taken away, rejoice when the Lord through Peter’s “get up!” brings her back. The psalmist is led to places of peace and comfort and plenty through the valley that is dark as death itself. The multitude come out of the great ordeal of starvation and thirst and scorching sun burst into song as sheltered before the throne of the Lamb their suffering and sorrow and tears are wiped away by God. And the sheep secure from being snatched, known by and knowing the Shepherd, are gifted with life eternal where the only turbulence in the air will be from angel wings and countless voices singing.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Easter 4c - John 10:22-30

John 10:22-30
All of my life has been lived in the church and for the last nineteen years the same church. In that setting what I say and what I mean is the same thing. In my life outside of church I am a citizen of a small city who fourteen years ago was asked by a mayor to run for city council because he thought a preacher could bring peace to a council divided. In that setting I always tried to remember I was a preacher by calling and a politician by default. When in the heat of the moment and the passion of the debate I violated the oath of my higher calling I apologized in public and when possible, made amends in private. I suppose after six terms as a council member I should have left well enough alone but I heard the voice of that mayor in that our city’s politics were in need of a peace maker. Mike Norman of the Star Telegram does not know me as a preacher of the Gospel and in his profession, which I am confident he passionately believes to be truth telling, candidates for mayor only wink at the truth and are suspect for inadvertently misspelling the name of their mentor. It is true and a treasure that the constitution separates church and state but that is not so for sheep of the Shepherd. If we hear and follow the voice of Christ we cannot tell the truth in the church and twist it in the state. If we do we are like those who being plainly told believe themselves to be kept in suspense. But hearing the voice of the Shepherd in the church or the state we are always elected to the way of peace, truth and love and in that election we can never lose.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Easter 4c - 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.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Easter 4c - Palm 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 all happen in the statement of surrender, "the Lord is my shepherd." The second statement “I shall not want” happens because of the first. Of course surrendering and not wanting does not come naturally to us. The story of “the fall” is all about not being satisfied with paradise and because the fruit was pleasing to the eye and useful for knowledge attempting an upgrade from creature to creator which introduced a virus that infects us today. We infect this psalm with that virus when we turn the shepherd into a service provider of green pastures and still waters or even the forever home in the Lord’s house. But 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 knows the way. That means green pastures can exist where there is no grass and still waters in the middle of a rushing river and the right path is the one we’re on even as the feast is as much for the foe as it is for us. And when satisfied with the Shepherd with us in what is we slow down so goodness and mercy following catch up and the forever house of the Lord is home today.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Easter 4c - 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 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.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Easter 3c - Conclusion

Acts 9:1-20; Psalm 30; Revelation 511-14; John 21:1-19
By Easter 3 the lilies have left the building and its back to the familiar for the faithful. Of course the Easter season continues to Pentecost but for all practical purposes the season is all about a day and that day is done and gone. So what now? Those who make their pilgrimage to the pews twice a year return to sleeping in on Sunday. Those who come every week are glad for a parking space and their regular seat in the sanctuary reserved for them again. Those who preached or presided or played the holy week and weekend take some time off to recover and then get back to work. Another Easter put away and it’s back to business as usual because we don’t live with trumpets and tympani in our day to day. But the lessons of Easter 3c point us to something else for while nothing has changed everything is different. Ananias wakes up one morning and finds himself on Straight Street baptizing the one who the day before was breathing murderous threats against him and the apostle who calls himself the least is unleashed on an unsuspecting Gentile world. The psalmist weeping through the night wakes up in the morning to deliverance and hope and healing and puts on a tuxedo and gets to dancing. The lamb who was done for good comes back to life and the world wakes up to angel choirs too numerous to count singing the eternal future. And Peter gone fishing is caught by Christ and confessing, “You know I love you Lord” is forgiven for being a coward in the courtyard, “Feed my sheep and follow me.” So if you think Easter is just a day think again and you might just wake up to the season that lasts forever.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Easter 3c - John 21:1-19

By the third appearance the disciples have gone back to what they know. “I’m going fishing,” is what you do when your world has been turned upside down and inside out and even though you’ve come through without a scratch you retreat to the security and comfort of the familiar. The rhythm of casting out and hauling in, casting out and hauling in, casting out and hauling in, even if you don’t catch anything, is simple and satisfying and safe. But Jesus just can’t leave them alone and appearing again turns the catch into an object lesson. Cast on the other side even though you’ve been fishing all night with nothing to show for it. Recognition comes with the catch. John wants us to know there were 153 large fish but the more important detail is that the net isn’t torn which is just another sign that what you should expect in the new reality is the unexpected. After breakfast it’s Jesus who goes fishing for the answer that is really a confession. “You know I love you” three times on the beach reverses “I do not know the man” three times in the courtyard and the curses Peter called down upon himself are lifted with the charge to feed and tend and feed . His fishing days are over and what will become familiar in following Jesus will be suffering and death. God still interrupts the familiar of our everyday with the extraordinary in chance encounters that after the fact are encounters clearly not by chance. God enters our everyday in the help and healing of one enduring with another sorrow and suffering so that courage is renewed, hope restored. We see God present in the flock that feeds and tends those whose welcome place of worship has been torn by dissension and strife. In all this we are invited along with Peter to stretch out our hands and be bound to something beyond our own doing and in that even the familiar is always something new.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Easter 3c - 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 from somewhere inside the castle their father built for them 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.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Easter 3c - Psalm 30

Psalm 30
At least three of the Heinzes are big Dancing with the Stars fans and while we all have our own favorites we do rejoice when someone who can’t dance gets a standing O for effort or entertainment as the case may be. Of course, Lisa will tell you I’m not one to talk. Psalm 30 is a song of deliverance dressed up in joy even I could dance to. Rescued from the foe, helped by healing, brought back from the depths of the pit the psalmist has seen it all. But perhaps the worst of it is 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. So the standing O belongs to God who by dying our death ensured that one day we would dance with the stars, even with two left feet.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Easter 3c - Acts 9:1-20

The street called Straight - Damascus
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 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. We don’t have nearly as much at stake on either side of the story but there are those times when we are willing yet reluctant witnesses. My blogging was interrupted by one of those chance encounters that you realize after the fact was too much of an encounter to be a chance. Baptized by the spirit of shared story the one who interrupted me was the one whose journey was interrupted with the chance that healing may happen. Ananias could have said send someone else but he didn’t. Maybe God seeing clearly is how we receive our sight. Here I am Lord.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Easter 2c - Conclusion

Acts 5:27-41; Psalm 150; Revelation 1:4-7; John 20:19-31
I’m having lunch at the bar in The Elephant & Castle in downtown Chicago because there’s no room in the inn. It’s like trying to find a pew or a parking place on Easter Sunday. I imagine in an hour or two when the lunch crowd goes back to work things will settle down but by then I’ll be Texas bound and taking my ya’ll out of cold storage. Unlike the E&C at lunch time and church last week there’ll be plenty of open seats on the second Sunday of Easter, liturgically labeled low Sunday. It might cause one to lament or at least long for more but the lessons for Easter 2 remind us that Easter is less about lilies and more about everyday living. The disciples living into the message of Jesus rejoice that they are worthy of persecution. The psalmist can’t be silent and along with clanging cymbals and trumpet sound everything that has breath is playing in the band. For John, exiled and in chains the end of the story written at its beginning makes his life and the lives of his people bearable despite hardships. And for us as for Thomas, living between doubt and faith, seeing is believing and believing is life whether pews are empty or full.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Easter 2c - John 20:19-31

Lincoln Park, Chicago (Last week according to Chicagoans)
I’d been looking forward to running through Lincoln Park and along Lake Michigan for a week. The weather forecast was promising and Tuesday when I arrived could not have been more beautiful. I went to sleep anticipating a morning run with the sun but sometime during the night winter woke up. Waiting for the bus in the cold and rain I said to the person next to me, “What happened to spring?”
“You should have been here last week,” was the reply. All day long Chicagoans told me, “You should have been here last week.” Of course I wasn’t here last week, I was in Texas where we know a thing or two about unpredictable weather, so telling me I should have been here when I wasn’t doesn’t warm me up. Thomas missed the resurrection dawn by a week and nothing the disciples said could warm him up. Unless I see and touch the marks of death on a living Jesus I will not believe. Of course seeing is believing and no matter what Jesus says no one believes without seeing something. It is true for us who have not seen as Thomas but have been blessed into faith by the witness of others. In the Word that is living and the meal that is shared and the community gathered to be sent Jesus shows up to be our Lord and our God. Granted there are times when doubt wakes up and for that the memory of a last week when all was well is a reminder that what was true then will be true again, if not in the present then in the resurrection dawn that awaits us all. So this morning under grey skies with borrowed windbreaker and gloves I ran the run I had been thinking about for a week. Of course I remembered it as being warmer, but then, that was last week.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Easter 2c - Revelation 1:4-7

I’m blogging from the 29th floor of 1660 LaSalle in the apartment of still Calvary members at heart Keith and Barbara Holm. With a spectacular view of downtown Chicago to the south and Lincoln Park and Lake Michigan just outside the lobby it’s a far cry from my blogging chair at Roots Coffeehouse on Grapevine Highway. John blogging to the seven churches doesn’t have it so good. Exiled from Ephesus he is a prisoner on the island of Patmos at a time when the Romans were beginning to take note of this Jewish sect that worshipped a crucified criminal from Galilee. John the pastor, kept from tending his flock, is writing to encourage them to remain faithful and remember that the end of the story was written at its beginning and despite the hardships and persecutions of the present everything is proceeding according to the plan. In that sense Revelation is as much a pastoral letter as any of Paul’s and speaks to us in the same way. For while we are not persecuted in any sense of the word we are called to remain faithful despite hardship and remember the end of the story was written at its beginning.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Easter 2c - Psalm 150

Psalm 150 is the alternate psalm for Sunday. It’s a noisy praise the Lord psalm and if you were at Calvary on Easter it should bring to mind cymbals and tympani and brass that made our singing “Jesus Christ is Risen Today” rise to new heights. Or the strings and woodwinds that brought “Because He Lives” to life. Now I know the human voice can make a joyful noise all by itself –I’ve been to a Church of Christ service – but when it comes to noise the voice can’t compete with a clanging cymbal. The mighty deeds and surpassing greatness of God calls for an orchestra and everything that breathes as well. So if our praise of God is to be worthy of notice, as I suggested yesterday, we’ll have to make some noise. Not clanging cymbals alone, which Paul tells the Corinthians are as useless as noisy gongs without the melody of love, but grateful for God’s goodness and moved by mercy our praise should be a symphony of sound not unlike the roar of Texas Ranger fans yesterday when after nine innings the Rangers finally caged the Bluejays.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Easter 2c - Acts 5:27-41

Acts 5:27-41
For a group of guys who in the Gospels didn’t get it 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 enraged 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, speak and act as those who have something worth living and saying then like disciples we would rejoice in being followers who take the lead.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Easter Year C - Conclusion

Isaiah 65:17-25; Psalm 118; 1 Corinthians 15:19-28; Luke 24:1-12
It seems strange to be blogging about Easter on Good Friday but then Easter is the only way this Friday can be called Good. Without resurrection his was just another crucifixion and while Jesus might have attracted a larger crowd it was business as usual for those who did the dirty work of death. So even though the ground shook at his passing as the sun’s light failed and his innocence was proclaimed in the end he was still dead. But in the pregnant pause of the Sabbath while the women wept and the disciples hid and the chief priests and scribes danced a jig the new thing was announced in heaven and cursed in hell for as in Adam all die so in Christ now all are made alive. And so in the pregnant pause of the Sabbath the songs of victory began to be sung by angel choirs while Jesus mocked the one who had tried to tempt but failed to seduce. Isaiah saw it coming. “No more shall they labor in vain or bear children doomed to misfortune for they shall all be blessed by the Lord.” The psalmist saw it coming. “I shall not die but live and declare the works of the Lord” Paul saw it coming.” The last enemy to be destroyed is death.” The women no longer weeping tell the disciples who stop hiding and the chief priests and scribes have to pay the piper and dance to a different tune. It is the idle tale that informs every tale that ever was or ever will be told. “He is not. He is risen!”

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Easter Year C - Luke 24:1-12

I ran ten miles yesterday, not to get to an empty tomb, though after I was finished I went to bed early and slept like the dead. It’s because last week I decided to change my exercise routine and play less racquetball in favor of more running. The trouble was my routine had become routine and my body knew it by heart. Sometimes when you know something by heart it ceases to surprise or in my case stopped a point short of my optimum BMI. “Why do you look for the living among the dead?” was the question the women were asked. A strange question given that they had come looking for the dead, prepared to do the proper thing the Passover had denied them the opportunity to perform and the living was the last thing they expected to find. But now no longer terrified reminded of Jesus’ words they rushed back to those whose hopes and dreams had died with the one they had left all to follow. Without the benefit of dazzling clothes the women’s tale seemed tall at best and according to Luke everyone but Peter was satisfied to continue believing once dead always dead. The story is familiar to those of us who make the church our home and can lose its ability to surprise and have its way with us. That is what it would do given the chance. There are those moments when with dazzling clarity the veil between the present and the future becomes transparent and one can hear the song of the infinite choir and taste the forever feast. In those moments we are transformed from those who expect the living and the dead to stay in their own rooms to those who see dead people living. Not in some ghostly apparition or chill in the room but in bread and wine shared in the present even as it remembers the past and anticipates the future. Joined to Christ in the meal of thanksgiving the women’s idle tale has its way with us and now expecting the unexpected we are united with the dead now living. So you and I, inhabiting bodies not yet worn out can, if only for a moment, imagine the joys that are for them routine.