Thursday, April 26, 2018

Easter 5 B - 1 John 4:7-21

1 John 4:7-21
“Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love.” You would think the church could get this right since the command to love is the foundation of our faith. Some say the reason the church is in decline today is because those on the outside have finally figured out that the petty jealousies and judgmental attitudes that have come to characterize so many Christian communions are a direct contradiction to the teaching of Jesus. Individual Christians and whole communities elevate their particular doctrines or preferences to the denial of the one law that is in fact binding. Even Unitarians fight over doctrine for God’s sake!  But “the commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also.” So what can we do that we have not done already? Maybe we should stop doing what we’ve been doing and learn the lesson of love so that “as he is, so we (will be) in this world. I know it is passé but for all the hype around WWJD bracelets and bumper stickers there is only one answer to the question "What Would Jesus Do?" and it is what Jesus did - Love.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Easter 5 B - Psalm 22:25-31

Psalm 22:25-31
Psalm 22 begins not with praise, but lament. “My God! My God! Why have you forsaken me?” In the verses that follow human suffering is spelled out in detail. “My heart melts like wax within me… all my bones are out of joint… a band of dogs surround me… they pierce my hands and feet!“ Insults and mocking and spitting accompany the abuse heaped upon the one who cries out by day with no answer, at night with no rest. Yet this “man of constant sorrow” trusts that the God far off will come near and even if going down to the dust is his destiny praise will spring forth from the grave. Some might call that a fool’s hope and be more inclined to go with Job’s wife’s advice, “Curse God and die.” But then the people yet unborn would not know the sacred story of the God who came so near to humanity as to wear our flesh and die our death so that we might live God’s life.  And so we proclaim and so you believe, “The Lord has acted.” Thanks be to God.  

Monday, April 23, 2018

Easter 5 B - Acts 8:26-40

Acts 8:26-40
The Ethiopian eunuch was well respected in the court of Candice but in Jerusalem he was denied access to the temple of the faith he was so anxious to understand. Cut off from the people of God by race and circumstance he none-the-less worshiped the God whose holy word branded him unclean. It is no surprise then that one so excluded would be drawn to the suffering servant described by Isaiah and wonder if the word about the prophet or someone else might also be a word for him. So God sends Philip the Greek to evangelize the African official into the faith of Jesus the suffering Jew. Irony is not lost on the Lord. Truth is the eunuch already had all the faith he needed and indeed was the one who asked the question, “What is to prevent me from being baptized?” Unfortunately the church has more often than not excluded those who in the church’s estimation are lacking without allowing that God is more than able to compensate for whatever we are without.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Easter 4 B - John 10:11-18

John 10:11-18
I had a Rambouillet lamb named Louie who grew up to be a sheep so tame as to be a nuisance. I’m not sure the Good Shepherd analogy works when the lamb won’t leave you alone and even the wolf retreats from the constant bleating for treats. On the other hand we are a lot like Louie bleating for treats as if all our Good Shepherd has to do is take care of our every need. But then this text is about the Shepherd and not the sheep and whatever it is we do or say or need doesn’t much matter as the Good Shepherd cares for us by giving and or withholding which in a strange way is still a form of giving. Unfortunately we, like Louie, are often tame to the way of faith so as to be a nuisance to ourselves and everyone else. The good news is that the Shepherd’s life is laid down and picked up to break through our “tameness” and give us a new lease on life which is a treat in and of itself. "The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want." Settle down Louie.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Easter 4 B - 1 John 3:16-24

If my mind could convince my heart of the surpassing greatness of God’s goodness maybe it would stop condemning me. But then maybe the purpose of the condemning heart (aka conscience) is to get the mind to pay attention to what the hands are doing or the mouth is saying. Word and speech and truth and action are to work together for the common good which includes our own. That is because when we please God by helping others we are gifted with the Spirit of a quiet heart, a peaceful mind, a mouth full of praise and hands that help.  Martin Luther said it this way “A Christian is a child of the Holy Spirit, an heir of eternal life, a companion to the holy angels, a ruler of the world, and a partaker of God’s divine nature. A Christian is a wonder of the world, a terror to Satan, an ornament of the church, a desirable object of heaven with a heart full of fire, with eyes full of tears, with a mouth full of supplications and with hands full of good works.” That says it all.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Easter 4 B - Psalm 23

Psalm 23
Souls are restored when guided along right pathways even if it takes a rod and staff to get us there. That’s because we can get lost in the shadow valleys of this world where the lines between right and wrong are obscured by selfish desire and sinful pride. Truth is our sight can adjust to low light and we grow accustomed to being less than we were meant to be and before you know it we can’t tell the difference between a green pasture and a desert. But the Lord like a shepherd does not abandon us to our wandering ways but prods us with the rod of the Law even as the staff of the Gospel frees us to live into peaceful places of soul refreshing rest.  

Monday, April 16, 2018

Easter 5 B - Acts 4:5-12

Acts 4:5-12
The same Peter who cowered in the courtyard and wept bitterly because of it has become the rock who will not back down even when confronted by the powers that be who “crucified Christ”. But that is what resurrection can do to you that the cross cannot. I don’t mean that we neglect the mandate to preach Christ crucified. We wouldn’t pay attention to this Galilean prophet if after being as dead as you and I will one day be he hadn’t walked out of the tomb. The Romans crucified Jews all the time. But as a good friend and colleague once pointed out to me that our focus on the cross can obscure the point of the resurrection. We are meant to be transformed into resurrection people even if the cross is the way we get there. The cross accuses and convicts and like Peter brings bitter tears – and rightly so. But on the third day those who cower in courtyards of their own design are to walk out of tombs of shame and guilt to live as people set free from sin and death once and for all. It doesn’t mean we stop sinning or falling short of all we will one day become. It does mean we recognize that confession is for the amendment of our sinful life and act accordingly.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Easter 3 B - Luke 24:36-48

Luke 24:36-48
“Peace be with you” doesn’t do the trick. “Look at my hands and feet” doesn’t dispel disbelief. Even touch me and see doesn’t get a “My Lord and my God!” But eat a piece of broiled fish and maybe the impossible will seem more plausible to doubting disciples. In the everyday necessity of nourishment the crucified, dead and buried Messiah is accepted as really resurrected. It is the final and most intimate act of the incarnation that the One who rose beyond the boundaries of death and life entered this realm again to share a morsel with those still bound by mortality so that seeing would be believing. In that sense “have you anything here to eat?” might be the most grace filled words ever spoken by Jesus.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Easter 3 B - 1 John 3:1-7

1 John 3:1-7
There is no way around it. Since we all sin we are all guilty of lawlessness even though in the love the Father has lavished upon us we are children of God now and when Jesus is revealed we will be like Him. That means even as children of God by virtue of our rebellious nature we do not abide in God or know God or see God. But then John will go on to say, “This is love: not that we loved God but that God loved us…” (1 John 4:10) So the ultimate consequence of our lawlessness is that God loves those who do not love in equal measure but who purify themselves with the hope that when we do see Him as He is Jesus will not see us as we are but what we were always meant to be.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Easter 3 B - Psalm 4

Psalm 4
When we love illusions and seek after lies we lose sleep even if we pass out in the process. Like a good magic trick we ask to see it again and again, albeit more slowly this time. But we never quite catch the sleight of hand or see the trap door in action until it’s been sprung. That dishonors God’s glory because living the lie devalues our own being. God’s desire is to do wonders in and through and with us so that gladness of heart is our everyday experience even when we are in distress. I would hope the answer to “how long will you dishonor my glory” is not “as long as I have breath in my being” but even if it is I trust that the wonder God can do in and through and with us is no magic trick.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Easter 3 B - Acts 3:12-19

Acts 3:12-19
The scene that precedes this speech to the people is the healing of the lame man. “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” (Acts 3:6) I’m sure there were some in the crowd who had not called out “crucify” and so can hardly be held responsible for killing the “Author of life”. And even if Peter claims it as Gospel truth that Pilate never intended on letting the peasant preacher go free Jesus was far too disruptive to peace in Judea which made him far too dangerous to Pilate and hence to Rome. Furthermore Peter and all the disciples deserted Jesus in his most desperate hour. But maybe Peter has forgotten his curses in the courtyard? Then again being Holy Spirit anointed with fire and tongues and preaching on Pentecost and being God’s agent for “lame man walking” might mean you forget “I once was blind” because “now I see.” We all act in ignorance even though we claim to know the truth which we easily trade for the lie because we can’t tell the difference. The place of peace is a balancing act of absolute responsibility and perfect freedom which is often expressed as self-righteousness in the case of the former and the habits of hedonism in the case of the latter. It might sound as if we are between a rock and a hard place. But true peace is in recognizing our limitations. Some repent of trying to control everything. Others repent of being controlled by anything. No matter what side of the equation you find yourself on the path to peace is to repent and turn to God who is more than able to overcome our lameness. 

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Easter 2 B - Psalm 133

Psalm 133
In three short verses Psalm 133 states the obvious and makes me wonder why the church doesn’t pursue unity with more purpose. Instead of pouring the precious oil of peace on each other we heap insults on each other's heads and draw theological lines in the sand staining the collar of our robes with division. You might expect this of the more strident traditions but even the Unitarians, or so I’m told, don’t always get along. Go figure. The fragrant extravagance of good and pleasant unity imaged by the psalmist is the blessing that falls from heaven and unity is bestowed from above whenever it is understood from below as the very essence of what it means to claim Christ as Lord.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Easter 2 B - Acts 4:32-35

Acts 4:32-35
When believers are of one heart and mind there are no needy persons among them because believers are of one heart and mind. When hearts and minds go their own way members who withhold are struck down dead (Ananias and Sapphira) and widows who speak Greek are denied food for speaking Greek. (Acts 6) It should be of some comfort to us that those who witnessed the resurrected Christ are subject to the same folly as those of us who have no hope of seeing, let alone touching, nail scarred hands and spear pierced side. Or maybe it should be a cause for concern for us that even those who witnessed the resurrected Christ continued to operate as if he were still dead. Oy Vey!