Friday, April 28, 2017

Easter 3 A - Luke 24:13-49



Luke 24:13-49
“We had hoped…” is how Cleopas and friend express the deep disappointment at what could have been but wasn’t. To have come so close to realizing the dream, all Jerusalem shouting as Zion’s King entered the city just as Zechariah prophesied, made it all the more difficult. Jesus of Nazareth, the mighty prophet, clearing the temple of corruption, shutting up Pharisees and Sadducees and self righteous big wigs with clever answers to tricky questions, in deed and word set the city on edge with expectation.  But people in power don’t give up that easily and while Jesus may speak mightily it turns out he’s a pushover and his followers are no match for a coup accomplished in the middle of the night. They woke to find the one who would redeem Israel already condemned and nailed to a Roman cross along with all their hopes for Zion. Heads hung in sorrow, Cleopas and friend head home to Emmaus only to meet a clueless stranger who turns out to know more about the story than they do. Hearts burning within them they don’t want the conversation to end and pressing him to stay sit down to dinner. But then the stranger does something oddly familiar and before they can say a word Jesus vanishes into the breaking and blessing and passing of bread. Take and eat suddenly means more than it did on Thursday night and without waiting for morning they rush back to join the chorus, “The Lord has risen!” This is a story for all who live in that place of deep regret, of hopes and dreams dashed, of disappointments that weigh heavily on the heart and cause heads to hang in sorrow. For in the oddly familiar Jesus appears to us at table when bread broken is a sign of the promise fulfilled and anticipated.  Jesus appears to us when walking together on the long journey home “Lo I am with you always” makes our hearts burn within us because it is truer than we can ask or imagine or believe.  And in the “necessary suffering” the God far off has come near so that all suffering and sorrow and yes, even death itself, might one day disappear.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

“I love the Lord, because he has heard my voice” is comforting because of the verse that follows. “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of the faithful.” Truth is if God healed all who cried out “save my life!” the planet would be crowded beyond capacity. The Lord, gracious and merciful, protects the unwary and lifts up those who are brought down so that even when the pangs of death surround our loved ones we are the ones who are lifted up by the promise the apostle Paul declares; “whether we live or whether we die we belong to the Lord.” Which means in every and all circumstances we lift up the cup of salvation trusting that one day we will walk with those we love in the land of the forever living. Praise the Lord.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Easter 3 A - Acts 2:36-46

“What should we do?” It is a legitimate question even if Peter gives what may be the wrong answer. "Repent and be baptized." Now I have nothing against repenting. God knows I do it all the time. And I have nothing against being baptized even if I was too young to agree to mine. But if the "what should we do" question is really just more of the same for the people who ask it ( and us for that matter) then the preaching of Peter on that Pentecost morning misses the point of the Friday we call Good. By that I mean if "what shall we do" is done to get God to do something in return then we might as well go back to being kosher. The people who asked "what should we do" were the keepers of the covenant and the people of the plan and yet it was their piety that drove them to kill the promise because Jesus did not fit the pattern of what the law demanded. And so the rule breaker was done away with and the only wrinkle in the plot was that he came back to life and his foolish followers wouldn’t stop talking about him. So saving oneself from a corrupt generation cannot be about adherence to the law, obeying the rules, toeing the line, following the straight and narrow. It must be about whatever Jesus was about. Like forgiving those who put hammer to nail and fastened his hands and feet to wood? What shall we do with that? It may be that despite Peter’s concrete answer we all need to work out our salvation “with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12) trusting that in Jesus “what should we do” is a moot question because Jesus did it all.


Saturday, April 22, 2017

Easter 2 A - John 20:19-31

John 20:19-31There are those who say faith dare not doubt while others claim faith without doubt is no faith at all. I’m not sure I care to enter the debate. Thomas had good reason to wonder at this word, “We have seen the Lord!” and as the ten weren’t blessed until they had seen I’m willing to give Thomas the benefit of the doubt. Truth is there are times when I wonder at this word and question whether everything written is the Gospel truth. I don’t think that is as much a function of doubting as it is the product of the God given ability to think critically. God is not threatened by our questions and does not punish us for asking them.  Touch and see was what Thomas needed to do and touch and see is what Jesus offered him. And what seems like Jesus rebuking Thomas, “have you believed because you have seen me?”  is really an encouragement to those of us who given the opportunity would do anything to “trade places with Thomas and touch those ruined hands.” (Friederich Buechner – Peculiar Treasures) So we who live by faith and not by sight are free to question and in whatever way doubt and faith intersect find the place where the life of believing lives comfortably with questions.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Easter 2 A - 1 Peter 1:3-9

1 Peter 1:3-9
There is a stoic tendency in the Christian tradition, as in the proverbial British “stiff upper lip” or the Norwegian mantra “det kan bli verre”. (It could be worse) Or better yet the Black Knight in Monty Python's the Holy Grail. "It's just a flesh wound." So while I agree that various trials can be seen as tests of faith there are times when one is so worn down by trouble one could care less if faith proved less precious than gold. “It is what it is” only works for so long and eventually “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me” is a more appropriate response to trouble that multiplies with every passing day. But it is precisely during those times when human hope fades that we rejoice, albeit through tears, in the living hope that is kept for us and not by us. Kept for us and not by us this inheritance of hope, if you will, is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading. That means in practical terms we can live through a difficult day or week or month or even, dear God, a year, and not add to the weight of our troubles by blaming our dismal circumstances on the failure of faith. I think stoics live lonely lives even if they show great courage and fortitude. We were created for community, to be like the One we have never seen and yet still love, so that the genuineness of faith is measured in the way we respond to the needs of each other. There are times when various trials could not possibly be any worse which is why we do not suffer them alone.