Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Advent 2 A - 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 28, 2016

Advent 2 A - 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 slays the wicked without breaking a sweat. We are 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 publicly 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! 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” in which we live. 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 the earth is home for all creatures of our God and King. Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Christ the King Year C - Luke 23:33-44

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.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Christ the King Year C - 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 stoic stiff upper lip isolation in the face of those things that rightly make one tremble is not what “therefore we will not fear” is all about. 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 but do not be silent about the very present help you need in times of trouble.

Monday, November 14, 2016

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.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Proper 28 C - 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."

Monday, November 7, 2016

Proper 28 C - 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 4, 2016

The Feast of All Saints Year C - Luke 6:

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 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.