Monday, January 31, 2011

Epiphnay 5a - Isaiah 58:1-12

Oh my. How is it that the church throughout the ages has sought to draw near to God while neglecting those who fast because they cannot afford food? I don’t know about the whole church but it is not generally in the Lutheran nature to make a fuss, but a fuss is what the Lord requires when Jacob’s sins are more than personal. Shout out! Do not hold back! I will confess that I am a Lutheran Libertarian at heart. I have chickens and a miniature horse in my backyard for God’s sake. I don’t want anyone to tell me what I can and cannot do on my own property and I always vote the candidate who promises whatever is closest to what I want. Truth is you do as well. But how do we balance self interest with what God requires which is the interest in the well being of others, especially the naked, the oppressed, the homeless, the hungry? I didn’t write this. The prophet Isaiah did.  I’m just hopeful that at this late hour the Lord appreciates my nagging conscience trying to put these words into to practice.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Epiphany 4a - conclusion

Micah 6:1-8; Psalm 15; 1 Corinthians 1:18-31; Matthew 5:1-12

I’ve been working all morning at the Starbucks on west 7th street checking off one by one all the things on my Outlook to do list. This blog is the last “to do” and then I’m going for a run in Trinity Park on a beautiful sunny day in Fort Worth, TX, temporary home of the Pittsburgh Steelers. My other downtown haunt, The Flying Saucer, has been surrounded by ESPN which will be broadcasting live from Sun Dance Square. When you see all of the resources that go into televising what is essentially a game of regulated aggression (as in they are not permitted to kill each other) played by really big, fast, smart and strong men it boggles the mind. But it does give one pause in light of this week’s texts. Micah’s “Do justice, act with kindness and walk humbly with God” probably won’t be on the minds of the offensive line. The psalmist wouldn’t last very long on the grid iron where doing harm to neighbor is what the defensive line intends to do. God coming in weakness and foolishness is certainly counter to the culture that created football. And finally the only “blessed are you” in the playbook is blessed are the champions. I know this is a pretty silly post this morning but it does beg the question, what if we were to put as much energy and resources and passion into the desire of God’s heart as expressed through the texts for Epiphany 4a? What kind of a world would that be? I’m just asking. That is not to say I won’t be jumping for joy when the Pack scores or yelling at the official for a bad call or crying out in agony if Rodgers is picked off. I believe watching football is a participatory sport. And so is the life of faith –as in participating, not the sport part. So let’s get out there and kick some butt, metaphorically speaking, of course.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Epiphany 4a - Matthew 5:1-12

Matthew 5:1-12
Those of us who have been forever contaminated by close contact to Monty Python’s movie “Life of Brian” are no longer able to listen to or read these verses without thinking of the line “blessed are the cheese makers.” I’ll risk an explanation for those of you who are still pure of heart as long as you agree to never ever watch the movie. (Except for the clip I’ve posted on today’s blog, of course)  In the movie those who are on the edge of the large crowd are having trouble hearing Jesus so one of them asks, “What was that?” The response is, “I think it was blessed are the cheese makers” which in turn prompts the response, “What’s so special about the cheese makers?” I don’t think many outside the church are offended by Life of Brian and probably laugh during it unless they find British humor too British. But I bet a good number of Christians think a movie that makes fun of the sacred story nothing short of blasphemy. So is it? I don’t think so and here’s the point. Satire cannot exist in a vacuum. The reason Monty Python is able to play games with these powerful words of Jesus is because those who follow Jesus have failed to live them. The movie is not a satire of Jesus but of us. To quote another British comedic saying, “It’s a fair cop.”

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Epiphany 4a - 1 Corinthians 1:18-31

I’ve spent significant time, energy and resources learning the proper way to talk about this foolish message. It seems ironic to me after spending the last two days at a theological conference theologizing about the nature of God that maybe a good bit of God talk (theos=God logos=word) is about making the foolish message sound wise. By that I mean (you see how it happens) religious professionals (or is that the professionally religious) carefully define this foolishness so as to fit it into an orthodox box, lest we sound silly and stray into heresy. Don’t get me wrong, how we talk about God matters, but the cross is not a theological construct. It is a sadistic instrument of torture conceived by the wise and powerful human mind. And in Jesus God decides foolishly in weakness to die on one. I think I’ll stop and stay with that thought for awhile before dressing up the ugliness of the cross in carefully constructed theologizing.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Epiphany 4a - Psalm 15

Psalm 15
These are not requirements for entering the tent of the Lord but a description of what happens to those who abide there. Ones who slander and do evil to friends, despising their neighbors, who charge for favors and take bribes to pervert justice, prefer mansions in the valley to a tent on the hill. Doing what is right and speaking the truth from the heart, walking the blameless way, is produced by proximity to the One who pitches the tent in the first place. It is not a heavenly hill, but it is none-the-less a “hill far away”. The One who really was blameless stood by his oath to save and in suffering death made the hill where the wicked had their way, holy. There is a transformation then which takes place when one consistently sees the sunrise from that Holy Hill and days are spent not in pursuing selfish desire but sacrificial love, as in standing by an oath, even when it hurts.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Epiphany 4a - Micah 6:1-8

The controversy God has with the people of Micah’s time is that they prefer ritual righteousness to righteous acts, though truth to be told they’re wearied by rituals as well. God takes Israel to court to work out a settlement to renew the covenant and get Israel back on a payment plan. The surprise is that the sacrifice for the sin of soul will not be more of the same, thousands of rams, ten thousands of rivers of oil, or God forbid, the first born fruit of one’s body. Instead the righteous rituals of the new deal will be to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with God. The difference is ritual righteousness; sacrifices that take the place of or pay the penalty for the sin of the soul can be and are often superficial. Offering at the altar might cost the pocketbook and take some time but ultimately nothing has to change. You pay the fine, take the points on your driver’s license and still ignore the speed limit. (except on 820 in Hurst, TX just north of exit 22) But if the sacrifice for the sin of soul is to do justice the soul that oppresses is healed. If it is to love kindness the soul that is mean is mended. If it is to walk humbly with God the arrogant soul far from the Lord is restored to a right relationship. That doesn’t mean the sin sick soul can’t turn Micah 6:8 into a slogan and stamp it on t-shirts and hats and posters and coffee mugs and bumper stickers and like wearing a WWJD bracelet feel good about taking stand while not doing a damn thing to do what God demands and make a difference in this world. Truth is this remedy for the sin of the soul is a cure but few are willing to swallow the pill for fear it will mean a significant lifestyle change, which of course it will, but that’s the whole point isn’t it?

Friday, January 21, 2011

Epiphany 3a - conclusion

Isaiah 9:1-4; Psalm 27:1, 4-9; 1 Corinthians 1:10-18; Matthew 4:12-23

I’m going to make this short today as I’m under doctor’s orders to take it easy, by which Dr. Bob means do nothing but rest and I take to mean do everything I always do, only more slowly. Long story short son Josh and I installed stainless steel Nerf® step ups on our Texas Edition Silverado and the undercarriage bit me right on the hand. It was a pretty deep wound so naturally I went to my wife Lisa at the vet’s office and she used surgical glue to put my knuckle back where it belongs. Now four days later my hand looks like a lyric from Pink Floyd’s Comfortably Numb “My hands felt just like two balloons.” Dr. Bob’s threatened me with hospital incarceration come Monday if it’s not 50% better. So prayers are appreciated as are heavy duty antibiotics and antiseptic topical cream three times a day. The prescription for what ails Israel is a great light shinning into the darkness of their captivity lifting the yoke of burden and breaking the rod of oppression. The psalmist is made well despite being surrounded by enemies in the day of trouble because the Lord is his light and salvation prompting the defiant song of faith. Nothing can trouble. Nothing can frighten. The Corinthians infected by divisions can only be made whole if their pride is put aside and they embrace again the foolish message of the cross. And the disciples leave everything to follow Jesus whose mission and message “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near” will heal the world of sin and death.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Epiphany 3a - Matthew 4:12-23

Matthew 4:12-23
I don’t want to burst any Bible balloons but Matthew’s call of the disciples is quite different from the Gospel of John. I’m guessing most people don’t notice week to week the discrepancies that crop up in the scriptures but surely this week someone in the pew will listen to the preacher read the Gospel according to Saint Matthew the fourth chapter and remembering last week’s Gospel according to Saint John the first chapter raise an objection. They can’t both be right, can they? In the past I would have suggested they were two different and unrelated accounts of the same story and we shouldn’t make them do what they didn’t intend to do, namely agree. Matthew written before John didn’t read John and John written after Matthew thought there was more to say. But what if – and here I apologize to all my New Testament seminary professors unless my “what if” is original and makes sense in which case I want credit – what if John’s story written last comes first and Matthew recounts a calling of Andrew and Simon (called Peter) who’ve known Jesus for some time? So this is the timeline. Last week’s Gospel comes first. Andrew, a disciple of John the Baptist, follows Jesus to where he is staying bringing his brother Simon who Jesus renames Peter. There is “not recorded time” when Andrew and Peter keep fishing dividing their time between John and Jesus. And then when John is arrested the Jesus in Matthew comes calling and says “follow me” which they do because the one who invites them is known to them. That makes more sense to me than two fishermen leaving their nets to follow a perfect stranger. That’s how it is with us, isn’t it? We risk the following, just like they did, but only because we know the one who invites us. They didn’t know where he would lead them or even what fishing for people meant but in the unrecorded time between Andrew’s inviting and Simon’s renaming they had come to know that the only place they wanted to be was with Jesus.   

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Epiphany 3a - 1 Corinthians 1:10-18

1 Corinthians 1:10-18
Okay, so I got ahead of myself last week and skipped over Paul’s introductory remarks about sanctified saints enriched in speech and knowledge to get to the conflict I knew was coming. It is amazing how many Spirit filled, stockings stuffed with manifest gifts, Bible believing Christians who know the Corinthian correspondence chapter and verse miss Paul’s point altogether. On the other hand I remember when the wind of the Spirit rocked my world and set me on fire for the Lord. I scorched more than a few friends and neighbors with my new found personal relationship with Jesus piety. There’s nothing worse than a reformed sinner who only remembers the moment of conversion and forgets how many conversions it took to get one to finally stick. But then the Corinthians are not so much reformed back-sliders as they are religious junkies who revel in the novelty of ecstatic speech and hedonistic excess justified by grace gone wild. And even though Chloe’s people report some follow Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas or Christ, truth is the Corinthians are following their own desires. Preferring the tongues of angels they neglect the language of love and empty the cross of its power because they trust their own wisdom and manufacture whatever truth suits their fancy. This is the week of prayer for Christian unity and yet divisions in Christendom continue to be common as those destined to spend significant time together in eternity can’t seem to set aside the petty differences of the present to be the one in Christ people, by the grace of God, they were meant to be. Instead the church puffed up with pride, thinking its primary purpose to be the sole gate keeper to heavenly bliss, has finally reaped the reward of its arrogance and become irrelevant to those who know what legitimate love looks like without any help from the church, thank you very much. If those inside the church can’t get along with each other why would anyone outside the church want to “come and see”? We spend a lot of time and effort defining ourselves by what divides us. I belong to Luther. I belong to Calvin. I belong to Wesley. I belong to Rome. I belong to Canterbury. And yes, I belong to Christ. But the foolish message of the cross is that in Christ we belong to each other.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Epiphany 3a - Psalm 27:1, 4-9

Psalm 27:1, 4-9
The confidence celebrated in Psalm 27 is not due to the absence of things of which one might rightly be afraid. In fact the psalmist anticipates a day of trouble and even now is surrounded by enemies. So this is not a “you’ve got to accentuate the positive eliminate the negative” sort of psalm. That denial of true trouble cannot long withstand the onslaught of all that destroys hope and robs us of well being. But I believe it to be true that songs sung and music made in the midst of trouble, even through clenched teeth and weeping eye, diminish the darkness and encourage confidence, for in the light and salvation of the Lord we see the sanctuary of hope and gaze upon the beauty of peace that is the face of Christ. One my favorite songs of the monastic community in Taize, France is Nada te turbe. “Nothing can trouble. Nothing can frighten. Those who seek God will never go wanting. God alone fills us.” It is the way of faith to remember when in the past God our helper lifted our head above all that troubled, all which frightened, so that when we experience difficult days in the present we can by memory sing the song that anticipates the time of rejoicing.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Epiphany 3a - Isaiah 9:1-4

This seems a timely text for a day that remembers the light that dawned in this country when the voice of a 20th century prophet, Martin Luther King Jr., called for the yoke of burden to be lifted from the shoulders of African Americans and the rod of oppression that kept them enslaved to systems which denied them denied basic civil rights to be broken. I hope that no matter where we stand on the political spectrum we can agree that denying people equal access to seats on a bus or at a lunch counter or the right to vote or what school one can attend based on the color of one’s skin violates the very principles upon which this country was founded. And therefore no matter what we might think of Dr. King I hope we can acknowledge he was a man of great courage and conviction whose commitment to justice changed our country for the better. But of course that’s not what Isaiah had in mind when he penned this prophecy as the “he” who brought the land of Zebulun and Naphtali into contempt was the same “he” who would later make glorious their way to the sea. What seems ironic to me, in light of my introductory remarks, is why these two tribes were brought into contempt in the first place. When the tribes of Zebulun and Naphtali were given the prettiest land in Palestine they didn’t obey God’s command and kill the resident Canaanites but lived among them, which meant at some point a Zebulun Romeo fell in love with a Canaanite Juliet and that is certainly not kosher. Of course that’s not the reason the Assyrians brought anguish to these two lands, that happens much later, but it would seem that the very thing that Dr. King preached about after having “been to the mountaintop” is at odds with God’s demand for racial purity in the conquest of the original Promised Land. But then the prophet who penned the prophecy could not fully foresee the future that was being promised. The great light that would shine over deep darkness did not come from Jerusalem but from the land corrupted by Romeo and Juliet’s romance. The “he” that would make glorious the way of the sea would lift the yoke of burden and break the rod of the oppressor not by ethnic cleansing but by bearing the anguish of the cross on his shoulders banishing the deep darkness of death with the light of resurrection dawn. So maybe it is a timely text for a 20th century prophet who knew himself to be a sinner but by the grace of God a saint as well, a man who like most prophetic voices resisted the call at first but once claimed by the vision did not withdraw even when he knew it would lead to his death.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Epiphany 2a - conclusion

Isaiah 49:1-7; Psalm 40:1-11; 1 Corinthians 1:1-9; John 1:29-42

I'm hoping the stainless steel Nerf® step bars I ordered from come in sometime soon. It’s not that I can’t handle the additional inches the heavy duty tow package and 20 inch rims add to our new Texas edition truck, after all real men shouldn’t need step ups for anything smaller than a car crushing monster truck. But that was before all the “step ups” and “squat downs” Aubree had us do at boot camp yesterday. Today I’m finding it difficult to stand up once I sit down, let alone high o’ silver away up into my Chevy Silverado. The texts for Epiphany 2a are all about assistance, a step up, if you will. It is not too light a thing for the servant helped by the Lord to in turn be a light to the nations. The patiently waiting psalmist is given a step up by the Lord who heard his persistent cry and pulled him out the mud and mire to stand in a secure place. Paul, perhaps anticipating the difficult things he will say to the Corinthians, begins his letter by reminding them the Lord has helped them with speech and knowledge and spiritual gifts galore. And finally Andrew is a step up for his brother Peter inviting him to come and see the One who invites them both to “follow me.” And now thanks to “boot camp” Aubree I’ll need some assistance to get off the couch.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Epiphany 2a - John 1:29-42

How is “Rabbi, where are you staying?” an answer to “What are you looking for?” unless of course what the two disciples are looking for is a place to stay. In that case “Come and see” is exactly what they want to hear and before you know it at least one of the two disciples of John the Baptist, namely Andrew, has moved in with Jesus and found a spot on the couch for his brother Peter as well. Six chapters later Andrew will find a boy whose mother packed him a sack lunch and bring him to Jesus and Jesus will turn the boy’s five small barley loaves and two sardines into a feast for more than 5000. That’s what happens when “Where are you staying?” is really “Can we come with you?” and “Come and see” is really “Follow me.” It’s not any different today, although the Gospel makes everything except the crucifixion sound easier than it really was. Andrew leaves the familiar to follow the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world and Simon, whose name means “to hear”, listens to his brother without any evidence that what Andrew is saying is true and subsequently becomes Peter “the “rock” on whose confession the church is built, though that will get him crucified just like Christ he confesses. I do not believe God orchestrates all the details of our lives, but like the two disciples of John I do believe God can be found in the timing of chance encounters and overheard conversations that lead those of us who have found a dwelling place in the Christ to step out of our comfort zone and for a moment be Andrew inviting those who God has put in our path to “Come and see.”

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Epiphany 2a - 1 Corinthians 1:1-9

1 Corinthians 1:1-9
It is a lovely beginning for a difficult letter to write for the Corinthian church, not lacking in any spiritual gift, is puffed up with pride and like noisy gongs and clanging cymbals is guilty of neglecting the greatest gift of love. But that comes later. Here in the beginning of the letter Paul calls the Corinthians sanctified saints, together with all those in every place who call on the name of Christ, so that enriched in speech and knowledge by the grace of God they might be blameless on the day of Jesus Christ. Of course in the verses that follow this introduction Paul gets down to business and names the divisions reported to him by Chloe’s household appealing to them in the name of Jesus to agree with one another. We should not be surprised by divisions in the church twenty one centuries later given that they existed in the beginning and at least some of those who neglected the law of love had a personal relationship with the real Jesus. Maybe we should be surprised, and certainly grateful, when we who are church play nice and actually enjoy being together and more to the point live the hope of our calling where the confession of our faith is conveyed by the character of our communities.  

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Epiphany 2a - Psalm 40:1-11

Psalm 40:1-11
I don’t mean to question the psalmist’s recollection but most people don’t wait patiently while sinking in a slimy pit. Of course when one has been rescued and is standing on a rock with a new song to sing the days of desperation might be remembered as patient waiting rather than a daily struggle to hold on to hope. But then maybe the psalmist’s patient waiting is not meant to be in the style of Norwegian stoicism or the British stiff upper lip. No, the psalmist’s cry from the mud and mire was loud and long enough for the Lord to finally hear. If that is true than patient waiting is not silent but is making the Lord your trust even when there is no end in sight and you can’t sink any lower in the pit of circumstances that have conspired against you. Patient waiting means continually crying out until the Lord’s ear is inclined in your direction. And when at last one is rescued the crying out in desperate days becomes a new song of salvation and we tell the glad news of deliverance for the sake of those who are still waiting for a firm place to stand.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Epiphany 2a - Isaiah 49:1-7

Isaiah 49:1-7
My fifteen year old daughter Mary Ruth and I went shopping on Christmas Eve day. Mary wanted to get her mother an electric screwdriver as a stocking stuffer. (I would have opted for perfume but what do I know?) Mary went on line on her laptop to find the screwdriver and the Target that still had one in stock. When we got in the store I started looking for the hardware aisle and taking charge said, “I think it’s this way,”
     Mary Ruth accessed the store’s website on her iPod touch, found the item and said, “No, Daddy, it’s in aisle 34.”
     I said, “How do you know?” She rolled her eyes, held up her iPod touch and using the in-store GPS app headed for aisle 34 with her out of touch father in tow.
     It seems as if the church is wandering down aisles familiar to us but out of touch with the emergent culture. Like the servant of the Lord we might feel we labor in vain spending our strength for nothing, working twice as hard as we ever did and seeing fewer people in the pews. For those of us who remember the good old days of denominational loyalty, when people attended out of a sense of duty and entertainment value was the last thing you’d look for in Sunday morning worship, we may indeed identify with the one deeply despised, abhorred by the nations, the slave of rulers and be discouraged to the point of despair. But when like the servant we remember our cause and reward is with God it is not too light a thing that we should remember the remnant, the faithful few who remain and proclaim the word that is a light to the nations and salvation to the ends of the earth. And I’m thinking it’s a good thing to have a daughter with an iPod touch otherwise I might have had to ask for directions which means we’d still be at Target looking for aisle 34.

Friday, January 7, 2011

The Baptism of Our Lord Year A - Conclusion

Isaiah 42:1-9; Palm 29; Acts 10:34-43; Mathew 3:13-17

On September 2nd, 1956 I was baptized at Immanuel Lutheran Church, Kingston, New York. My parents were married there the year before. It was my grandparent’s church who drove 27 miles every week from their house in Napanoch to attend Immanuel because it was a Missouri Synod church and grandpa was particular about his brand of Lutherans, even though he belonged to the Masonic lodge, a particularity I imagine he kept to himself at Immanuel. At any rate after the baptism my parents took me home to Chicago and I don’t know if I ever returned, though my parents worshipped there on their 50th wedding anniversary and were warmly received. I was fortunate that my parents made good on their baptismal promises, especially because there was a time in my life when I didn’t. It is more likely that ones who are baptized into the kingdom only to leave shortly thereafter for a foreign land rarely return and while the baptism remains the intended outcome is washed away by the world that wouldn’t walk down the block let alone drive twenty seven miles to be connected to a community of faith. I spent some time today on Immanuel’s website and then called and spoke with their current president. It was snowing in Kingston. I felt compelled to tell him it was 68° in Fort Worth. (That was wrong and I am heartily sorry for it and sincerely repent of it.) I did sense in the things I read and in the conversation a connection with the congregation that birthed me into the kingdom. For those of us who were carried to the font remembering our baptism is a homecoming, returning to something done to us we cannot remember but can certainly recognize. That does not happen without faithful parents and sponsors who teach us the language of the kingdom so that even in the foreign land we know the way home. The world we live in is quite different from the one that saw Immanuel’s beginning, or mine for that matter, but that is true for every age. What remains the same in every context and every age is the promise of God who sends a servant to establish justice without breaking a bruised reed or quenching a dimly burning wick. What remains the same is the voice of the Lord that can do some serious damage and yet blesses people with peace. What remains the same is a God who shows no partiality even though we often wish it were not so as we are very particular about the company we keep. And finally the promise of water and word remains the same because Jesus is baptized into our flesh fulfilling all righteousness so that wherever we might go and whatever we might forget there is always a way home to Immanuel, God with us.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Baptism of Our Lord Year A - Matthew 3:13-17

Matthew 3:13-17
Happy Epiphany! For the first three centuries the church celebrated the nativity and the epiphany on January 6th as the 25th of December was already occupied by Sol Invictus, the unconquered sun. When the Christians took over the empire (or was it the other way round?) the sun set on Sol only to rise on the Son and the Christ Mass. The text for Epiphany is the star that rose in the east to guide the wise ones bearing gifts for the babe born in Bethlehem of Judea. The word epiphany means “shining forth” which is understood as a divine manifestation. You might think I’m going on about Epiphany to avoid the obvious question about the text for the Baptism of Our Lord which is “Why does Jesus need to be baptized at all?” I think the two go together quite nicely if we think of “fulfilling all righteousness” as a divine manifestation and not “payment for sin” or our relationship with God being restored by the obedience of Christ. What if Jesus’ baptism has nothing to do with us at all and everything to do with Jesus’ relationship with the One who calls him the beloved Son? If God chooses to be the one who is just and the one who justifies (granted that comes from Paul and not Matthew) then this “baptism” is nothing like our baptism but a divine manifestation of the One that justifies being affirmed by the One who is just while the One who is “like” a dove is a physical manifestation of the relationship of the Three that are One and the One that is Three. It only takes a single sentence from Jesus to get John to agree to the thing he can’t understand and I can’t imagine John suddenly sees his cousin as a sinner in need of the baptism of repentance he’s been preaching all this time in the wilderness. No, something else is happening and I think that thing is an epiphany, a shining forth of a new reality where the righteousness revealed is not payment for sin but God pleased to dwell with humanity.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The Baptism of Our Lord Year A - Acts 10:34-43

“I truly understand that God shows no partiality…” I don’t think we can truly understand the magnitude of that statement. Everything Peter had been taught about God would have led him to believe the opposite. God is very particular about who is acceptable and punishes those who are not, showing partiality to one people, out of all the people in the world, as a treasured possession. “I will be your God and you will be my people. You don’t get any more partial that that. Even Jesus came only for the lost sheep of the house of Israel, or so Peter heard him say on more than one occasion.  But all that changes when Peter is led by the Spirit to the house of a Roman centurion named Cornelius and sees the Spirit fall upon the Gentiles in the same way it fell upon the disciples the day of Pentecost. And so Peter, who was pleased to be one to whom God was partial, enters the house of Cornelius and eats and drinks with “goyim” and that is definably not kosher. I wonder what sacred cows we would give up if like Peter we came to a new understanding and the God we thought we knew by living inside our religious box told us to eat and drink with those who color outside the lines because God is not as partial as we are.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The Baptism of Our Lord Year A - Psalm 29

You might want to “ascribe to the Lord” from a distance when the Lord’s voice breaks cedars and makes oaks whirl while the wilderness shakes and the land of Lebanon skips like a calf. It does seem odd that after a good number of verses detailing natural disasters brought about by the Lord’s loud voice the same Lord is asked to bless the people with peace. On the other hand I’ve been known to head outside to experience a Texas size thunderstorm for the sheer thrill of it. (Of course Lisa, the better parent, hunkers down with our children between interior walls) But maybe the psalmist doesn’t head for the storm shelter because the Lord is the one who makes the sky light up like the fourth of July while the wind whips up a “Somewhere over the Rainbow” tornado and being familiar with the source makes the fearsome display of natural firepower less frightening. Or it could just be poetry, like Earth and All Stars (ELW 731) and the psalmist was just taking literary liberty with some lovely language about the Lord’s voice making the Weather Channel’s top ten list.

Monday, January 3, 2011

The Baptism of Our Lord Year A - Isaiah 42:1-9

Isaiah 42:1-9
It is a vision offered to people whose strength like a bruised reed was close to breaking, whose hope like a dimly burning wick was all but quenched. Sitting in the darkness of captivity they might have preferred a servant with a little more chutzpah. Instead the chosen servant, in whom the Lord’s soul delights, will quietly bring forth justice by revealing the Lord’s righteousness, opening eyes blind to the new thing now declared which is freedom for those held prisoner to sorrow and suffering. It is declared before it springs forth as former things are coming to pass so that those who grow faint and are nearly crushed will trust again that even in the deepest darkness there is a light that shines in the heart that hopes in the Lord. They didn’t have too long to wait before this word was literally true for them and released from the dungeon of Babylon they returned unto Zion with singing. The One who we identify with this “servant song” will still take a few centuries to spring forth but in the end will accomplish more than the captives could have ever imagined for Jesus growing faint, crushed by the weight of the cross, cries out with a loud voice, “It is finished” and so it is. Then what are we waiting for if Isaiah’s vision has been fulfilled? Could it be that we are the ones called in righteousness that God is waiting on to be a light to the nations, sight for the blind, release for the prisoners, to faithfully bring forth justice in the earth? Talk about chutzpah.