Wednesday, January 30, 2008

e-vo for week of January 30

Dearest e-votees-

This Saturday, February 2, is the day set aside to commemorate the Presentation of Our Lord. It is fitting to spend some time today thinking about Jesus who came and was set aside to do what we could not--restoring us with God.



The appointed gospel text for the Presentation of Our Lord is Luke 2:22-40. In keeping with the Old Testament instruction to consecrate first born males to the Lord (see Exodus 13:2, 12) Mary and Joseph bring Jesus to the Temple. Leviticus 12 gives all the details about purification after childbirth In the appointed text we learn of Simeon and Anna who speak powerful prophecies regarding the baby Jesus. The text ends with the holy family returning to Nazareth where Jesus grows in wisdom and strength with God’s grace upon him.

The Bible provides very little details about the childhood of Jesus. After this presentation text our next encounter with Jesus in Luke is as a 12-year old in the Temple during the festival of Passover. After that our next encounter in Luke is with Jesus as an adult being baptized and then going out in the desert being tempted.

I have often wished that the Bible would shed more light into the adolescence of Jesus. But apparently it was sufficient in the Holy Spirit’s estimation to provide us with the accounts of Jesus in the temple when he was 40 days old and again when he was 12 years old. (good Biblical numbers)

Perhaps to this day we fixate too much on what we do or don’t do out in the world rather than what God does in the Temple (which should profoundly shape the former).

When I was going through the initial steps of applying for seminary I had to go to Thousand Oaks, California for an interview. I was petrified. I got to the place way too early and was looking for a quiet place to lurk and pray. I found a chapel that was a deep and dark wooden sanctuary. Around the walls were carved the words of the appointed Psalm for this Saturday. Obviously the words made an impression as I am still talking about them many years later. I invite you to read those words and let them enfold your day today.

Psalm 84 (NRSV)

To the leader: according to The Gittith. Of the Korahites. A Psalm.

How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of hosts!

My soul longs, indeed it faints for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh sing for joy to the living God.

Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, at your altars, O Lord of hosts, my King and my God.

Happy are those who live in your house, ever singing your praise.

Happy are those whose strength is in you, in whose heart are the highways to Zion.

As they go through the valley of Baca they make it a place of springs; the early rain also covers it with pools.

They go from strength to strength; the God of gods will be seen in Zion.

O Lord God of hosts, hear my prayer; give ear, O God of Jacob!

Behold our shield, O God; look on the face of your anointed.

For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than live in the tents of wickedness.

For the Lord God is a sun and shield; he bestows favor and honor. No good thing does the Lord withhold from those who walk uprightly.

O Lord of hosts, happy is everyone who trusts in you.

Let us pray…

God, we thank you for Jesus and his place and work in the Temple and in the world. Stir us to linger in your courts and serve faithfully in the world. Help us to know the joy and fulfillment of trusting you. Amen.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

e-vo for week of January 23

Dearest e-votees-

For our focus this week let's put our eyes and minds and hearts on our assigned text from the 1st letter (epistle) of Paul to the church at Corinth.

May the words of this e-vo and the meditations of our hearts be pleasing in your sight O Lord our Rock and our Redeemer. Amen. (see Psalm 19:14)



Now I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you be in agreement and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same purpose. For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there are quarrels among you, my brothers and sisters. What I mean is that each of you says, “I belong to Paul,” or “I belong to Apollos,” or “I belong to Cephas,” or “I belong to Christ.” Has Christ been divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? I thank Godf that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, so that no one can say that you were baptized in my name. (I did baptize also the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else.) For Christ did not send me to baptize but to proclaim the gospel, and not with eloquent wisdom, so that the cross of Christ might not be emptied of its power. For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
1 Corinthians 1:10-18, NRSV

The seventeenth chapter of the gospel of John is a prayer of Jesus for himself, for his followers back then and for all followers even to this day--including us. Jesus prays that we might be one just as Jesus and the Father are one. Our text from 1 Corinthians speaks to how short the church in the time of Paul fell from that mark of unity.

An honest look in the mirror or a little bit of observing in the newspaper or at our church assemblies this day reminds us how short we as the church still fall of this mark.

An honest meditative look into our own hearts and motives reminds us how far we as followers of Christ are still are from this mark of unity.

Paul ends our passage today with the jarring thought that words of human wisdom can empty the cross of its power. If we appeal to our own reason and our own mental and rhetorical resources we lean towards rendering the cross ineffectual.

In this time of so many words available in spam e-mails and on blogs and throughout the internet with, at times, so little thought put behind them we do well to turn our hearts and minds toward the cross.

In this time of so many words and images available on TV and on thie internet and on the radio and in print with, at times, so little undergirding reflection we do well to turn off and unplug and contemplate the cross.

In this time of so many promises made in debates and in advertisements with so little power to deliver on them that we do well to look at the promise of John 3:14-16 hanging on the cross and find salvation.

God, it seems like foolishness that a torture stake that was used almost 2,000 years ago might be central to our lives in this modern world. It rubs against our modern sensibilities. But your Word tells us salvation is to be found in the one who was found on the cross. Help us trust in your saving power. Help us welcome others into this foolishness. Amen.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

e-vo for week of January 16

Dearest e-votees-

I will be away from the office at a preaching conference this week so the e-vo is coming out a little earlier than usual.

This Friday, January 18, is the day set aside in the liturgical calendar to commemorate the confession of St. Peter. We will use the assigned text from the books of Acts for this day in the lectionary year to shape our meditation. In order to make sense of it, however, we need to look at an earlier passage in Acts to set the stage.

Have a blessed day.




One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, at three o’clock in the afternoon. And a man lame from birth was being carried in. People would lay him daily at the gate of the temple called the Beautiful Gate so that he could ask for alms from those entering the temple. When he saw Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked them for alms. Peter looked intently at him, as did John, and said, “Look at us.” And he fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them. But Peter said, “I have no silver or gold, but what I have I give you; in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, stand up and walk.” And he took him by the right hand and raised him up; and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. Jumping up, he stood and began to walk, and he entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. All the people saw him walking and praising God, and they recognized him as the one who used to sit and ask for alms at the Beautiful Gate of the temple; and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.

Acts 3:1-10, NRSV


Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders, if we are questioned today because of a good deed done to someone who was sick and are asked how this man has been healed, let it be known to all of you, and to all the people of Israel, that this man is standing before you in good health by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead. This Jesus is

‘the stone that was rejected by you,
the builders; it has become the cornerstone.'

There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved.” Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John and realized that they were uneducated and ordinary men, they were amazed and recognized them as companions of Jesus.

Acts 4:8-13, NRSV

Peter and John (the former fishing partners—see Luke 5:1-11) are going to pray at the Temple. These “uneducated and ordinary men” bring healing to a beggar plying his trade at the Beautiful Gate. People carried him in as they did for him to beg and he left walking and praising God. The folks in the Temple want to know how so great a thing has happened.

Peter is moved by the Holy Spirit to tell them that the healing came from Jesus. In addition, Peter quotes them Psalm 118:22 about the builder and the rejected stone. Peter holds his hearers directly responsible for the crucifixion of Jesus. It was the Romans who actually physically crucified Jesus. Peter holds the people he is addressing complicit. We know that we are complicit too. The issue isn’t pointing blame so much as accepting responsibility. We are part of the crowd.

People put Jesus to death on the cross --
God raised Jesus from the dead.

People rejected Jesus --
God made Jesus the cornerstone.

People need what only Jesus can offer --
God saves us through Jesus.

God, in so many ways we are the beggar at the Beautiful Gate. We are needy and dependent on so many others. We look for money as the solution to all our problems. You still speak healing into our lives. Help us receive that healing and respond with joyful walking and leaping and praising and dancing. When people ask us what happened give us courage to proclaim boldly with Peter. Amen.

Bible Trivia: Psalm 118:22 is quoted 5 times in the New Testament. Jesus mentions it 3 times (Luke 20:17; Matthew 21:42; Mark 12:10). Peter mentions it 2 times (Acts 4:11 and 1 Peter 2:7).

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

e-vo for week of January 9

Dearest e-votees-

This Sunday is the day we commemorate the Baptism of our Lord in the church year. We have a God who is willing to enter into creation and into our pain and mortality that we might be healed and granted life eternal. That is phenomenally good news. We need to celebrate the new life and the life returned in baptism.

Sometimes on days such as these the Old Testament readings get left on the fringes—the image of the older brother pouting outside while the returned brother parties with the robe and ring and fatted calf comes to my mind.

Let’s join the father in making room for this one we have always had who will always be with us.



Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations. He will not cry or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street; a bruised reed he will not break, and a dimly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice. He will not grow faint or be crushed until he has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands wait for his teaching. Thus says God, the Lord, who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and what comes from it, who gives breath to the people upon it and spirit to those who walk in it: I am the Lord, I have called you in righteousness, I have taken you by the hand and kept you; I have given you as a covenant to the people, a light to the nations, to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness. I am the Lord, that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to idols. See, the former things have come to pass, and new things I now declare; before they spring forth, I tell you of them.

Isaiah 42:1-9, NRSV

This is a deep and rich passage of scripture. It is not hard for us to look through the lens of these vibrant words and see Jesus. The promises of deliverance from prison and darkness along with the healing of the blind eyes resonate with Isaiah 61:1-2. That is the part of Isaiah that Jesus read in the synagogue in Nazareth and punctuated with “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” (see Luke 4:16-21)

Our annual bishop’s convocation was held last week in the town of Seaside, OR. The phrase about the coastlands waiting for his teaching have a new vibrancy as I think about all of the church leaders gathering on the fringes of the ocean to encounter God through that shared experience. This part of the country is often thought of as particularly unchurched or de-churched. That adds some traction to the coastlands waiting for his teaching as well.

I have met a lot of bruised reeds and dimly burning wicks in my days on this earth. I have some faltering reed and wick in my own story as well. There is great promise that Jesus will bring forth healing and justice. We may be vulnerable but God honors and cares for those who shun pretense and seek him with all their heart and all their mind and all their soul and all their strength. God cares for the rest of us too but sometimes we don’t discern it as clearly.

The text says that the servant won’t be crushed until justice is established. If we take the cross to be that crushing (some see the cross as fulfilling Genesis 3:15) then justice has been established. If the serpent’s work is destroyed and the kingdom of grace and forgiveness is established then justice must be coming to bear in the world. Sometimes, as in our passage above, things need to be declared before they come to pass. Hence the work of prophets and preachers and faithful witnesses.

Let’s end today where the ministry of Isaiah began with his vision in the temple:

Then one of the seraphs flew to me, holding a live coal that had been taken from the altar with a pair of tongs. The seraph touched my mouth with it and said: “Now that this has touched your lips, your guilt has departed and your sin is blotted out." Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I; send me!”

Isaiah 6:6-8, NRSV

God, you have entered into the world in Jesus. Jesus was joined us through his baptism in the river Jordan. We were joined to him through our baptism at the font. Our guilt has departed. Our sin is blotted out. Here we are. Send us. Amen.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

e-vo for week of January 2

Dearest e-votees-

Happy New Year!!!

This year the day of Epiphany (Jan 6, the day immediately following the 12 days of Christmas) falls on a Sunday. Epiphany—the church season—will run through February 3—the Transfiguration of our Lord.

The word Epiphany comes from the Greek word eh-pee-fie-noh which means to show or appear. It doesn’t show up much in scripture. It appears 4 times in the New Testament—Acts 27:20, Luke 1:79, Titus 2:11 and Titus 3:4. It shows up 14 times in the Old Testament (in the Greek translation called the Septuagint—often abbreviated LXX).

Epiphany is the season of the church year when we focus on the revealing of God in the person of Jesus Christ. May God be revealed in these words we share today.



This is the reason that I Paul am a prisoner for Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles—for surely you have already heard of the commission of God’s grace that was given me for you, and how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I wrote above in a few words, a reading of which will enable you to perceive my understanding of the mystery of Christ. In former generations this mystery was not made known to humankind, as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit: that is, the Gentiles have become fellow heirs, members of the same body, and sharers in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.

Of this gospel I have become a servant according to the gift of God’s grace that was given me by the working of his power. Although I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given to me to bring to the Gentiles the news of the boundless riches of Christ, and to make everyone see what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. This was in accordance with the eternal purpose that he has carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have access to God in boldness and confidence through faith in him.

Ephesians 3:1-12, NRSV

Paul is writing to our spiritual ancestors. To those of us who are not Jewish—those of us who are Gentiles—Paul was given grace to convey to us the good news of the boundless riches of Christ. Paul is revealing to us God’s plan. Paul is bringing an epiphany into our lives.

God’s work is about crossing boundaries to bring in those who need salvation. Jesus spanned the boundary of divine and human. His ministry straddled the boundary of Jew and Gentile. Paul was Jewish yet sent to the Gentiles. God reaches to those on the fringes. Maybe we find ourselves on the fringes some days. Maybe we know others who dwell in the shadows.

The light that is lit brightly in the center of the room is shining on all the darkened areas on the fringes. God’s light come into the world—Jesus—is reaching out to all the dark and fringy places. The shadows are being dispersed.

We get to be folded into that work of bringing faith and hope and light into a sometimes very dark world. We say it this way in baptism (quoting Jesus):

Let your light so shine before others that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven. (see Matthew 5:16)

It might seem intimidating to be the ones charged with bringing God’s light into the world. The truth is that we don’t generate the light, we reflect it. We do well to drink in the words of the benediction:

The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.
Numbers 6:24-26, NRSV

You get one guess as to what the word for “to shine upon” you is in the Greek in the Septuagint. (hint: think January 6)

We are much more akin to the moon than the sun. We turn ourselves towards the Son and light reflects off us to help guide those wandering in the night.

God, shine your truth into our lives. Chase out the shadows. Let all of our works and words and even our most private thoughts bring glory to you. Amen.