On All Saints Sunday we will sing these lyrics to the tune of Wild Mountain Thyme (Lord of the Rings) “There are saints who light the darkness and the world cannot contain them for the love of God sustains them and they will never be forgotten; we are blest to have them with us and we praise the God who made them. There is no way to repay them and so we simply do applaud them as they shine like the sun.” (John Ylvisaker – Shine Like the Sun) The saints who light the darkness are ever close in our memory and yet always beyond our imagination as they dwell in the place of perfection while we struggle (hopefully well) in the place of “not yet.” By that I mean we can sense the saints who light the darkness when our hearts and minds quicken as we anticipate joining them in the future final peace. Even so in the here and now we are the poor in spirit, mourning meek who hunger and thirst for things to be more just and fair and right than they are. But before we claim the gifts of being “blessed are you…” we are duty bound to confess that we are not passive participants in the things that are less than blessed. Hating violence we none-the-less revel in a really well produced shoot em up on the silver screen. Desiring equality we still cling to positions of power. We are less than merciful, hardly pure in heart and believe peace can only be achieved by an aggressive posture backed up by the ability of our firepower to shock and awe. I am not playing politics. I am suggesting you and I live in the difficult “not yet” place where “blessed are you” is not as neat as the beatitudes. So what do we do? Maybe we begin by applauding the ones we cannot repay because we believe they made it to the other side despite the fact that they were no better than we are. Which means the one who deserves our applause is the God who made them.
Thursday, October 30, 2014
Wednesday, October 29, 2014
1 John 3:1-3
The hope that purifies is that we are what God says we are, beloved children. I know the analogy to human parenthood falls short of the glory of God but when I consider that God loves me in the way that I love my children, Joshua and Mary Ruth, I am purified from all that would make be believe I am less than I am; a beloved child of the Creator of the universe. The love God has for us cannot be eliminated by all the things said and left unsaid, done and left undone that limit our response to that love in the same way that not a day goes by when I don’t marvel in the miracle and give thanks for the gift of my children. This is the hope that purifies; God giving thanks for the miracle and gift of the child that is you.
Tuesday, October 28, 2014
Psalm 34:1-10, 22
“Taste and see” is an odd turn of the phrase. How is tasting seeing? On the other hand see and taste is not uncommon for someone who is familiar with the culinary arts. I can taste a recipe before I open the pantry and put a pan on the stove. In the same way we are able to bless the Lord at all times even when times are less than blessed when we anticipate that one day we will be delivered from all trouble. That is not to say the troubles of the day are not difficult only that we believe deliverance will be the last word for us which is to say trouble is temporary and delivery is eternal. Even so we do endure the present in such a way that we don’t look for relief from the here and now terrors that truly terrify. We would like to taste and see today even if we have a reserved seat at the promised future feast. More to the point when we are blessed to experience the angel of the Lord encamped around us we are called to increase the size of the circle by making every effort to be a refuge and relief for those who taste only bitter tears and see nothing but suffering.
Monday, October 27, 2014
These words were written to encourage and comfort people who were suffering terribly for the sake of the faith. Let’s put aside the thought that Revelation is a road map through Divine destruction with promises of paradise for a select few and consider that the God who wipes away the tears of a multitude too great to count might not want to eternally poke everyone left behind in the eye. So maybe within the narrative of a persecuted people there is a word that speaks to all of humanity created in the image of the holy. There are innocents who suffer all of life as a great ordeal starving for food or shelter or affection. Will God wipe away their tears? There are those less innocent who scarred by neglect or abuse suffer the great ordeal of lives doomed to misfortune and out of their pain visit it others. Will God wipe away their tears? There are those not innocent at all but acting out of selfish interest suffer the great ordeal that looks like prosperity but lacks love and mercy and kindness and if they knew how impoverished they were perhaps would weep as well. Will God wipe away their tears? Can God wipe away the tears from every eye and still be a God of justice? I don’t know but I hope so and not because I need a happy ending to the sad human story but because I believe and hope God does.
Friday, October 24, 2014
“Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose; Nothing don’t mean nothing honey if it ain’t free” (Janis Joplin – Me & Bobby McGee) is a great line until she sings “I’d trade all my tomorrow’s for a single yesterday” which is to say a freedom of nothing left to lose that is inextricably bound to the past is no freedom at all. “We are descendants of Abraham” depends on the past in a way that the God of Abraham never intended for the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is a God of the living and not the dead (Matthew 22:32) So these words spoken to those “who believed in Jesus” were meant to move them from the single yesterday into the tomorrow that Jesus came to establish. “If the Son has set you free you are free indeed.” We might be tempted this Sunday to claim we are descendants of grace and have never been slaves to the law but that would not be the truth. We justify ourselves by our piety and heritage and interpretation of the scriptures in the same way other traditions justify themselves by claiming to be more faithful and true than we are. I’m not saying we should stop singing “A Mighty Fortress” or embossing our bulletins with Luther’s seal or wearing red on Reformation Sunday. But continuing in the word for us means we allow the Word to shape us so that reliance on the past is not as important as living into the future in such a way so as living Christ means we trade yesterday for living tomorrow today.