Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Advent 2a - Psalm 72:1-7;18-19

Psalm 72:1-7; 18-19
Psalm 72 concludes the prayers of David, son of Jesse and is a prayer for his son Solomon. In many ways David, the man after God’s own heart (who broke God’s heart time and again) is a tragic figure. Guilty of adultery and murder and intrigue the sword never left his house and while he was not “cast away from God’s presence” he experienced the penalty of his sin in heartbreaking loss, no more so than in the rebellion and death of his son Absalom. “O my son Absalom! O Absalom, my son, my son!” His cry of grief for Absalom stands in stark contrast to his prayer for Solomon. Born out of the disappointments and difficulties of his reign David prays that Solomon would be a better king than he was. Make my son a just and righteous king who remembers the poor and delivers the needy from the oppressor, whose rule like rain on mown grass will bring peace and prosperity to your people. “Teach your children well, their father’s hell did slowly go by, and feed them on your dreams the one they picked, the one you’ll know by” (CSNY) David dreamed of a dwelling place for God in the midst of the city named Peace, a temple he was not permitted to build, but the son for whom he prayed would make the dream come true. David’s prayer that Solomon would do better than he is the prayer of every parent learning from the whole of life, wishing, hoping, praying their child will make fewer mistakes and know twice the joy and only half the pain they did and that well taught lessons and dreams picked will help the prayer come true. Amen. Come, Lord Jesus

Monday, November 29, 2010

Advent 2a - Isaiah 11:1-10

It is one of my favorite visions of the future and I marvel at the heart and mind of the prophet who brought it to life by putting it to pen. The One who delights in the Lord will pair wolves with lambs, leopards with goats, calves with lions, bears with cows, infants with adders. It’s a recipe for carnage, but in the imagination of the prophet the predator lies down with the prey for a nap, not for lunch. The prophet envisions the accepted order of the natural world radically transformed by the One upon whom the Spirit of the Lord finds a resting place, who judges the poor with righteousness, who decides with equity for the meek and kills the wicked without breaking a sweat. Yesterday at Calvary twin sisters Reagan Grace & Ryan Elizabeth were baptized into the vision of Isaiah and anointed with the spirit of wisdom and understanding, counsel and might, knowledge and the fear of the Lord, joy in God’s presence. It is no small thing to be birthed again in the midst of the assembly and publically joined with Christ and all who have been sealed by the Holy Spirit and marked with the cross of Christ forever. Welcome to the kingdom, little ones! Of course to be baptized into the vision is to be claimed by the future and called to live it in the present. The whole creation groans for us to do more than just recycle, as helpful as that is. It is a small planet we share and whatever we do to preserve and protect anticipates the peaceable kingdom in the “not yet”. And as we do the whole creation subjected to frustration because the first humans were not satisfied with paradise breathes a little easier even as it waits in eager expectation for the day when paradise lost is found and once again home for all creatures of our God and King. Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Advent 1a - conclusion

Isaiah 2:1-5; Psalm 122; Romans 13:8-14; Matthew 24:36-44
I wrote this week’s blogs last week in anticipation of our yearly pilgrimage to a week of camping on the gulf of Mexico at Mustang Island State Park, TX. My thanks to Pastor Kyle who has been posting them for me each day, probably from his iphone! (Note to self – thou shalt not covet.) Hopefully the sun and surf has been good and we’re packing up with fond memories of a week on the beach as this is being posted. The texts for Advent 1a are like last week was for me. I had a lot to prepare in order to get ready all the while anticipating the sun and surf and campfires and quality time with family and friends. Isaiah envisions preparing for such a day as has never been where peace will be the new normal and war forgotten. The psalmist praying for peace can’t wait to ascend the hill to Jerusalem and camp out in the Lord’s house. Paul exhorts the Roman Christians to take advantage of the day and live in the light of the Lord. And the promise from Jesus is that one day we will be surprised by the very thing we’ve been hoping and praying for all along. Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Advent 1a - Matthew 24:36-44

I don’t mean to burst anyone’s Martin Luther bubble but recent scholarship can find no evidence that he ever said “If I believed the world was to end tomorrow, I would still plant a tree today.” It’s too bad because it’s a great quote and if it wasn’t already well known I might claim it as my own. Of course I don’t think whoever said it meant the last day is a good day to plant a tree, rather the last day should not change the way one lives every day given that one should live each day as if it was the last day. But instead of tree planting as the proper way to be ready people get goofy on this end time stuff coming up with all kinds of theories as to the day and hour that Jesus himself says only the Father knows. They should plant some trees for all the paper wasted on books better left behind in their imaginative minds. The way to be ready for the second coming is to live in the love and grace of the first appearing. I doubt very much that the God who so loved the world the first time round has decided it was a mistake and what the world really needs is a good thrashing. Therefore with every tree planted we pray, Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Advent 1a - Romans 13:8-14

Romans 13:8-14
It’s been one long night since the apostle roused the Romans from sleep. Of course we can all agree that salvation is nearer to us now than it was yesterday and it will be one day closer tomorrow but that doesn’t have quite the sense of immediacy that Paul used to exhort believers to lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. Given the long delay of the second coming we might be tempted to hit the snooze on holy living and roll over for forty winks of debauchery, though sooner or later the sun comes up on a life of licentiousness bringing a hangover of hurt. That being said the motivation for living honorably as in the day is not for fear of punishment or that the end is near but because the outstanding debt of love demands it. The debt of love that one owes the other is also owed to self and a life free from quarreling and jealousy is a life worth living for its own sake. So put on the Lord Jesus no matter how long the night lasts for fulfilling the law of love does no wrong to self or neighbor. Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Advent 1a - Psalm 122

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem. In Hebrew Jerusalem means the City of Peace. In Arabic it means Holiness and in Greek the Holy City. Claimed by Jew, Moslem and Christian as the capital of their respective faiths the holy city of peace has seen more than its fair share of violence and bloodshed. But while the psalmist would pray for the peace of Jerusalem only for the sake of relatives and friends the holy peace that befits the Lord’s house is peace for the world. That kind of peace cannot be established by walls and towers. That kind of peace will not be found in military might. The peace that prospers and makes one glad will come when the human family recognizes that we all belong to each other and our destinies are inextricably linked. Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Advent 1a - Isaiah 2:1-5

“Gonna lay down my sword and shield, down by the riverside, gonna study war no more.” Down by the Riverside predates the War Between the States and sings the desire of all who have on the job training in the study of war. We are a warring species, sometimes for necessary and just causes, sometimes in self defense, sometimes to protect economic self interest, sometimes for ideology and sometimes, God help us, just because. But I cannot believe that given the opportunity by means of a just peace, or a trustworthy security, or some other mechanism to make war obsolete anyone would not willingly, joyfully, lay down sword and shield. That day has eluded the human race even though some have tried their best to live “All we are saying is give peace a chance.” It is because the only peace that has a chance is the promised peace of God’s path. Whenever we walk in the light of the Lord we give peace a chance to happen in our lives and the lives of those around us in anticipation of the final peace treaty of the forever future where swords and spears beaten into plowshares and pruning hooks will signal the end of the nations warring madness once and for all. Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Christ the King - Year c - Conclusion

Jeremiah 23:1-6; Psalm 46; Colossians 1:11-20; Luke 23:33-44

Jesus takes pains to describe his kingship as anything but. He is not like the kings of the Gentiles who puffed up with pride lord it over their subjects. His kingly procession into the holy city is on a borrowed donkey. He wore a purple robe but once, and then only for the amusement of his executioners. His kingdom is not of this world, but if he wanted to he could rain down a boatload of hurt on Pilate’s head. Unless we reject the image of a larger than life, kick down the door, superman savior, our celebration of Christ the King Sunday is more about us than the one to whom we sing “Crown him with many crowns.” He only wore one crown and it hurt. He was crowned for sheep whose shepherds like those described by Jeremiah destroy and scatter the flock. He was crowned for people who like the psalmist are in need of a very present help in times of trouble. He was crowned to rescue people like the Colossians ensnared by the power of darkness to transfer them to the kingdom of light and love. And he was crowned Christ the King for you and me when in desperation we pray the prayer of the criminal that is plea, Jesus, remember me.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Chrisr the King - Year c - Luke 23:33-43

Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom. The guilty one anticipates the kingdom of the innocent one. Without hesitating Jesus answers the prayer that is a plea with the promise of paradise, today. Of all the stories told of Jesus; walking on water, feeding five thousand, healing the blind, lame, and deaf, exorcising demons and yes, even raising a dead friend, this story at the end of Jesus’ life defines the royal character of Christ the King. “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them… I am among you as one who serves.” The one Jesus called Abba said it this way “I desire mercy not sacrifice.” In light of God’s own stated preference how can one continue to hold onto the idea that the righteous rage of Abba could only be appeased by the blood sacrifice of the innocent Son dearly loved? No. In the promise of paradise to a criminal justly condemned, in forgiving those who sure as hell knew what they were doing, the character of God is revealed and by descending to the place of the dead we are guaranteed there will be no where God is not. Jesus. Remember me.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Christ the King - Year c - Colossians 1:11-20

Colossians 1:11-20
The strength to endure everything patiently, while at the same time joyfully giving thanks, comes from investing our inheritance before fully inheriting it, which means we spend the profit of the future on the deficit of the present. This is where the last will and testament is challenged for while we have no objection to God in Christ being reconciled to us we question the “all things on earth” part for there are plenty on earth we’d rather not include in the reconciled to God inheritance. And therein lies the rub. If through the blood of the cross God is reconciled to all things, then we as one of the all things on earth must be reconciled to the other all things, whether we like it or not. So enduring patiently might mean enduring our own limited vision as much as the difficulties presented by other “all things on earth” not that happy about our being included in the inheritance. I imagine the only one laughing at the reading of the last will and testament of the One in whom the fullness of God was pleased to dwell will be God upon seeing the faces of the all things on earth surprised by who is included in the all things in heaven.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Christ the King - Year C - Psalm 46

Psalm 46
This is a psalm for difficult days; a refuge and strength psalm for earth changing, mountain shaking, rock your world, waters foaming, troubled times. Of course troubled times don’t need to be that noisy. Difficult days are more often suffered in silence and those tottering on the brink of despair are “still” but not in the “Be still and know that I am God!” silence. The isolation of the stoic stiff upper lip in the face of those things that rightly make one tremble is not what “therefore we will not fear” is all about. No. God is in the midst of her, the city, the community, the body of Christ. The help that comes at break of dawn is the Lord of hosts with us, as in we not me. When one rejoices, all rejoice. When one suffers, all suffer. We’re in this thing together. So be still before the Lord, by all means, but do not be silent about the very present help you need in times of trouble.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Christ the King year c - Jeremiah 23:1-6

Jeremiah 23:1-6
I don’t know about the shepherds of Jeremiah’s time but the ones I know work like dogs to shepherd their people. But with the large population of aging sheep or sheep leaving small pastures for larger ones or sheep who’ve stopped grazing altogether, or worse, lambs who have never been brought to the pasture at all, shepherds find themselves the ones scattered and sometimes even destroyed. We hear this is the new normal of the post Christian era and that our decline is a done deal and nothing short of the second coming will restore the church to its former position of prominence. But then maybe this is just the time that is surely coming, when a post Christian age allows shepherds and sheep to see Christ raised again to the only prominent position that counts. “We preach Christ crucified,” is how the apostle Paul said it. Martin Luther offering advice to a fellow shepherd said it this way. My dear Friar, learn Christ and him crucified. Learn to praise him and, despairing of yourself, say, 'Lord Jesus, you are my righteousness, just as I am your sin." Christ the King crucified, the shepherd who lays down his life for the sheep, the righteous Branch executes justice and righteousness by virtue of his suffering and death on the cross in every age, no matter what we call it. Perhaps the word that Jeremiah had for the sheep of his day might be the word needed for shepherds of today. Do not be afraid. Do not be dismayed. I am your Shepherd. Take a day off.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Pentecost 25c - conclusion

Malachi 4:1-2; Psalm 98; 2 Thessalonians 3:6-13; Luke 21:5-19

Lisa and I went to Embargo on 8th street for free salsa dance lessons last night, not that the instruction helped me find my inner Latin. I’m a German. We march. We don’t shimmy. But Lisa, love of my life, was patient and not too critical, unless you count “What’s wrong with you?” as less than constructive. The texts for Pentecost 25c contain criticism for those who can’t or won’t follow the steps and instruction and promise for those who dare to dance. The arrogant evil doers in Malachi are warned of impending doom while the humble are healed. The new song sung in Psalm 98 has floods clapping, seas roaring and I imagine people jumping for joy. The Thessalonians are to follow Paul’s steps and work for their bread, not sit around as idle busybodies. And the promise to those who inhabit temples of flesh and blood is do not be afraid to testify in the time of trial for the Lord will provide all you need to know. Just dance.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Pentecost 25c - Luke 21:5-19

We tend to treasure temples adorned with things that in the end are temporary because we think, or at least hope, temples we treasure will last indefinitely. I’m at that stage of life when I realize that the less than apocalyptic societal events predicted to take place at some future date (like flying cars) will likely take place without me. So Jesus’ 2000 year old prediction of an end that has yet to take place, despite the regular recurrence of wars, insurrections, famines, plagues and portents, doesn’t bother me nearly as much as my own prediction that my temple, adorned as it is, will not last another fifty-four years. The people who heard Jesus speak the words recorded by Luke didn’t need to wait for them to come true. They were hated and betrayed and put to death because of the testimony that could not be contradicted. We learn something from their having already endured the end and therefore I think it a mistake to make Jesus’ words a blueprint for predicting Armageddon. The end is always happening somewhere on the planet when temples of flesh and blood in testifying to the truth are adorned with suffering and yes, even death. And so the word to those who heard it from Jesus himself and those who today live the end he predicted, like the martyrs of Sayidat al-Nejat Church, Baghdad, is do not be terrified, for the stone rejected by the builders has become the chief cornerstone of a temple that can never be thrown down.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Pentecost 25c - 2 Thessalonians 3:6-13

2 Thessalonians 3:6-13

Ouch! Paul is not pulling any punches. Get to work you busybodies otherwise you are going on the idleness diet and you’ll lose more than pounds, I promise you. It should be some comfort to the church of our time that the church of Paul’s time, which included at least a few charter members of the resurrection, had to deal with conflicts. And not just doctrinal disputes but practical people problems which in many ways are more difficult to deal with. Who left the sanctuary AC on last week and why am I the only usher who knows the proper way to pass the plate? The good news is that the idleness conflict did not destroy the Thessalonians which is the reason the church of today is still around to deal with its own version of "brothers and sisters let us not grow weary in doing what is right."

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Pentecost 25c - Psalm 98

Psalm 98
Sea roaring, floods clapping, hills singing praise psalms suspend OSHA decibel regulations in favor of bringing a boatload of noise. In fact “make some noise” is the only way to recognize the marvelous memory of the Lord who does not forget people who appear forgotten, people down for the count, people whose only hope is the Lord’s memory of steadfast love and faithfulness. Our praise tends to be more proper, but perhaps should be more enthusiastic, even in difficult days, when we remember that God continually remembers us and in Jesus has made known the victory over death itself. Make some noise!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Pentecost 25c - Malachi 4:1-2

Malachi 4:1-2
The arrogant evil doers in Malachi are identified in chapter one as priests who show contempt for the Lord’s name by offering sacrifices of blind, lame and diseased animals on the altar of the Lord. In chapter two the priests have wearied the Lord with words and their lying lips have turned from the teachings that preserve knowledge. In chapter three they have robbed the Lord by withholding tithes and offerings so that the storehouse that should be full stands empty. Therefore, says the Lord, a day is surely coming… So I guess that means unless you are a priest in postexilic Judah (or a present day pastor?) you can breathe a sigh of relief. Well maybe not entirely for this is a word about maintaining a right relationship with God. When we are less than faithful our spiritual life is like stubble with neither root nor branch. But the word of judgment is always an invitation. “Return to me and I will return you.” (3:7) Which is followed by a word of promise, “Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.” (3:10)

Friday, November 5, 2010

All Saints Year c -conclusion

Daniel 7:1-3, 15-18; Psalm 149; Ephesians 1:11-23; Luke 6:20-31
My good friend, Pastor John Foster of Shepherd of Life Lutheran Church, planned his funeral service years ago but at some point decided he’d like to be there so every year on the Sunday closest to his birthday the people of Shepherd of Life celebrate John’s service while he is still in the flesh. I suppose it’s not that different from Lisa, love of my life, saying the only person she wants to hear preach at my funeral is me. In many ways All Saints Sunday is about celebrating the future in the present as we remember the saints who’ve gone on before as if they’re still here, which of course they are. On the other hand All Saints is about being saints before being saints, if you know what I mean. Despite Daniel’s troubling visions one trusts the kingdom come. The praise the Lord psalm ends on the couch and not with the two edged sword. The Ephesians eyes of the heart enlightened live the hope of the future in the present. And the Blessed are you anticipates what will be while living what is.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

All Saints Year c - Luke 6:20-31

Luke 6:20-31
Luke’s version of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount is a little more difficult to deal with than Matthew’s, depending on which side of Luke’s line drawn in the economic sand you are standing. Poor or rich, hungry or well fed, weeping or laughing, despised or rejected? Like many of the stories and sayings in Luke’s Gospel the plight of the poor gets special attention and the Good News for the poor is generally Bad News for the rich. But that’s not to say it’s all good news for the poor, for the down payment on future rewards is rejoicing in being hated, excluded, reviled, and defamed, all the while turning the other cheek and doubling down on coats taken away. As my seminary professor Walter Bouman liked to say about such things, “Yes, but will it play in Poughkeepsie?” So what do we of the God loves everyone, saved by grace party do with such a seemingly partisan text? Unfortunately we have to say the Bible is very clear. God takes sides. We can choose to ignore that or soften it but we cannot escape it. On the other hand what if God’s taking sides is to counter the sides we take? It may be that God as ultimate parent is not that different from human parents who in loving their children equally attempt to create and maintain environments where siblings are encouraged to share. So no matter which side of the line you currently stand God’s ultimate purpose is for us all to stand on the same side because in the end that is a parent’s greatest joy.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

All Saints Year c - Ephesians 1:11-23

Knowing the hope to which you have been called is the inheritance we have obtained. It is more than a panacea for whatever present difficulties one might be enduring, like that old school practice of delayed gratification. Just wait for it. It is an “already” as in a present reality. But the hope to which we are called is also a “not yet”. It is why Paul gives thanks for the faith of the Ephesians which allows them to possess what is not fully realized. For the power of Christ is at work in this age in the same way it is in the age to come - at the very same time for Christ is not bound by time or space. On All Saints we celebrate the reality that the saints in light are never far from us and that when in a dream, or a chance encounter, or a memory, or a vision, they draw even closer our not yet becomes an already and their already becomes, if only for an instant, a not yet. With the eyes of our hearts enlightened this hope to which we have been called transforms us to live in faith the not yet as if it were already, which, of course, in Christ it truly is.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

All Saints Year c - Psalm 149

Psalm 149
The singing, dancing, melody making, tambourine praise the Lord psalm was going along quite nicely until the people in whom the Lord takes pleasure picked up two edged swords to execute vengeance on people for whom the Lord presumably holds no affection. One minute they’re singing for joy on couches and the next they’re binding kings and nobles with fetters and chains, which by the way always involves collateral damage aka people like you and me just trying to mind our own business and stay out of the way. I understand the historical context of a humble people picked on wanting to be adorned with victory but I’m just going to say “No” to verses 6 – 9 of Psalm 149; no to religiously justified violence; no to exacting revenge; no to an image of God who delights in some people and despises the rest. And the reason I can say no to that image is because God provided another. “Put away your sword,” is what Jesus said to Peter when the mob surrounded the King of Kings and bound him with iron chains to execute the judgment decreed. Crucify him! So I think it best to end the psalm with verse 5, even if that means I’m a liberal couch potato.

Monday, November 1, 2010

All Saints Year C - Daniel 7:1-3; 15-18

I started blogging Living the Lectionary one year ago during the week of All Saints and truth to be told I’d prefer to blog on last year’s text again. There is nothing troubling or terrifying about the fine wine feast of fat things on God’s holy mountain in Isaiah 25:6-8. Unlike Daniel’s troubling visions, which misread, prompts people to preach terrifying versions of the future where God condemns the vast majority of humanity to eternal punishment while saving a pitiful few who possess the secret password to paradise. That troubles me because I think I’d prefer to be left behind than be a part of a vision that contradicts the cross of Christ – God so loved the world. But then maybe I’d hear it differently as a persecuted minority longing for home while held captive in a foreign land. The popular notion is that prophecy is prediction but it is first and foremost proclamation. This prophetic word is a promise to the holy ones, who in Daniel’s context are the lowly ones, a promise that despite their present circumstances they will possess the kingdom, while powerful kings who persecute them will be brought low. In that sense it is a word for all who live through overwhelming circumstances that trouble the spirit or terrify the mind in the lonely watches of the night. “Do not fear little flock,” is how Jesus spoke the same word to his disciples, “for the Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.” “Has been pleased” as in already has given the kingdom. Jesus takes Daniel’s “wait for it” and proclaims the forever future kingdom in the present which means nothing can trouble, nothing can frighten, which of course is what we celebrate on All Saints.