Wednesday, April 29, 2009

e-vo for week of April 29

Dearest e-votees-

The appointed psalm for the coming Sunday (the 4th Sunday of Easter, year B) is the beloved and familiar 23rd psalm. May we continue to be blessed as we abide in the goodness of the Lord, our shepherd. And may we in turn bless others.

I have a hard time reading this psalm without having my mind and soul drawn towards the theme song of the Vicar of Dibley which is a beautifully arranged version of the 23rd psalm. This would be a great piece of music to suggest to your choir director. You can hear it at:

Or better yet, add the series to your library and have some heartwarming laughs whenever you wish.



The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.

He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters;

he restores my soul. He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff—they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord my whole life long.

Psalm 23, NRSV

What comes to mind when you read "You prepare a table for me in the presence of my enemies"?

Is that a sign of taunting and flaunting of abundance before a vanquished foe?

Or is that a place of extending grace and hospitality to those who might otherwise be cut off and shunned?

In other words are we called to extend friendship and reconciliation to those who were once enemies? That seems very much like the summary of what Jesus came to do in his life, ministry, death and resurrection. Is that solely something the Lord did for David years ago or is it something that we are called to do to this very day? Are we to be inviting others into the house of the Lord to dwell with us all the days of their lives?

John 14:2 offers good news to those looking for a place. Hopefully our communities and our preaching do the same. Hopefully our personal conduct and our lives do that as well.

I have long appreciated the practice of leaving an empty chair at a table (as is done at the Seder meal for Elijah) or in a group meeting as a tangible reminder that there are others who still need to come. Hospitality and other-mindedness are important facets of the Christian existence. Perhaps part of preparing a table in the presence of one's enemies is so that they will sit down at the table and be enemies no longer.

God, give us hearts and eyes and spines and inclinations towards reconciliation. Thank you for welcoming us to your gracious banquet table. How could we do any less at the tables in our lives? Amen.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

e-vo for week of April 22

Dearest e-votees-

I hope and trust and pray that the beginning of your Easter season has gone well. May your ongoing celebrations of the empty tomb be blessed ones full of peace and faith.

Witness well.



Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost. He said to them, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate in their presence.

Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.”

Luke 24:32b-48, NRSV

This text is much like our appointed gospel lesson from last week. Jesus appears to his disciples. The first thing he says is a word of peace in response to their lingering fear. He then goes on to show them his wounds.

This week he eats in their presence as well. The point of this action is that dead people (ghosts and such) don't eat. It is a way to prove that he is truly alive. That is likely why Jesus instructed the girl he raised from the dead to be given something to eat (see Mark 5:43; Luke 8:55). This is part of what makes a meal with the risen Lazarus in John 12:2 so very powerful.

After Jesus eats in the presence of his disciples he opens their minds so that they can see all that was fulfilled in scriptures with his life, ministry, death and resurrection. This is done so that they are witnesses. Witnesses exist in order to testify.

We are not so very different than the early apostles. We can succumb to fears and doubts. We can wonder if Jesus really has been raised from the dead or are these stories just too fantastic to believe. We can heap judgment on ourselves for even having such thoughts. Jesus still walks into our lives and speaks "Peace." As we breathe in that God-given peace we can offer it all those we encounter. We can testify to that peace.

We are not so very different than the early apostles. We can need very graphic and tangible assurances of God's presence in our lives. Thomas and the others seem to have need to gaze deeply into the wounds of Jesus. Jesus doesn't scold them but rather allows them to see what they need to see to believe. He is like a long-suffering saint answering questions of a small child about an apparent malady that polite society has taught the parents to ignore. Jesus doesn't hold back from us either but invites us to engage his wounds and the healing they work. As we linger in those wounds we are made whole. As we are made whole we can learn to be more forthcoming with our own scar stories. The word martyr evokes images of pain and suffering but it is really rooted in testimony and witness. We can testify to God's never-failing, ever-healing love.

We are not so very different than the early apostles. We might need a meal with our Lord to strengthen and encourage our faith. Perhaps it is a meal like in today's text where we are reminded Jesus is indeed alive again. Perhaps it is a meal of forgiveness and restoration like the breakfast at the beach in John 21. Perhaps it is a meal of remembrance (Seder/Communion) where we are reminded of the things that God has done that assure us of a place of welcome at the table. As we consume those meals we can be assured of hope and healing. We can invite others to take their place at the table too. We can testify to the joy of restored fellowship.

We are not so very different than the early apostles. We forget the stories and scriptures. We fail to make connections. We miss the mark. Jesus can open our hearts and our minds and our spirits just as he did so often to Peter and John and all the others. As our minds and hearts and spirts are open our faith is deeply shored up. We can in turn open our hearts and minds and spirits and even the scriptures to others. We can testify to the fullness of God's work in Jesus.

God, continue to work in us. Use us to testify in action, attitude and word that you are our Lord and that your love and salvation are for all. Amen.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

e-vo for week of April 15

Dearest e-votees-

This Sunday is the what is known as Doubting Thomas Sunday (since every year the appointed gospel is John 20:19-31). It is also called by some Intern Sunday as often the pastoral intern (if there is one) gets to preach while the senior recuperates from Easter. You will most likely hear something on Thomas this Sunday in church.

For our time we will look at a portion of one of the other assigned readings.

May your week be a blessed one as we enter into the 50 day long Easter season.



This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him while we are walking in darkness, we lie and do not do what is true; but if we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from allunrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

1 John 1:5-10, NRSV

Truthtelling, confessing sins and being in fellowship are connected.

We are called in scripture to speak the truth in love. This can be quite challenging at times as we might not want to offend others. The can be tough as we don't want to expose our own weaknesses and failings. This can be hard because we take a risk when we share a truth in terms of how it might be received.

Jesus came to speak the truth in love. He ended up causing offense. He ended up with his own mortality demonstrated for all to see. Jesus took a risk in offering himself for us. Through his work on that wretched tree we are grafted into the truth.

We are called to confess our sins. We are called to seek and extend forgiveness when (not if) transgressions occur. This is hard because sometimes we want to cling onto the bitterness towards one who has wronged us. This is hard because we might not receive the forgiveness we so desperately seek from people. This is hard because true confession demands an amended life.

Jesus came to enter into a sin-stained world. He was baptized to show his connection to us who are the ones who really need to be baptized. Jesus was able to forgive even as his accusers condemned him. Jesus led the life that we find so very difficult to live out ourselves. In our baptism we are connected with the life and death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus.

Being in fellowship can be challenging. We need to receive others who are different from us and challenge us. We need to receive others who are similar to us and threaten us. We need to open ourselves up to community which means we might get hurt. We need to receive people where they are not where we wish they would be.

Jesus came into the world to have fellowship with creation. He attended weddings and ate and taught and traveled with people. Jesus comes into the world to have fellowship with us. Whether we are saintly or sinful (truth is we are both) Jesus comes to be with us: Pharisee or publican, bold leader or wayward follower, idealistic youth or jaded one with a few more years under the belt. Jesus loves us. That is a truth we can and should confess.

God, you love the world so much that you gave your only begotten Son Jesus. He came to live and to die, to heal and to teach, to speak the truth and to bear the consequences, to evoke confession of our sins and to bestow forgiveness. Help us to lean hard into that abiding and reliable love. Amen.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

e-vo for Holy Week

Dearest e-votees-

I hope and pray your Holy Week has been blessed so far. May we all be drawn deeply into the passion of our Lord in these next few days ahead. There is good news coming for all the world. And we are privileged to have heard and to have believed and are now invited to participate in a great cloud of witnesses. May we hear and believe again as we linger in Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Vigil and Easter Sunday.

For this week's time together we will use one of the texts appointed for today--the Wednesday of Holy Week--as our focus.



Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.

Consider him who endured such hostility against himself from sinners, so that you may not grow weary or lose heart.
Hebrews 12:1-3, NRSV

The great cloud of witnesses is detailed out in the 11th chapter of Hebrews. Their stories are briefly recapped in that wonderful section of scripture. Their stories are detailed more fully--warts and all--in the books of the Bible. Ordinary people enduring extraordinary experiences as they have been equipped by the Holy Spirit and God's calling on their lives.

All of us have been called to run a race. It is not the proverbial rat race but rather a holy pursuit of God's calling on our life. There are all sorts of distracters--weights and sins--which hinder that pursuit. The author of Hebrews invites us to put those aside and run with perseverance. The example given to us is Jesus enduring the pain and shame of the cross.

All of us have been called to place and a way better than what the world offers. That doesn't mean we need to leave the world or hide from the world--Jesus lingered and lived well in the world. But our hearts and our minds and our attitudes should rest in their heavenly citizenship.

When we grow weary and lose heart (not if but when) we can consider Jesus and that great cloud of witnesses of which we are a part. God's calling on our lives is faithful and true. The Holy Spirit is more than enough to equip us with faith and hope and trust and even prayers on our behalf with sighs too deep for words to express.

We are never alone and the race marked out for us will come to a holy completion. May we all run well, encourage others along the way and keep our eyes on Jesus. Amen.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

e-vo for week of April 1

Dearest e-votees-

Happy April Fool’s day. May our hearts be blessed as we draw near to God’s love and God’s call and God’s ways even though they may well seem foolish to many—possibly including ourselves.



The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt—a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, says the Lord. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, “Know the Lord,” for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.

Jeremiah 31:31-34, NRSV

The two halves of the divided kingdom—Israel and Judah—have broken covenant with God. In spite of the many ways that God has been faithful to these people of promise the relationship keeps breaking down. The external covenant doesn’t seem to have the lasting power.

The words of the second verse of the hymn “Spirit, Spirit of Gentleness” (With One Voice #684) come to mind:

You swept through the desert, you stung with the sand
And you goaded your people with a law and a land;
And when they were blinded with idols and lies,
Then you spoke through your prophets to open their eyes

Jeremiah is one of the prophets that God spoke through to open the veiled eyes of the people of promise.

In spite of the many ways that God has been faithful to us—God’s people of promise—the relationship keeps breaking down. External things—church, spiritual habits, Lenten disciplines, symbols and rites—don’t always seem to have the lasting power. We need God to speak to us.We get blinded too. We need stinging and goading too. But mostly we need God to write on our hearts also. We need God to change us from the inside out. We need to be so familiar with God that no one ever need to encourage us to “Know the Lord!” because we already do.

In order to get close to God, we need to be assured of forgiveness. Goading and stinging only gets worse in close proximity to a holy and righteous God. There is a reason people were so wary and fearful (all the kinds of fear) of God. Perhaps we have become too familiar in some ways.

But God beckons us in. God is like the second ghost in A Christmas Carol who calls out to us “Come in! and know me better, man!” (or woman if you are a she-Scrooge instead of a he-Scrooge) God writes on our innermost places and says our iniquity and our sin will be remembered no more. Because God makes this move we can move close to God. Because our hearts are changed our actions and our exteriors just might change too. Because God loves us—which seems reckless and foolish given our track record—we can love God. And we can love those made in God’s image. That is the move of Scrooge’s heart. Perhaps we can move that way too.

Holy God, draw us up into relationship with you with renewed and comforted hearts. Stir us to come in and know you better. And God bless us, everyone! Amen.