Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Lectionary 13 Year C - Psalm 16

Psalm 16
False gods promise pleasure or power or peace but only manage to multiply sorrows even if for a while we think ourselves satisfied. It is the nature of the gods we design, even the ones propped up by Biblical texts and dressed up in doctrinal straitjackets. But the God come down apart from whom we have no good thing was not like that and if our boundaries are to fall in pleasant places then following the way of Jesus is the only path of life that will do. It means we trust with all our heart the very things Psalm 16 proclaims. We will not be abandoned or forsaken. We will know fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore. But this isn't some pie-in-the-sky promise that only comes true at the end of the fairy tale  No, the promise begins and ends with the statement of faith. You are my Lord and apart from you I have no good thing. That means even when the path of life twists and turns and makes its way through valleys of despair and deserts of heartache we hold on to hope. Sorrows are not multiplied when one has the Lord at hand. Sorrows are endured. They are overcome. And one day they will be no more. But in the here and now we trust in the Lord and cling to the future promise so that we can experience joy despite sorrow and our heart can be glad even when it aches.

Monday, June 24, 2019

Lectionary 13 - 1 Kings

I'm still on the road - sipping an IPA at Springfield Brewing Company, MO, so I found this blast from the past - June 24, 2013  And I just saw Pr. Alex a month ago in his new call at Good Shepherd in Cincinnati, Ohio.

1 Kings 19:15-16, 19-21
There’s no going back to the plow once the yoke has been burned and the oxen have been eaten. Jesus makes the same observation in reverse, “no one who puts their hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service…” (Luke 9:62) The point being when God calls you are either all in or you’re out. I had the privilege to preach at the ordination of Calvary's former intern and now Pastor Alex Hoops on Saturday. As I write this he and Emily and daughter Amelia are in route to Minot, North Dakota (via Indiana) where he has been called as the Associate Pastor of Bread of Life Lutheran Church. For a boy from Florida that’s like burning the yoke and boiling the oxen. Why Not Minot? Because the fields are ripe for harvest in North Dakota but in this day and age the harvest is in the oil boom that has brought workers from all over the country and so God has called Alex as an evangelist to speak the Gospel to the faithful of Bread of Life Lutheran but also to the lonely far from home who might not know how hungry they are for the bread of life that satisfies. Emily (who speaks Spanish which will come in handy for the large population of migrant workers) is a co-worker in the Gospel, and an evangelist in her own right through whom the love of God shines without the need of translation. And so it is with all of us who are called to follow and not look back trusting that as long as we have breath in our body God has placed us where we need to be to do the work that needs to be done. That being said I am glad God called me to Texas.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Pentecost 2 C - Luke 7:1-10

Luke 7:1-10
I think the remarkable thing about the centurion is that he loves the people of the land he was sent to occupy. The Romans were not in business to benefit others and centurions were not typically interested in building worship spaces for foreign gods. The armies of Rome were sent to ensure the coffers of Rome were filled by populations subdued by the first century version of shock and awe. But the centurion’s love for an occupied people was also paired with humility, albeit the military version where one recognizes a superior officer. “But only speak the word…” so impresses the Jewish rabbi that he returns the favor and praises the NCO of the occupying army. The valued slave returned to good health goes back to what made him valuable in the first place and my guess is the centurion shows his appreciation to the synagogue and the folks who presumed to speak on his behalf. It’s a lovely story. Of course not all the Romans will be so kind to Jesus in the future and while we take “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do” to mean those who shouted “crucify” I’m guessing Jesus remembered the centurion and included those made the crown of thorns and drove the nails through his hands and feet. 

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Pentecost 2 C - Galatians 1:1-12

Galatians 1:1-12
The Galatians really got under Paul’s skin and despite the grace afforded to the “chief of sinners though I be” the “least of all the apostles” (1 Corinthians 15:9) felt justified cursing anyone who messed with the message he received by revelation. In this day and age we might also ask for references since no one but Paul was there when the revelation was received. But then it’s not Paul we depend on for our salvation but a particular story of which Paul was just one of the tellers. It’s the story of Jesus that is compelling and while the church throughout the ages has messed with the message by making it about power or prestige or conforming to human conventions the story continues to be told and believed. Martin Luther claimed “The gospel is not to be believed because the church confirms it but because one recognizes it is God’s word.” What makes the Gospel God’s word is the offer of freedom from all that enslaves including, in the case of the Galatians, the law that was received as revelation to Moses but was replaced by the revelation of Jesus Christ received by the apostle Paul.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Pentecost 2 C - Psalm 96:1-6

Psalm 96:1-6All the gods of the peoples are small g idol gods. It’s a bold statement to make in a pluralistic culture where many would say the new song to be sung is any song not sung so loudly as to make religious waves in the secular sea. But if we believe there is only one big G God who alone is worthy of a new song then we have no option but to sing it as the only song there is. But even as an exclusive song it is not a song of conquest, as much as I like Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus and Onward Christian Soldiers. No. The new song that is our salvation was a lullaby first sung in a stable by an unwed mother to a new born who just so happened to be the Big G God come down on earth to dwell. The new song that is our salvation was sung by the same baby grown to be a man as an invitation to pick up a cross and follow. The new song that is our salvation was sung as mercy and kindness and healing – your faith has made you well. The new song that is our salvation was sung as a challenge to rule bound religion – the Sabbath was made for you; not you for the Sabbath. The new song that is our salvation was sung as a lament, my God, my God why have you forsaken me? And finally the new song that is our salvation refused to be silenced by death and broke the grave's stranglehold on humanity once and for all. So if we are to sing the new song we have to sing the old song which reminds me of one my favorites – I love to tell the story.

Monday, June 17, 2019

Pentecost 2 C - 1 Kings 8:22-23, 41-43

1 Kings 8:22-23, 41-43
In the verses the lectionary leaves out Solomon wonders if God whom “the highest heaven cannot contain” will be found in the sanctuary built by human hands. Solomon’s plea and prayer is that when people gather in the holy house God will be present. But more than that Solomon prays that God will be merciful so that sin will be forgiven and sin’s consequences mitigated. When the heavens are shut up and famine inhabits the land, when plague and pestilence and blight consume the people’s strength, God will see the plight of God’s people and provide. We no longer associate a single place as the location of the Divine presence but there is something to be said for a house that is a home.  And as it turns out we’re the ones that need a house that we can call God’s home so that we have a place to go when troubles grow too great to bear alone. 

Thursday, June 13, 2019

The Feast of the Holy Trinity Year C - John 16:12-15

John 16:12-15
I was once asked when the Holy Ghost disappeared from the creed and the Holy Spirit appeared. I said I’m not sure when but I know why. In Hebrew the word attached to the third person of the Trinity is Ruach, in Greek Pneuma or breath. Spirit seems to capture that idea better than Ghost but Holy Breath might be better. In the beginning Holy Breath hovered over the chaos and called forth the creation. Holy Breath animated humans formed from dust. Holy Breath inspired words in the mouth of the prophets to convict and correct so that the vision of redemption and return could be realized. Holy Breath cried in a stable and from a hill. Holy Breath stepped out of the darkness of death and through locked doors to breathe on disciples hiding in fear and confusion. On the day when the waiting came to an end Holy Breath like the rush of a wind spoke through fisher folk and tax collectors in languages unlearned. To this day the Holy Breath breathed scripture (2 Timothy 3:16) “calls, gathers, enlightens, sanctifies and keeps us in the one true faith.” (Luther) And wherever and wherever the one holy catholic (small c = universal, invisible) and apostolic church steps into and lives out of the truth as guided by Holy Breath, the Father Son Spirit is glorified.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

The Feast of the Holy Trinity Year C - Romans 5:1-5

Romans 5:1-5

The second article of the faith tells the story of the One not created who was before time began and yet chose to let go of glory and empty himself to be found in human likeness. This is where the Trinity gets tricky and the creeds only state the "what" leaving humans to figure out the "how", which is where we get into trouble. But if the unbroken unity of the Trinity is love for the children of creation then Father Son Spirit are equally engaged in the work of redemption, though it would appear that the Son does the heavy lifting. In the person of Jesus the One uncreated becomes weak to save the weak, becomes sin to save sinners, and surrendering his life forgives his enemies. The image of an angry God now appeased by a human sacrifice, albeit God in human flesh is not what Paul means by being saved from the wrath of God, for God’s love is proved by the death of Christ and wrath and love cannot coexist. God is the only actor on the stage of salvation. While we were ungodly, while we were weak, while we were sinners, while we were God’s enemies, God died for us, ahead of us, instead of us so that by the life of God the love of God might be poured into our hearts through the Spirit. This One in Three and Three in One, Father Son Spirit, dwelling within us produces hope that does not disappoint by enduring suffering and reflecting the character of Christ, which is love.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

The Feast of the Holy Trinity Year C - Psalm 8

The unity of Father Son Spirit cannot be divided and yet each member fully present in the other is also distinct. Attempting to say something about each One in Three while preserving the Three in each One is a tip toe through the tulips of heresy, but I will press on, gingerly! In the time before time began the One who was not created called forth the heavens and the earth setting the stars like jewels in the crown of space. From infinite imagination the One who was not created called forth living beings weaving them together with the fabric of the earth. When all was said and done and very good the One who was not created formed in the image of the Infinite Imagination a creature both beautiful and terrible. Given our drive to exercise dominion over all things, including the One who imagined us, God would do well to be mindful of mortals for God’s own sake. That might not be so far from the truth. The first article of the faith names the One who created the heavens and the earth as God the Father Almighty. It is the parent in the Infinite Imagination that is mindful of the children created in the image of God. Love for the child will move that same One who was not created to inhabit mortal flesh and be crowned with glory and honor, not in the heavens, but on a “hill far away.” Love for the child will move that same One who was not created to inspire the mouths of babes and infants and the young and the old to sing Alleluia when the enemy and the avenger, death itself, is swallowed up in victory. The One in Three and Three in One is bound together by love for the children both beautiful and terrible until and for the day when the children of the Infinite Imagination are perfected in the eternal future. O God, our God, how majestic is your name!

Monday, June 10, 2019

The Feast of the Holy Trinity - Proverbs 8:1-4; 22-31

Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31
I’m not a big fan of the book of Proverbs even though there is certain comfort to addressing the complexity of life with simple sayings. Like my Facebook profile picture of the WWII British poster “Stay Calm and Carry On”. Sometimes staying calm is only achieved by denial and carrying on is a costly illusion. That being said the wisdom established from the beginning that raises her voice for all who will hear is more than a collection of memorable cliches. In the infinite mystery of the Trinity Wisdom engages the world in ways that appear as random or mere coincidence but are labeled by folks of faith as a “God thing”. By that I mean all that goes beyond our ability to fully comprehend – even if we attempt to express whatever “it” is by inadequate analogies – operates under the surface of our lives somehow gives us the ability to keep calm and carry on. Not as denial or illusion but as the way in which confidence in the Wisdom of God gives courage to the fearful and strength to the weak. The beauty of this image is that the Holy “totally other” whispered into the silence before time is a Wisdom that would become an expression of the Divine in ways that delight in our being, which given human nature might be the greatest mystery of all. 

Friday, June 7, 2019

The Feast of Pentecost Year C - John 14:8-17, 25-27

John 14:8-17, 25-27
Years ago I had one of those moments when I desperately wanted a clear word from the Lord. Nothing seemed to be working. Not prayer or conversations with colleagues or time in silent meditation. I don’t recommend what I did next because I think it treats the scripture like a Christian version of the Magic 8 ball®, but desperate times called for desperate measures and so I opened my Bible at random and landed on John 14:9. “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still don’t know me?” That’s the other reason not to do it. God might use your name and when God has to use your name you know you haven’t been paying attention. Philip asks the question that is on everyone’s mind and though Jesus' answer sounds like a rebuke Jesus honors the question and shows Philip what he asks to see. It is in the person of Jesus that the mystery of the Holy One is made known. And even if the humanity of John’s Jesus plays second fiddle to his divinity, Jesus is for Philip and the disciples a present, physical reality that can be seen. It is Judas (notably not Iscariot) who asks the question for us who have not seen and yet long to believe. It is in keeping the word from Jesus’ own lips, “Love one another” that God is made known. The Holy, Invisible, God Only Wise revealed in kindness offered, in mercy shown, in comfort extended, in generosity sown in the name of Jesus. In that we become the answer to someone’s desperate prayer - ask anything in my name. God made visible in love. In the same way that the internal unity of Father, Son, Spirit cannot be separated, so we too cannot be separated from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. No longer alone without a home like those who have been orphaned the good news for us is that even if God’s answer sounds like a rebuke God uses our name because we are known.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

The Feast of Pentecost Year C - Romans 8:14-17

Romans 8:14-17

The conditional clause, “if, in fact, we suffer with him” might cause one to “fall back into fear” especially if one lives a life where suffering is minimal or avoided altogether. Of course all suffering is relative and in that sense painful. Even minor losses are loses none-the-less. But Paul is not talking about minor inconveniences. Nor is he talking about the kind of suffering that is arbitrary or random, like an accident or a sudden loss of health. Or the suffering caused by another. Or the suffering that is personal and borne alone. Paul is talking about the suffering one chooses to endure in the same way that Jesus abandoned the place of perfection to inhabit our flesh that like the flowers of the field fades. The suffering Jesus endured, then, was fully for the sake of others and the glory it brought him was the redemption of a world hell bent on destruction. For us to, “in fact, suffer with him” means we choose the path of pain and sorrow with and for the sake of the other - to pick up the cross that belongs to someone else in the same way Jesus bore our pain and suffered our sorrow. The condition of this clause depends on our possessing the family gene which is love and the good news is that the adoption papers have been signed, sealed and delivered by the One who made us to be children of God.

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

The Feast of Pentecost Year C - Psalm 104:24-34

Psalm 104:24-34
The prayer in the Pilgrims Guide (turn to page 42) of every Cursillio, Via de Cristo, Walk to Emmaus, or Tres Dias is based on Psalm 104 30. “Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in us the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and we shall be created and you shall renew the face of the earth…” I believe the page 42 prayer, prayed multiple times on a weekend, has a lot to do with what happens on a weekend. (You have to attend to fully comprehend) “You send forth your Spirit and they are created…” It is the Spirit sent forth that creates a community on a weekend in the same way that our weekly gatherings of the faithful in churches small and large and in-between are created by the same Spirit, albeit over a longer period of time. That might be enough for us to stand up and shout “Amen” but it’s really the next line that is meant to get us up and out of our pews. (And into the 4thDay following a weekend) “And you shall renew the face of the earth.” God could renew the face of earth without us but God’s desire is that we become co-creators in imagining the reign of God come down onto the piece of the planet we inhabit where the Spirit in us preaches Good News to the poor, binds up the brokenhearted, proclaims liberty for the captive and makes the year of the Lord’s favor a present reality by intentional acts of kindness – even if they if they are random.

Monday, June 3, 2019

The Feast of Pentecost Year C - Acts 2:1-21

Acts 2:1-21

Lutherans are rarely mistaken for Pentecostals and even when the charismatic renewal blew through the church our version of Pentecost was more polite than possessed. It could be our Nordic or Germanic heritage where church doesn't look anything like drinking new wine in the morning. But that doesn't mean we are less spirit filled or on fire for the Lord. It just means our expression of Holy Spirit fire prefers to toast the faithful not burn them to a crisp. It is a mistake to envy the more demonstrative Holy Spirit folk or think that they are holier than thou, though thou art free to discretely raise a hand while singing A Mighty Fortress or quietly add an “Amen” if the preaching warrants such a response. While those things are all well and good this text is not about personal expressions of emotional piety. The day of Pentecost is about speaking the story of Jesus in a language people can understand. In these “last days” it means speaking the story to those who are by self definition spiritual but not religious but in truth perhaps still seeking for something that satisfies the restless heart. On that first day of the “last days” it meant speaking in the tongues of Gentile nations. In these “last days” it means the church must step outside of its holy halls and wake up from the illusion of privilege and power. It means we stop lusting after the myth of a Christian nation and acting as if we are victims of a secular conspiracy. For those of us who call on the name of the Lord in this day of the “last days” it means speaking the story subversively so that by sowing the seeds of curiosity we may be asked why we long for peace, why we feed the hungry, why we share ourselves in service, why we hope, why we love. It may be that by speaking from the heart about the Spirit that fills us with peace those who are spiritual but not religious might be tempted to become religiously spiritual which might be an apt description of a Lutheran Pentecostal.