Friday, June 28, 2013

Pentecost 6 C - conclusion

I bought a four pan steam table for the Calvary kitchen today. It meant I got to spend some time at Mission Restaurant Supply on White Settlement which for me is like being a kid in a candy store. So much stainless steel under one roof! The steam table means we will retire the roasters and can serve and keep food warm more efficiently even if the gradual transformation of the kitchen resembles something like a takeover by the Borg. Of course the changes are driven by use and like so many of the spaces at Calvary what was intended is no longer what is needed and what will be only the Lord knows. It's like burning the yoke and eating the oxen and taking a call to Minot, North Dakota. It's trusting the purposes of the Lord are that we land in pleasant places even if the way there means going through Sheol. Like any change in the church it calls for cooperation rather than self-indulgence though I dare say differences over doctrine are more easily resolved than opinions over remodeling. But in all things we are to learn the lesson of the Gospel. It is not our place to call down fire on those with whom we disagree. We are to follow Jesus as if we had no home, no time to bury the dead or say goodbye to the living. And when we follow Jesus with single minded devotion every place is home and the dead are raised and there are no goodbyes.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Pentecost 6 C - Luke 9:51-62

Luke 9:51-62
Either the disciples are accustomed to calling down fire on folks or they’re blowing smoke. I’m voting for the latter. But then church folk do get a little hot under the collar when what they believe to be sacred is not well received. Jesus puts out their passion for revenge (and ours?) with a rebuke and the narrative continues with three on the road sayings. The cost of following Jesus will be high. No home. No time to bury the dead. No turning back. We tend to have an easier time of it and even if we make sacrifices we are not without the comforts of home or time to mourn or take care of business before doing whatever it is God has called us to do. So we are either “not fit for the kingdom of God” or the text does not apply to us. I’m going to opt for a middle way aka the Lutheran solution. We may indeed have comfortable places to lay our heads and take time to bury our dead and say farewell before following but being fit for the kingdom depends wholly on the One who had the power to call down fire on rude Samaritans but did not. So what might seem as an absolute (…not fit for the kingdom) is actually a rebuke and a rebuke is correction not rejection. And in the Lutheran solution the rebuke of the law always leads one to cling more firmly to the Gospel which is the only way we are ever fit for the kingdom of God.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Pentecost 6 C - Galatians 5

Self-indulgence comes in many forms and even the perfectly pious can be bound by it. Granted the more obvious forms are found in Paul’s long list of the fleshly fruits but self-righteousness is just as limiting and destructive as licentiousness. So those who indulge the more carnal desires sell themselves short and pay dearly for what appears to be living large. Those who do not indulge the flesh but are intoxicated with pride biting and devouring one another also pay dearly for the illusion of freedom and do not experience the true fruits of the pious life. But the freedom for which we have been set free is to be in relationship with one another and all people in the same way that Jesus freely loved and gave himself up for the sake of the world. Now it may appear that having one’s hands and feet fastened to wood is the opposite of freedom but that is the way of God who chooses to be emptied that we might be filled. If freedom is defined by living the fruit of the Spirit list then it doesn't matter if you are behind bars or nailed to a cross. So we crucify the desire that would drive us insane as well as the passion to control everyone else for the sake of being free to be bound to others.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Pentecost 6 C - Psalm 16

Psalm 16
False gods promise pleasure or power or peace but only manage to multiply sorrows even if for a while we think ourselves satisfied. It is the nature of the gods we design, even the ones propped up by Biblical texts and dressed up in doctrinal straitjackets. But the God come down apart from whom we have no good thing was not like that and if our boundaries are to fall in pleasant places then following the way of Jesus is the only path of life that will do. It means we trust with all our heart the very things Psalm 16 proclaims. We will not be abandoned or forsaken. We will know fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore. But this isn't some pie-in-the-sky promise that only comes true at the end of the fairy tale  No, the promise begins and ends with the statement of faith. You are my Lord and apart from you I have no good thing. That means even when the path of life twists and turns and makes its way through valleys of despair and deserts of heartache we hold on to hope. Sorrows are not multiplied when one has the Lord at hand. Sorrows are endured. They are overcome. And one day they will be no more. But for now the joy we experience is despite sorrow and the heart is glad even when it aches.  

Monday, June 24, 2013

Pentecost 6 C - 1 Kings 19:15-16, 19-21

1 Kings 19:15-16, 19-21
There’s no going back to the plow once the yoke has been burned and the oxen have been eaten. Jesus makes the same observation in reverse, “no one who puts their hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service…” (Luke 9:62) The point being when God calls you are either all in or you’re out. I had the privilege to preach at the ordination of Calvary's former intern and now Pastor Alex Hoops on Saturday. As I write this he and Emily and daughter Amelia are in route to Minot, North Dakota (via Indiana) where he has been called as the Associate Pastor of Bread of Life Lutheran Church. For a boy from Florida that’s like burning the yoke and boiling the oxen. Why Not Minot? Because the fields are ripe for harvest in North Dakota but in this day and age the harvest is in the oil boom that has brought workers from all over the country and so God has called Alex as an evangelist to speak the Gospel to the faithful of Bread of Life Lutheran but also to the lonely far from home who might not know how hungry they are for the bread of life that satisfies. Emily (who speaks Spanish which will come in handy for the large population of migrant workers) is a co-worker in the Gospel, and an evangelist in her own right through whom the love of God shines without the need of translation. And so it is with all of us who are called to follow and not look back trusting that as long as we have breath in our body God has placed us where we need to be to do the work that needs to be done. That being said I am glad God called me to Texas.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Pentecost 5C

I’ve been on our mission trip to Aqua Viva Lutheran Church, El Cenizo, TX all week and blogging was low on the list of things to do so for the first time since the week of All Saints 2009 I didn’t. But since I have some time while I’m in flight to Tampa, FL for former intern and soon to be Pastor Alex Hoops’ ordination I thought I’d say a few things about the texts for Pentecost 5C. The word from Isaiah 65:1-9 is not nearly as nice as other bits of the book but then Isaiah is not shy in naming the sin that separates us from God. Even so there is always a promise of return as within the shriveled cluster there is a blessing that God preserves. In the same way Psalm 22, “My God, My God” takes a dramatic turn in verse 19 as the lament turns into praise. In Galatians 3:23-29 all the barriers we have erected are brought down so that in the singularity of the Christ race and gender and social class disappear. And in the Gospel the man freed from demons is desperate to depart with Jesus only to be told that he has work to do at home. It’s been my experience that a mission trip is almost always transformative for those on the giving end. For me the blessing left in the cluster of my faith was an El Cenizo angel name Natalia. Of course she was really a charming little third grader who was captivated by my guitar and strummed the strings while I held down the chords and we sang "I've got the joy, joy, joy, joy, down in my heart." Like a lament turned to praise or barriers broken down or demons cast out the gift of a girl whose name means Nativity birthed in my spirit a renewed sense of the Spirit’s presence. That it should happen in a poverty stricken border town should come as no surprise as the promise is “the poor shall eat and be satisfied.” The surprise is that I was the hungry one waiting to be well fed. By the way Natalia said when she grows up she's going to be a famous singer and guitar player. I asked if there was someone famous that she wanted to be like. She said, "yes." I asked, "who?" She said, "you." Imagine that.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Pentecost 4 C - Luke 7:36 - 8:3

Luke 7:36-8:3
A woman who can crash the Pharisee party with an alabaster jar of ointment is not a “Pretty Woman” as prostitutes in the first century were slaves in the same way they are today. So a woman of means with an expensive gift embarrasses the proper Pharisee who is no small potatoes himself as he is able to host a party that scores the guy from Galilee. It’s springtime in the Hamptons. Simon probably deals with her (or her husband) on the side because people of means often set aside philosophy for profit. But the woman of means not included on Simon’s guest list acts in a way that is scandalous. It could be that her weeping at Jesus feet has more to do with Simon than it does with her and Jesus’ word “your faith has saved you” sets her free from a system where she is identified as “that sort of woman.” Of course Simon puts the onus on Jesus “if this man were a prophet” because Simon knows who she is and would have kicked her to the curb. The turn-about-is-fair-play is that Simon has violated all the laws of hospitality that the unnamed woman has broken. Jesus compares Simon’s neglect of proper things with “that kind” of woman attending to things frowned upon. Imagine that. Laws broken can be laws obeyed.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Galatians 2:11-21
Paul has a problem with Peter who formerly went where no Jew had gone before but now under pressure has changed his behavior, if not his mind. At the heart of Paul’s accusation of hypocrisy, against the Rock upon which Christ promised to build his church no less, is the question of what makes one right with God. Jews sought justification by religiously obeying the 613 laws in the Torah. Paul sees justification in the invitation to die with Christ, which is an invitation to die to any attempt to justify oneself. It is the invitation to be crucified with Christ that calls us to speak the Gospel where people might raise their eyebrows so that one day the rest of their bodies might follow suit.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Pentecost 4 C - Psalm 32

Psalm 32
Silence is golden, unless you have something you need to say. The psalmist, which in the way of the psalms is always meant to be whoever happens to be reading the psalm, is wasting away one night at a time. You've been there, or maybe you still are. You toss and turn waking every hour on the hour as things said or left unsaid replay in your head on a continuous loop. A sleepless night is followed by an endless day until back in bed it starts all over again. Maybe you've also been in that place where sick and tired of being sick and tired you come clean and tell the truth and determine to do what you always knew you had to do but didn't have the will or the courage or the desire or the help to begin. Of course that makes it sound so simple when it is often only by bit and bridle and living “many are the torments of the wicked” that one tells the truth and acknowledges sin to oneself, to the Lord, and here’s the hard part, to someone else who loving us will not abandon us to more of the same. It is why we are called to be in community and if we weren't always putting on a happy face and pretending as if everything is fine and I’m okay, really I am, we might take advantage of what the church was always meant to be; a hiding place where no one hides. 

Monday, June 10, 2013

Pentecost 4 C - 2 Samuel 11:26—12:15

2 Samuel 11:26-12:15
“Each one is tempted when, by one’s own evil desire, one is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.” (James 1:14-15) David is not bewitched by Bathsheba’s beauty but consumed by his own evil desire and when his desire conceives he compounds it by killing Uriah. The story that leads up to Nathan’s “you are the man” details David’s desperation to hide his deceit. If Uriah had been more like David and slept with Bathsheba the plan would have succeeded. Of course sooner or later someone would have noticed that Uriah’s boy looked a lot like the King. But when the righteous one will not cooperate with evil schemes the only solution is to kill the righteous one. Nathan sent by the Lord is given the unenviable task of speaking truth to power which is why he comes through the back door and tells a story of injustice before identifying David as the villain. That David can become so incensed at Nathan’s story of a rich man taking a poor man’s only lamb and not connect the dots speaks of sin’s power of self deception. David, a man after God’s own heart has broken God’s heart and in continuing to live as if nothing happened David is as dead as Uriah. That power to deceive self is why the accusation “you are the man” (which sounds like judgment) is actually good news for David for though the he suffers the penalty of sin he is restored to life. It is so for us when Nathans sent by the Lord tell the truth about our infidelity, for all sin is unfaithfulness towards God. In the naming of our sin the Word that forgives is found for the One who was more righteous than Uriah, whose heart melted like wax within him as he hung upon the cross, recreates in us a clean heart and renews within us a right spirit.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Pentecost 3 C - conclusion

Mary Ruth found herself a "Tika" cat who was destined for the shelter and persuaded us to say yes to her bringing it home by texting pictures of a kitten too cute to be destroyed. Of course all kittens are cute but Oscar (the new Tika) was posed in such a way that even people who are not fond of meows started purring when they saw it. In the texts for Pentecost 3c a widow's accusation "what do you have against me...?" motivated the prophet to throw himself on a lifeless body three times until God returned breath to the boy. The psalmist endures the weeping of the night convinced that by morning's light better things will be revealed. Paul defends what has been revealed to him because he is convinced it is more true that what he had previously believed. And when in the gate of Nain the widow parade of lament meets the Jesus parade of expectation anything is possible.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Pentecost 3 C - Luke 7:11-17

Luke 7:11-17
Two parades meet in the city of Nain. One led by Jesus. The other by a weeping widow. The Jesus parade, having just witnessed the healing of the Centurion’s servant, is following with anticipation expecting something from the prophet from Nazareth who never disappoints. The widow’s parade loudly wailing anticipates nothing as the widow’s only hope is borne lifeless on a bier. The parades meet in the gate where one will have to give way to the other. One might expect the Jesus parade to step aside and show some respect but the prophet from Nazareth filled with compassion will have none of that. “Do not weep” means the widow’s parade is the one that will step aside and when the son sits up the two parades become one because the prophet from Nazareth never disappoints.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Pentecost 3 C - Galatians 1:11-24

Galatians 1:11-24
You don’t have to like the apostle Paul to appreciate what the Lord accomplished through him. Truth is he seems to be rather full of himself for one who will admit elsewhere to be the least of the apostles. That being said it was God who did the choosing and scripture would seem to support the idea that God chooses those who otherwise would be left behind. Moses, reluctant and slow of speech, is chosen to speak for I AM. David the youngest brother from the smallest tribe is chosen to be king and although an adulterer and murderer is a man after God’s own heart. Mary of Magdalene, once possessed by seven demons is set free to become the apostle to the apostles. “I have seen the Lord.” And Paul, the persecutor of a charismatic but insignificant Jewish sect, is the one whose work and writings birth the church into the Gentile world to change it forever. So maybe God can work through you? Just sayin…

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Pentecost 3 C - Psalm 30

Psalm 30
Sometimes the joy scheduled for the morning has to wait through many nights of weeping before it can greet us with the dawn of a new day. I think it is because we often do our weeping in the silence of our inner thoughts while trying to maintain the outward appearance of prosperity. “I shall never be moved.” The face of God is not hidden all at once but fades from view the longer we isolate ourselves, relying on the limitations of our own strength. But when we finally run out of Kleenex and tire of living in the pit we have turned into a home healing begins to happen. It doesn't mean the dancing we do is pretty or polished, at least not right away. But the better we become at being honest with ourselves and others the more familiar the “mourning turned to dancing” becomes and in the freedom of sharing the joy of the morning might even last through the night.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Pentecost 3 C - 1 Kings 17:17-24

The widow and the prophet have the same reaction to the death of the child even though the prophet is more polite - “have you done this?” rather than “what do you have against me?” For present day prophets and widows the question does not have an immediate answer as our stories often don’t have happy "See, your son is alive" endings. So what do we do with our stories in light of this ancient tale? I think we stretch ourselves out on the lifeless body of our faith and cry out, “let this faith live!” Like a widow in ancient times who would be destitute without a son and a prophet who depends on God being present for proof we need some sort of confirmation that the One whom we question can deal with what we find difficult to understand and ultimately to bear. The good news is that the Lord listening to our questions is willing to endure our doubt and responds to our need with the resurrection hope that begins and ends with Jesus’ lifeless body held three days by death only to break free once and for all. Of course that is still an ancient story far removed from the troubles we face. But if someone we know would be willing to stretch themselves over us for three days – or whatever it takes – we might be resurrected in ways that will bring life to faith and faith to life.