Thursday, October 23, 2014

Reformation Sunday - Romans 3:19-28

Romans 3:19-28
God is the one who is just and the one who justifies; period, end of sentence. So why do we work so hard for what is none of our business? I don’t mean sin, we don’t have to work at disobedience or doubt or self-centeredness or disregard for the needs of others or neglect of the planet or any of the ways we are guilty of being less than human. No, sin is all about us, which is why the just one who justifies the creation gone its own way enters the fray to contend with the inevitable consequence of human rebellion, death. Faith does not activate or complete what God has already done in entering the human story. Faith means we enter God’s story in the Christ and stop working for what is already ours because we no longer doubt what is beyond our comprehension. We are already justified, made right with God, because God won’t have it any other way which means we are free to be fully human.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Reformation Sunday - Psalm 46

Psalm 46
To “be still” in the presence of shaking earth, falling mountains and roaring seas is not the natural response to natural disasters unless “being still” is fainting dead away. The uncertainty of nations in uproar and falling kingdoms typically lead us to circle the wagons and prepare for the worst by doing our best to make sure our piece of the earth doesn’t melt away. But the command is to “be still” while God does the heavy lifting of breaking bows and shattering spears. Being still in the face of personal and collective calamity only happens if we stand still on the foundation of faith which is the “know that I am God” part of the equation. So being still doesn’t lead us to know God as much as knowing God allows us to be still.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Reformation Sunday - Jeremiah 31:31-34

Jeremiah 31:31-34
The days are surely coming… when Lutherans might give up celebrating Reformation Sunday because it’s all about us and remembering Martin Luther and the 95 thesis as a festival liturgy is not as important as embracing a new covenant where confessing Christ is the common denominator that erases denominational lines. But the days have not surely come and every brother and sister teaches the knowledge of the Lord in her or his own way insisting that compliance to human traditions has divine meaning that is superior to all others. Now I’m not suggesting that we should not remember the past or celebrate the gift of our heritage but the days envisioned by Jeremiah can only come when the knowledge of the Lord unites the least and the greatest in a way that overcomes our natural tendency to divide and conquer. In the meantime Lutheran’s will sing “A Mighty Fortress” this Sunday and wear red (like a Lutheran version of St. Patty’s Day) and claim that grace was a Lutheran invention. Okay I apologize for that last sentence even if it was fun to write. When Jeremiah’s vision is fully realized the divisions of the past will disappear into the day that will surely come where all people will be full of the knowledge of the Lord and act accordingly.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Lectionary 29 A - Matthew 22:15-22

Matthew 22:15-22
This text is not about taxes. There were no options when Rome demanded it’s due and lawful or not the tax collector didn’t care what you think as long as you paid the bill. So Jesus isn’t making a statement about the separation of church and state or the two kingdom principle or anything remotely political. He is turning the table on hypocrites who aren’t interested in his answer as long as it traps Jesus and gets him killed. But their trick question gets a trick response and they go away marveled even if they were cursing under their breath. When we try to trick Jesus into taking sides by using any word about Jesus to support one political position over another we are like Pharisees making a deal with the devils of their day (Herodians) in order entrap Jesus. That’s not to say the scriptures don’t encourage all kinds of things that may or may not be emphasized on one side of the political line or the other. But Jesus’ kingdom is not of this world (John 18:26) and is apolitical. In the end all of our life belongs to God whose image is imprinted on our hearts and the only thing lawful for us is the law of love.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Lectionary 29 A - 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10

1 Thessalonians 1:1-10
“We always give thanks for you…” It think it is the most important element of pastoral ministry – especially when the ministry is not pastor or parishioner pleasing. That is because God has called both parishioner and pastor into a relationship for the sake of the Gospel so that their mutual work of faith, labor of love and steadfastness of hope might be made known in the Macedonia and Achaia and the other places of our day and age. Truthfully we cannot serve the living and true God unless we turn from the idols of judgmental attitudes, personal preferences and intransient positions. It does not mean we agree on everything or one side always has to give in to the other or that the way to an attitude of gratitude will be easily achieved. It does mean we accept and acknowledge that we are all equally and dearly loved by God and act accordingly.