Thursday, December 31, 2015

Christmas 2 C - John 1:1-18

John 1:1-18
These opening verses of John’s gospel are like an overture of a grand symphony. The themes and images and theology that will make up the twenty-one chapters of John are introduced the most important being the nature of the Word who was before anything began. My friend, Dr. Bob, calls the Jesus in John the magic Jesus. That’s because John’s Jesus always knows what people are thinking and what’s coming next and makes things happen like magic especially in the end when he lays down his life and picks it up again all by himself. Of course magic Jesus is just a fun way of saying John has a high Christology which is the point John makes in the beginning. This Word that was before anything existed brings light and life into the world by becoming flesh as a Son so that the Father can be revealed. If you have seen the Son you have seen the Father. To tell you the truth I prefer a less magic Jesus like the one in the Gospel of Mark and yet there is something compelling about this Word revealing the mystery of the God beyond knowing. I think it is because this Jesus retains so much of his eternal beginning in his earthly end that he really could have blinked his eyes and legions of angels would have done an Armageddon on those who did Him in. But that would have been darkness overcoming light because given the choice God choosing to die as Jesus is how God so loves the world. That’s the twist the world couldn’t see coming. God’s dying is how we are born into grace and truth, the life of God. And like all good magic tricks the only thing you can do is be surprised and amazed and ask to see it again.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Christmas 2 C - Ephesians 1:3-14

Paul spent a good bit of time in Ephesus but it was not as pleasant as the opening of his letter might lead one to believe. He was imprisoned more than once and faced opposition so far beyond his ability to endure that he despaired of life itself. But he stayed on despite feeling himself under the sentence of death because of the opportunities that persecution presented him. It is in the face of external opposition and inner turmoil that Paul makes these claims that seem to fly in the face of reason. You are holy and blameless and blessed with every spiritual blessing. You were destined from the beginning of time to inherit the riches of God’s grace and sealed by the promised Holy Spirit to live for the praise of God’s glory. These are words of encouragement for Paul as well as the Ephesians to see beyond the temporal into the eternal and so endure even though the whole world conspired to persecute the church to death. While we do not suffer such persecutions we do experience hardships beyond our ability to endure and one does not need to be thrown into prison or face wild beasts in the arena to despair of life itself. The temptation is to believe the temporary will never end because what Paul might call “slight and momentary hardships” (2 Corinthians 4:17) are anything but when you are the one living in them. But that is why faith looks to the past, before the foundation of the world when we were chosen by God, and at the same time peers into the future when the inheritance of unfading glory will be fully realized. It does not mean we will not despair of life itself or face hardships beyond our ability to endure. It does mean that all is not lost even if your whole world conspires against you because the present, no matter how long it lasts, is temporary and even if you cannot endure God will. And that is a promise you can count on no matter what.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Christmas 2 C - Jeremiah 31:7-14

Jeremiah 31:7-14
In Telling the Truth: The Gospel as Tragedy, Comedy and Fairytale the American theologian, Frederick Buechner, writes “the Gospel is bad news before it is good news.” That is certainly true for Jeremiah whose long career as a prophet is characterized by weeping. From the beginning his was the kind of ministry that no one appreciates because he was a truth teller to those who fabricated and lived by lies. But his was the voice that could not be silenced though like the Truth that would one day come Jeremiah was despised and rejected, a man of sorrows and familiar with grief. In the end Jeremiah will die in exile and the last words of his book will describe the burning and looting of the temple in Jerusalem. But despite the overwhelming bad news for Judah and the suffering that will ensue as the consequence of unfaithfulness God speaks a greater truth through the tears of the weeping prophet. On the other side of mourning is joy; on the other side of sorrow is gladness. The young will dance and the old shall be merry for the Lord who scattered them will bring them back to life like a well-watered garden. But this greater truth can only be experienced if one accepts the lesser truth, the first truth about ourselves. That we like Judah prefer an easy word to a hard one and have perfected the art of living illusionary lives believing secret sins can be confessed without being acknowledged. In the end captivity will come if it hasn’t already. But that is the good news for only from captivity do we listen to the greater truth. That in His weeping the Truth dried our tears for His pain purchased our joy, His death our life. And knowing that the Truth has set us free makes it much harder to go back to living a lie. And that is good news indeed.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Christmas 1 C - Colossians 3:12-17

Colossians 3:12-17
Paul’s fashion advice to the Colossians begins with the remembrance of who they are in Christ. Remember you are chosen by God. Remember you are holy and beloved or in other words remember you are a desirable object of God’s affection. So what to wear? Paul’s list should simplify our selection and would if not for closets filled with thoughts and ways of being that don’t fit or have worn out or were never very attractive in the first place. And cleaning out the closet is painful even when helped by loving admonishment. But in the end cleaning our closets and improving our fashion sense is only possible if we are helped by those who bear with us and forgive us and encourage and compliment us. You look good in kindness. That compassion really sets off the color of your eyes. You make that patience work, girl. So what to wear? Remember to put on Christ and everything else will fit perfectly. 

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Christmas 1 C - Psalm 148

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

Monday, December 21, 2015

Christmas 1 C - 1 Samuel 2:18-26

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

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Advent 4 C - Luke 1:39-56

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

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Advent 4 C - Hebrews 10:5-10

Hebrews 10:5-10
The book of Hebrews contains some memorable verses like “Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” and “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, today and always” and “Since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses…” These verses are not like those. Most of Hebrews is dedicated to carefully constructed and detailed arguments that would make a lawyer’s head spin. These verses are part of the concluding arguments for the case the unnamed writer wants to make; God has replaced the entire legal system of the law with a new deal. It makes sense then that the new deal would require carefully reasoned arguments for the old one was pretty complicated. Even so it must have seemed beyond reason for those first readers of Hebrews for their entire relationship with God fully depended on God being pleased with sacrifices and offerings. Now they were being asked to believe the right relationship with God, which had depended on their sacrifices, had been replaced by God’s sacrifice. We are not so different for though we confess we are in bondage to sin and cannot free ourselves we often live as if we believe God only helps those who help themselves. The new deal asks us to trust that nothing we do or say or think is a deal breaker because God’s will is to make us right despite what we do or say or think. And that is beyond reason, which is why faith is being sure of what you hope for and certain of what you do not see.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Advent 4 C - Psalm 80

Psalm 80:1-7
The lectionary offers the option of using Mary’s song, “My soul magnifies the Lord...” in place of the psalm but I think the lament of Psalm 80 helps put both the prophetic word of Micah and its fulfillment in Luke into the proper context which is God’s response to all that leads one to lament. Lament is the question of the scriptures; “How long, O Lord, will the wicked prosper?” and the cry of the abandoned, “My God! My God! Why have you forsaken me?” And so it is for us when in days and nights of questioning, with tears for our bread, scorned and derided by life’s circumstance, we cry out, how long, O Lord? But there is within lament’s question the anticipation of Mary’s song for “How long will you be angry with your people’s prayers?” believes there will be a day of restoration. And that is what makes Mary’s song magnificent. She and all of Israel have waited for this day not in silence but in complaint and when the silent God who is always present finally speaks through the offspring of Mary’s womb the centuries of lamenting are forgotten in the infant’s cry. And in an ironic twist the cry of Mary’s offspring on a “hill far away” will be God’s lament which of course is how we are saved.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Advent 4 C - Micah 5:2-5a

Micah 5:2-5a
The lectionary for Advent 4C begins with verse 2 of Micah chapter 5 and ends before the fifth verse is finished. Maybe that is because the rest of Micah predicts the “one of peace” who comes from the little clan of Judah will do some damage to the Assyrians “and in anger and wrath execute vengeance on the nations that did not obey.” (5:15) It’s not quite the stuff of Christmas carols but then Micah was written to people who had suffered the kind of carnage that calls for revenge. The Christ that was born in “O little town of Bethlehem” is nothing like the Messiah Micah imagined God would send. It will take a prophet like Paul to realize that God chooses what is foolish to shame the wise, what is weak to shame the strong and that the reversal of fortune that saves the world happens when the “one of peace” dies a violent death. Of course that is not the end of the story because the “one of peace” died in order to do serious damage to death itself. So while the powers and principalities (Ephesians 6) may have celebrated on the Friday we call “Good” they were done for good on the Sunday we call Easter. 

Friday, December 11, 2015

Advent 3 C - Luke 3:7-18

Luke 3:7-18
We don’t hear many “Brood of Vipers” sermons in the Lutheran church. It’s not that we don’t all need and even welcome a stern word now and then it’s just that Lutherans draw the line at being called poisonous reptiles. We’re happy to sing “Chief of Sinners Though I Be” and confess that we are by nature sinful and unclean but call us snakes and we might hiss at you. But with or without the snake reference this may be more of a true word for us than we’d care to admit. While we don’t presume to be children of Abraham we bet on being children of grace and bearing fruits worthy of repentance is often a postscript not a priority. Like those who came out to be chastised and challenged by John the end of our confession must be “What then should we do?” Of course the question, as important and necessary as it is, follows God’s answer for Christians of the Lutheran flavor. God’s forgiveness does not depend on our doing; our doing depends on God’s forgiving. True repentance anticipates absolution and in the freedom of forgiveness one cleans out the closet and gives away the extra coat. The good news of John’s exhortation is the end our comfortable relationship with dishonest ways and vain striving after wealth and power. And all of this is made possible by the “more powerful” One who follows John, the only anti-venom for a brood of vipers.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Advent 3 C - Philippians 4:1-13

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

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Advent 3 C - Isaiah 12:2-6

Isaiah 25:2-6 is the text for The First Song of Isaiah by Jack Noble White. The first time I heard it was some twenty years ago at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Irving, TX when I presided over a funeral for one of their members. The funeral was for a woman who had courageously battled cancer for more years than her original prognosis predicted possible and while we felt a deep sadness at the loss of one so faithful and beautiful and loved we also felt that peace and joy that would be out of place if not for the truth of this scripture set to song. “Surely it is God who saves me. I will trust in Him and not be afraid. For the Lord is my stronghold and my sure defense and He will be my Savior.” In this scripture set to song the physical and spiritual weakness of human flesh, the fear, the doubt, the overwhelming sorrow is lifted with the melody as our singing is joined and supported and sustained by an invisible cloud of witnesses for whom the song is more true than we can presently imagine. Surely it is God who saves me… It is a song of defiant faith against all that would wither the soul with doubt and fear. Surely it is God who saves me… It is a song of courage for times of trial and comfort for times of sorrow. Surely it is God who saves me… a song for all our days until at last we reach the endless tomorrow. Surely it is God who saves me.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Advent 3 C - Zephaniah 3:14-20

Zephaniah 3:14-20
These are the last verses of the short book of Zephaniah. The rest of the book reads more like the first verse of the prophecy. "I will sweep away everything from the face of the earth," declares the LORD. Zephaniah predicts “a day of distress and anguish, of trouble and ruin, of darkness and gloom,” because Jerusalem has become complacent thinking God will do neither good nor evil and Assyria, that carefree city, is full of pride boasting “I am and there is none like me.” But those who seek humility and righteousness, who accept the Lord’s correction, will sing for joy for they will be renewed in God’s love. The truth of this short book is that spiritual complacency and pride are deadly in the life of the believer. We think that nothing we do really matters because God is like the kindly grandparent who might get a little upset but still has milk and cookies for us at bedtime. Or we are full of our own spiritual prowess and piety thinking that we can overcome sin itself and so judge all others accordingly. The woe that complacency and pride visit upon us is the same as the dreadful judgments of Zephaniah. We forget how to sing the song of the heart’s rejoicing and cannot hear the God who longs to exult over us with loud singing. So accept the Lord’s correction this day. Seek after humility and righteousness and sing a song of rejoicing with the Lord who longs to sing with you.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Advent 2 C - Luke 3:1-6

Luke 3:1-6
Luke names the powers that rule the world because he is writing an orderly account for the most excellent Theophilus and though he is a physician by training he is an historian at heart. And so he grounds the story of salvation in the names and dates of human history. But Luke the theologian names the powers of the political and religious world to clothe the prophetic word in flesh and blood. The powers of empire and temple cannot hear it yet but the voice that cries in the wilderness will resound throughout the world of Jerusalem and Rome. The mountain of Tiberius and Pilate will be made low. The valley of Herod’s wickedness will be filled. The crooked path of Annas and Caiaphas will be made straight as the rough ways of empire and temple are made smooth. We would do well to listen for the voice crying in our time for the salvation that all flesh will see is not clothed in the trappings of empire or church but in acts of justice, peace and mercy. And closer to home the good news is that when we hear the voice and see that salvation for ourselves the mountain of our pride is brought low, the valley of our fear and self-loathing is filled, the crooked paths that have become well-worn and familiar are made straight and all the rough ways that keep us from loving are made smooth. And that is good news indeed.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Advent 2 C - Philippians 1:3-11

Philippians 1:3-11
If the Galatians and the Corinthians were like thorns in Paul’s flesh, then the Philippians were the healing balm for the pain in Paul’s neck. It’s not that the Philippians didn’t have troubles of their own it’s that despite the trials they faced they were more than willing to share Paul’s. That is the way of partnership in the Gospel. Or as Paul will write to the law bound Galatians, bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ. Or to the spiritually arrogant Corinthians, you can babble on in whatever language you like but the language of love is the only one that matters. The Philippians understood that from the beginning when they were the only church to support Paul’s efforts in Macedonia. It’s hard to image how their love might overflow more than it already had but that is Paul’s prayer for those who shared his joy and his suffering. Whenever the church ceases to be conversant in the language of love it is in need of a Philippian reformation that the good work begun on the day of our Pentecost might be completed on the day of resurrection. 

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Advent 2 C - Luke 1:68-79

Luke 1:68-79
The lesson that occupies the place of the psalm this Sunday is Zechariah’s Song and expresses the hopes and dreams of a people who have been waiting forever for their fortunes to change and their ship to come in. Zechariah sings it because he is a new father and his voice which had been taken from him earlier in the chapter has returned and that is reason enough to sing. But it is more than a proud father who has high hopes for his son; no less than a prophet of the Most High! No, it is more than that for in a moment of Holy Spirit joy Zechariah sings the longing of every people oppressed by enemies or hands that hate, all people who yearn for light to shine in the darkness and the shadow cast by death itself. In that sense it is a song for us who are often our own worse enemies. Oppressed by thoughts and deeds that lead us far from God we hear a word of promise that in the mighty Savior floating in Mary’s womb tender mercy will rescue us and guide our hearts and minds in the ways of peace. And that calls for a song.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Advent 2 C - Malachi 3:1-4

Malachi 3:1-4
The offerings of Judah and Jerusalem have been less than pleasing and have wearied the Lord. Blind, lame and sick animals are substituted for lambs without blemish and the Lord would rather the temple doors be closed and locked than endure the stench of such dishonest offerings. The priests participate and profit from the scheme while the workers are oppressed, widows and orphans are not cared for and the alien is thrust aside. Perhaps it was because God seemed distant and the rules and regulations of the covenant relationship seemed arbitrary and economically oppressive. What’s a blind lamb to an invisible God? And so corners are cut and liberties taken and before you know it the relationship that enriched the people and God has impoverished both. Therefore, God will pay a visit to the temple and do some housecleaning. With overturned tables and coins of money changers scattered the refining fire speaks the word of judgment, “It is written, my house will be a house of prayer but you have made it a den of robbers!” Not a week later the fullers’ soap speaks the cleansing word from a hill above the temple, “It is finished.” We who are more like Judah and Jerusalem than we care to admit need to hear the word of the refiner when our offerings are less than the best and corners that count are cut. When we listen God will hear and the offering of relationship restored will be pleasing to us and the Lord.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Advent 1 C - Luke 21:25-36

Luke 21:25-36
I’m afraid it may just be hard wired into our anxious DNA to divide the world into those who faint from fear at the end of all things and those who stand up and cheer. While there is no question that Jesus used the language of apocalypse to speak of the end of all time, all the Gospels contain such speeches, how can the Crucified One come back to save a few only to crucify the vast majority of human beings with vengeance? The first time around the Kingdom of God contained some unlikely subjects, such as tax collectors and sinners, prostitutes and people of questionable character, so why would they be less welcome the second time around? So I find some comfort that Jesus uses the image of spring to talk about the signs. Despite the roaring of the seas and the signs that make one faint it will be like daffodils that pop up through the snow. Despite the signs in the sky it will be like Lady Bird Johnson’s legacy of Bluebonnet blanketed Texas highways. Maybe the best way to escape all the things that will take place and stand before the Son of Man is to trust that the second coming Christ will be like Jesus the first time around.  

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Advent 1 C - 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13

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

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Advent 1 C - Psalm 25

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

Monday, November 23, 2015

Advent 1 C - Jeremiah 33:14-16

Jeremiah 33:14-16
The days are surely coming is a promise that the time of waiting will one day be over and the long expected Savior of the nations will finally come. And while we’ve seen and celebrate the Righteous Branch born in a stable, crucified on a cross, raised on the third day we still wait for something more, when what is old will become new and what is broken will be made whole. Sorrow will turn to joy, wailing into dancing, and death itself will be swallowed up by life that is unending. In the meantime, we anticipate that day best by putting on the future in the present through acts of kindness and mercy by living in love. The day that is surely coming came for Calvary member Raye Ann Sievers last Tuesday. If anyone lived the future in the present it was Raye Ann. While we often speak of those who have died in way that make them out to be better than they were that is not possible when we remember Raye Ann. Not that she wasn’t a sinner. But her light and love will be sorely missed by those who were blessed to be in her presence. And while Raye Anne was obviously not The Righteous Branch she was so clearly connected to Christ as to embody all the ways in which we are blessed by One whose life is our righteousness. Raye Ann’s day of waiting is done and while ours continues her way of waiting inspires us to work for truth and justice and love until at last we join Raye Ann and all the saints in the place of perfection. 

Friday, November 20, 2015

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

John 18:33-37
“What is it you have done?” It could have been the name calling. You brood of vipers. You white washed tombs. You blind guides. It could have been the consistent breaking of Sabbath laws. It could have been the incident in the temple. Or we could take Caiaphas at his word, “it is better that one man dies for the people than the whole nation perishes." Fear is a powerful motivator and even a nation under Roman occupation seeks at all costs to hold onto the illusion of being in control. But Jesus is doing something else. If we take him at his word, He lays down his life only to take it up again to draw all people to himself because the world will perish unless this one man dies. Of course we who are on the side of truth for all sorts of practical reasons are still tempted to make Jesus’ kingdom look more like Pilate’s. But the greater truth of this Christ who is the King, handed over to a puppet politician by self-righteous religious rulers, is that he dies for them as well. Talk about going rouge. That really is a kingdom from another place.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

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

Revelation 1:4-8
The letter that vividly describes a violent and final end for so many begins rather nicely for the seven churches. Of course this good beginning was written to seven churches facing an even more imminent end themselves. That is helpful to remember because I don’t think we can fully comprehend what the word from the One who is and was and is to come meant to the rightful recipients of John’s letter. I think I know what we’ve done with it and even though the best-selling series Left Behind was red hot I think God might put it in the lukewarm category for God's sake. So how do we hear a word for us even though it is clearly addressed to them? First of all, one does not need to be persecuted or enslaved by temporal powers in order to desire freedom. We are all in bondage to sin and cannot free ourselves. And while some may face an imminent end all of us face an inevitable one and can find comfort that the first born from the dead opens a way for those who will follow. And finally the promise of Jesus’ coming on the clouds, whether one wails or not, is a promise that our violent wounding world will come to an end and a world of peace and joy and love will take its place. And that is good news indeed.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Christ the King Year B - Psalm 93

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

Monday, November 16, 2015

Christ the King Year B - Daniel 7:1-18

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

Friday, November 13, 2015

Pentecost 25 B - Mark 13:1-8

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

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Pentecost 25 B - Hebrews 10:11-25

Hebrews 10:11-25
Let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds… It reminds me of “I double dare you” on the grade school playground although that usually involved provoking one another to dangerous deeds that were never very good and certainly not well thought out. The Greek word is paroxysm, which means a sharpening. The only other time the word is used is for the sharp disagreement between Paul and Barnabas that resulted in their parting company. So we are to provoke one another to love and good deeds with the same intensity as a sharp disagreement. This won’t be easy for Lutherans because we prefer a politer approach that includes the magic word “please” or “If it’s not too much trouble…” If that doesn’t work, we still don’t provoke. We motivate one another the old fashioned way aka Lutheran guilt. But the provocation in these passages is based on confidence, full assurance and unwavering hope in the faithfulness of God. The provocation to love is a response to God’s love, as good deeds are a response to the good deed done for us by Jesus who has opened a new and living way into heaven itself. Now that sounds like something that might motivate a Lutheran. So what are you waiting for? Get out there and do some good deeds today. I double dare you.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Pentecost 25 B - Psalm 16

Psalm 16
This is a psalm of confidence as opposed to a confidence psalm. By that I mean the psalmist is confident in God who counsels and makes one secure and promises eternal pleasures while those who run after other gods reap the rewards of a Ponzi scheme. The only thing multiplied by their investment is sorrow. The other gods of psalm 16 are the Canaanite deities like Ba’al. I’m confident that the worship of Ba’al is not a great temptation today but running after other gods still is. Martin Luther defines other gods like this: “whoever trusts and boasts great skill, prudence, power, favor, friendship, and honor has also a god...” So when we run after possessions or power or prestige or pleasure we do so at the expense of our investment in the One who makes the heart glad and the tongue rejoice and the body rest secure. The other gods call us to run after them while the true God pursues and precedes us for God’s promise is backed by the security of the One who abandoned to the grave made death obedient to Him. It is because God is ahead of us in death and behind us in life that we with the psalmist can say we will not be shaken. So make a wise investment today, stop running after other gods and let the Lord catch up to you.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Pentecost 25 B - Daniel 12:1-3

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

Friday, November 6, 2015

Pentecost 24 B - Mark 12:38-44

Mark 12:38-44
As one who walks around in a long robe once a week and sits up front in the sanctuary and at the head of the pot luck table and is often greeted in public with a nod and a “Morning, Father” I must admit there is some truth to Jesus’ description of “pastored up” pride. The designation (in some Lutheran circles) of “Herr Pastor” did occur without cause. That being said there is also a great sense of humility that comes from being “a steward of the mysteries of God” by bearing the burdens of God’s people “not because you must but because you are willing” (ordination vows) because no one takes those vows without repeating the refrain “…and I ask God to help me”. The only help (and hope) of the poor widow comes from God as she is neglected by the institution that required her copper coins (the temple tax) even though support for widows and orphans and the poor and "the sojourner in your midst" was required of the institution as a reminder that “once you were slaves in the land of Egypt”. Maybe the greater condemnation received by the outwardly pious and proud is that when the doors of the banquet of the future are closed to them the widow at the head table will ask Jesus to let them sit next to her. And maybe Jesus will ask, “are you sure?” And she’ll say, “Yes, and I ask God to help me.” 

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Pentecost 24 B - Hebrews 9:24-28

Hebrews 9:24-28
Once for all, that is the way the writer of Hebrews describes the sacrifice of Jesus. Instead of the high priest repeating the sacrifice time and time again with the blood of bulls or lambs or doves Jesus’ blood is once for all. While that is something I know and believe I will have to admit that when it comes to my own sin I operate more like the high priest than Jesus. And I’m not even a very efficient high priest for often the sins of the past haunt my present and I find I have to offer the sacrifice of guilt or shame time and time again. As much as we might struggle with forgiving others it is forgiving ourselves that presents the bigger challenge. When Martin Luther felt the pangs of guilt and shame for sins of his past or present he would exclaim “I am baptized” to be reminded that he was loved by God and forgiven of sins past, present and future. So if you are troubled today by the sins of the past and tempted to offer the sacrifice of guilt one more time take these words to heart. Once for all.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Pentecost 24 B - Psalm 146

Psalm 146
This psalm begins with a double dose of praise and rightly so. While the plans of princes perish with them the Lord is forever. That is good news for those who would never make it on the palace guest list. The oppressed, the hungry, the prisoner, the blind, those bowed down, the stranger, the widow and the orphan are the ones God seeks and saves. So why is it that the plans of princes and power appeal to us? After all this is not the only scripture that reveals God is opposed to the proud and favorable towards paupers. It should be even more obvious when we tell the story of Jesus the prince of peace born into poverty who calls fisher folk to follow. So what does it mean for us? First of all we might look to find ourselves on the guest list and even if we can't say that justice has literally been denied us we do experience oppression and hunger and captivity. And knowing that God provides for our need we might be more willing to work for those who really are denied justice. We might remember that people living all around us depend on the kindness of others for daily bread. We might remember that visiting the prisoner is in some way freeing for us as well. And when our plans look more like God's and less like the plans of princes our lives will echo the psalm. Praise the Lord!

Monday, November 2, 2015

Pentecost 24 B - 1 Kings 17:9-24

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

Friday, October 30, 2015

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

John 11:32-44
The lesson picks up the story at the point where Mary, the one who was commended for sitting at Jesus feet while Martha took care of the catering, comes to accuse Jesus of not acting in a timely manner. "If you had been here my brother would not have died" is how she greets the One at whose feet she had previously sat in adoration. Truth is she sent word two days earlier and Jesus took his time. So she is right. If he had come when called Lazarus would not have died. Martha on the other hand, despite all the needs of funeral arrangements, met Jesus as he arrived to tell him God would do whatever he would ask. Such is the nature of grief. It changes us. Martha previously intent on serving is compelled to seek and Mary previously intent on seeking withdraws. In the end Mary and Martha's grief is met by the change in Jesus. Jesus wept. That is the Gospel in two words for up to this point the Jesus of John's Gospel is God incarnate who is more Word than flesh. But when Jesus weeps it is God weeping for the pain we endure and in that shared grief we like Lazarus are revived.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

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

Revelation 21:1-6
The “making all things new” promise that was “trustworthy and true” made it possible for people to endure the worst sort of “all things” that got old pretty quickly. When your everyday is filled with sorrow and suffering you need something to hang onto. The promise that the tables will be turned has always been a powerful promise to the persecuted and revenge served warm or cold is just as sweet when your cause is vindicated and your tormentors are themselves tormented. All the better if their punishment is permanent and yours only lasted a lifetime. The trouble we should have with that promise is that it sounds like a very human response to a very human problem. The first sin outside the garden was fratricide and the human family has been killing each other ever since. So for God to enter the fray in the same way does not make sense to me. I’m not saying there is no judgement. I will be judged guilty no matter how tightly I cling to the cross of Christ because I am guilty. And so are you. And so are they whoever your “they” may be. The whole damn lot of humanity. Guilty. The hope that gives me comfort is that God’s promise to dwell with mortals is bigger than my limited imagination can conceive and that in the cross God truly was “reconciling the world to God’s self not counting people’s sins against them.” It is not a get out a jail free card. It is God entering our prison and transforming it into something new. It is the hope that the new Jerusalem will finally live fully into its name – the city of peace.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

The Feast of All Saints Year B - Psalm 24:1-6

Psalm 24:1-6
The psalmist might proclaim that the earth is the Lord's but we live as if everything belongs to us. It's more than not taking care of the portion of the planet we inhabit. Rather our neglect of good things is a symptom of a more serious disease. As the old confession goes we have sinned against the Lord in thought word and deed by what we have done and left undone. Our hands are unclean, our hearts are impure and deceit comes naturally to us. And so it was for the unclean and impure that the King of Glory climbed a hill called Calvary where his clean hands were nailed to wood and his pure heart was broken. The blessing of the Lord we receive is the answer to the prayer of another psalm. Create in us clean hearts, O Lord, and renew in us a right spirit. Such is the company of those who seek the Lord. Not those who are pure in their own right but those who have been vindicated by the God of their salvation and that is good company indeed.

Monday, October 26, 2015

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

Isaiah 25:6-9
The psalmist laments, “by the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept… when our captors mocked us making us sing songs of Zion… while we imagined those who dashed the children of Babylon upon the rocks blessed.” (Psalm 137) It is to captive people whose hope is the ugly vision of revenge that Isaiah speaks the hope of God where all people are gathered on God’s holy mountain for a feast of rich food and fine wine. That vision would have been mouth-watering for those whose daily bread was uncertain but to imagine their tormentors seated at the same table was beyond their ability to comprehend. But then God always thinks outside the human box. Love your enemies. Pray for those who persecute you. Father forgive them for they know not what they do. God in Christ Jesus invites humanity to the greatest dinner party ever where the guest list is not about status or income or privilege. All are invited. All are welcome. And while the “all people” party on the holy mountain God dines on death and licks the plate clean. Party on Wayne. Party on Garth. Excellent.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Reformation Sunday - John 8:31-36

John 8:31-36
I suppose I should have said something about being Lutheran this week, after all Reformation is the Lutheran 4th of July and you wouldn’t celebrate independence without some flag waving and fireworks. So here is a Luther quote that might make a bang, “If I am not allowed to laugh in heaven I don't want to go there.” Which I think he was only able to say because of this flag waving quote, “Faith is a living, bold trust in God's grace, so certain of God's favor that it would risk death a thousand times trusting in it.” Radical trust is what it means to be a Christian of the Lutheran flavor even though Lutherans, like everyone else, would prefer a cross the t and dot the i system where God had to play by rules we understand and ultimately control. But to trust that God loves with no strings attached, no down payment required, because God’s very nature is love means God’s love is truly free. I don’t mean all paths lead to the same truth. Jesus is the only one who crossed the t and dotted the i in the way that means no one else has to. There is only one way, only one truth, only one life that makes this life and the forever life possible. So what if we were to say this Reformation Sunday that we’d be willing to risk death a thousand times if the laughter in heaven came from more people than our limited knowledge and doctrine allows for? But then why wait? A bold trust in God’s grace means we don’t have to wait for heavenly laughter for whenever we are so certain of God’s favor to live at peace with all people, especially those who disagree with us – even fellow Lutherans – the laughter in heaven is God’s.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Reformation Sunday - 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 at disobedience or doubt or self-centeredness or disregard for the needs of others or neglect of the planet or any of the ways we are guilty of being less than what God intended humans created in the image of God to be. No. Sin is all about us which is why the just One who intends to justify the creation gone its own way enters the fray to contend with the inevitable consequence of our rebellion, namely, 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 what it means to be fully human.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Reformation Sunday - Psalm 46

Psalm 46
No Fear. It is more than a bumper sticker declaration of 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 circumstances conspire against you. Be still. The help that comes in the morning is available through the night for 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 our midst, like a stream that makes one glad, flows through times of trouble turning them into holy habitations. Living into no fear means we do not wait for a day to come but live fully into the present by pausing in stillness inviting the eternal into the everyday so that with the psalmist we will not fear even if…

Monday, October 19, 2015

Reformation Sunday - Jeremiah 31:27-34

Jeremiah 31:27-34
“The days that are surely coming” where the Lord “remembers sin no more” arrived a long time ago by the way of a hill called Calvary. Unfortunately, we are very good at remembering what the Lord forgets. By that I mean we crucify ourselves again and again with guilt, shame and regret over the very “sour grape” thoughts, words and deeds that were nailed to the cross with Jesus. But the new covenant of the cross means that God continually renews the covenant we break so that we might come to know the One who desires nothing more than to be in relationship with rebellious children such as ourselves. Not sure what God gets out of it. But I am glad to know such a Lord. Maybe we need to write a new covenant with ourselves whereby we are as forgetful, and by that I mean as forgiving, as God.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Pentecost 21 B - Mark 10:35-45

Mark 10:35-45
“When the ten heard this, they began to be angry with James and John” presumably because the ten were sorry they hadn't been as bold as the two. All twelve imagined the cup was power and the baptism the laurel wreath of victory but Jesus is destined to be enthroned on a cross and the places on the right and left of that throne were reserved for criminals. Jesus stills the sons of thunder with the promise that they will drink the cup of suffering and be baptized with death without getting anything in return except the promise that being first for the follower of Jesus is like being last in the ways of the world. In so many ways that lesson has been lost on the church where rich church rulers are vested fully in the ways of the world provided by people in the pews who like the widow with a mite can hardly afford to tithe. Thank God that the “ransom for many” serves and saves in ways that go beyond the limited understanding of the two and the ten and the church so that Jesus is proclaimed despite our propensity to translate the Gospel into ways that make us great.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Pentecost 21 B - Hebrews 5:1-10

Hebrews 5:1-10
I’m not a high priest but I suppose according to the writer of Hebrews I qualify as one chosen to be “put in charge of things pertaining to God” so as to “deal gently with the ignorant and the wayward.” Of course the people of God at Calvary are neither ignorant nor wayward. If you want to read some ignorant and wayward ideas just Google Melchizedek. The trouble with obscure Biblical characters is that people feel free to fill in the blanks. Can anyone say Jabez? What we do know is that Mel, the King of Salem, blessed Abram with bread and wine after Abram’s victory over the Elamites and Abram introduced the tithe – although the passage could be read in such a way that it could be King Mel who gave the tithe to Father Abe. (Genesis 14:18-20) That would be an interesting twist. What if in dealing with a wayward and ignorant humanity it is Jesus, the King of Peace, who gives the tithe to us? Except he didn’t just give ten percent but with loud tears and cries gave his whole life so as to deal gently with those who dealt cruelly with him. Maybe we need to do more than tithe as well?

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Pentecost 21 B - Psalm 91:9-16

Psalm 91:9-16
I’d rather not tread upon the lion cub (they’re so cute!) or trample down the serpent (Why’d it have to be snakes – Indiana Jones) but I wouldn’t turn down a dwelling free from affliction. The fact of the matter is we all experience times full of trouble where the Lord as a refuge with angel hands to bear us up are a welcome relief from all the things that threaten. That does not mean we don’t have to deal with the evil all around us. It does mean that in the holy habitation that is the Most High we are delivered and upheld by the salvation that ultimately satisfies. 

Monday, October 12, 2015

Pentecost 20 B - Isaiah 53:4-12

Isaiah 53:4-12
Isaiah’s vision of the suffering servant seems to indicate God does not deal with transgressions the same way we do. We hold onto grudges and make people pay for momentary slights and hardly ever forgive unless we are sure the offending party is sufficiently sorry. God in Jesus does what no one expects by entering into and bearing the pain that must grieve God the most; the beautiful and terrible human mind that imagines and constructs ways to maximize pain and shame while delaying death as long as possible. But God picks up the pain of all of our inhuman history and bears the suffering we consider a sign of God's judgment or bad karma or rotten luck so as to bring peace to all including those who could care less about anyone else. So aren't there consequences for transgressions? In this life the consequence is found in the transgression itself. A life of corruption can never relax. A life of violence is never safe. A life of excess is never satisfied. But the poor and the put upon and those who bear the brunt of the transgressions of others wait for another day and in that day – if we can believe the scriptures – the last will be ushered in ahead of the first. Whether they are also gatekeepers remains to be seen. If they are I hope they are as merciful as the God who let them cut in line ahead of us. 

Friday, October 9, 2015

Pentecost 20 - Mark 10:17-31

Mark 10:17-31
The rich young man’s wealth and life-long obedience to the law means he has every reason to believe his eternal life inheritance is in the bank and yet he still asks the question, “what must I do?”  The disciples who don’t understand his question or Jesus’ response for that matter have their deposit in the same account. If he’s not in the money what hope do we have? Even their response “we have left everything…” is a way of gaming the “what must I do” system so that God has to pay out on whatever winning hand we think we have. But “for God all things are possible” means we have nothing to do with whatever God has decided is possible for God to do which of course is all things including the unthinkable. God can give eternal life to whomever God pleases to give it to. But that also means God can withhold eternal life from whomever God chooses to withhold it. Truth is God can do whatever God wants to do. Of course in the cross we see the One who was obedient since the beginning give up all he had for the sake of a world impoverished by sin which might lead one to believe the love God has for the human family makes the question “what must I do?” meaningless. That doesn’t mean obedience to the commandments or giving up everything for the sake of the poor are not desirable things to do only that in God’s way of gaming there are no winning tickets to eternal life except Jesus Christ.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Pentecost 20 B - Hebrews 4:12-16

Hebrews 4:12-16
It is more than a little frightening to know that we are laid naked and bare to the eyes of the One who can judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And even more so since it is to that One that we will have to render an account. Shortly after the beginning the first humans hid in the bushes because they heard the sound of God walking in the garden and they were naked and ashamed and afraid. We hide behind bushes of our own design hoping that no one will notice our nakedness and while we are pretty good at disguising our dysfunction from ourselves and one another there is no hiding from God. But then the One who is just is also the One who justifies (Romans 3:28) and was himself stripped naked and nailed to wood so as to be fully sympathetic to the weakness of human flesh. Therefore, we have no fear of and no need to hide from the One who invites us to approach the throne of grace with confidence – not because we are worthy but because God was willing to enter the bushes in which we hide.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Pentecost 20 B - Psalm 90:12-17

Psalm 90:12-17
I don’t need to be a math major to know there are more days behind me than ahead of me 
so I’d rather not number the days I have left, thank you very much. Of course a heart of wisdom isn’t troubled by the passing of time because it understands each day is a gift and no one is guaranteed another when the current day is done. So the heart of wisdom awakes each morning grateful that it has been given a new dawn to greet. That is not to say the burden of each day is easy to bear when days are full of trouble and nights are wearied by weeping. But maybe the heart of wisdom is able to endure them all because the days of trouble are numbered and the future day of resurrection dawn is endless. So satisfy us this day, O Lord, with unfailing love that anticipates the eternal song of joy.