Sunday, July 3, 2016

The ultimate e-vo

Dearest e-votees,

November 21, 2007 is when I first posted an e-vo on blogspot. Today's post marks the 500th and final e-vo that will be posted to this site.

It has been a blessing to be able to write and express theological musings on the lectionary readings (and occasional diversions into the Bible in 90 Days and other special foci). It has been a blessing having you along as part of this. My hope and prayer is it has been a blessing for you.

I'm sure I will find some other avenue/vehicle for writing and devoting but this one has run its course. Thank you for your readership and encouragement along the way. Blessings.

Peace,
Karl

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1 My friends, if anyone is detected in a transgression, you who have received the Spirit should restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness. Take care that you yourselves are not tempted. 2 Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. 3 For if those who are nothing think they are something, they deceive themselves. 4 All must test their own work; then that work, rather than their neighbor’s work, will become a cause for pride. 5 For all must carry their own loads.

6 Those who are taught the word must share in all good things with their teacher.

7 Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for you reap whatever you sow. 8 If you sow to your own flesh, you will reap corruption from the flesh; but if you sow to the Spirit, you will reap eternal life from the Spirit. 9 So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up. 10 So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all, and especially for those of the family of faith.

11 See what large letters I make when I am writing in my own hand! 12 It is those who want to make a good showing in the flesh that try to compel you to be circumcised—only that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ. 13 Even the circumcised do not themselves obey the law, but they want you to be circumcised so that they may boast about your flesh. 14 May I never boast of anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. 15 For neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is anything; but a new creation is everything! 16 As for those who will follow this rule—peace be upon them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God.

Galatians 6:1-16, NRSV


1 After this the Lord appointed seventy others and sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go. 2 He said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. 3 Go on your way. See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves. 4 Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and greet no one on the road. 5 Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this house!’ 6 And if anyone is there who shares in peace, your peace will rest on that person; but if not, it will return to you. 7 Remain in the same house, eating and drinking whatever they provide, for the laborer deserves to be paid. Do not move about from house to house. 8 Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you; 9 cure the sick who are there, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ 10 But whenever you enter a town and they do not welcome you, go out into its streets and say, 11 ‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet, we wipe off in protest against you. Yet know this: the kingdom of God has come near.’

...

16 “Whoever listens to you listens to me, and whoever rejects you rejects me, and whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me.”

17 The seventy returned with joy, saying, “Lord, in your name even the demons submit to us!” 18 He said to them, “I watched Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightning. 19 See, I have given you authority to tread on snakes and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing will hurt you. 20 Nevertheless, do not rejoice at this, that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”

Luke 10:1-11, 16-20, NRSV


Consider this question:

If you could do anything you wanted with the guarantee that you would not fail what would you choose?

Be honest now: Would you pursue gratifying some aspect of your flesh (whatever that might mean to you) or would you set your sights on a more spiritual goal?

What level of commitment would you be willing to make to bring this goal to pass? Would you put in the requisite 10,000 + plus hours to gain competence (as discussed in Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell). Would you be willing to endure a grueling training montage a la any of the Rocky movies? The guarantee that you will not fail does not equate with an easy path or no effort on your part.

How focused would you be on achieving your goal? How would you "test your own work"? (see Galatians 1:4 above). What if someone needed your help and interrupted your progress? Would you be willing to help bear another's burden? What if someone sinned against you? Would you be willing to work towards reconciliation offering forgiveness?

What would you be willing to walk away from or set aside in order to attain your goal? What dust would you wipe from your feet? What would you relegate to the rear view mirror?

What would be the measure of your success in attaining your goal? How would you know when you have arrived?


Consider Jesus:

He could certainly pursue any goal in all of creation. Greater minds have wrestled with and much theological ink has been spilled over if Jesus could fail at a goal he might choose. We'll leave that for another time.

Jesus chose a goal: to inscribe your name in heaven.

Jesus chose not to sate his flesh and slake his carnal thirsts but rather to take on flesh that we might take on eternal life (beginning now, not upon our deaths). This was a goal of the highest spiritual nature.

Jesus put aside heaven and his divine privileges to become one of us. He took on the form of a slave. He gave all that he had for a world that often didn't recognize him and, when we did, was often abusive to him. He endured all manner of shame and torment which landed him firmly on the cross.

While chasing after this goal Jesus was supremely interruptible by needs around him. Healings, feedings, deliverances, restorations, teachings, etc., etc. pressed in on him often. He kept his focus on the cross but certainly engaged the needs on all sides. He lived the cruciform life.

Jesus refused to let temptations, hatred, prejudice, spiritual haughtiness or other things cling to him and obscure the work before him. He wiped those forms of dust off his feet as surely as he washed the feet of his disciples. He forgave those who wronged him from the cross, throughout his ministry and to every one who comes to repentance. His forgiveness is a sure as his determination to wash the feet of even Peter and even Judas at the Last Supper.

Jesus' goal was to inscribe your name in heaven. He has done all that he could do to make your in right standing with God. Heaven is open to you. Eternal life is here for you now. How will Jesus' know that his goal of inscribing your name in heaven is complete? Good question.


Consider this new question:

Presuming your name is inscribed in heaven, what would God have you do?


Lord God, you have called your servants to ventures of which we cannot see the ending, by paths as yet untrodden, through perils unknown. Give us faith to go out with good courage, not knowing where we go, but only that your hand is leading us and your love supporting us; through Jesus Christ out Lord. Amen.


fade to black...

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

e-vo for week of June 22

Dearest e-votees,

Jesus sums up all the commandments as two: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength and mind." and "Love your neighbor as yourself." He says that we should tend to the vertical relationship with God and the horizontal relationship with neighbor. We should live a cruciform (cross-shaped) life.

Our appointed gospel text in Luke for this week speaks to Jesus' priorities. What might they say to us who have so very many commitments and so precious-little time?

Peace,
Karl

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51 When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. 52 And he sent messengers ahead of him. On their way they entered a village of the Samaritans to make ready for him; 53 but they did not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem. 54 When his disciples James and John saw it, they said, “Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” 55 But he turned and rebuked them. 56 Then they went on to another village.

57 As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” 58 And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” 59 To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” 60 But Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” 61 Another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” 62 Jesus said to him, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”

Luke 9:51-62, NRSV


For quite a while I have been struck by the shape of Jesus' life--cruciform. In verse 51 Jesus sets his face to go to Jerusalem. In the NIV it talks about Jesus resolutely setting out towards Jerusalem. Jesus knew what was waiting for him--the cross. Jesus knew why he had come into the world and how he would leave this world. He would not be deterred from his purpose. He was tending to his relationship with his Father in heaven. Nothing could distract him from that pinnacle moment of his ministry

That said, Jesus' ministry seems to be all about being interrupted by the needs at hand. Jesus restores a dead son to his widow mother. Jesus feeds thousands from meager resources. Jesus casts out demons. Jesus restores sight. Jesus takes moments to teach, console, cajole and confront. While never taking his resolute focus off of Jerusalem he seems completely engaged in the needs that come into his peripheral vision. He was faithfully tending to the needs of his neighbor.

This balance between the vertical calling of his life to the cross and to heaven and the horizontal calling of his life to love and serve neighbor is what the cross looks like. Our lives also have a cruciform calling. We are called to put God first and foremost. If we get distracted from putting God first we need only remember Jesus' sharp words to those who wanted to tend to their father and say farewell to friends. Some have tried to explain away Jesus' seeming callous disregard for these human needs and desires. I choose to think that Jesus knew the hearts and intentions of those to whom he was speaking. If these words catch us up short that might be more about us than what Jesus said.

But, certainly, part of taking up our cross and putting God first is caring for those created in the image of God who interrupt our plans and intentions for any given day. If Jesus can take time to wash the feet and serve communion to his disciples just hours before his grisly and painful death then we, too, should be open to the call towards inconvenient service. Some have described hospitality as making yourself uncomfortable for the sake and comfort of another. Jesus surely lived and died this path of hospitality. We, when we take up our cross and follow after Jesus, are also called to this sort of life and this sort of death.

When we try to bring about God's kingdom in our own understanding it looks like the sons of thunder wanting to rain down hellfire and brimstone on enemies who resist God's plan. Jesus rebuked them and would surely do the same to us. When we allow God to bring about God's kingdom through God's wisdom in our lives it looks much more like a basin and a towel and a cross. And while we are enduring that cross we are taught be example to pray for our enemies who don't know what they are doing. That is surely an aspect of taking up our cross for the sake of the kingdom of God.


God, bring your cruciform mold to the uncommitted flow of our lives. Draw us resolutely towards you; pour us out abundantly in service to neighbor. Amen.


Tuesday, June 14, 2016

e-vo for week of June 15

Dearest e-votees,

In our appointed gospel text for this Sunday Jesus wanders through all sorts of social taboos to make a connection with a troubled man. The man is restored and delivered.

The good news of the gospel is just that: Jesus enters into the world to make connection with us--a troubled humanity. He comes to restore us and to bring deliverance.

Perhaps the most interesting part of the story is that part we don't hear. What was it like for that man (imagined as Crazy Joe in Gordon Atkinson's "James, John and Crazy Joe" which can be found in his book RealLivePreacher.com and poetically imagined as Crazy Bill by poet Tim Melton at Sacrosanct Gospel) to be restored to his right mind and then called to stay and bear witness to his home town? How did that go? How was he received? How long did he abide with that call? We really don't know. Interesting to imagine. Peace,
Karl

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26 Then they arrived at the country of the Gerasenes, which is opposite Galilee. 27 As he stepped out on land, a man of the city who had demons met him. For a long time he had worn no clothes, and he did not live in a house but in the tombs. 28 When he saw Jesus, he fell down before him and shouted at the top of his voice, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, do not torment me”— 29 for Jesus had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. (For many times it had seized him; he was kept under guard and bound with chains and shackles, but he would break the bonds and be driven by the demon into the wilds.) 30 Jesus then asked him, “What is your name?” He said, “Legion”; for many demons had entered him. 31 They begged him not to order them to go back into the abyss.

32 Now there on the hillside a large herd of swine was feeding; and the demons begged Jesus to let them enter these. So he gave them permission. 33 Then the demons came out of the man and entered the swine, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and was drowned.

34 When the swineherds saw what had happened, they ran off and told it in the city and in the country. 35 Then people came out to see what had happened, and when they came to Jesus, they found the man from whom the demons had gone sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind. And they were afraid. 36 Those who had seen it told them how the one who had been possessed by demons had been healed. 37 Then all the people of the surrounding country of the Gerasenes asked Jesus to leave them; for they were seized with great fear. So he got into the boat and returned. 38 The man from whom the demons had gone begged that he might be with him; but Jesus sent him away, saying, 39 “Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.” So he went away, proclaiming throughout the city how much Jesus had done for him.

Luke 8:26-39, NRSV


Jesus alights on the shore where a demon-possessed man (who previously lived in the nearby cities of the Decapolis--see Mark 5:20) has no clothes--a little awkward. He lives in the tombs making him ceremonially unclean--more than a little awkward. He had been chained up but kept busting through the chains. He cries out and cuts/bruises himself with stones (see Mark 5). This is not a well man. He is dangerous and powerful and self-preserving sensible people would keep their distance. He causes people to be unclean and unable to participate in regular ritual religious life and spiritually sensible people would keep their distance. He has every appearance of being off-kilter and deranged and unable to carry on a conversation and socially sensible people would keep their distance. This man is a iridescent "DO NOT APPROACH" sign--yet Jesus approaches.

In conversing with the man he determines that there are many demons in him. So many that he goes by the name of "Legion". The demons are afraid that Jesus will return them from whence they came. After a quick negotiation Jesus lets them go into the nearby pigs (unclean animals which would also make those in their presence ceremonially unclean). The demonically-infused swine (deviled ham?!?) plunge themselves off the cliff and are drowned. The man is made well.

The swineherds go into the Decapolis and tell what has happened. The people return with them to see what has transpired. They see the man's lot in life has been reversed. He is dressed. He is outside out of the tombs. He is in his right mind. The people respond in fear. This seems to be the terrified fear not the reverential awe fear. They send Jesus away. Perhaps they are afraid of demonic reprisals. Jesus obliges them and leaves.

The man wants to go with Jesus but Jesus tells him to stay and to proclaim what God has done for him. So he went. His iridescent "DO NOT TOUCH" has become a light that he lets so shine that others might see his good works (hear his good testimony) and give glory to his Father in heaven.

What has Jesus stepped into or through to get to us? What shame and pain and despair were we dwelling in? What shame and pain and despair has Jesus taken on as his own? Jesus has made us well. We, too, get to stay here and give testimony. Who do we know who needs to hear the good news that Jesus has infused into our lives? Dare we trust God to help us tell them? It seems like such a small response to such a good thing God has done for us and for all.


God, it seems there is nowhere that you won't go to bring us back to you. Help us trust in your deliverance and invite others into this glorious healing and restoration. Amen.


Friday, June 10, 2016

e-vo for week of June 8

Dearest e-votees,

This week's appointed gospel text is the account of the sinful woman who come's into a meal at Simon the Pharisee's house. During the meal a sinful woman comes in and anoints his feet. The Pharisee sees an opportunity sees an opportunity for judgment and derision but Jesus sees and opportunity for forgiveness and teaching.

What might we see when opportunities press into our lives that seem intrusive and bold and unsettling?

Peace,
Karl

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36 One of the Pharisees asked Jesus to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house and took his place at the table. 37 And a woman in the city, who was a sinner, having learned that he was eating in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster jar of ointment. 38 She stood behind him at his feet, weeping, and began to bathe his feet with her tears and to dry them with her hair. Then she continued kissing his feet and anointing them with the ointment. 39 Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw it, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what kind of woman this is who is touching him—that she is a sinner.” 40 Jesus spoke up and said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” “Teacher,” he replied, “speak.” 41 “A certain creditor had two debtors; one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 When they could not pay, he canceled the debts for both of them. Now which of them will love him more?” 43 Simon answered, “I suppose the one for whom he canceled the greater debt.” And Jesus said to him, “You have judged rightly.” 44 Then turning toward the woman, he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has bathed my feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. 45 You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not stopped kissing my feet. 46 You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. 47 Therefore, I tell you, her sins, which were many, have been forgiven; hence she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little.” 48 Then he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” 49 But those who were at the table with him began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?” 50 And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

8 Soon afterwards he went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. The twelve were with him, 2 as well as some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, 3 and Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their resources.

Luke 7:36-8:3, NRSV


This story is reminiscent of Mary anointing Jesus' feet and the dinner party where sister Martha was serving in the fresh-out-of-the-grave brother Lazarus' home(John 12:1-7). Jesus seemed to be able to evoke humble devotion from some while simultaneously drawing contempt from others. In the case of the party at Lazarus' place Mary poured herself out to Jesus while Judas sneered and wanted to capture the money for his own purposes. In this Sunday's text the sinful woman pours herself out to Jesus while the also sinful but perhaps not quite so self-aware Simon pours out judgment and disdain. Jesus sees through to the hearts and the truth of both situations.

Simon has some interest in Jesus. He wouldn't have had him over for a meal if that were not the case. Simon was favorably inclined, we can presume, towards Jesus otherwise he wouldn't have sullied his residence with a heretic. They could have met elsewhere. He was hoping for some sort of favorable exchange between himself and Jesus. He wasn't hoping that a sinner (what sort of sin is never specified) would come in and lay hands on his guest. The implication is that if Jesus were a prophet he would also know how tainted this woman is and not allow her to touch him. Simon, from his place of presumed purity, points out the dirty and the broken and the sinful.

The irony is that the only one who is pure and sinless in the room is Jesus. The only one who should be making moral pronouncements about others is Jesus. Everyone in the room knows that truly only God can forgive sins. And so here is Jesus forgiving sins. The stir around the table is rightly provoked as Jesus had made a divinity claim. Those who are estranged from God are welcomed. Those who were unclean are declared clean. And those who are enabled to receive this good news respond in love. The greater the experienced forgiveness the greater the love in response. There are two case studies here at the table.

To help Simon process what is going on Jesus teaches in a parable. There were to debtors one owed 50 denarii (a denarius was a day's wage so 50 would be a couple month's wages)--no small amount. The other owed 10 times as much--more like a year and a half's wages. Neither could pay their debts and the creditor writes off both debts. Jesus asks which of these two would love the creditor more? Simon steps into the rhetorical trap with "I suppose the one for whom he cancelled the greater debt." This is like the parable of the unforgiving servant (Matthew 18:21-35). We expect those who have been forgiven much to be able to love others greatly (those who forgive them and those who they need to forgive much).

Jesus points out Simon's inactions which betray his heart. Simon had not greeted his guest, Jesus, with a kiss yet this "sinful" woman has showered Jesus with kisses. Simon had not provided Jesus with water to clean his feet (let alone clean them himself as Jesus did with the disciples on Maundy Thursday) yet this "sinful" woman had done so with tears of joy. Simon had not refreshed Jesus or blessed him with oil for his head yet this "sinful" woman had poured out ointment on his feet. Simon has not been loving in his actions. Perhaps because he did not feel forgiven. Perhaps because he thought he had no need for forgiveness. Perhaps his mind was consumed with self-righteousness and condemnation for others there wasn't a space for responding lovingly to Jesus let alone to this woman who had crashed the party.

The woman's actions betray her heart. She has been freed from her sins. In her freedom she choses to serve and bless others--Jesus in this case. This is a powerful example of Luther's "On Christian Freedom": "A Christian is a perfectly free lord of all, subject to none. A Christian is a perfectly dutiful servant of all, subject to all." When we are set free in Christ it allows us, invites us, compels us, draws us to be servants to one another. Jesus in his freedom entered this world, washed feet, taught and healed, suffered injustice and offered forgiveness to all who might receive. This woman set free enters into this house, washed feet, suffers injustice through the judgments of the host yet receives forgiveness from the only one who can truly offer it.

The woman leaves the party in peace and restored. We don't know about Simon. He is like the older brother in the story of the prodigal. Grace has been demonstrated in his presence. Forgiveness and reconciliation are there for him too. Will he receive them? Will we?


God, help us receive the forgiveness we so desperately need. Stir us to serve and to bless. Chase judgment out of our hearts that there might be room for grace, healing and restoration. Amen.


Tuesday, May 31, 2016

e-vo for week of June 1

Dearest e-votees,

Classic healing story of Jesus is our appointed gospel for this week.

A widow's only son is dead. As the town gathers to grieve (and maybe gawk or maybe fall into despair) Jesus comes in to speak life into death and to restore relationships. Where might death and broken relationships be haunting us? How open are we to Jesus speaking life into our places of despair as well?

Peace,
Karl

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11 Soon afterwards [Jesus] went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went with him. 12 As he approached the gate of the town, a man who had died was being carried out. He was his mother's only son, and she was a widow; and with her was a large crowd from the town. 13 When the Lord saw her, he had compassion for her and said to her, "Do not weep." 14 Then he came forward and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, "Young man, I say to you, rise!" 15 The dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother. 16 Fear seized all of them; and they glorified God, saying, "A great prophet has risen among us!" and "God has looked favorably on his people!" 17 This word about him spread throughout Judea and all the surrounding country.

Luke 7:11-17, NRSV


In a patriarchal society it is a bad thing to lose your husband. He was a means of support and protection and status. Having your husband die on you could expose you precariously to poverty and danger. However, having a son to help look after you might mitigate some of the exposure of being a widow. In a patriarchal society it is a very, very bad thing as a widow to lose your only son. Your protection is gone. Your support is gone. Soon your family name might be gone as well. You may well become dependent on welfare to survive. The options to you for self-support are limited and might involve some form of servitude/slavery and perhaps even prostitution. The grief and despair of two deaths in the family are compounded by the grief and despair of an anticipated future. This is indeed a time to lean deeply into mourning.

But then enters this itinerant rabbi that has been connecting with the lowly and the outcast and those on the fringes. He sees that you and the town are mourning your son. He approaches the funeral procession. He reaches out and touches the platform that is bearing your son. He doesn't seem concerned about the social transgressions here. He doesn't seemed concerned about ritual purity. He doesn't even talk to you. He addresses your dead son and says "Rise!" Your son listens and responds. You and your son are restored. Death and broken relationships are pushed to the fringes. Life and love are gathered around Jesus.

So where do we see death, despair and hopelessness? What things bring us low? What places do others gather (maybe to comfort, maybe to gawk and maybe to fall into despair) around us? Where do we ritualize the death, broken places and lost dreams? What if Jesus dared to walk right in (invited or not). What if Jesus spoke life where we were intent on seeing death? What if Jesus brought life, hope and healing? What might our response be to such an infusion? How might we live and breathe and speak differently if we truly believed that death doesn't have the final word? That broken dreams don't have final sway? That there is more to our future than broken-down decomposition and chaos winning the day.

And how might we live and speak and carry ourselves in order to bring that good news to the wealth of widows of Nain that we encounter daily? Do we grieve with them? Of course. Do we offer a hope that seems beyond reason as well?


God, our times, futures and lives eternal are in your hands. Help us rest and love and live in you. Amen.


Wednesday, May 25, 2016

e-vo for week of May 25

Dearest e-votees,

Jesus is in Capernaum, Peter's hometown. There is a modern church there built up over the ruins of Peter's mother-in-law's house (remember when Jesus healed her fever?) Peter is thought to have lived in those ruins too. Jesus, also, is thought to have lived in those ruins as well. Nearby there is a synagogue. You can walk around on floors that date back to the time of Jesus. The walls are rebuilt around 2nd century or so. His first public ministry act was in the synagogue in Nazareth where he quoted Isaiah and said that he was the fulfillment of that prophecy. Jesus then goes to the synagogue in Capernaum. In Luke 4:31-37 Jesus is teaching in that synagogue and he drives out a demon. Jesus is demonstrating his authority in several ways in these accounts.

This week's healing of the centurion's slave continues to evidence the authority Jesus commanded.

Peace,
Karl

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1 After Jesus had finished all his sayings in the hearing of the people, he entered Capernaum. 2 A centurion there had a slave whom he valued highly, and who was ill and close to death. 3 When he heard about Jesus, he sent some Jewish elders to him, asking him to come and heal his slave. 4 When they came to Jesus, they appealed to him earnestly, saying, “He is worthy of having you do this for him, 5 for he loves our people, and it is he who built our synagogue for us.” 6 And Jesus went with them, but when he was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to say to him, “Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; 7 therefore I did not presume to come to you. But only speak the word, and let my servant be healed. 8 For I also am a man set under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and the slave does it.” 9 When Jesus heard this he was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd that followed him, he said, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.” 10 When those who had been sent returned to the house, they found the slave in good health.

Luke 7:1-10, NRSV


Jesus is approached by Jewish elders. These elders were sent by a centurion, a Roman military official. They ask on behalf of the centurion that Jesus would come and heal this highly valued slave. In trying to assure a "yes" from Jesus they tell him that this centurion built the synagogue. The very synagogue that Jesus was in in Luke 4 casting out demons. They told Jesus that he was deserving because of his love for the Jewish people.

Jesus is approached by friends of the centurion. They were sent by him to tell Jesus not come under his roof. He says that he is not worthy. He says that Jesus only needs to speak the word for the slave to be healed. He bolsters this approach with an appeal to his practice and understanding of authority as a Roman soldier.

Jesus is amazed by his faith and grants the healing.

In 2011, the Roman Catholic Mass was altered as explained below: (source: Will Catholic Mass changes cause mass confusion?)

One example of that shift is in a line familiar to Catholics at the height of the Mass, just before Communion. “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed,” Catholics have said for decades. This weekend, those words change to, “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”

(thanks to Rev. Leah Stolte-Doerfler for reminding our text study of this response as part of the Mass)

This response is a liturgical way to acknowledge that we aren't worthy to receive Jesus (under our roof, in our lives, in our mouths, in our ears, in our world...) but that if Jesus would speak to us (under our roofs, in our lives, in our mouths, in our ears, in our world...) that it brings healing to our souls. We are in need of Jesus. He comes reliably in Word (in our ears) and Sacrament (in our mouths, on our skin). These encounters with God bring healing to our souls. Jesus abides in our homes, sends us and meets us out in the world and calls and equips us to live out our vocations. When we have ears to hear we find healing for our souls.

The truth is we are unworthy of God. We have no rights or abilities to order God around. But God, out of love, comes into the world bringing healing. This healing is for us and this healing is for all. As we live into our baptisms and are sustained at the table and through the word we are healed and equipped to be healing agents in the world. Death, sin and the devil fall under Jesus' authority and they are driven out. We are sent and commissioned under Jesus' authority and are sent out. We are blessed to hear Jesus and all his sayings in the hearing of the people. Healing abounds.


God, give us faith. Help us receive your help without deluding ourselves into thinking we can cajole it from you. Help us come to a place of healing. Stir us to give you glory. Amen.


Thursday, May 19, 2016

e-vo for week of May 18

Dearest e-votees,

This Sunday is Holy Trinity Sunday.

We remember that the nature of God is community. We remember to that we have been invited into this community. When we were made in the image of God (imago dei) we were made with the capacity and need to be in community.

May you be blessed with your community this day. I know they are blessed to have you.

Peace,
Karl

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1 Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. 3 And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.

Romans 5:1-5, NRSV


We can stand in God’s presence. God has graced us into the divine community. We are justified by faith. We are at peace with God through Jesus.

Scripture is full of people falling to their knees or faces in the presence of angels and God. They cower in fear or bow in reverence. The default mode seems to be a hybrid of abject terror and stifling awe. But we can stand with God. I would expect we still might get woozy in the knees when those moments and times come but the fear can be gone. Perfect love drives out all fear. Our love is far from perfect but God’s love is just what we need.

God has graced us into the divine community. That is because we had no way to earn it or demand it. If we did try to earn it or somehow pay God for it our offerings would be insulting trinkets compared to the surpassing value. Some have said mercy is not getting what we deserve and grace is getting what we do not deserve. The only way we are into the divine community is unabated, amazing grace.

We are justified by faith. We have no legal standing or defense before God. All of us have sinned and fallen short. None of us are beyond condemnation in our own unregenerate selves. We are like the repentant thief (Dismas) who says (in Luke 23:40-41, NRSV) “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.” Were we to get what we deserve for our deeds we would be in a world of hurts. But Jesus received what he did not deserve (the dark side or costly side of grace) so that we would get we do not deserve. And we receive this justification by faith. And even faith is a gift and work of the Holy Spirit. It all comes by grace.

We are at peace with God. God has made peace with us. Not as the world gives but as God gives. Peace is ours. When sufferings come we can rest in the peace and boast. We can be at peace knowing endurance is coming. We can be at peace knowing character is being formed. We can be at peace with a hope that runs contrary to the world. God’s love has been poured into us as a work of the Holy Spirit. It all comes by grace.




God, help us abide and delight in the divine community that you have opened up to us. Thank you for the peace and the justification that you have given to us. Help us find ways to share that gift with all. Amen.