Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Easter 3 C - Acts 9:1-20

Acts 9:1-20
Saul may be the one blinded but Ananias is the one who wants to make sure God sees clearly. "Here, I am Lord" is followed quickly by a just in case you don't know "Lord, I've heard of this man…" According to Luke's tale all Ananias needs is a little more information to call Saul brother but I image he had an exit strategy when he headed down Straight Street in Damascus. Even so his only scene in the Gospel is a story of faith that makes Paul's story possible as his baptizing "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me" means Paul can suffer for "the sake of the name" which in turn makes the name of Jesus known. Ananias could have said send someone else but he didn't and his act of obedience opened the eyes of Paul and the eyes of countless generations who would read Paul's letters. Maybe God seeing clearly is how we receive our sight. Here I am Lord.

Monday, April 22, 2019

Easter 2 C - Acts 5:27-41

Acts 5:27-41

For a group of guys who didn't get it in the Gospels the disciples got going pretty quickly in the book of Acts. With a sound like the rushing of the wind and tongues of flames on their heads and languages not their own they were transformed from confused followers into bold witnesses who rejoiced that they were considered worthy of persecution. How do we enter such a text given that the message which caused such a stir has settled down to become the status quo? It may be that Gamaliel’s advice, ignore them and they’ll go away, accomplished what the Pharisees desired. The church becomes irrelevant to the culture when it is indistinguishable from it. I’m not nostalgic for the days when the Gospel attracted persecution but I would like to rejoice in being worthy of attention. If we tell the truth the journey of the last four days was mostly about us, the respectable church goers, and for many of our neighbors and co-workers and friends and even family it was just another weekend. If Monday happens right on schedule and holy week like Christmas is carefully wrapped and put back on the shelf until next year it will be just another, albeit it busy weekend for us well. But if we were to do something worthy of attention today and speak and act as those who have something worth living for and saying then like the disciples we would rejoice in being followers who take the lead.

Friday, April 19, 2019

The Feast of the Resurrection Year C - Luke 24:1-12

Luke 24:1-12

"It seemed to them an idle tale." The Greek for "idle tale" loosely translated is BS, if you'll pardon my Greek. There are some who still think of it that way but you can hardly blame them given the lack of evidence to the contrary. But then the idle BS doesn't stop Peter from rushing out to see for himself so I guess even disbelief looks for proof. For Peter and the rest who will listen to his version of the idle tale the linen cloths lying by themselves is more than the mind can comprehend, which is what amazement means in every language. I think in some ways amazement is better than acceptance and if I could I would go back to a time when the resurrection was more than I could believe - not an idle tale mind you - but something so extraordinary that I might tremble at the thought of it. Maybe when my time comes to enter this story more fully, when my seeking the living among the dead is personal, resurrection will be beyond belief and not something I simply state as a fact of faith. In the meantime I seek to be surprised by a resurrection that is more than just a familiar (but not idle) tale.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

1 Corinthians 15:19-26

1 Corinthians 15:19-26
To hope in Christ only for the next life is just as pitiable as to hope in Christ "only for this life..." To hope only for the future is to reduce the resurrection to a reward or some sort of panacea for the pain of the present. But the hope of resurrection has as much to do with the way one lives in this life as whatever life we will live in the next. The death that came through Adam is still a very real enemy that seeks to limit not just our mortal life but our spiritual life as well so that we never fully live the freedom that came out of the empty tomb with Jesus. But because Jesus died for all and rose above the boundary imposed by Adam’s rebellion we are free to live as those who have “already passed from death to life.” (John 5:24)  If by faith I am confident that the forever future imagined by God is a done deal then I am free to live as if death has already been destroyed. A life that anticipates resurrection is as much a resurrected life as the life that awaits us.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

The Feast of the Resurrection Year C - Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24

Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24
"There are shouts of exaltation in the tents of the righteous" is one of the verses from Psalm 118 that we read at graveside services where "I shall not die but live" takes on a new meaning for both the living and the dead. For those gathered to grieve it is a declaration of the hope of reunion with the one gone on before. For the one laid to rest it is the reality of life beyond the womb of the world that is as mysterious to us as this life must seem to the newly born babe. Since "we know in part" as we peer through "a mirror dimly" (1 Corinthians 13:12) everything we know about the next life can only be imagined from the context of this life. That is not to say we cannot confidently cast the vision of a future life without sorrow, sighing, tears or pain, a life where death dies and is buried forever. But the details of whatever is coming is beyond our knowing in the same way we could sense something on the other side while we were floating in our mother's secret place but had no frame of reference for what was coming next. Which is why the righteous live by faith and not by sight, trusting that the Lord who has made this day has made the next one as well, therefore we will rejoice and be glad in all our days.

Monday, April 15, 2019

The Feast of the Resurrection Year C - Acts 10:34-43

Acts 10:34-43When Peter says he “truly understands God shows no partiality” he understands God is no longer limited to a chosen nation (Israel) but now accepts people who “do right” no matter what nation they come from. Of course God has always been partial to people who do right so in some ways it doesn't seem like very much has changed at all. But if “no partiality” means Jesus “ordained as judge of the living and the dead” acts like the Jesus who went about “doing good and healing those oppressed by demons” then the “no partiality” clause is only limited by Jesus’ capacity to show mercy. “Father forgive them for they know not what they do” means mercy is shown even to those who “put him to death by hanging him on a tree” which truly is no partiality. 

Friday, April 12, 2019

The Feast of the Passion Year C

The Gospel according to Luke
Some of us remember when the Sunday of the Passion was called Palm Sunday and we didn't read the rest of the story until the Thursday we call Holy and the Friday we call Good. Some suspect the change from Palm to Passion allows the faithful to be less so and skip the Triduum (The Great Three Days). That may be true but it really doesn't matter (unless you are a liturgical Luddite) as Two out of Three Great Days happening on the Sunday before the Third Day still gets Jesus where he needs to be before Easter sunrise. But there is also a compelling reason to read the passion narrative all at the same time and out loud but only if the congregation speaks the part that belongs to all of us. Crucify! Crucify! CRUCIFY! It always makes me a little uncomfortable, as it should, and reminds me that given the same set of circumstances I would have deserted, denied and yelled crucify.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

The Feast of the Passion Year C - Philippians 2:5-11

Philippians 2:5-11
The operative word in having "the mind of Christ" is "let" as in allow or permit. Or maybe a better way to think of it is to welcome or invite the mind of Christ to "dwell in you richly". (Colossians 3:16) It is not something that comes naturally to us as our minds resist being conformed to a way of thinking that would willingly let go of power (especially equality with God) for the sake of those who are always seeking to exploit even the illusion of power. It is out of vain ambition that our minds are occupied with all manner of self serving thoughts and subsequently destructive ways of being. We even think of God that way and imagine that after Jesus went back to wherever he came from he never again did such a foolish thing as empty himself. But if the mind of Christ reveals the mind of God then the exaltation of Jesus is to be continually emptied. I don't mean that Jesus is crucified again and again but that the power that God in Christ wields is the infinite capacity to love which never proceeds from a position of power. So God in Christ is emptied in order to be one with humanity hell bent on filling itself up in the Divine hope that we would grow weary of our futile way of being and let the mind of Christ do the thinking.

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Feast of the Passion Year C - Isaiah 50:4-9

Isaiah 50:4-9
The word that sustains the weary is that the teacher himself was wearied by beatings, insult and spitting. Wakened by the word, "the Lord God will be my help at the break of the day" the student who is at the same time the teacher set his face like flint and gave his back to the whip, his head to thorns, his hands and feet to nail. The suffering and sorrow of God is the word for those who are wearied by life contending against them, confronted by inconsistency, struck by down by grief, insulted by trouble. The Lord will be my help at the break of day because the Lord was broken for all my days. To waken to this word despite all that would weary the soul and crush the spirit is to be opened to the distant song of vindication that is always near. It is not an easy answer, a simple solution, a wish fulfillment. It is a Word that inhabits flesh and blood, yours and mine, for when one is wearied by weeping and too tired to sing, when the difference between giving up and continuing on hangs in the balance, we become for each other in shared sorrow and suffering the Word that sustains until the day when all weariness will be a thing of the past. 

Saturday, April 6, 2019

Lent 5 C - John 12:1-11

John 12:1-11

What do you do when the man who raised your brother from the dead comes for a visit? If you are Martha you serve dinner. If you are Mary you spend more time at the feet of the teacher. It appears as if nothing has changed and yet everything is different. It is as it always was for Martha, table set, bread baked, food and fellowship with friends. A week before she could not have imagined it would ever be this way again. But now her brother, for a moment lost to life and here found again, sits at table with the One who weeping called him out of the tomb. And with laughter and much toasting “L'Chaim!” To Life! everything is as it was and she hopes always will be. And then Mary, perhaps weeping herself, does the unthinkable and brings death back to life. Nothing has changed but everything is different. Her act of extravagance, scoffed at by Judas, “What a waste” is prophetic. The one who raised my brother has a date with death himself but instead of the stench of four days the fragrance of perfume filled the house. You can’t think of death in the same way when Lazarus is sitting at the table with you. Like Lazarus Jesus will be lost for a time but when he is found again death itself will be defeated and everything will change and even what is the same will be different. The poor who you always have with you will be made rich to sit at the table as bread baked and wine poured ushers in food and fellowship and feasting like has never been before and will be forever and ever. Amen. L’Chami! To Life!

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Lent 5 C - Psalm 126

Psalm 126
The memory of mouths filled with laughter sustains those whose eyes brim with tears. A sustaining memory is a good thing in and of itself but in this case the memory of rejoicing in the past leads the psalmist to hope that the present weeping is also sowing seeds of future joy. The apostle Paul will say it this way. "...our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us." (Romans 8:18) Of course Paul is thinking of the ultimate rejoicing that will be revealed in the forever future and while I believe that to be true I am also confident that there are penultimate (days before the ultimate day) days of fortunes restored rejoicing that bring forth tears of joy and spontaneous laughter. While those days might be hard to come by and pale in comparison with what will be they do happen even in the midst of the most difficult of times whenever kindness is shown and love is freely offered and received. It could be a healing hug, a tender caress, a gentle smile or even (as strange as it may seem) a necessary word of correction that is accepted and acted upon. But however it happens rejoicing is always a gift and the fortune that is restored is hope.

Monday, April 1, 2019

Lent 5 C - Isaiah 43:16-21

Isaiah 43:16-21

“Do not remember the former things…” is not so much forgetting the captivity of the past as it is putting the past in its rightful place. The things we have done or left undone or the things done to us or not done for us are former things and have no power except the power we give them whenever former things prevent us from perceiving present things. Not that we don’t continue to create former things in our present. It is an odd sort of thing that we often prefer captivity to freedom so that even when a new thing springs forth we slip back into the more familiar patterns of former things. That is why this new thing that springs forth begins with a promise. “Do not be afraid. I have called you by name. You are mine.” (Isaiah 43:1) God makes a way in the wilderness for us, maybe in spite of us, with the hope that one day we would leave the illusion of comfort in captivity to live as those known and named by God. “God has made a new beginning from the ashes of our past; in the losing and the winning we hold fast.” (J. Ylvisaker) The threatening things are extinguished, the wild things are tamed, the crooked things are made straight, the difficult things brought down and the rare resource of water in a desolate and dry place gushes forth in abundance. Every day lived in the promise of God’s abiding and healing presence is the new day that springs forth so that the siren call of former things might be drowned out by the sound of praise.