Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Christmas 2 A - Jeremiah 31:7-14

Jeremiah 31:7-14
Jeremiah’s “great company” returning from captivity in the north includes the blind and the lame, those with child and those in labor, hardly the kind of folks generally included in a great company. But that is the way of the Lord that is often missed, even by God’s own people. The One whose ways are not our ways and thoughts not our thoughts has an affinity for those cast aside, those who receive no recognition or awards, who are wholly dependent on hoping in the Lord. So God will rescue the remnant from those too strong for them, turning mourning into joy, sorrow into gladness; comfort of the Lord for a people long oppressed. The young and old will make merry, the priests will get fat and the people will be satisfied. But more that, in the remnant returned the Lord who scattered Israel, because they refused to walk straight paths, is also restored for God suffered the separation as much as those who languished in exile. It takes two to tango even if God takes the lead. 

Friday, December 27, 2013

Christmas 1 A - Matthew 2:13-23

Matthew 2:13-23
The nativity according to Matthew has none of the “we wish you a merry Christmas” charm of Luke’s version. Joseph is visited by the angel even though the Virgin Mary still does all the labor. There are no shepherds, angel choirs or a no-room-in-the-inn manger Silent Night “cattle are lowing the baby awakes.” Matthew did give us the star and the magi but the story of the princes coming to visit the peasant just sets up Bethlehem for Rachel’s inconsolable weeping. By that I mean without the Magi’s visit Herod would have been ignorant of the baby born to be King of the Jews and the Bethlehem babies of the future King would have been spared the consequence of his premature enthronement. Of course in the world that Jesus comes to serve and save the slaughter of a few innocents in a small village hardly registers on the atrocity scale. The chorus of loud lamentation began when Eve found Abel’s bloodied body and has continued unabated to this day. There is no “good news” in this story and no amount of exegetical gymnastics will get us there. Rachel cannot be consoled. But the good news that comes later in the Gospel is that the baby Jesus grown to be a man will not escape the fate of his counterparts born in Bethlehem. He dies for them and for Rachel and for the soldiers who following orders did the deed and I would suggest even for the psychopath Herod. Jesus dies because the world God imagined in the beginning became so familiar with atrocity it could only be saved by something it could not ultimately destroy. So God in Jesus as the innocent victim met hatred and violence face to face and for a day or two let it do what Herod hoped to accomplish but on the third day broke the chains of death so that Rachel’s weeping might become a song of exaltation. (Psalm 118) The good news is that Jesus escapes King Herod as a baby in Bethlehem so he can die as a man in Jerusalem which means you and I and everyone else can live to serve a different sort of King.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Christmas 1 A - Hebrews 2:10-18

Hebrews 2:10-18
During the summer of 1975 I was the wrangler at Camp Lone Star, LaGrange, Texas. Before the summer was over I had wrecked the rear end of my ‘68’ Chevelle racing a ‘69’ Mustang down a dirt road, chipped a bone in my elbow coming off a green broke colt (suddenly and involuntarily), broke my hand in another horse related incident and was bitten by a Coral snake. (I tried to pick it up because no one told me “red and black venom lack; red and yellow kill a fellow.) Strange as it may seem I still consider it the best summer of my life; maybe because I was a kid from Chicago playing cowboy in Texas and at 19 one does not live in slavery to the fear of death. (Hebrews 2:15) On the other hand (the one not broken) psychologist Ernest Becker’s “The Denial of Death” (Pulitzer prize for general non-fiction in 1974) would make the case that my reckless behavior during the summer of 1975 was a denial of the very real fear finite beings feel whether they acknowledge it or not. The church has been the place where the fearful faithful gather to be confident that death is but the gateway to eternal life and as long as one has a reserved seat by virtue of a personal relationship with Jesus there is no need to be afraid. But we miss the truth of the incarnation when we cast Jesus’ life and death and resurrection as a religious Ponzi scheme where only those who buy into the system are given a get out of (eternal) jail free card. If God in Jesus becomes like us in every way then God must also identify with those who are less than faithful and live out their fear of death in ways that are destructive to themselves and ultimately others. That is not to say bad behavior is excused. But having lived our life and died our death surely God must understand we were set up from birth into a closed system to live in denial of the thing we fear most because we cannot avoid it or in the end escape it. The hope of the scripture that proclaims a merciful God is that God became as we are so that we might become as God is. (St. Augustine) To that point the church is set free from the fear of death when the faithful fearful are as willing to enter into the suffering of others as Jesus was and like Jesus are not ashamed to call all members of the human family sisters and brothers. 

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas 1 A - Psalm 148

Psalm 148
This is an “all God’s creatures got a place in the choir” praise the Lord psalm, though I’d rather not be included in the choir when sea monsters get to exalting the name of the Lord. But then Psalm 148 doesn't discriminate. Young and old, women and men, fire and frost, creeping things and flying birds, wild animals and domestic livestock, kings of the earth and peasants (you get the idea) are all commanded to exalt the name of the Lord who created sun and moon, stars and heavens, etc. etc. etc. But one wonders why the whole world should join the chorus if the horn raised up is only for the people who are close to the Lord. Is everyone else supposed to praise Israel’s God from a distance? This is the part of “Praise the Lord” that the psalmist didn’t see coming. Simeon saw it when Joseph and Mary brought the horn “raised up” to the temple on the eighth day for the rite of purification. “Let your servant depart in peace for my eyes have seen your salvation… a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.” Apparently God does not discriminate either but in preparing for something beyond the psalmist’s imagination intended the horn raised up for Israel to be raised up for those outside Israel as well. It meant the end of things Israel thought essential to praising God; circumcision and keeping kosher to name but two. So what might that mean for us who also believe God has raised up a horn, formerly for Israel, but now claimed exclusively by we who are close to God by virtue of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ? If God determined the law of circumcision and keeping kosher unnecessary for a right relationship what else might be on the table? Well if the psalmist couldn't see it coming neither will we. That’s the nature of God whose ways are not our ways and whose thoughts are not our thoughts who cannot be contained by the universe but is born in a stable. Maybe that’s why the psalm commands everything that is to praise the Lord. Surprise! Merry Christmas.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Christmas 1 A - Isaiah 63:7-9

Isaiah 63:7-9
The amazing thing is that this less than noteworthy nation on the world’s stage, even during its forty year golden age, in what is hardly a garden spot on the planet, recounted God’s favor for them in times of captivity and national calamity and unfulfilled promises. The ransomed of the Lord may have returned to Zion with singing but the everlasting joy was only one verse and a chorus. Things are not going so well. The hard work of restoring national identity in a conquered land and rebuilding a city and temple in ruins all in the context of a less than warm welcome by those who had been left behind by the Babylonians is hardly a list of the Lord’s gracious deeds and praiseworthy acts. But then Isaiah doesn’t think in terms of rewards but rather the riches of a relationship with the Savior who is present with them in all their distress. Not a messenger. Not an angel. The presence of God saved them and lifted them up and carried them home. That is why the most gracious act of God is remaining present with children who, truth to be told, have a habit of dealing falsely with God, no matter what Isaiah says. God’s love and pity redeems them because these people, of all the people on the planet, are God’s own people. In the same way God continues to be present with us, in a restored relationship through the Christ, despite our less than honest ways. In light of that we too can recount the gracious deeds of God in times of personal captivity and calamity and the “not yet” nature of future promises unfulfilled. 

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Advent 4 A - Romans 1:1-7

Romans 1:1-7
The letter to the Romans begins with a seven verse sentence all of which serves as preface to “grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” It could be that Paul, like this blogger, likes run on sentences because periods just waste time. Or it could be that grace to you and peace is easier said than done and needs a seven verse sentence to remind the Romans that while they are not nearly as conflicted as the Corinthians there are some hard feelings between Jewish and Gentile Christians residing in Rome. The promise beforehand through the prophets in the Holy Scriptures about the Son descended from David (think Jew) is also declared the Son of God with power according to the spirit of holiness for the obedience of faith among the Gentiles, so that both Jew and Gentile might be called “God’s beloved in Rome.” I think there a lot of things the church can get wrong and still claim the cross of Christ but living together in grace and peace as God’s beloved is not one of them. The inclusion of Gentiles into what was a Jewish religion goes beyond any of the denominational divisions that define the church today and we would do well to note that those outside the church see our inability to live together in grace and peace as proof the Gospel is not worth the paper it’s printed on. “Christian unity is not an ideal which we must realize; it is rather a reality created by God in Christ in which we may participate” or so said Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Does that mean the divisions that define us are not essential and we should all join hands and sing Kum by Yah? Well, why not? Amen. Come, Lord Jesus. Or in other words, Kum by Yah. 

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Advent 4 A - Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19

Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19
Psalm 80 is a lament for the Northern Kingdom of Israel that in 722 BCE was conquered by the Assyrians. It started as a family feud between Judah and Israel but after Israel allied with Aram and threatened Jerusalem King Ahaz of Judah sold his soul to Tiglath-Pileser of Assyria and Israel was history. Of course the psalmist thinks God had something to do with it but the truth is this story is repeated throughout the history of the human race. The pride of kings inevitably leads to the bread of tears for common folk. It’s the poets and the prophets who give voice to the people’s pain pleading “Restore us, O God” and promising “then we will never turn back from you.” Sad to say Israel never does come back and Judah will eventually meet the same fate at the hands of the Babylonians. Not a very happy psalm but then laments are meant to name the pain and not shy away from the reality of suffering albeit from the perspective of faith that holds onto the hope that the God who is angry with the people’s prayers will hear their plea none-the-less and regard their plight with pity. That is how not so happy songs can still be hopeful for laments give voice to faith in the face of sorrow and suffering, so that when scorned and derided by circumstances beyond our control, fed on a diet tears, we pray none-the-less “Restore us, O God!” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Advent 4 A - Isaiah 7:10-17

Isaiah 7:10-17
Ahaz is weary of prophets getting in the way of politics and so even the offer of a sign as high as the heavens and as deep as Sheol can’t get him to swallow his pride and ask the God of Israel for help. God wearied by Ahaz’s feigned piety offers a sign anyway, a sign that Matthew will apply to Jesus though Isaiah was most likely speaking of Hezekiah, neither of which are named Immanuel, by the way, but then that is the way of prophecies. They point to a truth larger than the literal one and the same word that finds fulfillment in Hezekiah and in Jesus finds fulfillment in our everyday. Immanuel, God with us is the point of the promise. God with us when we go our own way, choosing the evil and refusing the good. God with us when we feed ourselves with false promises and illusory hopes. God with us for the day when we tire of wearying God and turn again to the promise as high as the heavens and as deep as Sheol. God with us when we recognize that the hope of God with us is that we would choose to be with God. Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Advent 3 A - Matthew 11:2-11

Matthew 11:2-11
John is confused by what Jesus is doing, or more accurately, by what Jesus is not doing. One can imagine the questions that led to “Are you the one who is to come…?” Where is the baptizing with fire and the Holy Spirit? Why is the threshing floor still occupied by Pharisee & Sadducee chaff? And the most perplexing question might have been, “Why am I in prison if you are the Messiah? I’m your cousin, for God’s sake! ” But Jesus came to be what John had proclaimed, “Repent, for the kingdom of Heaven has come near.” And John was right, it was more powerful and with or without untying sandals, no one was worthy of it. It was not to be “kingdom come” by smiting enemies within and without, wresting the temple from the dirty hands of the High Priest and kicking Roman butt from Jerusalem to Britannica. It shouldn't surprise us that John asked the question. In some ways the early church suffering at the hands of those from within and without asked the same question. It also shouldn't surprise us that the vision of Jesus’ return was imaged as violent and vengeful. Maybe this time the Messiah will get it right. This time we want a superman not a suffering servant. Listen, John the Baptist had plenty of scriptures to support the Messiah he was looking for and truth to be told that was the Messiah he wanted. When Jesus says “blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me” he is telling John and us, for that matter, that he will come in whatever way he wants to come and our images will have conform to his. Granted that may mean he’s coming back angry and ready to put a hurt on the world that would make John the Baptist shake like a reed in the wind. But my guess is that Jesus is still outside our box, scriptural or not, and that the Messiah who the first time around pointed to the blind seeing, the lame walking, the lepers cleansed, the dead raised and the poor hearing good news as proof of the pudding might surprise us the second time round as well. Amen. Come, Lord Jesus. 

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Advent 3 A - James 5:7-10

James 5:7-10
We've been patiently waiting for almost two thousand years. Of course every now and then people find a way to profit from predictions of gloom and doom but then the point of patience is left behind. There is nothing you can do to hasten the day, or delay it for that matter, but you can make the wait weary for yourself and others by grumbling, judging, or connecting coincidences and claiming to know the time and place the Lord himself said is none of your business. No. We are called to wait as those who James calls “Beloved” three times in four verses which means we wait with a lover’s longing. And not only for ourselves but for the sake of those the Lord loves, which I’m guessing includes those we don’t. After all, the Judge who stands at the door is the same One who spoke “Father, forgive them” upon those whose fear and envy and self righteousness nailed him to the mercy seat in the first place. That’s a judge worth the wait. Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Advent 3 A - Isaiah 1:39-55

This is the song of Zion, the song sung at the Christ’s conception, the song Jesus would sing with his life, the song that would condemn him to death. “It is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish” is how the high priest Caiaphas justified the murder of the One who raised Lazarus from the dead. Power does not care for protest songs and will take any measure to silence them. But Mary’s song will not be silenced. The humble are lifted up. The rulers are brought down. The hungry are fed with good things. The rich are sent empty away. Sung by a peasant girl impregnated by the Holy Spirit come upon her she risks her life to carry the light of the world to term. Sooner or later some busy body in Nazareth will notice that Mary is “beginning to look a lot like Christmas” and no one will be around to confess the virgin birth as an alibi. And yet she sings. She rejoices in God’s favor. She sings of the Savior mindful of her humble state who has blessed her for every generation. She sings rejoicing for her people because the Mighty One has remembered to be merciful. She sings the life within her before Bethlehem, before Golgotha, because Mary believes already that in the conception of the Christ the future forever promise has come true. Amen. Come, Lord Jesus. 

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Advent 3 A - Isaiah 35:1-10

Isaiah 35
Isaiah 35 was written to the children of Israel in exile, weeping by the river of Babylon, tormented by their captors who demanded they sing happy songs of Zion. It is a vision of a better day, a promise for those worn down by adversity, weakened by suffering, feeble and fearful of heart, without help, without hope. In the vision cast by the waters of Babylon a new song of Zion is composed where the wilderness rejoices in the glory of the Lord revealed and a way is made through the burning sand and the haunt of jackals so that even those who don’t have a lick of sense will not get lost on the holy highway. Of course a good portion of those whose hands were strengthened and knees steadied by the hope of the promise died by the river where they wept. But for their children born in Babylon the promise did come true and they returned to Zion singing the songs their parents taught them, which would have been forgotten forever if their captors tormenting them had not demanded they sing them. As it was for them, so it is for us; a promise for unsteady hands and knees that give way, hope for all held captive to doubt and fear, trial and trouble, a promise that inspires holy imagination where sorrow flees from the promise of everlasting joy. So sing the songs of Zion, songs of hope and happiness, joy and peace, even if you are weeping by the waters of your own Babylon, for the children are listening and learning. Amen. Come, Lord Jesus

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Advent 2 A - Matthew 3:1-12

Matthew 3:1-12
It appears to me the Pharisees and Sadducees should at least get points for trying. Instead John verbally attacks them for being all repentance and no fruit. (All hat and no cattle) But to what end? To their credit the Pharisees and Sadducees, teachers of the law and keepers of the temple, come out together overcoming their natural animosity towards each other. And they give up their respective positions of power to be subject to the poor people’s prophet even if it’s just a weekend excursion for them. The diet of locusts and honey and camel’s hair clothes with leather belt identify John as one who has forsaken the world for the wilderness which is always the place of preparation for Israel. So when the city slickers come slumming he calls them on it. Who warned you to flee? Confession by itself is not worth the words used to say “I’m sorry” unless it is accompanied by a change of heart and hand. That is John’s point. You can’t come out to do a wilderness weekend of weeping and wailing and then go back to the city of business as usual. To bear fruit worthy of repentance is to live into the conclusion of confession which is the amendment of the sinful life. The One who is coming after will do something more than John and though he will burn the same Pharisees and Sadducees with words like blind guides and brood of vipers and white washed tombs he will gather them in with “Father, forgive them…” And so it is for us. Our confession needs a word of judgment before welcoming words of absolution so that we will not be satisfied with an “I’m sorry” that does not in some measure lead to “I can do better.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus. 

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Advent 2 A - Romans 15:4-13

Romans 15:4-13
The instruction and encouragement of the scriptures were meant to reveal the God of hope so that inspired by the living word we might abound in what the God of hope is all about… which is hope, of course; but what kind of hope? If the incarnation of God in the Christ is any indication of what the God of hope is all about then there is nothing God will not do, nowhere God will not go, to be reconciled to us so that reconciled to God we would be reconciled to each other. Or in other words, “May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in harmony with one another…” And again, “whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.” (1 John 4:20) For this reason Christ became the servant of the circumcised on behalf of the truth and at the same time became the mercy and hope of the Gentiles so that with one voice Jew and Gentile would glorify God. Or as Paul will write to the law bound Galatians, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female...” (Galatians 3:28) So if in Christ God has erased the dividing lines of race, status, and gender might it be a safe bet that God’s brightest and best hope is that we would do the same? Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Advent 2 A - Psalm 72

Psalm 72
Psalm 72 concludes the prayers of David, son of Jesse and is a prayer for his son Solomon. In many ways David, the man after God’s own heart (who broke God’s heart time and again) is a tragic figure. Guilty of adultery and murder and intrigue the sword never left his house and while he was not “cast away from God’s presence” he experienced the penalty of his sin in heartbreaking loss, no more so than in the rebellion and subsequent murder of his son Absalom. “O my son Absalom! O Absalom, my son, my son!” His cry of grief for Absalom stands in stark contrast to his prayer for Solomon. Born out of the disappointments and difficulties of his reign David prays that Solomon would be a better king than he was. Make my son a just and righteous king who remembers the poor and delivers the needy from the oppressor, whose rule like rain on mown grass will bring peace and prosperity to your people. “Teach your children well, their father’s hell did slowly go by, and feed them on your dreams the one they picked, the one you’ll know by” (CSNY) David dreamed of a dwelling place for God in the midst of the city named Peace, a temple he was not permitted to build. But the son for whom he prayed would make the dream come true. David’s prayer that Solomon would do better than he is the prayer of every parent learning from the whole of life, wishing, hoping, praying their child will make fewer mistakes and know all the joy and then some and only half of the pain and that well taught lessons and dreams picked will help the prayer come true. Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Advent 2 A - Isaiah 11:1-10

Isaiah 11:1-10
It is one of my favorite visions of the future and I marvel at the mind of the prophet who brought it to life by putting it to pen. The One who delights in the Lord will pair wolves with lambs, leopards with goats, calves with lions, bears with cows, infants with adders. It’s a recipe for carnage, but in the imagination of the prophet the predator lies down with the prey for a nap and not for lunch. The accepted order of the natural world is radically transformed by the One upon whom the Spirit of the Lord finds a resting place so that hurting and destroying will have no place on the holy mountain because hurting and destroying have no place in the Lord. In some small way I lived the hope of Isaiah’s vision when our Belgium sheep dog Gretchen did her best to kill our lamb Leah. Both were named. Both were loved. If I could have imagined and created a world where that would never happen I would have. But then I’d like to say hurting and destroying have no place in me but that would not be true. In a world where the innocent are preyed upon by the wicked I know that at some level my desire for justice satisfies a need for retribution and that even a self-proclaimed pacifist has a tipping point. But that knowledge does not diminish the desire for the peaceable kingdom. Rather it heightens it. The One upon whom the Spirit of the Lord rests will create a world, a new reality, to do what we can never do. Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Advent 1 A - Matthew 24:36-44

Matthew 24:36-44
I don’t mean to burst anyone’s Martin Luther bubble but recent scholarship can find no evidence that he ever said “If I believed the world was to end tomorrow, I would still plant a tree today.” It’s too bad because it’s a great quote and if it wasn’t already well known I might claim it as my own. Of course I don’t think whoever said it meant the last day is a good day to plant a tree but that the last day should not change the way one lives every day given that one should live each day as if it was one's last day even if the rest of the world was going to keep going on forever. But instead of tree planting as the proper way to be ready people get goofy on this end time stuff coming up with all kinds of theories as to the day and hour that Jesus himself says only the Father knows. They should plant some trees for all the paper wasted on books better left behind. The way to be ready for the second coming is to live in the love and grace of the first appearing. I doubt very much that the God who so loved the world the first time round has decided it was a mistake and what the world really needs is a good thrashing. Therefore with every tree planted we pray, Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Advent 1 A - Romans 13:11-14

Romans 13:11-14
It’s been one long night since the apostle roused the Romans from sleep. Of course we can all agree that salvation is nearer to us now than it was yesterday and it will be one day closer tomorrow but that doesn’t have quite the sense of immediacy that Paul uses to exhort believers to lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. Given the long delay of the second coming we might be tempted to hit the snooze on holy living and roll over for forty winks of debauchery, though sooner or later the sun comes up on a life of licentiousness bringing a hangover of hurt. That being said the motivation for living honorably as in the day is not for fear of punishment or that the end is near but because the outstanding debt of love demands it. The debt of love that one owes the other is also owed to self and a life free from quarreling and jealousy is a life worth living for its own sake. So put on the Lord Jesus no matter how long the night lasts for fulfilling the law of love does no wrong to self or neighbor. Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Advent 1 A - Psalm 122

Psalm 122
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem. In Hebrew Jerusalem means the City of Peace. In Arabic it means Holiness and in Greek the Holy City. Claimed by Jew, Moslem and Christian as the capital of their respective faiths the holy city of peace has seen more than its fair share of violence and bloodshed. But while the psalmist would pray for the peace of Jerusalem for the sake of relatives and friends the holy peace that befits the Lord’s house is peace for the world. That kind of peace cannot be established by walls and towers. That kind of peace will not be established by military might. The peace that prospers and makes one glad will come when the human family recognizes that we all belong to each other and our destinies are inextricably linked. Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Advent 1 A - Isaiah 2:1-5

Isaiah 2:1-5
“Gonna lay down my sword and shield, down by the riverside, gonna study war no more.” Down by the Riverside predates the War Between the States and sings the desire of all who have on the job training in the study of war. We are a warring species, sometimes for necessary and just causes, sometimes in self defense, sometimes to protect economic self interest, and sometimes, God help us, just because. But I cannot believe that given the opportunity by means of a just peace, or a trustworthy security, or some other mechanism to make war obsolete anyone would not willingly, joyfully, lay down sword and shield. That day has eluded the human race even though some have tried their best to live “All we are saying is give peace a chance.” It is because the only peace that has a chance is the promised peace of God’s path. Whenever we walk in the light of the Lord we give peace a chance to happen in our lives and the lives of those around us in anticipation of the final peace treaty of the forever future where swords and spears beaten into plowshares and pruning hooks will signal the end of the nations warring madness once and for all. Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Christ the King Year C - Luke

Luke 23:33-43
"Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom." The guilty one anticipates the kingdom of the innocent one. Without hesitating Jesus answers the prayer that is a plea with the promise of paradise, today. Of all the stories told about Jesus; walking on water, feeding five thousand, healing the blind, lame, and deaf, exorcising demons and yes, even raising a dead friend, this story at the end of Jesus’ life defines the royal character of Christ the King. “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them… but I am among you as one who serves.” The one Jesus called Abba said it this way “I desire mercy not sacrifice.” In light of God’s own stated preference how can one continue to hold onto the idea that the righteous rage of Abba could only be appeased by the blood sacrifice of the innocent Son dearly loved? No. In the promise of paradise to a criminal justly condemned, in forgiving those who sure as hell knew what they were doing, the character of God is revealed and by descending to the place of the dead we are guaranteed there will be no where God is not. Jesus. Remember me. 

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Christ the King Year C - Colossians 1:11-20

Colossians 1:11-20
The strength to endure everything patiently while at the same time joyfully giving thanks comes from investing our inheritance before fully inheriting it, which means we spend the profit of the future on the deficit of the present. This is where the last will and testament is challenged for while we have no objection to God in Christ being reconciled to us we question the “all things on earth” part for there are plenty on earth we’d rather not include in the reconciled to God inheritance. And therein lies the rub. If through the blood of the cross God is reconciled to all things, then we as one of the all things on earth must be reconciled to the other all things, whether we like it or not. So enduring patiently might mean enduring our own limited vision as much as the difficulties presented by the other “all things on earth” not that happy about our being included in the inheritance. I imagine the only one laughing at the reading of the last will and testament of the One in whom the fullness of God was pleased to dwell will be God upon seeing the faces of the all things on earth surprised by who is included in the all things in heaven.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Feast of Christ the King Year C - Psalm 46

Psalm 46
As a child I remember waters flooding our basement in Columbus, Ohio and the river that ran down our street did not make anyone glad. Of course that is a silly comparison with the earth changing, mountains shaking, seas rising that swept away lives in the Philippines or the collateral human damage when nations like Syria totter and are in uproar. But then the “we will not fear” of Psalm 46 is a defiant declaration of faith in the constancy of God despite unstable ground, rising tides and tottering human institutions. It may be that your ground shaking, waters roaring, tottering nation is more personal and closer to home but the sentiment is the same. “Be still and know that I am God” looks at what is and declares what will be. “There is a river that makes glad” is lined by twelve trees whose leaves are for the healing of the nations so that in that place of perfect peace swords are plowshares and spears are pruning hooks and predators are at peace with prey. (Revelation 22:2; Isaiah 11:6) Therefore we will not fear in the midst of our personal uprisings for we trust that the "we shall not be moved" God of the forever future is with us as our refuge and strength in the earth shaking present.

Monday, November 18, 2013

The Feast of Christ the King Year C - Jeremiah 23:1-6

Jeremiah 23:1-6
I don’t know about the shepherds of Jeremiah’s time but the ones I know work like dogs to shepherd their people. But with the large population of aging sheep or sheep leaving small pastures for larger ones or sheep who've stopped grazing altogether, or worse, lambs who have never been brought to the pasture at all, shepherds find themselves the ones scattered and sometimes even destroyed. We hear this is the new normal of the post Christian era and that our decline is a done deal and nothing short of the second coming will restore the church to its former position of prominence. But then maybe this is just the time that is surely coming, when a post Christian age allows shepherds and sheep to see Christ raised again to the only prominent position that counts. “We preach Christ crucified,” is how the apostle Paul said it. Martin Luther offering advice to a fellow shepherd said it this way. My dear Friar, learn Christ and him crucified. Learn to praise him and, despairing of yourself, say, 'Lord Jesus, you are my righteousness, just as I am your sin." Christ the King crucified, the shepherd who lays down his life for the sheep, is the righteous Branch who executes justice and righteousness by virtue of his suffering and death on the cross in every age, no matter what we call it. Perhaps the word that Jeremiah had for the sheep of his day might be the word needed for shepherds of today. Do not be afraid. Do not be dismayed. I am your Shepherd. Take a day off.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Pentecost 26 C - Luke 21:5-19

Luke 21:5-19
I am grateful for the attention National Public Radio and others have given Kyrie or the “Church in a Pub” that is supported by Calvary Lutheran and Trinity Lutheran but I think the headline “To Stave Off Decline, Churches Attract New Members With Beer” is misleading. First of all decline is nothing new to Christianity as times of decline and subsequent revival are the reality for both the individual and the collective experience of the faith. Secondly using beer to connect people with Bible will not stave off anything as humans tend to have short attention spans for all things secular and spiritual. And lastly none of it matters when one considers these words of Jesus. The temple was the center of the universe, the footstool of God, so that “not one stone left upon another” was beyond the ability of his disciples to understand or accept. What if our physical expression of the faith, seemingly as solid as the ancient temple, is just as temporary? Don’t get me wrong. The institution of church, like the temple, has done marvelous things and I would not be where I am without the gift of Lutheran church and school and seminary. More importantly the message of Christianity mobilized into mission continues to live out the vision of God to make the present look more like the forever future. But if we think the present structures are permanent we have missed the point.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Pentecost 26 C - 2 Thessalonians 3:6-13

2 Thessalonians 3:6-13
Ouch! Paul is not pulling any punches. Get to work you busybodies otherwise you are going on the idleness diet and you’ll lose more than a few pounds, I promise you. It should be of some comfort to the church of our time that the church of Paul’s time, which included at least a few charter members of the resurrection, had to deal with conflicts. And not just doctrinal disputes but practical matters which in many ways are more difficult to deal with. The good news is that the idleness conflict did not destroy the Thessalonians which is the reason the church of today is still around to deal with its own version of "brothers and sisters let us not grow weary in doing what is right."

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Pentecost 26 C - Psalm 98

Psalm 98
Seas roaring and floods clapping are not such joyful images in light of Typhoon Haiyan which might also cause one to question how the steadfast love and faithfulness of the Lord to ancient Israel is understood in the Philippines today. Of course psalms are poetic songs and take liberties with literal images. Even so roaring seas and clapping floods are best experienced from a safe distance. But then David wants his song to celebrate the awesome power of the Almighty and hills singing (i.e. earthquakes) and seas roaring and floods clapping are the best way he can describe the unrestrained might of the Almighty. But this is where the image falls short because the sea doesn't give a damn who it sweeps away into oblivion leaving sorrow and suffering in its wake. There is no equity in the random nature of natural destructive forces as the innocent are just as likely to die as the deserving. And David could not understand God’s faithfulness and steadfast love for Israel apart from David’s victory over Israel’s enemies and in that sense David didn't give a damn for anyone outside of his own kingdom. But in the end it was God who was swept away by the flood as the seas roared crucify and the hills clapped at the sight of his suffering even though their celebration was short lived for when Jesus rose above the storm of death a new song was sung. And the way we sing the new song is to help those who suffer and thereby fulfill the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:2) ELCA Disaster Response

Monday, November 11, 2013

Pentecost 26 C - Malachi 4:1-2a

Malachi 4:1-2
Ouch! These are not the sort of scriptures I like to read and while as a Lutheran I think I can apply the balm of Paul to the burn of Malachi the truth is there is a limit to God’s grace. Before you brand me a Baptist (I apologize for that reference but I couldn't resist the three b’s in that sentence) let me hasten to add that the limit to God’s grace is our free will which in a weird way is the ultimate expression of God’s grace. That means God is gracious only so far as we will allow God to be so. The arrogance of evil doers is that they create a world in their own image and even the “saved by grace” apostle Paul observes “as you sow so shall you reap”. (Galatians 6:7) You can’t plant weeds and expect to harvest wheat. The trouble is those who revere God’s name live in the same field as the wicked who consistently sow woe. The promise of healing wings is a shield from consuming fire for those who are troubled in the world of the wicked. In the meantime we who revere the name of the Lord are called to work against the ways of arrogance or at the very least not participate in them because you cannot revere the name of the One who did not consider equality with God something to exploit (Philippians 2:6) while you are trying to sit on God’s throne.

2010 post

Friday, November 8, 2013

Pentecost 25 C - Luke 20:27-38

Luke 20:27-38
We miss the point of these verses if we get distracted by Jesus’ short discourse on the state of marriage in the forever future. The Sadducees don’t believe in the resurrection and so their silly construct of one bride for seven brothers doesn't deserve a serious response. But more to the point Jesus is letting us know that the relationships that foreshadow the forever future, like marriage, are just that – a shadow of a future reality so bright that it blinds our minds in the here and now to what will be in the there and then. What will be is nothing like what is or more to the point what is cannot possibly describe what will be. But less we lament the loss of forever love Jesus concludes his comments with an image even the Sadducees will recognize, the burning bush God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, a God of the living, who delights in individual identity. So of course you will recognize the one who slept next to you for 50 years and both delighted you and drove you crazy but in the kingdom come, marriage, or the lack of it, will be like comparing life in the womb to life in the world. One leads to the other but they are clearly not the same. 

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Pentecost 25 C - 2 Thessalonians 2:1-5, 13-17

2 Thessalonians 2:1-5, 13-17
“…do not be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed…” Whether they were quickly shaken or not the Thessalonians were certainly worried that they had missed the boat or at the very least wondered why the immediate return of the Christ was taking its own sweet time. Apocalyptic anxiety has come and gone ever since. Hal Lindsey predicted the late great planet earth would come and go before the turn of the last century but he was left behind by Tim LeHaye and Jerry Jenkins and didn't make nearly as much profit. I have trouble understanding why people still get worked up about this when the scriptures clearly tell us to chill. Listen. What will be will be whenever it will be and you and I have no part to play in it. We are to trust that no matter what happens whenever it happens God is for us and that our passage from the present to the future is already booked and paid in full. In the meantime the blessing of eternal comfort and good hope is given to us so that we engage in good works and words in the here and now without worrying about the there and then. Or in other words - Jesus is coming again. Look busy. 

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Pentecost 25 C - Psalm 17:1-9

Psalm 17:1-9
This prayer of the younger version of David gives voice to the plea of the innocent who looks to the Lord for vindication. If you try my heart you will find it pure. I haven’t cursed those who curse me nor returned violence for violence. I've stayed on the straight and narrow even when your path was not easy to discern and have not given up my hope in you despite the fact that the wicked have surrounded me and threaten my life. Of course the Lord did deliver David from the wrath of King Saul and God never abandoned him even though there came a time when David’s heart, consumed by lust and power, was no longer as pure as it was when he penned this prayer. So the man after God’s own heart who prayed to be the apple of God’s eye was vindicated not because of his innocence but because God’s steadfast love could not let go of the young man hiding in a cave even when he was an older man hiding his sin behind the curtain of the crown. To David’s credit he understood his deepest desire was for his Psalm 51 heart (Create in me a clean heart, O God) to be recreated so he could pray Psalm 17 again. Or as St. Augustine penned it, “Our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you.”

Monday, November 4, 2013

Pentecost 25 C - Job 19:23-27

Job 19:23-27
Job is the Shakespeare of the scriptures and if for no other reason needs to be read for the creative way the anonymous author addresses the age old question of why bad things happen to good people. Of course the answer is we don’t know or in Job’s words, “I've spoken of things I did not understand…” (Job 42:3) But in chapter 19 Job is still complaining and maintaining he is innocent (which ironically he is) and trying to figure out why God has taken everything from him so that even little children despise him. (19:18) But just when you think he’s finally going to listen to his wife’s advice (just curse God and die – 2:9) Job returns to the hope that even if everyone else has abandoned him God has not. Job is not so much a lesson about patience – unless patience allows for loud lamenting and bitter complaint – as it is about remaining in relationship with God even when everything indicates God no longer cares about you. It’s either faith or stubbornness but then maybe in Job's case they’re the same thing.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

The Feast of All Saints Year C - Luke 6:20-31

Luke 6:20-31
Luke’s version of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount is a little more difficult to deal with than Matthew’s, depending on which side of Luke’s line drawn in the economic sand you are standing. Poor or rich, hungry or well fed, weeping or laughing, despised or rejected? Like many of the stories and sayings in Luke’s Gospel the plight of the poor gets special attention and the Good News for the poor is generally Bad News for the rich. But that’s not to say it’s all good news for the poor, for the down payment on future rewards is rejoicing in being hated, excluded, reviled, and defamed, all the while turning the other cheek and doubling down on coats taken away. As my seminary professor Walter Bouman liked to say about such things, “Yes, but will it play in Poughkeepsie?” So what do we of the “God loves everyone, saved by grace party” do with such a seemingly partisan text? Unfortunately we have to say the Bible is very clear. God takes sides. We can choose to ignore that or soften it but we cannot escape it. On the other hand what if God’s taking sides is to counter the sides we take? It may be that God as ultimate parent is not that different from human parents who in loving their children equally attempt to create and maintain environments where siblings are encouraged to share. So no matter which side of the line you currently stand God’s ultimate purpose is for us all to stand on the same side because in the end that is a parent’s greatest joy.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Feast of All Saints Year C - Ephesians 1:11-23

Ephesians 1:11-23
When the living move beyond dying while they are still living they live in a different sort of way. By that I mean the inheritance of the future is meant to be spent in the present without draining the principal held in reserve for the future. Jesus in John said it this way, those who believe “have already passed from death to life.” (John 5:24) So if the eyes of our hearts have been enlightened our body follows suit and we love in such a way that the everyday issues we think are essential become secondary to the desire to live the future in the present. “Though you hide yourself behind the unattractive disguise of the irritable, the exacting, the unreasonable, may I still recognize you and say, "Jesus, my patient, how sweet it is to serve you." (Mother Teresa of Calcutta) The people who piss you off will off will be sitting next to you at the future feast. That means the hope to which we have been called in the future has a present purpose and we cannot be the church in the present without living out the hope of the future where all things conform to the grace of God in Jesus. Or as Paul will say later in the letter, “forgive as you have been forgiven.” (Ephesians 4:32)

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Feast of All Saints Year C - Psalm 149

The singing, dancing, melody making, tambourine praise the Lord psalm was going along quite nicely until the people in whom the Lord takes pleasure picked up two edged swords to execute vengeance on people for whom the Lord presumably holds no affection. One minute they’re singing for joy on couches and the next they’re binding kings and nobles with fetters and chains, which by the way always involves collateral damage aka people like you and me just trying to mind our own business and stay out of the way. I understand the historical context of a humble people picked on wanting to be adorned with victory but I’m just going to say “No” to verses 6 – 9 of Psalm 149; no to religiously justified violence; no to exacting revenge; no to an image of God who delights in some people and despises the rest. And the reason I can say no to that image is because God provided another. “Put away your sword,” is what Jesus said to Peter when the mob surrounded the King of Kings and bound him with iron chains to execute the judgment decreed. Crucify him! So I think it best to end the psalm with verse 5, even if that means I’m a pacifist couch potato. 

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Feast of All Saints - Daniel 7:1-3, 15-18

Daniel 7:1-3, 15-18
I've had troubling dreams that were just as terrifying as Daniel’s vision but I didn't write them down so I’m not so terrified by them today. Daniel’s dreams were not only written down but were carried forward into a future Daniel could have never dreamed and now have become a treasure trove of material for the end times industry that capitalizes on the fear of being left behind to suffer Daniel's terrifying dream come true. It does seem somewhat ironic that words written to an enslaved people in a foreign land would be wholeheartedly adopted by free and generally well off people in the most prosperous nation on the planet. It’s not that the promise cannot be for the comfortable as long as one recognizes it was not written to us in the first place and even if you live the illusion that Daniel was really talking to Christians the truth is this a word to Israel. So the terrifying vision is first a welcome word of victory to those who sat by the waters of Babylon and wept while their captors demanded they sing glad songs of Zion. (Psalm 137) It is a welcome word for us only so far as we have been grafted into the root of Israel. (Romans 11:17-18) There was a time in my life when I was an end time junkie and could not help myself from trying to connect all the dots of ancient prophecy with current events. I now believe focusing on escaping whatever terrifying dreams might be coming is a way of escaping the terrifying reality of our own time faced by people every day. I handed out my last two Calvary care packages (a bag of non-perishable food) to an old man in a wheelchair begging on a street corner in Dallas this morning and he tore into it like he hadn't eaten in week. Talk about a terrifying vision. Listen. The final future is secure even if getting there will be difficult. But in the here and now people are hungry and without shelter or community or friendship and you and I have the means to make their daily nightmare a little less terrifying with simple acts of kindness. That is what it means to holy ones of the Most High. Or if you like, saints.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Reformation - John 8:31-36

John 8:31-36
The truth that sets us free is true whether we believe it or not because it depends on “if the Son has set you free you will be free indeed” and the “if” has nothing to do with us. That was true for the tradition bound Jews who “believed in him” but couldn’t understand how the truth of Jesus trumped the tradition of Abraham. We do the same thing when we think freedom depends on something other than the Word that says you are free, period end of sentence. It might be that we prefer the comfort of conformity wherein we are securely bound by rules and regulations that order our religious universe. Or maybe we trust the pedigree of our denominational heritage, or ironically in this day and age, our lack of it. But if we let God be God and say God will do whatever God will do while at the same time filtering all our “whatever God will do” talk through what God actually did (aka die on the cross) then the “Son has set you free” takes on a new dimension. Freedom is not the permission to do whatever one likes but the opportunity to do whatever God desires. In a word. Love. 

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Reformation - Romans 3:19-28

Romans 3:19-28
God is the one who is just and the one who justifies; period, end of sentence. So why do we work so hard for what is none of our business? I don’t mean sin, we don’t have to work very hard at disobedience or doubt or disregard for the needs of others or neglect of the planet or any of the ways we are guilty of being less than human. No, sin is all about us, which is why the just one who justifies the creation gone its own way enters the fray to contend with the inevitable consequence of human rebellion, death. Faith does not activate or complete what God has already done in entering the human story. Faith means we enter God’s story in the Christ and stop working for what is already ours because we no longer doubt what is beyond comprehension. We are already justified, made right with God, because God won’t have it any other way which means we are free to be fully human. 

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Reformation - Psalm 46

Psalm 46
No Fear. It is more than a bumper sticker declaration indicating one’s willingness to engage in reckless behavior. The “No Fear” of Psalm 46 is not found in bravado but in being still in the refuge and strength of God’s very present help. Be still when mountains tremble. Be still when waters roar and foam. Be still when nations collide and kingdoms totter. Be still when your place on the planet is less than secure, when troubles rise and unfortunate circumstances collide. The help that comes in the morning is available in the night when the Lord of Hosts with us stills us. Don’t get me wrong. There is plenty to fear and much to lament. But God in the midst of calamity makes glad the heart that trusts God will help in the time of need.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Reformation - Jeremiah 31:27-34

Jeremiah 31:27-34
Every now and then the prophet Jeremiah was given a good word to speak and that makes the promise of “the days are surely coming” noteworthy. Even so none of the people to whom these words were written saw the day that would surely come. They died in the land of their enemy sitting by the waters of Babylon weeping the songs of Zion. Or they were the remnant who returned home only to find ruins not easily rebuilt and vineyards destroyed that were difficult to replant. But because “the days are surely coming…” was believed despite sour grapes setting teeth on edge it was more than just a fairy tale ending for a people plucked up and broken down. Believing the promise was the difference between giving up or going on, between living in spite of or dying because of, and whether they knew it or not it is what it means to know the Lord. And so it is for us who endure hardship and persevere through difficult days knowing in part and seeing dimly all the while waiting for another day that will surely come, when we catch up with the least and the greatest who have gone on ahead of us and know the Lord fully for they see him face to face.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Pentecost 22 C - Luke 18:1-8

Luke 18:1-8
I've been driving to Baylor Medical Center in Dallas almost every day since October 3rd to pray persistently with the family of David Ball who will need a new heart at some point in the future. For now a Left Ventricular Assist Device (LVAD) is doing the heavy lifting while the Baylor ICU medical staff works around the clock to keep David in the land of the living and the family waits and prays in the land of the loving. The lesson learned in the roller coaster environment of an extended ICU stay is that persistent prayer is not consistent. There are moments when hope holds and confidence is high followed by times when fear creeps in to cast shadows of doubt followed by times of frustration with the antiseptic nature of medical language followed by times when one is too tired to pray at all. And then the cycle repeats itself and in some ways you become accustomed to the rhythm of this upended life even though you cannot imagine how. The widow goes before the uncaring judge again and again because there is nowhere else she can go in the same way one occupies a space in an ICU unit when just beyond the double doors the life you love hangs in the balance. The lesson learned is not that God requires perseverance before answering prayer but that persistent prayer, which is the ability to speak our need into that which is beyond our ability to control, is itself an answer to prayer. Listen. We all want prayer to be a magic wand that fixes everything with a flick of the wrist and an abracadabra but truth is there is nothing more powerful than the person who holds onto faith in the face of events that neither fear God nor respect people. So if the Son of Man returning were to look for faith on earth he’d find it in Sue Ball, a woman of enduring strength and remarkable courage who does what has to be done just because that is what you do when your husband needs a new heart.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Pentecost 22 C - 2 Timothy 3:14 - 4:5

2 Timothy 3:14-4:5
Timothy was gifted with a grandmother and mother who taught him the sacred writings when he was a child which is why the apostle Paul could encourage him to continue in what he had learned and firmly believed from childhood. We live in a time when a large portion of the population do not know the sacred writings but then in Timothy’s time he was the exception to the rule as well so our time is not so different from his. The good news is that the God breathed scripture that has been suffocated in the box of Biblical inerrancy and restrictive human determined doctrine might once again be free to engage those who don’t give a damn about the power structure of the church but care deeply about how mercy and grace might be at work in the world. So I hope the time that is coming has come and gone and the itchy ears that wandered away into the myth of the church vested in power and prestige has returned to the Lord who came to serve not to be served. 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Pentecsot 22 C = Psalm 121

Psalm 121
Sometimes even lifting one’s eyes to the hills to ask the question, “from where is my help to come” is more than we can manage. Worn down and weary of weeping, abandoned by friends and surrounded by foes (real or imagined) the hope of help seems a cruel joke. But it is precisely when we cannot go on and maybe no longer even care that the promise is most present, whether we recognize it or not. That is because the promise does not depend on our asking or our recognition. It depends fully on God’s desire to deliver and the nature of the help that is God always present exists beyond the reality of our sorrow and suffering. That means when our ability to believe is passed out on the floor of doubt God is wide awake and preserving for us the life that endures forever.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Pentecost 22 C - Genesis 32:22-31

Genesis 32:22-31
Jacob knows a thing or two about wrestling having held onto to Esau’s heel long enough to take away his brother’s birthright. And even if Laban thought he had a choke hold on his nephew it was Jacob who pulled a reverse and pinned Laban to the mat. Jacob is no stranger to struggle and so when he gets ready to meet an angry brother he may be more ready than most for the surprise cage match at the Jabbok. We tend to be more polite with God and even if we wrestle by rivers of own decision we cry “uncle” far too soon. So what does it mean to strive with God and not give up? Maybe it means we wrestle with our limited understanding of who God is for us in the face of our own fear and doubt and not let go of until we are blessed. Of course as with most “God things” it turns out the blessing is in the striving itself. 

Friday, October 11, 2013

Pentecost 21 C - Luke 17:11-19

Luke 17:11-19
The ten lepers meet the Lord in the land between religiously unclean Samaria and racially unclean Galilee of the Gentiles. They are nine Jews and one Samaritan bound together by their disease for in leprosy there is neither Jew nor Samaritan for all are equally unclean. Keeping the required distance they cry out for mercy. Jesus does not disappoint, though “Go and show yourselves to the priests” must have seemed premature as they are not healed until they turn and do as they are told. The one who turns back is the hero, of course, the dirty foreigner more clean than the nine Jewish ex lepers and Jesus makes a point of it but not just as a reminder to be thankful and praise God. It has more to do with a plea for mercy when living lost in the land between. The faith that restored the one restored the nine as well because the cry for mercy from Jesus the master was the act of faith and the turning to go and show was obedience even before healing happened. But the turning back one knows it and the nine do not. The benefit in knowing is that even when skin is clean and health restored one can still live lost in the land between. So faith to be made well is not about skin condition but about the condition of one’s soul which is well when the mercy of God is recognized and praised. And when the soul is well the whole body is clean.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Pentecost 21 C - 2 Timothy 2:3-15

(Uncle Ernest at Peace Lutheran, Columbus, Nebraska)
2 Timothy 2:3-15
"Share in suffering like a good soldier of Christ Jesus." (2 Timothy 2:3)
The only solider in our family that I know of is my mother's brother Ernest Smith who was a chaplain in Korea. Uncle Ernest gave me his army cap that had ear flaps because apparently you need ear flaps to suffer like a good solider through the Korean winter. Truth is I don’t know anything about what it means to be a solider but I know a thing or two about suffering and my guess is you do as well. Not that I like sharing it all that much and therein lies the problem for me and for you. We suffer stoically or silently or medicated rather than recognize that suffering is as much a part of life as celebration. But the heart of the Christian message is that the Christ entered fully into the suffering of human history so that we could share in the salvation that will happen when “gladness and joy overtake us and sorrow and sighing flee away”. (Isaiah 35:10) But you cannot have one without the other. No one likes to suffer, or share it for that matter, but if the choice is walk together or go it alone I’m thinking our shared sorrow might just make our ultimate joy more complete. So when life is cold put your ear flaps down by all means but keep your life open to those whose care and concern will keep you warm.