Thursday, June 30, 2016

Proper 8 C - Luke 10:1-10, 16-20

To be sent out with no purse or provisions as lambs into the midst of wolves doesn’t sound so promising unless the success of the mission does not depend on the missionary. In fact, the kingdom of God comes near the house that welcomes peace and the house with the “No Soliciting” sign. Where the kingdom is recognized healing happens. Where it is not recognized the kingdom stands as sentence against the shortsighted as they are left to their own devices which is always less than what the kingdom offers. The dust shaking judgment anticipates the woes in the verses the lectionary leaves out. It is a litany of losers, where even sin city Sodom is better off “in that day” than the cities who choose not to welcome peace. But even those who proclaim peace don’t quite recognize the kingdom come near for they rejoice not in the name of Jesus but in the power they wield with his name. Jesus redirects their joy from what they can do to what has been done for them. Their names are written in the book of life in the indelible ink of the blood of the lamb. And if the one despised and rejected, the Lamb who led to the slaughter and before his shearers was dumb is the one who writes the names recorded in heaven maybe there is hope even for the litany of losers?

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Proper 8 C - Galatians 6:1-6

Jesus said, “If you love only those who love you what good is that to you? Even the pagans do that.” Which means to fully fulfill the law of Christ one must bear the burdens of those who you are quite happy to see weighed down. In which case the law of Christ cannot be fulfilled unless you bear the burdens of “those who want to make a good showing in the flesh” in the same way you "do not grow weary in doing what is right” for those “who follow this rule.” Maybe the apostle Paul was too close to the conflict to apply his own instruction about gently restoring those who by their transgression troubled him so. Of course it is true of our time as well when well-meaning people passionate about defending the faith as they understand it violate its first principle. Love is the law of Christ. Is it any wonder that those outside the faith grow weary of our witness? If we are to be the body of Christ then to be crucified “to the world” is to be crucified for the world. When we argue over doctrine and dogma and in defending the Gospel fail to live it we are no longer defending the Gospel but violating it. Does it mean that anything goes and there are no truths to be taught? No. But if the fullest expression of the truth is love then love determines how all lesser "truths" are taught, which means Paul might have to recant his wish that “those agitators go the whole way and emasculate themselves!” (Galatians 5:12) Oy Vey!

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Proper 8 C - Psalm 66:1-9

Psalm 66 praises the awesome works of God remembering the rescue through the sea when escaping from Egypt the children of Israel were trapped between an army and a wet place. It is the story told time and again down through the centuries. Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and the Lord heard your cry and with a mighty arm rescued you from Pharaoh’s grasp bringing you to a land flowing with milk and honey. While it is remembered with shouts of joy and singing it is also the story told when the milk has gone sour and the honey runs out, when enemies are all around, when life hangs in the balance and feet are on unsteady ground. When all seems hopeless in the present remembering the providence of God in the past is how one gets through today and into tomorrow. It is remembering God’s faithfulness that preserves the life that is essential, the life of hope. It is remembering God’s mercy that places the feet of faith on the solid ground of trust. And so we remember the awesome work of God on our behalf, not a passing through the sea on dry land, but God in human flesh passing through the sea of sorrow and suffering and death. In the tomorrow that will be the day that never ends the enemy that will cringe before God is death which like the chariots of Pharaoh has been swallowed up in the sea of victory.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Proper 8 C - Isaiah 66:10-14

Isaiah 66:10-14
Isaiah might be enamored by Jerusalem’s anatomy but I’d rather be consoled in Paris. On the other hand no city in the world seems to attract as much attention as Jerusalem, which sadly to say, has not been the source of much rejoicing. Jerusalem, which means the city of peace, has more often been a city of sorrow. Isaiah’s vision of the exile’s return to Jerusalem to be nursed and carried on her arm and dangled on her knees was not realized in his day and even the rejoicing of Zionist exiles reclaiming the Promised Land was short lived because of the violence and bloodshed that greeted their return. In our time devout Jews gather at the Wailing Wall to pray for the restoration of the temple as Palestinian Christians weep at walls that surround and separate them from the part of the Promised Land that is their home and all the while God weeps over the plight of all people who love Jerusalem. But in the dream of God’s design those who rejoice in her and those who mourn because of her will both be comforted by her. In the dream of God’s design Jerusalem is a place of peace for all people where the feast that never ends will finally begin. It may be that we have to do more than pray for the peace of Jerusalem for the dream of God’s design to come true. It will not come true by denying the right of Jewish people to live in safety. It will not come true by denying the real plight of the Palestinian people imprisoned in their own land. The hatred that exists and is the cause of such suffering will only be overcome when each side sees in each other the dream of God’s design. And when God’s dream comes true it will be Paris that will play second fiddle to Jerusalem, the real city of amour.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Proper 7 C - 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 a correction not a 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.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Proper 6 C - Luke 8:26-39

Luke 8:26-39
The man set free from demons is the hope of every parent, sister, brother or friend of a loved one shackled by insanity, tormented by self-abuse or consumed by addiction. The story is recorded in Mathew, Mark & Luke and it would seem from the narrative, especially the details of self-mutilation in the Gospel of Mark, that the man was chained for his own protection as much as he was to protect others from his violent behavior. No doubt the man of Gerasene had family and friends who like their counterparts in our time prayed desperate prayers and hoped and wept and blamed and despaired and prayed again. And so when the shackles of insanity are finally broken and the Legion possessed pigs take the demons to the deep it seems odd that the people are afraid and tell Jesus, as politely as possible, to get out of Dodge. On the other hand, it makes perfect sense that the man now in his right mind pleads to go with Jesus and if permitted I imagine would have rather died than desert or deny Jesus when the time came to choose. But Jesus sends him home and because he does the next time Jesus steps out of a boat in Gerasene people recognize him immediately and run “throughout that whole region bringing the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was… begging him to let them touch even the edge of his cloak...” (Mark 6:55, 56) The possessed man, now in his right mind, has changed the minds of the people of Gerasene by telling his story and the witness of his new life in Christ. There is healing in hope that springs from touching Jesus through the love and care and support and encouragement of people in their “right minds” concerning the promise of God to deliver us, as Luther put it, from sin, death and the devil. It may be that healing happens in our time as it did in Gerasene. It may be that healing is the strength to endue another day. It may be that healing is the courage to make difficult decisions born of love for the possessed. But however it happens the only way minds and lives are changed is when we who have been set free share our story and the witness of our new lives in Christ so that those still bound might experience the blessing of a right mind.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Proper 6 C - Galatians 3:23-29

Clothed in Christ the divisions of race and religion, social status and gender are washed away in the waters of baptism. This is the vision that captures our imagination but like a dream fades from memory in the harsh light of day. It works in theory, but in practice? Not so much. It might be because we are more comfortable with rules and regulations that define our everyday, putting people in their proper place, maintaining the social order for the sake of order (or profit?) Now I’m not advocating anarchy and neither is Paul. What he is advocating is a real time reflection of the future where all things are made new and people of every tribe and nation, language and tongue dine together in perfect unity at the final feast that never ends. If in the future of God’s design definitions that divide do not exist then we who are joined to the preview, who are justified in the here and now by faith, ought to live what we trust and hope one day will be. Maybe the reason it only works in theory is because we don’t practice it enough.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Psalm 22:19-28

Psalm 22 begins with God gone missing “My God, My God why have you forsaken me?” but concludes with hope as the one who cries out is confident that the Lord not hidden has listened to the cry for help. It is the absolute honesty of the lament psalms that allows them to end on a note of praise. In a way they are liturgical venting, the psalmist’s heart poured out in questioning and complaint. It does not mean the condition that prompts the cry of dereliction is resolved only that by voicing the complaint as an act of faith the strength that is sapped is restored and the confidence that is shaken is reset on solid ground. That is true for the laments of our lives as well which is why the psalms are the place we go when trouble surrounds us and deliverance seems far off. While the witnesses of the crucifixion only heard the first verse, “My God, my God…” Jesus remembered that the psalm ends with rejoicing and trusted that the cross was the prelude to resurrection. The laments in Orlando echo Jesus’ cry and while their sorrow may last a long time one hopes that in the same way that Jesus overcame pain and sorrow and suffering and the darkness of death so too all our laments will ultimately end in praise.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Proper 6 C - Isaiah 65:1-9

Isaiah is one of my favorite books in the Bible but as it is with favorite books there are chapters I favor over others. Isaiah 25 and the feast of fat things for all people, the return to Zion with singing in Isaiah 35, the tender speaking of Isaiah 40, “comfort, comfort my people” are all to be preferred over “I will not keep silent, but I will repay.” But in the same way that the Gospel is meaningless without the Law and the Law is hopeless without the Gospel so God is not wholly God without being just and the one who justifies. (Romans 3:26) Which is to say while God is merciful there is a cost associated with continually grieving God and even though sin is not counted against us there are consequences that cannot be avoided. Isaiah 65 reveals a dimension of the incarnation, God in the flesh, which is not as comforting as the babe of Bethlehem. No. This is God as grieving parent, God as jilted lover; God continually provoked on purpose by those God seeks to save. It is also an image of God who has been pushed to the point of breaking, whose fierce anger has been aroused by continual mocking and disregard. But while it is true that we are a rebellious people who walk in a way that is not good, following our own devices I don’t think fear motivates one to love the God who calls to us, “Here I am, here I am.” However, if I am the parent of a rebellious child who continually provokes I might sympathize with God’s patience being exhausted. If I have loved another with my whole heart only to be lied to, cheated on, made to be a fool of, then I might sympathize with God’s righteous anger. And when I sympathize with God’s anger and pain and profound sadness by confessing that I am the rebellious child and the unfaithful spouse then I might just be the good apple within the bad and become a blessing to the God that by my sin I provoke. I hope so. And believe me, so does God.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Proper 5 C - Galatians 2:15-21

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 7, 2016

Proper 5 C - Psalm 32

Silence is golden, unless you have something you need to say. The psalmist 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 the painful process. 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. 

Friday, June 3, 2016

Proper 5 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.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Proper 5 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 sometimes 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 certainly supports 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 even after committing adultery and murder will still be 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 anyone? Maybe you? Just sayin…

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Proper 5 C - 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.