Thursday, August 29, 2013

Luke 14:1, 7-14

Luke 14:1, 7-14
We took our Room in the Inn guests to the Golden Corral on Tuesday night which is why there was a dip in the profit margin of that store on Tuesday night. As I've written before - when you live on the street and depend on others for daily bread having a choice of what to eat is as much a gift as the food itself. So those who sit on the curb in the heat of the day were invited to sit up higher in an air conditioned dining room by people who perch in a pew on Sunday. I know Jesus says when you give a banquet invite the poor, crippled, lame and blind because they can’t repay but I beg to differ. I am richer for having sat with someone who is poorer and the thanks I receive is in the wealth of the relationship established. It’s not the reason to invite but trust me when you do you are repaid in full and then some. That means the resurrection of the righteous happens in the here and now whenever we make room at our table so that someone who has no seat can sit down. Of course it doesn't happen unless when inviting you call that someone else, “friend” and mean it.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Pentecost 14 C - Hebrews 13:1-8, 15-16

Hebrews 13:1-8, 15-16
When the human heart is healed by hospitality the angels are entertained and in our restoration they rejoice. The hospitable life of Hebrews is found in mutual love expressed by loving the stranger, which is the literal meaning of the Greek. It means we remember those in prison as if we were in their place. It means one’s own being is tortured by the thought of another’s body violated, as well as one’s own soul grieving for the soul of the one who devises and inflicts pain upon another. Honoring marriage, resisting the lure of wealth, contentment within one’s self, being thankful for faithful leaders, doing good and sharing what you have are all expressions of the hospitable life in which the angels rejoice and God is pleased. So entertaining angels unaware is not a chance encounter with a cherub, but a life encountered and changed by Jesus, the same yesterday, today and always. 

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Pentecost 14 C - Psalm 112

Psalm 112
Evil tidings tend to strike fear into the heart, whether global as in warming or war, or closer to home as in loss of health or employment or relationship. Even the most optimistic must admit we live in an age of uncertainly, but then every age is in its own way insecure. The response of the righteous to uncertain times is not to circle the wagons, retreating behind walls of stricter laws and harsher penalties, nor do the righteous long for an earlier less uncertain time, which is in truth a seeking after Shangri-La. The response of the righteous to evil tidings in every age of uncertain times is to be gracious and merciful. Hearts that are steady in unsteady times distribute freely to the poor, lend themselves and their resources generously and deal justly with all in every circumstance. The wicked see it and scoff, but will gnash their teeth and melt away the longer the righteous persist in being righteous. Whether wealth and riches follow remains to be seen, or perhaps the righteous know that wealth is fleeting and seeking after riches vain glory and like the desire of the wicked comes to naught. Steady hearts that do not fear live today as if the “I make all things new” endless age was an already here though a not yet present reality. And of course it is and will be whenever and wherever the righteous act righteously.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Pentecost 15 C - Proverbs 25:6-7

Proverbs 25:6-7
The first thing to say is that whatever we say about this proverb it was obviously written to people who had the ability to put themselves forward in the presence of the king. The closest I've come to royalty is the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace and since the royal standard wasn't flying above the royal apartment the Queen was being royal somewhere else. Apparently no one told her I was coming. I don’t think I’ll be using Solomon’s sage advice anytime soon. So what can we say about two verses that have no application to those of us who are not likely to stand or sit in the place of the great? “Don’t think of yourselves more highly than you ought” is how the apostle Paul might have applied this text to his audience, the vast majority of whom would never get an audience with the king, unless of course they were being martyred in the coliseum. But it is to those white robed martyrs that the King of the universe says come up here while the kings of the earth, and queens for that matter, are put down from their thrones. I am pretty sure that is not what Solomon meant to say in this proverb, but then my guess is that he might want to follow his own advice when ushered into the presence of the KING of KINGS.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Pentecost 14 C - Luke 13:10-17

Luke 10:13-17
The woman set free from her aliment praises God while the synagogue ruler standing up straight is actually quite bent over by the rules and regulations he is so keen on keeping. This daughter of Abraham knew her need and for eighteen years had endured the stares and whispers of those whose religious perspective placed the blame squarely on her shoulders. Bad things happen to bad people. This son of Abraham holding a position of prestige and power had no idea that the very things he held as holy prevented him from doing the one thing that would make him holy. God said it this way more than once, “I desire mercy not sacrifice.” If the Sabbath is meant to return one to the place of rest modeled by the Creator on the seventh day, then the Sabbath is meant to reconnect one to the God who commanded that rest be observed. Jesus said it this way more than once, “The Sabbath was meant for you. Not you for the Sabbath.” So the Sabbath that reconnects us to the One who commanded it begins with an attitude of care and concern for all of creation, beasts of burdens and daughters and sons of Abraham, and everyone else for that matter, which leads one to actions that bring healing and peace and justice seven days a week. Or in other words: Sabbath sacrificed for mercy praises God while mercy sacrificed for Sabbath is no rest at all.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Pentecost 14 C - Hebrews 12:18-29

Hebrews 12:18-29
Accept the grace of God or else get burned. Not the best way to start a Wednesday afternoon, but then this text is not about nice. It’s about the living God, a consuming fire that shakes things up. I will admit I prefer the “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” image of God, so of course I will try to paint the “our God is a consuming fire” warning from heaven in a more friendly light. It may not be that hard if the mediator of the new covenant, whose blood speaks a better word than Abel, speaks for us. Then maybe a consuming fire and a warning from heaven, from which we cannot escape, is good news even if we don’t heed the warning. For we do not come to a mountain of fire and smoke that makes one tremble and faint for fear but to a holy hill where the God who is a consuming fire was himself consumed by the cross so that those who do not heed warnings might become the righteous made perfect. So what’s the point of a warning word if everyone gets a free pass? That misses the point. No one gets a pass on judgment for the truth is we are all guilty to one degree or another. But judgment is the penultimate word, which is just a fancy way of saying it is not the last word. The last word, the ultimate word, is that God will remove created things fatally flawed so that gifted with a new kingdom that cannot be shaken we might worship with reverence and awe the living God who is a consuming fire forever connected by love to the creation.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Pentecost 14 C - Psalm 103:1-8

Psalm 103:1-8
The “all that is within me” (or you for that matter) includes that which is less than praiseworthy so how can the “all of me” praise God’s holy name? It seems to me that the somewhat schizophrenic nature of Pauline theology – old Adam (Eve) cohabiting and competing with the new Eve (Adam) has the unfortunate consequence of a theology that does not allow for the “all of me” to praise God’s holy name. But what if we were to accept the fact that the “all of me” is comprised of the sum total of everything about us and that the aspects of me and you that are less than praiseworthy are none the less worthy of praising God’s name if for no other reason than the fact that God knows and loves the “all” of you and me. And if the “all of me” and the “all of you” can praise God’s holy name just as we are maybe we can stop hiding from ourselves and each other and realize the biggest benefit that we are not to forget is that God loves the “all of me” and the “all of you” so that we can love each other in the same way. Which as it turns out is the way that God desires to be praised. 

Monday, August 19, 2013

Pentecost 14 C - Isaiah 58:9-14

Isaiah 58:9-14
We live in a time when Sabbath rest hardly happens, even when we sleep. But before you blame the wired 24/7 world take note that Isaiah 58 is written to people living in the sixth century before God engaged the world through the Christ and yet they appear to be plenty busy on the day God set aside for rest. It is what occupies one’s ultimate concern that matters to God so if your wired world is all about you in the same way that serving one’s own interests in the sixth century before “Silent Night” superseded the Sabbath then God is not pleased. So we who celebrate God’s mercy to us should not be surprised that the way God would have us keep the Sabbath is to be merciful to others. Offer your food to the hungry. Satisfy the needs of the afflicted. Stop pointing the finger and refrain from speaking evil. Sabbath rest is important to one’s well-being but resting from Sabbath work is not.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Pentecost 13 C - Luke 12:49-56

Luke 12:49-56
This is not a “What a friend we have in Jesus” Jesus text, but then Jesus is more complicated than any single hymn or Gospel text or bracelet that lets the wearer determine What Would Jesus Do? Jesus may have died to save us from our sins but he was crucified for being a trouble maker. That is not to say his offense was primarily political even though the Romans were happy to crucify another trouble making Jew between two common criminals. Jesus’ “crucify him” worthy crime was ultimately a religious offense to people whose history made them worry about anyone who colored outside the God defined lines. Remember the Babylonian captivity? So the Romans killed him because he messed with the law and order that they maintained to ensure a steady stream of tax revenue. The more complicit of the Jewish leaders condemned him to death because he messed with the profitable religion that the Romans allowed them for contributing to the system. But the pious cried crucify because Jesus named the God who could not be named, Abba, and there is nothing that breeds more bitter hatred than someone who says they know your God better than you do. God help us we have been crucifying each other over that since the beginning of time and will do so until the end of time when God decides it is finally time for everyone to get out of the pool. But until the last cloud rises in the west or the last south wind blows maybe we could interpret the present time in light of the future time and allow that Jesus is more complicated than a single hymn or Gospel text or personal preference WWJD bracelet and that the divisions Jesus talks about in Luke 12 are our own doing and not God’s design.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Pentecost 13 C - Hebrews 11:29-12:2

Hebrews 11:29-12:2
The great cloud of witnesses commended to us for their ability to endure were less than perfect examples of faithful witnesses. The ones who passed through the Red Sea made the golden calf. The ones who circled the walls of Jericho until they fell down fell prey to greed and kept some of the “dedicated things” from the forsaken city. Samson may have torn down the temple but he also dallied with Delilah and David would have liked to build the temple but for that fling with Bathsheba and the murder of her husband Uriah the Hittite. The point is the great cloud of witnesses is remembered because God remembered them despite their tendency to forget God. So we are surrounded by a great cloud of folks a lot like us and the encouragement they offer is that God gifted them with a reward they could not create and did not deserve. That is why we look past the cloud and fix our eyes on the pioneer and perfecter of faith who for the sake of the joy that was set before him – that would be the world he came to save – endured more than the whole cloud of witnesses put together. So by all means run with perseverance the race set before you but recognize that when you stumble and fall the crowd will cheer you on but it will be Jesus who picks you up.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Pentecost 13 C - Psalm 82

Psalm 82
God doesn't care about the poor because they are poor but because they are people and God loves people. The trouble is people do show partiality, fawning over the powerful while neglecting those with the greatest need, i.e. the weak and the orphan; the lowly and the destitute. But in God’s design for human community those who wield the greatest power have the greatest responsibility to act justly in the same way that “to whom much is given much is required.” (Luke 12:48) When Jesus half-brother James wrote about works produced by faith he put it in the context of providing for the poor. “If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,” and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that?” (James 2:15, 16) Of course the wishing well is as important as the providing for basic needs. That is one of the reasons I make eggs to order for our room in the inn guests because when it comes down to it having the choice of sunny side up or over easy or fried or scrambled is of equal if not more value to the one being served than the egg itself. It’s all about relationship. 

Monday, August 12, 2013

Pentecost 13 C - Jeremiah 23:23-29

Jeremiah 23:23-29
The dreaming prophets were good at prophesying pleasantries to the people because the truth would not have been well received. Jeremiah didn't fit the profile of the prophet dream team because the Lord had placed him in the unenviable place of speaking truth to power and most of the time Jeremiah appeared to be the one God had forsaken. But while God may have appeared far off it was the people who were uninterested and disengaged from the God who had always remained near-by. Of course Jeremiah was vindicated when the bad news he proclaimed came true and the dreaming prophets and the people put to sleep by their lies woke to the nightmare of the Babylonian captivity. Not a happy story but then that’s why Jeremiah is called the weeping prophet. So what lesson might we learn from a sad story? I suppose one possibility is to double down on the law and preach morality to avoid the wrath of a near-by hammer come down God. Another might be to bet the bank on the Gospel and preach the dream of a near-by God whose righteous fire doesn't really burn. But if you are a prophet of the Lutheran persuasion the truth is in the waking dream where the Law is not diminished and the Gospel is not neglected but working in concert they reveal the God far off come near in Christ Jesus. Which means we strive to preach and teach a moral life that takes sin seriously and at the same time recognize the only way one can be fully moral is to obey the law of love which always counts relationship with the sinner as the way one lives God’s dream.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Pentecost 12 C - Luke 12:32-40

Luke 12:32-40
This is where God’s “trust me” rubber hits the road. It is all well and good when “trust me” means the capital M me does the heavy lifting. It is a different story when gifted with the kingdom, have no fear little flocks are expected to carry their own weight. Trust me means follow me and follow me means trust me. You can’t have one without the other. Faith is passionate not passive. But if this is the measure of a trust that follows – sell your possessions and give to the poor – then most of us must admit our trust falls short of worthy. But then being continually dressed for service is not about carrying our own weight, otherwise Jesus is just another version of a do this don’t do that debit credit system. No. Being continually dressed for service means being clothed in the cross where Jesus did the heavy lifting once and for all. The kingdom is gifted, not earned. The purse that will not wear out was purchased for us and Jesus is the treasure that will not be exhausted and the heart’s true home. And the capital M master is already dressed to serve returning in the here and now when have no fear little flocks gather at table to dine on bread and wine. Our waiting and watching with lamps lit takes on a different meaning when instead of an end time event the unexpected hour is continually coming in the here and now. We are Christ present for each other so that strength to endure another day is found despite our faltering courage. Every act of random kindness, every generous gift of grace, every word of mercy that mends broken relationships is a kingdom come moment. And the good news is that God proves trustworthy even when we are not. Which means even trust me is a gift. 

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Pentecost 12 C - Hebrews 11:1-16

Hebrews 11:1-16
The trust in me theme of Pentecost 12c continues with what must be acknowledged as the trust poof text. (pun intended)  Faith “the assurance of things hoped for and the confidence in things not seen” is the version I memorized and the meaning, no matter how it is translated, has served me well. That being said I must confess that I am not a confident Christian even though I do have confidence in Christ. By that I mean I have all kinds of doubts about myself and my life of faith but no doubts about the one in whom I trust. But that shouldn't surprise you or me nor should we lament the truth about ourselves. I believe confident Christians are not all they are cracked up to be and a healthy dose of doubt means the life of faith is no walk in the park, which may be what the life of faith is all about. I hope in things that have been promised but not delivered. I have confidence in what I cannot see, the better country for which I long, and believe it is more real than the one in which I presently live. The Hebrews 11 list of those who lived by faith is not a list of faith super stars but those who hoping against hope lived as if the promise not realized had already been delivered and the things not seen were fully visible. Put your name in the Hebrews 11 list, you less than confident Christian, for the word to them is the word to us. Believe in what you cannot see. Trust me.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Pentecost 12 C - Psalm 33:12-22

Psalm 33 continues the “trust me” theme of Genesis 15. Though kings trust in the size of their army and warriors the size of their biceps the one who trusts in the Lord hopes in unfailing love. It means like Abraham we look to the mystery of the unlimited heavens and beyond counting stars, look up to the One who looks down, opening our hearts and minds in holy waiting to abiding hope until unfailing love rests gently upon us. It is unfailing love that satisfies our spiritual hunger, unfailing love that brings us back from the brink of death dealing despair, unfailing love that is our help and our shield in times of trouble. This would be a vain hope for deliverance if the Holy One had only looked down from heaven. But in this we rejoice, that when the time had fully come and the waiting world could wait no longer God’s unfailing love left heaven and inhabited flesh and blood so that we could know as we are known and see as we are seen. God’s word through the psalmist is the word to us. Trust me.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Pentecost 12 C - Genesis 15:1-6

Genesis 15:1-6
Confirming the covenant by looking at stars too numerous to count is hardly proof of the promise. But that is the way it has been with Abraham and God. In the same way God’s “trust me” was enough for Abraham to leave his people and his father’s household for a promised land he had never seen, so too God’s “trust me” is enough for Abraham to believe what appears less likely with each passing year. Abraham’s believing “trust me” despite the delay in God making good on the promise is reckoned as righteousness, which is a way of saying the Lord and Abraham are BFF because friendship is a relationship of trust. So too for we who have not seen and yet believe; who following the Lord anticipate the promise of eternal life in a land beyond without having been there; who trust that despite the difficulties of each day prayers offered are heard and God’s grace and mercy and love is as boundless as the stars that cannot be counted. The word to Abraham is the word to us. Trust me.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Pentecost 11 C - Luke 12:13-21

Luke 12:13-21
Someone in the crowd was trying to triangulate Jesus, who knows a thing or two about healthy relationships between three persons. “Tell my brother to divide the family inheritance” sounds like a sibling rivalry with a little history. Who knows, maybe Jesus’ well known tale about two sons and a loving father comes from a chance encounter in the crowd with a real life prodigal. Of course Jesus does not take the bait (he never does) but speaking the truth in love goes to the heart of the matter. You have placed possessions in front of people, which is the definition of greed. To seal the deal he tells the story of a rich man who appears to be acting prudently. Crops not stored properly will quickly turn into cr@p, if you know what I mean. So it makes perfect sense to build bigger barns and enjoy the fruit of your labor, after all that is the reward of hard work and sound investments. But then this is a parable and the details are not to be dissected because it’s all about the punch line and in this case the punch line is a Jesus’ twist on what the Pentecost 10c texts have been teaching all week. You can’t take it with you when you go and living as if you can is foolish. The lesson is for the “someone” in the crowd although we are clearly meant to apply it to our own life. Your brother is more important than dividing the inheritance and the way one is rich toward God has everything to do with the value of our relationships in the here and now, even with brothers who won’t share.