Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Epiphany 3 B - Psalm 65:5-12

Psalm 62:5-12
Waiting in silence is not something that comes naturally to most people especially when unsteady circumstances call for a rock and salvation stronghold that cannot be shaken. Perhaps “pour out your hearts” should begin the psalm and “wait in silence” end it. Or maybe the two can be considered the same thing when one trusts that the God who searches hearts and minds knows what we need before we do. And even if our lives are relatively stable neither those of high degree nor low estate can long delay the inevitable for like a fleeting breath the span of life doesn’t even tip the scale of eternity. But if we trust our lives are in the hands of the One to whom steadfast love belongs we are able to endure even the specter of our inevitable end where we will be repaid according to our deeds for we believe that because the rock of salvation was crowned with a cross “Lord have mercy” will not fall on deaf ears. 

Monday, January 15, 2018

Epiphany 3 B - Jonah 3:1-10

Jonah 3:1-10
God’s mind was changed but Jonah's heart was not. In the beginning of the story Jonah tries to avoid going to Nineveh because he believes God’s word and is counting on it. If the people of Nineveh do not repent they will be destroyed and since Jonah would like nothing more than that he goes in the opposite direction hoping to force God’s hand. But God trumps Jonah and has a great fish swallow him to get him to the church on time. Since the people of Nineveh worship a fish god in the form of a man Jonah doesn’t have to cry out very loudly to get the pagans to pay attention. Jonah is so angry he would rather die than endure God’s mercy for Israel’s enemies but then God is always more willing to forgive than we are. I know Lyle Lovett wasn’t thinking of this story when he wrote God Will but it seems to me if Jonah sang country he could put his heart into this song.  

“And who keeps on loving you
When you've been lying
Saying things ain't what they seem
God does
But I don't
God will
But I won't
And that's the difference
Between God and me.
Of course for those who believe the “difference between God and me” is Jesus there is no difference for all who have been forgiven are called to forgive.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Epiphany 2 B - John 1:43-51

John 1:43-51
Apparently Nathaniel’s disparaging remark about Nazareth is just plain old prejudice and doesn’t count as deceit. Or it could be that Jesus is engaging in a little sarcasm himself. At any rate the encounter with Jesus moves Nathaniel beyond his limited understanding of “can anything good come from Nazareth” to seeing the Good that came from the unlikely place. He proclaims “You are the Son of God” which is to say “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God… and we have beheld his glory…” (John 1:1, 14)  In the knowing Nathaniel becomes one who will see the future in the present because those who believe “have already passed from death to life.” (John 5:24) We are not so different from Nathaniel. We are often found sitting under the fig tree of our own religious prejudice. Can anything good come from St. Louis? (Lutheran Church Missouri Synod)  Or can anything good come from Chicago? (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America) Or closer to home, can anything good come from the city on the hill – Dallas Theological Seminary? We who doubt whether good can come from places we dismiss need to be found under the fig trees of our limited understanding and like Nathaniel journey from guile to goodness so that the world will know the Good that came from Nazareth.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Epiphany 2 B - 1 Corinthians 6:11-20



1 Corinthians 6:11-20
Corinth was the “sin city” of the 1st century and the Christians living there struggled to be “in the world but not of the world.” Judging by the contents of the correspondence they didn’t do very well and some, like the man sleeping with his father’s wife, (1 Corinthians 5:1) even made the pagans blush. So Paul’s caveat “not everything is beneficial” might have been lost on those who said “I have the right to do whatever I want.” The trouble was a misapplication of the Gospel that had rightly repealed the requirements of the law, namely food restrictions, sacrifices and circumcision. A good number of the Corinthians thought that meant they were free to do as they pleased; after all they were saved by grace. We can fall into the same trap thinking that as long as we feel badly about whatever we’ve done we are good to go and do whatever again. Unfortunately Lutherans tend to be the most susceptible to what Dietrich Bonhoeffer labeled “cheap grace”. The cost of sin was born by Christ but we continue to run up a tab whenever we are mastered by the very things from which Christ has set us free. But the Lutheran two step of Law/Gospel was always meant to lead us to an amendment of our sinful ways albeit without dancing into the sin of being sanctimonious, not an easy step to master. The good news is that those united with Christ are one with His spirit which means help is always just a prayer away. 

Monday, January 8, 2018

Epiphany 2 B - 1 Samuel 3:1-20

1 Samuel 3:1-20
The call of Samuel is a sad story for Eli but then his response to the word Samuel receives indicates Eli knew it was coming and in some ways welcomed it. His sons were scoundrels, stealing sacrifices and sleeping with the women who served at the tent of meeting. Eli rebuked them but only as a plea and not as a parent so that the sins of the sons were visited upon the father and vice versa. Samuel, on the other hand, learned well from Eli and in many ways was the son Eli wished his boys could have been. That’s not to say that children who behave well in public are not sinners. We are all infected by the rebellious ways of the first couple but unlike Eli’s sons Samuel listened to the Lord. We’d like to think that our actions or inactions don’t have consequences and while we don’t operate with some sort of Christian karma, what we do, or don’t do, matters; which is to say what the Lord would have us do begins with listening.