Monday, December 31, 2012

Epiphany 1 C - Isaiah 60:1-6

Isaiah 60:1-6

The recently released captives who returned to Judah did not find “the ransomed of the Lord shall return unto Zion with singing” (Isaiah 35:10) song upon their return. No doubt it was still a good thing to be free from Babylon’s grasp but “everlasting joy” was in short supply within the ruined walls of Jerusalem. Which meant the promise of God was experienced as both “now” and “not yet”. They were free from captivity but hardly "covered in camels" or well supplied with gold and frankincense. Turns out the light that will rise on Israel will be a long time coming and no one could have fully foreseen that the hopes and fears of all the years would be met in the babe of Bethlehem. Of course the shepherds knew that night but only because the angels told them. And some time later the astrologers from the East will know but only because the star they were following stopped. It is the same for us who live in the now and not yet for we have heard the story and seen the signs that call forth praise for the One who breaks through the thick darkness of our lives. That the dawn of the promise in this life is a guarantee of the glory of the light to come is the hope that sustains us through all our days until the “not yet” is finished and the forever and only “now” begins. 

Friday, December 28, 2012

Christmas 1 C - Conclusion

Twelve years ago on Christmas Day someone left a little red hound puppy at the church which is how we got Rudolph (Rudy) the Red Dog. Three years ago on Christmas Eve Josh found a stray kitten which is how we got a black cat named Evie. Two years ago Mary Ruth and I went to the Home Depot to get a Christmas tree and came home with a Chihuahua we named Feliz Puppydad. After that Lisa said from here on and forevermore no one leaves the house the week before Christmas. I said it doesn't matter because the strays will find us which indeed they did as this year as two dachshunds, Pooh and Bob, turned up on our front porch the week before Christmas Eve. The lessons for Christmas 1c are about the lost and found. When all was lost because of the sins of Eli’s sons Israel’s hope was found in Hannah’s son Samuel. When we lose our voice for praise because of trying times we find it when we remember praise the Lord is about our being made and not the sound we make. When we clothe ourselves in the wardrobe of Colossians we lose the things that don’t fit those chosen by God, holy and dearly loved, to find the life of love that wears well. And finally the boy that Mary and Joseph feared they had lost and then found in his Father’s house was the One who the Father had sent to find them. That same One comes to find us, whether we know we are lost or not, to provide a future and a hope, which of course is a permanent place in the Father's house. Feliz Navidad!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Christmas 1 C - Luke 2:41-52

Luke 2:41-52

Last Sunday night Kyrie Fort Worth decked the halls of Zio Carlo Magnolia Brew Pub with Christmas carols as our largest gathering to date met for sacred song, living word and holy meal. We lit candles while singing Silent Night and Happy Xmas (War is Over) and celebrated the birth of the Christ child who grown to preadolescence in this text will cause his parents no small amount of consternation by slipping away unseen to his “Father’s” house. Some might say that a church meeting in plain sight in a pub dishonors the One in whose name we gather and I can understand why that might be said even if I happen to disagree. Granted the house that Jesus identified with his Father was set apart in the same way our houses of worship are easily identified as such and maybe a pub doesn't qualify, but then what makes a house a home for the “Father” has little to do with architecture and everything to do with the human heart that meets in the house. So Jesus will return to the same “my Father’s” house twenty years later and over turn tables in the house of prayer that had been turned into a den of thieves. Tables are turned on a Sunday night at Zio Carlo to remember the God who is present throughout the week in that place because through the Son the Father’s house can be found wherever people of faith gather.   

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Christmas 1 C - Colossians 3:12-17

Colossians 3:12-17

Paul’s fashion advice to the Colossians begins with the remembrance of who they are in Christ. Remember you are chosen by God. Remember you are holy and beloved or in other words remember you are a desirable object of God’s affection. So what to wear? Paul’s list should simplify our selection and would if not for closets filled with thoughts and ways of being that don’t fit or have worn out or were never very attractive in the first place. And cleaning out the closet is painful even when helped by loving admonishment. But in the end cleaning our closets and improving our fashion sense is only possible if we are helped by those who bear with us and forgive us and encourage and compliment us. You look good in kindness.That compassion really sets off the color of your eyes. You make that patience work, girl. So what to wear? Remember to put on Christ and everything else will fit perfectly. 

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas 1 C - Psalm 148

Psalm 148
I once heard a Psalty Kids Praise CD that said when a cow goes moo it’s praising God. I don’t mean to be a naysayer when it comes to animal praise but I think moo means feed me or milk me or maybe both. Granted the animal praise list of Psalm 148 includes cattle and that might support the moo theory of praise, but then it also has sea monsters and fruit trees and all the weather conditions a Texan can experience in the same day. So this is not the sort of scripture that one takes literally or over thinks. This is a noisy over the top psalm because the very existence of all that is was commanded and established and fixed in place by God, which is how you make it on the praise the Lord list. So praise is not about the sound you make but about you being made. Which means praising the Lord does not require one’s circumstances to be praiseworthy. So I guess I stand corrected.  Praise can sound like you are hungry or just need to be milked. 

Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas 1 C - 1 Samuel 2:18-20, 26

1 Samuel 2:18-26
This is just the beginning of Samuel’s story but the beginning of the end for Eli. It is a tragic tale of a father who cannot bring himself to do what must be done. His sons have desecrated the sanctuary and have turned the people’s sacrifice into profit for themselves. Eli hears the reports and confronts his sons with their sin but cannot bring himself to condemn them to death which is what the law demands. And so in the end it will be Eli and all of Israel that will have to pay for the sins of the sons. The good news in the story is that God’s gift to the barren Hannah is Samuel who is and will be everything Eli’s sons were not and through his intercession Israel will be saved. It is a story that repeats itself throughout the scriptures and all of human history. The practice of faith meant for blessing becomes instead a source of priestly power or superficial ritualized religion or worse the justification for hatred and violence. But God is always working to turn the curse back into a blessing which is why Hannah is gifted with Samuel who in turn is a gift to Israel. And of course that is the story of Christmas. We, like Eli’s sons have sinned against the Lord in thought, word and deed and cannot intercede for ourselves. But Jesus is and will be everything we are not. And so the gift to Mary becomes a gift for world as God works to turn the curse into a blessing. But good news for us will be bad news for Jesus who is born to die for us, instead of us, ahead of us so we do not suffer the consequence our sins deserve. I know it might not be such a pleasant way to begin the week of Christmas but then our sin is the real reason for the season. And in a strange sort of way that really does make for a Merry Christmas.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Advent 4 C - Conclusion

How did we get to the fourth Sunday of Advent so quickly? When I was a child it took an eternity of Sundays to light four candles, now it seems those four weeks fly by and with so much still to do and less and less time to do it I could use an Advent 5. But whether it is time that speeds up or we who can’t slow down doesn't really matter. The day will come and go right on schedule and maybe that’s the point. We’re the ones who fluctuate in both our experience of time and our relationship with the Divine. And so like Micah’s vision we live through times of abandonment, but when God comes we know security and peace. Like the Psalmist we live through times when tears are our bread, but when God comes we are bathed in the light of God’s face and are restored. Like Hebrews we trust we can please God with sacrifices and offerings and are never quite sure we've done enough, but when God comes our dependence on law gives way to being embraced by love. And finally the truth of Mary’s song is that we are the proud lost in our own thoughts; we are those who are well fed but always hungry; we are the powerful sitting on thrones of our own design; but when God comes we are blessed for God looks on us with favor. But then God has never left us so this coming and going is really more about our returning, which of course is only possible because God came down.    

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Advent 4 C - Luke 1:39-56

Luke 1:39-56

Mary went with haste to the hill country for good reason. To be unwed and pregnant was not a condition a woman wanted to be found in, especially in a small town where gossip once whispered would grow louder as Mary grew larger. She goes to see Elizabeth, who has had a remarkable conception herself, which may have made her more open to the extraordinary mother and unborn child who greeted her that day. John leaping in her womb prompted an exclamation, which seems to be the proper response to someone leaping in your womb, but this is more than an “Oh my!”  Elizabeth knows that this is one of those moments when heaven and earth meet and all of history pauses to hold its breath as the Holy and Invisible and Immortal is revealed to flesh and blood. And while she proclaims “Blessed are you…” Elizabeth knows that Mary’s blessing is hers as well and one thing leads to another and before you know it there is singing. It is a magnificent song that remembers the promise that God has remembered, to show mercy and strength, to embrace the humble and let the proud be lost in their futile thoughts which is a lonely place to be. Mary sings the powerful brought down and the lowly exalted, the hungry fed and the well fed hungry and in the singing I imagine the two unborn may have done a little leaping. It is lovely thing to imagine, two pregnant women embracing, dancing, singing because while the whole world just kept spinning as if nothing had happened they know the secret about to be revealed in the birth of the child, God with us. But of course as lovely and magnificent as that moment was the song will not be complete until punctuated by a cry of anguish “it is finished.” It is in the finishing that our song begins and the only way to sing it is to enter it, to allow our proud thoughts to be scattered and see that the hungry are well fed and whenever that happens the song goes back to the beginning, My soul magnifies the Lord.   

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Advent 4 C - Hebrews 5:5-10

Hebrews 5:5-10

“You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings.” Really? Did anyone tell the lambs, doves and cattle? It seems like the covenant set in motion from Sinai was based solely on sacrificing something living so God wouldn't strike the children of Israel dead. There were a few prophets who speaking for God imagined that the sacrifice God really desired was for God’s people to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with God (Micah 6:8) but that didn't stop or even slow down the system of sacrifice that, dare I say, the Levites (who have no land) depended on for their sustenance. Jesus came to do God’s will by putting an end to such sacrifice even though it meant the end of him. We don’t kill our pets to appease God but we have own religious systems that like the system of sacrifice allow us to keep God at a safe distance just in case, heaven forbid, we would become more like Jesus because we all know what doing God’s will did to him.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Advent 4 C - Psalm 80:1-7

Psalm 80:1-7

The lectionary offers the option of using Mary’s song, “My soul magnifies the Lord..” in place of the psalm, but I think the lament of Psalm 80 helps put both the prophetic word of Micah and its fulfillment in Luke into the proper context; namely God’s response to all that leads one to lament. Lament is the question of the scriptures; “How long, O Lord, will the wicked prosper?” and the cry of the abandoned, “My God! My God! Why have you forsaken me?” And so it is for us when in days and nights of questioning, with tears for our bread, when scorned and derided by life’s circumstances, we cry out, how long, O Lord? But there is within lament’s question the anticipation of Mary’s song for “How long will you be angry with your people’s prayers?” believes there will be a day of restoration. That is what makes Mary’s song magnificent. She and all of Israel have waited for this day not in silence but in complaint and when the silent God who is always present finally speaks through the offspring of Mary’s womb the centuries of lamenting are forgotten in the infant’s cry. For the cry of Mary’s offspring on the cross will be God’s lament whereby we are saved.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Advent 4C - Micah 5:2-5a

Micah 5:2-5a
The lectionary for Advent 4C begins with verse 2 of Micah chapter 5 and ends before the fifth verse is finished. Maybe because the rest of Micah predicts the “one of peace” who comes from the little clan of Judah will do some damage to the Assyrians “and in anger and wrath execute vengeance on the nations that did not obey.” (5:15) It’s not quite the stuff of Christmas carols but then Micah was written to people who had suffered the kind of carnage that calls for revenge or at the very least the reversal of fortunes. The Christ that was born in “O little town of Bethlehem” is nothing like the Messiah Micah imagined God would send. It will take a prophet like Paul to realize that God chooses what is foolish to shame the wise, what is weak to shame the strong and that the reversal of fortune that saves the world happens when the “one of peace” dies a violent death.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Advent 3 C - Conclusion

In the old red hymnal that preceded the old green hymnal the Latin name of each Sunday was listed. This Sunday is Gaudete which is Latin for the first word of the second lesson, Rejoice. Long before any of the old hymnals Advent was even more like Lent with a full forty day fast beginning on November 12. Gaudete Sunday anticipated the end of the fast and so a rose candle was lit to lighten the mood. Zephaniah anticipates a day beyond disaster when renewed by the love of God singing will replace sorrow. Rejoice! Isaiah anticipates a day beyond fear when God will be the strength and song of those who declare; surely it is God who saves me. Rejoice! In the peace that transcends understanding Paul encourages the Philippians to trust God in the midst of anxious times anticipating the Lord who is near. Rejoice! And while it might seem that the Gospel is out of sync with the theme – Rejoice! (You brood of vipers) confession anticipates absolution and fruit bearing repentance is always a cause for Gaudete! 

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Advent 3 C - Luke 3:7-18

Luke 3:17-18

We don’t hear many “Brood of Vipers” sermons in the Lutheran church. It’s not that we don’t all need and even welcome a stern word now and then it’s just that Lutherans draw the line at being called poisonous reptiles. We’re happy to sing “Chief of Sinners Though I Be” and confess that we are by nature sinful and unclean but call us snakes and we might hiss at you. But with or without the snake reference this may be more of a true word for us than we’d care to admit. While we don’t presume to be children of Abraham we bet on being children of grace and bearing fruits worthy of repentance is more often a postscript than a priority. Like those who came out to be chastised and challenged by John the end of our confession must be “What then should we do?” Of course the question, as important and as necessary as it is, follows God’s answer for Christians of the Lutheran flavor. God’s forgiveness does not depend on our doing; our doing depends on God’s forgiving. True repentance anticipates absolution and in the freedom of forgiveness one cleans out the closet and gives away the extra coat. The good news of John’s exhortation is the end of our comfortable relationship with dishonest ways and vain striving after wealth and power. All of this is made possible by the powerful One who follows, the only anti-venom for a brood of vipers.  

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Advent 3 C - Philippians 4:1-13

Philippians 4:1-13

 “Rejoice in the Lord always and again I say rejoice” is a four part round I sang for years at church camp. It's one of those rounds you just keep singing because it has no obvious ending  and though not nearly as obnoxious as “It’s a Small World After All” it can get stuck in your head. Maybe that’s the point of these four verses – not the obnoxious part – but a way of living that gets stuck in your head and has no ending unless you choose to stop. Of course sometimes stopping is a choice made for us as anxiety mounts and prayers spoken into the silence of God defy our ability to understand. But then that is why we have to sing “Rejoice in the Lord always” as a round. Four parts compelling each other to keep singing and you cannot tell who is leading or who is following and every measure has a Rejoice. It is through the prayer of our life together that the peace of God transcends anxious times to guard hearts and minds and keep the song from stopping. So rejoice in the Lord always and again I say Rejoice!  

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Advent 3 C - Isaiah 12:1-6

Isaiah 12:1-6

Isaiah 12:2-6 is the text for The First Song of Isaiah by Jack Noble White. The first time I heard it was some eighteen years ago at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church when I presided over a funeral for one of their members. The funeral was for a woman who had courageously battled cancer for more years than her original prognosis predicted possible and while we felt a deep sadness at the loss of one so faithful and beautiful and loved, we had a confident hope because of the truth of this scripture set to song. “Surely it is God who saves me. I will trust in Him and not be afraid. For the Lord is my stronghold and my sure defense and He will be my Savior.” In this scripture set to song the physical and spiritual weakness of human flesh, the fear, the doubt, the overwhelming sorrow is lifted with the melody as our singing is joined and supported and sustained by an invisible cloud of witnesses for whom the song is more true than we can at present imagine. Surely it is God who saves me… It is a song of defiant faith against all that would wither the soul with doubt and fear.  Surely it is God who saves me… It is a song of courage for times of trial and a song of comfort for times of sorrow. Surely it is God who saves me… a song for all our days until at last we reach the endless tomorrow. Surely it is God who saves me.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Advent 3 C - Zephaniah 3:14-20

Zephaniah 3:14-20

These are the last verses of the short book of Zephaniah. The rest of the book reads more like the first verse of the prophecy. "I will sweep away everything from the face of the earth," declares the LORD. Zephaniah predicts “a day of distress and anguish, of trouble and ruin, of darkness and gloom,” because Jerusalem has become complacent thinking God will do neither good nor evil. In the same way Assyria, that carefree city, “I am and there is none like me” is full of pride. But those who seek humility and righteousness, who accept the Lord’s correction, will sing for joy for they will be renewed in God’s love. The truth of this short book is that both spiritual complacency and pride are deadly in the life of the believer. We think that nothing we do really matters because God is like the kindly grandparent who might get a little upset but still has milk and cookies for us at bedtime. Or we are full of our own spiritual prowess and piety thinking that we can overcome sin itself and so judge all others accordingly. The woe that complacency and pride visit upon us is the same as the dreadful judgments of Zephaniah. We forget how to sing the song of the heart’s rejoicing and cannot hear the God who longs to exult over us with loud singing. So accept the Lord’s correction this day. Seek after humility and righteousness and sing out loud the song of rejoicing that is in harmony with the Lord.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Advent 2 C - Luke 3:1-6

Luke 3:1-6

Luke names the powers that rule the world because he is writing an orderly account for the most excellent Theophilus and though a physician by training he is an historian at heart. And so he grounds the story of salvation in the names and dates of human history. But Luke the theologian names the powers of the political and religious world to clothe the prophetic word in flesh and blood. The powers of empire and temple cannot hear it yet but the voice that cries in the wilderness will resound throughout the world of Jerusalem and Rome. The mountain of Tiberius and Pilate will be made low. The valley of Herod’s wickedness will be filled. The crooked path of Annas and Caiaphas will be made straight as the rough ways of empire and temple are made smooth. Of course history repeats itself and so we would do well to listen for the voice crying in our time, for the salvation that all flesh will see is not clothed in the trappings of empire or church but in acts of justice, mercy and peace. Closer to home the good news is that when we hear the voice and see that salvation for ourselves the mountain of our pride is brought low, the valley of our fear and self loathing is filled, the crooked paths that have become well worn and familiar are made straight and all the rough ways that keep us from loving are made smooth. And that is good news indeed.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Advent 2 C - Philippians 1:3-11

Philippians 1:3-11

If the Galatians and the Corinthians were like thorns in Paul’s flesh then the Philippians were the healing balm for the pain in Paul’s neck. It’s not that the Philippians didn't have troubles of their own it’s that despite the trials they faced they were more than willing to share his. That is the way of partnership in the Gospel. Or as Paul will write to the law bound Galatians, bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ. Or to the spiritually arrogant Corinthians, you can babble on in whatever language you like but the language of love is the only one that matters. The Philippians understood the rule of love from the beginning when they were the only church to support Paul’s efforts in Macedonia. It’s hard to image how their love might overflow more than it already has but that is Paul’s prayer for those who share his joy and his suffering. It is a prayer for the church of every age when by only speaking the language of law bound doctrine and dogma it is no longer conversant in the language of love. The church is always in need of a Philippian reformation that the good work begun on the day of our Pentecost might be completed on the day of resurrection. Be a Philippian today!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Advent 2 C - Luke 1:68-79

Luke 1:68-79

The lesson that occupies the place of the psalm this Sunday is Zechariah’s Song and expresses the hopes and dreams of a people who have been waiting forever for their fortunes to change and their ship to come in. Zechariah sings it because he is a new father and his voice which had been taken from him earlier in the chapter has returned and that is reason enough to sing. But it is more than the song of a voice returned or a proud father who has high hopes for his son; no less than a prophet of the Most High! No, it is more than that for in a moment of Holy Spirit joy Zechariah sings the longing of every people oppressed by enemies or hands that hate, the longing of all people who yearn for light to shine in the darkness and the shadow cast by death itself. In that sense it is a song for all of us who are often our own worse enemies. Oppressed by thoughts and deeds that lead us far from God we hear a word of promise that in the mighty Savior floating in Mary’s womb tender mercy will rescue us and guide our hearts and minds in the ways of peace. And that calls for a song.    

Monday, December 3, 2012

Advent 2 C- Malachi 3:1-4

“Christ Driving the Money Changers from the Temple” by New Zealand artist Michael Smither, 1972 (Victoria University of Wellington Art Collection, New Zealand)

Malachi 3:1-4

The offerings of Judah and Jerusalem have been less than pleasing and have wearied the Lord. Blind, lame and sick animals are substituted for lambs without blemish and the Lord would rather the temple doors be closed and locked than endure the stench of such dishonest offerings. The priests participate and profit from the scheme while the workers are oppressed, widows and orphans are not cared for and the alien is thrust aside. Perhaps it was because God seemed distant and the rules and regulations of the covenant relationship appeared arbitrary and economically oppressive. What’s a blind ram to an invisible God? And so corners are cut and liberties are taken and before you know it the relationship that enriched the people and God has impoverished both. Therefore God will pay a visit to the temple and do some housecleaning. With overturned tables and coins of money changers scattered the refining fire speaks the word of judgment, “It is written, my house will be a house of prayer but you have made it a den of robbers!” Not a week later the fullers’ soap speaks the cleansing word from a hill above the temple, “It is finished.” We who are more like Judah and Jerusalem than we care to admit need to hear the word of the refiner when our offerings are less than the best and corners that count are cut. And like Jerusalem and Judah in the days of old and former years the cleansing word will make our offering pleasing to the Lord.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Advent 1 C - conclusion

Advent 1c – Jeremiah 33:14-16; Psalm 25:1-10; 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13; Luke 21:25-36

So here we go again. Pastors will find people in the pews wondering why we have to sing On Jordan’s Banks the Baptist Cry instead of Christmas carols and for the next four weeks while most people are anticipating Christmas we’re getting ready for the end of the world. And this year the end of world is only one year closer which isn't all that important if we've got a thousand or more to go. But the truth is we don’t know and that might be the best thing about Advent. And maybe recognizing the end might come as a thief is more important to consider when it hits closer to home. Not the end of the world as we know it but my end up close and personal. If all I might have is today the Lord is my Righteousness is all my hope for my last day that is surely coming. If all I might have is today I need not waste time remembering the sins my Lord has forgotten. If all I might have is today then to trust I will blameless before the Lord Jesus is to live today unburdened by guilt and shame. If all I have is today then the springtime of the future is anticipated not through fear but faith.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Advent 1 C - Luke 21:25-36

Luke 21:25-36
So is the future day a Christian version of 2012 or can we get out of this thing with a little less noise? I’m afraid it may just be hard wired into our anxious DNA to believe that the temporal realm, including our own personal stake in it, is not giving up without a fight and rather than going gently into the dark night it will curse and rage until the cows come home. It would also seem to be a part of our nature to divide the world into those who faint from fear at the end of all things and those who stand up and cheer. While there is no question that Jesus used the language of apocalypse to speak of the end of all time, all the Gospels contain such speeches, how can the Crucified One come back to save a few only to crucify the rest with vengeance? The first time around the Kingdom of God contained some unlikely subjects, such as tax collectors and sinners, prostitutes and people of questionable character, so why would they be less welcome the second time around? When I think of the end of all things I am not weighed down by the worries of this life but by the thought I might not escape what comes next. So I find some comfort that Jesus uses the image of spring to talk about the signs. Despite the roaring of the seas and the signs that make one faint it will be like daffodils that pop up through the snow. Despite the signs in the sky it will be like Lady Bird Johnson’s legacy of Bluebonnet blanketed Texas highways. Maybe the best way to escape all the things that will take place and stand before the Son of Man is to trust that the second coming Christ will be like Jesus the first time around.  

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Advent 1 C - 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13

1 Thessalonians 3:9-13

The Thessalonians were worried that the day of the Lord had come and gone and they had been left behind or it hadn't come and those who had already died had missed out on the second coming. At any rate, what was lacking in their faith was a confident hope that despite the doubts and fears about the end times their ultimate future was still secure. Sometimes a face to face is the only way to restore confidence and so Paul prays day and night that he might visit those for whom his love abounds. But he had other congregations that demanded his attention and were not nearly as receptive and presumably not as much fun and so it would take some time for his day and night prayer to be answered. In the meantime he writes what is most likely the first letter of the New Testament. To those in doubt he writes encouraging words for abounding love and strengthened hearts that are a word for us as well. May you believe the unbelievable that despite what you know about yourself you will be blameless before the Lord Jesus and the cloud of witnesses that will accompany his return.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Advent 1 C - Psalm 25:1-10

Psalm 25:1-10
Be mindful of your mercy and your steadfast love but do not remember the sins of my youth. Which is to say, in the forgetting of my sin don’t forget me. It is the prayer of the thief who recognizes Jesus’ innocence and fully aware of his own guilt asks to be remembered. Jesus, remember me when you reach the place where memory of mercy and forgetfulness of sin matters the most. It does not mean there are no consequences for the sins of our youth or middle age or even our golden years. We are not as forgetful as God and sins of the past and present have a way of accusing us that we are not worthy of God’s forgetting sin and remembering mercy. That is why we lift up our soul to the One who instructs us to forget what has been forgiven and remember the path of what is right which is to remember the consequence of youthful sins long enough so as not to repeat them.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Advent 1 C - Jeremiah 33:14-16

Jeremiah 33:14-16

The days “that are surely coming" seem to have taken a detour or at the very least got stuck in the traffic jam of history. By that I mean that even if you count the Christ as the righteous branch that “sprang up” He did not execute righteousness and justice in the land in any lasting way and Jerusalem was less secure after his coming than it was before his birth. So what do we do with prophecies that leave us wanting more? In theological speech we say the promised fulfillment is “already but not yet” (aka the proleptic reign of God) which might be called the religious version of having your cake and eating it too. But what if the days that are surely coming really came and the only reason we have to add “not yet” to “already” is that we are not willing to live as if “already” trumps “not yet” period end of sentence. What if we have been given everything we need to execute justice and righteousness in the land and make every city live in safety? I’m sure this version of the righteous branch is like sitting on the wrong end of a shaky limb but then I wonder if the Lord expects us to fulfill a few prophecies on our own in the "already" while we wait for the Lord to finish the "not yet" in the day that will surely come. 

Friday, November 23, 2012

Christ the King Year B - conclusion

Christ the King Year B – Daniel 7:1-18; Psalm 93; Revelation 1:4-8; John 18:33-37

I have been an every Sunday Lutheran since I was baptized and I don’t remember when Christ the King became a Sunday with a name. If you Google it you’ll find it was instituted by Pope Pius XI in 1929 and at one point was known as Christ the King of the Universe Sunday which sounds even more impressive in Latin. I don’t know about you but it seems to me that Jesus took pains to be a small k King and that we’re the ones who want to make sure he wears proper shoes. After all the Christ the king we worship was born in a stable to an unwed mother, ate with tax collectors and sinners, washed disciples dirty feet and died naked on a cross. Why would we dress up such a king in the purple robes of the world unless we don't trust our small k King to be a big G god? So when you sing Crown Him with Many Crowns this Christ the King Sunday remember the king we depend on was crowned with thorns.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Christ the King Year B - John 18:33-37

John 18:33-37

“What is it you have done?” It could have been the name calling. “You brood of vipers. You white washed tombs. You blind guides.” It could have been the consistent breaking of Sabbath laws. It could have been the incident in the temple. Or we could take Caiaphas at his word, “it is better that one man die for the people than the whole nation perish." Fear is a powerful motivator and even a nation under Roman occupation tries to hold onto the illusion of being in control by any means available. But Jesus is doing something else. If we take him at his word, He lays down his life only to take it up again to draw all people to himself because the world will perish unless he dies. And the greater truth of this Christ who is the King, handed over to a puppet politician by self-righteous religious rulers is that he dies for them as well. That really is a kingdom from another place. Granted the clash of kingdoms continues even though the life laid down and picked up is a done deal. But that is the nature of life in the “already but not yet” so that even those who know the truth that sets people free are in bondage to the sin that would make Jesus’ kingdom look more like Pilate’s. But one day the kingdom from another place will be the only kingdom there is. Whenever and wherever we resist the allure of earthly kingdoms and listen to the truth that draws all people to Jesus the “other place” kingdom breaks into our world and the future is truly present.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Christ the King Year B - Revelation 1:4-8

Revelation 1:4-8

The letter that vividly describes a violent and final end for so many begins rather nicely for the seven churches. Of course this good beginning was written to seven churches facing an even more imminent end themselves. That is helpful to remember because I don’t think we can fully comprehend what the word from the One who is and was and is to come meant to the rightful recipients of John’s letter. I think I know what we've done with it and even though the best selling series Left Behind was red hot for a while I think God might put it in the lukewarm category. So how do we hear a word for us even though it is clearly addressed to them? First of all one does not need to be persecuted or enslaved by temporal powers in order to desire freedom. We are all in bondage to sin and cannot free ourselves. And while some may face a more imminent end all of us face an inevitable one and can find comfort that the first born from the dead opens a way for those who will follow. And finally the promise of Jesus’ coming on the clouds, whether one wails or not, is a promise that the world as we know it will come to an end. And maybe that is the best news of all.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Christ the King Year b - Psalm 93

Psalm 93

The Lord is more majestic than roaring floods or mighty waters or the crashing waves of the sea. That is because God exists outside the boundaries of our imagination and is always greater than any image we employ, even rising floods and mighty waters and majestic waves. The psalmist celebrates the awesome power and strength of God and while that is certainly true, more often than not the rising floods and noisy waters and crashing waves of life need a God who is a little more accessible than the One who was “established from old” and “majestic on high”. It is through the “less than” image of the one familiar with suffering and acquainted with grief (Isaiah 53) that the God far off draws near to us; the floods subside, the thunder of the waters is quieted, the waves slow to a gentle swell and the Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise inhabits human flesh. That is the sure decree we can trust and the holiness we touch. That is to say it is in the God who is “less than” that we experience the God who is “greater than” anything we could imagine.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Christ the King Year B - Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14

Daniel 7:1-18
The lectionary leaves out the bulk of Daniel chapter seven, including Daniel’s own commentary. “As for me, Daniel, my spirit was troubled within me and the visions of my head terrified me.” (7:15) There are endless web pages dedicated to the terrifying visions that troubled Daniel’s spirit. They offer detailed explanation of what will be which, truth to be told, only seem to serve the purpose of further troubling and terrifying. If you want to see some interesting art work just do an image search on Daniel 7! But then apocalyptic writings encourage fanciful thinking. Dreams and visions beg for explanation as we are far more curious than the proverbial cat, especially if we think some advantage may be gained in the knowing. But the ultimate purpose of the apocalyptic vision of the future is to provide hope in the present. The simple truth of Daniel is this: the four arrogant kingdoms hell bent on devouring the weak will themselves be devoured and those they threaten will endure. All the hope of the people and nations and languages is in the One presented before the Ancient of Days. Not a talking horn king but the King of Kings who comes not to devour but to bless. This One given dominion and glory and kingship is not arrogant or rude, jealous or boastful, but full of mercy and compassion. Is it necessary then, or even helpful, to speculate as to future applications of Daniel’s dream of kingdoms and talking horns? I don’t think so for when we focus on end times imagination we often neglect to provide in the present for the very people the King of Kings came to save, which makes us more like an arrogant horn than the King we seek to serve. 

Friday, November 16, 2012

Pentecost 25b - conclusion

Daniel 12:1-3; Psalm 16; Hebrews 10:11-25; Mark 13:1-8

Do not be alarmed. This word of Jesus is the faithful response to alarming events that fascinate and terrify and is the thread that connects these lessons to each other. Do not be alarmed by a time of anguish the likes of which the world has never seen for your deliverance is near. Do not be alarmed by the threat of the grave for your path of life leads to joy in God’s presence and eternal pleasures that defy description. Do not be alarmed by the memory of sins for God has sworn an oath to remember them no more. Do not be alarmed by wars and rumors of wars for the birth of something new is only beginning. To not be alarmed despite events beyond our control and circumstances that threaten means we do not chase after other gods and for a false sense of security multiply our sorrows. To not be alarmed redirects our thoughts and energies from trying to escape this world to provoking one another to love and good deeds for the sake of this world. Do not be alarmed. There's work to do.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Pentecost 25b - Mark 13:1-8

Mark 13:1-8

I imagine upon reading the Gospel of Mark the unnamed disciple was glad he remained anonymous. Only moments before the disciple exclaimed “Look teacher!” Jesus had elevated an invisible widow and two small copper coins above the offerings of excess from those who, like large stone buildings, made themselves hard to ignore. Of course we too are enamored by an impressive edifice of flesh or stone, more often than not our own. But the temple was more than just an extraordinary piece of architecture. In the mind of the people it was the only place where heaven and earth met, where the Holy consecrated the profane, where the presence of God hidden behind a curtain kept watch over Israel. The temple had become more important to the faith than the One it was built to house and so Jesus directed the disciple to look more closely. Do you see…? God does not dwell in a house made by human hands but in the heart of a widow. It is a word for those who might be impressed by stone structures of denominations or distressed at their possible demise. Do you see…? It applies to the beginnings of the birth pangs as well, which might indeed be cause for alarm but for the promise at the end of this chapter “heaven and earth will pass away but my words will not.” Do you see…? It is a question for all who are alarmed by personal conflicts within and without, by divisions, by everyday disruptions that make one hunger for something stable and trustworthy. Do you see…? It is in this different way of seeing that God is found for when all appeared lost for Jesus all in fact was won. “My God, my God why have you forsaken me?” is the prelude to “It is finished” in the same way that the birth pangs, as alarming as they may be, anticipate the advent of something new. Do you see?

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Pentecost 25b - Hebrews 10:11-25

Hebrews 10:11-25

"Let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds…" It reminds me of “I double dare you” on the grade school playground although that usually involved provoking one another to dangerous deeds that were never very good and certainly not well thought out. The Greek word is paroxysm, which means a sharpening. The only other time the word is used is for the sharp disagreement between Paul and Barnabas that resulted in their parting company. So we are to provoke one another to love and good deeds with the same intensity as a sharp disagreement. This won’t be easy for Lutherans because we prefer a more polite approach that includes the magic word “please” or “If it’s not too much trouble…” If that doesn't work we still don’t provoke. We motivate one another the old fashioned way aka Lutheran guilt. But the writer of Hebrews provocation is based on confidence, full assurance and unwavering hope in the faithfulness of God. The provocation to love is a response to God’s love, as good deeds are a response to the good deed done for us by Jesus who has opened a new and living way into heaven itself. Now that sounds like something that might motivate a Lutheran. So what are you waiting for? Get out there and do some good deeds today. I double dare you.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Pentecost 25b - Psalm 16

Psalm 16

“I have no good apart from you” while those “who choose another god multiply their sorrows.” I’m afraid we often turn “I have no good apart from you” into “another god.” By that I mean we build walls around the boundary lines of the “pleasant places” so that we become the landlords of the Lord’s lot and deny others the grace we freely accept for ourselves. That doesn't mean there are not drink offerings that should not be drunk or names of false gods that are better not uttered. But if we listen to the instruction of the Lord and obey the counsel of the Christ our delight and fullness of joy will lead us to care for those who have chosen to go down to the pit in such a way that they might choose to step out of the Sheol of their own design and onto to the path of life that is the light and love of the Lord. 

Monday, November 12, 2012

Pentecost 25b - Daniel 12:1-3

Daniel 12:1-3
The only trouble with writing a lectionary based blog is you can’t avoid difficult passages. So let me say first that doom and gloom scriptures with everlasting judgment trouble me even if I count myself as one of the wise. And there are plenty of scripture passages that will support the idea that the chance of being one of the wise shiny ones is akin to winning the lottery which is even more troubling because I never win anything. Later verses in the 12th chapter of Daniel are considered by some to be the key to unlocking the riddle of the time of tribulation in the Book of Revelation where the vast majority of people hold a losing lottery ticket and are left behind. That is not to say God cannot do whatever God wants, even sentence the whole lot of us to shame and everlasting contempt. But in light of the cross I find that unlikely and for me the cross is always the key to unlocking the mystery of scripture. There are certainly things worthy of judgment and I count myself guilty on all counts, but as my theology professor Walt Bouman liked to say judgment is a penultimate word, or the word that comes before the ultimate word which is the cross which is grace and mercy and God’s self-sacrifice for wise and foolish alike. The truth of Daniel is more apparent in its immediate context. It is a word for persecuted people held captive in a foreign land and more than one of their loved ones are sleeping in the dust. It is a promise that the scales of justice will be tipped in their favor and despite a time of unprecedented anguish deliverance will have the final say. Does it mean that everyone will shine and no one will be eternally ashamed? I don’t know, but God does and somehow knowing that the God of the cross has the final say makes even doom and gloom scriptures less troubling.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Pentecost 24b - conclusion

“Just one-half of one percent of Americans served in uniform at any given time during the past decade -- the longest period of sustained conflict in the country’s history” (American Forces Press Service Report) "Our work is appreciated, of that I am certain, but I fear (civilians) do not comprehend the full weight of the burden we carry or the price we pay when we return from battle.” (Retired Admiral Mike Mullen) Like the widow in the Gospel of Mark who gives everything she has in two copper coins those we will remember and thank in prayer or parade this Veteran’s Day gave all that they had. It’s been said by those who know more than I do that you might enlist to fight for your country but you die for your brother (or sister) who is fighting next to you. Those of us who have never sacrificed personal freedom to wear the uniform of freedom’s cause might do well to limit our wearing of flowing robes or sitting in first class seats in the marketplace when we talk about the “full weight” we do not comprehend, and before we go gung-ho into conflict we should ask the warrior class if they think it’s worth their life. It may be that the one-half of one percent see the world differently than the blissfully unaware ninety-nine and a half percent but it should be noted that the original Veteran’s Day was established not just to remember those who died in the First World War but more importantly to “show our sympathy with peace and justice” (Woodrow Wilson). Truth is no one wants peace more than the one who had to fight for it.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Pentecost 24b - Mark 12:38-44

Mark 12:38-44

As one who walks around in a long robe once a week and sits up front in the sanctuary and at the head table and is often greeted in public with a nod and a “Morning, Father” I must admit there is some truth to Jesus description of “pastored up” pride. The designation (in some Lutheran circles) of “Herr Pastor” did not come about without cause. That being said there is also a great sense of humility that comes from being “a steward of the mysteries of God” and bearing the burdens of God’s people “not because you must but because you are willing” (ordination vows) because no one takes those vows without repeating the refrain “…and I ask God to help me”. The only help (and hope) of the poor widow comes from God as she is neglected by the institution that requires her copper coins (the temple tax) even though support for widows and orphans and the poor and "the sojourner in your midst" was required of the institution as a reminder that “once you were slaves in the land of Egypt”. Maybe the greater condemnation received by the outwardly pious and proud is that when the doors of the banquet of the future are closed to them the widow at the head table will ask Jesus to let them sit next to her. And maybe Jesus will ask, “are you sure?” And she’ll say, “Yes, and I ask God to help me.” 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Pentecost 24b - Hebrews 9:24-28

Hebrews 9:24-28

Jesus’ “once for all” is a done deal, a fait accompli, and yet our religious practices are such that the once would appear to not be enough, or if it is, it is not for all. Even if all we add is “eager waiting” Jesus self-sacrifice is not “once for all” self-sufficient in and of itself. That is not to say “eager waiting” is not important, only that it adds nothing to what the Christ has done “once for all”. Otherwise we are just another version of the high priest putting Christ into play week after week, day after day, by the sacrifice we make for ourselves or require of others. But if God has determined to do what we could not by replacing the blood of bulls and lambs and doves with God’s own life then God no longer needs to be appeased (if indeed God ever did) and we are free to live as those loved by God. If our piety reflected that truth we would be more like Jesus and less like high priests.  

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Pentecost 24b - Psalm 146

Psalm 146
I don’t know how it happens but sometimes the lectionary and the events of the day or week line up in ways that are ironic if not prophetic. “Do not put your trust in princes…” might be both for an Election Day. I want to quickly point out that “princes” is plural which means it is a bipartisan critique on those “in whom there is no help.” It is because their breath is as fleeting as ours so that whether one lives in a red state or a blue we all occupy the same place when the earth reclaims us as its own and mortal plans perish. There are no partisan politics six feet under. Dead is dead. Not a very comforting thought. On the other hand there is a prince who can help, whose plans do not perish, who is worthy of trust. The plan of this prince is justice for the oppressed, food for the hungry, freedom for the prisoner, sight for the blind. To lift up those bowed down and watch over the stranger and the widow and the orphan while bringing the ways of the wicked to naught. It appears from the scriptures that God’s very nature is to care for those the world despises or ignores so that the banquet hall of the forever future feast will be filled with those who like Lazarus at the rich man’s gate had no place at the table in this life. That is not a political agenda as God’s vision is not a party platform. It is how God ushers the future into our present so that whenever and wherever mercy, love and peace are found the joys of heaven are known. We who have been claimed by Christ are free to vote today for whatever prince we want but our trust can only be in the Prince of Peace whose plans will never perish and whose faithfulness is forever. 

Monday, November 5, 2012

Pentecost 24b - 1 Kings

1 Kings 17:8-16

This always reminds me of a fairy-tale fable where the poor farmer shares his last meal with a stranger who turns out to be an enchanted prince who then rewards the farmer for his generosity. I suppose this story is just as surprising in that the widow is a foreigner who owes no allegiance to the Jewish prophet Elijah. She has accepted the grim reality that awaits her and her son and is convinced they both will die of starvation. But in Elijah's "do not be afraid..." she hears something to convince her that giving away the little she has will not simply hasten the inevitable. While we are not facing starvation we do experience times of spiritual, emotional or physical famine and resigned to our fate give up any hope that help will come in time. A loss of employment, or health, or relationships or struggling with more bills at the end of the month than income at the beginning we find ourselves in need of the  same words, "Do not be afraid..." I'm not suggesting there is a magic pot that won't run out of whatever it is we need but there is a place where courage and strength to overcome can be found, a place where the cup is never empty and the plate is always full and it is never too late to hope in the promise of God. When we come to the table of grace, the meal of mercy, there is refreshment for weary and weak souls that are replenished in the sharing.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

The Feast of All Saints Year B - John 11:32-44

Weeping Jesus - St. Joseph's Catholic Church, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 
John 11:32-44

The “in the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God” weeps when Mary cannot contain her grief. It may be that Jesus regrets his late arrival (if you had been here my brother would not have died) or maybe it is the only thing a “God so loved the world” can do when the objects of Divine affection are overwhelmed by sorrow. Since John imagines a Jesus who is in control at all times this shortest verse in the Bible, “Jesus wept” is significant. Soul distressed weeping is the opposite of being in control and even though the story has a happy ending, “Lazarus, come out!” the greater miracle may be that God “comes out” from behind the “in the beginning was the Word” to share Mary’s sorrow. 

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Feast of All Saints Year B - Revelation 21:1-6

Revelation 21:1-6

Here at the end of John’s dream (which is really just the beginning) the God far off, who came so close to the creation in the Christ as to die our death, moves in with mortals. In that day the city of peace, Jerusalem, finally lives into its name as tears are wiped away by God’s own hand and death is dealt with once and for all. Those who first heard the promise of John’s vision were able to endure all that causes mourning and crying and pain by holding onto the hope that they would be rescued and their persecutors crushed. The persecution of loss and pain and sorrow we experience is no less real, even if we are not put upon for proclaiming the faith, which means their hope is our hope and that one day God will move in to stay and death will be crushed once and for all. 

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Feast of All Saints Year b - Psalm 24

Psalm 24
JD Bailey ascended the hill of the Lord yesterday afternoon. Michael Laursen made his ascent this morning. Their hands were made clean and their hearts were made pure by the King of Glory to whom they lifted up their souls. They now stand in the holy place and gaze upon the face of God having received the promised blessing of peace forevermore from the God of their salvation. For the family and friends who walked with them as far as the living are permitted to go their passing is bittersweet because our lives are still lived in the womb of the temporal while they have been birthed into the eternal. But since we belong to “the company of those who seek him” we are assured that the ancient gates will be lifted up for us when we ascend the hill of the Lord to stand beside them in the holy place. Until our time to climb we pray Godspeed to JD and Michael and rejoice that they have joined the saints in light and wait for us to take our place at the forever feast. 

Monday, October 29, 2012

The Feast of All Saints Year b - Isaiah 25:6-9

Isaiah 25:6-9
Isaiah imagines all peoples have a reservation at the feast of rich food, fine wine and choicest meats. Of course the Moabites will be trodden on like straw in the dung (vs.10) but then how can one rejoice in deliverance unless someone else is damned? Truth is the needy poor are first on the guest list of “all peoples” (25:4) but before we venture into class warfare it turns out the strong and ruthless also recognize God’s goodness, albeit because God makes the fortified city a ruin. In the end death is the great equalizer and it doesn't matter if you are a princess or a pauper when death comes to your door. The good news for everyone of every class is that when God hosts the banquet all people feast on fine things while God dines on death. In the here and now it would seem that if the feast of fat things is to be filled then those who "have" will have to share with those who "have not" (James 2:14-17) so that faith in our ultimate future is not dead in the present. 

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Reformation Sunday - Conclusion

A Martin Luther Quote for Reformation Sunday

“This life therefore is not righteousness, but growth in righteousness, not health, but healing, not being but becoming, not rest but exercise. We are not yet what we shall be, but we are growing toward it, the process is not yet finished, but it is going on, this is not the end, but it is the road. All does not yet gleam in glory, but all is being purified.” 

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Reformation Sunday - John 8:31-36

John 8:31-36

Freedom: i.e. "the power to determine action without restraint." Even in a nation founded on the principle of freedom we are constrained by laws that limit our power to determine action. But then personal freedom, to do and say and act as I desire, is ultimately a selfish ambition that in some ways denies others their freedom to do say and act as they like. So Jesus is not speaking about personal freedom to do and say and act as we desire. He is speaking of a freedom that changes the way we understand our relationship with God. The Jews “who had believed in him” were still depending on their connection with Abraham to claim their non-slave status as God’s own people even while their land was occupied by the Roman Empire. The freedom Jesus offers is summed up in the idea that those who believe have passed from death to life. (John 5:24) No one is more free than the one who by believing can confess “whether we live or whether we die we are the Lord’s” (Romans 14:8) trusting that “nothing can separate us from the love of God”. (Romans 8:38-39) Here’s the twist. Being made free by the Son makes you the slave of all. (John 13:12-17) Go figure. 

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Reformation Sunday - Romans 3:19-28

Romans 3:19-28

It is God’s righteousness that matters because none are justified in God’s sight without the divine forbearance that passes over the sins of the “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Faith in Jesus matters as well because without it there is no reason to be confident. However, when Jesus is reduced to a private password for paradise then faith becomes another version of the law and it is the work of faith that saves one from “the wrath that is to come” and not the grace of God. But if faith proves “in the present time” that God determines what “the future time” will be then our hope is in divine forbearance rather than retribution. 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Reformation Sunday - Psalm 46

Psalm 46

Outside the city made glad by streams from the river the Lord of Hosts was led like a lamb to the slaughter. The "Refuge and Strength" that comes to those who are in trouble was himself in need of help but there was none to be found. On the day the voice of the “be still and know that I am God” was silenced the earth quaked and darkness descended on the earth and the curtain that hid the habitation of the most high was torn and two. If that were the end of the story there would be no help for us when morning dawns but as it is the earth could not contain the one who created the heavens and the morning that dawned on him was resurrection for us all. Our refuge and strength, our very present help in time of trouble, is in our confidence that if we have died with Christ we shall also rise with him and therefore we will not fear when the ground of our lives gives way. There may yet be a day when God causes wars to cease and the human race sings “ ain't gonna study war no more” but in these days the help we receive is that God stills our souls and calms our fears even though kingdoms totter and nations make noise.  

Monday, October 22, 2012

Reformation Sunday - Jeremiah 31:31-34

Jeremiah 31:31-34

I shudder whenever someone says “the days are surely coming” because it sounds like whatever is coming is bad news. But Jeremiah, the bad news prophet, is talking about a good news day that is “surely coming” where “know the Lord” will be in human DNA. Of course the “surely coming” days still seem to be a long way off and in the waiting time children continue to suffer for sins of parents and covenants are broken before the ink dries on the dotted line. But we who wait in expectant hope of the good news day that will surely come have the advantage of knowing the future will not be like the present no matter what the bad news prophets of our day may say. That means in some ways we already know the Lord which means the day that is surely coming has already arrived.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Pentecost 21b - conclusion

This conclusion to the texts for Pentecost 21b comes after the fact but maybe that is how it should be given all I've done in the last three days. I preached and taught at the lay academy; presided for Via de Cristo and Kyrie, Fort Worth, led music for the church picnic and Kyrie, and served three different meals to large groups. The point of which is that none of it would have been possible without a whole host of saints who serve Christ by helping me get more done in a weekend than is humanly possible.That’s not to say I’d care to repeat these three days anytime soon, (and I dare say neither would they) but having accomplished so much in such a short time does give some satisfaction when the day is done. So the suffering servant of Isaiah will see the vindication he is waiting for. The Psalmist will be lifted up by unseen angels because the Lord loves him. The Son made perfect by suffering will make peace for people as the source of eternal salvation. But the two who tried to get ahead of the ten are sent to end of the line because that’s the place of honor in the kingdom of God. 

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Pentecost 21b - Mark 10:35-45

Mark 10:35-45

“When the ten heard this, they began to be angry with James and John” presumably because the ten were sorry they hadn't been as bold as the two. All twelve imagined the cup was power and the baptism the laurel wreath of victory but Jesus is destined to be enthroned on a cross and the places on the right and left of that throne were reserved for criminals. Jesus stills the sons of thunder with the promise that they will drink the cup of suffering and be baptized with death without getting anything in return except the promise that being first for the follower of Jesus is like being last in the ways of the world. In so many ways that lesson has been lost on the church as the places of honor are reserved for those who “pastored up” say the prayer or for big box church rulers who drive Mercedes and live in Mc-Mansions provided by people who like the widow with a mite can hardly afford to tithe. Thank God that the “ransom for many” serves and saves in ways that go beyond the limited understanding of the two and the ten and the church so that Jesus is proclaimed despite our propensity to translate the Gospel into ways that make us great.