Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Pentecost 15 B - Psalm 146

Psalm 146
Trusting in the temporal is no help at all when what one hopes for is eternal. That doesn’t mean we do not put stock in the here and now. And the Lord does not care for the stranger or sustain the orphan and the widow or frustrate the wicked without in some ways enlisting our help. Even opening the eyes of the blind and lifting up the bowed down calls for the righteous loved by the Lord to be involved. But when I’m finished praising the Lord “as long as I live” I hope there is a refrain that follows my life long singing. That means we live our lives anticipating what will be while being fully engaged in what is. 

Monday, August 31, 2015

Pentecost 15 B - Isaiah 35:4-7

Isaiah 35:4-7
Isaiah 35 begins with the parched land rejoicing and ends with the ransomed of the Lord returning unto Zion with singing as they are overtaken by joy and gladness. Between the parched land rejoicing and the ransomed returning are feeble hands and weak knees and fearful hearts that long for redemption. But since the chapter begins and ends with a promise Isaiah can say, “Be strong” to the feeble and weak and fearful instead of “suck it up.” The ability to “be strong” comes from living into the future promise in whatever circumstance we find ourselves so that hands and knees become steady even when the ground is shaking. We are able to endure because we believe the present difficulty will be overcome by the future promise. It means we can deal with what is because we anticipate what will be. In the here and now the blind are still blind. The deaf still cannot hear. The lame still limp and the dumb are still speechless. It is as simple and as difficult as that because we are more accustomed to “suck it up” than what Isaiah means by “be strong” or perhaps we think they are the same thing and therefore are always running too fast in the present for the future to catch up. But when God’s ultimate vision becomes our eternal imagination the future bursts into the present like a rainstorm in the desert and the blind see and the deaf hear and the lame leap and the dumb shout for joy. What will be already is when by faith we stop “sucking it up” and allow the “be strong” of future gladness to overtake us. 

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Pentecost 14 B - Mark 7:1-8, 13-14, 21-23

Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23
Thank God we’re back to the Gospel of Mark! Don’t get me wrong. I’m not into gluten free Gospels but five weeks of bread, even bread from heaven, is more than I can stomach. Okay, that might be a little over the top for a lectionary based joke but I don’t think the lectionary needs five weeks to deal with John chapter six. Be that as it may it turns out the Gospel lesson for this week still has something to do with food and the rituals that surround it. I find it noteworthy that necessary things, the everyday act of eating and drinking, are given additional layers of meaning but maybe that is the point. Things basic but necessary are always more than ordinary. Most of us are far removed from the production of our food so that we can grab a burger from In and Out and think nothing of the sun and soil and rain and crops and cattle and rancher and farmer and slaughter house and silo and purchaser and packager and shipper and cook and wait staff that eventually put the burger on the bun with fries on the side so that we could wolf it down without thinking about it. Maybe if we were more aware of how fortunate we are we would become more aware of those for whom the every day act of eating is not a given. Of all the religious things we do being generous with the ordinary gifts we’ve been given brings the most joy to the God who desires the honor of our lips to be a true expression of the devotion of our heart.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Pentecost 14 B - James 1:17-27

James 1:17-27
Martin Luther called James “an epistle of straw” for its less than solid declaration of the Gospel but every time I read it I can’t help but hear Jesus speaking. I bet that’s because James knew his half-brother better than Luther did even if Luther had the apostle Paul to tell him what he needed to know. (Luther was born again while reading Romans and practically gushes over Galatians) That might be why James reads more like Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) than Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. Of course we Lutherans tend to read everything through the Pauline lens but that being said we’d be well served to apply the lesson of James to the way we live the Gospel. If you look at it that way the epistle of straw is the brick and mortar of the Gospel house. “So be doers of the word and not merely hearers.” (James 1:22) That sounds a lot like “You will know them by their fruits.” (Matthew 7:16-20) 

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Pentecost 14 B - Psalm 15

So I guess verse 5a (do not lend money at interest) means all the bankers are out of luck when it comes to real estate on the holy hill. I’m not a Hebrew scholar but I’m willing to bet very few people lent anything without expecting something in return so either the holy hill is a vacant lot or there must be another way to walk blamelessly. I think the key verse might be 4c (who stand by their oath even to their hurt) Walking blamelessly and doing what is right while speaking heartfelt truth and not slander is a way of being that considers the needs of friends and neighbors and the needy to be as great as one’s own need. The reason those who do these things are never moved is because they embody the heart and soul and will of God. From the very beginning God refused to abandon those who were made in the image of God even though those made in God’s image chose to abandon God. God’s oath led God to the “hurt” of the holy hill of the cross and if there is interest owed on the loan of Jesus’ life I certainly can’t pay it. Speaking of not being able to pay back what is owed I was set apart for the ministry of Word and Sacrament twenty four years ago at Calvary Lutheran Church. I have not served blamelessly but I think I have always spoken the truth from my heart giving no occasion for false security or illusory hope. I don’t think my labor has been in vain but it has been laborious. It is only by grace and the goodness of the people of God that I can say today I am grateful for the call to “pastor up” twenty four years ago. In the blessing and the burden of serving Jesus is found and in Him I found the truth of Martin Luther’s Sacristy prayer; “…you see how unsuited I am to meet so great and difficult a task… do not forsake me for if ever should I be on my own I would easily wreck it all.”