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?



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.



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.



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.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

e-vo for week of May 11

Dearest e-votees,

We have been chosen by God to be adopted into God's family.

We are children of God.

God's perfect love drives out any need for fear on our part.

Thanks be to God.



14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. 15 For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba Father!” 16 it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ—if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.

Romans 8:14-17, NRSV

"We confess that we are in bondage to sin and cannot free ourselves..." On our own, without God's saving work and without the indwelling Holy Spirit we are ensnared by sin. Struggling in our own power against sin, death and the devil is like fighting quicksand--we only get more deeply buried. If we are our only hope than we are surely doomed.

But Jesus comes into the world to rescue us. Jesus comes in to show us the Father. Jesus comes to bring us into the divine community of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is sent to us to fill and inspire us, to comfort and cajole us and to remind and lead us. As the Holy Spirit leads us we are reminded that God has made us God's children. As we experience the indwelling love of God in the form of the Holy Spirit the spirit of slavery and fear yield to the spirit of freedom and joy. God has chosen us to be God's own. The Holy Spirit continues to testify with our spirit that we are indeed in God's family.

In a world that strives for individual freedom and choice we do well to remember that we will choose poorly when given the choice. We seek our own "good" at the expense of others and at the expense of right relationship with God. Jesus came into the world and took on the nature of a slave. He chose well seeking our good at the expense of himself and his own right relationship with God. God chose us and sent God's Son into the world to save us. God Jesus chose us and died on the cross for us. God Spirit chose us as a place to dwell and lives in us to remind us and stir us to faith.

Jesus says it this way in John 15:16:

You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name.

God, thank you for loving us. Thank you for choosing us. Thank you for calling us. Thank you for saving us. Help us to bear fruit that will last all to your glory. Amen.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

e-vo for week of May 4

Dearest e-votees,

This Thursday is the day in which the church commemorates the Ascension. Forty days after Jesus rose from the dead Jesus departs from this earth. Jesus leaves the disciples but not alone. The Holy Spirit will descend upon them with fire and prophecy, promise and vision in 10 more days.

Where is that promised Holy Spirit now? Where do we look? How do we wait? How do we trust? Blow through us again and again dear Holy Spirit.



1 In the first book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus did and taught from the beginning 2 until the day when he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. 3 After his suffering he presented himself alive to them by many convincing proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. 4 While staying with them, he ordered them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for the promise of the Father. “This,” he said, “is what you have heard from me; 5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

6 So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He replied, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” 9 When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10 While he was going and they were gazing up toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. 11 They said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”

Acts 1:1-11, NRSV

This is the second installment of the writings to Theophilus (literally God (theo-) lover (-philus)). Maybe Theophilus is a literal person. Maybe it is addressed by Luke to all of us who are being drawn into a love relationship with God. Quite possibly it is both-and.

Jesus has done all that was required. He did what he did on the cross--defeating sin, death and the devil. Even in the throes of an excruciating death he prayed for enemies, welcomed sinners and cared for his disciples and his mother. Jesus bore what we would not and could not. Jesus destroyed the separation between us and God which was symbolized in the tearing of the sanctuary curtain. We are free to enter God's holy presence and, as Peter Mayer sings, God is Loose in the World. The time-splitting, history-changing insertion of God becoming one of us and stepping into the world is done.

But, before Jesus returns, he lingers for a while to comfort and assure his disciples. Jesus shows his wounds. He breaks bread with his disciples. He feeds them familiar food with fish and bread. He reminds them of all he had told them that has come to pass. And he reminds them of what he has told them that is yet to happen. He spends 40 days, a very holy and significant number, with his disciples showing them convincing proofs. And he tells them to wait. To wait for the Spirit which will guide and comfort them, remind and cajole them, fill them and spill from them.

The disciples see Jesus leave and all they can do is look to where they saw him with longing eyes and slacked jaws. How about us? Do we ever get unsettled by the moves of God. We stare at what we have known or where we have last seen God and perhaps miss looking just where God has been pointing? The Holy Spirit is alive and loose in the world. Have we the courage and the faith to see her stirring? We are people clothed and bathed in the Holy Spirit. God dwells in us and sends us to dwell in the world. We are sent to be witnesses near and far, to those like us and to those particularly unlike us.

Sometimes we might feel far from Jesus. We might wonder where God has gone and why God has left us. But Luke assures us that the Holy Spirit is coming and has come and we are never abandoned by God. May we wait and trust in times that the Spirit seems far. May we testify and be bold as the Spirit empowers.

Holy Spirit, have your way with us. Animate us and inspire us and remind us and cajole us all to the glory of God. Amen.