Tuesday, February 26, 2013

e-vo for week of February 27

Dearest e-votees-

It is almost instinctual to seek for a party responsible for one’s suffering:

• Think of Job’s friends
• Think of asking “Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
• Think of your darker moments of self-pity

In our gospel text Jesus says to stop looking in the clouds and beyond ourselves for answers but rather look in the mirror and repent.

Will we?!?



1 At that very time there were some present who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. 2 [Jesus] asked them, "Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were worse sinners than all other Galileans? 3 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as they did. 4 Or those eighteen who were killed when the tower of Siloam fell on them—do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others living in Jerusalem? 5 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish just as they did." 6 Then he told this parable: "A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and found none. 7 So he said to the gardener, "See here! For three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree, and still I find none. Cut it down! Why should it be wasting the soil?' 8 He replied, "Sir, let it alone for one more year, until I dig around it and put manure on it. 9 If it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.' "

Luke 13:1-9, NRSV

We, my friends, are here on this earth for only a breath—borrowed time. It’s not a matter of if we will perish but when. It is not so important how we perish but where we are in relationship to God’s intentions when we do.

Jesus tells those with him that they need to repent. They need to turn around. They need to stop wandering away from God but instead run into God’s mercy and grace (knowing all the while that God is like a grieving father who runs up to greet his wayward son come home).

We are not to take joy nor solace when people we deem as bad or wicked perish. We should solemnly remember that they are blazing a path that we too must walk. We too will die—whether by a cruel dictator or an accident or a crime or old age—we will die. And when we die we will be much better off had we died to self and drawn life from Jesus before then.

Today may be the metaphorical year of tending the fig. Three years have been spent (remarkably parallels Jesus’ ministry) and no figs have been found (watch out fig tree, see Mark 11:12-14, 20-21). The fig tree is imperiled. One more year of tending. One more year of manure (that could mean a lot metaphorically, too). Yet in that year God can bring life and fruit from the tree. God wants to bring fruit through our lives and even through our deaths. God can if we are willing—are we?!?

God, have your way with us. Guide us all our days and when our time comes—no matter how our time comes—bring the fruit of your gospel and your deep promises to full ripeness—all to your glory. Amen.

Friday, February 22, 2013

e-vo for week of February 20

Dearest e-votees-

Wonderful image in the gospel text of Jesus gathering people under his wings. Where do you find this shelter in your life?



31 At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to him, “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.” 32 He said to them, “Go and tell that fox for me, ‘Listen, I am casting out demons and performing cures today and tomorrow, and on the third day I finish my work. 33 Yet today, tomorrow, and the next day I must be on my way, because it is impossible for a prophet to be killed outside of Jerusalem.’ 34 Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! 35 See, your house is left to you. And I tell you, you will not see me until the time comes when you say, ‘Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.’”

Luke 13:31-35, NRSV

Jesus looks over Jerusalem and laments (maybe from the Mount of Olives where Gethsemane can be found). Jesus wants to gather the Israelites. But their puppet leader Herod wants to do in Jesus. And they are scattered. Jesus calls out Jerusalem as the place that kills and stones the messengers of God. And he leans hard into his fate with those messengers.

What scatters us? What draws us away from the shelter and security of God. Who do we allow to step up as a figurehead leader in our lives taking the rightful place of God? Is it our busy lives and our commitments to the values and the causes of the world? Is it a matter of wanting to be more of a fighting rooster taking care of our own fights rather than needing the shelter of a mothering hen (maybe something like Peter wielding an ear-endangering sword in the garden of Gethsemane?) What draws us away from God?

We choose our own ways. We pick our own fights. We declare our own independence. This is what sin is.

Jesus comes into the world. Jesus is the Way. Jesus wins the battle by passively going to the cross. Jesus draws us into community with him and with God (answering the prayer of John 17).

When God draws us into the Good news of Jesus we say in our hearts and with our mouths "Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord."

God, thank you that you never let us scatter beyond your caring embrace. Draw us in. You are our way, our peace and our loving shelter. Amen.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

e-vo for Ash Wednesday

Dearest e-votees-

Remember you are dust…


…and to dust you shall return.



1 Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. 2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. 3 For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. 4 Against you, you alone, have I sinned, and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are justified in your sentence and blameless when you pass judgment. 5 Indeed, I was born guilty, a sinner when my mother conceived me. 6 You desire truth in the inward being; therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart. 7 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. 8 Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have crushed rejoice. 9 Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. 10 Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me. 11 Do not cast me away from your presence, and do not take your holy spirit from me. 12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and sustain in me a willing spirit. 13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you. 14 Deliver me from bloodshed, O God, O God of my salvation, and my tongue will sing aloud of your deliverance. 15 O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise. 16 For you have no delight in sacrifice; if I were to give a burnt offering, you would not be pleased. 17 The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

Psalm 51:1-17, NRSV

This is the psalm appointed for Ash Wednesday. The designators of appointed readings omitted two things.

Verses 18-19 were left out which say:

Do good to Zion in your good pleasure; rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, then you will delight in right sacrifices, in burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings; then bulls will be offered on your altar.

I suppose since we don’t practice animal sacrifice that was deemed not so necessary.

More troubling to me is the omission of the preface:

To the leader. A Psalm of David, when the prophet Nathan came to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba.

The context of the psalm is revealed. David has committed a grievous sin which will result in the death of Uriah (Bathsheba’s husband) and the death of the son of David and Bathsheba. Nathan reveals to David his sin in a parable of a greedy king who deprives a commoner of his only sheep. (see 2 Samuel 11:27b-12:15)

But then again, maybe it is good to read the psalm without knowing the whole back story. It makes it such that it is easier to read David’s “me”s and “my”s and “I”s as our own. We, too, have sinned and transgressed. We, like Adam and Eve, have made choices that lean us hard into death. We, too, have been blessed by so much yet make choices that deprive the less wealthy. When we are honest about our sinfulness, our despair, our broken places and our contrition we find a receptive God to that sacrifice. God does not despise us but loves us and gives all in order that we might be renewed, restored and reborn.

The mark of ashes in the form of a cross perfectly weds our lamentation and God’s willingness to enter into our mortality to pull us out. Thanks be to God.

God, help us always to remember we are dust and to dust we shall return. Amen.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

e-vo for week of February 6

Dearest e-votees-

Jesus came to tear down the divisions between us and God.

The truth has come and is coming to bear in our lives.

Thanks be to God.



12 Since, then, we have such a hope, we act with great boldness, 13 not like Moses, who put a veil over his face to keep the people of Israel from gazing at the end of the glory that was being set aside. 14 But their minds were hardened. Indeed, to this very day, when they hear the reading of the old covenant, that same veil is still there, since only in Christ is it set aside. 15 Indeed, to this very day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their minds; 16 but when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit.

1 Therefore, since it is by God’s mercy that we are engaged in this ministry, we do not lose heart. 2 We have renounced the shameful things that one hides; we refuse to practice cunning or to falsify God’s word; but by the open statement of the truth we commend ourselves to the conscience of everyone in the sight of God.

2 Corinthians 3:12-4:2, NRSV

Jesus came to destroy those things that separate us from God.

At his baptism the heavens were torn open and that voice called out “This is my Son, the beloved.” The skies could not separate us from God.

At his transfiguration space and time were torn open and Elijah (the Prophet) and Moses (the Law) were finding fulfillment in Christ. The years and the missteps of the people could not separate us from God.

In his ministry Jesus tore apart the cultural divisions between male and female, Jew and gentile, leprous and clean, self-righteous and sinful, etc., etc. Our bigotries and broken practices could not separate us from God.

On the cross Jesus tore apart the power of death and the kingdom of this world. He offered forgiveness and healing in the midst of his condemnation and death. Our hostility and perverted justice could not separate us from God.

As Jesus breathed his last the curtain in the Temple was torn apart. The separation between the Holy and the Most Holy Place; between the place of man and the place of God; between fear and the presence of a fiery God were removed. Our rituals and our misgivings could not separate us from God.

Jesus has lifted the veil and we can see and be seen plainly. Pretense is disarmed. We are made free. In that freedom God can use us to break down the barriers between others and God through Jesus. We should let nothing separate others from God. That is what our Lord did. That is the work we are called to continue.

God, tear open our apathetic hearts—give us a passion for you. Tear open the obstacles and walls we put between ourselves and others—give us a heart for the other. Tear open all our masks and costumes—give us our true selves that we might truly serve you. Amen.