Friday, May 31, 2013

Pentecost 2 C - conclusion

We bid farewell our cat Tika (pronounced tick-ah) today. She came to our house as a kitten when daughter Mary Ruth (17) was just learning to talk. Mary’s word for cat was tick-ah. Lisa brought a mamma Siamese and a box of mixed kittens home from Wal-Mart one night and put them in the TV room before going to bed. Early in the morning we heard a squeal of delight and tiny feet running down the hall announcing to all the world “tickah, tickah, tickah, mo tickah tickah tickah’s!” We found homes for the offspring of Mamma Willow and whoever but kept the smallest kitten who we named Tika. We've had a lot of cats over the years but I think Tika occupied a special place in our hearts because of the way she was named by our little Weeda. The relationships that enrich us come in many forms but Solomon prays that the One who created the heavens will spend some time on the earth. The psalmist imagines the same thing as the big G God inspires a new song as joyful as finding a box of tikas in the TV room. Paul wants to be clear there is only one Gospel and all our lives and loves depend on the God come down to dwell in the person of Jesus. And finally the centurion appreciated by the people that he has helped does not presume to ask for himself but is blessed none-the-less for the thing he desires in much the same way a little kitten abandoned in a Wal-Mart parking lot found a home for life with Mary Ruth. Godspeed Tika.  

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Pentecost 2 C - Luke 7:1-10

Luke 7:1-10
I think the remarkable thing about the centurion is that he loves the people of the land he was sent to occupy. The Romans were not in business to benefit others and centurions were not typically interested in building worship spaces for foreign gods. The armies of Rome were sent to ensure the coffers of Rome were filled by populations subdued by the first century version of shock and awe. But the centurion’s love for an occupied people was also paired with humility, albeit the military version where one recognizes a superior officer. “But only speak the word…” so impresses the Jewish rabbi that he returns the favor and praises the NCO of the occupying army. The valued slave returned to good health goes back to what made him valuable in the first place and my guess is the centurion shows his appreciation to the synagogue and the folks who presumed to speak on his behalf. It’s a lovely story. Of course not all the Romans will be so kind to Jesus in the future and while we take “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do” to mean those who shouted “crucify” I’m guessing Jesus remembered the centurion and included those who told to “go” made the crown of thorns and “do this” drove the nails through his hands and feet. 

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Pentecost 2 C - Galatians 1:1-12

Galatians 1:1-12
The Galatians really got under Paul’s skin and despite the grace afforded to the “chief of sinners though I be” the “least of all the apostles” (1 Corinthians 15:9) felt justified cursing anyone who messed with message he received by revelation. In this day and age we might also ask for references since no one but Paul was there when the revelation was received. But then it’s not Paul we depend on for our salvation but a particular story of which Paul was just one of the tellers. It’s the story of Jesus that is compelling and while the church throughout the ages has messed with the message by making it about power or prestige or conforming to human conventions the story continues to be told and believed. Martin Luther claimed “The gospel is not to be believed because the church confirms it but because one recognizes it is God’s word.” What makes the Gospel God’s word is the offer of freedom from all that enslaves including, in the case of the Galatians, the law that was received as revelation to Moses but was replaced by the revelation of Jesus Christ received by the apostle Paul.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Pentecost 2 C - Psalm 96:1-6

Psalm 96:1-6

All the gods of the peoples are small g idol gods. It’s a bold statement to make in a pluralistic culture where many would say the new song to be sung is any song not sung so loudly as to make religious waves in the secular sea. But if we believe there is only one big G God who alone is worthy of a new song then we have no option but to sing it as the only song there is. But even as an exclusive song it is not a song of conquest, as much as I like Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus and Onward Christian Soldiers. No. The new song that is our salvation was a lullaby first sung in a stable by an unwed mother to a new born who just so happened to be the Big G God come down on earth to dwell. The new song that is our salvation was sung by the same baby grown to be a man as an invitation to pick up a cross and follow. The new song that is our salvation was sung as mercy and kindness and healing – your faith has made you well. The new song that is our salvation was sung as a challenge to rule bound religion – the Sabbath was made for you; not you for the Sabbath. The new song that is our salvation was sung as a lament, my God, my God why have you forsaken me? And finally the new song that is our salvation refused to be silenced by death and broke the grave's stranglehold on humanity once and for all. So if we are to sing the new song we have to sing the old song which reminds me of one my favorites – I love to tell the story.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Pentecost 2C - 1 Kings 8:22-23, 41-43

1 Kings 8:22-23, 41-43
In the verses the lectionary leaves out Solomon wonders if God whom “the highest heaven cannot contain” will be found in the sanctuary built by human hands. Solomon’s plea and prayer is that when people gather in the holy house God will be present. But more than that Solomon prays that God will be merciful so that sin will be forgiven and sin’s consequences mitigated. When the heavens are shut up and famine inhabits the land, when plague and pestilence and blight consume the people’s strength, God will see the plight of God’s people and provide. We no longer associate a single place as the location of the Divine presence but there is something to be said for a house that is a home.  And as it turns out we’re the ones that need a house that we can call God’s home so that we have a place to go when troubles grow too great to bear alone. Reminds me of a Willie Nelson cover of a song by Tom Waits classic “Come On Up to the House”.

 Well the moon is broken
And the sky is cracked
Come on up to the house
The only things that you can see
Is all that you lack
Come on up to the house

All your cryin don't do no good
Come on up to the house
Come down off the cross
We can use the wood
Come on up to the house

Come on up to the house
Come on up to the house
The world is not my home
I'm just a passin thru
Come on up to the house

There's no light in the tunnel
No irons in the fire
Come on up to the house
And your singin lead soprano
In a junkman's choir
You gotta come on up to the house

Does life seem nasty, brutish and short
Come on up to the house
The seas are stormy
And you can't find no port
Come on up to the house
There's nothin in the world

there's nothin in the world
that you can do
you gotta come on up to the house
and you been whipped by the forces
that are inside you
come on up to the house
well you're high on top
of your mountain of woe
come on up to the house
well you know you should surrender
but you can't let go
you gotta come on up to the house

Friday, May 24, 2013

The Feast of the Holy Trinity Year C - conclusion

The thunderstorm rolled in about 4 AM and shook the double wide that functions as support staff housing for Ebert Ranch. Lisa will tell you that I usually sleep through thunderstorms (unless Mr. Spud steps on me trying to get to safety under the covers) but this was the kind of strike that could wake the dead or give Mr. Spud a heart attack. It was still raining and rumbling at noon and by late afternoon the horses were drinking out of the windmill pond that was dry as a bone yesterday. By mid week Ebert ranch will be ablaze with color as the wild flowers that have been waiting for just such a soaking will take full advantage of the rain. I'm tempted to do a Trinity two step and make some kind of inadequate analogy but let's just say the wisdom established before time that is the majestic name above all the earth who justifies us through faith by the truth that we cannot fully bear is as terrifying as a lightning strike that makes the air sizzle, as welcome as a pond full of water in a year long drought and as indescribably beautiful as a Texas Hill Country ranch blanketed in wildflowers.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

The Feast of the Holy Trinity Year C - John 16:12-16

John 16:12-15
I'm blogging from the Headwaters Saloon in Harper, Texas after my first day working horses with wrangler Lorianne at Ebert Ranch. It's taken a shower and a Shiner to get me thinking about the Trinity even though I rode three different horses today and I suppose green broke Miss Candy was wild enough to be the Spirit to Cisco the Father and Tom Too the Son. But that's the problem with the three in one and one in three Trinity. It takes some thinking and is still beyond what mortal minds can bear. Of course everything about God is beyond our frame of reference since God is not like us. Even the flesh and blood Son who was like us in every way was "without sin" (Hebrews 4:15) which means he's pretty much not like us at all. At Calvary we make the intern preach on Trinity Sunday so that we can make sure he or she is not a heretic. It's a sign of progress that we can joke about such a thing rather than banishing or worse burning at the stake those whose musings on the mystery stray from the status quo. Maybe we should just say the Trinity was God's idea and not ours and explaining the nature of God by means of analogy is always lacking. So the Father Son Spirit beyond our ability to bear comes down to lead us into the only truth that counts. God is love and the best way to understand that is for us to love one another and not worry too much if our description of the Trinity canters into an equestrian modalism.

2010 post

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Feast of the Holy Trinity Year C - Romans 5:1-5

Romans 5:1-5

The second article of the faith tells the story of the One not created who was before time began and yet chose to let go of glory and empty himself to be found in human likeness. This is where the Trinity gets tricky and the creeds only state the "what" leaving humans to figure out the "how", which is where we get into trouble. But if the unbroken unity of the Trinity is love for the children of creation then Father Son Spirit are equally engaged in the work of redemption, though it would appear that the Son does the heavy lifting. In the person of Jesus the One uncreated becomes weak to save the weak, becomes sin to save sinners, and surrendering his life forgives his enemies. The image of an angry God now appeased by a human sacrifice, albeit God in human flesh is not what Paul means by being saved from the wrath of God, for God’s love is proved by the death of Christ and wrath and love cannot coexist. God is the only actor on the stage of salvation. While we were ungodly, while we were weak, while we were sinners, while we were God’s enemies, God died for us, ahead of us, instead of us so that by the life of God the love of God might be poured into our hearts through the Spirit. This One in Three and Three in One, Father Son Spirit, dwelling within us produces hope that does not disappoint by enduring suffering and reflecting the character of Christ, which is love.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Feast of the Holy Trinity Year C - Psalm 8

Psalm 8

The "work of the heavens" wreaking havoc on Moore, Oklahoma calls into question just how mindful God might be about mortals. But then whenever humans suffer sudden destruction God’s providence is almost always called into question. The ability to hold onto faith without minimizing the reality of loss does not diminish the majestic name above all the earth. Indeed, it is because the God who in the psalmist’s imagination created the very winds that wiped away Moore, OK was himself swept away by death on a cross that we can claim God knows our pain and shares our suffering. It could be that you prefer a majestic name that remains above all the earth but I am going to hold onto a God come down whose hands and feet are fastened to wood so that mine are set free from trying to understand why things happen trusting that in the end the Majestic name knows ours.

Monday, May 20, 2013

The Feast of the Holy Trinity Year C - Proverbs 8:1-4. 22-31

Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31
I’m not a big fan of the book of Proverbs even though there is certain comfort to addressing the complexity of life with simple sayings. Like my Facebook profile picture of the WWII British poster “Stay Calm and Carry On”. Sometimes staying calm is only achieved by denial and carrying on is a costly illusion. That being said the wisdom established from the beginning that raises her voice for all who will hear is more than a collection of memorable clich├ęs. In the infinite mystery of the Trinity Wisdom engages the world in ways that appear as random or mere coincidence but are labeled by folks of faith as a “God thing”. By that I mean all that goes beyond our ability to fully comprehend – even if we attempt to express whatever “it” is by inadequate analogies – operates under the surface of our lives but when push comes to shove gives us the ability to keep calm and carry on. Not as denial or illusion but as the way in which confidence in the Wisdom of God gives courage to the fearful and strength to the weak. The beauty of this image is that the Holy “totally other” whispered into the silence before time a Wisdom that would become an expression of the Divine in ways that delight in our being which given human nature might be the greatest mystery of all.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

The Feast of Pentecost C - John 14:8-17, 25-27

John 14:8-17, 25-27
Years ago I had one of those moments when I desperately wanted a clear word from the Lord. Nothing seemed to be working. Not prayer or conversations with colleagues or time in silent meditation. I don’t recommend what I did next because I think it treats the scripture like a Christian version of the Magic 8 ball®, but desperate times called for desperate measures and so I opened my Bible at random and landed on John 14:9. “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still don’t know me?” That’s the other reason not to do it. God might use your name and when God has to use your name you know you haven’t been paying attention. Philip asks the question that is on everyone’s mind and though Jesus' answer sounds like a rebuke Jesus honors the question and shows Philip what he asks to see. It is in the person of Jesus that the mystery of the Holy One is made known. And even if the humanity of John’s Jesus plays second fiddle to his divinity Jesus is for Philip and the disciples a present, physical reality that can be seen. It is Judas (notably not Iscariot) who asks the question for us who have not seen and yet long to believe. It is in keeping the word from Jesus’ own lips, “Love one another” that God is made known. The Holy, Invisible, God Only Wise revealed in kindness offered, in mercy shown, in comfort extended, in generosity sown in the name of Jesus. In that we become the answer to someone’s desperate prayer - ask anything in my name. God made visible in love. In the same way that the internal unity of Father, Son, Spirit cannot be separated, so we too cannot be separated from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. No longer alone without a home like those who have been orphaned the good news for us is that even if God’s answer sounds like a rebuke God uses our name because we are known.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Feast of Pentecost - Romans 8:14-17

Romans 8:14-17

The conditional clause, “if, in fact, we suffer with him” might cause one to “fall back into fear” especially if one lives a life where suffering is minimal or avoided altogether. Of course all suffering is relative and in that sense painful. Even minor losses are loses none-the-less. But Paul is not talking about minor inconveniences. Nor is he talking about the kind of suffering that is arbitrary or random, like an accident or a sudden loss of health. Or the suffering caused by another. Or the suffering that is personal and borne alone. Paul is talking about the suffering one chooses to endure in the same way that Jesus abandoned the place of perfection to inhabit our flesh that like the flowers of the field fades. The suffering Jesus endured, then, was fully for the sake of others and the glory it brought him was the redemption of a world hell bent on destruction. For us to, “in fact, suffer with him” means we choose the path of pain and sorrow with and for the sake of the other - to pick up the cross that belongs to someone else in the same way Jesus bore our pain and suffered our sorrow. The condition of this clause depends on our possessing the family gene which is love and the good news is that the adoption papers have been signed, sealed and delivered by the One who made us to be children of God.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The Feast of Pentecost - Psalm 104:24-35

Psalm 104:24-35
I'm reprinting my May 23, 2010 post on Psalm 104 for my friend and Smokey Trailer Band bass player David Lakota in remembrance of his mother Doris.

The God who made the Leviathan just for fun sent forth the Spirit yesterday afternoon and while family and friends and pastors gave thanks for the life that endures forever and prayed peace on those who walk as yet by faith, Doris Lakota was birthed into the eternal future. She was a believer who sang of the goodness of God with her life as long as she lived and looked to the Lord in every season to fill her with good things like faith and courage and hope and love. But while the psalmist was anxious to hold on to this life Doris was ready to let it go and see the glory of the Lord face to face. The mediation of the heart that is most pleasing to the Lord is to not be dismayed when the Lord’s face appears to be hidden and rejoice that though breath is taken away the Spirit that renews the face of the earth will recreate us from the dust to which we return and revive us with the breath of eternal life.

Monday, May 13, 2013

The Feast of Pentecost - Acts 2:1-21

Acts 2:1-21

Lutherans are rarely mistaken for Pentecostals and even when the charismatic renewal blew through the church our version of Pentecost was more polite than possessed. It could be our Nordic or Germanic heritage where church doesn't look anything like drinking new wine in the morning. But that doesn't mean we are less spirit filled or on fire for the Lord. It just means our expression of Holy Spirit fire prefers to toast the faithful not burn them to a crisp. It is a mistake to envy the more demonstrative Holy Spirit folk or think that they are holier than thou, though thou art free to discretely raise a hand while singing A Mighty Fortress or quietly add an “Amen” if the preaching warrants such a response. While those things are all well and good this text is not about personal expressions of emotional piety. The day of Pentecost is about speaking the story of Jesus in a language people can understand. In these “last days” it means speaking the story to those who are by self definition spiritual but not religious, but in truth still seeking for something that satisfies the restless heart. On that first day of the “last days” it meant speaking in the tongues of Gentile nations. In these “last days” it means the church must step outside of its holy halls and wake up from the illusion of privilege and power. It means we stop lusting after the myth of a Christian nation and acting as if we are victims of a secular conspiracy. For those of us who call on the name of the Lord in this day of the “last days” it means speaking the story subversively so that by sowing the seeds of curiosity we may be asked why we long for peace, why we feed the hungry, why we share ourselves in service, why we hope, why we love. It may be that by speaking from the heart about the Spirit that fills us with peace those who are spiritual but not religious might be tempted to become religiously spiritual which might be an apt description of a Lutheran Pentecostal.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Easter 7 C - John 17:20-26

John 17:20-26

Whenever I go to the NTNL Mission office in Dallas I like to stop at the Starbucks at the corner of TX 183 and Mockingbird Lane. It is perhaps the busiest and nosiest Starbucks on the planet. I’m not sure why since it is also one of the most difficult to get to given one way lanes and limited parking and Dallas drivers that don’t drive Texas Friendly.® It’s not that the patrons are noteworthy. They are pretty typical Venti, no fat, triple shot, apricot la-de-da whatever Lattes. The only thing that makes this SB stand out is that the half dozen baristas periodically break into singing things like “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” and other classics at the top of their lungs. It might be that after seeing you circle three times trying to park they just want to make it worth your while once you've arrived or maybe they just like to sing loudly but whatever the reason they seem to be enjoying themselves. And while I've never joined the song their singing always orders up a Venti no fat smile. I think that’s what Jesus is praying for in John 17. Not singing at Starbucks, but a unity of mind and spirit and purpose that like a loudly sung song in a public place prompts a response. And if the world would witness a people who sing with unrestrained joy about Jesus, even if they can’t carry a tune, and serve the other out of love because it’s the right thing to do then I think they might make the effort to overcome one way lanes and limited parking and less than friendly drivers just to join the song and share in the Jesus Venti no fat lifestyle.

Easter 7 C - Revelation 22:12-22

Revelation 22:12-22

The lectionary for Easter 7c leaves out verse 15 of Revelation 22 presumably because verse 15 leaves out “dogs and sorcerers and fornicators and murderers and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.” I don’t know about you, but the Heinze household believes all dogs go to heaven, except maybe our bad dog Chihuahua, Feliz Puppydad, who will need to be potty trained in purgatory first. Verses 18 & 19 don’t make the lectionary lesson either, but that has more to do with what one would add to Revelation than whatever one might leave behind. So warning and welcome live side by side and we do a disservice to the scripture when we pick and choose, even though denominations clearly discriminate. Those more liberal, or by self definition progressive, need to acknowledge the nasty with the nice, while those intent on saving the world as long as it is monochromatic need to look more closely at the Jesus who consistently colors outside the lines. But both sides should take note that while we argue about what verses to include or exclude the rest of the world doesn't give a damn, which doesn't really matter if they are all going to hell. But if Jesus died to make a difference then we better figure out a better way than “turn or burn” or “all paths lead to the same place” to speak the truth about Jesus so the dogs in verse 15 might actually want to find a welcome place in verse 17.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Easter 7 C - Psalm 97

Psalm 97
The Lord is King! Let the earth rejoice, unless lit up by the Lord's lightning the earth trembles. Let the coastlands be glad, unless occupied by adversaries the coastlands are consumed. Psalm 97 imagines the mountains melting like wax and the Lord surrounded by clouds and thick darkness bringing it on like Iron Man 3. But for those rescued from the hand of the wicked and loved for hating evil the Lord is like the gentle light of dawn bringing joy to the upright who have survived the night. Here in lies the rub between judgment and justice, penalty and pity, the ones forgiven for eternity and those for whom eternal punishment seems to outweigh the crime. How do we bow down before the throne of the Lord as King Iron Man and at the same time proclaim the servant God of grace? It may be that the Lord as King brings a world of hurt to whoever boasts in worthless idols - but the gospel proclaims a God whose heart melted like wax within him when with his hands nailed to wood by the wicked he forgave those who knew full well what they were doing even though they didn't have a clue why he allowed it to be done to him. So rejoice in the Lord then, you who have been made righteous by the Lord as King, who forgave the wicked as if they were you.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Easter 7 C - Acts 16:16-34

Acts 16:16-34

In Acts 16 a healing happens because Paul “very much annoyed” by a slave girl outing him as a slave of the Most High God tells the divining spirit in her to shut up. Of course the slave girl freed is a set up for the freeing of the Philippian jailer who doesn't know he’s the one behind bars. Once the stage is set Paul and Silas singing in the aftershock of the earthquake is such a surprise that the jailer brought back from the brink asks, “What must I do to be saved?” even though what he really wants to know is “Why are you still here?” The answer that saves the jailer and his household is to believe in whatever it was that kept Paul and Silas singing in the cell when running away made more sense. That is the answer that saves us as well, for instead of coming down from the cross and saving himself Jesus stayed put so that like the jailer we might be brought back from the brink. In this we know we are saved, not by confessing a creed or adherence to a tradition or allegiance to a denomination or ritual, but when believing in Jesus means staying put with and for the other when walking away would be much easier. And so whether we can carry a tune or not we sing the mercy of God in the aftershock of whatever life throws at us for we know as slaves of the Most High God we are truly free.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Easter 6 C - Conclusion

My Google calendar just told me I have no events scheduled today. I wish I'd known that before I got out of bed. Of course that is only one of four Google calendars I keep and I'm sure the others have things for me to do. I don't know about you but I get messages all day long from apps or services reminding me of things I at one time must have said I wanted to do. Yesterday my running app sent me a message on my HTC One asking if it had done something to upset me and why was I ignoring it and was I ready to run again. I apologized and said I'd run again as soon as it warms up. It made me pinky swear before I could exit the app. In the time between Easter and Pentecost we might imagine the Easter 6 C lessons texting us like the man from Macedonia called to Paul. And on our task list is a morning meeting down by the river to share our faith with the Lydias we might meet. Psalm 67 reminds us that praise is on the schedule of the faithful every day and that praise will be a recurring event in the forever future when the New Jerusalem envisioned by John comes down. And in the Gospel Jesus promises an Advocate that will remind the disciples of everything he said even though there is only one thing to remember... Love.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Easter 6 C - John 14:23-29

John 14:23-29
"Do not let your hearts be troubled" might be mistaken for a Jesus "Just Do It" theology if it were not for the peace that precedes it. In the same way that "Believe in God. Believe also in me" precedes the same command in the beginning of chapter 14, the "do not let…" does not lead. It follows. And the peace that precedes the "do not let…" is not put on a happy face and the whole world smiles with you because the sun will come up tomorrow bet your bottom dollar solution to real life strife. In the same way, "believe in me" does not mean just get over it. Nor does it minimize trouble because it could be worse, even if it clearly could be. That would be worldly peace. Temporary and illusory the peace of the world denies sorrow, medicates pain with costly pleasure, or seeks solace by seeing to it that other hearts are equally troubled. The peace that Jesus gives embraces suffering and dies to destroy the power of death. Called to cling to the cross by which Jesus overcomes the world and all the trouble in it, the people of Jesus' peace believe that trouble is temporary while peace is eternal. In the fourth chapter of his second letter to the troublesome Corinthians the apostle Paul did not let his heart be troubled, though he had more than enough of his share. "We have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed." Do not let your hearts be troubled is not a command. It is an invitation.

Easter 6 C - Revelation 21:10-22:5

Revelation 21:10-22:5
It is a strange vision of a city that is out of this world. Carefully measured and described with twelve gates of pearl, walls of jasper, streets of gold and foundations adorned with jewels, some with names that will twist the tongue of Sunday's lectors, the vision is intended to impress. Written to those suffering the pain of persecution it must have seemed a dream too good to be true. But the vision went beyond the immediate need for rescue and redemption. For those who longed for Jerusalem's ruined temple rebuilt, God and the Lamb will be in plain sight and no curtain will hide the Holy of Holies. There will be no need of sun or moon, or gates shut to keep out the danger that lurks in the dark, for all that threatens and practices falsehood will be banished. And the twelve tree forest will heal the nation's warring madness so that all that follows in the wake of war, pestilence and plague and famine and death will be forever erased from the human lexicon. It may be a vision of the future but it came from someone who in this world longed for the out of this world that only peace can bring. We might have to wait for the city to come down but there is no reason we cannot be building the foundation today by dreaming the dream and casting the vision while working to make this world look a little more like the next. That really would be out of this world.