Thursday, May 30, 2019

Easter 7 C - Revelation 22:12-22

Reprint from 2013 because I love the picture of Joshua and Mary Ruth on the deck with dogs.

Revelation 22:12-22
The lectionary for Easter 7c leaves out verse 15 of Revelation 22 presumably because verse 15 leaves out “dogs and sorcerers and fornicators and murderers and idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.” I don’t know about you but the Heinze household believes all dogs go to heaven, except maybe our bad Chihuahua, Feliz Puppydad, who will need to be potty trained in purgatory first. Verses 18 & 19 don’t make the lectionary lesson either but that has more to do with what one would add to Revelation then whatever one might leave behind. So warning and welcome live side by side and we do a disservice to the scripture when we pick and choose even though denominations clearly discriminate. Those more liberal, or by self definition progressive, need to acknowledge the nasty with the nice while those intent on saving the world as long as it is monochromatic need to look more closely at the Jesus who consistently colored outside the lines. But both sides should take note that while we argue about what verses to include or exclude the rest of the world doesn't give a damn which doesn't really matter if they are all going to hell. But if Jesus died to make a difference then we better figure out a better way than “turn or burn” or “all paths lead to the same place” to speak the truth about Jesus so the dogs in verse 15 might actually want to find a welcome place in verse 17.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Easter 6 C - Psalm 67

Psalm 67
The psalmist was a having a good day when Psalm 67 was written. Not like the day “My God! My God! Why have you forsaken me” Psalm 22 was penned. That both praise and lament are sung in the same song book is a testament to the truth telling of the Psalter for life is both blessing and bust. There is a tendency in the American mega-denomination to only talk about God's glory and the prosperity that is the right of the believer. But the graciousness of the crucified God is to be present in plenty and in want, in sickness and in health, in sorrow and in joy. The blessing of the crucified God is to shine the light of God’s face into the darkness of our lives when forsaken-ness has sapped our strength and doubt overshadowed our hope. The way of the crucified God and the saving power made known to the nations is justice for the oppressed, freedom for the captive, good news for the poor. When the blessing of God is no longer seen as a right for the righteous then equity among the peoples will be established and the increase of the earth will not be hoarded or squandered but freely shared. And that will be a good day indeed. 

Monday, May 20, 2019

Easter 6 C - Acts 16:9-15

Acts 16:9-15

Even though Paul and his companions do enter Europe Through the Back Door® the Acts 16 travelogue would be more interesting if National Public Radio Travels with Rick Steves had recorded it. Luke, on the other hand, is more interested in conversion than conversation about where to dine and recline, though he could not possibly foresee howEurope would both shape and be shaped by Christianity. And so when one considers how the faith will one day be expressed in crown and cathedral it is worth noting that it begins with a woman named Lydia, who is not to be confused with the tattooed lady of the song. She was a convert to Judaism without a place to worship because Philippi must not have had the ten men necessary to start a synagogue. It would not have mattered if there were a hundred women worshipers of God without ten men the Mosaic law's requirement for starting a synagogue could not be met, so shall we gather at the river became her place of prayer. On the other hand there may have been a hundred synagogues in Philippi but not one of them would welcome a woman who dealt in an industry that boiled Mollusks to dye the cloth reserved for the rich and famous. So stuck between a rock and hard place she is eager to receive the faith that declared there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for all are one in Christ Jesus. When the church is more conversant in who is worthy to dine and recline than the language of conversion we would do well to note that while the man of Macedonia called for help, it was Lydia who came to the rescue and started the church Paul prayed for and praised for its partnership in the Gospel.

Friday, May 17, 2019

Easter 5 C - John 13:31-35

John 13:31-35
"I give you a new commandment, that you love one another." You would think that the church could get this one right. After all love is what we preach and teach and claim to believe in the pulpit and in the pew. In fact if there is anything we should be able to get right it is this simple command. Love one another. Just do it. It's not rocket science. Of course that would mean the "one another" we are commanded to love would have to be a little more love-able or in other words a little more like us or better, more like me. It is a sign of our sinfulness that loving one another is contingent on conforming to my way or the highway. But in "love one another as I have loved you" we are called to conform to the selfless way of Jesus whose love was made visible in death to rescue those who refused to be loved. So if we do not love one another it is because we do not love Jesus for we cannot love Jesus without loving the "one another" Jesus died to love. That is not to say love is an invitation to be abused. You can love from a distance. But to look upon the "one another" as those loved by Christ means we see the other as Christ does. Therefore love one another as I have loved you means love Jesus in the unreasonable other. Love Jesus in the selfish other. Love Jesus in the spiteful other. Love Jesus in the weak willed and untrustworthy other. Then others will know that we are disciples of Jesus for we love one another, for Jesus' sake, so that others will love Jesus. None of which can happen unless you love the Jesus in you. So I guess in that way it really is all about me.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Easter 5 C - Revelation 21:1-6

Revelation 21:1-6
No sea on the new earth? And here I was planning on boogie boarding my way through at least half of eternity. Some read this word literally and explain that the "no sea" on the new earth is to accommodate the vast multitude too great to count. But that misses the point of the vision. The sea represents the chaos that existed before creation when the earth was formless and empty and darkness was over the surface of the deep. God's spirit hovered over the water and in the word "Let there be…" order was called forth and chaos was contained. In this creation account the chaos that threatens is not the sea (which is good news for me.) it is death, for mourning and crying and pain and tears caused by loss can make our lives formless and empty and dark. So the new thing that God is doing here is no different from the first thing God did. In Christ crucified and risen God creates order out of chaos, life out of death, joy out of sorrow, laughter out of tears. I suppose that should be enough but I'm halfway hoping for a new sea with really big waves and the ability to walk on water so I can boogie without the board.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Easter 5 C - Psalm 148

Psalm 148The praise the Lord list is all inclusive even though not everyone on the list gets along. Wild animals eat cattle, kings make war on princes, fire and hail and wind do damage to fruit trees and of course sea monsters are not called monsters for being friendly to sailors. I don’t think the point is that if the all inclusive list spent more time praising the Lord they would spend less time preying on one another. You can over think a psalm in the same way that the marriage of melody and lyric loses something when the words of a song are over analyzed. So let’s just say the symphony of the all inclusive praise psalm is the song of everything all at once exalting the name of the Lord which is a joyful noise to the Lord (even if the sound a sea monster might terrify us).

Monday, May 13, 2019

Easter 5 - Acts 11:1-18

I think I might just have to remain kosher if the Lord told me to eat reptiles even if rattlesnake does taste like chicken. Of course the come down on a sheet menu is really just a set up for what comes next. Three gentiles come a calling and Peter goes to their house which is like eating shrimp on the Sabbath. The categories of clean and unclean are designed to keep one group pure by profaning the other. It begins with keeping oneself separate and while segregation will satisfy for a time eventually violence is the final solution. In the vision of the sheet the future imagined by God is revealed where distinctions of clean and unclean and everything in between is erased from the human vocabulary. The prophet Isaiah sees it as the sheet that covers the nations, hatred, violence, pride leading to prejudice, lifted in favor of forever feasting. To be faithful to the future is to follow it in the present so as not to hinder God. Paul will say it this say it this way. There is neither Jew nor Greek, male nor female, slave nor free because in Christ God declares there is no distinction. So, while you certainly may decline the rattlesnake appetizer, loving neighbor as self is not optional on the Christian menu.

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Easter 4 C - Revelation 7:9-17

Revelation 7:9-17
The promise to the white robed ones before the throne describes the great ordeal our faith forebears suffered. Indeed, when we make this portion of the letter a prophecy of the imagined future we dishonor the real people who went without food and water as they suffered the scorching sun and the heat of the day. They were mostly slaves and women, the least and the left behind, which is why using the testimony of their tribulation in best selling books and cheesy DVDs by the rich and powerful insults the real people to whom these words were written. Their tears will be wiped away and though we might have much to make us weep the great multitude come out of the great ordeal does not include us. It is not to say we are left out because we happen to live in a time when the empire embraces the church without trying to strangle it. It just means we can't read about those persecuted and ultimately killed for the faith and make it about us. What is about us, persecuted or not, is that the Lamb at the center of the throne is the Shepherd of every nation and tribe and people and language which means leaving anyone behind is the last thing on the Lord's mind.

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Easter 4 C - Psalm 23

Psalm 23
The promises of Psalm 23; green pastures, still waters, soul restored, right paths followed, comfort and confidence in death’s dark valley, a feast in front of foes, head anointed, cup overflowing, goodness and mercy and a home in the house of the Lord are made possible by the statement of surrender, "the Lord is my shepherd." The second statement “I shall not want” is made possible by the first. Of course surrendering and being satisfied does not come naturally to us. The story of “the fall” is all about humans not being satisfied with paradise and in lusting after the fruit that was pleasing to the eye and useful for knowledge their attempt at an upgrade from creature to creator introduced a virus that infects us today. We infect this psalm with that virus when we think of the Shepherd as a service provider or make it all about the forever home in the Lord’s house. To surrender to the Shepherd is to be satisfied with creature status and trust that the One who comforts us through the valley of the shadow of whatever we face knows the way. That means green pastures can exist where there is no grass. Still waters can be found in the middle of a rushing river. The right path is the one we’re on as long as the Shepherd walks with us. And because we know the Shepherd is Jesus the feast prepared must be as much for the foe as it is for us. When we are satisfied with the Shepherd with us in whatever pasture we inhabit the goodness and mercy that “follows” catches up with us and the forever house of the Lord is our home today.

Monday, May 6, 2019

Living the Lectionary: Easter 4 C - Acts 9:36-43

Living the Lectionary: Easter 4 C - Acts 9:36-43: Acts 9:36-43 Peter, the fisherman turned physician, may have been the rock upon which the church was built, but Tabitha was the one who...

Easter 4 C - Acts 9:36-43

Peter, the fisherman turned physician, may have been the rock upon which the church was built, but Tabitha was the one who made it work. Devoted to acts of charity, she takes Jesus at his word about the least of these, “when I was naked you clothed me” and does something about it. Her handiwork in the hands of weeping widows is a testimony to her devotion. Remembered well for the good she did Tabitha will be missed. But this is a resurrection story and so like Lazarus and Jairus’ daughter, Tabitha will live to sew again. Luke tells the story as if a person coming back to life when called by name and told to get up happens all the time, even though miracles tend to demand attention and get it. People like Tabitha, devoted to good works and acts of charity, do not demand attention and maybe that makes her life of service more of a miracle than sitting up at Peter’s command. The miracle of the church is that despite all of its drawing attention to itself, mostly for the wrong reasons, it still has a Tabitha or two quietly going about being church. A resurrection story is always more about this life then whatever comes next and though we might long for the day when we hear that final “get up” the world would be well served, and maybe even resurrected, by a church devoted to good works and acts of charity.

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Easter 3 C - Revelation 5:11-14

Revelation 5:11-14

I remember the sound of angels singing in our backyard years ago. They must have been around three and five at the time and they were singing “This is the feast of victory for our God. Alleluia!” That’s the only part they knew so they just sang it over and over again. Maybe that’s the only part we need to know when it comes right down to it. The Lamb who was slain is worthy and has won the victory over death so that songs of rejoicing might spring forth from children and angels alike. To that the living creatures say Amen which means Let it be so. To live into let it be so is to invite the future into the present so that we hear and sing the song in our everyday. Granted it is more difficult when life is anything but playful. In those times the invitation is a prayer and this is the feast is sung through clenched teeth. Which is why it is the only thing we need to know. Despite all the difficulties of the day the battle is done, the final victory won. One day the feast of victory will be for all of us as children playing and singing this is the feast over and over again and the sound of suffering and sorrow will be stilled. And so the memory of angels singing in the backyard in the past enters the present of this morning so that one is reminded of the future. Amen. Let it be so.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Easter 3 C - Psalm 30

Psalm 30
Psalm 30 is a song of deliverance sung in the key of joy. Rescued from the foe, helped by healing, brought back from the depths of the pit the psalmist has seen it all and is glad that the day of refreshment has finally dawned. But the worst of what was is perhaps understated. “When you hid your face I was dismayed.” Weeping through the night watches, the psalmist is clothed in the sackcloth of God’s absence and the moment of God’s anger seems to last a lifetime. Crying into that silence for help the psalmist is not above making a deal. “What good am I to you dead?” When the morning of deliverance comes the rejoicing is unrestrained and one jumps for the joy of it, for even if silence and sorrow and suffering are remembered the new dawn trumps whatever one went through to see the sun rise.