Thursday, July 20, 2017

Lectionary 16 A - Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43



Matthew 13:24-3036-43
The first hearers of this word were no doubt encouraged by them. Justice will be done and love wins as good will triumph over evil. It is a good word for all who weary of a world infested by evil and the misery it causes even if one hopes God’s judgment is tempered by mercy for weeds as well as wheat. In the end the job of judging between wheat and weeds is none of our business and naming good and evil us and them might just mean we have some weeds in our wheat as well. Maybe that is the point of the parable on a more personal level. We are weed and wheat, saint and sinner, and only God can pull out one without uprooting the other.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Lectionary 16 A - Romans 8:12-25

The sufferings of the present may not be worth comparing with the glory of the future but when subjected to futility we groan as in labor and waiting patiently is not as easy as Paul would make it seem. Which is why we are in debt to hope, charging to the future what we cannot afford in the present so that these bodies, decaying day by day, might anticipate the forever future banquet long before the party has started. The nature of faith is to look past the present difficulties without denying that they cause us to groan by keeping our eyes on the prize which is the day when sorrow and sighing will flee and groaning will cease. In the meantime we wait with eager expectation, albeit patiently, by going deeper in debt to hope.  

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Lectionary 16 A - Psalm 86:11-17

The psalmist looks to the Lord, gracious and full of compassion, in the face of violent people intent on doing bodily harm. Maybe it’s not such a good thing that God is slow to anger and full of kindness when the arrogant rise up against you. One might be better served by a great God of might to smite the evil doers. But then all that is needed is a sign of God’s favor that those who hate will be put to shame, which truth to be told, is where redemption begins for us as well. Not the kind of shame that leads to destructive behavior or self loathing. No, it is the sign of God’s favor that exposes the self that is less true than the self on the other side of shame. Arrogance is shamed by humility, violence by peace, hatred by love so that the wicked forsake their ways and set their eyes on the Lord. There is only one sign that can accomplish such things, the sign upon which the child of the Lord’s handmaid was crucified.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Lectionary 16 A - Isaiah 44:6-8


The God of Israel is throwing it down in the deity ring. The first, the last, there is no other like me, is laying claim to big G god status. Even though the golden age of Solomon was not solid 14 K and compared to the great civilizations of history hardly merits mention, the Word of the Lord declares otherwise. The One who says “there is no other” is telling the truth. Maybe the proof is that today we praise the God of Israel and not the gods of Assyria or Babylon or Rome. The word for the small and of no account is “do not be afraid” which is the way that this God is like no other. Small g gods are magnified by great civilizations. The big G god magnifies a nation and people of no account.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Lectionary 15 A - Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23

Matthew 13:1-918-23
Good soil does not happen by itself and even without the effort of cultivation is the result of flood or glacier or volcanic eruption. Something happens to make good soil. Hard path and rocky ground and thorn infested field take heart. It’s not your fault. Of course we all hope we are good soil, hearing and understanding and producing bumper crops. But if you are like me you have good soil days and bad, times of rejoicing in the word and times of spiritual drought, times of inner peace and contentment and times when choked by cares and concerns you’re doing well to just get out of bed. The good news is that the seed is sown despite the state of our soil. That’s because the consistent sower sows seed as if seeds were grown on trees and doesn’t seem to understand or care about the economics of agriculture. You don’t waste seed where it doesn’t have a prayer to produce. Some would rename this parable the parable of the soils but I think it’s still all about the sower who recklessly scatters the seeds of hope and peace and love and life everywhere, no matter what, and hopes that on good days or bad, we’ll do the same.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Lectionary 14 A - Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30

Even John who “came neither eating nor drinking” wondered about his cousin Jesus, “Are you the one who is to come or should we expect someone else?” (Matthew 11:3) but then Messiahs are held to higher standards than mere mortals. The people who institutionalized the Exodus, ritually recounting God’s intervention through plagues and parted sea, expected the great I AM to show up in the same way the second time round, but the mold of the Passover was broken by the perfect Lamb who turns out to be a drinking man, friend of tax collectors and sinners. Oh vey! What was God thinking? It is clear that in Jesus God is operating outside the religious box of his day, which should give the wise and intelligent of our time reason enough to rethink the ways we try to make the one accused of being a glutton and drunkard more respectable. Not that wisdom is vindicated by excess in food or drink but rather in extravagant hospitality that befriends even those who burdened their own people for a profit or whose lifestyle made them ritually clean. There is no where God will not go to invite the weary and heavy burdened to come and find rest and in doing so hopes Pharisees of every generation will do the same.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Lectionary 14 A - Romans 7:13-25

Romans 7:13-25
Ignorance is bliss and if not for the law we would be blissfully ignorant of sin. As it is the law makes us painfully aware of sin’s death grip around our lives as we with Paul lament “I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” But this confession is not the conclusion of the matter as if we were given a spiritual loophole for bad behavior. That is because Paul is not primarily concerned with the actions of the body but rather the inclination of the heart. “These people honor me with their lips but their hearts are far from me” (Isaiah 29:13) is how God describes those who hide evil intent behind the mask of outward piety. Since the locus of the rebellious nature of the human being is a refusal to be fully human (and by that I mean to be satisfied being a creature without lusting after Creator status) then Paul’s cry, “wretched man that I am” is far more serious than simple behavior modification can resolve.  So where does that leave us? Some would say it leaves us in the lurch and we’ll live our whole lives struggling with temptations beyond our ability to control which in the end leads one to despise God or despair altogether. No. The conclusion of the matter comes in the verses that follow, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.” (Romans 8:1-2) We do not have to pay our way by penance or accept the way we are is the way we always will be or reject the system as a set up. The resolution of “wretched man that I am” is “there is now no condemnation” which is blissfully, a change of heart.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Lectionary 14 A - Psalm 145:8-14

Psalm 145:8-14
If all of the Lord’s works praised and the faithful ones blessed and those who fell down looked to be lifted up the Lord wouldn’t need to be nearly as gracious and compassionate and slow to anger. As it is even the Lord’s own people push the Lord to the limit as if "slow to anger" did not have a tipping point. That doesn’t mean the Lord is stuffing until one day even the Almighty can’t help but vent all over creation. No, it means the Lord’s nature as gracious and compassionate is infinitely more patient with us than we are with each other or ourselves for that matter. The gracious and compassionate nature of the Lord overflows in steadfast love that will not abandon us despite our fickle nature and willful ways. So does the Lord have a tipping point? Not in the way that we do but there comes a time when the Lord leaves us to the destructive works of our hands and minds, a spiritual timeout if you will, until lost and alone, bowed down by the burden of our pride or malice or greed or envy or apathy or lust we turn back to the Lord and experience again the steadfast love that upholds and lifts us up.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Lectionary 14 A - Zechariah 9:9-12

Zechariah 9:9-12
On the day that Jesus rode Zechariah’s vision into Jerusalem the daughters of Zion shouted “Hosanna!” and for a moment the prisoners of Roman rule and Pharisaical piety were released and returned to the stronghold of hope. A week later the triumphant and victorious king was humbled by the cross and the only blood of the covenant to be seen was his. But then kings riding on donkeys are consistently cut down by chariots drawn by war horses and humility is not the chief characteristic of one who commands nations to “study war no more”. What the dominions and the daughters could not imagine was that war horses and battle bows and the bars of the waterless pit could not contain this king who, breaking free from the grip of death, became for us the stronghold of hope to which we return again and again. If you trust in power you will be disappointed. If you trust in wealth you will be corrupted. If you trust in self you will be deceived. To be a prisoner of hope is to held captive to a vision of a king who is more humble than we are.